Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Sunday, November 29, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.
TV and film producers utilizing new tech on sets amid pandemic
LOS ANGELES — Earlier this month, cast and crew of the Amazon series “Goliath” gathered to check in for a day of filming at Santa Clarita Studios.
Despite the pandemic, the fourth season of the show is back in action, thanks in part to technology that helps track coronavirus testing for hundreds of cast and crew members, including stars such as Billy Bob Thornton.
As people arrived on set, a COVID safety officer scanned color-coded IDs with embedded chips that could be read by portals stationed around the set. The chips would collect and track data on the movements of cast and crew in case any of them came into contact with someone who tested positive for the disease.
This system, called Safe Set, was recently launched by Culver City, California-based Greg Guzzetta, a former production manager who spent the last decade providing public safety technology for live music events.
UK adds to vaccine stockpile, says vaccinations could start in days
LONDON (AP) — Britain said Sunday it has secured 2 million more doses of a promising coronavirus vaccine as it gears up to launch within days the country’s most ambitious inoculation program in decades.
The U.K. has had Europe’s deadliest coronavirus outbreak, with more than 58,000 confirmed virus-related deaths. It now hopes to hit a more positive milestone by becoming one of the first countries in the world to start vaccinating its population against COVID-19.
The U.K. government has agreed to buy more than 350 million doses of vaccines from seven different producers, should they prove effective, as it prepares to vaccinate as many of the country’s 67 million people as possible.
The government says frontline health care workers and nursing home residents will be the first to be vaccinated, followed by older people, starting with those over 80. The plan is to work down the age and risk groups until everyone 18 and over has been inoculated.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said officials hope to vaccinate “the vast majority of the people who need the most protection by Easter.”
Kentucky governor's virus school order upheld by federal judges
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — A federal appeals panel has upheld Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear’s order to stop in-person classes at religious schools during the coronavirus pandemic.
A three-member panel of the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Cincinnati on Sunday issued a stay of a federal judge’s order from last week.
U.S. District Judge Gregory F. Van Tatenhove ruled Wednesday that the Democratic governor’s order cannot apply to religious schools as the “First Amendment protects the right of religious institutions ‘to decide for themselves, free from state interference, matters of church government as well as those of faith and doctrine.’”
But the appellate court said Sunday that it is likely to rule that Beshear’s order was “neutral and of general applicability” in that all schools were affected.
DOH reports 2,066 new positive test results for coronavirus
More than 2,000 new coronavirus cases were reported by the state Department of Health as of Saturday night, bringing the statewide total to 162,700 positive test results, according to the department's online COVID-19 data dashboard.
However, DOH officials noted, as they have in recent days, that the number of cases may be temporarily inflated. Because of increased reporting volumes from laboratories, the agency hasn't been able to resolve and remove some duplicated new cases. DOH estimated up to 550 duplicate new cases in Sunday's report, which will be resolved in the coming days.
Additionally, 96 more people were hospitalized, bringing the state's total to 10,759 hospitalizations since the pandemic began, Sunday's data shows.
DOH, which no longer updates the numbers of deaths attributed to COVID-19 on weekends, has so far counted 2,703 deaths, with 1.7% of those testing positive for the virus succumbing to the disease.
Snohomish County, which has seen 276 people die from COVID-19, King County, with 866 deaths and Yakima County, which has a death toll of 295, are the only counties in the state that have a higher percentage of deaths among confirmed cases than the statewide average: 1.9%, 2% and 2.2% respectively, according to DOH data.
DOH's method of reporting new cases each days differs from The Times', which was today’s total cases minus the previous day’s total cases. The DOH’s report of new cases each day may include duplicate test results, results assigned to the wrong county, results that are reported for today but are actually from a previous day or occasional false positive tests.
DOH has 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, data on negative test results, total tests data and percent positivity won't be available until at least Nov. 30, the DOH said.
Of the 98,814 confirmed coronavirus cases in which race or ethnicity is known, 45% of people who have been infected with the virus are white in a state where whites make up 68% of the population; Hispanic people, who make up 13% of the state's population, account for 36% of positive test results, according to DOH.
Washington nurse named to Biden's COVID-19 advisory board
A Seattle-area registered nurse who is a leader of a healthcare workers union and worked at Harborview Medical Center and Snoqualmie Hospital has been named to President-elect Joe Biden’s transition COVID-19 advisory board.
Jane Hopkins, the executive vice president of SEIU Healthcare 1199NW, is one of three new members announced Saturday by Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. The team was created to help the leaders “prepare to implement a robust and aggressive response to contain the virus,” according to a news release.
Hopkins was born in Sierra Leone, trained as a mental-health nurse in England and immigrated to the U.S. in 2000. She worked for 12 years as a bedside nurse at Harborview, where she was also a member of the union’s bargaining team.
Biden also named two other new members to the board: Dr. Jill Jim, the executive director at Navajo Nation Department of Health and an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation, and Dr. David Michaels, an epidemiologist and professor at George Washington University’s Milken Institute School of Public Health.
Reports: Cost of Tokyo Olympic delay put at about $2 billion
TOKYO — The cost of the one-year postponement of the Tokyo Olympics is estimated to be just under $2 billion, or about 200 billion yen.
Japan’s Kyodo news agency and the Yomiuri newspaper both reported the figure on Sunday citing unnamed sources close to games organizers.
The reported cost of the delay because of the COVID-19 pandemic is in line with repeated estimates over the last several months. The organizers, the Tokyo metro government and the Japanese national government are expected to report next month how the costs will be shared.
The International Olympic Committee has said it would chip in about $650 million to cover some of the costs of the delay, but has offered few public details.
More than 100,000 residents and staff of long-term care facilities have died of COVID-19
More than 100,000 long-term care facility residents and staff have died in the U.S. of COVID-19, accounting for 40% of all deaths attributed to the virus since the start of the pandemic, according to a new analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation.
The death toll in long-term care facilities surpassed 100,000 across the U.S. last week, the nonprofit found, though that’s likely an undercount because some states did not provide updated or complete data. There have been more than 250,000 U.S. deaths attributed to COVID-19 in total since early March.
Long-term care sites like nursing homes and assisted living facilities have proven especially vulnerable to COVID-19 outbreaks. In Washington, the 1,420 deaths associated with these facilities account for 53% of the state’s total deaths, but 7% of total cases as of last week.
False positives, false negatives: Coronavirus, other tests have limits
Jacqueline Chu considered the patient with a negative coronavirus test on the other end of the phone. Her heart dropping, she knew that the test result was not enough to clear him for work.
The man was a grocery store clerk – an essential worker – and the sole earner for his family. A 14-day isolation period would put him at risk of getting fired or not having enough money to make rent that month. But he had just developed classic covid-19 symptoms, and many others around him in Chelsea, Mass., had confirmed cases. Even with the negative test, his chances of having the disease were too high to dismiss.
For many Americans, including physicians like Chu, who specializes in primary care and infectious disease at Massachusetts General Hospital, the pandemic has forced difficult conversations about the limits of medical tests. It has also revealed the catastrophic harms of failing to recognize those limits.
“People think a positive test equals disease and a negative test equals not disease,” said Deborah Korenstein, who heads the general medicine division at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. “We’ve seen the damage of that in so many ways with covid.”
National coronavirus test shortages have emphasized testing’s critical role in containing and mitigating the pandemic, but these inconvenient truths remain: A test result is rarely a definitive answer, but instead a single clue at one point in time, to be appraised alongside other clues like symptoms and exposure to those with confirmed cases. The result itself may be falsely positive or negative, or may show an abnormality that doesn’t matter. And even an accurate, meaningful test result is useless (or worse) unless it’s acted on appropriately.
NYC to reopen schools, even as virus spread intensifies
NEW YORK — New York City will reopen its school system to in-person learning, and increase the number of days a week many children attend class, even as the coronavirus pandemic intensifies in the city, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Sunday.
The announcement marks a major policy reversal for the nation’s largest school system, just 11 days after de Blasio, a Democrat, announced that schools were shutting down because of a rising number of COVID-19 cases in the city.
Some elementary schools and pre-kindergarten programs will resume classes Dec. 7, a week from Monday, the mayor said. Others will take longer to reopen their doors.
The plan for reopening middle and high schools is still being developed, de Blasio said.
“We feel confident that we can keep schools safe,” he said.
How widespread is mask-wearing in Washington? UW study aims to find out, starting in King County
We’ve all noticed that fellow shopper at the grocery store with a mask snugged over his mouth — but not his nose. Maybe you’ve also got a neighbor who tugs her mask down to talk. Or perhaps you’ve detoured around groups of barefaced teenagers jostling each other in a park.
Mask use may be mandated in Washington, but compliance varies — and no one knows by how much.
With novel coronavirus infections soaring to their highest levels since the pandemic started, researchers at the University of Washington are conducting the first systematic survey of mask usage in the state. Starting this week in King County, they hope to identify the types of public settings where inconsistent mask-wearing could be contributing to the ongoing explosion of cases. They also want to find out which groups of people, by age and gender, are more or less likely to take the mask mandate seriously.
The goal is to help health officials address problem areas with targeted persuasion and educational campaigns, said Dr. Judith Wasserheit, a leader of the study and chair of the UW Department of Global Health.
Fauci: US may see ‘surge upon surge’ of virus in weeks ahead
The nation’s top infectious disease expert said Sunday that the U.S. may see “surge upon a surge” of the coronavirus over the coming weeks, and he does not expect current recommendations around social distancing to be relaxed before Christmas.
“When you have the kind of inflection that we have, it doesn’t all of a sudden turn around like that,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told ABC’s “This Week.” “So clearly in the next few weeks, we’re going to have the same sort of thing. And perhaps even two or three weeks down the line … we may see a surge upon a surge.”
Fauci also appeared on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” where he made similar remarks, adding that it’s “not too late” for people traveling back home after Thanksgiving to help stop the spread of the virus by wearing masks, staying distant from others and avoiding large groups of people.
“So we know we can do something about it, particularly now as we get into the colder season and as we approach the Christmas holidays,” he said.
Despite federal ban, renters still being evicted amid virus
BOSTON — A nationwide eviction ban was supposed to protect tenants like Tawanda Mormon, who was forced out of her two-bedroom apartment last month in Cleveland.
The 46-year-old, who was hospitalized in August for the coronavirus and can’t work due to mental health issues, said she fell behind on her $500-a-month rent because she needed the money to pay for food. When she was evicted in October, Mormon said she was unaware of President Donald Trump’s directive, implemented in September by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, that broadly prevents evictions through the end of 2020.
“It was difficult. I had to leave all my stuff,” said Mormon, who has been staying with friends and relatives since her eviction. “I don’t have no furniture, no nothing.”
With most state and local eviction bans expired, the nationwide directive was seen as the best hope to prevent more than 23 million renters from being evicted amid a stalemate in Congress over tens of billions of dollars in rental assistance. It was also billed as a way to fight the coronavirus, with studies showing evictions can spread the virus and lead to an increase in infections.
Court orders France to rethink 30-person limit on worship
PARIS — France’s highest administrative court on Sunday ordered a rethink of a 30-person attendance limit for religious services put in place by the government to slow down the spread of coronavirus.
The measure took effect this weekend as France relaxes some virus restrictions, but it faced opposition by places of worship and the faithful for being arbitrary and unreasonable. Even before the ruling, several bishops had announced they would not enforce the restrictions and some churches were expected to defy it.
The Council of State has ordered that Prime Minister Jean Castex modify the measure within three days.
French churches, mosques and synagogues started opening their doors again to worshippers this weekend — but only a few of them, as France cautiously starts reopening after its latest virus lockdown.
Washington officials give rental assistance to people impacted by COVID-19 pandemic
The Snohomish County residents that Galina Volchkova sees asking for pandemic rent relief are workers from restaurants, beauty salons and coffee shops.
Sometimes they’re people with family members hospitalized or killed by COVID-19, said Volchkova. Lately, small business owners have joined the list.
“They’ve exhausted all their savings that they had,” said Volchkova, the housing director of the Dispute Resolution Center, which is based out of the Volunteers of America Western Washington.
Volchkova’s organization is helping distribute Snohomish County’s portion of the $120 million in federal virus assistance announced by Gov. Jay Inslee for renters financially hurt by the pandemic and related restrictions on commerce.
The money pairs with Inslee’s emergency order temporarily halting most evictions during the pandemic, which has been extended multiple times and is now set to expire Dec. 31.
But with federal relief money running low and Congress stalled on another aid package, lawmakers and housing officials say the coming months could force a potentially staggering reckoning for both renters and landlords.
Catch up on the past 24 hours
Amid holiday travel and shopping, the country marked a disheartening milestone yesterday: For the first time ever, the number of COVID-19 cases in one month topped 4 million. November's record was more than double the previous record monthly high of positive tests, October's 1.9 million cases, and the month is not yet over. Daily virus deaths are also approaching records set in April.
Meanwhile, in the absence of additional federal coronavirus relief, many Washingtonians continue to take it upon themselves to support neighbors and local businesses affected by the pandemic. Since March, Seattleites have built dozens of Little Free Pantries, which provide free food, no questions asked. High school students are offering free digital tutoring services for students in lower grades.
The San Francisco 49ers and other football teams may need to find a temporary new home after Santa Clara County on Saturday banned all contact sports from holding games and practices for the next three weeks. County officials issued the directives in response to rising cases of the coronavirus in the area. The rules take effect Monday and will last until Dec 21.
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