Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Saturday, Nov. 6, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.
Pfizer announced Friday its COVID-19 pill yielded successful results during clinical trials. The risk of hospitalization or death was cut by 89% when high-risk individuals took the pill within three days after they began experiencing symptoms. Pfizer expects to be able to supply pills to over 180,000 people by the end of 2021.
Meanwhile, infection rates among children and teenagers in Washington are falling. Despite the drop, a new report details that rates are still three times higher than at any point before the summer surge driven by delta cases.
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. Click here to see previous days’ live updates and all our other coronavirus coverage, and here to see how we track the daily spread across Washington.
California sea otters being given vaccines at Monterey Bay Aquarium
When Dr. Mike Murray’s needle was ready, the scene gave a new definition to “vaccine hesitant.” There was wriggling and squirming, even with four assistants wearing thick, bite-proof gloves holding the patient on a mat with a duffel bag filled with foam.
“Buzz saw in a fur coat,” Murray joked after administering the shot into a patch of thick fur.
It was over in 10 seconds, with no selfies, stickers or lollipops. And California’s latest COVID-19 vaccine recipient was ready to head back into the tank that serves as her temporary home at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
The aquarium has begun vaccinating sea otters, a species that is still on the endangered list, in an effort to reduce the risk of a devastating outbreak among the fuzzy, beloved mascots of California’s central coast.
The program, believed to the first in the nation to vaccinate sea otters, is being closely watched by other aquariums and zoos, which are likely to follow suit.
“There’s a lot of evidence that this family of animals — ferrets, mink, otters — are susceptible,” said Murray, the aquarium’s chief veterinarian. “We have an obligation to protect the animals’ health.”
Read the full story here.
Fire in Indian hospital COVID-19 ward kills 11 patients
NEW DELHI — Eleven patients died Saturday after a fire broke out in a hospital’s COVID-19 ward in the western Indian state of Maharashtra, police said.
There were 17 patients in the ward in the city of Ahmednagar where the fire started, said police Inspector Jyoti Karkade. The remaining six patients are in stable condition, she added.
While the fire has been brought under control, the cause was not immediately clear. Officials said they will carry out an investigation.
Read the full story here.
U.S. delegate, others at COP26 test positive for the coronavirus; more cases expected
GLASGOW, Scotland — In a gathering with more than 20,000 people from nearly every country, one of the biggest major international summits since the pandemic began, a coronavirus outbreak was always going to be a danger.
So far, organizers have not revealed the number of positive coronavirus test results. But on Saturday, the State Department confirmed that a member of the U.S. delegation had tested positive. Earlier, Mayor Eric Garcetti of Los Angeles tested positive days after arriving in Scotland.
The State Department statement Saturday declined to identify the person but said the official had been fully vaccinated and was quarantining. The statement also said John Kerry, the U.S. presidential envoy for climate change who is leading the negotiations at the summit, had received several negative coronavirus results, including daily lateral flow tests and a PCR test, since the delegate tested positive.
Asked about the number of positive tests at the conference, Alok Sharma, the British president of the talks, said the numbers were lower than in the rest of Scotland. “At this point, we’re comfortable where we are,” he said.
Read the full story here.
Ukraine COVID-19 deaths hit record amid low vaccination rate
KYIV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s health ministry on Saturday reported a one-day record of 793 deaths from COVID-19.
Ukraine has been inundated by coronavirus infections in recent weeks, putting the country’s underfunded medical system under severe strain.
The ministry said 25,063 new infections had been tallied over the past day; a record 27,377 were reported on Thursday.
Although four different coronavirus vaccines are available in Ukraine, only 17.9% of the country’s 41 million people have been fully vaccinated, the second-lowest rate in Europe after Armenia.
In a bid to stem contagion, Ukrainian authorities have required teachers, government employees and other workers to get fully vaccinated by Nov. 8 or face having their salary suspended. In addition, proof of vaccination or a negative test is now required to board planes, trains and long-distance buses. Earlier this week, protesters marched in the capital of Kyiv to decry the new restrictions.
Read the full story here.
Appeals court stays vaccine mandate on larger businesses
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A federal appeals court on Saturday temporarily halted the Biden administration’s vaccine requirement for businesses with 100 or more workers.
The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals granted an emergency stay of the requirement by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration that those workers be vaccinated by Jan. 4 or face mask requirements and weekly tests.
Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry said the action stops Democratic President Joe Biden “from moving forward with his unlawful overreach.”
“The president will not impose medical procedures on the American people without the checks and balances afforded by the constitution,” said a statement from Landry, a Republican.
Solicitor of Labor Seema Nanda said the U.S. Department of Labor is “confident in its legal authority to issue the emergency temporary standard on vaccination and testing.”
OSHA has the authority “to act quickly in an emergency where the agency finds that workers are subjected to a grave danger and a new standard is necessary to protect them,” she said.
Such circuit decisions normally apply to states within a district — Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas, in this case — but Landry said the language employed by the judges gave the decision a national scope.
Read the full story here.
COVID-19 vaccine for kids 5-11 is cheered, scoffed at by parents in California’s Inland Empire
When Loma Linda resident Ryan Schavrien heard his kids, 7-year-old Jonathan and 11-year-old Zoey, were eligible for the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, he called the local pharmacy to ask about appointments for the shot.
“I myself am on immunosuppressive drugs, and having the kids vaccinated gives us peace of mind for them, as well as for my wife and myself,” Schavrien, a financial analyst, said Wednesday, Nov. 3. “While kids might not get sick and die at the rates of adults, they can be responsible for the spread of COVID. Getting them vaccinated is one step closer to a return to being fully normal after almost two years of living with COVID.”
As the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention endorsed the use of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for children between 5 and 11 on Tuesday, Nov. 2, many Inland Empire parents such as Schavrien were hopeful. But others expressed concerns about the timing of the shots as the pandemic appears to be waning and the possible side effects on a population that tends not to get as sick from COVID-19.
Read the full story here.
More vaccines, fewer mask rules as US keeps fighting COVID
The United States is steadily chipping away at vaccine hesitancy and driving down COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations to the point that schools, governments and corporations are lifting mask restrictions yet again.
Nearly 200 million Americans are fully vaccinated and the nation’s over-65 population, which bore the brunt of the pandemic when it started nearly two years ago, is enthusiastically embracing vaccines.
Nearly 98% of the over-65 population has received at least one COVID-19 shot and more than 25% of them have gotten boosters, just weeks after they were authorized. The improving metrics could get a boost from President Joe Biden’s workplace mandate unveiled Thursday and the launch of COVID-19 shots in elementary-age students.
Read the full story here.
How long can China chase COVID Zero?
China is resolutely sticking with its zero-tolerance approach to COVID-19, even as the delta variant continues to penetrate its formidable defenses. Officials are implementing increasingly aggressive measures — ranging from internal travel restrictions and snap lockdowns to mass testing of millions — in an attempt to rein in the virus.
Yet more parts of the country are grappling with outbreaks than at any time since the deadly pathogen first emerged in Wuhan in 2019.
The last of the major COVID Zero holdouts, China is becoming ever more isolated, and its unpredictable curbs are beginning to disrupt the world’s second-largest economy. How long can the vast nation maintain its strategy as the rest of the world learns to live with COVID-19, and what factors might force the country to reopen?
Read the full story here.
Walla Walla Valley businesses assess the likely impacts of new federal COVID-19 rules
With new federal COVID-19 vaccine requirements set to go into effect Jan. 4, many larger businesses in Walla Walla are trying to figure out what they'll need to do.
Under the regulation, companies with 100 or more employees will need employees to be fully vaccinated against the coronavirus or get tested for the virus weekly.
This has some larger employers wondering how they'll meet the deadline and whether the mandate will cost them employees.
"It’s hard to say that two months is going to be enough time or that it’s not enough time. At this point, we just don’t know,” said Edi Dirkes, human resources director at Key Technology, a food processing machinery manufacturer. “What ever happens, we have to comply with it so we will."
But the possibility of losing employees due to the new federal rules is a real concern at Key. “That’s something of course that we will consider as we digest this mandate, and see how it’s going to impact our workforce,” Dirkes said.
Little is expected to change at Providence St. Mary Medical Center, which has more than 1,000 employees at its West Poplar Street location. Having already complied with the strict state mandate, which took effect Oct. 18, the hospital expects to already be in full compliance with the new federal mandate.
“We still need to learn more regarding what they have to say about testing so we can get a better understanding on that, but we’re already in full compliance with the state requirements, which are much more rigid than the federal mandate,” Providence St. Mary director of communication Kathleen Obenland said, adding that they survived the state vaccine mandate “and we didn’t have any big exodus of employees.”
Read the full story here.
California, once a leader on COVID-19, now has case rate twice Florida’s
A month ago, California. Gov. Gavin Newsom boasted that the Golden State “continues to lead the nation” as the first to reach the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s yellow “moderate” tier of community virus transmission.
But COVID-19 cases have climbed back up to the as the highly contagious delta variant continues to wreak havoc.
And with case counts falling in Deep South states that abandoned mask orders and opposed vaccine mandates, California’s case rate is now well above Texas’ and double Florida’s, which along with the rest of the Gulf Coast are down to the CDC’s orange “substantial” transmission level.
“There are early indications that the decline in the delta surge at the national level in the U.S. has ended,” said Ali H. Mokdad, professor of health metrics sciences at the University of Washington, which runs a model projecting the course of the pandemic. Currently, 19 states have increasing transmission, including several like California “that had previously appeared to have been declining.”
One reason for the South's decline: “These regions are now being partly protected by high prior infection rates,” said Dr. Bob Wachter, chair of the medical department at the University of California, San Francisco. “But these people whose immunity comes from COVID are not very well protected, and their immunity will wane with time.”
Even as cases drop in Idaho, state may not be ready to deactivate COVID-19 crisis standards
Although Idaho could be emerging from its fourth COVID-19 surge, the state may not be ready to deactivate statewide crisis standards of care, or health care rationing that allows providers to make decisions based on chance of survival if necessary.
COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and its test postivity rate have dropped in recent weeks after months of record-breaking numbers. But the caseload has not dropped enough so as not to overwhelm providers, public health officials say.
Dave Jeppesen, Idaho Health and Welfare director, has said the state is looking for improvements on factors that brought him to first activate crisis standards. Those include hospitals no longer needing to use nontraditional spaces to admit patients, boarding patients that must be admitted in emergency rooms or seeing staffers overrun by the patient volume.
“Believe me, nobody really wants to be in crisis standards of care,” Jeppesen said during a media briefing Tuesday. “We are excited for the possibility to get out, looks like we’re headed in the right direction.”
Idaho reported 435 COVID-19 patients hospitalized statewide as of Wednesday, down from its peak of nearly 800 on Sept. 24 but still about as high as the peak toward the end of last year. In intensive care units, there were 138 COVID-19 patients on Wednesday, down from 213 on Sept. 24.
Easing of COVID travel restrictions lets loved ones reunite
Erin Tridle and her boyfriend met while the American was traveling in France in the summer of 2019. But after Tridle returned home to Los Angeles, they were separated as the their countries locked down travel due to the pandemic.
“The uncertainty of not knowing when we would be together again was one of the hardest things I’ve even been through,” Tridle said.
But that uncertainty is about to ease. Travel restrictions that have upended lives will relax Monday, when new rules go into effect allowing air travel from previously restricted countries as long as the traveler has proof of vaccination and a negative coronavirus test. Land travel will require proof of vaccination but no test.
Travel restrictions have been tough on friends and families alike. Loved ones have missed holidays, birthdays and funerals while nonessential air travel was barred from a long list of countries that includes most of Europe, Brazil and South Africa. Closures at the land crossings with Mexico and Canada have devastated the border towns where traveling back and forth, sometimes daily, is a way of life.
Before the border closure, Montreal junior college teacher Gina Granter and her partner in New York City saw each other at least twice a month. Now, between the closures, quarantine rules and other restrictions, they’ve managed to see each other only three times since the beginning of the pandemic.
When her partner finally was able to travel to see them after missing their daughter’s second birthday, the little girl didn’t remember him, Granter said.
“I have a brother named Steven, and she was calling her dad ‘other Steven’ or occasionally ‘Granddad,’” Granter said. “She had no memories of being with him in New York.”
New infections hit record as Russia’s COVID-19 wave persists
MOSCOW — Russia’s COVID-19 cases hit another one-day record as the country struggles to contain a wave of infections and deaths that has persisted for more than a month.
Russia's national coronavirus task force on Saturday reported 41,335 new cases since the previous day, exceeding the previous daily record of 40,993 from Oct. 31. The task force said 1,188 people with COVID-19 died, just seven fewer than the daily death record reported Thursday.
Officials cite Russia’s low vaccination rate as a major factor in the sharp rise in cases that began in mid-September. The task force reported about 57.2 million full-course vaccinations, or less than 40% of the country’s 146 million people.
Last month, President Vladimir Putin ordered many Russians to stay off work between Oct. 30 and Nov. 7. He authorized regional governments to extend the number of nonworking days, if necessary.
Several regions, including Novgorod in the northwest, Tomsk in Siberia, the Chelyabinsk region in the Ural Mountains and Kursk and Bryansk regions southwest of Moscow, have extended the nonworking period through the end of next week.
Austria to bar unvaccinated people from restaurants as cases rise
VIENNA — Unvaccinated people in Austria who haven’t had COVID-19 will no longer be allowed to enter restaurants, hotels and hair salons or attend public events larger than 25 people under new rules that take effect Monday.
Austrian Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg outlined the rules Friday night after a meeting with state-level leaders to discuss the country’s response to rapidly rising coronavirus cases.
“It is simply our responsibility to protect the people in our country,” Schallenberg told reporters, noting the case numbers and increasingly full hospital intensive care units.
Previously, people could enter restaurants, hotels and other areas if they were vaccinated, had recovered from the virus or could show results from a negative test.
The government is planning a transition period for the first four weeks to encourage unvaccinated people to get shots. During that time, anyone who has received one vaccine dose and has results from a valid PCR test will be allow to attend events and enter the listed types of locations.
What it’s like to work on the front lines of mental health emergencies in the Seattle area
It’s estimated over a million Washingtonians — or about 1 in 5 people in the state — have mental illness. That is likely an undercount, and calls for behavioral health crises steadily climbed since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
Washington has a large network of mental health professionals to serve people with mental illness. In King County there are 12,500 people working as substance use disorder counselors, behavior technicians and analysts, and a dozen other roles credentialed through the Washington Department of Health. About a quarter of them are social workers. Together with nurses, medical assistants and other health care staff, they work on the front lines of mental health emergencies to care for people with mental health needs in Seattle and across the Puget Sound region.
While triage nurses and doctors in the emergency department treat trauma wounds, clinical social workers and psychiatric nurses are looking for signs of a mental health crisis. That could mean people who are perhaps eating or sleeping less, experiencing suicidal ideation, or psychosis, when they hear or see things that aren’t there. Patients are brought in by family and friends, on gurneys via ambulance, or by law enforcement. Some come in alone and willingly, others alone and involuntarily.
But it doesn’t end there.
The front lines shift and intersect in many environments: It can be a classroom or office, a hospital or church, a jail or shelter. Ultimately what begins as a personal experience ripples through a whole community, affecting not just the person experiencing mental health issues but their families, friends and neighbors.
And while hospitals are a key part of the front lines, when it comes to mental health the needs are everywhere and anywhere. Luckily, the people working to help others are also close by. Here’s what some of them want you to know about their jobs, what they struggle with, and what keeps them going through it all.
Trapped in a pandemic funk: Millions of Americans can’t shake a gloomy outlook
For so many voters in this November of discontent, the state of the union is just … blech.
Despite many signals that things are improving — the stock market is hitting record highs; hiring is accelerating sharply, with 531,000 jobs added in October; workers are earning more; and COVID hospitalizations and deaths are dropping from their autumn peaks — many Americans seem stuck in a pandemic hangover of pessimism.
More than 60% of voters in opinion surveys say that the country is heading in the wrong direction — a national funk that has pummeled Biden’s approval ratings and fueled a backlash against Democrats that could cost them control of Congress in next year’s midterm elections.
“I don’t like the division,” said Michael Macey, a barber who lives in the suburbs outside Atlanta. “I don’t like the standstill. We need something to get accomplished.”
A year ago, Macey, 63, was thrilled to help propel President Joe Biden to victory, hopeful that Democrats would move swiftly to tackle policing laws and other big issues. But then he watched his hopes for sweeping changes wither in Washington, D.C.
Now, Macey’s sense of optimism — like that of millions of Americans — has been dashed. By the pain of an unending pandemic. By rising prices. By nationwide bickering that stretches from school board meetings to the U.S. Capitol.
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