Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Thursday, June 18, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.
More than 2 million people in the United States have been infected with COVID-19, with some states — including Arizona and Florida — reporting surges in cases as economies open. Earlier this week, Oregon reported a record daily number of cases.
On Wednesday, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden called on President Donald Trump to “wake up” and accused him of “surrender(ing) the fight.” In Philadelphia this week, Biden said the president wants to declare the pandemic over even as it continues to kill Americans and disrupt the economy.
In Washington state, public health officials admitted Wednesday that the Department of Health’s data has been accidentally overcounting the number of people who have tested negative for the virus, leading to an underestimation of the rate of positive tests. A DOH spokesperson wasn’t able to explain whether this means the virus’ spread in Washington may be worse than previously thought but said the error wouldn’t factor into the state’s decisions to let counties reopen.
Throughout Thursday, 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 Wednesday 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.
Scientists take aim at another coronavirus study in a major journal
A group of leading scientists is calling on a journal to retract a paper on the effectiveness of masks, saying the study has “egregious errors” and contains numerous “verifiably false” statements.
The scientists wrote a letter to the journal editors Thursday, asking them to retract the study immediately “given the scope and severity of the issues we present, and the paper’s outsized and immediate public impact.”
The letter follows heated criticism of two other major coronavirus studies in May, which appeared in the New England Journal of Medicine and The Lancet. Both papers were retracted amid concerns that a rush to publish coronavirus research had eroded safeguards at prestigious journals.
The study now under fire was published June 11 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The lead author is Mario Molina, who won the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 1995, with two other scientists, for finding a link between man-made chemicals and depletion of the atmosphere’s ozone layer.
Man says he was kicked off flight for not wearing mask; reporter nearby says there’s more to it
Airline incidents that go viral follow a familiar pattern. A passenger tweets a photo or story about some form of mistreatment, tags the airline, shames a flight attendant or fellow traveler, then vows to never fly using the carrier again. One recent flier illustrated how easily a single perspective can carry the narrative even when other factors may be at play.
On Twitter, one user named Brandon Straka posted Wednesday about an interaction on an American Airlines flight from New York’s LaGuardia Airport to Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport. After a flight attendant asked Straka whether there was a reason he wasn’t wearing a mask, he replied: “Sanity.”
A spokesperson for the airline confirmed that an incident involved Straka, though not how he initially described it on Twitter, and by Thursday evening, the airline said he’d been suspended from being able to fly with it.
Around the same time, Astead Herndon, a politics reporter for The New York Times, posted about a “mutiny” that was happening on a flight he was on. Herndon says he wasn’t aware that Straka was a notable figure when he sat down in the first-class seat next to him but initially thought to push back on the viral tweet because it was a mischaracterization of what actually occurred.
First Washington prisoner dies of new coronavirus
OLYMPIA — A Washington inmate has died of the new coronavirus after being held in a prison experiencing a outbreak.
Victor Bueno, 63, died Wednesday after spending about three weeks in a hospital near Coyote Ridge Corrections Center, according to a Washington Department of Corrections (DOC) news statement.
“The Department of Corrections is saddened by this loss,” said DOC Secretary Stephen Sinclair in the Thursday evening statement announcing Bueno’s death. “The health and safety of the incarcerated individuals, the community and our staff remains our top priority.”
Bueno most recently entered the state’s corrections system on Sept. 28, 2017, according to DOC, after violating a protection order out of Kitsap County. His estimated release date was Sept. 19.
State confirms 408 new COVID-19 cases and 19 more deaths
State health officials confirmed 408 new COVID-19 cases in Washington on Wednesday.
The update brings the state’s totals to 27,192 cases and 1,245 deaths, meaning about 4.6% 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, 446,899 tests for the novel coronavirus have been conducted in the state, per DOH. Of those, 6.1% have come back positive.
The rate of positive tests in Washington had hovered between 5.5% and 6% in recent weeks, but ticked above 6% on Wednesday when DOH corrected an error in its calculations in which it had been overcounting the number of negative tests.
The state has confirmed 8,963 diagnoses and 597 deaths in King County, the state's most populous, accounting for a little less than half of the state's death toll.
King Co. Public Health sets up mobile testing, mental health services at CHOP
Public Health - Seattle & King County has arranged for mobile testing for the novel coronavirus at the Capitol Hill Organized Protest, and have established mental and behavioral health resources and volunteers at the northwest corner of Cal Anderson Park.
This according to a tweet from King County Councilmember Girmay Zahilay:
On June 10, the agency opened three, ongoing and free COVID-19 test sites in south King County. The sites are located at Sea Mar Community Health Centers at South Park, HealthPoint Auburn and at UW Mobile Clinic at Auburn City Adventist Church. This brings the total number of free testing sites in south Seattle and south King County to ten, with 18 total free testing sites overall in King County.
Also last week, Public Health - Seattle & King County announced that its Greater Seattle Coronavirus Assessment Network (SCAN) study is resuming. "The study will continue to inform King County’s public health response by helping understand where the virus exists in our region," a statement said, "and how it is spreading."
California orders people to wear masks in most indoor spaces
California will require people to wear masks in most indoor settings and outdoors when distancing isn’t possible under a statewide order issued Thursday.
“Science shows that face coverings and masks work,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a statement announcing the order. “They are critical to keeping those who are around you safe, keeping businesses open and restarting our economy.”
A number of other states including Michigan, New York, Maine, Delaware and Maryland already have statewide mask orders in place.
The order comes as California broadly reopens the economy; in most counties, people can now shop, dine in at restaurants, get their hair done and go to church, among other things.
Meanwhile, coronavirus cases are increasing, something the state says is expected as more people get tested. More than 3,400 people were in the hospital as of Wednesday, the most patients hospitalized since April.
Allen Family Foundation donates $2.2 million in PPE and cash for food banks
The Paul G. Allen Family Foundation today announced $2.2 million in additional contributions to help control the novel coronavirus and assist those most affected by the local epidemic.
The foundation, created by the late Microsoft co-founder and his sister, Jody Allen, is donating $1 million to the WA Food Fund, a statewide relief program for food banks.
The foundation also provided $1.2 million worth of personal protective equipment for distribution to health care facilities across the state. The equipment includes 2.3 million pairs of surgical gloves, 75,000 surgical gowns and 3,000 infrared thermometers, according to a press release.
The foundation worked with Vulcan, the private company founded by Paul Allen; state health officials and Amazon to source the gear, which was transported to the U.S. for free by Amazon’s air cargo network.
The latest donations are in addition to at least $2.7 million in previous donations from Vulcan and the Allen Family Foundation to UW Medicine’s coronavirus testing and research efforts, the Seattle Foundation’s COVID-19 Response Fund and assistance programs for arts organizations and restaurants affected by the epidemic.
Woodland Park Zoo to reopen July 1
Woodland Park Zoo will reopen on July 1.
Tickets will go on sale June 22 and visitors will need to reserve their entrance time, the zoo said Thursday.
According to an explanatory email, visitors — including members — will need to purchase tickets with an entrance time.
Entrance will be only through the West Entrance, near the penguins.
People will be required to wear face masks except for children under 2 years and people who are medically unable to wear them. Visitors will be asked to maintain 6 feet of social distancing.
Bathrooms will be open, but some amenities such as vending machines and drinking fountains will not be.
For more information, see the zoo's website.
Poll: Americans not buying White House spin on coronavirus
Vice President Mike Pence says the U.S. response to the coronavirus pandemic is “a cause for celebration,” but a new poll finds more than half of Americans calling it fair or poor.
The Gallup and West Health survey out Thursday found that 57% of U.S. adults rated the national response to COVID-19 as fair or poor, particularly in light of the fact that America has the world’s most expensive health-care system.
The numbers amount to a flashing warning for President Donald Trump and his White House team, eager to change the narrative from projections that show a growing number of U.S. pandemic deaths to a story of American resilience and economic revitalization that reinforces his reelection bid.
In a Wall Street Journal opinion article published Wednesday, Pence castigated the news media for focusing on rising COVID-19 cases in states like Texas and Arizona.
“We’ve slowed the spread, we’ve cared for the most vulnerable, we’ve saved lives, and we’ve created a solid foundation for whatever challenges we may face in the future,” wrote Pence, who leads the White House coronavirus task force. “That’s a cause for celebration, not the media’s fear mongering.”
The poll found that 23% of adults rated the national response as excellent or very good, while an additional 20% rated it as good.
UN: Venezuelans, other refugees face huge pandemic hardships
The head of the U.N. refugee agency says he is “very worried” about the impact of the coronavirus in Latin America, where millions of Venezuelans have fled upheaval at home and could face hardship abroad among lockdowns and other restrictive measures to fight the pandemic.
U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said 164 countries have either partially or totally closed their borders to fight COVID-19. Many people who flee abroad rely on the “informal economy” often involving day work with cash wages — economic activities that are at risk as governments ratchet up coronavirus lockdowns.
“Of course, it is good that countries are taking these measures of prudence” against the virus, Grandi said. “Unfortunately, COVID-19, which has been able to cause the entire world to grind to a halt, has not been able to stop wars, conflicts, violence, discrimination.”
“People are still fleeing their countries to seek refuge, to seek protection. This needs to be considered,” he added, appealing to governments.
The impact could be especially stark for 3.7 million Venezuelans abroad, the world’s second-largest refugee group after the 6.6 million Syrians displaced by their country’s war.
Europe hit by local infection spikes; China’s outbreak wanes
ATHENS, Greece — Europe grappled Thursday with local spikes in coronavirus infections as the continent’s lockdown restrictions eased, after hundreds of cases were found at one meatpacking plant in Germany and Greece had to impose a total seven-day lockdown on one village.
Germany and Greece have been widely considered to have handled their countries' outbreaks well.
Meanwhile, a new outbreak in Beijing saw a decline in daily cases and Hong Kong Disneyland reopened after a major drop in infections in the Chinese territory.
Race for virus vaccine could leave some countries behind
As the race intensifies for a vaccine against the new coronavirus, rich countries are rushing to place advance orders for the inevitably limited supply to guarantee their citizens get immunized first — leaving significant questions about whether developing countries will get any vaccines in time to save lives before the pandemic ends.
Earlier this month, the United Nations, the International Red Cross and Red Crescent, and others said it was a “moral imperative” that everyone have access to a “people’s vaccine.” But such grand declarations are unenforceable, and without a detailed strategy, the allocation of vaccines could be inequitable and extremely messy, said health experts.
“We have this beautiful picture of everyone getting the vaccine, but there is no road map on how to do it,” said Yuan Qiong Hu, a senior legal and policy adviser at Doctors Without Borders, in Geneva. Few measures have been taken to resolve numerous problems that would block fair distribution, she said.
In the past, Hu said, companies have often applied for patents for nearly every step of a vaccine’s development and production: from the biological material like cell lines used, to the preservative needed to stretch vaccine doses and even how the shots are administered.
“We can’t afford to face these multiple layers of private rights to create a ‘people’s vaccine,’” she said.
Read the story here.
Blood type may be tied to COVID risk; O may help, A hurt
A genetic analysis of COVID-19 patients suggests that blood type might influence whether someone develops severe disease.
Scientists who compared the genes of thousands of patients in Europe found that those who had Type A blood were more likely to have severe disease while those with Type O were less likely.
Wednesday’s report in the New England Journal of Medicine does not prove a blood type connection, but it does confirm a previous report from China of such a link.
“Most of us discounted it because it was a very crude study,” said Dr. Parameswar Hari, a blood specialist at the Medical College of Wisconsin, of the report from China. With the new work, “now I believe it,” he said. “It could be very important.”
Read more here.
Official: German slaughterhouse virus outbreak untenable
BERLIN — Germany’s agriculture minister said Thursday that conditions at a slaughterhouse where hundreds of workers tested positive for COVID-19 were untenable and backed an official investigation into the outbreak.
Authorities in the western region of Guetersloh said that 730 people at the Toennies Group meatpacking plant in Rheda-Wiedenbrueck had tested positive for the new coronavirus, an increase of 73 since Wednesday.
Coronavirus outbreaks have also affected meatpacking plants in other countries, including in the United States. The United Food and Commercial Workers union said recently that at least 44 slaughterhouse workers in the U.S. have died from the virus and another 3,000 have tested positive.
Test maker targeted by FDA says it responded to U.S. concerns
WASHINGTON — Hong Kong-based company Mediakit Ltd., which was targeted by the Food and Drug Administration for selling unauthorized coronavirus antibody tests, says it has responded to regulators’ concerns, though it has no business operations in the U.S.
The Food and Drug Administration announced Wednesday it had sent warning letters to three companies selling at-home blood tests, none of which have been reviewed or authorized by the agency. At-home testing can carry extra risks for patients due to the risk of faulty results. The FDA has not authorized any COVID-19 test to be used completely at home.
The warning letters come as FDA tries to police dozens of antibody tests that the agency allowed onto the market earlier this year without evidence that they worked. After coming under fire from experts and members of Congress, the FDA changed course last month, telling companies to submit testing data to remain on the market.
Britain scraps virus tracing app for Google-Apple system
LONDON — Britain is scrapping plans to launch its own coronavirus contact tracing smartphone app because of technical problems and will now work on building one using technology supplied by Apple and Google, health authorities said Thursday.
The government’s app had been undergoing trials on the Isle of Wight, and was expected to be rolled out to the rest of the country later. But the program, previously hailed as a fundamental pillar of the U.K. response to the pandemic, has been delayed.
Governments around the world have been turning to smartphone technology to help battle fresh virus flare-ups as they ease lockdown restrictions. But technical problems and privacy concerns have dogged the development of virus tracing apps.
Durkan extends coronavirus closures in Seattle
Mayor Jenny Durkan has ordered Seattle's libraries, community centers and public pools to remain closed through at least the end of June, as the region continues to slowly, haltingly reopen from coronavirus shutdowns.
Durkan's executive order, issued Thursday, also extends coronavirus relief policies that have been in place for months: an eviction moratorium, rent relief for tenants, flexible payment plans for utilities and a suspension of paid parking requirements.
All Seattle public libraries will remain closed through at least the end of June, although select sites will be open for restroom access. Community centers, public pools and all permitted events ⚊ except for farmers markets ⚊ will also remain off-limits. Parking lots at the city's biggest parks will remain closed.
The extended closures come even as Seattle has been home to mass protests over police brutality and systemic racism, with thousands of people in close, outdoor gatherings. They also come as King County has applied to move to Phase 2 of the state's four-phase reopening plan, which would allow limited restaurant dining and retail business activity, but would continue to ban almost all gatherings.
King County has not seen a substantial uptick in positive COVID-19 cases since the protests began.
"In Seattle, even as communities protest, heal, and work to find a path forward together, the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and job losses cannot be ignored," Durkan said in a prepared statement.
Quarantine Corner: Things to do while staying home
You can watch Washington’s concert event of the summer from your couch. The megaconcert next week will unite Seattle’s music royalty for coronavirus relief. If that isn't your jam, maybe you'd like the boldly virtual summer festival of the Seattle Chamber Music Society.
Quarantine has left us with all sorts of weird canned odds and ends. What to do with a can of fruit? It’s the only ingredient you need to make sorbet.
Catch up on the past 24 hours
Washington state has been reporting incorrect COVID-19 testing numbers for two months by overcounting people who have tested negative. The state wasn't able to explain whether this means the virus’ spread in Washington may be worse than previously thought.
Does the pandemic look worse in the U.S. than in other countries simply because of increased testing here? That argument from President Donald Trump misses the reality, fact checkers say. In a new poll, a majority of Americans are not buying the White House spin that its response to coronavirus is "a cause for celebration."
Gov. Jay Inslee is canceling raises for more than 5,500 state workers and imposing unpaid furlough days, as the state grapples with a looming budget shortfall brought on by the pandemic.
Fremont Brewing has temporarily shut down its beer garden and other facilities after a worker tested positive.
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