Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Thursday, June 25, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.
Two months of progress in the United States have been wiped out by a coronavirus resurgence, which is sending infections to dire new levels across the South and West, health experts are warning. While newly confirmed infections have been declining steadily in early hot spots such as New York and New Jersey, several other states set single-day records this week, including Arizona, California, Mississippi, Nevada, Texas and Oklahoma.
In our state, health officials confirmed 483 new COVID-19 infections on Wednesday, as well as nine additional deaths. Gov. Jay Inslee announced Wednesday his plan for colleges and universities to reopen this fall, including making students and staff self-certify that they have not experienced COVID-19 symptoms since their last visit to campus.
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.
Seattle Theatre Group announces staff cuts in wake of coronavirus shutdowns
Seattle Theatre Group, operator of three major Seattle performance venues, will reduce staffing and delay the announcement of its 2020-2021 performing arts season lineup, the organization announced Thursday.
According to the release, STG’s total staffing will be reduced from 206 to 61 employees. All told, about 70% of STG’s staff will be furloughed, including both part-time and full-time employees, STG spokesperson Emily Krahn said Thursday. Full-time staffers affected by the furloughs will maintain access to employee benefits. STG will also cut the pay of employees whose annual salaries exceed $60,000.
STG’s theaters — the Paramount, Moore and Neptune — have been shuttered since March due to the coronavirus pandemic, with 141 performances canceled and 135 delayed.
As COVID-19 spreads in Spokane, Inslee visits and meets unmasked resistance
SPOKANE — The rate of people being hospitalized for COVID-19 in Spokane has doubled in the past week, and the state’s second-largest city is “on the edge of a cliff,” Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said Thursday.
“Something has to change to rescue people and the economy,” Inslee said after visiting with civic leaders on Washington State University’s Spokane campus.
Inslee’s visit drew a few dozen protesters against his administration’s proclamation earlier this week requiring people to wear masks when in public.
Spokane County is currently in Phase 2 of the state’s four-phase reopening plan, meaning many businesses are open. As of 11:59 p.m. Wednesday, 1,098 people in the county have been infected and 38 of those have died, according to the state Department of Health.
Enrollment at regional colleges drops, leading to cuts
With families out of work this spring because of the coronavirus, and with college courses reduced to prerecorded lectures and Zoom discussions, many experts predicted that enrollment would decline precipitously this fall.
So far, projections at the state’s two research universities, University of Washington and Washington State University, are holding up well.
It’s a different story, though, at Central Washington and Eastern Washington universities, which expect enrollment to fall by 10% or more.
Both schools have already started outlining potential budget cuts; Eastern may lay off or reduce hours for as many as 400 employees. And because of the way the pandemic scrambled several application deadlines, some institutions, such as The Evergreen State College, still don’t know what to expect.
CDC chief says coronavirus cases may be 10 times higher than reported
WASHINGTON – The number of Americans who have been infected with the novel coronavirus is likely 10 times higher than the 2.3 million confirmed cases, according to the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Our best estimate right now is that for every case that’s reported, there actually are 10 other infections,” CDC Director Robert Redfield said Thursday on a call with reporters.
Using that methodology pushes the tally of U.S. cases to at least 23 million. Redfield said the larger estimate is based on blood samples collected from across the country that look for the presence of antibodies to the virus. For every confirmed case of covid-19, 10 more people had antibodies, he said.
Redfield and another top CDC official said that young people are driving the surge in cases in the South and West. They attributed that to the broader testing of people under 50. “In the past, I just don’t think we diagnosed these infections,” Redfield said.
Read the full story here.
State confirms 498 new COVID-19 cases and 7 more deaths; positive test rate holds steady at 6%
State health officials confirmed 498 new COVID-19 cases in Washington on Thursday, and seven new deaths.
The update brings the state’s totals to 30,367 cases and 1,300 deaths, meaning about 4.3% 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, 505,795 tests for the novel coronavirus have been conducted in the state, per DOH. Of those, 6% have come back positive.
The state has confirmed 9,573 diagnoses and 606 deaths in King County, the state's most populous, accounting for a little less than half of the state's death toll. At 6.3%, King County's positive test rate is higher than the statewide average.
U.S. officials change virus risk groups, add pregnant women
NEW YORK — The nation’s top public health agency on Thursday revamped its list of which Americans are at higher risk for severe COVID-19 illness, adding pregnant women and removing age alone as a factor.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also changed the list of underlying conditions that make someone more susceptible to suffering and death. Sickle cell disease joined the list, for example. And the threshold for risky levels of obesity was lowered.
The changes didn’t include adding race as a risk factor for serious illness, despite accumulating evidence that Black people, Hispanics and Native Americans have higher rates of infection, hospitalization and death.
Read the full story here.
US health officials estimate 20M Americans have had virus
WASHINGTON — U.S. officials estimate that 20 million Americans have been infected with the coronavirus since it first arrived in the United States, meaning that the vast majority of the population remains susceptible.
Thursday’s estimate is roughly 10 times as many infections as the 2.3 million cases that have been confirmed. Officials have long known that millions of people were infected without knowing it and that many cases are being missed because of gaps in testing.
The news comes as the Trump administration works to tamp down nationwide concern about the COVID-19 pandemic as about a dozen states are seeing worrisome increases in cases.
Read the full story here.
Second inmate death from COVID-19 at Coyote Ridge prison
A second inmate from the Coyote Ridge Corrections Center in Franklin County died this week of the new coronavirus, the state Department of Corrections (DOC) reported Thursday.
William Bryant, 72, died Monday at a local medical facility where he was moved on June 13 after contracting COVID-19, DOC said in a statement.
DOC said Bryant was serving a 68-month sentence for first-degree child molestation out of Grays Harbor County and that his earliest release date was in 2022.
Last week, 63-year-old inmate Victor Bueno died of COVID-19. He was in the medium security prison for violating a Kitsap County restraining order and was due for release in September.
DOC said it began to test all employees and inmates at Coyote Ridge for coronavirus on Wednesday. The Benton-Franklin Health District, Washington Department of Health and the Washington National Guard will conduct or assist with the testing, the department said.
Coyote Ridge has been hit hardest by the coronavirus among Washington’s correctional facilities, which have otherwise largely been spared the major outbreaks seen in jails and prisons elsewhere around the nation.
Monroe Correctional Complex experienced a smaller outbreak that stirred fear among prisoners and their families and sparked a lawsuit against the state.
That legal challenge, which sought the release of thousands of prisoners to protect them against any outbreaks, was rejected by the state Supreme Court.
One corrections staffer at Monroe Correctional Complex died from COVID-19.
As of Wednesday, DOC said there were 43 confirmed cases of COVID-19 among staff, including four in Correctional Worker Core training, and 110 confirmed cases among its incarcerated population.
On Tuesday, 23 people at the prison with COVID-19 symptoms and 1,852 inmates who were exposed but do not have symptoms were separated from others, DOC said.
Texas puts reopening on pause as coronavirus cases soar
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Thursday halted elective surgeries in the state's biggest counties and said the state would “pause” its aggressive reopening as it deals with a surge in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations that has made it one of the nation’s virus hot spots.
The suspension of elective surgeries is designed to protect hospital space in the Dallas, Houston, Austin and San Antonio areas. Statewide, the number of COVID-19 patients has more than doubled in two weeks. Texas has reported more than 11,000 new cases in the previous two days alone.
The pause on further re-openings does not roll back previous orders that allowed much of the economy to reopen. But it would appear to slow down any planned expansion of occupancy levels at places like bars, restaurants and amusement parks and other venues.
“We are focused on strategies that slow the spread of this virus while also allowing Texans to continue earning a paycheck to support their families,” the Republican Abbott said in a statement. “The last thing we want to do as a state is go backwards and close down businesses. This temporary pause will help our state corral the spread until we can safely enter the next phase of opening our state for business.”
Who would be the first to get a COVID-19 vaccine?
Who would be the first to get a COVID-19 vaccine?
Probably people in the country where the first effective vaccine is developed.
About a dozen different vaccines are in various stages of testing worldwide, including in Britain, China and the U.S. This week, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top U.S. infectious disease expert, said he is cautiously optimistic there will be a COVID-19 vaccine by the end of the year or early 2021.
Several wealthy countries have already ordered millions of doses of those experimental vaccines.
Britain and the U.S., for example, have invested in a vaccine candidate being developed by Oxford University and produced by AstraZeneca. If it works, U.K. politicians have said Britons will be vaccinated with it. The U.S. expects to start stockpiling it this fall and also has invested in other vaccine candidates.
Groups including the vaccine alliance GAVI are also working to buy doses for poor countries, and AstraZeneca has agreed to license its vaccine to India’s Serum Institute for the production of 1 billion doses. The World Health Organization is drafting guidelines for the ethical distribution of COVID-19 vaccines.
How vaccines are distributed within a country will vary. Last week, U.S. officials said they were developing a tiered system for that. The system would likely prioritize groups at greatest risk of severe complications from COVID-19 and key workers.
Outbreak in German slaughterhouse brings police, mass testing
German police deployed hundreds of officers Thursday across two western regions that have been placed under a renewed pandemic lockdown in an attempt to contain a coronavirus outbreak linked to a slaughterhouse.
Swathed in white protective gear, officers accompanied local council workers making house calls on people who were under quarantine to make sure they were at home.
Some of the checked-on individuals worked at the large slaughterhouse that has had about 1,300 people test positive for COVID-19. But caught in the same net — or rather, behind steel barricades erected by authorities — were workers at other local companies who happen to live in the same apartment buildings as those from the slaughterhouse owned by the Toennies Group, Germany’s biggest meat processing company.
Many are migrants from Eastern Europe who come to Germany legally in the hope of earning many times what they might make in their home countries.
There has been widespread sympathy in the city of Guetersloh for the migrant workers, whose often dire workplace and living conditions have been put in the spotlight by the coronavirus outbreak. Like other companies in the German meat industry, Toennies has long used subcontractors for much of the work in its plants, a practice that critics say allows the company to avoid the stricter oversight it would face if it employed workers directly.
'Deeply irresponsible,' says London mayor of raucous street parties
At least 22 police officers were injured after a street party in the south London district of Brixton that violated coronavirus lockdown restrictions descended into violence.
In a statement Thursday, the Metropolitan Police said they were called overnight to “a large unlicensed music event in the street” and that officers unsuccessfully sought to encourage the crowd to leave.
As a result, it said, more police officers arrived and the revellers started turning “hostile.” Footage on social media showed that a number of police vehicles were smashed and bottles thrown at officers. Police said none of the officers suffered serious injury but that two required hospital treatment.
Under lockdown restrictions in England, groups are limited to six people but the warm weather over much of the past few weeks has seen far bigger gatherings take place. Wednesday was the hottest day of the year so far in the U.K., with temperatures in the capital hitting more than 32 degrees Celsius (90F).
London Mayor Sadiq Khan said large gatherings during the pandemic are “deeply irresponsible” and are a risk to life.
'Major incident' declared as thousands flock to England's beaches
Police around the southern English coastal town of Bournemouth urged people to stay away Thursday as thousands defied coronavirus social distancing rules and flocked to local beaches on the U.K.’s hottest day of the year so far.
A “major incident” has been declared for the largely rural area that can only be navigated in most places by car on narrow lanes. This gives additional powers to local authorities and emergency services to tackle the issue.
Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole council said services were “completely overstretched” as people sought the sanctuary of the seaside on a day meteorologists confirmed as the hottest of 2020. The mercury hit 33.3 degrees C (around 92 F) at London’s Heathrow airport.
Extra police have been brought in and security is in place to protect waste collectors, who the council said faced “widespread abuse and intimidation” as they emptied overflowing bins. Roads, which were gridlocked into the early hours, now have signs telling people the area is full, according to the council.
Council leader Vikki Slade said she was “absolutely appalled” at the scenes witnessed on the beaches — particularly at Bournemouth and Sandbanks over the past day or two.
“The irresponsible behavior and actions of so many people is just shocking and our services are stretched to the absolute hilt trying to keep everyone safe,” she said. “We have had no choice now but to declare a major incident and initiate an emergency response.”
Coronavirus threw Seattle Pride off course. Nationwide protests make the celebration even more timely.
The pandemic forced Seattle Pride into uncharted territory as it became clear this spring that the usual mass gatherings wouldn't be allowed.
Meanwhile, the Black Lives Matter movement seems to be bringing Pride back to its roots in the 1969 Stonewall riots.
In light of this legacy, Seattle LGBTQ+ organizations and individuals are celebrating and reflecting on what Pride means to them, and how the community can come together now — distantly but meaningfully.
A three-day virtual event kicks off tomorrow. Here are details and other ways to celebrate in the Seattle area, along with what to read about Pride as we remember a shuttered bookstore that's still making a difference in the LGBTQ+ community.
Quarantine Corner: Making it easier to stay home
Takeout food can quickly lose its charm on the trip home. But two Seattle restaurants have conquered the problem with lovely options that feel like real treats. You'll also find hidden gems in Lynnwood, including roast chicken, plump dumplings and melty carnitas.
New movies: “Miss Juneteenth” is so natural that it leaves you “imagining the characters living their lives, long after the final frame,” our critic says. But she’s trying hard to forget Jon Stewart’s “Irresistible.”
Catch up on the past 24 hours
COVID-19 cases roared to a single-day record in the U.S. yesterday. Deaths aren't rising in lockstep with cases, but that's likely to change soon. Who's getting sick? A disturbing generational shift has authorities worried, and governments worldwide are ramping up precautions.
Baa-aa-aaa? People who follow Washington's mask order are "sheep," Lewis County's sheriff said through a bullhorn yesterday. He's among many critics who are chafing at the order as cases climb. Here's when you are and aren't required to wear a mask, and how to wear one properly.
Coronavirus spread to dozens of Yakima jail inmates while some guards went without masks, reflecting a strong resistance in a county that's become a coronavirus hot spot.
If you go out, stay safe. Here are tips for navigating travel, restaurants, hotels, salons, houses of worship and more.
Two University of Washington athletes have tested positive for the virus as players return to campus. Football is looking increasingly less certain, with colleges nationwide reporting a slew of positive tests. Gov. Jay Inslee yesterday laid out what Washington universities must do to open in person.
Seattle tourism season, coronavirus edition: The usual flood of tourists — who drop dollars all over town — is mostly a trickle so far. The wimpy traffic at Sea-Tac Airport is one sign of this. Will tourist-dependent businesses survive? Some are finding keys to keep this from becoming an entirely lost summer.
Disney's California theme parks won't open as scheduled in mid-July, because of the state's spike in coronavirus cases.
COVID-19 survivor Ronald Hill didn’t remember his wife for about a week after he emerged from his monthlong coma. “It was just a joyous feeling when I found who I am and who she is,” he says. Now he has a message for the rest of us.
Who hasn’t heard of COVID-19 by now? More people than you might think.
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