Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Friday, June 12, as the day unfolded. To find resources and the latest extended coverage of the pandemic, click here.
Coronavirus is still surging in the United States. Cases are rising in nearly half the states, according to an Associated Press analysis, a worrying trend that could worsen as people return to work and venture out during the summer. A concerning report from the University of Washington predicts the number of infections and deaths in the country could begin climbing again in September, marking the start of a second wave of the epidemic.
Meanwhile, Skamania County has been given approval to move to the third phase of Washington’s four-part reopening plan, according to the state Department of Health. But its neighbor, Cowlitz County, has postponed its application for Phase 3 due to an increase in cases. Now, 23 counties in the state are in the second phase and 10 are in the third phase.
Three counties remain in the first and most restrictive phase, and three others — including King County — are in a modified version of the first phase, which allows for some restrictions to lift.
Throughout Friday, on this page, we’ll post updates from Seattle Times journalists and others on the pandemic and its effects on the Seattle area, the Pacific Northwest and the world. Updates from Thursday can be found here, and all our coronavirus coverage can be found here.
The following graphic includes the most recent numbers from the Washington State Department of Health, released Thursday.
Washington State Patrol chief says agency won’t use tear gas ‘until further notice’
SHELTON, Mason County — The Washington State Patrol won’t be using tear gas on demonstrators during the coronavirus pandemic, the agency’s leader said Friday.
After Seattle and Olympia recently announced their bans on tear gas for dispersing protesters, Washington State Patrol (WSP) Chief John Batiste said he ordered the State Patrol to comply with those two cities’ directives.
But because of concerns by public health officials that tear gas could increase chances of COVID-19 spreading, Batiste said he decided to expand his directive.
“In fact I’ve taken it a step further, to say that we will no longer use gas until further notice, particularly while we’re in this pandemic,” said Batiste. “We don’t want to be a part of spreading the COVID virus, and dealing with people’s immune systems.”
His announcement came after WSP deployed tear gas and other crowd-control devices early on during Seattle’s demonstrations after the death George Floyd while in custody of Minneapolis police officers.
Washington not meeting its goal to test nursing home residents and staff for coronavirus
OLYMPIA — Washington won’t meet its goal of completing broad testing of most nursing home residents and workers for the new coronavirus, citing a shortage of testing supplies.
Meanwhile, the state Department of Health (DOH) Friday also announced it has made little progress so far on broad testing of memory care units in assisted living facilities. The agency has hoped to complete that goal by June 26.
The setback comes as Washington has struggled to secure enough testing materials and medical-protective gear as it competes against other states and nations for scarce supplies amid the global pandemic.
“This means that some facilities may not be able to successfully finish the testing process for all staff and residents by the June 12 deadline,” the release said.
So far, 187 nursing home facilities have either completed testing, received testing materials or have those supplies en route, according to the release. The state is waiting to get confirmation from another 22 facilities about how many tests they may need.
State confirms 392 new COVID-19 cases and 10 more deaths
State health officials confirmed 392 new COVID-19 cases in Washington on Friday, as well as 10 additional deaths.
The update brings the state’s totals to 25,171 cases and 1,204 deaths, meaning 4.8% of people diagnosed in Washington have died, according to the state Department of Health’s (DOH) data dashboard. The data is as of 11:59 p.m. Thursday.
So far, 439,862 tests for the novel coronavirus have been conducted in the state, per DOH. Of those, 5.7% have come back positive. The rate of positive tests in Washington has held fairly steady in recent weeks, typically hovering just under 6%, even as case numbers have been climbing.
The state has confirmed 8,611 diagnoses and 586 deaths in King County, the state's most populous, accounting for a little less than half of the state's death toll.
Poll: Americans maintain virus precautions as states reopen
WASHINGTON — Most Americans say they are wearing masks. They are still by and large avoiding restaurants. And the vast majority are still staying at least six feet from others when out and about.
Even as states and metropolitan areas throughout the country relax restrictions on social and economic life during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, a new poll finds that most Americans aren’t yet ready to abandon the public health behaviors that help reduce the risk of themselves and the people around them contracting the virus that causes COVID-19.
“For us, it’s about doing whatever we have to do to keep ourselves and our community safe,” said Jody Hayden, who runs a chocolate shop with her husband in the tiny Lake Michigan town of Empire, about 265 miles northwest of Detroit. She said her family wears masks and keeps their distance while out — and they’ll expect customers to do the same when the doors to their store, the Grocer’s Daughter, reopen next Friday.
“We see people from all over the world at our shop and we really love that, but this summer puts us at risk from people traveling from hot spots,” Hayden said. “We could anger some customers and lose money or not have all the safety measures and … risk a life. We couldn’t live with that.”
UN health chief: Fighting virus very hard in divided world
GENEVA — The head of the World Health Organization said Friday he is “truly concerned” about divisions the coronavirus has created globally and within individual countries, calling it an “invisible but a very small virus causing havoc.”
“The world has never seen anything like this since the flu in 1918,” WHO Secretary-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a press briefing, comparing the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic to the influenza pandemic more than a century ago that is believed to have killed at least 50 million people.
Calling on nations to learn from history and “to do better,” Tedros said the lack of political unity during the current crisis was problematic.
The world’s two leading economic powers — the United States, which has the highest caseload and death toll from the pandemic and China, where COVID-19 first emerged — have traded recriminations and accusations about the origins and handling of the coronavirus.
Some states hit pause, others press on amid spike in virus
AUSTIN, Texas — Utah and Oregon put any further reopening of their economies on hold amid a spike in coronavirus cases, but there was no turning back Friday in such states as Texas, California, Arkansas and Arizona despite flashing warning signs there, too.
One by one, states are weighing the health risks from the virus against the economic damage from the stay-at-home orders that have thrown millions out of work over the past three months.
And many governors are coming down on the side of jobs, even though an Associated Press analysis this week found that cases are rising in nearly half the states — a trend experts attributed in part to the gradual reopening of businesses over the past few weeks.
‘Soft opening’ next month for census door knocking, which had been postponed due to the pandemic
ORLANDO, Fla. — Door knocking by census takers at the homes of people who haven’t yet responded to the 2020 census is scheduled to start next month with a “soft launch,” while a previously postponed count of the homeless will take place in September, U.S. Census Bureau officials said Friday.
The door knocking was supposed to have started last month, but the ongoing pandemic prompted officials to push most of it back until August. Next month will mark the start of a “soft launch” in six locations around the country to be named later “to ensure systems, operations and field plans work as they should,” the bureau said in a statement.
All census takers will be trained in social distancing and will have personal protective equipment, according to the bureau.
CDC posts long-awaited tips for minimizing everyday risk
NEW YORK — Take the stairs, not the elevator, down from your hotel room. Encourage people to bring their own food and drinks to your cookout. Use hand sanitizer after banking at an ATM. Call ahead to restaurants and nail salons to make sure staff are wearing face coverings. And no high-fives — or even elbow bumps — at the gym.
These are some of the tips in long-awaited guidance from U.S. health officials about how to reduce risk of coronavirus infection for Americans who are attempting some semblance of normal life.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention posted the guidelines Friday, along with a second set for organizing and attending big gatherings such as concerts, sporting events, protests and political rallies.
But the guidelines are “not intended to endorse any particular type of event,” the CDC’s Dr. Jay Butler said in a Friday call with reporters.
The staging and attendance of such events should be in accordance with what local health officials are advising, based on much the coronavirus is spreading in a particular community, he added.
Mutation allows coronavirus to infect more cells, study finds; scientists urge caution
For months, scientists have debated why one genetic variation of the coronavirus became dominant in many parts of the world.
Many scientists argue that the variation spread widely by chance, multiplying outward from explosive outbreaks in Europe. Others have proposed the possibility that a mutation gave it some kind of biological edge and have been urgently investigating the effect of that mutation.
Now scientists have shown — at least in the tightly controlled environment of a laboratory cell culture — that viruses carrying that particular mutation infect more cells and are more resilient than those without it.
Geneticists cautioned against drawing conclusions about whether the variant, which has been circulating widely since February, spreads more easily in humans. There is no evidence that it is more deadly or harmful, and differences seen in a cell culture do not necessarily mean it is more contagious, they said.
But the new study, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, does show that this mutation appears to change the biological function of the virus, experts said. The insight could be a crucial first step in understanding how the mutation behaves at a biomolecular level.
King County and Somali Health Board partner with Beyoncé and her mom for free drive-thru coronavirus testing this weekend
Two local health authorities are partnering with Beyoncé and her mother, Tina Knowles-Lawson, to provide two days of free COVID-19 drive-thru testing this weekend in South King County.
Knowles-Lawson launched the #IDIDMYPART initiative with her superstar daughter’s BeyGood foundation in April to promote and broaden testing in Black and brown communities in efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
The drive-thru sites are open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., during which volunteers hope to administer 500 tests each day and distribute care packages, including household supplies, toiletries and gift cards.
Washington state sues Seattle entrepreneur for peddling unauthorized coronavirus vaccine
Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson on Friday filed a lawsuit against a Seattle-based scientist-turned-entrepreneur who had peddled an unauthorized coronavirus vaccine on Facebook for $400 a person.
The lawsuit, filed in King County Superior Court, alleges Johnny Stine and his North Coast Biologics company violated the Consumer Protection Act by advertising his supposed treatment and cure for COVID-19 despite not having undergone any tests for regulatory approval. The suit seeks a permanent injunction barring Stine from further such efforts and maximum fines of $2,000 each for dozens of alleged violations.
“Although numerous COVID-19 vaccines are currently in early stages of clinical trials, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved any vaccine for use to prevent COVID-19,’’ the lawsuit states, adding Stine “capitalized on this crisis by marketing a substance they misrepresented as an effective and safe vaccine against COVID-19 that was available to consumers immediately.’’
CDC urges organizers of large gatherings to ‘strongly encourage’ use of face masks
Federal health officials on Friday urged organizers of large gatherings that involve shouting, chanting or singing to “strongly encourage” the use of cloth face coverings to lower the risk of spreading the coronavirus.
The guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention comes after more than a week of national protests against police brutality where many attendees and police did not wear masks. They also coincide with President Donald Trump’s plans to hit the campaign trail next week and to accept his party’s nomination in Jacksonville, Fla. The Republican National Committee has indicated it does not want to require participants to wear masks for the speech.
Jay Butler, CDC’s deputy director of infectious diseases, sidestepped questions about whether the agency’s guidance on wearing masks at large gatherings applies to political rallies, saying the recommendations speak for themselves.
“They are not regulations. They are not commands,” said Butler, who is helping to lead the agency’s response. “But they are recommendations or even suggestions ... how you can have a gathering that will keep people as safe as possible.”
Read the story here.
Researchers ask if survivor plasma could prevent coronavirus
Survivors of COVID-19 are donating their blood plasma in droves in hopes it helps other patients recover from the coronavirus. And while the jury’s still out, now scientists are testing if the donations might also prevent infection in the first place.
Thousands of coronavirus patients in hospitals around the world have been treated with so-called convalescent plasma — including more than 20,000 in the U.S. — with little solid evidence so far that it makes a difference. One recent study from China was unclear while another from New York offered a hint of benefit.
“We have glimmers of hope,” said Dr. Shmuel Shoham of Johns Hopkins University.
With more rigorous testing of plasma treatment underway, Shoham is launching a nationwide study asking the next logical question: Could giving survivors plasma right after a high-risk exposure to the virus stave off illness?
To tell, researchers at Hopkins and 15 other sites will recruit health workers, spouses of the sick and residents of nursing homes where someone just fell ill and “they’re trying to nip it in the bud,” Shoham said.
Quarantine for some Coyote Ridge inmates as COVID cases rise
OLYMPIA — Coyote Ridge Corrections Center in southeast Washington has put its medium-security unit on restricted movement because of an outbreak of the new coronavirus.
The means 1,815 inmates of the medium-security unit are in quarantine and not interacting with healthy people because they were potentially exposed to the virus, according to the Washington Department of Corrections (DOC).
As of Thursday, 30 corrections officers and 71 inmates had tested positive for COVID-19, according to a statement by the agency.
An additional 33 individuals have been isolated and kept away from healthy people because they have symptoms consistent with the virus, according to the DOC statement.
Located in Connell, Franklin County, Coyote Ridge has minimum- and medium-security units. The minimum-security unit is not on restricted movement.
DOC Secretary Stephen Sinclair said the restrictions are necessary, “Due to the number of positive cases of COVID-19 and the limited access to emergency medical services and hospital care nearby.”
Read more here.
Extremist group al-Shabab sets up COVID-19 center in Somalia
The al-Qaida-linked extremist group in Somalia has unveiled a COVID-19 isolation and care facility, a sign that the group is taking seriously the pandemic that continues to spread in the fragile country.
Al-Shabab announced Friday that the facility, which includes a round-the-clock hotline, has been set up in Jilib, a major stronghold of the extremist group in southern Somalia.
“I am urging people with the disease symptoms to come to the medical facility and avoid infecting other Muslims,” Sheikh Mohamed Bali, a senior al-Shabab official and a member of the group’s ad hoc COVID-19 response committee, said in a speech broadcast by the extremist group’s radio arm Andalus.
When The Associated Press called al-Shabab’s COVID-19 hotline, a man who answered said the care facility is “open for all people.” He declined to say whether they had any virus cases but said the facility — set up in a building that once housed the United Nations children’s agency in Jilib — has all necessary equipment to isolate and treat patients.
For months, Somali health officials have warned that areas controlled by al-Shabab in central and southern Somalia could be at high risk for the virus’ spread. The extremist group has resisted assistance from the government and international health organizations in this and past crises including drought.
Read more here.
Seattle cartoonists document their lives during the coronavirus pandemic
It’s the year 2052, and Nana’s not hugging anyone anytime soon.
She remembers the pandemic too well.
The look into the future comes from Seattle cartoonist and illustrator Marie Bouassi’s series “Future Hangups,” which chronicles a grandmother scarred by having lived through the coronavirus pandemic as she attends her grandson’s birthday party. His friends aren’t big fans of the face masks and hand sanitizer party favors she gives them.
Bouassi, who has published work in Seattle Weekly and in underground Seattle comics publications in addition to self-published comics, said she got the idea for her “Future Hangups” series from her own grandmother, who lived through the Great Depression and was forever affected by it.
Read the story here.
What has to go right for a COVID vaccine in 2020
When President Donald Trump announced last month that a vaccine against the new coronavirus could be available by the end of the year or sooner, his claim was met with a mix of hope and doubt.
The search for vaccines often ends in failure, and the successful efforts have always taken years. So it seemed improbable, if not impossible, that researchers, who began working on vaccines for the new virus in January, could discover something so elusive and do it so quickly.
But then scientists at Moderna, a pharmaceutical company, announced they had made promising early progress and claimed they could potentially have a proven vaccine by winter.
So, could a vaccine in 2020 really be in the cards?
Possibly, said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, but a lot of things will have to line up exactly right for that to happen.
UK delays post-Brexit border checks as virus slams economy
The British government said Friday it will delay bringing in full border checks on goods coming from the European Union to relieve pressure on businesses hammered by the coronavirus pandemic. But the U.K. once again ruled out delaying its full economic break with the bloc beyond the end of this year.
The U.K. left the now-27-nation bloc on Jan. 31, but remains part of its single market for trade and other economic structures during a transition period that lasts until Dec. 31. After that, British firms trading with the EU will face customs checks, border inspections and — unless there is a free-trade deal — tariffs.
The bloc is the U.K.’s biggest economic partner, accounting for about half of Britain’s trade. In February the U.K. government announced that goods coming from the EU would require inspections and customs declarations starting in January.
But on Friday the government said border checks would be introduced in stages. Importers of most goods will be able to delay submitting customs declarations or paying tariffs for up to six months, though they will have to keep customs records. From July 2021, traders will have to make full declarations and pay tariffs at the point of importation.
The government estimates that businesses will have to fill out 200 million new customs forms a year under the new rules.
Read more here.
One of Oregon’s biggest coronavirus outbreaks could take weeks to trace and contain
A large coronavirus outbreak on the Oregon coast, focused mainly in a seafood-processing plant, has quickly overwhelmed the local public health department, offering a glimpse into how even a community well-equipped to combat the virus can struggle to contain a sudden surge.
Health officials in Lincoln County have needed to turn to neighboring counties, a local tribe and even a community college to build up a team of contact tracers big enough to match the more than 100 workers at Pacific Seafood in Newport who tested positive Sunday for COVID-19.
And yet it may still take up to two weeks to identify and reach all of those who came into close contact with the sickened workers, said Rebecca Austen, the health director for Lincoln County.
The delay raises fears that the virus could continue to spread unchecked in the county of 50,000 people.
“To be able to stop the transmission, we need everybody to stay home,” Austen said of people exposed to the virus.
On June 4, Pacific Seafood suspended operations at all five of its Newport facilities, which process shrimp and other seafood. It then paid to have 376 employees and contractors tested the following day through Signature Health and Kashi Laboratories, the company said. On Sunday, the company learned that 124 of the tested workers — or 33% — were infected with COVID-19, currently the largest workplace outbreak in the state outside of the Oregon State Penitentiary, where 167 inmates and staff have fallen ill.
Read more here.
Lives Remembered: LaVelle McGuire, a Bothell mother figure to dozens
LaVelle McGuire was a mother of three children, but she was a mother figure for dozens more.
While working as a secretary at a home for troubled kids, Mrs. McGuire was tasked with picking up runaways and bringing them back. While her own kids were growing up in Bothell, she made sure their friends had an open door and a freshly baked birthday cake. In her later years, she organized a senior outing group, even though most of the members were younger than she was.
Mrs. McGuire died April 20 in Kirkland, five weeks after coming down with COVID-19. She was 94.
Quarantine Corner: Things to do while staying home
Gardeners, don't let tomatoes intimidate you. It's not too late to plant and cultivate healthy, delicious ones.
How older adults can stay fit while staying home: A personal trainer who works with seniors has some lively tips to offer.
No summer camp? Transform your back yard. Here are ideas for building a personal water park, running a ninja Olympics and more.
The new dining out: It’s not the restaurant that’s the risk — it’s the other customers
Things seem nearly normal at Ivar’s Salmon House on Lake Union, until you look closely. Servers wear masks and surgical gloves. Seats are wiped down, in addition to tables. And where are all the people?
This is what it's like to visit a restaurant in King County's modified Phase 1 of reopening. As potential customers wrestle with whether that's a good idea, the County's head of food safety shares his three-pronged approach to staying safe(r) if you go — and doing your part to keep others from risk.
Here are more resources to help you navigate the pandemic, from COVID-19 testing locations to what you can (and can't) do in each county.
Catch up on the past 24 hours
Why are Washington state's coronavirus cases rising again? The answers depend on where you look, health officials say as some regions see big spikes. A UW model suggests a second wave of infections could start in September. Resurgences already have some leaders clamping down: Oregon has paused its reopening, and Washington's Cowlitz County hit the brakes, too.
How Washington schools could look in the fall: Educators are raising concerns after Washington’s schools chief said he expects districts to return to in-person learning, as long as health guidelines allow that. The plan he laid out wouldn't be school as usual, though.
King County Metro will cut bus service 15% from its pre-coronavirus era and start charging fares again. Here's how key routes will be affected.
The state's coronavirus recovery plan could include new taxes on capital gains and big employers, under a proposal from Rep. Frank Chopp of Seattle. Here's where the money would go.
More than 100 crew members have tested positive for COVID-19 on three American Seafoods vessels unloading fish in Bellingham. But the crew of a fourth vessel is worrying after the Seattle-based company opted not to test them.
Homes are selling at a brisk clip as Western Washington’s economy reopens, our Coronavirus Economy daily chart shows.
Do you have questions about the coronavirus that causes COVID-19?Ask in the form below and we'll dig for answers. If you're using a mobile device and can't see the form on this page, ask your question here. If you have specific medical questions, please contact your doctor.
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