Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Monday, Nov. 16, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.

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.

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.

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.

Large Ritzville wedding leads to new COVID-19 cases and subsequent outbreaks, health officials say

Grant County health officials confirmed on Monday a recent wedding held in Ritzville, Adams County, has led to at least 17 COVID-19 cases and two subsequent outbreaks, and are asking anyone who attended the event to self-quarantine for a week.  

The wedding was held in a private location on Nov. 7 and was attended by more than 300 people, even though the state has prohibited weddings of more than 30 people, according to a statement from the Grant County Health District

The Adams County Health Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“We are very thankful to those attendees who have gone in for testing and are staying home. This helps protect their friends, coworkers, and communities from this illness,” Grant County Health District Administrator Theresa Adkinson said in the statement. 

While the county reported 17 new cases linked to the wedding, "with more being added daily," health officials noted attendees came from many communities, meaning the outbreak could likely hit other counties.

As of Sunday at 11:59 p.m., Grant County recorded 3,663 infections and 31 deaths, according to the state Department of Health.

“Wedding organizers are strongly encouraged to keep a log of attendees at each service and to retain that log for at least two weeks. If an outbreak occurs, this information may be critical to help save lives,” the Grant County Health District statement said. 

Beginning Monday night, no indoor social gatherings are permitted under new statewide restrictions Gov. Jay Inslee announced Sunday. The order also issued broad restrictions for restaurants, theaters and gyms in an effort to slow the state’s burgeoning epidemic.

—Elise Takahama
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What does COVID-19 vaccine effectiveness mean?

What does COVID-19 vaccine effectiveness mean?

It refers to the likelihood that a coronavirus shot will work in people.

Two vaccine makers have said that preliminary results from their late-stage studies suggest their experimental vaccines are strongly protective. Moderna this week said its vaccine appears nearly 95% effective. This comes on the heels of Pfizer’s announcement that its shot appeared similarly effective.

Those numbers raised hopes around the world that vaccines could help put an end to the pandemic sometime next year if they continue to show that they prevent disease and are safe.

Effectiveness numbers will change as the vaccine studies continue since the early calculations were based on fewer than 100 COVID-19 cases in each study. But early results provide strong signals that the vaccine could prevent a majority of disease when large groups of people are vaccinated.

U.S. health officials said a coronavirus vaccine would need to be at least 50% effective before they would consider approving it for use. There was concern that coronavirus vaccines might be only as effective as flu vaccines, which have ranged from 20% to 60% effective in recent years.

The broad, early effectiveness figures don’t tell the whole story.

Read the full story here.

—Associated Press

Changing course, Iowa governor enacts limited mask mandate

IOWA CITY, Iowa — With Iowa hospitals filling up, Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds dropped her longtime opposition to a statewide mask mandate and enacted a limited version of one on Monday.

Reynolds signed a proclamation requiring that everyone 2 or older must wear masks when in indoor public spaces. The mandate applies only when people are within six feet of others for 15 minutes and they aren’t members of their households.

Reynolds also limited gatherings for social, community, business and leisure purposes to no more than 15 people indoors and 30 outdoors, saying the restriction applies to family events. Routine office and factory work and spiritual gatherings were exempted, although she urged employers and churches to take precautions.

Reynolds rejected calls to close bars and restaurants for in-person service and instead ordered that they cannot stay open past 10 p.m. She suspended youth and adult sports and recreational activities, except for high school, college and professional sports.

—Associated Press

Washington state confirms 1,492 new COVID-19 cases

Health officials reported an additional 1,492 COVID-19 cases and 29 deaths in Washington on Monday evening.

The latest update brings the state’s totals to 131,532 cases and 2,548 deaths, meaning that 1.9% of people diagnosed in Washington have died, according to the state Department of Health (DOH). The data is as of 11:59 p.m. Sunday. Tallies may be higher early in the week, as DOH is no longer reporting COVID-related deaths on weekends.

DOH also reported that 9,518 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the virus, reflecting 93 new hospitalizations.

In King County, state health officials have confirmed a total of 34,892 COVID-19 diagnoses and 838 deaths. 

—Elise Takahama
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As deaths spiral, South Dakota governor opposes mask rules

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem on Monday showed no sign of budging from her hands-off approach to the pandemic, despite finding herself among a dwindling number of Midwest governors holding out against mask mandates and facing a death rate in her state that has risen to the highest in the nation this month.

As the virus has steadily grown into a full-scale health crisis across the Midwes t, the Republican governor has remained resolute — sticking to the limited-government ideals that have made her a rising star in the conservative movement and arguing that government mandates don’t work. But she finds herself the subject of increased scrutiny for the approach, especially after neighboring Iowa and North Dakota last week moved to require face masks in some settings.

South Dakota has reported 219 deaths in November — about a third of all its deaths over the course of the entire pandemic. The COVID-19 deaths have sent the state to the top of the nation in deaths per capita during November, with nearly 25 deaths per 100,000 people, according to data from The COVID Tracking Project.

But Noem has no plans to issue mask requirements. The governor’s spokeswoman Maggie Seidel pushed back against arguments by public health experts that a mask mandate would dramatically reduce the spread of the virus.

—Associated Press

Here comes Santa Claus – with face masks and plexiglass

Tyler Rapsey with daughter Isabelle visits Santa Claus, with safety protocols in place, at Capital City Mall in Lower Allen Township,  Pa., on Nov. 11. (Dan Gleiter/The Patriot-News via AP)
Tyler Rapsey with daughter Isabelle visits Santa Claus, with safety protocols in place, at Capital City Mall in Lower Allen Township, Pa., on Nov. 11. (Dan Gleiter/The Patriot-News via AP)

NEW YORK — Santa Claus is coming to the mall — just don’t try to sit on his lap.

Despite the pandemic — and the fact that Santa’s age and weight put him at high risk for severe illness from the coronavirus — mall owners are going ahead with plans to bring him back this year.

But they are doing all they can to keep the jolly old man safe, including banning kids from sitting on his knee, no matter if they’ve been naughty or nice.

Kids will instead tell Santa what they want for Christmas from six feet away, and sometimes from behind a sheet of plexiglass. Santa and his visitors may need to wear a face mask, even while posing for photos. And some malls will put faux gift boxes and other decorations in front of Saint Nick to block kids from charging toward him.

Other safety measures include online reservations to cut down on lines, workers wiping down holiday-decorated sets, and hand sanitizer aplenty. Santa’s hours are also getting cut to give him a break from crowds.

Malls, which have struggled to attract shoppers for years, are not willing to kill a holiday tradition that is one of their biggest ways to lure people during the all-important holiday shopping season.

Read the full story here.

—Associated Press

New COVID tech is wearable and constantly tracks the wearer

In Rochester, Michigan, Oakland University is preparing to hand out to students wearable devices that log skin temperature once a minute — or more than 1,400 times per day — in the hopes of pinpointing early signs of the coronavirus.

In Plano, Texas, employees at the headquarters of Rent-A-Center recently started wearing proximity detectors that log their close contacts with one another and can be used to alert them to possible virus exposure.

And in Knoxville, Tennessee, students on the University of Tennessee football team tuck proximity trackers under their shoulder pads during games — allowing the team’s medical director to trace which players may have spent more than 15 minutes near a teammate or an opposing player.

The powerful new surveillance systems, wearable devices that continuously monitor users, are the latest high-tech gadgets to emerge in the battle to hinder the coronavirus. Some sports leagues, factories and nursing homes have already deployed them. Resorts are rushing to adopt them. A few schools are preparing to try them. And the conference industry is eyeing them as a potential tool to help reopen convention centers.

Companies and industry analysts say the wearable trackers fill an important gap in pandemic safety. Many employers and colleges have adopted virus screening tools like symptom-checking apps and temperature-scanning cameras. But they are not designed to catch the estimated 40% of people with COVID-19 infections who may never develop symptoms like fevers.

—The New York Times
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Alaska loses 3,000 oil, gas jobs during pandemic, price drop

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — The Alaska Department of Labor reported that the state has lost more than 3,000 jobs in the oil and gas industry since January because of the coronavirus pandemic and falling prices.

Experts said that because oil prices are now stagnant, it’s not clear when the jobs may return, Alaska Public Media reported last week.

The demand for oil plummeted in the spring as the virus shut down cities. That was coupled with a price war leading to a surplus of oil on the global market. A key benchmark for oil prices then fell into negative territory for the first time.

Labor department data show there were an estimated 6,900 jobs in Alaska’s oil and gas industry in September, down from 10,000 in January. Job numbers haven’t been so low in more than 30 years, Alaska Public Media reported.

Kara Moriarty, Alaska Oil and Gas Association president and CEO, called the pandemic and the oil price war a “double whammy.”

“You saw companies, for safety reasons, get people off the slope, cut back, quit doing a lot of activity,” Moriarty said. “So that meant a loss of contractor and direct jobs.”

—Associated Press

Anchorage virus housing assistance to be depleted by January

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Funding for a program providing housing assistance to residents in Alaska’s largest city during the coronavirus pandemic is expected to be depleted by the end of the year.

Anchorage Acting Mayor Austin Quinn-Davidson said the available funds in the COVID-19 Rent and Mortgage Assistance Program will be exhausted by the end of December, The Anchorage Daily News reported Saturday.

Quinn-Davidson issued a statement calling on Congress to provide additional funding for the federal relief initiative.

“This program has been a lifesaver to struggling Anchorage families,” Quinn-Davidson said. “The need for housing assistance remains significant and addressing this need requires more resources than we have available.”

The Anchorage Assembly allocated $20 million of the city’s federal coronavirus relief funding to the program, which in April began providing financial assistance to residents requiring assistance paying rent or mortgages.

About $9 million has been been distributed in more than 9,000 payments to 4,000 households, the mayor’s office said.

—Associated Press

Pandemic politics leave DC in gridlock as virus surges

A medical worker puts on a protective gown as cars line up for COVID-19 testing at a testing site set up at the OC Fairgrounds in Costa Mesa, Calif., Monday, Nov. 16, 2020. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
A medical worker puts on a protective gown as cars line up for COVID-19 testing at a testing site set up at the OC Fairgrounds in Costa Mesa, Calif., Monday, Nov. 16, 2020. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

With the nation gripped by a resurgent coronavirus and looking to Washington for help, President Donald Trump and lawmakers in Congress have a message for struggling Americans: Just keep waiting.

The urgency of the nationwide surge in virus cases, spiking hospitalizations and increasing death tolls has hardly resonated in the nation’s capital as its leaders are vexed by transition politics and trying to capitalize on the promise of a coming vaccine. The virus has killed more than 247,000 Americans this year and infected at least 11.1 million — some 1 million of them in just the past week.

Yet in Congress, where talks over economic relief bills stalled out months ago, lame-duck approval of aid is hardly front-of-mind. Across town at the White House, Trump is more focused on getting credit for the vaccine development push and blocking President-elect Joe Biden from getting the information needed to ensure the new administration can smoothly take over the fight against the pandemic.

Biden, who has warned of a “dark winter” ahead on the virus, called for the Trump administration to share its vaccine distribution plans with his own incoming administration, warning that “more people may die if you don’t coordinate.”

Read the full story.

—Andrew Taylor and Zeke Miller, The Associated Press
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Pandemic is making nation’s nurse shortage much worse

In Bismarck, N.D., where Leslie McKamey is a nurse in the emergency department at CHI St. Alexius Health, caregivers have been so overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients in the past few weeks that ambulances are sometimes diverted to another hospital in town.

Until that hospital fills up. Then, there is no choice but to treat the flood of sick people who have made the state the worst coronavirus hot spot in this unprecedented surge of the pandemic.

“Our nurses are working longer shifts, a majority are picking up extra shifts, and we’re still short-staffed,” McKamey said.

As the virus stampedes across the country, setting previously unimaginable infection records nearly every day of its third major surge, some hospitals are desperately searching for staffers and paying dearly for it.

Read the story here.

—Lenny Bernstein, The Washington Post

As schools reopen in Africa, relief is matched by anxiety

FILE – In this Monday, Oct. 12, 2020 file photo, schoolchildren eat ice pops as they walk to the Olympic Primary School in Kibera, one of the capital Nairobi’s poorest areas, in Kenya. As schools reopen in some African countries after months of lockdown, relief is matched by anxiety over everything from how to raise tuition fees amid the financial strain wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic to how to protect students in crowded classrooms. (AP Photo/Brian Inganga, File)
FILE – In this Monday, Oct. 12, 2020 file photo, schoolchildren eat ice pops as they walk to the Olympic Primary School in Kibera, one of the capital Nairobi’s poorest areas, in Kenya. As schools reopen in some African countries after months of lockdown, relief is matched by anxiety over everything from how to raise tuition fees amid the financial strain wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic to how to protect students in crowded classrooms. (AP Photo/Brian Inganga, File)

Relief over the gradual reopening of schools in African countries is matched by anxiety over the financial strain caused by the pandemic and over how to protect students in often crowded classrooms from the coronavirus.

Although the pandemic has disrupted education around the world, the crisis is more acute in Africa, where up to 80% of students don’t have access to the internet and distance learning is out of reach for many.

Sub-Saharan Africa already had the highest rates of children out of school anywhere in the world, with nearly one-fifth of children between 6 and 11 and more than one-third of youths between 12 and 14 not in school, according to the U.N. culture and education agency.

Although schools now have reopened in many African countries that had imposed anti-COVID-19 lockdowns, the pandemic’s full impact on education in the world’s most youthful continent of over 1.3 billion people remains to be seen.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

Virus quarantine complicates a big week for Boris Johnson

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson insisted Monday he is firmly in control of the government, despite having to self-isolate for two weeks because a contact tested positive for the coronavirus.

FILE – In this Nov. 10, 2020 file photo British Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves 10 Downing Street in London. Johnson is self-isolating after being told he came into contact with someone who tested positive for the coronavirus, officials said Sunday Nov. 15. “He will carry on working from Downing Street, including on leading the government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic,” a statement from his office said. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham, File)
FILE – In this Nov. 10, 2020 file photo British Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves 10 Downing Street in London. Johnson is self-isolating after being told he came into contact with someone who tested positive for the coronavirus, officials said Sunday Nov. 15. “He will carry on working from Downing Street, including on leading the government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic,” a statement from his office said. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham, File)

The quarantine order came at the start of a crucial week in which Johnson is trying to suppress a new surge in U.K. coronavirus infections, quell turmoil within his Conservative Party and secure a trade deal with the European Union.

Johnson said in a video message on Twitter that he was “fit as a butcher’s dog” and had no COVID-19 symptoms. He said he would continue to govern using “Zoom and other forms of electronic communication.”

Johnson met with some Conservative lawmakers for about 35 minutes Thursday at his 10 Downing St. office in London. One, Lee Anderson, subsequently developed coronavirus symptoms and tested positive.

Johnson was contacted by the national test-and-trace system by email on Sunday. He said he was following its order to self-isolate for 14 days inside his Downing Street apartment even though he said he is “bursting with antibodies” after recovering from the virus earlier this year.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press
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Greece: Bishop’s death revives debate on communion safety

A senior clergyman in Greece’s Orthodox Church was buried Monday after dying of COVID-19, reviving a debate over the safety of receiving communion before the Christmas season.

Metropolitan Bishop Ioannis of Lagadas, 62, was an outspoken advocate of maintaining communion ceremonies — at which worshippers are given bread and wine with a shared spoon — during the pandemic, arguing that there was no risk of transmission. His stance was backed by other church officials.

Priests wearing face masks to protect against the spread of the coronavirus, attend the funeral of senior clergyman Ioannis of Lagadas after he died of COVID-19,  in Greece’s Orthodox Church, in the northern city of Thessaloniki, Greece, Monday, Nov. 16, 2020. Metropolitan Bishop Ioannis of Lagadas, 62, was an outspoken advocate of maintaining communion ceremonies _ at which worshipers are given bread as well as wine with a shared spoon _ during the pandemic, arguing that there was no risk of transmission.  (AP Photo/Giannis Papanikos)
Priests wearing face masks to protect against the spread of the coronavirus, attend the funeral of senior clergyman Ioannis of Lagadas after he died of COVID-19, in Greece’s Orthodox Church, in the northern city of Thessaloniki, Greece, Monday, Nov. 16, 2020. Metropolitan Bishop Ioannis of Lagadas, 62, was an outspoken advocate of maintaining communion ceremonies _ at which worshipers are given bread as well as wine with a shared spoon _ during the pandemic, arguing that there was no risk of transmission. (AP Photo/Giannis Papanikos)

The town of Lagadas, outside Greece’s second-largest city of Thessaloniki, is a northern region experiencing the highest rate of infection in the country.

The Church’s governing Holy Synod said Monday it was complying with public safety restrictions, and hit back at critics who have accused the church of acting irresponsibly.

Christos Giannoulis, a Thessaloniki lawmaker for the left-wing Syriza party, said, “If the Church had been the lead advocate for wearing masks, for example, things might have been different now.”

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

More than 1 million US kids, teens and babies with COVID-19

The number of U.S. infants, children and teens diagnosed with COVID-19 has surpassed 1 million, according to data released Monday by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association.

The total hit nearly 1.04 million kids on Nov. 12, including nearly 112,000 new cases in that week. That was the highest weekly total of any previous week in the pandemic, the academy said.

AAP President Sally Goza called the data “staggering and tragic.” Children generally are much more likely than adults to have mild cases but hospitalizations and deaths do occur.

The data, based on reports from state health departments, show at least 6,330 pediatric hospitalizations and 133 deaths since May. Those numbers are incomplete as they do not include data from every state.

—The Associated Press

Governors ratchet up restrictions ahead of Thanksgiving

From California to Pennsylvania, governors and mayors across the U.S. are ratcheting up COVID-19 restrictions amid the record-shattering resurgence of the virus that is all but certain to get worse because of holiday travel and family gatherings over Thanksgiving.

Leaders are closing businesses, curtailing hours and imploring people to stay home.

“I must again pull back the reins,” New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said Monday as he restricted indoor gatherings to 10 people, down from 25. “It gives me no joy.”

California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced he is pulling the “emergency brake” on efforts to reopen the economy. New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s stay-at-home order went into effect Monday. Washington’s Gov. Jay Inslee ordered gyms, bowling alleys, movie theaters, museums and zoos to shut indoor operations and barred people from different households gathering indoors unless they have quarantined. Even North Dakota Republican Gov. Doug Burgum, who has resisted a mask mandate for months, put one in place over the weekend, amid a severe outbreak.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press
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Merkel, German governors to eye results of partial lockdown

German Chancellor Angela Merkel will assess the effects of a nearly two-week-long partial lockdown with state governors in a video conference Monday.

Germany went into a partial lockdown at the beginning of November that included closing restaurants, cafes and cultural institutions but left open schools and stores after virus figures spiked exponentially in October.

The rise of new infections has since slowed, but on Friday the country still registered a record of 23,542 newly confirmed cases. On Monday, 10,824 new cases were reported by the country’s disease control center, but figures are usually lower at the beginning of the week due to less testing and delayed reporting.

Merkel and Germany’s 16 state governors will begin their evaluation of the country’s situation in the corona pandemic on Tuesday.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

U.S. House to offer regular virus testing for members, staff

After months without internal testing protocols, members of the U.S. House and their staff will now have regular access to coronavirus testing at the Capitol physician’s office when they return to Washington from their home states.

The new testing is voluntary, but is intended to prevent an outbreak in the sprawling Capitol complex as members fly back and forth from their districts and cases spike around the country. In a letter to members of Congress on Sunday, Attending Physician Brian Monahan wrote that his office is offering the testing “to be consistent with the spirit” of an order from Washington, D.C., that all travelers must obtain a coronavirus test prior to visiting the city and get a second test three to five days after arrival.

The Capitol is seen in Washington, Monday, Nov. 16, 2020, as the House and Senate return to work. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
The Capitol is seen in Washington, Monday, Nov. 16, 2020, as the House and Senate return to work. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

The tests, which have a six- to 12-hour turnaround, represent the first regular testing program in the Capitol since the beginning of the pandemic.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

California governor imposes new restrictions to curb COVID

California Gov. Gavin Newsom said he was pulling the “emergency brake” Monday on the state’s efforts to reopen its economy as coronavirus cases surge more dramatically than they did during a summer spike.

“We are sounding the alarm,” Newsom said in a statement. “California is experiencing the fastest increase in cases we have seen yet — faster than what we experienced at the outset of the pandemic or even this summer.”

The “emergency brake in the Blueprint for a Safer Economy” will impose more restrictions on businesses across most of the state with masks now required outside homes with limited exceptions. The state became the second in the U.S. last week to surpass 1 million case of the virus as the U.S. has now recorded more than 11 million cases.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press
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BioNTech scientist: Vaccine could halve virus transmission

One of the scientists behind the experimental coronavirus vaccine developed by BioNTech and Pfizer said Sunday that he was confident that it could halve the transmission of the virus, resulting in a “dramatic” curb of the virus’ spread.

“I’m very confident that transmission between people will be reduced by such a highly effective vaccine — maybe not 90% but maybe 50%,” said Ugur Sahin, chief executive of Germany’s BioNTech.

Pfizer and BioNTech said last week that interim results showed the vaccine was 90% effective in preventing people from getting ill from COVID-19, though they don’t yet have enough information on safety and manufacturing quality.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

Hockey champions laying off 30 workers because of virus

Just months after winning the Stanley Cup, officials with the Tampa Bay Lightning said Monday they are eliminating 30 positions in a sign that even winning a championship does not spare a team from the effects of the coronavirus.

FILE  – In this Sept. 28, 2020, file photo, Tampa Bay Lightning’s Nikita Kucherov (86) hoists the Stanley Cup after defeating the Dallas Stars in the NHL Stanley Cup hockey finals, in Edmonton, Alberta. This has been a year for Tampa Bay sports like no other, though the area’s three successful professional teams haven’t had a chance to truly capitalize on the boom and connect with re-energized fan bases. It has been — and continues to be —- a missed opportunity because of the coronavirus pandemic. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press via AP, File)
FILE – In this Sept. 28, 2020, file photo, Tampa Bay Lightning’s Nikita Kucherov (86) hoists the Stanley Cup after defeating the Dallas Stars in the NHL Stanley Cup hockey finals, in Edmonton, Alberta. This has been a year for Tampa Bay sports like no other, though the area’s three successful professional teams haven’t had a chance to truly capitalize on the boom and connect with re-energized fan bases. It has been — and continues to be —- a missed opportunity because of the coronavirus pandemic. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press via AP, File)

The positions were across the company and effective immediately, team officials said. The layoffs represent less than 10% of the team’s workforce.

Because the National Hockey League’s postseason was played in bubbles in Canada, the team did not earn any revenue from the playoffs.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

Study suggests video games can help mental health

Time spent playing video games, such as Nintendo Switch, can be good for mental health, according to a new study by researchers at Oxford University.. (Erika Garcia/CNET/TNS)
Time spent playing video games, such as Nintendo Switch, can be good for mental health, according to a new study by researchers at Oxford University.. (Erika Garcia/CNET/TNS)

Time spent playing video games can be good for mental health, according to a new study by researchers at Oxford University.

The finding comes as video game sales this year have boomed as more people are stuck at home because of the pandemic and many countries have once again imposed limits on public life. The paper released Monday is based on survey responses from people who played two games, Plants vs Zombies: Battle for Neighborville and Animal Crossing: New Horizons.

In a first, the study used data provided by the game makers, Electronic Arts and Nintendo of America, on how much time the respondents spent playing, unlike previous research that relied on imprecise estimates from the players.

The researchers at the Oxford Internet Institute said they found the actual amount of time spent playing was a small but significant positive factor in people’s well-being. The results could cast doubt on long-held assumptions that gaming causes aggression or addiction.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press
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Michigan governor says she has authority for stay-home order

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said Monday she has the authority to issue a second stay-at-home order to curb the spiking coronavirus if necessary and called out a comment by an adviser to President Donald Trump urging people to “rise up” against Michigan’s latest restrictions as reckless.

The Democratic governor spoke with Capitol reporters a day after announcing limits amid a surge of COVID-19 cases that has led to increased hospitalizations and deaths. Other Midwest states are facing similar second waves as the weather cools, and she has urged the public to “double down” with precautions to avoid a shelter-in-place order like what was instituted in the spring.

In this photo provided by the Michigan Office of the Governor, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer addresses the state during a speech in Lansing, Mich., Sunday, Nov. 15, 2020. Whitmer said Monday, Nov. 16 she has the authority to issue a second stay-at-home order to curb the spiking coronavirus if necessary, pointing to an epidemic-powers law that her administration has used since a setback at the state Supreme Court.  Starting Wednesday, Nov. 18 high schools and colleges must halt in-person classes, restaurants must stop indoor dining and entertainment businesses must close. Gathering sizes also will be tightened. (Michigan Office of the Governor via AP)
In this photo provided by the Michigan Office of the Governor, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer addresses the state during a speech in Lansing, Mich., Sunday, Nov. 15, 2020. Whitmer said Monday, Nov. 16 she has the authority to issue a second stay-at-home order to curb the spiking coronavirus if necessary, pointing to an epidemic-powers law that her administration has used since a setback at the state Supreme Court. Starting Wednesday, Nov. 18 high schools and colleges must halt in-person classes, restaurants must stop indoor dining and entertainment businesses must close. Gathering sizes also will be tightened. (Michigan Office of the Governor via AP)

Whitmer responded to a tweet sent Sunday night by Scott Atlas, a science adviser to Trump, who urged people to “rise up” after the governor’s announcement, saying “It’s just incredibly reckless considering everything that has happened, everything that is going on.”

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

Texas surpasses 20,000 virus deaths, second highest in US

Texas surpassed 20,000 confirmed coronavirus deaths Monday, as COVID-19 continues to surge in the United States.

That is the second highest death count overall in the U.S., trailing only New York, according to researchers from Johns Hopkins University. It’s the 22nd highest per capita at 69.7 deaths per 100,000 people.

So far, Texas leaders have given no indication of forthcoming restrictions to keep people from gathering and spreading the virus. Instead, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott in recent days has been emphasizing that new therapeutics and vaccines are expected to become available soon.

FILE — George Molina helps distribute food to people affected by the coronavirus pandemic in El Paso, Texas, Oct. 27, 2020. On Tuesday, Texas surpassed 20,000 virus deaths trailing only New York. (Joel Angel Juarez/The New York Times)
FILE — George Molina helps distribute food to people affected by the coronavirus pandemic in El Paso, Texas, Oct. 27, 2020. On Tuesday, Texas surpassed 20,000 virus deaths trailing only New York. (Joel Angel Juarez/The New York Times)

Just last week, it became America’s first state to record more than 1 million confirmed COVID-19 cases. Texas also recently surpassed California, the most populous state, in recording the highest number of positive coronavirus tests.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

2nd virus vaccine shows overwhelming success in U.S. tests

Moderna said Monday its COVID-19 vaccine is proving highly effective in a major trial, a second ray of hope in the global race for a shot to tame a resurgent virus that is now killing more than 8,000 people a day worldwide.

The company said its vaccine appears to be 94.5% effective, according to preliminary data from Moderna’s ongoing study. A week ago, competitor Pfizer Inc. announced its own vaccine appeared similarly effective — news that puts both companies on track to seek permission within weeks for emergency use in the U.S.

FILE – In this May 18, 2020, file photo, a bicyclists pedals past an entrance to a Moderna, Inc., building in Cambridge, Mass. Moderna said Monday, Nov. 16, 2020, its COVID-19 vaccine is proving to be highly effective in a major trial. (AP Photo/Bill Sikes, File)
FILE – In this May 18, 2020, file photo, a bicyclists pedals past an entrance to a Moderna, Inc., building in Cambridge, Mass. Moderna said Monday, Nov. 16, 2020, its COVID-19 vaccine is proving to be highly effective in a major trial. (AP Photo/Bill Sikes, File)

The results are “truly striking,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the U.S. government’s top infectious diseases expert. Earlier this year, Fauci said he would be happy with a COVID-19 vaccine that was 60% effective.

Stocks rallied on Wall Street and elsewhere around the world on rising hopes that the global economy could start returning to normal in the coming months. Moderna was up 7.5% in the morning, while companies that have benefited from the stay-at-home economy were down, including Zoom, Peloton and Netflix.

Dr. Stephen Hoge, Moderna’s president, said having similar results from two different companies is what’s most reassuring.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press
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Logistics of distributing Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine are delicate and complex

For months, scientists and public-health experts have been saying the most crucial part of defusing the COVID-19 pandemic will be developing a safe and effective vaccine. So it was cause for celebration this week when Pfizer announced that an early analysis showed its vaccine candidate was more than 90% effective.

Now the drugmaker, the government and the public-health community face a new challenge: quickly making millions of doses of the vaccine and getting them to the hospitals, clinics and pharmacies where they will be injected, two separate times, into people’s arms.

If Pfizer receives authorization for its vaccine from the Food and Drug Administration in the coming weeks, as expected, the company, in theory, could vaccinate millions of Americans by the end of the year, taking advantage of months of planning and decades of experience.

But Pfizer — like other manufacturers that may soon be authorized to roll out their vaccines — does not fully control its own destiny. The effort will hinge on collaboration among a network of companies, federal and state agencies, and on-the-ground health workers in the midst of a pandemic that is spreading faster than ever through the United States.

FILE – In this Nov. 9, 2020, file photo pedestrians walk past Pfizer world headquarters in New York. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews, File)
FILE – In this Nov. 9, 2020, file photo pedestrians walk past Pfizer world headquarters in New York. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews, File)

Before Pfizer can begin shipping its vaccine, federal and state governments must tell it where to send how many doses. McKesson, a major medical supplier, will have to provide hospitals and other distribution sites with the syringes, needles and other supplies necessary to administer the vaccine.

Employees at those locations will need to be trained to store and administer the vaccine. They also will have to ensure that, four weeks after people receive the first dose of the vaccine, they return for a second dose. And millions of Americans must be persuaded to get the shots in the first place.

Read the story here.

—The New York Times

Virginia House of Delegates to meet online in 2021 as coronavirus cases rise

Virginia’s House of Delegates will meet online for the 2021 legislative session that convenes in January, Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn, D-Fairfax, said Monday, citing the need to avoid a coronavirus pandemic that has been worsening across the state.

The House went virtual this summer for the first time during a special session that began Aug. 18 and tackled budget, coronavirus and criminal justice issues. That session stretched across 60 days – longer than the 45-day regular session set to open Jan. 13.

“I wish we could hold the session in person, I wish we could all be together,” Filler-Corn said in an interview. “But right now it’s too dangerous.”

Virginia House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn, seen here in January, said the House will meet remotely during its special session in January, citing the danger of the coronavirus pandemic., MUST CREDITL Washington Post photo by Bill O’Leary
Virginia House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn, seen here in January, said the House will meet remotely during its special session in January, citing the danger of the coronavirus pandemic., MUST CREDITL Washington Post photo by Bill O’Leary

The state Senate met over the summer in a large conference room at the Science Museum of Virginia, which allowed members to sit far apart to avoid infection. The Senate has not yet announced its plans for January, but with 40 members, it does not face the same scale of logistical issues as the 100-member House.

Read the story here.

—The Washington Post

Biden virus advisers say a national lockdown isn’t on the agenda

Two of President-elect Joe Biden’s coronavirus advisers said they favor targeted local measures to stem the pandemic and oppose a nationwide U.S. lockdown as too blunt.

Vivek Murthy, a former U.S. surgeon general who’s one of Biden’s top three advisers on the virus, said that based on what the nation has learned about COVID-19 since the spring, the preferred approach to fighting it is “a dial that we turn up and down, depending on severity.”

“If we just lock down the entire country without targeting our efforts, then we are going to exacerbate the ‘pandemic fatigue’ people are feeling, you’re going to hurt jobs and the economy, you’re going to shut down schools and hurt the education of our children,” Murthy, who was appointed by former President Barack Obama, said on “Fox News Sunday.”

“So we’ve got to approach this with the precision of a scalpel rather than the force of an ax,” he said.

Finding ways to curb COVID-19 infections is increasingly urgent for Biden after U.S. cases hit records over the past two weeks amid a nationwide surge. President Donald Trump, who sought to raise the specter of a lockdown by a Biden administration during his re-election campaign, said last week that “this administration will not be going to a lockdown.”

Asked about the lockdown option on Sunday, Murthy said “it’s a measure of last resort.”

Read the story here.

—Bloomberg News
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UK to run final stage trials of Janssen Covid vaccine

Britain will be the first country to run final stage trials of an experimental coronavirus vaccine being developed by the pharmaceutical company Janssen, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson.

Scientists will begin recruiting some 6,000 people across the U.K. on Monday for the 12-month trial.

A view of a a busy street on the first weekend after Wales’ 17-day fire-break lockdown to curb the spread of coronavirus, in Cardiff, Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020. British scientists will begin recruiting some 6,000 people across the U.K. on Monday for a 12-month vaccine  trial of a coronavirus vaccine being developed by the pharmaceutical company Janssen, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson. Britain will be the first country to run final stage trials of an experimental vaccine.
(Nick Potts/PA via AP)
A view of a a busy street on the first weekend after Wales’ 17-day fire-break lockdown to curb the spread of coronavirus, in Cardiff, Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020. British scientists will begin recruiting some 6,000 people across the U.K. on Monday for a 12-month vaccine trial of a coronavirus vaccine being developed by the pharmaceutical company Janssen, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson. Britain will be the first country to run final stage trials of an experimental vaccine. (Nick Potts/PA via AP)

Dr. Saul Faust, who is helping lead the study, said the research will start first in Britain but aims to recruit a total of 30,000 people in six countries around the world.

The shot uses a harmless cold virus to deliver the spike protein of the coronavirus into the body, which scientists hope will prompt an immune response.

Faust said the news from Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech last week that their vaccine appears to be 90% effective according to preliminary data was a welcome boost for their research.

“It’s fantastic news that vaccines aimed at the spike protein can prevent coronavirus disease,” Faust, a professor of pediatric immunology and infectious diseases at the University of Southampton, said at a news briefing.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

Should you get tested for COVID-19 before your Thanksgiving gathering? Here’s what the experts say

Carrie Mangoubi had a plan for Thanksgiving.

She’d ask her guests to quarantine for two weeks before the holiday, or quarantine for one week and then get tested for COVID-19 right before Thanksgiving. Her family members agreed to the arrangement.

But amid travel concerns and rising cases of COVID-19, Mangoubi, 40, abandoned her plan to host the holiday dinner. She now anticipates a quiet Thanksgiving at her Chicago home with her husband and two young children.

Mangoubi isn’t the only one weighing the role that COVID-19 testing can play as the holidays approach. Many families, desperate to save Thanksgiving, are wondering whether testing can bring peace of mind to their dinner tables.

Some medical experts say testing could add a layer of protection when combined with quarantining before the holiday. Others say families are better off sticking to other strategies, such as masks, social distancing or avoiding in-person gatherings altogether.

About 35% of 1,005 Americans surveyed in late October, as part of an Ipsos poll, said they plan to have smaller-than-usual Thanksgiving gatherings. About 5% said they plan to get a COVID-19 test before celebrating, and 5% said they’ll ask everyone attending their festivities to get tested.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

Report: Belgian nursing homes failed patients amid pandemic

FILE – In this Thursday, July 9, 2020 file photo, nurse Jean-Claude Feda, right, and trainee Lyson Rousseau, center, both wearing face masks, to protect against the spread of coronavirus, measure the blood pressure of resident Odette Defraigne-Schmit at CHC Liege Mativa home for elderly people in Liege, Belgium. Authorities fear another deadly wave of coronavirus cases could soon hit care homes as the country confronts the risk of seeing its hospitals overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients, leading them to restrict nursing home visits. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco, File)
FILE – In this Thursday, July 9, 2020 file photo, nurse Jean-Claude Feda, right, and trainee Lyson Rousseau, center, both wearing face masks, to protect against the spread of coronavirus, measure the blood pressure of resident Odette Defraigne-Schmit at CHC Liege Mativa home for elderly people in Liege, Belgium. Authorities fear another deadly wave of coronavirus cases could soon hit care homes as the country confronts the risk of seeing its hospitals overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients, leading them to restrict nursing home visits. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco, File)

Belgian authorities “abandoned” thousands of elderly people who died in nursing homes during the coronavirus pandemic and did not seek hospital treatment for many who were infected, violating their human rights, Amnesty International said in an investigation published Monday.

One of the hardest-hit countries in Europe, Belgium has reported more than 531,000 confirmed virus cases and more than 14,400 deaths linked to the coronavirus. During the first wave of the pandemic last spring, the European nation of 11.5 million people recorded a majority of its COVID-19-related deaths in nursing homes.

Between March and October, Amnesty International said “a staggering” 61.3% of all COVID-19 deaths in Belgium took place in nursing homes. The group said authorities weren’t quick enough in implementing measures to protect nursing home residents and staff during this period, failing to protect their human rights.

Amnesty International said one of the reasons so many people died in nursing homes is because infected residents weren’t transferred to hospitals to receive treatment.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press
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Email obtained by AP: 65 WHO staff have virus, 1 cluster

The World Health Organization has recorded 65 cases of the coronavirus among staff based at its headquarters, including at least one cluster of infections, an internal email obtained by The Associated Press shows, despite the agency’s public assertions that there has been no transmission at the Geneva site.

The revelation comes amid a surge of cases in Europe, host country Switzerland, and the city of Geneva, in particular, and the email said about half of the infections were in people who had been working from home. But 32 were in staff who had been working on premises at the headquarters building, indicating that the health agency’s strict hygiene, screening and other prevention measures were not sufficient to spare it from the pandemic.

FILE – In this June 11, 2009, file photo, the logo of the World Health Organization is seen at the WHO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. An email obtained by The Associated Press shows that the World Health Organization has recorded 65 cases of the coronavirus among staff based at its headquarters, including at least one cluster of infections. (AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus, File)
FILE – In this June 11, 2009, file photo, the logo of the World Health Organization is seen at the WHO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. An email obtained by The Associated Press shows that the World Health Organization has recorded 65 cases of the coronavirus among staff based at its headquarters, including at least one cluster of infections. (AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus, File)

Raul Thomas, who heads business operations at WHO, emailed staff on Friday noting that five people — four on the same team and one who had contact with them— had tested positive for COVID-19. While the email did not use the term “cluster,” one is generally defined as two or more cases in the same area and the five cases indicate basic infection control and social distancing procedures were likely being broken.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

Catch up on the past 24 hours

Senor Moose server and bartender Phil West, right, confirms there is indoor brunch seating for married couple Nataly Ocampo, 28, and Stephen Durkee, 36, shortly after Gov. Jay Inslee announced new restrictions to indoor and outdoor dining on Sunday, to take effect in the coming days. West, a longtime employee at the Ballard restaurant, said the “Dine In!” sign had just been made, and that this is the first time the restaurant allowed inside dining since March. It has allowed sidewalk dining for a while and will continue. “It’s probably a good thing to shut down for public safety,” said West, who at first said “It’s not ideal.” Senor Moose will remain open for takeout and sidewalk dining. (Ken Lambert / The Seattle Times)
Senor Moose server and bartender Phil West, right, confirms there is indoor brunch seating for married couple Nataly Ocampo, 28, and Stephen Durkee, 36, shortly after Gov. Jay Inslee announced new restrictions to indoor and outdoor dining on Sunday, to take effect in the coming days. West, a longtime employee at the Ballard restaurant, said the “Dine In!” sign had just been made, and that this is the first time the restaurant allowed inside dining since March. It has allowed sidewalk dining for a while and will continue. “It’s probably a good thing to shut down for public safety,” said West, who at first said “It’s not ideal.” Senor Moose will remain open for takeout and sidewalk dining. (Ken Lambert / The Seattle Times)

Everyday life is changing again, starting today, after Gov. Jay Inslee ordered broad new restrictions and shutdowns in an effort to slow the surging virus. The constraints will be as extreme as anything the state has seen since Inslee's emergency stay-home order in March. The list of what you can and can't do now brings a new economic shock, with Washington businesses fearing many thousands of job losses. Restaurateurs are pivoting once more, hoping the lessons they learned last time will help save them. And here we go with the darn toilet paper frenzy again.

New cases in Washington set a record for the third day in a row, state health officials said yesterday. (Track the spread of the pandemic in these graphics.) The virus has gotten personal for most people; roughly one in every 323 people in the United States tested positive last week, and about a third of us know someone who has died from COVID-19. Will this change the public's deep divide about whether and how to fight it?

Doctors are calling it quits under the stress. Thousands of practices have closed as physicians report mental and financial exhaustion. And patients are increasingly agitated, one doctor points out: "They're yelling and cussing at my staff."

The intensifying pandemic is taking a toll on minds and hearts, just in time for gloomy weather and the time change to dampen moods, too. A psychologist who sees "people getting exhausted" offers advice on beating the anxiety. While a flood of Americans are hoping it will help to deck the halls far earlier than usual, others will need more serious help. Here are Seattle-area resources for mental health support and more.

Defying the Oregon governor’s orders, one county leader went viral with her declaration that she'll celebrate Thanksgiving "with as many family and friends as I can find." And although many families are wondering whether testing could bring peace of mind to their Thanksgiving table, medical experts are explaining why that's risky.