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.
At 11 a.m., Gov. Jay Inslee held a press conference with other local leaders and public health officials to announce new restrictions on indoor dining and gatherings. Watch the video here.
With 11 Million Cases in the U.S., the Coronavirus Has Gotten Personal for Most People
Just a few weeks ago, Kem Kemp, a high school teacher in Houston, knew no one personally who had tested positive for the coronavirus. Then her roommate came down with a deep cough and was diagnosed with COVID-19. Her brother, a dentist in Amarillo, Texas, also tested positive. A neighbor fell sick with the virus. Two faculty members at the private school where she teaches were required to quarantine. And in the past few days, so were two of the students she advises.
“Before, we were watching the numbers on the news,’’ said Kemp, 62. “Now it’s started creeping into my neighborhood, my school, my home — right where I’m existing.’’
As COVID-19 cases surge in almost every part of the country, researchers say the United States is fast approaching what could be a significant tipping point — a pandemic so widespread that every American knows someone who has been infected. But, as reflected in the polarized response to the virus, the public remains deeply divided about how and whether to fight it, and it is unclear whether seeing friends and relatives sick or dead will change that.
Many who have seen people close to them seriously affected say they are taking increased precautions. Others, though, are focusing on how most people recover and are shrugging off the virus — and calls for concerted efforts to combat it.
What you can and can’t do under the newest coronavirus stay-home restrictions
With coronavirus cases rapidly rising in Washington state and around the country once again, Gov. Jay Inslee announced new restrictions Sunday in hope of slowing the spread as the upcoming winter and holiday season threaten to make the situation worse.
Need an easy guide to the latest restrictions? Click here for a point-by-point breakdown.
Washington hits new record high for daily total of COVID-19 cases with 2,309 new infections
For the third day in a row, state health officials have reported a record number of daily cases in Washington, with 2,309 new COVID-19 cases as of Sunday afternoon.
The latest update brings the state’s totals to 130,040 cases and 2,519 deaths, according to the state Department of Health (DOH). The data is as of 11:59 p.m. Saturday. DOH does not report deaths on weekends.
DOH also reported that 9,425 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the virus, reflecting 144 new hospitalizations since Friday.
In King County, state health officials have confirmed 599 new cases, totaling 34,415 COVID-19 diagnoses and 836 deaths.
Gyms react to impending closures, again
The assistant manager of Anytime Fitness in Fremont, Rachel Thompson, was sad to see that gyms were included in the governor’s restrictions. Today, Gov. Inslee announced a list of shutdowns on indoor spaces, including gyms. The closures will take effect at 11:59 p.m. Monday.
“I honestly believe that working out at my facility is safer and cleaner than eating at a restaurant or going to a bar.”
Thompson said that so far the gym has not experienced any direct COVID-19 cases, and she and the other members on staff have worked hard to meet the governor’s requirements to reopen. “It’s a well-oiled machine,” she said.
The gym allows 20 people at a time. Professional cleaners come in every night. The gym requires clients to wipe down any equipment they touch, and the building has a high-quality HVAC system, Thompson said.
“It’s a huge bummer that it has to be stopped because it’s been going really well,” she said. After being laid off for four months due to the state’s first stay-at-home order, Thompson said she’s more worried this time around because the federal government has yet to pass another relief package.
“I’m just trying to keep my head up.”
Families re-evaluate Thanksgiving plans
Several people told The Seattle Times on Sunday saying that the governor’s new restriction on holiday gatherings is pushing them to host a virtual Thanksgiving.
“Our family is canceling Thanksgiving plans that included other family households,” said Alyse Read, who lives in Edmonds. “We will Zoom or Skype and share our traditions this year.”
It’s sad to not be able to gather, Read said, “but better to give that up now. We'd rather be part of the solution.” And besides, they’ll still be able to see their grandkids through a screen and “tell our stupid jokes,” Read said.
For others, like Serena Padilla of North King County, she was never planning to host an in-person gathering.
“I will have a sad, lonely Zoom dinner with all the food I can find energy to cook,” she said.
Why a coronavirus vaccine might not get things back to normal
Coronavirus infections are climbing to record highs in Washington state and nationwide. Patients are filling hospitals in some states. Experts fear we’re in for a dark winter.
A shot of hope could be coming, as vaccine makers are deep in clinical trials. Governments are stockpiling doses and preparing for efficient delivery of a vaccine, should one be proven safe and effective.
But over time, the stiffest challenge when it comes to vaccines may not be creating, approving or distributing them. It might be getting people to take them.
Americans’ willingness to be vaccinated dropped over the summer, with about half of people polled now saying they’d be reluctant, according to recent surveys. Vaccinating only half the population would likely fall short of stopping transmission of the virus.
Decisions made now, by scientists and by those in political power, could have a lasting effect on whether vaccines succeed in driving out COVID-19 and other diseases.
About 1 in 323 Americans test positive in a week
States are pleading with Americans to change their behavior and prepare for a long winter as the country shatters record after record for coronavirus cases and hospitalizations.
Both records were broken yet again Friday, as more than 181,100 new cases were reported nationwide, and on Saturday more than 159,000 new cases were recorded, the third-highest total of the pandemic. The seven-day average of new daily cases is more than 145,000, with upward trends in 48 states. Twenty-nine states added more cases in the last week than in any other seven-day period.
With more than 1,017,000 cases added since Nov. 7 — the first time that more than 1 million cases were reported in a seven-day period — that means that roughly one in every 323 people in the United States were reported to have tested positive in the last week.
The virus has also killed more than 1,000 Americans a day in the past week, a toll that would shock the nation, were it not for the fact that twice as many people were dying daily during a stretch in April, when doctors knew less about how to treat COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.
Inslee announces a second shutdown of indoor dining at restaurants in Washington state as COVID-19 numbers spike
Gov. Jay Inslee announced Sunday that, starting at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday and in effect until Dec. 14, indoor service will not be allowed at restaurants and bars in Washington state. Outdoor service will be permitted, but with a five-person party limit. Takeout and delivery will still be allowed.
Until Sunday, state regulations allowed restaurants to operate at 50% capacity, with party sizes capped at six in Phase 2. The month-long pause is an effort to curb the record-setting numbers of new coronavirus cases found in Washington and across the country in recent weeks. A study from the first wave of the pandemic ranked restaurants and cafes high among the locations where the coronavirus is most likely to spread.
Marissa Baker, an assistant professor in the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences at the University of Washington, and a leading expert on how COVID-19 affects workplaces, applauded the shutdown, saying indoor dining falls under the “high-risk category” since diners are maskless and in close proximity to one another over a long period of time.
“Often, they’re meeting with people who are not in their household,” she said. “It creates more risk than it’s worth. I am of the camp that we should never have opened indoor dining. Closing it makes perfect sense to me.”
The restaurant industry is suffering greatly from the economic effects of the pandemic, with local longtime favorites such as James Beard-award winning Tilth and beloved Boeing Field diner Randy’s closing permanently. With the loss of more livelihoods and businesses already a certainty, Seattle chefs and restaurateurs reached for comment recognize the necessity of the shutdown to lessen loss of life and avoid a prolonged, worsening pandemic. But they also urgently call for more aid.
Read the full story here
How are the new COVID-19 restrictions changing your holiday plans?
Gov. Jay Inslee has ordered sweeping restrictions on restaurants, bars, gyms and more as COVID-19 cases surge in Washington state. We want to know how the new restrictions on indoor gatherings with people from outside your household are affecting your holiday plans.
New COVID-19 restrictions will take effect Monday and Tuesday night, Inslee announces
Social, economic and cultural life in Washington will grind to a halt this week, as Gov. Jay Inslee orders broad restrictions and shutdowns for restaurants, theaters, gyms and all indoor gatherings in an effort to slow the state’s burgeoning coronavirus epidemic. All orders go into effect at 11:59 p.m. Monday, except for the restrictions on bars and restaurants, which go into effect at 11:59 p.m. Tuesday.
Inslee, Sunday morning, ordered restaurants and bars to shutdown indoor service and to limit outdoor service to parties of five or less. Indoor gyms and fitness centers must also shutdown. Same with movie theaters, bowling alleys and museums. Indoor gatherings with people outside your household will be prohibited unless participants have quarantined and tested negative.
“Today, Sunday, November 15, 2020, is the most dangerous public health day in the last 100 years of our state’s history,” Inslee said in prepared remarks. “A pandemic is raging in our state. Left unchecked, it will assuredly result in grossly overburdened hospitals and morgues; and keep people from obtaining routine but necessary medical treatment for non-COVID conditions.”
Poll workers contract virus, but Election Day link unclear
Despite painstaking efforts to keep election sites safe, some poll workers who came in contact with voters on Election Day have tested positive for the coronavirus, including more than two dozen in Missouri and cases in New York, Iowa, Indiana and Virginia.
The infections cannot be tied definitively to polling places. Because COVID-19 is spreading rapidly in the U.S., there is no way to determine yet whether in-person voting on Election Day contributed to the surge, public health experts said.
Still, the infections among poll workers raise concerns because of how many people passed through voting sites, which implemented social-distancing rules, erected protective barriers and stocked sanitizer, masks, gloves and other safety gear. In most places, poll workers were required to wear masks.
North Dakota nurses worry about working with sick colleagues
Like many medical workers around the world, the coronavirus pandemic is a burden that Fargo emergency room nurse Adam Johnston can’t escape. The grim reality follows him everywhere: at work, where people die every shift; at the grocery store, where people rail against his city’s mask requirement; and at home, where he struggles to sleep.
He’s gotten through the long months, including North Dakota’s current virus wave that is among the worst in the U.S., by finding solace with fellow nurses during brief breaks where they can swap tips on beating insomnia or just vent frustrations. But he and many other nurses fear things are about to get even harder now that Gov. Doug Burgum has allowed the state’s beleaguered hospitals to use infected but asymptomatic workers to treat COVID-19 patients.
“It’s going to make you question every time you want to sit down and grab a five-minute snack with one of your co-workers,” said Johnston, who is the president of the state’s Emergency Nurses Association. “You’re always going to think, ‘Am I 6 feet away from them? Am I safe? Am I not?’”
Burgum said his decision could help North Dakota’s hospitals, which are at or near capacity after a surge in cases that began over the summer and has only gotten worse. But Johnston and many other nurses feel he’s saddling them with yet another burden while resisting imposing common safeguards to stanch the spread of the virus that might be less politically palatable in the conservative state.
Biden advisers to meet vaccine firms as Trump stalls handoff
Joe Biden’s scientific advisers will meet with vaccine makers in coming days as the presidential transition remains stalled because of President Donald Trump’s refusal to acknowledge that he lost the election. That delayed handoff to the next administration is especially problematic during a public health crisis, the government’s top infectious disease expert said.
“Of course it would be better if we could start working with them,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases who has been through many presidential transitions during 36 years of government service. He likened the process to runners passing on the baton in a relay race. “You don’t want to stop, he said.
The president-elect’s outreach to the vaccine manufacturers comes as the coronavirus pandemic in the United States has entered perhaps its most dangerous phase. The seven-day rolling average for new daily cases stood at 145,400 on Saturday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. That means the U.S. is adding about 1 million new cases a week, and deaths averaged 820 a day, a 33% increase in just two weeks.
“We’re going to start those consultations this week” said Biden’s chief of staff, Ron Klain, citing Pfizer and other pharmaceutical companies.
Catch up on the past 24 hours
Gov. Jay Inslee will announce sweeping new restrictions to curb surging COVID-19 cases, including a ban on indoor social gatherings and indoor service at restaurants and bars, and sharp occupancy limits for retailers, according to industry officials briefed by the governor’s staff.
For the second day in a row, state health officials have reported a record number of daily cases in Washington, with 2,233 new COVID-19 cases as of Saturday afternoon. The latest update brings the state’s totals to 127,731 cases and 2,519 deaths, according to the state Department of Health (DOH).
Since the first case was reported late last month, 94 people associated with Josephine Caring Community in Stanwood have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, according to the Snohomish Health District. Of the 94 infections, 53 are among residents and 41 are staff members.
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