Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Friday, July 9, as the day unfolded. It is no longer being updated. Click here to see all the most recent news about the pandemic, and click here to find additional resources.

New laboratory research on the swiftly spreading delta variant of the coronavirus is highlighting the threats posed by viral mutations, adding urgency to calls to accelerate vaccination efforts across the world.

Meanwhile, Pfizer said Thursday it’s about to seek U.S. authorization for a third dose of its COVID-19 vaccine. Another shot within 12 months could dramatically boost immunity and maybe help ward off the latest worrisome virus mutant, the pharmaceutical company said.

We’re updating this page with the latest news about the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects on the Seattle area, the U.S. and the world. Click here to see previous days’ live updates and all our other coronavirus coverage, and here to see how we track the daily spread across Washington and the world.

The future of online retail looks a lot like QVC, with livestreams of influencers, including dogs, doing the hawking

Livestreamed shopping events — part entertainment, part ad blitz — have become the latest frontier in online shopping.

Retailers and brands as varied as Walmart, Amazon, Gucci and L’Oréal are experimenting with new streaming formats to sell a growing array of beauty products, clothing, electronics and home furnishings. The events take place on platforms like Facebook, Instagram and TikTok, but they’re increasingly on retailers’ own websites.

Nordstrom recently created its own livestream channel, where the lineup of virtual events includes makeup lessons, wine tastings and dance classes. Amazon hosted more than 1,200 livestreams during its annual Prime Day sale in June. (Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.)

Livestream shopping events generated an estimated $5.6 billion in sales last year, a market that retail analytics firm Coresight Research projects will balloon to $11 billion this year and nearly $26 billion by 2023. The format, which has been popular in China for more than five years, gained traction in the United States during the pandemic as retailers pursued homebound consumers on their phones and computers.

—The Washington Post

Indonesia short on oxygen, seeks help as virus cases soar

JAKARTA, Indonesia — Just two months ago, Indonesia was coming to a gasping India’s aid with thousands tanks of oxygen. 

Today, the Southeast Asia country is running out of oxygen as it endures a devastating wave of coronavirus cases and the government is seeking emergency supplies from other countries, including Singapore and China. 

A shipment of more than 1,000 oxygen cylinders, concentrators, ventilators and other health devices arrived from Singapore on Friday, followed by another 1,000 ventilators from Australia, said Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, the government minister in charge of Indonesia’s pandemic response. 

Beside those donations, Indonesia plans to buy 36,000 tons of oxygen and 10,000 concentrators — devices that generate oxygen — from neighboring Singapore, Pandjaitan said.

—Associated Press

Inslee, DelBene visit Point Roberts amid concerns about COVID-19 border closure with Canada

OLYMPIA — As the housebound multitudes get out to the coasts and beaches for vacation season after more than a year of pandemic lockdowns, Point Roberts remains the unlucky outlier.

A Whatcom County community that is connected by land to Canada, in British Columbia, Point Roberts has been left mostly isolated since spring 2020. That was when the U.S. and Canada closed their land borders to curb the spread of COVID-19.

That has left Canadians who own homes in the community shut out for a second summer now, which is the season when businesses there make their money. And time is running out to change that, according to local leaders and elected officials who met there Friday.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and U.S. Rep. Suzan DelBene, D-Medina, visited Point Roberts for a meeting with community members and made stops at some business. Joining them were state Reps. Sharon Shewmake and Alicia Rule, and Whatcom County Executive Satpal Sidhu. Inslee flew in to Point Roberts while others were able to travel via land for the trip with permission from the Canadian government.

Read the full story here.

—Joseph O'Sullivan

White House calling out critics of door-to-door vaccine push

WASHINGTON — “A disservice to the country.” “Inaccurate disinformation.” “Literally killing people.”

For months, the Biden White House refrained from criticizing Republican officials who played down the importance of coronavirus vaccinations or sought to make political hay of the federal government’s all-out effort to drive shots into arms. Not any longer.

With the COVID-19 vaccination rate plateauing across the country, the White House is returning fire at those they see as spreading harmful misinformation or fear about the shots.

When South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster tried this week to block door-to-door efforts to drive up the vaccination rate in his state, White House press secretary Jen Psaki did not mince words in her reaction.

“The failure to provide accurate public health information, including the efficacy of vaccines and the accessibility of them to people across the country, including South Carolina, is literally killing people, so maybe they should consider that,” she said Friday.

—Associated Press

California to require face masks at schools this fall

SAN FRANCISCO — California will require that masks be worn at schools when classrooms open this fall, despite new guidance issued Friday from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that says vaccinated teachers and students don’t need to wear face coverings inside school buildings.

Ahead of new school guidelines expected next week, health officials in California said Friday that requiring face coverings will allow all schools to reopen this fall for full in-person instruction.

California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said that not all schools can accommodate physical distancing of at least 3 feet or more, so the best preventive measure is wearing masks indoors.

The California Department of Public Health said in a statement that the mask requirement “also will ensure that all kids are treated the same,” without any stigma attached to those who are vaccinated or unvaccinated.

—Associated Press

State health officials report 496 new coronavirus cases

  The state Department of Health (DOH) reported 496 new coronavirus cases and 11 new deaths on Friday.

The update brings the state's totals to 455,103 cases and 5,997 deaths, meaning that 1.3% of people diagnosed in Washington have died, according to the DOH. The data is as of 11:59 p.m. Thursday.

In addition, 25,758 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the virus — zero new hospitalizations due to data processing delays, DOH said. In King County, the state's most populous, state health officials have confirmed a total of 113,251 COVID-19 diagnoses and 1,667 deaths.

Since vaccinations began in mid-December, the state and health care providers have administered 7,928,034 doses and 51.0% of Washingtonians have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to vaccination data, which the state updates on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Providers are currently giving an average of about 11,978 vaccine shots per day.

The DOH says its daily case reports may also include duplicate test results, results assigned to the wrong county, results that are reported for today but are actually from a previous day, occasional false positive tests and other data discrepancies. Because of this, the previous day’s total number of cases plus the number of new daily cases does not add up to the new day’s total number of cases. State health officials recommend reviewing the dashboard's epidemiologic curves tab for the most accurate representation of the state's COVID-19 spread.

Since early 2020, The Seattle Times has sent daily email and notification updates with coronavirus data from the Washington State Department of Health. Because of the current state of the pandemic, we are now ending those regular alerts. We will continue to alert newsworthy developments and will post DOH data in our live updates at: https://www.seattletimes.com/tag/coronavirus/

Funeral homes under strain as deaths surge in South African hub

South Africa’s commercial hub of Gauteng, which includes Johannesburg and Pretoria, risks running out of coffins as COVID-19-related deaths surge.

While a third wave of coronavirus cases in South Africa’s worst-affected province may have peaked, fatalities have risen 57% in the past week, data from National Institute of Communicable Diseases shows.

Funeral parlors are starting to buckle under the strain, according to Nkosi Nare, chairman of the Inner-City Funeral Directors Association – South Africa, which represents 19 funeral parlors in Gauteng. There’s a risk the province will run out of coffins, and that funeral parlors may have to try and speed up the burial processes to create space for incoming bodies, he said.

Excess deaths, seen as a more precise way of measuring total fatalities from the coronavirus, rose 44% to 3,224 in the week through July 3 in Gauteng. The number is higher than the peaks recorded in the province in the first and second waves, according to data from the South African Medical Research Council.

Read the story here.

—Khuleko Siwele, Bloomberg

$650 billion expansion to fight pandemic

The executive board of the International Monetary Fund approved a $650 billion expansion in resources to support economically vulnerable nations as they battle the coronavirus pandemic.

IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva said Friday that the new support, the largest such expansion in the history of the 190-nation lending institution, would be a “shot in the arm for the world.”

To put the size of the funding expansion in context, the IMF approved a $250 billion boost in SDR reserves following the 2008 financial crisis.

It is a reversal of the stance taken by the Trump administration and it began in February when the Biden administration got behind the effort.

Republican members of Congress have objected to the funding, saying that the expanded IMF resources would benefit U.S. adversaries such as China, Russia and Iran. However, the assistance has been strongly supported by international relief agencies.

Read the story here.

—Martin Crutsinger, The Associated Press

69.6% of state residents 16 and older have had at least one COVID shot, health department says

Vaccination rates continue to creep up in Washington, with 69.6% of residents 16 and older having received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, the state Department of Health said this week.

That percentage includes vaccination rates from the Washington State Immunization Information System and aggregate data from the Department of Defense and Veterans Affairs.

The next drawing in the "Shot of a Lifetime" lottery, this time for $1 million, takes place on Tuesday. To be eligible, you must receive at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine and be entered into the state’s Immunization Information System by your vaccine provider by 11:59 p.m. Sunday.

Read more about the lottery here.  

—Christine Clarridge

Free samples are back, but with safety in mind

When Pat Curry spotted bite-sized wood-fired rotisserie chicken with portobello mushroom at her local Costco in early June, she felt “giddy.” After a 14-month hiatus, free samples were back.

“It was one of the markers that told me that we turned a corner,” said the 60-year-old who lives in Augusta, Georgia. “It’s the little things that you do that were taken away, and now they’re back.”

When the pandemic was declared in March 2020, retailers worried about the potential spread of the coronavirus so they cut off free sampling of everything from food to makeup to toys. But now with vaccinations rolling out and the threat of COVID-19 easing in the U.S., stores like Costco are feeling confident enough to revive the longstanding tradition.

But while sampling is back, it’s not clear if everyone is ready to bite. With that in mind, some retailers are putting various safety protocols in place to ease any safety concerns.

Read the story here.

—Anne D'Innocenzio, The Associated Press

Washington schools won’t require masks outdoors, but state reviewing new CDC guidance

Washington students and staff will no longer be required to wear masks outdoors at school — and staff can go maskless indoors if they are vaccinated against the coronavirus and no children are present — state health officials announced this week. 

The new rules, quietly released Tuesday, don’t go as far as more relaxed national guidance released by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. On Friday, the CDC urged schools to reopen in the fall even if they can’t always strictly enforce safety protocols like mask-wearing and social distancing. Notably, federal officials said it’s not necessary for vaccinated people to wear masks inside schools, though those who are unvaccinated are still encouraged to wear face coverings.

Washington State Department of Health officials didn’t immediately respond to questions about whether they’ll loosen state rules to align with the new national guidelines. But health officials have in recent weeks said they were anticipating new federal mask guidance — and would consider changes after they reviewed CDC changes.

Read the story here.

—Hannah Furfaro

What to know about hugs and handshakes when it comes to COVID safety

Sure, there are some who hope never to shake a hand or hug an acquaintance again.

But for many, a year and a half of bumping elbows and waving from across the street just hasn’t cut it, and the chance to hug friends is one of the highlights of reopening.

“They’re an important part of our culture, and I think it’s fine if you keep precautions,” said Dr. Ferric Fang, professor laboratory medicine and microbiology.

So, is it safe to hug people and shake hands? And which of the two is safer?

Read the story here.

—Christine Clarridge

As employers struggle to fill jobs, teens come to the rescue

The owners of restaurants, amusement parks and retail shops, many of them desperate for workers, are sounding an unusual note of gratitude this summer:

Thank goodness for teenagers.

As the U.S. economy bounds back with unexpected speed from the pandemic recession and customer demand intensifies, high school-age kids are filling jobs that older workers can’t — or won’t.

The result is that teens who are willing to bus restaurant tables or serve as water-park lifeguards are commanding $15, $17 or more an hour, plus bonuses in some instances or money to help pay for school classes. The trend marks a shift from the period after the 2007-2009 Great Recession, when older workers often took such jobs and teens were sometimes squeezed out.

This time, an acute labor shortage, especially at restaurants, tourism and entertainment businesses, has made teenage workers highly popular again.

Read the story here.

—Paul Wiseman and Joseph Pisani, The Associated Press

At Cannes under COVID-19, glamour gets unmasked

For nearly everybody who has come to the Cannes Film Festival after months in various stages of lockdown and caution, the transition is head-spinning.

Even in normal years, Cannes is an onslaught. But this time, plunging into full-capacity theaters and teeming red carpets is like stepping into another world.

The pandemic is far from invisible at Cannes. A negative COVID-19 test is required every 48 hours for even those vaccinated — unless they got their shots in the European Union. Moviegoers wear masks indoors. Everything is a little muted. Usually well-booked hotels have vacancies. Screenings that would typically leave hundreds queueing outside don’t fill up. The usual tuxedoed ticket-seekers praying for a handout have been pushed away from the Palais, the festival hub, to clear space.

But in places like the Cannes red carpet, life is almost normal — if “normal” can ever apply to a stretch of carpet where coteries of stars drift in every few hours like parade floats. Glamour has been unmasked, maybe more than any other time in the last year and a half of pandemic.

Read the story here.

—Jake Coyle, The Associated Press

Vaccinated teachers and students don’t need masks, CDC says

Vaccinated teachers and students don’t need to wear masks inside school buildings, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday in relaxing its COVID-19 guidelines.

The changes come amid a national vaccination campaign in which children as young as 12 are eligible to get shots, as well as a general decline in COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths.

“We’re at a new point in the pandemic that we’re all really excited about,” and so it’s time to update the guidance, said Erin Sauber-Schatz, who leads the CDC task force that prepares recommendations designed to keep Americans safe from COVID-19.

The nation’s top public health agency is not advising schools to require shots for teachers and vaccine-eligible kids and is not offering guidance on how teachers can know which students are vaccinated or how parents will know which teachers are immunized, all of which could make guidelines hard to implement in practice.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

No sign N. Korean leader has been vaccinated

There is no sign that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has been inoculated against the coronavirus and his country hasn’t received any foreign vaccines, South Korea’s spy agency said Thursday.

The National Intelligence Service told lawmakers in a closed-door briefing that it hasn’t detected any information that North Korea has acquired vaccines.

COVAX, the U.N.-backed program to ship COVID-19 vaccines worldwide, said in February that North Korea could receive 1.9 million doses in the first half of the year. But the shipment hasn’t been made, and there have been no reports that North Korea has tried to secure vaccines elsewhere for its 26 million people.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

Hungarian capital offers tests amid vaccine efficacy worries

Hungary’s capital city is offering free antibody testing to its elderly residents in a bid to ratchet up pressure on the government over concerns that certain vaccines don’t provide adequate protection against the coronavirus.

The offer of 20,000 free tests, available for Budapest residents over 60, came after many fully vaccinated people reported that tests they had undergone at private laboratories indicated that they hadn’t developed antibodies to defend against COVID-19.

Budapest Deputy Mayor Ambrus Kiss said those reports came primarily from people who received China’s Sinopharm vaccine, convincing city leaders that there was “a genuine problem.” He said the government should consider offering third doses to those with inadequate immune response.

“If there is such a loss of confidence in certain vaccines, then the government needs to order a third dose and free up the capacities for giving them,” Kiss said.

Read the story here.

—Justin Spike, The Associated Press

COVID-19 and lasting erectile dysfunction: Here’s what we know

Can COVID-19 cause lasting erectile dysfunction?

This is now the topic of some discussion among doctors and health experts as they try to better understand the effects of the coronavirus. The problem has been observed in some patients, but experts agree more study is needed to form any conclusions.

Some men are coming into doctors’ offices saying erectile dysfunction has occurred following a COVID-19 infection, said Dr. Ryan Berglund, a urologist at the Cleveland Clinic. At the moment, there’s primarily anecdotal evidence, and “we don’t know the scale of the problem at this point.”

Berglund stressed that it had not been proved that COVID-19 causes erectile dysfunction.

Observational studies need to be done, he said, adding that a helpful one would be to study men in the same age group with similar health status to see if rates of erectile dysfunction differ depending on whether they have the coronavirus.

“That, we haven’t gotten to yet,” Berglund said.

Read the story here.

—Rong-Gong Lin II, Los Angeles Times

Catch up on the past 24 hours

Fitbits detected lasting changes in people with COVID-19, according to a new study that provides insight into both the long-term effects of the virus and the potential of wearable devices as tools for tracking diseases.

Pfizer is developing a new version of its vaccine to target the highly contagious delta variant, and its latest trial results add to the debate over whether booster shots will be needed. 

Flying is a mess this summer as travelers come out of isolation. Learn from the horror stories of these six travelers, including one who resorted to asking “if there was any flight for any amount of money on any airline” that would get her to her destination — and the answer was no.

—Kris Higginson