Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Sunday, June 20, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.
It’s Father’s Day, but in some long-term care facilities around the country, hugs and kisses are still discouraged or banned, and visits are limited or cut off entirely if someone tests positive for the coronavirus. Frustration has set in for families.
Thousands of heavy metal fans were camping, singing — and even moshing — on Saturday at Britain’s first full music festival since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. The festival is one of a series of test events to see whether mass gatherings can resume without triggering outbreaks of COVID-19. Meanwhile, Afghanistan was racing to ramp up supplies of oxygen as a deadly third surge of COVID-19 worsens. The country has run out of empty cylinders.
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.
Tokyo’s portion of Olympic torch relay to be partially canceled
The Tokyo metropolitan government is arranging to cancel the Olympic torch relay on some public roads because emergency-level priority measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus will be in effect in certain places when the relay proceeds in the capital from July 9.
The metropolitan government is also mulling implementing alternative events without spectators.
The torch relay is scheduled to take place in 62 municipalities in Tokyo for 15 days with more than 1,000 runners participating.
Emergency-level priority measures are in effect for some locations from June 21 to July 11, which overlaps with the first three days of the torch relay in Tokyo when it is scheduled to be run in Setagaya Ward, Hachioji and other places.
Read the full story here.
In the wake of India’s COVID crisis, a ‘Black Fungus’ epidemic follows
In the stifling, tightly packed medical ward at Civil Hospital, the ear, nose and throat specialist moved briskly from one bed to the next, shining a flashlight into one patient’s mouth, examining another’s X-rays.
The specialist, Dr. Bela Prajapati, oversees treatment for nearly 400 patients with mucormycosis, a rare and often deadly fungal disease that has exploded across India on the coattails of the coronavirus pandemic. Unprepared for this spring’s devastating COVID-19 second wave, many of India’s hospitals took desperate steps to save lives — steps that may have opened the door to yet another deadly disease.
“The pandemic has precipitated an epidemic,” Prajapati said.
In three weeks, the number of cases of the disease — known by the misnomer “black fungus,” because it is found on dead tissue — shot up to more than 30,000 from negligible levels. States have recorded more than 2,100 deaths, according to news reports.
Read the full story here.
Traveling this summer? Here’s what you should know about the delta variant.
With vaccinations on the rise and mortality rates related to COVID-19 going down in Europe and other parts of the world, many people are making plans to travel this summer and beyond. But experts say the quickly circulating Delta variant is a new concern for travelers, particularly those who are unvaccinated.
The European Union said June 18 that the United States would be added to its “safe list” of countries, a decision that should allow even unvaccinated American visitors (who can provide proof of a negative coronavirus test) to enter its 27 member states for nonessential travel. These countries, however, can impose their own restrictions and requirements for entry.
The EU decision comes the same week that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention elevated the Delta variant of the coronavirus to a “variant of concern” as it appears to spread more quickly and may affect people more severely than earlier forms of the virus.
If you’re wondering how the variant will affect your travel plans, here is everything you need to know before booking a flight.
‘Disorder and chaos’ in NYC jails as pandemic recedes
Violence on Rikers Island is surging. Exhausted guards are working triple shifts. And staffing shortages have triggered lockdowns at some of the jail’s largest facilities.
More than a year after the coronavirus sickened thousands in New York City’s jail system, the Department of Correction has plunged further into crisis as complaints of severe mismanagement, persistent violence and deaths of incarcerated people continue to mount.
Correction officers and incarcerated people alike have described a tumultuous first half of the year: Six detainees have died, including at least two by suicide and one who passed away later at a hospital, compared with seven through all of 2020. Guards have been forced to work triple and occasionally quadruple shifts, staying on duty for 24 hours or longer, to make up for staffing shortages.
Last month, a report by a federal monitor appointed to oversee the troubled jails described a system in a state of disorder and expressed grave concern about the agency’s ability to change course. Read the full story.
U.S. sending 2.5 million doses of Moderna vaccines to help Taiwan
The United States was to ship 2.5 million doses of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccines to Taiwan on Saturday, tripling the original amount the Biden administration had promised, according to State Department spokesman Ned Price.
The shipment, first reported by Reuters and scheduled to arrive Sunday, could add tension to the U.S.-China relationship as Taiwan grapples with its first major coronavirus outbreak. Chinese officials were peeved this month when three U.S. senators visited the island, which China regards as its own territory, to announce the original pledge of 750,000 doses, as well as when Japan said it was giving Taiwan 1.2 million AstraZeneca doses.
Read the full story.
Coworking from your apartment building
Before the pandemic, Tony Dopazo leased an office in Boston and used coworking spaces in New York City for his company, Metro Tech Services, an IT provider for startups and biotech companies. Then the pandemic lockdown forced him, like countless others, to work remotely. That meant he was on the phone with clients from his apartment building, Level, in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn.
At first, with the common areas in his rental building closed by COVID restrictions, Dopazo, 47, hunkered down in his one-bedroom, which was “brutal,” he said, “everything mish-mashing into one big blob of time.” But after the common spaces opened in September, he started going down to a coworking area in a ninth-floor lounge every day.
It is unclear whether such arrangements will last. Some building managers say the ranks using coworking spaces are already thinning as the city opens up.
But developers are betting remote work is here to stay and are ramping up work-related offerings, including conference rooms and private offices that residents can reserve, even if it means scaling back recreational amenities to do so.
Read the full story here.
21 Seattle-area restaurants our critics are most excited to try post-pandemic
A former Canlis chef is opening in White Center, a favorite Vietnamese restaurant will launch an all-vegan menu, a popular bar plans a tiki extravaganza. … With 70%-plus of Seattle all vaxxed up (good for us!) and Washington restaurants set to reopen at full capacity by June 30 (yes!), Seattle Times restaurant critics Bethany Jean Clement and Tan Vinh cleared their brains of COVID-19 cobwebs and assembled this list of most-anticipated places.
Some are coming soon; some have just debuted; some have new chefs or a fresh location. Wherever you might decide to go, enjoy it as much as humanly possible (we’re so lucky to be going out in the world again!) and tip big (after what restaurants have been through, they deserve it more than ever!).
Read out critics' picks here.
Let them eat snacks: COVID aside, students still need to eat and drink in school
Editor’s note: This guest essay is part of Education Lab’s Student Voices program. Read more columns by local students at st.news/studentvoices2021.
After more than a year of virtual school, I returned to (hybrid) in-person learning at Sammamish High School in early April. Like many of my classmates, I had a successful first day back — except for the huge headache I came home with. The reason? Hunger and dehydration.
Working online from home, I’d grown accustomed to being able to run into the kitchen whenever I felt hungry, so going five hours between breakfast and lunch felt like an eternity. As rules and safety precautions filled my brain, my focus quickly dissolved into a pounding head and growling stomach.
Turns out many of my classmates feel the same way. In normal years, most secondary-school classrooms allow students to eat snacks during class, and many students do. However, with concerns regarding contaminated surfaces and the spread of respiratory droplets, the Bellevue School District, as well as many school districts throughout Washington state, chose to prohibit classroom snacking during the pandemic.
Read more about snacking at school here.
Israel struggles to restore vaccine swap deal after Palestinians reject doses for being too old
Israeli officials are working to revive talks to deliver vaccine doses to the Palestinian Authority after a deal last Friday was suddenly called off by P.A. officials who said that the vaccines were too close to their expiration date and do not meet their standards.
Some 5 million Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza are still without sufficient vaccine supplies as shipments from other sources continue to lag even while their neighbor, Israel, is mostly returning to pre-pandemic life.
The announcement and abrupt cancellation of the deal has given rise to conspiracy theories and further damaged the low standing of the Palestinian Authority among its people.
On Friday, Israeli officials celebrated the finalization of the three-way deal between the two governments and Pfizer, by which Israel would ship more than 1 million doses of its vaccine to the Palestinian Authority, in exchange for a similar number of doses to be delivered back to Israel later this year. Read the full story here.
More superintendents leaving after tough, pandemic year
Austin Beutner has been an investment banker, first deputy mayor of Los Angeles, and publisher and chief executive of the Los Angeles Times. But none of those jobs were tougher than the position he is soon leaving after the grueling covid-19 year: superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District.
Beutner is one of a wave of school superintendents leaving their posts, far more than in a typical year, a result of the extraordinary challenges of keeping kids learning after schools closed in spring 2020 and serving as crisis managers for months on end while dealing with pandemic pressures on their own families.
The departures are from the top spots in large cities – including the largest three, New York City, Los Angeles and Chicago – but also in many midsize and smaller districts in suburban and rural areas, according to AASA, the School Superintendents Association, which keeps track of its 9,000 members. Seattle is among the cities getting new leadership as its district emerges from the pandemic.
“We have worked 15 hours a day, seven days a week – truly 15 hours a day, truly seven days a week,” said Beutner, who declined an offer by the district’s school board to extend his three-year tenure. “It has been exhausting, and my guess is, from talking to other superintendents, this year has been like none other.”
Read more about the turnover here.
Tokyo: Olympics like no other with Olympic Village to match
The pandemic-delayed Tokyo Olympics will be like no other when they open on July 23. And they’ll have an idiosyncratic Olympic Village to match.
Start with the aptly named “Fever Clinic,” a prefabricated complex of isolation rooms inside the sprawling village on Tokyo Bay. This is where PCR tests will be given to athletes or staff suspected of carrying COVID-19.
It is a spot nobody will want to visit, unlike the massive dining hall, or the fitness center, or a special “casual dining area” that will serve famous Japanese dishes from okonomiyaki (a savory pancake) to rice balls to teppanyaki (dishes cooked on an iron grill).
Athletes will be tested daily in the village, after being tested at least twice before leaving home, and again upon arrival. Any test anomaly in the village could land athletes or staff in the hands of Dr. Tetsuya Miyamoto, senior director of the Medical Services Department for the organizing committee.
Read more about the Olympic Village here.
Resolution opposed to ‘vaccine segregation’ voted down by Kelso Council
The Kelso City Council voted against a resolution that would have a declared the city opposed to any mask requirements or limits based on vaccination status.
Councilmembers voted 3-2 to not enact the resolution during Tuesday’s City Council meeting. Lisa Alexander, who introduced the resolution to the City Council, and Keenan Harvey voted in favor.
The proposed resolution would have kept the city from promoting mask requirements or proof of COVID-19 vaccination at city-sponsored events. It would have declared the city council opposed to any government-mandated “vaccine segregation.” The resolution also directed the city to contact the office of Gov. Jay Inslee and demand a full lifting of coronavirus restrictions by the end of June.
Read the full story here.
Pandemic brought out something positive for some people — resilience
While the pandemic has been a time marked by stress, grief and hardship for many Americans, some have also experienced a surprising outcome: a sense of resilience.
Out of the challenges of navigating a disorienting new world came a shift in perspective and priorities. People made decisions and formed healthy habits that could shape their lives for the better.
While a pandemic might seem like an unusual catalyst for inspiring positive life changes, experts say it’s typical to see a range of responses to a collective trauma.
In some individuals, the toll of the past year led to worsening mental health. But research indicates others may emerge more resilient. Read the full story here.
Have Gates Foundation efforts to vaccinate the world against COVID-19 helped — or hindered?
As a dangerous new virus began spreading around the globe in early 2020, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation turned to a tried-and-true playbook.
It’s an approach that has worked well for the Seattle philanthropic giant for more than two decades, ever since it set out to boost childhood vaccinations in the developing world. Back then, the foundation helped bankroll a new, global entity — Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance — to broker deals with pharmaceutical companies, pool donations from wealthy countries and provide low-cost shots for the world’s poorest kids.
Faced with the first pandemic of the modern era, the foundation and its partners relied on the same blueprint to create an entity called COVAX that would operate in a similar way to ensure access to COVID-19 vaccines in low- and middle-income countries.
But as of mid-June, COVAX has shipped fewer than 90 million doses to countries with a collective population of about 6 billion. It’s unlikely the initiative will meet even its original, modest goal of providing 2 billion doses by the end of this year — enough to fully vaccinate just 20% of those people.
Now, the Gates Foundation itself is coming in for an unprecedented level of criticism from activists who say the powerful philanthropy helped create the crisis. Read the full story here.
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