Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Friday, June 26, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.
Starting Friday, most people in Washington are required to wear a face covering in public to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. When Gov. Jay Inslee visited Spokane on Thursday, a few dozen people showed up to protest the mask rule.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Thursday the number of people in the United States who have been infected with the novel coronavirus is likely 10 times higher than the 2.4 million confirmed cases.
The CDC also said Thursday that it has 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.
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 COVID-19 coverage can be found here.
Sur La Table to lay off a fifth of its corporate staff and possibly close five stores
Sur La Table, the Seattle-based company that helped make cooking chic before its own fortunes soured, will lay off dozens of corporate employees and may close five retail locations.
On Friday, the company confirmed that 27 employees, or roughly a fifth of the staff at its corporate offices in Georgetown, would be laid off permanently.
“Unfortunately the sustained closure of our stores since March has forced us to make some difficult decisions to right size the organization to align with our current needs,” the company said in a statement Friday.
News of the layoffs was shared with The Seattle Times on Friday by an employee at the corporate office who requested anonymity and said workers were notified of the layoffs Thursday. The separations start July 1 and don’t include severance packages, said the employee, who is among those being laid off.
In its statement, Sur La Table blamed the layoffs on the pandemic; its 130 outlets temporarily shuttered on March 20. Despite “record growth” in online sales, the company said “we continue to feel the effects of the pandemic” at physical locations.
Oregon officials: Daily COVID cases could increase 20%
PORTLAND — Oregon health officials reported 250 confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Friday and five additional deaths on the same day that authorities released new modeling that shows increased transmission of the coronavirus since the state began reopening about a month ago.
The modeling from the Oregon Health Authority and the Institute for Disease Modeling — based on data collected through June 18 —- found that the virus transmission rate increased 15% after May 15 and another 10% after May 22, the start of the Memorial Day weekend.
There was another increase in confirmed cases around June 11, but health officials aren’t sure yet if those numbers are the result of changes in virus testing or the result of increased virus transmission.
Because of that uncertainty, based on the new data, the OHA and the Institute prepared three potential scenarios that take into account different levels of both increased testing and increased transmission to explain the rise in confirmed cases and predict possible trends.
88 hospitalizations for COVID-19 went uncounted in Washington
Data from the Washington state Department of Health (DOH) on hospitalizations for COVID-19 had, until Friday, left off 88 patients.
The missed data was mostly for hospitalizations this week, but some were from as far back as March 29.
The error, which DOH revealed Friday afternoon, had to do with a data feed outside of its systems being interrupted on June 20 and an internal database that didn’t operate on Tuesday and Wednesday night, the agency said in a news release.
The issue didn’t allow the hospital information to go into DOH’s Washington Disease Reporting System, where the COVID-19 hospitalizations are updated.
COVID-19 cases increasing in Puget Sound, across Washington state
Amid nationwide spikes in COVID-19 cases, it seems Washington state is following the trend, unfortunately.
The Washington State Department of Health (DOH) on Friday released its latest report on the statewide fight against coronavirus, indicating a moderate statewide surge in positive tests in mid-June. The state confirmed 30,855 cases in Washington this afternoon, a single-day increase of 488 cases.
King County has seen the most dramatic uptick in new cases lately, but "large increases in testing make interpretation difficult at this time," the report states.
Still, though, similar bumps have been seen in neighboring Snohomish and Pierce counties without testing increases. While that's cause for concern, the state DOH said, in Yakima County, a hot spot in June, the trend of increased cases may be reversing.
King, Pierce and Snohomish counties, the state's three most populous, have 9,672, 2,421 and 3,406 confirmed cases, respectively, constituting just over 50% of the state's total case count.
Coronavirus task force holds a briefing — but not at White House
WASHINGTON (AP) — There was no presidential appearance and no White House backdrop Friday when the government’s coronavirus task force briefed the public for the first time since April — in keeping with an administration effort to show it is paying attention to the latest spike in cases but is not on a wartime footing that should keep the country from reopening the economy.
The briefing at the Department of Health and Human Services was held as the number of confirmed new coronavirus infections per day in the U.S. soared to an all-time high of 40,000 — higher even than during the deadliest stretch in April and May. In light of the new surge, task force briefers chose their words carefully to update the public about COVID-19, which has become both a public health and political issue.
Vice President Mike Pence had the most delicate line to walk. He acknowledged a surge in new cases across the South and West, while backing the president’s desire to get the economy up and running without mentioning that it will also help the prospects for reelection.
“As we see new cases rising, and we’re tracking them very carefully, there may be a tendency among the American people to think that we are back to the place that we were two months ago — in a time of great losses and a great hardship on the American people,” Pence said.
But the vice president also took note of positive job numbers and added: “The reality is we’re in a much better place.”
State DOH confirms 488 new COVID-19 cases, bringing total to 30,855 in Washington
State health officials confirmed 488 new COVID-19 cases in Washington on Friday, and four new deaths.
The update brings the state’s totals to 30,855 cases and 1,304 deaths, bringing the mortality rate for coronavirus in Washington state to about 4.2%, according to the state Department of Health (DOH). The data is as of 11:59 p.m. Thursday.
So far, 514,428 tests for the novel coronavirus have been conducted in the state. Of those, 6% have come back positive, per the DOH update.
The state has confirmed 9,672 diagnoses and 607 deaths in King County, the state's most populous, accounting for about 46.5% of the state's death toll. At 6.3%, King County's positive test rate is slightly higher than the statewide average.
Governors who quickly reopened backpedal as virus surges
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — When Texas began lifting coronavirus restrictions, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott didn’t wear a mask. He wouldn’t let mayors enact extra precautions during one of America’s swiftest efforts to reopen. He pointed out that the White House backed his plan and gave assurances there were safe ways to go out again.
Two months later, a sharp reversal is unfolding as the number of confirmed infections surges.
The backpedaling is not just in Texas, where Abbott ordered bars to shut down again Friday and scaled back restaurant dining and is now urgently telling people to stay home. Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, also a Republican, did the same, declaring the state “on pause” as hospitals accelerate toward capacity.
As an alarming coronavirus resurgence sets records for confirmed cases and hospitalizations across the U.S. South and West, governors are retreating to measures they once resisted and striking a more urgent tone.
“I think they’re going to have to,” said Dr. Mark McClellan, former head of the Food and Drug Administration. “It doesn’t take most people in a community getting sick to overwhelm health care systems.”
Snonohomish Health District asks partygoers to quarantine, get tested after guest tests positive for COVID-19
If you were at that party in Stanwood on June 17 — you know the one: the weather was great, it was the only 50-person gathering in all of Washington state, and that one guy later tested positive for COVID-19 — the Snohomish Health District is asking that you see a doctor.
After previously announcing reports of a party in Stanwood this month attended by an estimated 40-70 people, Snohomish Health District said in a statement Friday that it has determined not all attendees can be identified. The district is "requesting that all individuals promptly seek COVID-19 testing" after one guest tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
Guests can register to be tested at community-based testing locations, by contacting their health care providers or by inquiring directly with testing facilities.
Partygoers "should remain quarantined at home through July 4," lest they had plans for Independence Day. If the attendees develop symptoms or test positive for COVID-19, they should contact Snohomish Health District.
Given an incubation period that averages four to six days, but can be as long as 14, the district urged that "attendees at that party need to be tested quickly to prevent further spread to others."
Democrats, Republicans clash over Trump's renewed attack on Affordable Care Act
Set against a backdrop of spiking coronavirus cases across the United States, Republicans and Democrats are sparring over the Affordable Care Act, colloquially known as "Obamacare," the latest in a long line of battles over the polarizing piece of legislation.
President Donald Trump's administration filed a Supreme Court brief at 10:30 p.m. Thursday urging the court to overturn the Affordable Care Act, hours after the administration reported nearly 500,000 people who lost health insurance in the wake of coronavirus-related business shutdowns have gotten coverage through HealthCare.gov.
Also on Thursday, the U.S. saw 37,077 new coronavirus cases, a single-day record. Several states, including Arizona, California and Texas, reported record single-day increases in coronavirus cases over the past week, some early hot spots have ticked up this month, and some also broke hospitalization records, like North Carolina and South Carolina.
The de facto Democratic presidential nominee, former Vice President Joe Biden, described Republican attempts to tear down the Affordable Care Act as “cruel” and “callous” when speaking to a crowd in Pennsylvania this week. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called Trump “beyond stupid” for his attack on the act, and introduced legislation to expand the overhaul's scope, basically daring the Republicans to vote against it.
Should the court rule with the Trump administration and overturn Obamacare, more than 20 million Americans would lose their health coverage, and protections for those with preexisting conditions would be put at risk. The case will not come before the court before fall.
Once a GOP weapon against the Democrats, the decade-old legislation has grown in popularity, and the party is hoping fervor over health care results in strong results at the polls, as was the case in the 2018 midterm elections. Democrats hope the Trump administration's push to nullify the law as coronavirus infections surge will build the party's momentum on the issue.
One-third of Black adults know a COVID-19 victim
Nearly 1 in 3 Black Americans know someone personally who has died of COVID-19, far exceeding their white counterparts, according to a Washington Post-Ipsos poll that underscores the coronavirus pandemic’s profoundly disparate impact.
The nationwide survey finds that 31 percent of Black adults say they know someone firsthand who has been killed by the virus, compared with 17 percent of adults who are Hispanic and 9 percent who are white.
Adding in those who know someone with symptoms consistent with COVID-19, slightly more than half of Black Americans say they know at least one person who has gotten sick or died of the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. Fewer than 4 in 10 white or Hispanic Americans say they do.
Taken together, the poll’s findings attest to sharp racial differences in the sense that the virus is close at hand, after nearly a half-year in which it has sparked the nation’s worst public health calamity in more than a century.
According to authorities on health disparities, those differences arise from the nation’s deep-seated socioeconomic inequality and help explain the recent spasm of unrest across much of the country in a drive for racial justice.
“This pandemic has really unearthed — shone a real bright light on — the ways these disparities should not be accepted and are not tolerable,” said Joseph Betancourt, vice president and chief equity and inclusion officer at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.
American Air plans to book flights to capacity, shelve social distancing
American Airlines Group said it would sell flights to capacity starting July 1, abandoning caps on passenger loads that were designed to promote social distancing amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Customers will still be notified when they’re booked on crowded flights and can move their reservations at no cost, the airline said in a statement Friday. As of June 30, American also will ask customers to certify that they have been free of COVID-19 symptoms for the previous 14 days.
American is ditching its restrictions on filling aircraft cabins just as the pandemic worsens in parts of the U.S. that had largely been spared earlier this year. Those areas include states where the carrier has major operations, such as Texas, Arizona and North Carolina.
As virus grows, governors rely on misleading hospital data
Governors in places seeing huge spikes in coronavirus infections often cite statewide data to assure the public they have plenty of hospital capacity to survive the onslaught, even as the states routinely miss the critical benchmarks to guide their pandemic response.
Public health officials and experts say the heavy reliance on statewide hospital data is a misleading and sometimes irresponsible metric to justify keeping a state open or holding back on imposing new limits.
That is because statewide statistics can be deceiving, especially in large states where individual hospitals can be in crisis mode even while the overall capacity numbers look OK.
At the first White House coronavirus briefing nearly two months Friday, Vice President Mike Pence also cited hospitalizations in discussing the outlook for the pandemic. Two months ago, Pence said, 15% of patients were being hospitalized. Now it’s about 5%. That means the health care system is better positioned to cope with a resurgence in cases, he said.
Summer is here, and America is ready to quarancheat
The first weekend in June, Cyré Olivia Coleman, 29, a student in Randolph, Massachusetts, did something that even a month earlier would have felt like a far-fetched dream: took a family vacation.
Since March, Coleman had not left her home, which she shares with her mother, brother, 4-month-old daughter and the father of her child.
“We’ve gotten pretty creative, so we haven’t gone stir-crazy,” she said. “We put my daughter into a laundry basket and splash around with her teething toys. We go on walks around our neighborhood because it isn’t so populated.”
By the beginning of June, however, it was time for an adventure. “We decided that since we’ve been home all this time we could go to my mom’s friend’s lake house,” Coleman said. They all drove to North Conway, a village in New Hampshire set amid lakes, forests and mountains.
Even though the lake house was near the center of the village, they stayed away. “We played family board games, we went on kayaks, we had a kiddie pool, we did lots of barbecuing,” Coleman said. “We went on the trip to stay at the house. The intention wasn’t to go anywhere public.”
After a spring indoors, leisure-seeking Americans with the means to do so are suddenly — if tentatively — on the move. Some are patronizing restaurants or bars, even crossing state lines to do so (and not without repercussion in various areas).
But now, with the patchwork of reopenings across the country, disagreements are arising about which new pursuits may be permissible.
COVID-19 infections and mortality highest where Hannity's reach broadest, study finds
Coronavirus infections have surged in a number of states, setting the United States on a markedly different pandemic trajectory than other wealthy nations.
There are many reasons our response to the pandemic tied to nearly 120,000 U.S. deaths has faltered, experts say, including the lack of a cohesive federal policy, missteps on testing and tracing, and a national culture emphasizing individualism.
In recent weeks, three studies have focused on conservative media’s role in fostering confusion about the seriousness of the coronavirus. Taken together, they paint a picture of a media ecosystem that amplifies misinformation, entertains conspiracy theories and discourages audiences from taking concrete steps to protect themselves and others.
The end result, according to one of the studies, is that infection and mortality rates are higher in places where one pundit who initially downplayed the severity of the pandemic — Fox News’ Sean Hannity — reaches the largest audiences.
“We are receiving an incredible number of studies and solid data showing that consuming far-right media and social media content was strongly associated with low concern about the virus at the onset of the pandemic,” said Irene Pasquetto, chief editor of the Harvard Kennedy School Misinformation Review, which published one of the studies.
Tacoma families can choose from online-only or hybrid school model in the fall
Tacoma Public School families will have the option to continue full-time distance learning in the fall, or return to school in a hybrid model that includes part-time, in-person classes, officials told parents Thursday.
Officials haven’t settled on what this hybrid model will look like, but in general, students will split their time between school buildings and distance learning at home. Schedules will likely vary across the elementary, middle and high school grades, officials said.
Tacoma is the latest district to unveil plans for next school year. Last week, Seattle Public Schools leaders announced that school would resume in-person if King County has entered the fourth phase of Gov. Jay Inslee’s reopening plan; otherwise, schools will offer a mix of online and in-person learning.
Quarantine Corner: Things to do while staying home
Nice job, readers. You came up with platters full of appetizing surprises from basic ingredients in Round 4 of our Pantry Kitchen Challenge. Here are the top recipes and your challenge for the final round.
Are you in the mood for a classic, or a fresh read? Vote for the next Moira’s Book Club selection.
Nearly 1 in 5 Seattle-area renters doubt they can pay rent in July
As scary as that statistic is, renters here are still in the best shape among tenants in the nation's 15 largest metro areas. In one U.S. city, nearly half of renters think they won't be able to pay.
FYI Guy breaks down where the situation looks worst, and how it varies with race, household size and more.
Ex-Defense Secretary Jim Mattis asks Washingtonians to wear masks, 'keep up the good fight'
Former Defense Secretary and retired Gen. Jim Mattis is pitching in on the fight against COVID-19 complacency, urging Washingtonians to "keep up the good fight until we're on top of this."
Mattis, who is from Richland, recorded the 30-second public-service announcement for the state's emergency management division.
In the spot, Mattis pulls down a blue bandanna covering his face before warning about "that nasty virus," saying people should keep wearing face masks, maintain social distancing and avoid going out unnecessarily.
The video's release comes as Gov. Jay Inslee has issued a new executive order requiring Washingtonians to wear face masks when in public to slow the spread of coronavirus.
The order went into effect Friday. It has been met with rage from some Republicans and other conservatives, including several candidates running against Inslee for governor, who have vowed not to comply.
While not directly addressing the political schism, Mattis in the video asks that Washingtonians pull together for the sake of public health.
"Over the course of my career I've learned that divisiveness will never work in defeating an enemy. We've got to all pull together. We can get through this if we are united, and we are going to win," he says.
Mattis, a retired four-star Marine general, was named secretary of Defense by President Donald Trump in 2017. He resigned in December 2018 with a letter making clear he disagreed with Trump's weakening of traditional American alliances.
More recently, Mattis has publicly criticized Trump, saying the president is stoking divisions in the United States and calling him "the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people — does not even pretend to try."
In response, Trump tweeted that Mattis was "the world's most overrated General" and added: "Glad he is gone!"
Catch up on the past 24 hours
"Really bad things are going to happen." Some states are slamming the brakes on reopening as virus cases soar. Cases in the U.S. are likely 10 times higher than reported, the CDC's chief says. His math leaves around 95% of us still vulnerable to the virus, meaning the pandemic is in its early stages. The CDC also changed its list of which Americans are most at risk of getting severely ill.
Gov. Jay Inslee ran into unmasked resistance on a trip to Spokane, which he said is "on the edge of a cliff" as COVID-19 hospitalizations skyrocket.
Tens of thousands of Washingtonians are still waiting weeks or months for unemployment benefits. What's taking so long? The state is facing lawsuits as it tries to get payments out and clean up an epic fraud scheme.
The Trump administration sent $1.4 billion in stimulus money to dead people, a government watchdog has found.
You'll see more outdoor restaurant seating in Seattle. The city plans to waive sidewalk permit fees and cut red tape to help eateries lure skittish customers back.
The operator of Seattle's Paramount, Moore and Neptune theaters is slashing staff and delaying news of its season lineup.
Enrollment at the University of Washington and Washington State University is holding up well, despite coronavirus. It's a different story at Central and Eastern Washington universities, which are outlining budget cuts.
"Imagine you are a coronavirus … your goal is simple but wildly ambitious." Can humans outsmart this wily virus? Scientists are thinking like the enemy in the race to gain the upper hand, and facing a big challenge: Viruses are much more patient than people.
Costco has re-imagined its food samples in this era of social distancing.
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