Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Saturday, Nov. 21, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.
More than 1 million travelers counted at U.S. airports Friday
Airports in the U.S. logged more than 1 million travelers at checkpoints on Friday, despite officials warning against traveling while COVID-19 is surging.
The Transportation Security Administration counted 1,019,836 people at checkpoints — less than half the approximately 2.5 million travelers counted on the same day last year.
The number of flyers dropped dramatically early on in the pandemic, with counts in the hundred thousands and below for much of April. But the numbers have been gradually rising since, with more than 1 million travelers also recorded on Oct. 18.
Seattle-Tacoma International Airport is expecting between 26,000 to 29,500 passengers a day to pass through its security checkpoints during Thanksgiving week. That’s less than half of last year’s holiday peak (more than 65,000 departing passengers per day), but considerably higher than the March nadir of 2,500.
State DOH facing backlog of test results not yet included in case counts
A jump in COVID-19 testing has left the Washington state Department of Health (DOH) with tens of thousands of results that have not yet been included in recent case counts.
The DOH had a backlog of at least 53,000 results — including positive and negative COVID-19 tests and some for other diseases — as of Saturday, according to a statement from the department. The results had accumulated in the past few days, meaning the number of new cases announced those days were undercounts.
The state's disease reporting system has the capacity to process about 33,000 test results per day. But DOH is currently receiving anywhere from 30,000 to 50,000 results a day, according to its statement.
DOH will temporarily pause publicly reporting negative COVID-19 tests to address the backlog. The pause is currently intended to last a week, said spokesperson Frank Ameduri.
The state is hoping to improve capacity, as the spread of COVID-19 and demand for testing are expected to increase in coming weeks. In Seattle, testing centers have been overwhelmed by a spike in demand before the holidays.
Officials warn Thanksgiving gatherings unsafe, families adapt their plans
"If people travel, or gather for Thanksgiving celebrations or other get-togethers, we could see an explosion in COVID-19, causing human suffering unlike anything we’ve experienced in modern times," Dr. Jeff Duchin, health officer for Public Health - Seattle & King County, said Friday.
The state Department of Health (DOH) is calling for residents to celebrate with only their immediate households and to not get tested just for the purpose of attending a gathering, while testing sites in Seattle have been stretched thin in recent weeks. People who have symptoms or believe they've been exposed should still get tested, according to DOH.
The New York Times asked more than 600 epidemiologists about their Thanksgiving plans, and about 80% said they won't gather with people outside their households, with others describing going to great lengths to do so safely. Washington families, including Gov. Jay Inslee's, have adapted their plans as well.
If you're stuck at home for the holiday, here are some cherished family recipes. If you're not in the mood for cooking, here's a list of restaurants open for takeout, some of which are taking preorders for Thanksgiving dinner. And here are tips on creating memorable moments with loved ones, even from afar.
Experimental drug given to Trump to treat covid-19 wins FDA clearance
The Food and Drug Administration on Saturday granted emergency authorization to the experimental antibody treatment given to President Donald Trump last month when he developed COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.
The drug, made by Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, is designed to prevent infected people from developing severe illness. Instead of waiting for the body to develop its own protective immune response, the drug imitates the body’s natural defenses. It is the second drug of this type – called a monoclonal antibody – to be cleared for COVID-19.
The drug is complicated and time-consuming to make; initially, it will be in short supply. The shortages, coupled with the complexities of administering the intravenous medication, have raised concerns about whether people with the greatest need will be able to get it.
Read the full story here.
State DOH confirms 1,717 more COVID-19 cases in Washington
State health officials confirmed 1,717 new COVID-19 cases in Washington state on Saturday, although an increase in testing has led to reporting delays.
The update brings the state’s totals to 141,260 cases, according to the state Department of Health (DOH) data dashboard. The data is as of 11:59 p.m. Friday and is an undercount, according to DOH.
DOH does not report deaths on weekends. As of yesterday's update, 2,619 people had died of COVID-19 in Washington state, meaning 1.9% of people diagnosed in the state have died.
Per the DOH, 9,765 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the virus. Statewide, nearly 2.9 million COVID-19 tests have been administered.
In King County, Washington's most populous, DOH confirmed 518 new coronavirus cases, bringing the county’s total to 37,631 diagnoses and 847 deaths.
How might the pandemic change Seattle's homeless shelters?
For the first winter in 41 years, the main floor of the old Morrison Hotel in downtown Seattle is quiet. Before the pandemic, hundreds of homeless people per night would be sleeping on bunks and mats to escape increasingly frigid temperatures.
For four decades, the hotel has temporarily housed people who struggle in other shelters, because of mental illness, addiction or physical disability.
But now, it’s empty: The inhabitants were moved to another hotel, in Renton, as the pandemic forced shelter operators to distance residents. There, they stay in individual rooms. And the nonprofit that runs the Morrison wants to keep it that way.
Dan Malone, executive director of Downtown Emergency Service Center (DESC) , has vowed never again to open a large-scale shelter where several people share close living quarters — often called “congregate shelter.”
Now, he’s pressuring the city and county to do the same for thousands of congregate shelter beds locally.
“We have been disenchanted with the model for a long time, but never found the strength to insist on making it humane until the pandemic,” Malone said. “Now we plan not to go back to that way of doing things.”
Read the full story here.
COVID-19 deaths of Serbian clerics highlight virus worries in religious institutions
As coronavirus cases surge globally, the COVID-19 deaths of two senior Serbian Orthodox Church clerics — one who died weeks after presiding over the funeral of the other — are raising questions about whether some religious institutions are doing enough to slow the spread of the virus.
More reports are emerging about people who attended religious services and contract the virus — some after parishioners seemed to ignore the pleas of church and health officials officials to wear masks, practice social distancing and other steps to combat the virus that’s killed nearly 1.4 million people worldwide.
In Belgrade, many mourners paying their respects Saturday to Serbian Orthodox Church Patriarch Irinej ignored precautions and some kissed the glass shield covering the patriarch’s body, despite warnings not to do so from Serbia’s epidemiologists.
That scene unfolded three weeks after the 90-year-old Irinej led prayers at the funeral of Bishop Amfilohije in nearby Montenegro, an event attended by thousands where many kissed the bishop’s remains in an open casket.
Read the story here.
Coronavirus outbreak at Providence Mount St. Vincent in West Seattle grows
Providence Mount St. Vincent in West Seattle is reporting that an ongoing outbreak of COVID-19 that began in early November has grown, and two residents who tested positive for the novel coronavirus have died.
In a message to residents and their families, administrators said that as of Nov. 20, 13 residents and 11 caregivers have tested positive.
The first resident tested positive on Nov. 8, public relations manager Colleen Farrell said Saturday in an email.
According to its website, the facility is a “living care community” for older adults. It includes short-term rehabilitation, skilled nursing services and assisted living facilities. The Mount, as it is called, is home to more than 400 people.
The website says the facility remains closed to visitors and continues to screen everyone who enters the building.
Read the full story here.
Many GOP lawmakers shrug off Statehouse mask-wearing rules
Many Republican lawmakers in states where coronavirus cases and hospitalizations have surged are not only rejecting statewide mask mandates. They’re also resisting rules requiring them in their own capitols.
Efforts to require lawmakers and staff to wear masks have received a cool reception even in statehouses that have seen outbreaks of the virus or where Republican governors have issued statewide mandates. It’s echoing a partisan divide nationwide over a simple step that health experts say is proven to help keep others safe.
“We’re supposed to be modeling for our constituents and for our residents in our state,” said Arkansas state Sen. Stephanie Flowers, a Democrat in the majority-Republican Legislature who proposed a rule requiring senators to wear a mask or risk losing their per diem payments. “You’ve got the governor asking everyone to wear a mask and socially distance. It’s not like I’m asking for something nobody has heard of.”
Many legislatures are still planning and drafting rules for their 2021 legislative sessions, while four chambers approved rules requiring masks for sessions this year, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Nearly 200 legislators nationwide have tested positive for the virus and four have died from COVID-19 since the pandemic began, according to figures compiled by The Associated Press. After at least four dozen Mississippi lawmakers tested positive in the largest outbreak in a legislature, where masks were encouraged but not required for lawmakers.
Read the story here.
Oregon Restaurant Association asks court to halt virus restrictions
The Oregon Restaurant & Lodging Association is seeking a court order from a federal judge to block Gov. Kate Brown’s “two-week freeze” that bans dining in restaurants in response to a spike in COVID-19 cases.
The association, which represents 10,000 food service and 2,000 lodging businesses across the state, argues the new restrictions will cause devastating effects for its members and their employees, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported.
The association and the public policy group Restaurant Law Center filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Portland on Friday, two days after the governor’s new executive order took effect.
The order expected to last at least through Dec. 2 limits social get-togethers to no more than six people from no more than two households and limits restaurants to take-out and delivery only.
Read the story here.
No. 4 Clemson at Florida State postponed hours before start
The game between No. 4 Clemson and Florida State was postponed hours before kickoff Saturday when medical personnel from both schools could not agree it was safe to play amid the pandemic.
The Atlantic Coast Conference announced the postponement, although it did not detail whether the game at Florida State was called off because of coronavirus issues.
No makeup date was announced, but Florida State coach Mike Norvell said he hoped it would be in December. Clemson’s lone open date is Dec. 12. The ACC championship game is Dec. 19.
Star Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence was scheduled to make his first start since Oct. 24. He has missed the past two games, including the 47-40 double overtime loss at Notre Dame, after testing positive for COVID-19.
Norvell had also tested positive for the virus in September, missing the Seminoles’ game with Miami.
Clemson athletic director Dan Radakovich said the school had followed all ACC protocol in the week leading to the game.
Read the story here.
Iran closes businesses, curtails travel amid virus surge
Iran on Saturday shuttered businesses and curtailed travel between its major cities, including the capital of Tehran, as it grapples with the worst outbreak of the coronavirus in the Mideast region.
Top Iranian officials initially downplayed the risks posed by the virus outbreak, before recently urging the public to follow measures like wearing masks and avoiding unessential travel.
Iran has recorded daily death tolls of above 430 over the past five days. The Iranian Health Ministry said on Saturday that the total number of confirmed cases has risen to above 840,000.
The new lockdown measures, which include shuttering most businesses, shops, malls, and restaurants, include Iran’s largest cities of Mashhad, Isfahan, and Shiraz. Iranian authorities have designated the nearly 160 towns and cities affected as hot spots because these urban centers have the highest daily per capita positive coronavirus test results.
Read the story here.
G-20 summit opens as leaders urge united response to virus
The Group of 20 summit began on Saturday with appeals by the world’s most powerful leaders to collectively chart a way forward as the coronavirus pandemic overshadows this year’s gathering, transforming it from in-person meetings to a virtual gathering of speeches and declarations.
The pandemic, which has claimed more than 1.37 million lives worldwide, has offered the G-20 an opportunity to prove how such bodies can facilitate international cooperation in crises — but has also underscored their shortcomings.
“We have a duty to rise to the challenge together during this summit and give a strong message of hope and reassurance,” King Salman said in his opening remarks. Saudi Arabia has presided over the G-20 this year and is host of the summit.
The pandemic has had far-reaching economic impact on developing countries, but has also plagued the world’s wealthiest nations, with nine G-20 countries ranking highest globally for the most cases of COVID-19 recorded. The United States tops the list, followed by India, Brazil, France, Russia, Spain, the U.K., Argentina and Italy, according to a count kept by Johns Hopkins University.
Read the story here.
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