Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Thursday, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.
Months into the United States’ coronavirus outbreak, testing is being ramped up, but the percentage of tests coming back positive is on the rise across nearly the entire country, hitting almost 27% in Arizona, 19% in Florida and 17% in South Carolina as of Wednesday. In Washington, 5.9% of all tests conducted in the state have been positive since testing began, and 5.3% have been positive in the past week.
President Donald Trump on Wednesday threatened to slice federal funding from schools if they do not reopen in the fall. Hours later, Vice President Mike Pence announced the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would issue new guidance on school openings.
Throughout Thursday, on this page, we’ll be posting Seattle Times journalists’ updates on the outbreak and its effects on the Seattle area, the Pacific Northwest and the world. Updates from Wednesday can be found here, and all our coronavirus coverage can be found here.
4 days of double-digit coronavirus deaths in Washington state: How to interpret the data
For the past four days in a row, for the first time since May, Washington state reported double-digit numbers of COVID-19 deaths: 11 more deaths confirmed by the end of Sunday, 14 on Monday, 10 on Tuesday and 15 on Wednesday.
These apparent spikes can be alarming, but public health experts say daily tallies don’t paint much of a picture on their own.
It’s more informative to watch rolling averages over a longer time span — a trend line known as the “epidemiologic curve.”
“That really tells you when those individuals first became sick, and whether we’re seeing sort of an increase in an activity,” said Dr. Kathy Lofy, the Washington state health officer. “And I’m not seeing a big uptick in our epidemiologic curve for any one date, or a timeframe, quite yet.”
In a time of social distancing, robots could be just what the doctor ordered
TOKYO — As the coronavirus pandemic rewrites the rules of human interaction, it also has inspired new thinking about how robots and other machines might step in.
The stuff of the bot world — early factory-line automation up to today’s artificial intelligence — has been a growing fact of life for decades. The worldwide health crisis has added urgency to the question of how to bring robotics into the public-health equation.
Nowhere is that truer than in Japan, a country with a long fascination with robots, from android assistants to robot receptionists. Since the virus arrived, robots have offered their services as bartenders, security guards and deliverymen.
But they don’t necessarily need to supplant humans, researchers say. They can also bridge the gap between people mindful of social distance — now or when the next major contagion hits.
‘The safest restaurant in the country’? Seattle’s Canlis announces its new Crab Shack plan
As coronavirus rates spike around the United States after reopenings of restaurants and more, Seattle’s storied Canlis isn’t returning to indoor fine dining anytime soon. Instead, third-generation owners Brian and Mark Canlis say they’re opening “the safest restaurant in the country,” one with temperature checks for both staff and patrons, set amid tons of sand in the parking lot.
The Canlis brothers say that the latest data on the relative safety of outdoor dining in terms of reducing COVID-19 transmission guided their new iteration: the Canlis Crab Shack, opening in the restaurant’s parking lot starting next Thursday, serving an upscale version of a traditional crab feast for $59.95 per person by reservation only. Anyone without a mask will not be allowed on premises, and masks must be worn when not seated at the table, per Crab Shack rules.
Temperature checks — of both the staff before shifts and diners as they arrive — will be taken before lunch or dinner begins.
Requiring patron temperature-taking is a step few restaurants have taken yet, but, Mark Canlis says, “It’s not a political statement — it just says we care about people."
Inslee: Trump threats on reopening schools “hogwash”
OLYMPIA — Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said President Donald Trump’s comments earlier this week pressuring governors to open schools in the fall were “hogwash” and he said the state will not be bullied into making potentially unsafe decisions during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
“Decisions about school and how to have it, onsite or otherwise, will remain with the state of Washington,” the Democrat said at a news conference Thursday. “These are Washington students and Washington state has the legal authority to make decisions about their education.”
On Tuesday, Trump argued that some states are keeping schools closed not because of the risks from the coronavirus pandemic but for political reasons.
“They think it’s going to be good for them politically, so they keep the schools closed,” Trump said at a White House discussion on school plans for the fall. “No way. We’re very much going to put pressure on governors and everybody else to open the schools.”
Health officials confirm 640 additional coronavirus cases
Washington health officials confirmed 640 additional coronavirus cases on Thursday, including 15 more deaths.
The update brings the state’s totals to 38,581 cases and 1,409 deaths, meaning about 3.7% of people diagnosed in Washington have died, according to the state Department of Health (DOH). The data is as of 11:59 p.m. Wednesday.
So far, 660,330 tests for the novel coronavirus have been conducted in the state, per DOH. Of those, 5.8% have come back positive since testing began — slightly higher than the percentage of positive tests in the past week, which DOH reports is at 5.4%.
Overall deaths are concentrated in King County, Washington's most populous county, where DOH has confirmed 11,419 diagnoses and 632 deaths — accounting for about 45% of the state's death toll.
Public health experts worry CDC is being stifled on COVID-19
WASHINGTON — Gregory A. Poland, an internist at the Mayo Clinic and spokesperson for the Infectious Diseases Society of America, said he was walking with his wife on a Florida beach three weekends ago when they were confronted because of the masks they were wearing.
Poland did not reply. But he said the interaction points to a troubling skepticism about science among many U.S. residents. An ABC News/Ipsos poll published June 26 found that 89 percent of people said they had worn masks in public the week before, as cases climbed. But photos on social media from all corners of the country suggest mask wearing and social distancing can be sporadic.
Public health experts say that before the discovery of a vaccine or effective drugs, mask wearing — a so-called “nonpharmaceutical intervention” — is one of the most important tools in fighting the virus.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stresses that people should wear cloth masks in public.
But the CDC, which has experts in public health communication as well as its own television studio, has not emphasized interventions such as wearing masks through an advertising campaign or regular news conferences.
Another study suggests pregnant women can transmit coronavirus to their babies
Researchers found the coronavirus and antibodies against it in the umbilical cord blood, breast milk, placentas and vaginas of some pregnant infected women, another suggestion that the virus can be passed to fetuses and newborns, according to results of a small study released Thursday.
Just two of the infants in the sample examined by Italian researchers tested positive for the virus, and both quickly recovered. In one case, a baby tested negative two days later, an indication that the child was already producing antibodies against the virus in the womb, said Claudio Fenizia, an assistant professor of immunology at the University of Milan, who led the study.
In an interview, Fenizia said the review of 31 pregnant women is preliminary and was plagued by factors that make it too early to draw conclusions for use in the care of pregnant women infected by the virus. But, he said, “our study should be considered a ringing bell to raise awareness that [transmission] is possible.” He urged further research in the area, which is underway in some places.
The full study is not yet available.
Washington’s jobless claims fall, but state’s unemployed may soon lose $600 benefit
Four months after the first big COVID-19 layoffs, Washington state has yet to hit bottom in pandemic-related job losses, even as federal benefits are set to expire and health concerns slow the re-opening of the economy. .
New claims for unemployment insurance are gradually slowing — 28,393 for the week ending July 4, down 11% over the prior week, according to data released Thursday by the state Employment Security Department. Nationally, new claims fell 7% to 1.3 million, the U.S. Labor Department reported.
But that’s still nearly double the peak week during the Great Recession, and the number of people currently receiving unemployment benefits was around 736,000, up nearly 6% from the prior week.
And while the backlog of unpaid claims and suspended benefits has fallen substantially since May, when the ESD was hit by a massive fraud scam, nearly 35,000 people have yet to their claims resolved.
Mississippi seeing big virus outbreak in state legislature
JACKSON, Miss. — Packed elevators and crowded committee rooms. Legislators sitting shoulder-to-shoulder on the House and Senate floor. People standing close to each other and talking, sometimes leaning in to whisper, without a mask in sight.
Those were common scenes at the Mississippi Capitol in June — a month that saw a historic vote to remove the Confederate emblem from the state flag — and now at least 26 lawmakers have been diagnosed with the coronavirus in the biggest known outbreak in any state legislature in the nation.
That works out to about 1 in 7 Mississippi legislators.
Among those testing positive in the heavily Republican body are the GOP presiding officers, House Speaker Philip Gunn and Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann.
More than 1,000 TSA employees have tested positive for coronavirus
More than 1,000 employees at the Transportation Security Administration have tested positive for coronavirus, according to figures the agency released Thursday. Nearly all of them are security officers who have continued to work screening passengers at airports throughout the pandemic.
Hydrick Thomas, president of the union that represents the officers, said the figure is a reflection of the agency’s ongoing struggle to do enough to protect its employees. Air travel numbers, that collapsed in the early stages of the coronavirus outbreak, are steadily climbing even as the virus is surging again: Nearly 2.7 million people traveled over the July Fourth holiday weekend.
“Right now they’re bringing people back to work and the social distance is not in total effect,” Thomas said. “Employees are still complaining there’s too many of them in one area.”
In all, the TSA says 1,018 employees have tested positive. Its 50,000-strong force of screening officers has borne the brunt, accounting for 907 of the cases. Six employees have died, as has a contractor.
Europe fears complacency; virus hits ‘full speed’ in Africa
Asian and European officials pleaded with their citizens Thursday to respect modest precautions as several countries saw coronavirus outbreaks accelerate or sought to prevent new flare-ups, while the virus showed no signs of slowing its initial advance in Africa and the Americas.
Following two nights of anti-lockdown protests in Serbia, authorities banned mass gatherings in the capital of Belgrade amid an uptick in confirmed COVID-19 cases. Officials elsewhere in Europe warned of the risk of new flareups due to lax social distancing, while officials in Tokyo and Hong Kong reviewed nightclubs, restaurants and other public gathering spots as a source of their latest cases.
India on Thursday reported 25,000 new cases; the United States on Wednesday reported just short of the record 60,000 cases set a day earlier, and Brazil reported nearly 45,000. In the U.S., the total number of confirmed cases has passed 3 million — meaning nearly one in every 100 people has been confirmed as infected
The head of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the continent would be wise to prepare for the worst-case scenario as virus-related deaths passed 12,000 and confirmed cases climbed fast. A day after confirmed virus cases across Africa surpassed half a million, the total was over 522,000, and the actual number of cases is unknown since testing levels are low.
"We’ve crossed a critical number here,” Africa CDC chief John Nkengasong said of the half-million milestone. “Our pandemic is getting full speed.”
Prelude to a (COVID-era, onscreen) kiss
Hollywood’s technical expertise can awe us with monsters and imaginary worlds. But is it capable of delivering a simple screen kiss during a pandemic marked by masks and social distancing?
Yes, according to the soap opera producer who is making that happen with a strategic approach to romance. “The Bold and the Beautiful,” in the vanguard of TV series that have resumed taping after an industry-wide shutdown in March, is relying on health advisers and coronavirus safeguards to bring cast and crew together.
There’s also ingenuity involved, which includes employing actors’ real-life partners as smooching stand-ins and, for more limited purposes, using a mannequin to eliminate the risk of breaching a co-star’s infection safety zone.
“We feel almost like television pioneers all these years later because we’re the first ones out, blazing new ways of producing the shows with the current safety standards, and we’re getting the job done. It’s very exciting,” said Bradley Bell, executive producer of CBS’ “The Bold and the Beautiful,” which debuted in 1987 and is at roughly 8,300 episodes and counting.
World Health Organization: Yes, you might be able to contract the coronavirus from across a room
The World Health Organization is acknowledging the possibility that COVID-19 might be spread in the air under certain conditions — after more than 200 scientists urged the agency to do so.
In an open letter published this week in a journal, two scientists from Australia and the U.S. wrote that studies have shown “beyond any reasonable doubt that viruses are released during exhalation, talking and coughing in microdroplets small enough to remain aloft in the air.”
The researchers, along with more than 200 others, appealed for national and international authorities, including WHO, to adopt more stringent protective measures.
WHO has long dismissed the possibility that the coronavirus is spread in the air except for certain risky medical procedures, such as when patients are first put on breathing machines.
In a change to its previous thinking, WHO noted on Thursday that studies evaluating COVID-19 outbreaks in restaurants, choir practices and fitness classes suggested the virus might have been spread in the air.
Airborne spread “particularly in specific indoor locations, such as crowded and inadequately ventilated spaces over a prolonged period of time with infected persons cannot be ruled out,” WHO said.
Leader of fake church peddling bleach as COVID-19 cure charged
In April, when President Donald Trump mused about whether injecting patients with disinfectant could kill the coronavirus, perhaps no one was more thrilled about the suggestion than Mark Grenon.
Grenon runs a fake church with his sons in Florida that sells people a life-threatening toxic bleach product he calls the Miracle Mineral Solution, federal officials say, which he fraudulently claims cures everything from COVID-19 to cancer.
On Wednesday, Grenon and his three sons — Jonathan, Joseph and Jordan — were charged in the Southern District of Florida with conspiracy to defraud the United States and deliver misbranded drugs.
Could you contract the coronavirus from across a room?
Half a year into the pandemic, it’s well-accepted that coronavirus can be spread when an infected person expels respiratory droplets by coughing or sneezing.
But can the virus be transmitted in microscopically small droplets that are released into the air by talking or just breathing? And if so, could you contract the virus from across a room, or after the infected person leaves the room?
As with so many aspects of the coronavirus, the answer is unclear, debated, and under study. Scientists have urged the World Health Organization to address the risk.
Pandemic reaching ‘full speed’ in Africa
The COVID-19 pandemic in Africa is reaching “full speed,” the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention chief said Thursday, while a South African official said a single province is preparing 1.5 million graves.
Just a day after confirmed coronavirus cases across Africa surpassed the half-million milestone the total was over 522,000 and climbing, with more than 12,000 deaths. With testing levels low, the real numbers are unknown.
South Africa has the most confirmed cases with over 224,000, and for the first time Gauteng province — home to Johannesburg and the capital, Pretoria — has the country’s most cases with over 75,000, or 33%.
With painful memories of many people dying in Africa years ago while waiting for accessible HIV drugs, the Africa CDC on Thursday launched a consortium aimed at securing more than 10 late-stage COVID-19 vaccine clinical trials on the continent as early as possible.
Americans confused by social-distancing rules
Confusion about rules has been less common in countries where social-distancing rules have been set by central governments and enforced diligently. In France, people needed paperwork to justify leaving the house and police were deputized to check them and impose fines.
But in the U.S., local officials have drafted a patchwork of sometimes competing standards — often in accordance with local political preferences — making it difficult to determine how to appropriately navigate life during the pandemic.
A growing number of public health experts agree that there need to be more nuanced guidelines for Americans that allow some liberties.
Brazilian president with COVID-19 touts unproven drug also promoted by Trump
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro is touting an unproven anti-malaria drug as a treatment for the coronavirus and turning himself into a test case on social media.
Bolsonaro announced he had tested positive for the virus Tuesday after downplaying the severity of the pandemic for months.
Hours later, he shared a video of himself gulping down what he said was his third dose of hydroxychloroquine pills. On Wednesday, he again extolled the drug’s benefits on Facebook.
U.S. President Donald Trump also has promoted hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for COVID-19. But a string of studies in Britain and the United States, as well as by the World Health Organization, have found the drug ineffective against COVID-19 and sometimes deadly because of adverse side effects on the heart.
Brazil’s death toll neared 68,000 Wednesday.
Sea-Tac Airport traffic edges up, but airlines still in crisis
Passenger volume at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport notched another small gain last week, increasing to 15,500 average passengers per day from 14,500 the prior week. The latest figure is 75% below last year’s comparable week, according to statistics posted by the Port of Seattle.
Aircraft operations, meaning takeoffs and landings, are just 52% lower than a year earlier. One reason for the better recovery of aircraft traffic is that planes are being used to carry more cargo.
However, that doesn’t mean airlines are doing great. United Airlines warned employees Wednesday that 45% could be furloughed in October, once federal payroll funding runs out. And Alaska Air Group, the biggest single user of Sea-Tac with Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air flights, said last month it anticipates cutting thousands of jobs next year and shrinking to survive the coronavirus-induced downturn.
Hugo House’s Scribes summer writing camp for young people goes digital this year
Arianne True was 15 years old when she wrote “Poem for The Name on a Tombstone,” the first piece she would perform at a poetry slam, as part of Seattle nonprofit community writing center Hugo House’s Scribes summer creative writing camp for fifth through 12th graders.
Thirteen years later, she’s teaching at the same camp, and sees her work from that age, with its particular teenage earnestness, as an asset to help her students.
“I was like, oh yeah, this is the kind of poetic stuff they’re working through,” True said of rereading her own work. “Or, this is what’s really pressing for them to write about. I remember so many of the lessons that I really loved and that changed something for me.”
She wants to have that same impact on her students, but has to do so through a computer screen now that the camp moved online due to the coronavirus pandemic. Classes are now being offered via Zoom video conferences and Google Classroom and teachers are trying to figure out how to build a special experience for their students from far away.
Trump’s Tulsa rally, protests ‘more than likely’ linked to coronavirus surge, health official says
The crowd that showed up for President Trump’s rally in Tulsa last month was significantly smaller than expected, but a majority of the attendees didn’t wear masks.
Now, Tulsa County is experiencing a surge in coronavirus cases, and a top local health official has suggested Trump’s rally and other large events, including protests, “more than likely” contributed to the recent spike.
“The past two days, we’ve had almost 500 cases, and we know we had several large events a little over two weeks ago, which is about right,” Tulsa Health Department Executive Director Bruce Dart said. “So I guess we just connect the dots.”
CDC: No rewriting of guidelines for reopening schools
WASHINGTON — Despite President Donald Trump’s sharp criticism, federal guidelines for reopening schools are not being revised, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday.
Dr. Robert Redfield said the agency would be issuing “additional reference documents” for parents and schools to facilitate the reopening and deal with safety concerns in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. But he said there would be no changing of the overall guidance.
Redfield commented a day after Trump complained the reopening guidelines were “very tough and expensive” and the CDC was “asking schools to do very impractical things.” Speaking of CDC officials, he tweeted, “I will be meeting with them.!!!”
Redfield said, “It’s really important, it’s not a revision of the guidelines, it’s just to provide additional information to help schools be able to use the guidance that we put forward.” He made his comments on ABC’s ”Good Morning America.”
Trump is pressuring state and local officials to reopen schools this fall, threatening to withhold federal funds from those that keep their learning remote.
‘I couldn’t let her be alone’
As her mother lay in a Southern California hospital in early May, Elishia Breed was home in Oregon.
Because of the pandemic, it wasn’t safe to visit her mom, Patti Breed-Rabitoy, who had entered a hospital alone, days earlier, with a high fever and other symptoms that were confirmed to be caused by COVID-19.
So, Breed called for help giving her mother a final gift, separated by 800 miles but still together.
Quarantine Corner: Things to do while keeping your distance
Fresh air can help so much. Here are six fun things to do outdoors in Seattle without needing a car.
Inundated by produce from your CSA box or garden? Try these tips to maximize that sometimes odd bounty.
How 7 Seattle schools won $100,000 to help students' families
“We saw there was a need,” Beacon Hill International School PTA President Callista Chen says, so she helped a coalition of PTAs land funding from the Seattle Foundation to help families pay for rent, groceries and more amid the pandemic.
In an era when PTAs get criticized for giving wealthy schools an extra boost, this is very different: Relatively well-off schools are using their might to help those that have more students living in poverty.
One single mom who's already gotten help from a PTA says that without it, things would have been "disastrous."
Catch up on the past 24 hours
Washington state confirmed 521 additional coronavirus infections yesterday, including 10 deaths. Here’s how to understand what the numbers mean about the virus’ spread.
The CDC will issue new guidance on school openings, Vice President Mike Pence said yesterday, hours after President Donald Trump criticized earlier recommendations and threatened to cut federal aid for districts that defy his demand to reopen in person. Can he do that? Well … kind of, possibly.
Will Americans pick schools … or bars? A growing chorus of public health experts is urging federal, state and local officials to help kids get back to school safely by keeping high-risk spots like taverns and gyms closed.
The health department has shut down Duke’s Seafood on Alki Beach after a coronavirus outbreak. Two employees at Duke’s branches in Bellevue and Tacoma also tested positive, according to a source, and servers are sharing their concerns about management's actions.
Volunteers are needed for large coronavirus vaccine studies set to begin this month. The race for a vaccine will depend crucially on tens of thousands of volunteers, who can sign up now. And a hot debate is already taking place over which Americans should get the vaccine first.
Seattle-based Sur La Table has filed for bankruptcy and will close nearly half its kitchenware stores. It’s a similar story for Brooks Brothers, the 202-year-old brand that claims to have dressed all but four U.S. presidents.
The 120-year-old Washington State Fair in Puyallup has been canceled. But there will still be takeout fair food, a drive-in concert series and a movie night.
Do workers have a right to wear Black Lives Matter masks? Tensions are flaring as some companies say no, even as they declare support for the Black Lives Matter movement. Here are the legal issues involved. Meanwhile, retail workers are getting pulled into a growing culture war between those who mask up, and those who don't.
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