Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Tuesday, June 29, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.
This week marks a significant step in our path back toward normalcy — King County is formally lifting its mask mandate Tuesday, which means fully vaccinated residents are free to shed face coverings when outdoors and in most indoor spaces. Gov. Jay Inslee is celebrating by raising a flag above the Space Needle later this week as part of a mini “Washington Ready” tour, but some residents might not be ready to go barefaced.
Brazil recently surpassed 500,000 official COVID-19 deaths, the world’s second-highest total behind the United States, while UK officials believe England is on track to remove the country’s remaining restrictions by mid-July.
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.
Judge won’t dismiss case against Florida virus whistleblower
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — A judge on Tuesday refused to dismiss a criminal case against a former Florida Department of Health employee-turned whistleblower who raised questions about information being reported by the state on the coronavirus.
Judge Francis Allman in Tallahassee rejected a motion to dismiss the criminal case against Rebekah Jones. The Leon County judge didn’t elaborate on his reasons in a one-page order.
Jones helped build the state’s online presentation of its COVID-19 data until she was fired. She received national attention last year when she suggested that Health Department managers wanted her to manipulate information to paint a rosier picture of Florida’s coronavirus situation and that she pushed back.
She has received whistleblower status from the department’s Office of Inspector General.
Emergence of coronavirus variants not enough to trigger strict mask guidance, Washington state officials say
For now, strict masking requirements will not be coming back to Washington state, despite the spread of more transmissible coronavirus variants among unvaccinated people, state health officials said Tuesday.
The World Health Organization recently urged even fully vaccinated people to wear a mask as the delta variant, first detected in India, has spread considerably in the United States and other countries. But that doesn’t jibe with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Washington state.
“We are not changing our mask requirements out of concern about that variant at this time,” state Department of Health spokesperson Ashley Gross said.
But Dr. Umair Shah, the state’s secretary of health, did amend his masking order Tuesday. The updated order directs those not fully vaccinated to continue wearing masks in public indoor settings and that even the fully vaccinated must wear masks in schools, health care settings and on public transportation.
Most Washington high schoolers felt sad or depressed during the pandemic, state survey finds
Nearly 60% of Washington high school students — and almost half of the state’s middle schoolers — were sad or depressed most days during the pandemic, state health and education officials reported Tuesday. Across those surveyed, 8-10% said they had little or no hope about the future.
The findings, which come from a survey of about 65,000 adolescents and teens, are preliminary and are not representative of all students, the researchers say. But they do offer a first look at how Washington’s young generation fared emotionally during the pandemic — and bolster anecdotal accounts from families, hospitals and government officials that youth mental health reached crisis level as the pandemic wore on.
The findings don’t offer insight into the severity of youth’s mental health concerns, but they do paint a troubling picture that suggests depression is pervasive among the state’s youth, experts say.
“I have lots of urgent concern about this. We are really seeing another pandemic of mental illness,” said Alysha Thompson, clinical director and psychologist at the inpatient psychiatric unit at Seattle Children’s, who was not involved in the research. “It validates what we’re seeing at the hospital level and … it’s pretty disheartening that youth in the area are really struggling.”
Thousands of young children lost parents to COVID. Where’s help for them?
In a nation where researchers calculate that more than 46,000 children have lost one or both parents to COVID-19 since February 2020, survivors say finding basic services for their bereaved kids — counseling, peer support groups, financial assistance — has been difficult, if not impossible.
Interviews with nearly two dozen researchers, therapists and other experts on loss and grief, as well as families whose loved ones died of COVID-19, reveal the extent to which access to grief groups and therapists grew scarce during the pandemic. Providers scrambled to switch from in-person to virtual visits and waiting lists swelled, often leaving bereft children and their surviving parents to cope on their own.
“Losing a parent is devastating to a child,” said Alyssa Label, a San Diego therapist and program manager with SmartCare Behavioral Health Consultation Services. “Losing a parent during a pandemic is a special form of torture.”
Paul keeps up complaints over handling of COVID-19 pandemic
GREENSBURG, Ky. — U.S. Sen. Rand Paul complained bitterly Tuesday about the government’s COVID-19 response but did not single out former President Donald Trump for blame, instead accusing Kentucky’s governor and Dr. Anthony Fauci of encroaching on personal freedom.
In a home state appearance in Greensburg, Kentucky, the libertarian-leaning Republican said Americans should make their own decisions on whether to be vaccinated.
“We don’t really need people who believe in some sort of elitism to tell us what to do,” said Paul, who is an eye surgeon, speaking before a luncheon audience. “I think we’ve got pretty good sense.”
Paul noted that most people age 65 and older have receive their vaccinations, saying they “figured out it was in their best interest to do so.”
“In a free society, we make these decisions individually,” he said.
LA County urges everyone to wear masks indoors as delta variant spreads
With the highly contagious delta variant of the coronavirus continuing to spread statewide, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health is recommending that all residents wear masks in public indoor spaces — regardless of whether they’ve been vaccinated for COVID-19.
Monday’s announcement is one of the clearest signals yet of just how seriously health officials are taking the strain, and the danger it poses, particularly to those who have yet to be inoculated.
Officials have said the delta variant does not pose a risk to vaccinated people. But there is growing concern for those who have not been vaccinated and are at higher risk. As of last week, 3 in 5 Californians, or 60.5%, have now received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine.
While not a new mask mandate, the county is urging that, as a precaution, “people wear masks indoors in settings such as grocery or retail stores; theaters and family entertainment centers, and workplaces when you don’t know everyone’s vaccination status.”
In worst-hit African nation, COVID vaccines halted and hospitals hit capacity
In Namibia, which has Africa’s fastest-growing COVID-19 epidemic, vaccines are running out, hospitals and mortuaries are overwhelmed and the blame game has begun.
First-time inoculations have been stopped as there are only enough doses to complete courses, and the government is being criticized by politicians and its own medical experts.
“Systems in the hospitals are under severe pressure, including staff, who are overworked and not performing at their best,” said Gordon Cupido, head of internal medicine at the Katutura State Hospital in the capital, Windhoek. “The human cost is tremendous, often patients are dying unnoticed.”
State health officials report 324 new coronavirus cases
The state Department of Health (DOH) reported 324 new coronavirus cases and nine new deaths Tuesday.
The update brings the state’s totals to 451,248 cases and 5,920 deaths, meaning that 1.3% of people diagnosed in Washington have died, according to the DOH. The data is as of 11:59 p.m. Monday. Tallies may be higher earlier in the week because new state data isn’t reported on Sundays and COVID-19-related deaths aren’t reported on the weekends.
In addition, 24,455 people have been hospitalized in the state because of the virus — 31 new hospitalizations. In King County, the state’s most populous, state health officials have confirmed a total of 112,482 COVID-19 diagnoses and 1,653 deaths.
Since vaccinations began in mid-December, the state and health care providers have administered 7,795,522 doses and 49.9% of Washingtonians have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to vaccination data, which the state updates on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Providers are now giving an average of about 18,467 vaccine shots per day.
The DOH says its daily case reports may also include duplicate test results, results assigned to the wrong county, results that are reported for today but are actually from a previous day, occasional false positive tests and other data discrepancies. Because of this, the previous day’s total number of cases plus the number of new daily cases does not add up to the new day’s total number of cases. State health officials recommend reviewing the dashboard's epidemiologic curves tab for the most accurate representation of the state's COVID-19 spread.
Russia allows booster shots 6 months after vaccination
Russian health officials have approved booster shots for people vaccinated against COVID-19 six months after their first immunization, as the country struggles to cope with a surge of infections and deaths.
The health ministry has issued guidelines allowing those who contracted COVID-19 to get vaccinated six months after they recovered, and those who have been immunized to get booster shots six months after their first vaccination.
The new guidelines come as infections in Russia soar and vaccination rates lag behind many other nations.
Russia’s state coronavirus task force has been reporting over 20,000 new COVID-19 infections daily since last Thursday, more than double the average in early June. On Tuesday, 20,616 new contagions were registered and 652 deaths — the highest daily death toll in the pandemic.
No evidence that chance meetings at office boost innovation
People who study the issue say there is no evidence that working in person is essential for creativity and collaboration. It may even hurt innovation, they say, because the demand for doing office work at a prescribed time and place is a big reason the American workplace has been inhospitable for many people.
“The idea you can only be collaborative face-to-face is a bias,” said Dan Spaulding, chief people officer at Seattle-based Zillow, the real estate marketplace. “And I’d ask, how much creativity and innovation have been driven out of the office because you weren’t in the insider group, you weren’t listened to, you didn’t go to the same places as the people in positions of power were gathering?”
He and others suggested reimagining the office entirely — as somewhere people go to every so often, to meet or socialize, while daily work is done remotely.
Disney delays test cruise over ‘inconsistent’ virus results
Disney Cruise Line is postponing its first test cruise since the pandemic brought the cruise industry to a standstill after a handful of participants had inconsistent test results for COVID-19, the company said Monday.
The Disney Dream had been scheduled to set sail Tuesday from Port Canaveral, Florida, with 300 employees who had volunteered for the “simulation” cruise. But the trip was postponed until next month, pending approvals, because a small number of employees had inconsistent results for COVID-19, “which is considered positive by the CDC,” Disney said in a statement.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had approved the cruise line’s request to conduct a two-night test cruise.
The federal government is starting to allow cruises to sail again, but only if nearly all passengers and crew are vaccinated against the virus.
Australia offers all adults AstraZeneca to speed up rollout
Australia is offering AstraZeneca to all adults in a bid to rapidly ramp up sluggish vaccination rates as more of the country on Tuesday locked down against the spread of COVID-19.
The government late Monday agreed to indemnify doctors who administer the AstraZeneca vaccine that has been blamed for at least two fatalities from a rare blood clot complication in Australia since April.
Australia has been relatively successful in containing clusters throughout the pandemic, registering fewer than 31,000 cases and 910 deaths within a population of 26 million. But the new clusters of a variant thought to be more contagious have highlighted the nation’s vulnerability through a slow vaccine rollout.
Millions skipped church during pandemic. Will they return?
With millions of people having stayed home from places of worship during the coronavirus pandemic, struggling congregations have one key question: How many of them will return?
As the pandemic recedes in the United States and in-person services resume, worries of a deepening slide in attendance are universal.
It’s too early to know the full impact of the pandemic. Surveys do show signs of hopefulness — and also cause for concern.
About three-quarters of Americans who attended religious services in person at least monthly before the pandemic say they are likely to do so again in the next few weeks, according to a recent AP-NORC poll. That’s up slightly from the about two-thirds who said in May 2020 that they would if they were allowed to do so. But 7% said they definitely won’t be attending.
Pandemic points to need to work together as Italy hosts G-20
With the pandemic providing painful lessons on how interconnected the world is, ministers from nations accounting for more than half the world’s population were meeting in Italy on Tuesday to explore how to better cooperate, including on vaccines and climate change efforts.
Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio cited both as areas where it’s imperative that countries pull together. He opened the appointment, attended by foreign ministers and development ministers from the Group of 20. Together the G-20 nations account for some 80% of the world’s GDP.
“In an interconnected world, multilateralism and international cooperation are the only effective instruments in facing global challenges,” Di Maio said. “We have had an example of that with the vaccines.”
Americans skipped lots of dental care during COVID, and now hygienists are having a wild time
Dental hygienist Jeannette Diaz’s patients sometimes cry. Lately, she’s been crying with them.
It’s not just because so many people refrained from getting dental work during much of the COVID-19 pandemic, leaving her to scrape off more than a year’s worth of tartar and plaque. It’s not just because the labor of cleaning teeth can take a toll on hygienists’ bodies.
It’s also because the patients are unburdening themselves on her — describing the tragedies and heartaches that have bombarded them during the pandemic. Many tell her how the coronavirus took their loved ones.
Dental hygienists “work in such close proximity and cover so many aspects of [a patient’s] life in going over their medical history that grief and loss and depression come up as a topic of conversation,” Diaz said.
The start of the pandemic brought dentistry nationwide to a near standstill. Now, with COVID-19 vaccines readily available and new coronavirus cases down significantly in the U.S., patients are clamoring for teeth cleanings.
Suicidal crises, mental fatigue: Kids grapple with reentry
After two suicidal crises during pandemic isolation, 16-year-old Zach Sampson feels stronger but worries his social skills have gone stale.
Amara Bhatia has overcome her pandemic depression but the teen feels worn down, in a state of “neutralness.” Virginia Shipp is adjusting but says returning to normal “is kind of unnormal for me.’’
After relentless months of social distancing, online schooling and other restrictions, many kids are feeling the pandemic’s toll or facing new challenges navigating reentry.
Across the nation, health professionals are treating children with previous mental health issues that have worsened to those who never struggled before the pandemic.
Mental health resources for young people
- For a life-threatening emergency: Call 911.
- For suicide prevention, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and connect to local resources:
1-800-799-4889 (Deaf or hard of hearing)
- For other youth-specific resources, follow this link.
Pandemic saw a boom in new Black-owned businesses — the largest surge in the last quarter-century
If ever there were a hint of a silver lining in the pandemic, it may be the thousands of Black entrepreneurs turning adversity into opportunity by starting businesses of their own.
Last year there were more new Black-owned businesses proportionate to the total population than at any time in the last quarter-century, according to the Kauffman Foundation’s annual study. Black entrepreneurism ranked higher than for white-owned and Asian-owned companies, the group found.
On average 380 out of every 100,000 Black adults became new entrepreneurs during the 2020 pandemic, up from 240 in each of the prior two years, according to the study, based on census data.
Three studies, one result: vaccines point the way out of the pandemic
Three scientific studies released Monday offered fresh evidence that widely used vaccines will continue to protect people against the coronavirus for long periods, possibly for years, and can be adapted to fortify the immune system still further if needed.
Most people immunized with the mRNA vaccines may not need boosters, one study found, so long as the virus and its variants do not evolve much beyond their current forms — which is not guaranteed. Mix-and-match vaccination shows promise, a second study found, and booster shots of one widely used vaccine, if they are required, greatly enhance immunity, according to a third report.
Scientists had worried that the immunity conferred by vaccines might quickly wane or that they might somehow be outrun by a rapidly evolving virus. Together, the findings renew optimism that the tools needed to end the pandemic are already at hand, despite the rise of contagious new variants now setting off surges around the globe.
Red Cross warns Indonesia faces coronavirus catastrophe
Indonesia needs to urgently increase medical care, testing and vaccinations as the number of new infections in the country has rapidly increased and left it “on the edge of a COVID-19 catastrophe,” the Red Cross said Tuesday.
The surge in Indonesia, the world’s fourth most populous nation, is being blamed in part on the delta variant of the virus, which was first spotted in India and is thought to be more contagious.
Indonesia, with more than 20,600 new cases on Monday and more than 400 deaths, has seen more than 2.1 million cases since the pandemic began and more than 57,500 deaths, both the most in Southeast Asia.
Catch up on the past 24 hours
Mix-and-match vaccinations show promise against COVID-19, according to one of three new studies illustrating how vaccines are pointing the way out of the pandemic.
But for untold numbers of people who thought they'd recovered, a bout with the virus is turning out to be just the beginning. Know the warning signs of "long COVID."
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