Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Tuesday, Nov. 17, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.
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.
Gov. Jay Inslee will hold a press conference at 11:30 a.m. today to announce the new state Department of Health secretary.
FDA allows first rapid virus test that gives results at home
WASHINGTON — U.S. regulators on Tuesday allowed emergency use of the first rapid coronavirus test that can be performed entirely at home and delivers results in 30 minutes.
The announcement by the Food and Drug Administration represents an important step in U.S. efforts to expand testing options for COVID-19 beyond health care facilities and testing sites. However, the test will require a prescription, likely limiting its initial use.
The FDA granted emergency authorization to the single-use test kit from Lucira Health, a California manufacturer.
The company’s test allows users to swab themselves to collect a nasal sample. The sample is then swirled in a vial of laboratory solution that plugs into a portable device. Results are displayed as lights labeled positive or negative.
To date, the FDA has authorized nearly 300 tests for coronavirus. The vast majority require a nasal swab performed by a health professional and must be processed at laboratories using high-tech equipment. A handful of tests allow people to collect their own sample at home — a nasal swab or saliva — that’s then shipped to a lab, which usually means waiting days for results.
Isolated Americans spend at home; Home Depot is there for it
As the year comes to a close Americans are still stuck at home and that has led to an explosive year for Home Depot. The most recent quarter is no exception.
Third-quarter sales surged 23% and the home improvement chain beat expectations by almost any measure.
Revenue totaled $33.54 billion for the three months ended Nov. 1, topping the $31.83 billion that analysts polled by FactSet predicted.
“We saw the continuation of outsized demand for home improvement projects, which has led to sales growth of more than $15 billion through the first nine months of the year,” Chairman and CEO Craig Menear, said in a prepared statement.
Sales at stores open at least a year, a key gauge of a retailer’s health, climbed a stunning 24.1%, topping even the lofty projections for a 17.2% increase on Wall Street. In the U.S., where the coronavirus has run unchecked and kept millions at home, those sales jumped 24.6%.
While home owners have been hunkering down, home sales have been among the bright spots economically during the pandemic. Whether buying a new home, or improving an existing one, home owners continue to head to Home Depot at a healthy pace.
Executive order makes Oregon ‘freeze’ enforceable by law
SALEM, Ore. — Gov. Kate Brown made her statewide two-week ‘freeze’ official Tuesday with an executive order that makes the measures enforceable by law.
The freeze will take effect starting Wednesday and aims to limit group activities and slow the spread of COVID-19 in Oregon where cases have reached a record high.
As part of the freeze, social gatherings can not exceed more than six people.
Restaurants are limited to take-out only, while gyms and fitness centers, museums, pools, sports courts, movie theaters, zoos, gardens, aquariums and venues will be closed. Grocery stores, pharmacies and retail stores are limited to a maximum capacity of 75%.
All of the freeze measures are enforceable by law.
South Korea sees biggest rise in cases since August
SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea has recorded its largest daily increase in coronavirus infections in nearly three months as it gets set to tighten social distancing rules in the greater Seoul area.
The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency reported 313 new cases on Wednesday, raising the country’s total to 29,311, including 496 deaths.
It’s the first time the country’s daily caseload exceeded 300 since late August.
South Korea is struggling to contain a spike in new infections since it eased its stringent social distancing rules last month. The new cases are tied to hospitals, nursing homes, churches, schools, offices and family gatherings.
Local health authorities said Tuesday that they would tighten distancing restrictions in the densely populated Seoul area and some parts of eastern Gangwon province. Those areas are at the center of the recent spikes.
Under the new rules, which come into effect Thursday for two weeks in those areas, gatherings of more than 100 people during rallies, festivals and concerts will be prohibited. They will also require people to sit at least one seat apart from each other in theaters, concert halls and libraries while limiting audiences at sporting events to 30% of the stadium’s capacity.
As virus cases spiral, Los Angeles readies plan for curfew
LOS ANGELES — Los Angeles County imposed new restrictions on businesses Tuesday and is readying plans for a mandatory curfew for all but essential workers if coronavirus cases keep spiking.
The county of 10 million residents — the nation’s most populous — has seen daily confirmed cases more than double in the last two weeks to nearly 2,900. Hospitalizations have topped 1,100, a rise of 30% in that period.
The county, which for most of the pandemic has had a disproportionately large share of California’s cases, issued new restrictions ordering nonessential retail businesses to limit indoor capacity to 25% and restaurants to 50% capacity outdoors. Restaurants already are not allowed to serve customers indoors.
All those businesses must close at 10 p.m. The changes take effect Friday.
Additionally, services at salons and other personal care businesses may only be provided by appointment and customers and staff must wear face coverings. Services such as facials that require customers to remove their face coverings are not permitted.
All gatherings must be outdoors and limited to 15 people from no more than three households.
The county also warned of increasingly restrictive policies if cases keep rising. If the five-day average of cases tops 4,000 or hospitalizations are above 1,750 per day, outdoor restaurant dining will be banned.
If cases reach 4,500 per day or hospitalizations top 2,000, the county will impose a three-week lockdown that will restrict people to their homes for all but essential services. A nighttime curfew for all but essential workers would run from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.
Pandemic delivers a triple whammy to America’s working women
For millions of working women, the coronavirus pandemic has delivered a rare and ruinous one-two-three punch.
First, the parts of the economy that were smacked hardest and earliest by job losses were ones where women dominate — restaurants, retail businesses and health care.
Then a second wave began taking out local and state government jobs, another area where women outnumber men.
The third blow has, for many, been the knockout: the closing of child care centers and the shift to remote schooling. That has saddled working mothers, much more than fathers, with overwhelming household responsibilities.
Recessions usually start by gutting the manufacturing and construction industries, where men hold most of the jobs, she said.
The impact on the economic and social landscape is both immediate and enduring.
The triple punch is not just pushing women out of jobs they held but also preventing many from seeking new ones. For an individual, it could limit prospects and earnings over a lifetime. Across a nation, it could stunt growth, robbing the economy of educated, experienced and dedicated workers.
Stanwood senior facility reports 99 coronavirus cases, including 5 deaths
Five people have died from COVID-19, and 94 others have tested positive for the novel coronavirus in an outbreak among residents and staff members of Josephine Caring Community in Stanwood, health officials said Tuesday.
The 99 total cases — split about evenly between residents of the long-term care facility and staff — is an increase from 94 reported over the weekend. Seven people have been hospitalized, including the five who died, Dr. Chris Spitters, Snohomish County’s health officer, said in a Tuesday briefing.
The cause, according to Spitters, is widespread coronavirus activity in Snohomish County, where infections are rising and putting increasing stress on emergency medical services and hospitals. Health officials believe a staff member or visitor who was ill came into the building, despite the facility’s limits on visits and activities.
“It’s very difficult, we’re seeing this with many long-term care facilities, that even with good infection-control precautions, it’s hard to interrupt the spread of this virus in close congregate settings like long-term care facilities,” Spitters said.
Immunity to the coronavirus may last years, new research suggests
How long might immunity to the coronavirus last? Years, maybe even decades, according to a new study — the most hopeful answer yet to a question that has shadowed plans for widespread vaccination.
Eight months after infection, most people who have recovered still have enough immune cells to fend off the virus and prevent illness, the new data shows. A slow rate of decline in the short term suggests, happily, that these cells may persist in the body for a very, very long time to come.
The research, published online, has not been peer-reviewed nor published in a scientific journal. But it is the most comprehensive and long-ranging study of immune memory to the coronavirus to date.
“That amount of memory would likely prevent the vast majority of people from getting hospitalized disease, severe disease, for many years,” said Shane Crotty, a virologist at the La Jolla Institute of Immunology who co-led the new study.
The findings are likely to come as a relief to experts worried that immunity to the virus might be short-lived, and that vaccines might have to be administered repeatedly to keep the pandemic under control.
State reports 2,589 new COVID-19 cases -- 777 in King County -- and 23 new deaths
The state Department of Health (DOH) reported 2,589 new COVID-19 cases as of Monday, and 23 new deaths.
The number sets a new record for new COVID-19 cases, which reached their highest on Sunday, Nov. 14 with 2,519 diagnoses. The state has set new records on four of the last five days.
The state no longer reports deaths on weekends, so tallies may be higher early in the week.
In King County, the state’s most populous, 777 new cases were reported, along with seven new deaths.
The update brings the state’s totals to 134,121 cases and 2,571 deaths, meaning that 1.9% of people diagnosed in Washington have died, according to the DOH. The data is as of 11:59 p.m. Monday.
The DOH also reported that 9,573 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the virus-- 55 new hospitalizations since Monday.
Statewide, 2,813,081 COVID-19 tests have been administered as of Monday.
In King County, state health officials have confirmed a total of 35,669 COVID-19 diagnoses and 845 deaths.
New Orleans bans Mardi Gras parades in 2021
Mardi Gras celebrations in 2021 will not include New Orleans’ traditional parades, which take place every year to mark the carnival season, Mayor Latoya Cantrell’s office confirmed in a news conference on Tuesday.
Mardi Gras guidance on the city’s website states: “Parades of any kind will not be permitted.” The guidelines stress that not all celebrations around Mardi Gras are canceled, but parades will not be possible “because large gatherings have proven to be super spreader events.”
“The guidelines have to be followed as it relates to Mardi Gras 2021,” Cantrell told reporters. The mayor’s office has put out a call for ideas on how to “safely celebrate the carnival season” without any parades. Submissions must comply with social distancing and sanitation standards, and “prevent unstructured crowds of strangers,” the mayor’s office says on its website. The call for suggestions also notes that “a COVID-19 vaccine will not be readily available until after Mardi Gras.”
Pac-12 football games set to continue despite West Coast travel advisories
The travel advisories issued jointly late last week by the governors of California, Oregon and Washington are not expected to impact Pac-12 football teams located in those states.
The advisories “urge against non-essential out-of-state travel, ask people to self-quarantine for 14 days after arriving from another state or country and encourage residents to stay local,” according to a statement posted on the website of California Gov. Gavin Newsom.
A conference source pointed to the non-binding nature of the advisories and to the Pac-12’s health and safety precautions.
In a statement to KING 5, a spokesperson for Gov. Jay Inslee said, "These are recommendations, not requirements, so there is not an enforcement element to this. Collegiate sports are already governed by their own health guidance and will continue to follow those protocols.”
Sioux Falls readies mask rule after push from medical groups
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — The largest city in South Dakota appears ready to reverse course and pass a mask mandate Tuesday after enforcement was removed from the ordinance and medical groups said hospitals have exceeded capacity dealing with COVID-19 patients.
Sioux Falls Mayor Paul TenHaken, who cast a tie-breaking vote against a mandate last week, said he was ready to get behind the requirement after the state’s largest physicians’ organization and a hospital system came out in support. The ordinance, which TenHaken said he expects will pass, faces a City Council vote Tuesday night. But the council said violations of the requirement, which applies to retail businesses and public buildings, will not carry any penalty.
Gov. Kristi Noem opposes mask mandates or other government interventions aimed at slowing the spread of infections.
South Dakota’s COVID-19 deaths per capita in recent weeks have been among the worst in the nation, but the Department of Health did not report any new deaths on Tuesday. Just over 1,000 people tested positive for the coronavirus, and the number of hospitalizations increased to 582 people, pushing some facilities close to capacity.
BA, American Airlines plan voluntary COVID-19 testing plan
British Airways said Tuesday that it will start testing passengers flying from the U.S. to London’s Heathrow Airport for COVID-19 in an effort to persuade the British government it should scrap industry-killing rules requiring most international travelers to quarantine for 14 days.
The airline says the pilot program will offer voluntary testing starting Nov. 25 in partnership with American Airlines for passengers flying to Heathrow from New York, Los Angeles and Dallas.
Passengers will be tested 72 hours before departure, on arrival at Heathrow and again three days after arrival. British Airways says its goal is to show that a single test 72 hours before takeoff is enough to ensure travelers aren’t carrying COVID-19, allowing authorities to end the quarantine requirement.
Dutch virus restrictions to be eased amid falling infections
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte eased his country’s coronavirus measures Tuesday amid falling infection rates, allowing public venues including cinemas, museums and libraries to reopen — with limitations — after a two-week closure.
The venues, which also include zoos and swimming pools, will be allowed to reopen at midnight Wednesday, Rutte said.
The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Netherlands fell over the past two weeks from 55.72 new cases per 100,000 people on Nov. 2 to 31.96 new cases per 100,000 people on Nov. 16.
“The numbers we see are still too high, but the trend is downwards and that is positive,” Rutte said.
Putin touts Russian virus vaccines at BRICS summit
Russian President Vladimir Putin told the leaders of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa Tuesday that coronavirus vaccines developed in Russia “work effectively and safely” and urged the group of emerging economy nations to “join forces” for the mass production of the shots.
Putin’s remarks to the leaders of what is known as the BRICS nations come after early results of large studies of several experimental COVID-19 vaccines, including a Russian one, were announced.
Two days after Pfizer Inc. said its own vaccine looked 90% effective last week, developers of the Russian-made vaccine Sputnik V said early data from a large trial suggested its shots were 92% effective. However, the conclusion was based on a much lower number of infections recorded during the trial — 20 compared to 94 in Pfizer’s case and 95 in the study of Moderna’s vaccine.
A lost dog’s journey across the Canadian border and back
A lost dog’s journey across the Canadian border and back was complicated by coronavirus restrictions limiting movement from a town on one side of the St. John River to a Maine town on the other.
Diamond, a German shepherd, escaped from her home in New Brunswick on Saturday and crossed a border bridge into Fort Kent, Maine, where coronavirus restrictions prevented her caretakers from following, the Bangor Daily News reported.
When the owner, Paryse Michaud, learned her dog had crossed the border, she posted for help on Facebook and over the next six hours received updates from people in Maine tracking the dog. Diamond was ultimately found in a garage and reunited with Michaud at a border station Sunday, the newspaper reported.
Ohio senator joins COVID-19 vaccine study to set example
A U.S. senator is participating in a COVID-19 vaccine study, hoping to encourage others to volunteer to take part in testing and send a message about vaccine safety.
Ohio Republican Rob Portman told The Associated Press that he wanted to do what he could to help “explain the great potential for these vaccines” and the need for volunteers.
Portman decided to sign up after hearing about the need from executives with Covington, Kentucky-based CTI, which is recruiting volunteers and doing vaccine tests for multiple drugmakers.
Federal prison left inmates with virus in housing for a week
A federal prison complex in Louisiana that emerged as an early coronavirus hotspot — with hundreds of infected inmates — failed to comply with federal health guidance and left inmates with the virus in their housing units for a week without being isolated, the Justice Department’s inspector general said Tuesday.
The inspector general’s findings after a remote inspection of the Federal Correctional Complex in Oakdale, Louisiana, comes as the Bureau of Prisons continues to struggle with an exploding number of coronavirus cases in its prisons.
Across the country, 182,776 inmates at state and federal prisons have been diagnosed with COVID-19, including eight at Oakdale, according to data compiled by The Marshall Project and The Associated Press.
Canada’s COVID-19 cases grow and spread as once-effective unity frays
A spiraling resurgence of coronavirus is buffeting provinces once heralded as success stories and exposing cracks in the “Team Canada” approach.
The seven-day average for new cases in Canada climbed to approximately 4,300 on Friday, up about 22 percent from the previous week and almost 45 percent from the end of October. Indicators in much of the country are blinking red.
Manitoba saw relatively few cases in the spring and went almost two weeks in the summer without recording a single case. It shut its COVID-19 command center. Now it’s one of the hardest hit places in the country with a five-day test positivity rate exceeding 12 percent and a 27 percent jump in hospitalizations.
This surge has hit provinces that thought they navigated the first wave well, providing a cautionary tale about the consequences of underestimating the virus.
Volunteers still needed to test variety of COVID-19 vaccines
Two COVID-19 vaccines might be nearing the finish line, but scientists caution it’s critical that enough people volunteer to help finish studying other candidates in the U.S. and around the world.
Moderna Inc. and competitor Pfizer Inc. recently announced preliminary results showing their vaccines appear more than 90% effective, at least for short-term protection against COVID-19.
If those early results hold up and U.S. regulators agree the shots are safe, emergency use of small, rationed supplies could start in late December. But multiple vaccines will be needed to meet global demand and studies that still need to sign up thousands of volunteers could run short.
British business leaders ask for clarity and a week's notice on reopening restrictions
Business leaders hoping to salvage something of the fourth quarter urged the British government on Tuesday to give them at least a week’s notice and specific information on what restrictions they'll face when the lockdown in England expires in early December.
Under the lockdown in England, the hospitality sector, such as pubs, restaurants, and entertainment venues, have had to close. Stores selling items deemed nonessential, such as books, clothing and sneakers, have also had to close.
The government has said it intends to revert to a localized approach when the lockdown ends, with areas still recording the most coronavirus infections facing the toughest restrictions. However, it has been reluctant to say what restrictions will be in place for any particular area.
Hungary’s doctors warn of soaring coronavirus deaths ahead
Doctors in Hungary are warning that a lack of medical staff qualified to treat coronavirus patients in intensive care units could soon lead to soaring deaths and a breakdown in the country’s fragile health care system despite the government’s current preparations.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban last week announced the country’s strictest pandemic restrictions to date and the government ordered hospitals to expand their ICUs.
But the Hungarian Chamber of Doctors has warned the lack of qualified doctors and nurses is as much of a threat as the lack of equipment and beds.
As of Tuesday, 7,477 COVID-19 patients were being treated in Hungarian hospitals and 576 were on ventilators. The country of nearly 10 million people has seen 3,281 confirmed coronavirus deaths, half of them in the last three weeks.
Sen. Grassley, 87, quarantining after virus exposure
Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, the longest-serving Republican senator, says he is quarantining after being exposed to the coronavirus.
By missing votes this week, Grassley -- who presides over the Senate in the absence of Vice President Mike Pence -- will break a 27-year streak of not missing a single Senate vote.
Alaska loses 3,000 oil, gas jobs to pandemic, price drop
The Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development 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.
South Korea tightens restrictions to fight virus
South Korea said Tuesday that it will tighten social distancing rules in the greater Seoul area and some parts of eastern Gangwon province to try to suppress a coronavirus resurgence there.
The announcement came as South Korea’s daily virus tally stayed above 200 for a fourth straight day. The country has been experiencing a steady increase in virus infections since it relaxed its social distancing guidelines last month.
Under the new rules to be effective in those areas starting Thursday, authorities are banning gatherings of more than 100 people during rallies, festivals, concerts and academic events. Customers at theaters, concerts and libraries are required to sit at least one seat apart from each other, while audiences at sporting events will be limited to 30% of the stadium’s capacity.
The new rules also ban dancing and moving to others’ seats at nightclubs and other high-risk entertainment facilities, and drinking and eating at karaoke rooms and concert halls.
South Korea added 230 more virus cases on Tuesday, raising the country’s total to 28,998 since the pandemic began, including 494 deaths.
Let’s talk turkey-ish things: Teen chef Sadie has a recipe for delicious potatoes au gratin. And if you love the crunchiest bits of cornbread dressing, this relatively quick sheet-pan recipe is for you. Find tips for a kid-friendly Thanksgiving dinner and get inspired with our no-stress guide, The Imperfect Holiday.
Have a craving for super-crispy chicken wings? Thai Ha used to feed festival crowds, but when the pandemic hit, he set up shop in a friend’s Seattle restaurant kitchen. Now business is sizzling at Mangosteen 206.
Catch up on the past 24 hours
Welcome to our new era of COVID-19 restrictions, many of which went into effect today. Here’s what you can and can’t do in counties across Washington state. California, too, is pulling the emergency brake on reopening as it imposes some of the nation's strictest new measures.
More than 300 people went to a super-spreader wedding in Eastern Washington. Now the COVID-19 cases are stacking up — but public health officials can't reach all of the guests.
Some Washingtonians have been told to repay their jobless benefits, or else. Thousands of residents have been notified that their benefits are being changed, suspended or reduced, in the latest complication linked to a federal pandemic program.
The newest weapon against COVID-19 is no bigger than a coin. Sports leagues, factories and nursing homes are embracing surveillance gadgets that constantly track the wearer in hopes of pinpointing early signs of the virus.
A lifetime of pain in 24 hours: A day in an intensive-care unit in overwhelmed Marseille, France, shows exactly what U.S. health officials are trying to head off.
Here comes Santa Claus — with face masks, plexiglass and more.
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