Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Saturday, June 13, as the day unfolded. Click here to see the most recent news about the pandemic, and click here to find additional resources.
While people continue to protest over the death of George Floyd and against systemic racism, state and local health officials are making new decisions on whether or not to use tear gas and pepper spray during the coronavirus pandemic. After hearing concerns that using tear gas could increase chances of COVID-19 spreading, the Washington State Patrol on Friday announced they won’t be using the crowd dispersal method on demonstrators during the outbreak.
Federal health officials are also thinking about ways to lower the risk of spreading the coronavirus, and on Friday strongly encouraged organizers of large gatherings that involve shouting, chanting or singing to use cloth face coverings.
Meanwhile, in Washington, counties continue to slowly reopen through Gov. Jay Inslee’s four-phase plan. Here’s what it’s like to visit a King County restaurant in its 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.
Throughout Saturday, 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 Friday 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 Saturday.
China reports 57 new cases, highest daily number in 2 months
BEIJING — China on Sunday reported its highest daily total of new coronavirus cases in two months after the capital’s biggest wholesale food market was shut down following a resurgence in local infections.
There were 57 confirmed cases in the 24 hours through midnight Saturday, the National Health Commission reported. That was the highest daily toll since mid-April and included 36 in Beijing, the capital.
The new cases illustrated how the virus can come back as anti-disease controls are relaxed.
Read the full story here.
State confirms 367 new COVID-19 cases, including nine deaths
State health officials confirmed 367 new COVID-19 cases in Washington on Saturday, as well as nine additional deaths.
The update brings the state’s totals to 25,538 cases and 1,213 deaths, meaning 4.7% 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. Friday.
So far, 450,146 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 8,694 diagnoses and 591 deaths in King County, the state's most populous, accounting for a little less than half of the state's death toll.
DOH warns coronavirus infections on the increase; Inslee says deaths could 'increase substantially'
Coronavirus infections are on the increase on both sides of the Cascades, according to a new report out from the state Department of Health.
The situation report says state epidemiologists have seen a particularly large increases in Benton, Yakima, Spokane and Franklin counties, but said the latest data through the end of May indicates likely increases in infections across the state. The results, the report says, includes increases in coronavirus transmission over Memorial Day weekend, but not infections that may have occurred during recent protests that have drawn tens of thousands of people together in cities and towns across the state.
Gov. Jay Inslee warned that the report indicates that "cases and deaths will soon increase substantially if COVID-19 continues to spread at the current levels."
“Washingtonians have done the hard work to flatten the curve on COVID-19 and we know this has been tremendously difficult for families, businesses and communities over the past few months," the governor said. "But today’s report shows us there is still reason for strong concern in parts of our state. "
He said outbreaks in Benton, Franklin and Yakima counties are of "particular concern" and said he joined scientists and health and political leaders in those communities during a conference Saturday. "This data will force us to look for some creative solutions and strengthen our strong local-state partnerships to address the disease activity." Special attention is being paid to high-risk populations, such as care facilities and "close-proximity" workplace operations such as food processing and agriculture housing.
“This is not the time to give up on efforts to protect ourselves, our families and our communities. We are still in the middle of a pandemic that is continuing to infect and kill Washingtonians.”
The DOH report states that six Washington counties -- Yakima, Klickitat, Benton, Franklin, Spokane and Stevens -- have not yet reached their peak number of COVID-19 cases.
Brazil surpasses the U.K. for the second highest number of COVID-19 deaths; U.S. still leads the world
Coronavirus cases are growing faster than ever in Mexico, Chile and Argentina, while Peru posted its deadliest day yet and a new study showed the illness may be far more widespread in Brazil than official data suggests.
Brazilian states on Friday reported 909 new deaths, bringing the nation’s total death count to 41,828, and overtaking the U.K. for the second highest number of COVID-19 fatalities. Infections rose by 25,982, pushing the toll to 828,810. Brazil now trails only the U.S. on both counts.
A study showed the illness may be far more widespread in Latin America’s largest economy than official data suggests. Researchers at the University of Pelotas in southern Brazil estimate there are six unreported cases for every one confirmed diagnosis across 120 cities studied. In Rio de Janeiro alone, where 40,000 cases are included in the federal government’s official tally, up to half a million people may have been exposed to the coronavirus since the pandemic began, they said.
“The number of people with antibodies is in the millions — not thousands,” the authors, led by university dean and coordinator of the study Pedro Hallal, said in a statement on Thursday.
Mexico reported 5,222 new daily cases on Friday, Chile announced 6,754 and Argentina 1,391 — all of them new highs. Chile also announced its highest daily death toll to date, with 222 people reported to have died.
Still, Brazil, the largest country in Latin America, has almost four times as many cases as any other country in the region. The University of Washington’s Institution for Health Metrics and Evaluation, which the Trump administration has relied on, projects Brazil will overtake the U.S. in per-capita deaths by mid-July. Read the full story here.
Florida fired its coronavirus data scientist. Now she's publishing the statistics on her own.
Last month, Florida fired the scientist was running its coronavirus dashboard providing information about the virus's spread to citizens after she says they asked her to fudge the data.
So now, Rebekah Jones has started her own site to provide the information she says the state wanted her to suppress.
Jones was shown the door by her managers last month after she refused to comply with requests she felt were unethical. Managers asked her to resign, but she refused. She she was fired.
A few weeks later, she's found a way to present the state's coronavirus data exactly the way she wants it: She created a dashboard of her own.
"I wanted to build an application that delivered data and helped people get tested and helped them get resources that they need from their community," Jones, 30, said of the site that launched Thursday. "And that's what I ended up building with this new dashboard."
White House coronavirus response coordinator Deborah Birx praised Florida's official coronavirus dashboard in April as a beacon of transparency. But Jones said the site undercounts the state's infection total and overcounts the number of people tested - facts that bolstered officials' decision to start loosening restrictions on the economy in early May, when the state had not met federal guidelines for reopening.
The competing opinions about how to frame Florida's data underscore the importance of access to accurate information about the virus's spread as the state continues to lift restrictions on public life. Among other data-related controversies, Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, came under heavy scrutiny after Jones first alleged publicly that the health department was manipulating statistics to support his desire to reopen.
In a previous statement, a spokeswoman for the governor said Jones "exhibited a repeated course of insubordination during her time with the Department, including her unilateral decisions to modify the Department's COVID-19 dashboard without input or approval from the epidemiological team or her supervisors."
Jones's allegations about other managers' requests are serious. She claimed that they asked her to delete data showing that some residents tested positive for the coronavirus in January, even though DeSantis assured residents in March that there was no evidence of community spread. Jones also alleged that she was asked to manually change numbers to wrongly make counties appear to have met metrics for reopening.
Read the whole story here.
Scientists say that for some sufferers of COVID-19, the symptoms can rage on for months
Scientists studying the novel coronavirus are finding its symptoms not only can vary from person to person, but the amount of time a person can stay sick can extend for week or even months.
A Washington Post story focuses on a woman named Melanie Montano, who got sick in March with a tightness in her chest and chills and a fever. She said it was "as if I woke up in a totally different body.”
Over the following weeks, the 32-year-old Montano developed a fever, cough, stomach problems, and lost her sense of taste and smell like other who have taken ill from COVID-19. However, unlike most sufferers, her symptoms never went away. She says they kept coming and going in waves like a roller coaster that has kept her bed-bound for 78 days straight — through school shutdowns, shelter-in-place orders, protests over those restrictions, and now, state reopenings.
Those infected with the coronavirus are urged to self-quarantine for 14 days, partly based on the idea that symptoms usually last about that long. While the majority of people with mild illness recover completely in that time, doctors say they’re seeing a small percentage like Montano who remain sick for many weeks, or even months.
But with so little known about the virus, they’re unsure whether those symptoms suggest it is still alive in the body and creating continued havoc, or whether it has come and gone, leaving a lingering immune or inflammatory response that makes people continue to feel sick.
“The bottom line is we just don’t know,” said Adam Lauring, an infectious- diseases physician at the University of Michigan. Read the whole story here.
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