Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Thursday, Nov. 5, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.
Meanwhile, Gov. Jay Inslee, who has been re-elected for a third term, said Wednesday the election results give him a mandate to continue with a public-health-based approach to tamping down the COVID-19 outbreak.
Throughout Thursday, on this page, we’ll post updates on the pandemic and its effects on the Seattle area, the U.S. and the world. Updates from Wednesday are here, and all our coronavirus coverage can be found here.
SIFF will return in April 2021 with a virtual festival. Here’s how it’s going to work
Bowing to the reality of the coronavirus pandemic, the Seattle International Film Festival’s 2021 edition will take place in April and will be entirely virtual. It will be shorter than the festival’s usual run, taking place over 10 days rather than SIFF’s standard three and a half weeks.
SIFF Artistic Director Beth Barrett said earlier this week that the decision was inevitable, due to the length of time it takes to ramp up for a festival as massive as SIFF — which typically involves several hundred films, an army of seasonal staffers and volunteers, long lines and crowded theaters. “We just know that it’s impossible” to run a festival at its usual capacity, she said. If pandemic guidelines change and it is possible to hold some events in person, “we will work on that as a separate project,” but the plan now is for “100% virtual.” (SIFF’s year-round cinemas are currently closed, and the organization has said they will not reopen until 2021.)
The move to April 8-18 — SIFF usually unspools beginning mid-May — was made in order to coincide with the run-up to the Academy Awards ceremony, which in 2021 will take place on April 25. Barrett said the festival is being planned as about 80-90 feature-length films, 10 short film programs and 10 special programs, such as festival forums, works-in-progress, panel discussions and education classes.
Nasal spray prevents COVID infection in ferrets, study finds
A nasal spray that blocks the absorption of the SARS-CoV-2 virus has completely protected ferrets it was tested on, according to a small study released Thursday by an international team of scientists. The study, which was limited to animals and has not yet been peer-reviewed, was assessed by several health experts at the request of The New York Times.
If the spray, which the scientists described as nontoxic and stable, is proved to work in humans, it could provide a new way of fighting the pandemic. A daily spritz up the nose would act like a vaccine.
“Having something new that works against the coronavirus is exciting,” said Dr. Arturo Casadevall, the chairman of immunology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, who was not involved in the study. “I could imagine this being part of the arsenal.”
The work has been underway for months by scientists from Columbia University Medical Center in New York, Erasmus Medical Center in the Netherlands and Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Columbia University Medical Center.
The team would require additional funding to pursue clinical trials in humans. Dr. Anne Moscona, a pediatrician and microbiologist at Columbia and co-author of the study, said they had applied for a patent on the product, and she hoped Columbia University would approach the federal government’s Operation Warp Speed or large pharmaceutical companies that are seeking new ways to combat the coronavirus.
Empty Capitol building, public hearings by Zoom: Washington Legislature plans for virtual session
OLYMPIA — Empty marble corridors in the Washington Capitol. Many state legislators casting votes remotely. The customary public hearings that draw passionate residents conducted instead by teleconference.
When state lawmakers return as scheduled in January, they’ll be conducting the 2021 legislative session for the most part remotely amid a coronavirus pandemic that continues to gain steam.
On Thursday, Democratic legislative leaders for the House and Senate outlined tentative plans for a largely remote session scheduled to begin in January.
Few lawmakers will be on the floors of the chambers. They are instead expected to debate and vote remotely, perhaps while alone in their legislative office or from home.
Committee meetings and hearings would be conducted via teleconference, with residents and lobbyists appearing remotely, according to a copy of the tentative Senate plan.
A handful of Washington’s 49 senators would be allowed on the floor at once during debates, according to the plan, which was approved by the Senate Facilities and Operations Committee. The others would participate remotely from their legislative offices or from elsewhere.
Members of the media — who usually occupy press tables on the House and Senate floor — would relocate to one of the empty gallery spaces above the Senate floor where members of the public would usually sit.
The Capitol, which has been closed for months to the public amid the pandemic, would remain shuttered to the public.
Court upholds state border closings in Australia
CANBERRA, Australia — Australia’s highest court on Friday upheld a state’s border closure and dismissed billionaire businessman Clive Palmer’s argument that the pandemic measure was unconstitutional.
The seven High Court judges ruled that Western Australia’s state border closure to non-essential travel applied during “a hazard in the nature of a plague or epidemic” complied with the constitution. All Australian states and territories have used border restrictions to curb infections and a court ruling against Western Australia could have impacted their pandemic responses.
The state shut its border to the rest of Australia on April 5 and has maintained the travel restriction despite not recording a case of COVID-19 community transmission since April 11.
Western Australia will relax its border policy Nov. 14 and allow residents from states and territories deemed low risk to enter without going into quarantine.
The state government argued the measure let its iron ore mines maintain output and earn their highest prices in six years while their main rivals in Brazil have had production disrupted by pandemic absenteeism.
Palmer, a mining magnate, took court action in May when he was refused permission to enter the state. His lawyers had argued that the border restriction unreasonably infringed upon Australians’ constitutional right to free travel between states.
Oregon shatters daily COVID-19 case record with 805 cases
SALEM, Ore. — The Oregon Health Authority reported 805 new confirmed COVID-19 cases Thursday, shattering the state’s previous daily record of 600.
Officials described the increased spread of COVID-19 in the state as “unprecedented” and occurring “more rapidly” than they had hoped.
“Let me be clear, we cannot allow this disease to continue to spread so rapidly in our communities. Lives are at stake,” Gov. Kate Brown said. “Oregonians have made tremendous sacrifices to help each other throughout this pandemic, which is why Oregon has done relatively better than many other states at containing COVID-19. We can’t let up now. I will take further action to stop the spread of COVID-19, and I need Oregonians to continue to do their part as well.”
In addition, health officials said the percentage of positive COVID-19 tests last week was 8.5%.
“All this data leads us to conclude that Oregonians are circulating more in their communities and letting their guard down more and doing so as the weather turns colder, and they are spending more time indoors,” said Dean Sidelinger, the state’s epidemiologist.
Brown attributed a significant amount of the increase in cases to indoor social gatherings.
How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected where you live?
It’s difficult to describe neatly the deep changes the pandemic has brought to Seattle’s renters and homeowners.
Renters, for the first time ever, have sweeping protections against eviction, instituted by the city, state and federal government, as well as a degree of rent relief. Some tenants, though, typically in more expensive buildings, are vacating to more spacious digs. That’s helping drive up rents and home prices in the Seattle area’s most affordable neighborhoods to never-before-seen heights — potentially posing problems for the people already living there.
As we continue to cover housing around Seattle, we want to hear from you about how the pandemic has affected where you live. Your insights and experiences will help inform future articles and shape our reporting on the long-lasting impact of the pandemic.
Click here to fill out a form to get in touch with us.
Health officials provide update on state's COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan
The Washington State Department of Health (DOH) announced Thursday that it's continuing to make progress with its COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan.
The state's community engagement team has connected with workers and communities who have been disproportionately impacted by the virus, or who are at a higher risk of getting or spreading COVID-19, DOH said in a statement.
Earlier this week, the state, in collaboration with the Washington State Hospital Association and health care coalitions, opened enrollment for its COVID-19 vaccination program. Health officials are currently working to identify and invite facilities to enroll for the first phase of the vaccine distribution plan.
"We are taking a phased approach to enrollment, focusing first on hospitals and health care systems," the statement said. "We will branch out to additional sites in the following weeks. We also opened enrollment to local health departments that are planning to order, store, or administer vaccine(s)."
The update comes after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released an updated version of its COVID-19 Vaccination Program Interim Playbook for Jurisdiction Operations.
"The next update to our Interim COVID-19 vaccination plan will include changes informed by the CDC’s new playbook along with other sources of feedback," the state said Thursday. "We will post the revised version of the plan on our COVID-19 Vaccine page once complete."
Raiders fined, docked pick for COVID violations
The Las Vegas Raiders and coach Jon Gruden have been fined a total $650,000 and docked a sixth-round draft pick for repeated violations of the NFL’s COVID-19 protocols.
A person familiar with the punishment said Thursday the team has been fined $500,000, Gruden has been docked $150,000 and the draft pick has been stripped because of how the team handled Trent Brown’s positive coronavirus test last month. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because no announcement had been made.
Yahoo first reported the punishments.
The Raiders are expected to appeal the punishment. A team spokesman didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Study hints that lack of COVID-19 testing shouldn’t deter Washington schools from bringing kids back in-person
Routinely testing school children and staff for the coronavirus is unlikely to add much preventive benefit when community transmission is under control and safety measures are in place, a Bellevue-based disease modeling group’s report says.
The findings, released Thursday, are good news for districts in communities with low coronavirus levels. The study hints that a lack of coronavirus tests in schools shouldn’t be a barrier to bringing students back to buildings.
“There isn’t that much additional impact that you get by doing the diagnostic screening,” said Dan Klein, who led the research and is a senior research manager at the Institute for Disease Modeling (IDM).
The role of schools in spreading the virus that causes COVID-19 is still unclear, but the Washington state Department of Health (DOH) has said that early data is encouraging and suggests some schools can reopen buildings safely. On Thursday, Lacy Fehrenbach, the deputy secretary of health for COVID-19 response at the state health department, said DOH has logged 42 coronavirus outbreaks in schools — involving a total of 110 people — since the start of the pandemic.
The IDM report suggests that testing would be more useful in areas where schools are a “significant source of infections,” such as places where coronavirus incidence is high in the community, as are many counties in Washington state. Tests would also be useful when schools can’t or won’t take safety precautions, the study says.
Coronavirus cases shatter records, straining health care
A rapidly rising flood of coronavirus infections engulfed much of the United States on Thursday, setting records for new cases in 20 states, killing nearly 1,158 people and straining the health system’s capacity to keep up with the pandemic.
On Thursday, 116,707 new cases were reported, the second straight record for a single day and a figure that dwarfed the total for any day in the previous worst two periods of the outbreak, in April and July. From West Virginia to Texas to Pennsylvania, the country was awash in record or near-record case counts Thursday.
Illinois reported 9,935 new cases, Iowa registered 4,562 and Oklahoma recorded 2,094 — all single-day highs — as the virus continued to spread across the nation’s midsection and the Plains states.
“In many areas of the country, this pandemic is a runaway train,” said James Lawler, an infectious-diseases specialist at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. “We are doubling COVID hospitalizations every two to three weeks in many parts of the Midwest. Think about what that means in a month to six weeks. So, we better find the brakes soon.”
State confirms 1,070 new COVID-19 cases -- 390 in King County -- and reports 15 new deaths
One day after Washington set a new daily record for new COVID-19 cases, the state Department of Health (DOH) reported 1,070 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday, and 15 new deaths.
This is the second day this week when the number of new cases exceeded 1,000.
In King County, the state’s most populous, 390 new cases were reported.
The update brings the state’s totals to 112,550 cases and 2,431 deaths, meaning that 2.2% of people diagnosed in Washington have died, according to the DOH. The data is as of 11:59 p.m. Wednesday.
The DOH also reported that 8,784 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the virus-- 49 new hospitalizations since the weekend.
Statewide, 2,541,074 COVID-19 tests have been administered as of Wednesday night.
In King County, state health officials have confirmed a total of 29,316 COVID-19 diagnoses and 822 deaths.
Counties with worst virus surges overwhelmingly voted Trump
U.S. voters went to the polls starkly divided on how they see President Donald Trump’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, with a surprising twist: In places where the virus is most rampant now, Trump enjoyed enormous support.
An Associated Press analysis reveals that in 376 counties with the highest number of new cases per capita, the overwhelming majority — 93% of those counties — went for Trump, a rate above other less severely hit areas. Most were rural areas in Montana, the Dakotas, Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa and Wisconsin.
Taking note of the contrast, state health officials are pausing for a moment of introspection. Even as they worry about rising numbers of hospitalizations and deaths, they hope to reframe their messages and aim for a reset on public sentiment now that the election is over.
“Public health officials need to step back, listen to and understand the people who aren’t taking the same stance” on mask-wearing and other control measures, said Dr. Marcus Plescia of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials.
“I think there’s the potential for things to get less charged and divisive,” he said, adding that there’s a chance a retooled public health message might unify Americans around lowering case counts so hospitals won’t get swamped during the winter months.
The AP’s analysis was limited to counties in which at least 95% of precincts had reported results, and grouped counties into six categories based on the rates of COVID-19 cases they’d experienced per 100,000 residents.
Washington Legislature to be largely remote when session begins in January amid COVID-19
OLYMPIA – Empty marble corridors in the Washington Capitol. Many state lawmakers casting votes remotely. The customary public hearings that draw passionate residents conducted instead by teleconference.
The Washington Legislature is expected to conduct its 2021 legislative session in a largely remote session amid a coronavirus pandemic that continues to gain steam.
On Thursday, Democratic legislative leaders for the House and Senate outlined tentative plans for a largely remote session scheduled to begin in January.
Few lawmakers will be on the floors of the chambers, and are instead expected to debate and vote remotely, perhaps while alone in their legislative office, or from home.
Public hearings, meanwhile, would be conducted via teleconference, with concerned residents and lobbyists appearing remotely to testify. The Capitol – which has been closed for months to the public amid the pandemic, will remain that way.
Lawmakers and legislative staffers working indoors would have to wear masks at all times. Many, if not most, staffers are likely to instead work remotely.
While there are still questions to work out – as well as concerns from some Republicans – a key Senate committee Thursday voted along party lines to approve the tentative plan.
Under that plan, a handful of Washington’s 49 senators would be allowed on the floor at once. Members of the media – who usually occupy press tables on the floor – will have access to one of the empty gallery spaces above the Senate floor.
Read a copy of that plan here. https://assets.documentcloud.org/documents/7325355/Senate-Session-2021-COVID-Plan.pdf
The House, meanwhile, hasn’t yet finalized its plans, Democratic Speaker Laurie Jinkins of Tacoma said on Thursday.
But Jinkins described roughly the same approach, except with fewer lawmakers on the House floor.
“We’re moving toward a fully remote session, but we’re in a space where we’re not prepared yet to make that final announcement,” Jinkins said.
Lawmakers in the Republican minority are still discussing amongst themselves their own thoughts and concerns about a remote session, she added.Democratic lawmakers have gone back and forth this year about whether to hold a special legislative session to respond to aspects of the pandemic, and Republicans have pushed for one since spring.
But there will be no special session before January, Jinkins said Thursday.
Swedish PM self-isolates as nation passes grim threshold
Sweden’s prime minister has gone into protective self-isolation after a person close to him came into contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19, as Sweden experiences a fall surge of coronavirus infections.
Stefan Lofven broke the news on Facebook on Thursday, when the Scandinavian country passed the threshold of 6,000 overall coronavirus deaths.
“The developments are going in the wrong direction fast. More are infected. More die. This is a serious situation,” he wrote.
How liberal politics, COVID-19 and a high cost of living are fueling a new California exodus
Rich Threadgill was born and raised in California and loved his home state. Until he didn’t.
The Navy veteran is a gun fan, but he felt he couldn’t talk about his hobby or express other conservative opinions without running the risk of making someone angry.
This summer, when his employer allowed employees to telework from out of state for lower pay, the 39-year-old human resources officer surprised himself. He sold his Rancho Cordova home and moved the family to Idaho, where he’ll build a house for less than he sold his California home.
He says he feels more relaxed in a rural environment where people are more conservative and, to his mind, more congenial. “We love it,” he said.
“In California, if you express your beliefs, you can be outright attacked,” he said.
Threadgill is among a wave of hundreds of thousands of Californians leaving the state in the last few years. Last year alone, nearly 200,000 more people left the state than moved in.
Most likely did it for economic reasons. The cost of living, particularly housing, is now far higher in California than almost anywhere else in the United States.
But a turbulent 2020 has added new motivations for migration. Amid coronavirus shutdowns, wildfires, street protests and a tense election-year political environment, some say California’s “charm” has finally worn too thin.
Is it safe to stay in hotels during the pandemic?
Is it safe to stay in hotels during the pandemic?
In a recent travel update, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention makes it clear: Staying home is the best way to protect yourself against the coronavirus.
If you do travel, the CDC says, sharing a rental home with people from your own household is safer than staying with friends or family who aren’t from your household or staying at a hotel where you would encounter more people. The riskiest option, it says, is a hostel or other dorm-like lodging with shared sleeping areas.
Try to find a rental that guarantees a 72-hour buffer between guests, says Dr. Natascha Tuznik, an infectious disease expert at the University of California, Davis. Airbnb will require hosts to commit to enhanced cleaning by Nov. 20. That includes scrubbing floors and other surfaces with soap and water; washing linens on high heat; disinfecting high-touch items like door knobs; and ventilating rooms.
Rentals might also have more access to fresh air than hotel rooms, Tuznik said. But she said there have been very few reported coronavirus outbreaks connected to hotels.
If you stay at a hotel, check to see what safety steps it’s taking. Many hotels have adopted enhanced cleaning procedures, for example, and are encouraging social distancing in common areas.
You can also use disinfectant wipes to clean the surfaces that are most touched, like light switches and faucets, Tuznik said. And consider omitting housekeeping services to ensure fewer people enter the room.
AstraZeneca to deliver vaccine trial data by year’s end
AstraZeneca hopes to show its COVID-19 vaccine is effective by the end of this year and is ramping up manufacturing so it can supply hundreds of millions of doses in January, Chief Executive Pascal Soriot said Thursday.
The Anglo-Swedish drugmaker is working with the University of Oxford to develop one of the most closely watched COVID-19 vaccines, which is in late stage trials in the U.S., Britain and other countries to determine its safety and effectiveness. Once those results are reported, regulators will have to approve the vaccine for widespread use.
Governments and public health authorities are anxiously awaiting the development of a vaccine as they look for a way to combat the COVID-19 pandemic without the restrictions on business and social life that are punishing the world economy. Infection rates are rising in many countries amid a second wave of the virus that has killed more than 1.2 million people worldwide.
AstraZeneca released results showing that third-quarter revenue rose 3% as the pandemic reduced new cancer diagnoses and elective procedures, cutting demand for its products.
COVID-19, in addition to stealing sense of smell, may also warp it
Jennifer Spicer thought her days of feeling the effects of COVID-19 were over. The fever, chills and severe fatigue that racked her body back in late July had long dissipated. And much to the excitement of the self-described “foodie,” her senses of smell and taste were slowly returning.
“I thought I had recovered,” said Spicer, 35, an infectious-disease physician at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, who was exposed to the novel coronavirus while treating a patient. Although her senses hadn’t fully come back, she was eating and drinking “completely normally” again. “I felt a lot of relief,” she said.
But that relief lasted only until a Friday night in late October when she took a sip from a freshly poured glass of red wine.
“It tasted like gasoline,” Spicer said. She checked the bottle, found nothing wrong, sampled the wine again, then poured it down the drain.
The wine, though, probably wasn’t the problem. Her experience is keenly similar to those of some other COVID-19 survivors who are recovering their sense of smell. Known as parosmia, the often temporary distortion makes things smell different, and usually unpleasant, said Richard Doty, director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Smell and Taste Center.
In Spain, coronavirus puts the poor at the back of the line
Erika Oliva spends at least three hours a week standing in line at a soup kitchen.
She spends a couple more at the social worker’s office with her 8-year-old son, who has autism. She waits on the phone to the health center or when she wants to check if her application for a basic income program will get her the promised 1,015 euros ($1,188).
So far, it hasn’t.
“They are always asking for more papers but we still haven’t seen a euro. Everything seems to be closed because of the pandemic. Or you are told to go online,” said Oliva. She managed to apply online, but others in her situation don’t know how to use a computer or simply don’t have one.
“Poor people queue. It’s what we know how to do best,” Oliva said.
Greece imposes lockdown to avoid worst at hospitals
With a surge in coronavirus cases straining hospitals in many European countries, Greece announced a nationwide lockdown Thursday in the hopes of stemming a rising tide of patients before its hospitals come under “unbearable” pressure.
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said that he acted before infection rates reached the levels seen in many neighboring countries because, after years of financial crises that have damaged its health system, it couldn’t afford to wait as long to impose restrictions as others had.
On Wednesday, Greece announced a record 18 daily deaths and 2,646 new cases bringing the total confirmed cases to just under 47,000 and deaths to 673 in this country of nearly 11 million.
751,000 seek U.S. unemployment benefits as virus hobbles economy
WASHINGTON — The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits fell slightly last week to 751,000, still a historically high level that shows that many employers keep cutting jobs in the face of the accelerating pandemic.
A surge in viral cases and Congress’ failure so far to provide more aid for struggling individuals and businesses are threatening to deepen Americans’ economic pain. Eight months after the pandemic flattened the economy, weekly jobless claims still point to a stream of layoffs. Before the virus struck in March, the weekly figure had remained below 300,000 for more than five straight years.
When will Seattle Public Library and King County Library System reopen their doors?
Many people are longing to wander through a local library again. But the next chapter won’t come quickly for Seattle and King County library patrons.
Fortunately, the library systems are finding ways to boost your access to books.
Catch up on the past 24 hours
Washington state and the U.S. set daily records for coronavirus cases yesterday. In Washington, where 1,469 infections were tallied, state officials are "extremely concerned." Nationally, new cases topped 100,000 a day for the first time, with some states seeing giant jumps.
Sea-Tac Airport has started offering COVID-19 tests to travelers, but you'll have to plan ahead. When you get where you're going, which lodgings are safest? The CDC and infectious-disease experts offer guidance on how to navigate this.
A pandemic success story: One nation has almost eliminated the coronavirus, and infectious-disease experts there say it's because residents put their faith in science. "I've been going out nonstop," a medical leader exults.
Could your smartwatch help detect the next outbreak? Scientists think so.
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