Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Saturday, June 27, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.
As the rest of the nation sees spikes in COVID-19 cases, Washington health officials said Friday that, unfortunately, our state is following the trend. The state’s latest report indicates a moderate statewide surge in positive tests in mid-June.
Meanwhile, Friday marked the first day of Gov. Jay Inslee’s statewide order which requires all Washingtonians to wear face coverings when in indoor or outdoor public spaces. The state saw mixed reactions, and it seemed the new requirement didn’t largely change people’s opinions on masks.
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 COVID-19 coverage can be found here.
How the coronavirus short-circuits the immune system
At the beginning of the pandemic, the coronavirus looked to be another respiratory illness. But the virus has turned out to affect not just the lungs, but the kidneys, the heart and the circulatory system — even, somehow, our senses of smell and taste.
Now researchers have discovered yet another unpleasant surprise. In many patients hospitalized with the coronavirus, the immune system is threatened by a depletion of certain essential cells, suggesting eerie parallels with HIV.
The findings suggest that a popular treatment to tamp down the immune system in severely ill patients may help a few, but could harm many others. The research offers clues about why very few children get sick when they are infected, and hints that a cocktail of drugs may be needed to bring the coronavirus under control, as is the case with HIV.
Read the full story here.
State DOH confirms 31,404 total COVID-19 cases in Washington
State health officials confirmed 549 new COVID-19 cases in Washington on Saturday, including six additional deaths.
The update brings the state’s totals to 31,404 cases and 1,310 deaths.
So far, 525,802 tests for the novel coronavirus have been conducted in the state, per DOH. Of those, 6% have come back positive.
Trump campaign workers removed social distancing stickers before Tulsa rally
In the hours before his rally in Tulsa, President Donald Trump’s campaign directed the removal of thousands of “Do Not Sit Here, Please!” stickers from seats in the arena that were intended to establish social distance between rallygoers, according to video and photos obtained by The Washington Post and a person familiar with the event.
Read the full story here.
Citing spike in coronavirus cases, Inslee puts pause on counties moving to Phase 4 of reopening plan
Gov. Jay Inslee and state Secretary of Health John Wiesman announced Saturday that, due to “significant rebounds in COVID-19 activity,” Washington is putting a pause on approving counties hoping to move to the fourth phase of the governor’s reopening plan.
“Rising cases across the state and concerns about continued spread of the COVID virus have made Phase 4, which would essentially mean no restrictions, impossible at this time,” according to a statement from the governor’s office.
Before the pause, eight counties were eligible to move from the third to fourth phase.
“Phase 4 would mean a return to normal activity and we can’t do that now due to the continued rise in cases across the state,” Inslee said in the statement. “We all want to get back to doing all the things we love in Washington during the summer, and fully open our economy, but we aren’t there yet."
Actual coronavirus infections vastly undercounted, CDC data shows
The number of coronavirus infections in many parts of the United States is more than 10 times higher than the reported rate, according to data released Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The CDC study found that in South Florida, just under 2% of the population had been exposed to the virus as of April 10, but the proportion is likely to be higher now given the surge of infections in the state. The prevalence was highest in New York City at nearly 7% as of April 1.
The numbers indicate that even in areas hit hard by the virus, an overwhelming majority of people have not yet been infected, said Scott Hensley, a viral immunologist at the University of Pennsylvania who was not involved in the research.
The difference between recorded infections and the actual prevalence in the data was highest in Missouri, where about 2.65% of the population was infected with the virus as of April 26.
The results confirm what some scientists have warned about for months: that without wider testing, scores of infected people go undetected and circulate the virus.
UW Virology announces new coronavirus testing record
The University of Washington virology lab announced Saturday it has hit a new coronavirus testing record with 6,630 tests done on Friday.
About 3.3% of the tests returned positive, the lab said on Twitter. The lab had tested about 219,839 people as of Friday, with about 5.3% of them testing positive.
As the lab expands its testing capacity, it's looking to bring on more people to help out. The department is looking for clinical lab technicians at its Eastlake Virology Lab and UW Medical Center's Montlake campus, according to its website. More information about the job opening, including how to apply, can be found here.
How the world’s beaches are readying for a summer of social distancing
As tourists and travelers start to return to many of the world’s seasides, government health officials and scientists are turning their attention to every inch of sand to assess the risk of the coronavirus’s spread.
But while the novel coronavirus may dislike direct sun and open air, it loves a crowd and shared spaces. That’s why officials in southern England were so shocked last week by what they classed as a “major incident” amid a heat wave: thousands of people packing beaches, all in violation of social distancing measures. In Brazil, beachgoers have similarly flocked to sandy shores while flouting face mask recommendations.
From “beach bubbles” to drones to censors and cellphone tracking, here’s how some countries are readying their beaches for a summer of social distancing.
Young people urged to take virus more seriously as pandemic worsens in U.S.
Health officials are imploring young people to wear masks and practice social distancing as coronavirus transmission among younger Americans continued to drive record outbreaks in several states.
The pleas come as governors in Texas and Florida instituted new limits on bars and alcohol consumption to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus, citing the skyrocketing number of young people who are contracting it. At the White House Friday, Vice President Mike Pence and other members of the Trump administration’s coronavirus task force, in its first briefing in weeks, urged young people to take the virus more seriously.
“Younger Americans have a particular responsibility to make sure that they’re not carrying the coronavirus into settings where they would expose the most vulnerable,” Pence said.
While the virus is most dangerous to the elderly, it can be devastating to younger victims as well, health professionals said. Younger coronavirus patients are a widening percentage of total coronavirus hospitalizations, with those in the 18 to 49 age group growing from about 27% of hospitalizations the week ending March 7 to 35% last week, CDC figures show.
Pence defends policy as new numbers show spread of coronavirus
WASHINGTON — In the past week, President Donald Trump hosted an indoor campaign rally for thousands of cheering, unmasked supporters even as a deadly virus spread throughout the country. He began easing up on restrictions that had been in place at the White House since Washington instituted a stay-at-home order in response to the coronavirus in March, and he invited the president of Poland to a day of meetings. Then, Thursday, he flew to Wisconsin to brag about an economic recovery that he said was just around the corner.
But by Friday, it was impossible to fully ignore the fact that the pandemic the White House has for weeks insisted was winding down has done just the opposite.
The rising numbers in Texas, Florida and Arizona made that clear, as well as the reality that those are all states where the president and his Republican allies had urged people to return to normal.
In a reflection of a growing sense of anxiety over the new numbers, Vice President Mike Pence and members of the coronavirus task force held a public briefing for the first time in two months. But ever loyal to Trump’s desire for good news, Pence tried to tiptoe around the statistics that Dr. Deborah L. Birx, the task force coordinator, pointed to, showing surging cases and hospitalizations in Florida, Texas, Arizona and other states.
3 are dead in New Mexico after drinking hand sanitizer, officials say
Three people have died, three are in critical condition, and one is permanently blind after ingesting hand sanitizer that contained methanol, the New Mexico Department of Health announced Friday.
A spokesman from the Health Department said the cases were related to alcoholism, noting that hand sanitizer is sometimes consumed for its high alcohol content.
The announcement came a week after the Food and Drug Administration warned consumers against buying nine sanitizer products manufactured in Mexico because they contain methanol, which can be toxic if absorbed through the skin or ingested.
Historically, a greater number of methanol poisonings have occurred in times when alcohol is difficult to come by, said Brandon Warrick, an assistant professor at the University of New Mexico who is certified in emergency medicine, medical toxicology and addiction.
“Since hand sanitizer is hard to find in the COVID era, I suspect there is an association with COVID,” he said.
Most U.S. travelers will be barred from EU when bloc reopens
BRUSSELS — The European Union is ready to bar most travelers from the United States, Russia and dozens of other countries considered too risky because they have not controlled the coronavirus outbreak, EU officials said Friday.
By contrast, travelers from more than a dozen countries that are not overwhelmed by the coronavirus are set to be welcomed when the bloc reopens after months of lockdown Wednesday. The acceptable countries also include China — but only if China allows EU travelers to visit as well, the officials said.
The list of safe countries was completed by EU senior diplomats in Brussels after tortuous negotiations on how to reopen the 27-member bloc to commerce and tourism under a common set of standards after months of lockdown.
The list was backed in principle by most EU ambassadors and does not require unanimous support, but still needs to be formalized in member states’ capitals as well as in the central EU bureaucracy before taking effect Wednesday. Diplomats did not expect the list to change.
As support for mask-wearing grows, so do political risks for forgoing them
WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump makes a point of not wearing a mask. A barefaced Vice President Mike Pence did not utter the m-word at a coronavirus briefing Friday.
Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, meanwhile, has gone in the other direction. A mask is part of his 2020 signature look.
This divergent accessorizing once highlighted yet another partisan divide. For Trump allies, going barefaced is all about individual liberty. For Biden supporters, the mask is a symbol of science and sound policy.
But as infections spike in red states such as Texas, Florida and Arizona, support for masks has grown. In recent days, even some Republicans have urged the public to cover their faces in public, arguing that it’s the best way to slow the virus. This shift in rhetoric highlights the potential risks for the president as he continues to eschew public health experts, who agree that masks are crucial to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Polling suggests that the majority of Americans favor facial coverings.
First day of Washington state’s new mask requirement draws mixed results
On the first day of Washington state’s new order to wear masks in public, it seemed as though not much had changed: People who already supported face coverings wore them, and people who didn’t, didn’t.
While the order makes a bare face in many public situations a misdemeanor, some local law enforcement agencies aren’t planning to be strict about it.
Many Seattle businesses and restaurants showed support for the rule on Friday, but not every business appeared supportive.
B. Fuller’s Mortar & Pestle, a Fremont tea shop around the corner from Kin Len, faced a backlash over a notice posted on its door earlier this week.
“Please remove your mask,” the notice read, according to pictures posted on social media and in Yelp reviews. “It was all a panic, mostly, and we can all admit that we overreacted. We can all take off the masks that we all know don’t do much. And that we are all wearing just because we think everyone else wants us to.”
On Friday afternoon, B. Fuller’s was closed — though the shop is usually open every day from noon to 5:30 p.m. — and didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
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