Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Saturday, November 13, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.
The Biden administration’s COVID-19 vaccine or testing requirement for private business employees was halted Friday by a federal appeals court in New Orleans. The three-judge panel wrote that the requirement “grossly exceeds OSHA’s statutory authority,” and placed a financial burden on businesses.
Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has set aside the goal of reaching herd immunity as a means to end the pandemic. Health officials expressed worry that the shift from the long-time goal would derail efforts to drive up vaccination rates and possibly undermine the agency’s credibility in handling COVID-19.
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.
On podcasts and radio, misleading COVID-19 talk goes unchecked
On a recent episode of his podcast, Rick Wiles, a pastor and self-described “citizen reporter,” endorsed a conspiracy theory: that COVID-19 vaccines were the product of a “global coup d’état by the most evil cabal of people in the history of mankind.”
“It’s an egg that hatches into a synthetic parasite and grows inside your body,” Wiles said on his Oct. 13 episode. “This is like a sci-fi nightmare, and it’s happening in front of us.”
Wiles belongs to a group of hosts who have made false or misleading statements about COVID-19 and effective treatments for it. Like many of them, he has access to much of his listening audience because his show appears on a platform provided by a large media corporation.
Wiles’ podcast is available through iHeart Media, an audio company based in San Antonio that says it reaches 9 out of 10 Americans each month. Spotify and Apple are other major companies that provide significant audio platforms for hosts who have shared similar views with their listeners about COVID-19 and vaccination efforts, or have had guests on their shows who promoted such notions.
Scientific studies have shown that vaccines will protect people against the coronavirus for long periods and have significantly reduced the spread of COVID-19. As the global death toll related to COVID-19 exceeds 5 million — and at a time when more than 40% of Americans are not fully vaccinated — iHeart, Spotify, Apple and many smaller audio companies have done little to rein in what radio hosts and podcasters say about the virus and vaccination efforts.
3 snow leopards with COVID-19 die at Lincoln Children’s Zoo
LINCOLN, Neb. — Three snow leopards have died at the Lincoln Children’s Zoo in Nebraska of complications from COVID-19.
The zoo made the announcement in a Facebook post Friday, describing the deaths of the three leopards — named Ranney, Everest, and Makalu— as “truly heartbreaking.”
The zoo began treating the leopards and two Sumatran tigers for the virus last month. The zoo said the tigers, Axl and Kumar, have made a recovery.
The zoo said it remains open to the public and continues to take precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 to humans and animals.
Zoos across the country, including at the St. Louis Zoo and the Denver Zoo, have battled COVID-19 outbreaks among their animals.
8 dead from COVID, 89 infected at Connecticut nursing home
CANAAN, Conn. (AP) — Eight residents of a nursing home in Connecticut have died during a coronavirus outbreak while 89 residents and employees have tested positive for the disease, nursing home officials say.
The outbreak at the Geer Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Canaan began Sept. 30, chief executive Kevin O’Connell and nursing director Cady Bloodgood said in a statement Friday.
The eight residents who died had serious health problems, according to the officials. Those who tested positive included 67 residents and 22 staff members. The officials said 48 residents and 21 employees have recovered.
Idaho legislators return to consider bills on COVID-19 vaccines. Here’s what to expect
The Idaho Legislature will return to session Monday with a long list of bills to consider around COVID-19 vaccine mandates.
The House must reconvene before the end of the year because of its vote in May to recess, rather than end, its regular legislative session. Because they are reconvening, state representatives also must tend to an ethics recommendation to censure a North Idaho lawmaker.
House Speaker Scott Bedke, R-Oakley, said Republican leaders felt motivated to return to session after President Joe Biden announced sweeping plans to require COVID-19 vaccines or mandatory testing of employees who refuse to be vaccinated. Gov. Brad Little has also joined two multistate lawsuits to stop those requirements, one for federal contractors and another for business with 100 or more employees.
Monday’s agenda lists 29 pieces of legislation that could be introduced — from a defense fund for private businesses that wish to fight federal mandates, to banning mask mandates, to exemptions for vaccine or mask requirements. Some deal with prohibiting vaccine mandates or protecting information about vaccination status from employers.
Aiming for ‘Zero COVID,’ China focuses on food, clothing and, soon, the Olympics
China’s top leader has declared that the country has “overcome” the impact of the coronavirus, even as sporadic lockdowns continue in various areas and officials order greater scrutiny of imported frozen food and children’s clothes — both extremely unlikely sources of contagion.
The stringent, if sometimes impractical, restrictions stem from China’s struggle to maintain its “zero COVID” strategy. Other nations have gradually loosened restrictions as they vaccinate more people, allow more gatherings with limits and bolster their health care systems for those who get sick. By contrast, the Chinese Communist Party has staked a big share of credibility on its ability to stamp out the disease entirely.
China’s top leader, Xi Jinping, said this week that the country had “overcome the impact of COVID-19.” In propaganda messaging from a major party meeting, Communist Party leaders touted the successes of their response in saving lives while playing down the huge social and economic cost of those measures.
Government officials have defended their approach, saying that it is “low cost” and has allowed the country to recover from the pandemic faster than others. So far, caseloads remain low. Officials have reported 1,280 in the current outbreak that began in mid-October.
Urbanites Flock to Atlantic Canada as Pandemic Blunts Cities’ Appeal
Only a few years ago in Bonavista, a small and sleepy windswept fishing town in Newfoundland, dozens of pastel-colored heritage homes facing the sea sat dilapidated and empty.
The collapse of the cod industry had pushed about 1,000 residents to seek their fortunes in places like Texas, New York and oil-rich Alberta, about 4,000 miles away.
These days, however, so many migrants are arriving from across Canada — mostly young professionals from big cities like Toronto — that some local developers have a three-year waiting list for homebuyers.
Sam Yuen, 40, a communications manager for a bank, who recently moved to Bonavista from Toronto with his partner, Derek McCallum, an architect, snapped up a three-bedroom, early 20th-century home for about $30,000. “We love the nature and the sense of belonging here,” Yuen said.
‘They see us as the enemy’: School nurses battle COVID and angry parents
When a junior high school student in western Oregon tested positive for the coronavirus last month, Sherry McIntyre, a school nurse, quarantined two dozen of the student’s football teammates. The players had spent time together in the locker room unmasked, and, according to local guidelines, they could not return to school for at least 10 days.
Some parents took the news poorly. They told McIntyre that she should lose her nursing license or accused her of violating their children’s educational rights. Another nurse in the district faced similar ire when she quarantined the volleyball team. This fall, after facing repeated hostility from parents, they started locking their office doors.
“They call us and tell us we’re ruining their children’s athletic career,” McIntyre said. “They see us as the enemy.”
Throughout the pandemic, schools have been flashpoints, the source of heated debates over the threat the virus poses and the best way to combat it. School nurses are on the front lines. They play a crucial role in keeping schools open and students safe but have found themselves under fire for enforcing public health rules that they did not make and cannot change.
A SmokeyBear-type mascot for COVID hygiene?
They look like they’re wearing masks.
They often seem to be washing their hands.
So what better mascot than a raccoon to help promote good pandemic hygiene?
This is Kelly Lambert’s crusade. She’s a professor of behavioral neuroscience at the University of Richmond in Virginia who for the past year has lobbied anyone she can think of to support her cartoon superhero: a lab-coat-wearing raccoon named Kalo.
The list of those she has emailed and called includes the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health, Bill Nye the Science Guy, first lady Jill Biden, former first lady Michelle Obama, and even country singer Dolly Parton.
Lambert is convinced that Kalo, whose name is derived from the Greek word for “virtuous,” could do for coronavirus best-practices what Smokey Bear (familiarly known as Smokey the Bear) has done for forest fires.
Oklahoma National Guard rejects Pentagon’s coronavirus vaccine mandate
The Oklahoma National Guard has rejected the Defense Department’s requirement for all service members to receive the coronavirus vaccine and will allow personnel to sidestep the policy with no repercussions, an order from the governor that could serve as a blueprint for other Republican-led states that have challenged Biden administration mandates.
Brig. Gen. Thomas Mancino, appointed this week by Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt as adjutant of the state’s 10,000 National Guard soldiers and airmen, on Thursday notified those under his command that they are not required to receive the vaccine and won’t be punished if they decline it.
It’s an extraordinary refusal of Pentagon policy by the general and follows Stitt’s written request to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin seeking suspension of the requirement for Guard personnel in the state.
“We will respond appropriately,” John Kirby, a Pentagon spokesperson, said of Stitt’s letter. “That said, Secretary Austin believes that a vaccinated force is a more ready force. That is why he has ordered mandatory vaccines for the total force, and that includes our National Guard, who contribute significantly to national missions at home and abroad.”
Aaron Rodgers cleared to rejoin Packers, play Sunday
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers received medical clearance to rejoin team activities Saturday with the Green Bay Packers, according to a person familiar with the situation. That cleared the way for him to potentially be activated from the covid-19 reserve list and start Sunday’s game against the Seattle Seahawks at Lambeau Field.
Rodgers’s 10-day isolation from his positive test for the coronavirus expired Saturday. He was back in the Packers’ facility, the league-owned NFL Network reported, for Saturday’s scheduled team meetings and a walk-through practice.
He was eligible to be activated, under the protocols for unvaccinated players developed by the NFL and the NFL Players Association, provided that he was symptom-free and was cleared by doctors. Rodgers’s clearance included a cardiac screening, under the protocols, but a negative coronavirus test was not required.
He is set to return to the Packers’ lineup after missing one game. They lost last Sunday at Kansas City with second-year quarterback Jordan Love filling in for Rodgers, the NFL’s reigning MVP.
Vienna to start vaccinating young kids in pilot project
Young children in Vienna can start getting coronavirus vaccinations next week as part of a pilot project, Austria media reported on Saturday.
Austrian broadcaster ORF reported that about 200 children between the ages of 5 and 11 can get jabs of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine each day in the Austrian capital starting Monday. The pilot project is limited to Vienna only and doesn’t apply to the rest of the country.
As COVID-19 infections spike again across the Alpine country, the national government is set to announce more nationwide measures to contain the spread of the virus.
Austrian news agency APA reported Saturday evening, based on documents it obtained, that the government plans to order a nationwide lockdown for unvaccinated people starting Sunday at midnight. The move would prohibit unvaccinated individuals older than age 12 from leaving their homes expect for basic activities such as work, grocery shopping, going for a walk – or getting vaccinated.
Oregon school district fined $11K over COVID violations
An Oregon school district has been fined $11,000 for failing to uphold the state indoor mask mandate and other violations.
The current state mandate requires students to wear masks indoors to help stop the spread of COVID-19. The Adrian School District, near the Idaho border, is a small district that includes an elementary and high school with about 300 students total.
Aaron Corvin with OSHA told KGW-TV an inspection was done in response to three complaints about a lack of mask usage.
OSHA inspectors said they found two COVID-19 violations and two unrelated violations.
Russia’s COVID-19 deaths set daily record
Russia is reporting a new daily high number of COVID-19 deaths, while the the total number of coronavirus infections during the pandemic in the country has topped 9 million.
The surge in daily deaths and infections that began in mid-September appeared to plateau over the past week, but the national coronavirus task force said Saturday that a record 1,241 people died from the virus over the past day, two more than the previous record reported on Wednesday.
The task force said 39,256 new infections were recorded, bringing the country’s case total to 9.03 million.
Russia imposed a “non-working” week in early November, closing many businesses, with the aim of stemming the virus’s surge.
Nursing homes can now lift most COVID restrictions on visits
The government on Friday directed nursing homes to open their doors wide to visitors, easing many remaining pandemic restrictions while urging residents, families and facility staff to keep their guard up against outbreaks.
The new guidance from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services instructs nursing homes to allow visits at all times for all residents. Facilities will no longer be able to limit the frequency and length of visits, or require advance scheduling. Although large groups of visitors are discouraged, nursing homes won’t be allowed to limit the number of loved ones and friends who can pay a call on residents.
Many states and communities are still grappling with COVID-19 surges driven by the aggressive delta variant, but the most recent government data show that cases among residents and staff have continued to decline after rising earlier in the summer and fall.
Nationally, vaccination rates average 86% for nursing home residents and 74% for staff, although that can vary dramatically from state to state and facility to facility. Many nursing homes are rushing to provide booster shots for their residents. Staffers were recently required by the government to get vaccinated.
Ed Lab Live: National experts, educators share ‘reading remedies’ for struggling students
Across the United States, students are struggling to read and comprehend what’s being taught in their classrooms.
Before the pandemic, the National Assessment of Educational Progress, also known as the Nation’s Report Card, showed dwindling literacy rates across the states between 2017 and 2019, the most recent years of data reporting. Nearly two-thirds of U.S. students were unable to read at grade level.
Washington’s fourth- and eighth-grade test scores have changed little over the last 20 years. On the NAEP assessment, only 35% of the state’s fourth graders, and 38% of the state’s eighth graders, scored high enough to be considered proficient readers in 2019.
Numerous pandemic-era studies tell us reading levels have since plummeted for some kids, and that’s frustrating all around.
Washington Sen. Doug Ericksen tests positive for COVID-19 while in El Salvador, seeks medical help from lawmakers
Washington Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, is stranded in El Salvador after testing positive for COVID-19 there, and has sought help from fellow Republican lawmakers to send him monoclonal antibody treatments.
Ericksen told KIRO radio he was “fighting a bad bout” with the virus while in the Central American country.
It’s unclear if the senator was vaccinated against the virus, and he did not respond Friday to a text message or phone call seeking comment.
A fierce critic of Gov. Jay Inslee’s emergency pandemic orders — including the recent vaccine mandates — Ericksen this year sponsored legislation to protect the rights of people who won’t get vaccinated.
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