Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Wednesday, Nov. 25, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.
As numbers of new coronavirus cases break records nearly every day, Gov. Jay Inslee said Tuesday that Washington could face a “catastrophic loss of medical care” in the coming weeks if the increases continue. The new wave could also mean others, including restaurant workers, will be thrown out of work as dining and drinking establishments shutter once again.
Meanwhile, federal health officials are working on guidance to shorten the recommended 14-day quarantine period following a potential exposure to the virus.
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.
Coronavirus infections are higher than ever, but COVID-19 deaths are not. Why?
For months, epidemiologists have predicted a spike in COVID-19 cases as winter approaches. Now it appears those dark forecasts were all too accurate.
Coronavirus infections are rising across much of the United States, with the number of new daily cases nearing 200,000 for the past several days. That’s about five times the number of new daily cases the U.S. was reporting as recently as September, according to the World Health Organization.
In California, the average number of new coronavirus cases has tripled in the last month alone. The virus is now infecting more Californians every day than at any previous point in the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a Times analysis.
But as infections spiraled to never-before-seen heights, the number of COVID-19 deaths per day has not followed suit.
In early April, the U.S. reported about 30,000 new infections and about 2,000 deaths per day, according to the WHO. That’s about the same number of deaths that are being reported now — though daily new cases are more than six times higher.
What exactly is going on? The more coronavirus cases that are reported, the more COVID-19 deaths we’d expect to see, right?
The answer is both yes and no, experts said.
Supreme Court rules against NY's coronavirus restrictions on houses of worship
WASHINGTON — As coronavirus cases surge again nationwide, the Supreme Court late Wednesday temporarily barred New York from enforcing certain attendance limits at houses of worship in areas designated as hard hit by the virus.
The court’s action won’t have any immediate impact since the two groups that sued as a result of the restrictions, the Catholic church and Orthodox Jewish synagogues, are no longer subject to them. The groups had challenged attendance limits in areas designated red and orange zones, but they are now in the less-restrictive yellow zones.
The justices split 5-4, with new Justice Amy Coney Barrett in the majority, her first publicly discernible vote as a justice. The court’s three liberal justices and Chief Justice John Roberts dissented.
The move is a shift for the court. Earlier in this year, when Barrett’s liberal predecessor, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, was on the court, the justices divided 5-4 to leave in place pandemic-related capacity restrictions affecting churches in California and Nevada.
New approach to sheltering homeless people during COVID-19 in Seattle shows signs of success, but funding in peril
The outreach worker knew Emily Mace had to be here.
At the parking lot at Eighth Avenue South and South Jackson Street under the I-5 overpass, Nichole Alexander leaned close to a tarp-covered structure on the sidewalk and asked for Mace. Minutes later, a young woman emerged, gripping a knit sweater around her body as the chilly November air whipped against her bare knees.
Alexander, an outreach coordinator with homeless services nonprofit REACH and new program JustCARE, conferred with her client for a few minutes. Did she think she would be ready to move off the street and into a hotel room?
Mace is one of dozens of people living outside during the pandemic who are being placed directly into hotel rooms in hopes that they will not only survive the winter, but find more permanent shelter soon.
Since the global outbreak of COVID-19, new resources have flooded in for local agencies to thin out existing shelters where overcrowding raised the risk of spreading disease. Many people in shelters were moved into individual hotel rooms. But people living outside face fewer options to get inside as shelters limited their intake and other social service agencies narrowed their hours.
Now a coalition of organizations, including REACH, is racing to bring people into hotels directly from the street with federal CARES Act funding that expires at the end of the year. They hope to demonstrate that with the right supports — and attractive alternatives to sleeping outside — people will voluntarily leave encampments that have caused problems for neighbors and businesses and use the hotel rooms as starting points to stabilize their lives.
Driven by the coronavirus, Gov. Hogan succeeds in an old fight: Losing weight
A few months ago, Republican Gov. Larry Hogan launched himself on a weight-loss journey, eliminating sugar and carbs from his diet and eventually replacing them with nutritional shakes, bars and one sensible meal a day.
Shareese Churchill, a Hogan spokeswoman, said the governor shed about 20 pounds before he began the Medifast program this summer. Since then, he has lost 30 more pounds, she said. And while the governor won’t reveal his current weight, he says it’s nearly the same as when he was sworn in to his first term as governor in 2015.
“Right now I fit in all my skinnier clothes,” he said, chuckling.
Hogan said his decision to lose weight was prompted in part by the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed more than a quarter of a million people in the United States and poses a greater risk to those who are obese or have other preexisting conditions.
“With the coronavirus I’m hearing about comorbidity, obesity and you know, I’m a cancer survivor who is overweight, under a lot of stress,” Hogan said. “I just decided that it was time to get healthy.”
‘Ugly, ugly time’: Work-from-home era crushes U.S. dry cleaners
For a glimpse of how a city is faring in its reopening, look closely at its dry cleaners.
Take J’s Cleaners, with locations dotting Midtown and Upper Manhattan. Last month, business was up to as much as 40% of pre-pandemic levels as a small portion of New Yorkers returned to the office, said owner Albert Lee. Some locations were even back to half of what they made before COVID-19. With new business restrictions and schools closing again, Lee expects to fall back down to the low levels he saw back in April.
Dry cleaners are hardly alone in struggling during the pandemic. But while airlines and restaurants eventually will rebound as vaccines ease worries for travelers and diners, dry cleaners confront a more fundamental shift: Working from home is here to stay, especially for white-collar employees.
A post-COVID economy in which more people work in their sweatpants instead of freshly pressed dress slacks could be devastating for the roughly 30,000 businesses that relied on professionals such as salespeople, real estate agents and bankers for half of the garments getting dry cleaned before the pandemic.
One in six dry cleaners have closed or gone bankrupt in the U.S. already, and many won’t survive without more stimulus, according to the National Cleaners Association (NCA). Nationwide, the industry is likely booking only half the $7 billion in revenue it did pre-COVID-19, according to the NCA.
Pandemic postpones national math, reading tests until 2022
COLUMBUS, Ohio — National reading and math tests long used to track what U.S. students know in those subjects are being postponed from next year to 2022 over concerns about whether testing would be feasible or produce valid results during the coronavirus pandemic, the National Center for Education Statistics announced Wednesday.
The biennial National Assessment of Educational Progress evaluations used for the Nation’s Report Card were slated early next year for hundreds of thousands of the country’s fourth and eighth graders. But widespread remote learning and health protocols would have added big complications and costs because the model uses shared equipment and sends outside proctors to conduct the testing in schools.
Pushing ahead with testing in 2021 runs the risk of spending tens of millions of dollars and still not getting the data necessary to produce a reliable, comparable picture of state and national student performance, NCES Commissioner James Woodworth said in a statement. By law, they would have to wait another two years for the next chance at testing.
Testing in 2022 instead “would be more likely to provide valuable — and valid — data about student achievement in the wake of COVID-19 to support effective policy, research, and resource allocation,” the leaders of the National Assessment Governing Board said in a separate statement supporting the move.
The nonpartisan Council of Chief State School Officers also supported the NAEP postponement.
South Korea cases jump over 500 amid reimposed rules
SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea has recorded more than 500 new coronavirus cases for the first time in about eight months.
The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said Thursday the 583 additional cases in the past 24 hours took the national tally to 32,318 including 515 deaths.
South Korea has been experiencing a spike in new infections since it relaxed stringent social distancing rules last month. To deal with the latest resurgence, the country on Tuesday reimposed tough distancing guidelines in Seoul and some other areas.
Government records show that 402 of the 583 newly reported cases were found in the Seoul metropolitan area, where half of the country’s 51 million people reside. Most other parts of the country also registered new cases.
South Korea’s caseload peaked in February and March with the world’s largest number of cases after mainland China, most of them tied to a religious sect. Last summer, the country suffered a second major outbreak, mostly in the greater Seoul area.
Officials say the latest bout is more worrisome because many clusters are linked to schools, private tutoring academics, offices, hospitals and family gatherings.
As coronavirus cases keep rising, Washington extends visitation ban in state prisons
As coronavirus cases in Washington rise ever higher, the state’s prisons are continuing to ban in-person visits for inmates.
In-person visits at the state’s 24 prisons and work-release centers have been suspended since mid-March, as the state Department of Corrections tries to forestall outbreaks in its facilities.
In early October, the Department of Corrections announced plans to resume in-person visits, calling the decision to suspend them “one of the hardest decisions made as an agency.”
Visits would resume at a future date, Corrections officials wrote, in a phased process and inmates would initially be limited to one, one-hour visit per month.
But, last week, the agency put that plan on indefinite hold.
They said they would reevaluate the decision on Dec. 15, the day after Gov. Jay Inslee’s new, statewide restrictions, banning indoor dining, among other measures, are set to expire.
Need a COVID-19 nurse? That’ll be $8,000 a week
DENVER — In March, Claire Tripeny was watching her dream job fall apart. She’d been working as an intensive care nurse at St. Anthony Hospital in Lakewood, Colorado, and loved it, despite the mediocre pay typical for the region. But when COVID-19 hit, that calculation changed.
She remembers her employers telling her and her colleagues to “suck it up” as they struggled to care for six patients each and patched their protective gear with tape until it fully fell apart. The $800 or so a week she took home no longer felt worth it.
In April, she packed her bags for a two-month contract in then-COVID-19 hot spot New Jersey, as part of what she called a “mass exodus” of nurses leaving the suburban Denver hospital to become traveling nurses. Her new pay? About $5,200 a week, and with a contract that required adequate protective gear.
Months later, the offerings — and the stakes — are even higher for nurses willing to move. In Sioux Falls, South Dakota, nurses can make more than $6,200 a week. A recent posting for a job in Fargo, North Dakota, offered more than $8,000 a week. Some can get as much as $10,000.
Early in the pandemic, hospitals were competing for ventilators, COVID-19 tests and personal protective equipment. Now, sites across the country are competing for nurses.
Inslee announces additional requirements for health care and dental services
Gov. Jay Inslee announced Wednesday additional requirements for health and dental facilities, which will go into effect next week, in hopes of preventing COVID-19 outbreaks.
In the recently amended proclamation, Inslee prohibited all medical and dental facilities from providing non-urgent health care and dental services and surgeries "unless specific procedures and criteria are met," in an attempt to conserve PPE for health care workers.
He also increased requirements on personal protective equipment (PPE) use, testing of health care professionals, notifications of outbreaks and distancing requirements in non-clinical areas of health facilities.
“With the increase in COVID outbreaks in health care facilities, it is important that we continue to protect patients and health workers from contracting COVID in a place where they feel safe, especially as we see COVID activity increasing dramatically across the state," Inslee said in a statement.
The changes will go into effect on Dec. 3 and will remain in effect through the COVID-19 state of emergency.
State DOH confirms 2,887 more COVID-19 cases in Washington, but says numbers may be inflated
State health officials confirmed 2,887 new coronavirus cases in Washington state on Wednesday and 14 additional deaths — though Department of Health (DOH) officials have noted that the number of cases may be inflated.
“Due to laboratory report volumes reaching unprecedented levels during the past two weeks,” DOH wrote in a statement, “some duplicate lab reports and case information have been included in our dashboards.”
The update brings the state’s totals to 153,906 reported cases, according to the DOH’s dashboard.
As of 11:59 p.m. Tuesday, the DOH reported that 2,704 people had died of COVID-19 in Washington state, or 1.8% of people diagnosed, and 10,242 people have been hospitalized due to the virus.
In King County, Washington's most populous, DOH reported 892 new coronavirus cases, bringing the county’s total to 41,414 diagnoses and 866 deaths.
DOH said the “epidemiologic curves” tab of its COVID-19 data dashboard site is the most accurate representation of coronavirus activity in the state, but its “confirmed cases” data is roughly two weeks behind today’s reported numbers.
Because of the backlog and in an attempt to prioritize an update on positive tests, DOH said its negative test results, total tests data and percent positivity won't be available until at least Nov. 30.
AstraZeneca manufacturing error clouds vaccine study results
AstraZeneca and Oxford University on Wednesday acknowledged a manufacturing error that is raising questions about preliminary results of their experimental COVID-19 vaccine.
A statement describing the error came days after the company and the university described the shots as “highly effective” and made no mention of why some study participants didn’t receive as much vaccine in the first of two shots as expected.
In a surprise, the group of volunteers that got a lower dose seemed to be much better protected than the volunteers who got two full doses. In the low-dose group, AstraZeneca said, the vaccine appeared to be 90% effective. In the group that got two full doses, the vaccine appeared to be 62% effective. Combined, the drugmakers said the vaccine appeared to be 70% effective. But the way in which the results were arrived at and reported by the companies has led to pointed questions from experts.
Seattle Theatre Group makes another round of staff cuts
Seattle Theatre Group, operator of the Paramount, Moore and Neptune theaters, is implementing a second wave of staff reductions that will bring its total number of employees down to 40 as of Dec. 4 — down dramatically from the couple of hundred it had employed before the pandemic hit.
The latest cuts come several months after STG reduced its staff from 207 to 61 employees in June, due to impacts from pandemic closures. With this second round of staff reductions, STG will have reduced its staff by 81%, the company said in a news release this month.
In total, after this second round of cuts, 93 staff members will have been permanently laid off, while the rest are union employees who are temporarily furloughed until work resumes.
STG’s theaters have been closed since March due to the coronavirus pandemic, with numerous shows canceled or postponed.
Hospitals can care for Medicare patients at home in pandemic
Hospitals will be allowed to care for Medicare patients, including those with COVID-19, in their own homes during the pandemic under a government program announced Wednesday to help hospitals deal with the latest surge.
Some hospitals already offered patients with private insurance the choice of getting care at home instead of in the hospital. The pandemic dramatically boosted use of such programs.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said it will let hospitals quickly launch home programs, which will offer around-the-clock electronic monitoring for Medicare and Medicare Advantage patients who are sick enough to be hospitalized, but don’t need intensive care.
COVID-19 in King County spreading mostly in households, at workplaces and at social gatherings, new report says
More than a third of people who have been infected with COVID-19 in the last 60 days likely became infected because of transmission within their household, according to a new review of COVID-19 exposures by Public Health — Seattle & King County.
The review, which includes data from 37,482 cases, from Feb. 28 to Nov. 20, provides the most detailed view to date of how COVID-19 is spreading in King County and how the patterns of transmission likely have changed over the pandemic’s course.
In the early months of the pandemic, the most common source of exposure was in health-care settings. But household transmission, social activities and workplaces other than health care have become more common in the past 60 days.
COVID-19 cases during that time have surged. King County reported 17,162 positive tests, 649 hospitalizations and 77 deaths from Sept. 22 through Nov. 20, according to the data that underlies the county’s COVID-19 dashboard.
With hope high for vaccine, Britain prepares to roll it out
With major COVID-19 vaccines showing high levels of protection, British officials are cautiously — and they stress cautiously — optimistic that life may start returning to normal by early April.
Even before regulators have approved a single vaccine, the U.K. and countries across Europe are moving quickly to organize the distribution and delivery systems needed to inoculate millions of citizens.
“If we can roll it out at a good lick … then with a favorable wind, this is entirely hypothetical, but we should be able to inoculate, I believe on the evidence I’m seeing, the vast majority of the people who need the most protection by Easter,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Monday after vaccine makers in recent weeks have announced encouraging results. “That will make a very substantial change to where we are at the moment.”
The British government has agreed to purchase up to 355 million doses of vaccine from seven different producers, as it prepares to vaccinate as many of the country’s 67 million people as possible.
EU says first virus vaccinations possible by Christmas
A top European Union official said Wednesday that the first citizens in the 27 nation bloc could be vaccinated against the coronavirus by Christmas, but she warned that member countries must urgently prepare their logistical chains for the rollout of hundreds of millions of doses of the vaccines.
Claiming that “there’s finally light at the end of the tunnel,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told EU lawmakers that “the first European citizens might already be vaccinated before the end of December.”
The commission, the EU’s executive arm, has agreements with six potential vaccine suppliers and is working on a seventh contract. The deals allow it to purchase over 800 million doses, more than the population of the bloc, which stands at around 460 million people.
On Tuesday, Brussels said it would sign a contract for up to 160 million doses of the experimental coronavirus vaccine developed by Moderna, which the company says appears to be 94.5% effective, according to its preliminary data.
But von der Leyen said that while vaccines are important, “what counts are vaccinations. ”
Ga. Sen. Perdue boosts wealth with well-timed stock trades
As the ravages of the novel coronavirus forced millions of people out of work, shuttered businesses and shrank the value of retirement accounts, the Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged to a three-year low.
But for Sen. David Perdue, a Georgia Republican, the crisis last March signaled something else: a stock buying opportunity.
And for the second time in less than two months, Perdue’s timing was impeccable. He avoided a sharp loss and reaped a stunning gain by selling and then buying the same stock: Cardlytics, an Atlanta-based financial technology company on whose board of directors he once served.
The Cardlytics transactions were just a slice of a large number of investment decisions made in the early days of the pandemic by Perdue and other senators, but now that Perdue is locked in a pitched battle for reelection in a Jan. 5 runoff, his trades during a public health and economic crisis have become an issue in what already has become a negative, expensive campaign that will determine which party controls the Senate.
60 new army recruits infected in South Korea
South Korea says 60 new army recruits at a boot camp have tested positive for the coronavirus in the military’s largest outbreak.
The Defense Ministry said Wednesday they were undergoing basic training at an army unit in Yeoncheon, a town near the tense border with North Korea, at the start of their 18 months of mandatory military service.
It said one of the recruits was found to have contracted the virus on Wednesday morning and 59 others tested positive later in the day. Earlier Wednesday, the ministry said 267 people in the military have been confirmed to have contracted the virus since the country reported its first case in January.
Californians urged to avoid Thanksgiving gatherings
With California desperately battling an out-of-control coronavirus surge, the state’s health secretary is urging families to avoid gathering for Thanksgiving and Los Angeles County appeared on the brink of issuing a stay-home order to prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed.
“It’s as important to say no even when it comes to the closest people in our family” Dr. Mark Ghaly said as counties continued to see record COVID-19 infection caseloads and hospitalizations.
Residents were urged to avoid nonessential travel during what is typically the busiest travel period of the year. Anyone entering California was advised to quarantine for two weeks.
Public health officials are bracing for a wave of cases in upcoming weeks that could stem from gatherings at Thanksgiving, particularly as people arrive or return from states or areas with higher infection rates.
Tweet on spare change generates big money for virus aid
Andy Larsen is a sports writer, but with so many games scratched during the pandemic he has spent a lot of time digging into coronavirus data and its sobering implications.
Then on Monday, while he was sorting his spare change — some from a childhood piggy bank shaped like SpongeBob SquarePants — it struck him: Other people in Utah could use the money more than he could.
His composed a tweet to his nearly 27,000 followers, hoping to quickly find someone who could use the $165.84.
Within a minute, someone offered to essentially double his donation with a deposit into his Venmo account. Then someone else pitched in, and another. It kept snowballing as Utah Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox retweeted it, calling the effort “very cool.”
By Wednesday, he had collected more than $52,000 to help local people with groceries, utility bills and Christmas presents. He’s planning to start giving away money in the coming days.
Defying warnings, millions in the US travel for Thanksgiving
Millions of Americans took to the skies and the highways for Thanksgiving at the risk of pouring gasoline on the coronavirus fire, disregarding increasingly dire warnings that they stay home and limit their holiday gatherings to members of their own household.
Those who are flying witnessed a distinctly 2020 landscape at the nation’s airports during what is traditionally one of the busiest travel periods of the year: plexiglass barriers in front of the ID stations, rapid virus testing sites inside terminals, and paperwork asking them to quarantine on arrival at their destination.
About 1 million people per day passed through U.S. airport checkpoints from Friday through Tuesday amid skyrocketing deaths, hospitalizations and confirmed infections across the U.S. It's a drop-off of around 60% from the same time a year ago, but still, those are the biggest crowds since March.
Among those who pressed ahead with their holiday plans despite guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention not to travel and keep Thanksgiving celebrations small is Cassidy Zerkle of Phoenix, who flew to Kansas City, Missouri, to visit family.
“I think with the holidays and everything, it’s so important right now," she said, "especially because people are so bummed out because of the whole pandemic.”
Couple canceled their big wedding and instead gave Thanksgiving dinners to the needy
When the pandemic upended their wedding plans, Emily Bugg and Billy Lewis tied the knot at Chicago’s city hall last month instead.
But there was still one piece of unfinished business: What to do about their $5,000 nonrefundable catering deposit? The newlyweds decided to turn it into 200 Thanksgiving dinners for people with severe mental illness.
“This just seemed like a good way to make the best of a bad situation,” said Bugg, 33, an outreach worker at Thresholds, a nonprofit dedicated to helping people with bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and other psychiatric conditions.
Bugg and Lewis, 34, got engaged in July 2019 and began planning their wedding. They had booked a hip Chicago event space, a fun DJ and a photographer. Bugg purchased her gown, a slip crepe dress with spaghetti straps, and their guest list topped 150 people.
But as the pandemic stretched on, they went to Plan B, first scaling down their guest list to 50. Then, Plan C: changing dates. And finally Plan D: canceling altogether and heading to City Hall on Oct. 1.
But there was still the thorny issue of the catering deposit so Bugg hatched a plan: Have the wedding banquet morph into Thanksgiving for clients at Thresholds, where she has worked for nine years.
Supreme Court extends telephone arguments through January
The Supreme Court said Wednesday it will continue to hear arguments by telephone through at least January because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The court’s announcement extended telephone arguments by a month.
The justices last met in person to hear arguments in February of this year, but they closed the courthouse to the public in March because of the public health crisis.
Pandemic gave locals fleeting taste of a tourist-free Hawaii
For seven months, residents of Hawaii had taken back spots normally crowded with visitors. They could enjoy Waikiki’s famous beaches without the sunburned tourists and walk on sidewalks without hordes of visitors awestruck by clear blue water, white sand and the other trappings of a tropical getaway.
But tourist-reliant Hawaii has now eased the restrictions imposed in March, allowing visitors to produce a negative COVID-19 test to avoid the quarantine. On Monday, 10,515 passengers arrived, with nearly 5,300 indicating they were coming for vacation, the Hawaii Tourism Authority said.
“What the pandemic did was give us all a moment to pause, a number of months, to rethink everything,” said state Sen. J. Kalani English. “What it proves for us is that old model of tourism, which is, you know, mass bring 11 million visitors a year, didn’t work and people were tired of it.”
For English, who represents rural parts of Maui, fewer tourists allowed him to reconnect to Hamoa Beach, his “playground” as a child near where his family has lived for generations.
“I haven’t been down there for a number of years because, frankly, it was just too crowded,” he said. During the pandemic, “I started going there again like I did when I was very young, to go swim in the morning.”
Global push to end domestic violence, worse amid COVID-19
In a global push to end violence against women, activists held rallies Wednesday and world leaders called for action to stop the abuse, which worsened because of the coronavirus pandemic this year.
Protests from France to Ukraine were held on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women to draw attention to domestic violence in what is an uphill struggle to protect millions of women killed or abused every year by their partners and close relatives.
The U.N. agency, UNAIDS, said evidence shows the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in significant increases in gender-based violence in nearly all countries, especially for women trapped at home with their abuser.
In Rome, the office of the prime minister was being lit in red and red banners tumbled from trade union offices in Florence to demand an end to violence against women. Italy was a hotbed for COVID-19 infections this year, forcing the government to impose lockdowns to keep the virus out. In an unintended consequence, domestic violence cases grew.
Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade to march on despite pandemic
The pandemic, which shut down theaters in March, may have upended most traditions this holiday season, but the annual New York City parade will march on with balloons, dancers, floats, Broadway shows and Santa — albeit heavily edited for safety.
“Traditions like this are comforting and they’re uplifting,” said Susan Tercero, executive producer of the parade. “New York has always been a tough city. It bounces back. It takes its blows and then it continues on. And I think it’s extremely important for us to be that display this holiday season. Regardless of what’s happened, New York needs to be that beacon of light in the darkness and this parade, I think, is symbolic of that.”
The Macy’s parade has been a traditional holiday season kickoff for more than 90 years, and spectators often line up a half-dozen deep along the route to cheer about 8,000 marchers, two dozen floats, entertainers and marching bands. At last year’s parade, the big fear was high wind. This time, it’s a pandemic that has made crowds untenable.
Wiping down groceries? Experts say keep risk in perspective
Cleaning wipes are harder to find on store shelves, and businesses are reassuring customers with stepped up sanitation measures. In New York, the subway system is shut down nightly for disinfecting.
To avoid any traces of the coronavirus that might be lurking on surfaces, Americans have been wiping down groceries, wearing surgical gloves when they go out and leaving mail packages out for an extra day or two. But experts say the national fixation on scrubbing sparked by the pandemic can sometimes be overkill.
“It’s important to clean surfaces, but not to obsess about it too much in a way that can be unhealthy,” said Dr. John Brooks, chief medical officer for the COVID-19 response at the U.S. Centers for Disease and Control.
Cleaning is still recommended, especially frequently touched spots like door knobs or elevator buttons. But with COVID-19, experts say to keep the risk in perspective: The virus is fragile and doesn’t survive easily outside the body for long.
Judge rejects challenge to Oregon’s 2-week virus rules
A federal judge has declined to bar or alter Gov. Kate Brown’s two-week freeze that prohibits indoor and outdoor dining at restaurants and bars in an effort to stem the spread of the coronavirus.
The Oregonian/OregonLive reports that U.S. District Judge Karin J. Immergut on Tuesday denied a temporary restraining order sought by the Oregon Restaurant & Lodging Association and Restaurant Law Center.
Immergut issued her ruling after hearing nearly an hour of argument. It marked the latest rejection by a judge in Oregon of a challenge to the governor’s coronavirus restrictions which went into effect Nov. 18 and limits restaurants and bars to take-out and delivery only.
The restaurant association, which represents 10,000 food service and 2,000 lodging businesses across the state, and the public policy group Restaurant Law Center had asked the judge to modify the governor’s order.
US jobless claims up for 2nd straight week as virus worsens
The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits rose last week for a second straight week to 778,000, evidence that the U.S. economy and job market remain under strain as coronavirus cases surge and colder weather heighten the risks.
The Labor Department’s report Wednesday said that jobless claims climbed from 748,000 the week before. Before the virus struck hard in mid-March, weekly claims typically amounted to only about 225,000. They shot up to 6.9 million during March before dropping, yet they remain historically high more than eight months later, with many businesses unable to fully reopen.
Washington state received 30,821 new initial unemployment claims, a jump of 13,179 or 74.7% from the previous week, according to U.S. Department of Labor data. When the state Employment Security Department reports its own numbers, the figures frequently vary from the federal data.
The spike in virus cases is intensifying pressure on companies and individuals, with fear growing that the economy could suffer a “double-dip” recession as states and cities reimpose restrictions on businesses.
“With infections continuing to rise at an elevated pace and curbs on business operations widening, layoffs are likely to pick up over coming weeks,″ said Rubeela Farooqi, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics. “Even as job growth is continuing, the labor market remains under stress and far from complete recovery.″
Congress braces for Biden’s national coronavirus strategy
Congress is bracing for President-elect Joe Biden to move beyond the Trump administration’s state-by-state approach to the COVID-19 crisis and build out a national strategy to fight the pandemic and distribute the eventual vaccine.
The incoming administration’s approach reflects Democrats’ belief that a more comprehensive plan, some of it outlined in the House’s $2 trillion coronavirus aid bill, is needed to get the pandemic under control. Republicans have resisted big spending but agree additional funding is needed. With the nation on edge but a vaccine in sight, the complicated logistics of vaccinating hundreds of millions of Americans raise the stakes on the major undertaking.
“We have an incredible challenge on our hands,” said Sen. Patty Murray of Washington state, which is approaching the anniversary of its first reported case of the virus last January.
As Congress weighs a new round of COVID-19 relief, federal officials say doses of the vaccine could begin shipping within a day of Food and Drug Administration approval. Three pharmaceutical manufacturers — Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca — have announced early results. But the rollout faces a patchwork of state plans, a transitioning White House and potential backlash from vaccine skeptics, despite the rising U.S. death toll of nearly 260,000 people.
In pandemic era’s isolation, meaning of ‘self-care’ evolves
These days, with a pandemic raging, this is what life can look like:
Staring at your face on Zoom for hours instead of occasionally glimpsing it in the mirror. Living out the days in loungewear. Wearing minimal makeup because no one sees much of you. Considering an investment in home exercise equipment because gyms are closed or restricted.
The pandemic has forced people to spend more time with themselves than ever. Along the way, it has reshaped and broadened the way many think about and prioritize how they treat themselves — what has come to be called self-care.
The pandemic-era incarnation of self-care isn’t about buying a signature outfit, wearing a trendy shade of lipstick or getting a perfect haircut. It has, for many, put the purpose and meaning of life front and center, reconfiguring priorities and needs as the virus-inflected months drift by. No longer are worries about longevity and fears of mortality mere hypotheticals.
As the world navigates a web of unknowns there is one thing that people can do something about: themselves.
Rich Americans increasingly are looking for second passports
Eric Schmidt acquired all the typical trappings of a mega-rich U.S. citizen: a superyacht, a Gulfstream jet, a Manhattan penthouse.
One of his newest assets is far less conventional: a second passport.
Alphabet Inc.’s former chief executive officer applied to become a citizen of Cyprus, according to an announcement last month in a Cypriot newspaper that was first reported by the website Recode. Schmidt, 65, joins a growing club of individuals participating in government programs enabling foreigners to acquire passports.
In previous years, U.S. citizens rarely sought to buy so-called golden passports. The business mainly thrived targeting people from countries with fewer travel freedoms than the U.S., like China, Nigeria or Pakistan.
But that’s changing. People close to the industry say they’ve been inundated with inquiries from citizens of the world’s richest country.
The current heightened interest among U.S. citizens predates the coronavirus pandemic, but the crisis has helped turbocharge demand as they plan for how to maintain some freedom of movement with lockdown measures increasing amid a swelling second wave of COVID-19 cases.
27 COVID deaths at Illinois vets nursing home prompts probe
State officials have launched investigations into a coronavirus outbreak at a veterans nursing home in Illinois that has infected nearly 200 residents and staff members, and killed 27 veterans.
News outlets reported Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s office and the state’s Department of Veteran’s Affairs are attempting to determine what caused the outbreak at the state-run LaSalle Veterans’ Home. The department on Tuesday requested an independent probe into the facility, which was the focus of a state Senate committee virtual hearing on the outbreak.
The current outbreak was identified in late October when a staff member and a resident tested positive for the virus, the Chicago Tribune reported.
First 6.4 million doses of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine could go out in mid-December
The federal government plans to send 6.4 million doses of pharmaceutical giant Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine to communities across the United States within 24 hours of regulatory clearance, with the expectation that shots will be administered quickly to front-line health-care workers, the top priority group, officials said Tuesday.
The amount would cover only a portion of the nation’s 20 million health-care workers, let alone the U.S. population of 330 million. But additional doses will be delivered as manufacturing capacity ramps up in each successive week.
With increased prospects that federal regulators will authorize the Pfizer vaccine on an emergency basis as early as mid-December, and the first shots administered before the end of the year, Operation Warp Speed has begun to release more details about the massive and complicated distribution effort to immunize tens of millions of Americans.
Restaurant takeout gives us bright spots in these dark days. Here are three new Seattle places to try, each offering its own kind of comfort and joy. Speaking of that, if you know of a restaurant that will be open Christmas Day, we’d love to hear about it for a list we’re compiling.
Also eye-poppingly bright: "The Croods, A New Age," an animated sequel on a close-knit cave clan. Here's the review.
Try an absorbing new experience: an audioplay. Octavia E. Butler's tale of warring psychic-powered humans — the first in a season of audio dramas from Book-It — is told with nuanced voice acting and a rich orchestra of sounds.
Catch up on the past 24 hours
Washington could soon face a "catastrophic loss of medical care" that forces hospitals to make painful decisions on whom to treat, Gov. Jay Inslee warned Tuesday as the state shattered its daily record for COVID-19 cases. He also released a videotaped message that's drawing strong reactions.
The state may loosen its school-reopening guidelines in a way that allows up to half the state’s 300 school districts to start educating their youngest learners in person, at least part-time.
Please don't go, long-term care facilities in the Seattle area are telling residents, for fear they'll leave for Thanksgiving and bring the virus back to a vulnerable population. Facilities are creating new safeguards and trying to make the day special for residents, who "have already endured loss and loneliness to a degree that would have been unthinkable before this year began."
This time next month, millions of vaccine doses could be coursing through health-care workers' bodies. But as the government's Operation Warp Speed releases more details on the possible timeline for immunizing the rest of the population, a King County health official says that in some ways, planning has been "more like Operation Status Quo."
An elaborately concealed wedding in Brooklyn drew thousands of guests — and a whopping fine.
What to do with tons of used masks and other protective gear? One guy with a nagging case of "eco-anxiety" is starting to turn the heap into houses.
Obituary: Honestie Hodges, whose mistreatment by police drew national attention and led to changes, has died of coronavirus at age 14.
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