Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Sunday, Oct. 4, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.

While the world focuses on President Donald Trump’s ever-changing health prognosis, coronavirus cases continue to rise at the University of Washington, and around the state.

Trump gave a four-minute speech on Twitter from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Saturday, saying he expects to “be back soon” on the campaign trail. But his chief doctor said the President was “not yet out of the woods,” while White House staff said he faces a crucial 48 hours.

If Trump becomes unable to resume his duties, or even dies, Vice President Mike Pence would take over. Scenarios beyond that, such as how states and the Electoral College would handle pro-Republican votes on Nov. 3, are murkier. Here are explainer stories from Reuters and the New York Times.

Closer to home, the Washington State Department of Health reported Saturday 609 cases, bringing the total since late February to 89,419 people, or nearly 1 in 86 state residents. The number of deaths stands at 2,142 COVID-19 victims.

Throughout Sunday, on this page, we’ll be posting Seattle Times journalists’ updates on the outbreak and its effects on the Seattle area, the Pacific Northwest and the world. Updates from Saturday can be found here, and all our coronavirus coverage can be found here.

The following graphic includes the most recent numbers from the Washington State Department of Health, released Sunday afternoon.

Navigating the pandemic
(Jennifer Luxton / The Seattle Times)


Trump’s treatment suggests severe COVID-19, medical experts say

President Donald Trump’s doctors offered rosy assessments of his condition Sunday, but the few medical details they disclosed — including his fluctuating oxygen levels and a decision to begin treatment with a steroid drug — suggested to many infectious disease experts that he is suffering a more severe case of COVID-19 than the physicians acknowledged.

In photos and videos released by the White House, there is hardly any sign that Trump is sick. But at a news conference at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, Trump’s doctors said his oxygen levels had dropped to a level that can indicate that a patient’s lungs are compromised. The symptom is seen in many patients with severe COVID-19.

The president’s medical team also said that he had been prescribed dexamethasone on Saturday. The drug is a steroid used to head off an immune system overreaction that kills many COVID-19 patients.

The drug is reserved for those with severe illness, because it has not been shown to benefit those with milder forms of the disease and may even be risky.

Because of the incomplete picture offered by the president’s doctors, it was not clear whether they had given him dexamethasone too quickly, or whether the president was far sicker than has been publicly acknowledged, experts in infectious disease and emergency medicine said Sunday.

—The New York Times

What to know about Sean Conley, the White House physician

As President Donald Trump remains hospitalized at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center after testing positive for the coronavirus, one doctor is at the center of his treatment: Sean Conley, the White House physician.

Stepping out of the hospital with a team of doctors behind him Saturday, Conley gave an optimistic update on Trump’s condition at a news conference. He said the president was “doing very well” and in “exceptionally good spirits” after spending Friday night at the hospital.

The news conference put a national spotlight on Conley, who offered a distinctly different outlook from what Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, told reporters later.

Here’s what we know about Conley.

—The New York Times

Biden again tests negative for coronavirus

WASHINGTON – Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden tested negative for the novel coronavirus on Sunday, according to his campaign, his third negative test since he shared a debate stage for more than 90 minutes with President Donald Trump, who has been hospitalized with covid-19, the disease it causes.

“Vice President Biden underwent PCR testing for COVID-19 today and COVID-19 was not detected,” according to a statement the campaign issued to reporters at 7:16 p.m.

Biden’s campaign has said he is regularly tested for the coronavirus, but his operation has not previously been providing details about how often he gets tested or what type of test is used. Campaign officials had said they would only release results if Biden tested positive.

The campaign reversed Saturday evening and announced that it will release the results of every coronavirus test. Biden told reporters Saturday that he planned to take a test on Sunday morning. Biden is set to travel to Florida on Monday for an NBC town hall.

Speaking to CNN on Sunday morning, senior campaign adviser Symone Sanders declined to say why Biden is not being tested daily. “We are being tested regularly,” Sanders said.

The former vice president took two coronavirus tests on Friday morning after news that Trump had a positive test for the virus, then he traveled to Michigan for a scheduled campaign trip.

—The Washington Post

NJ officials contact 206 people at Trump event at Bedminster

State health officials in New Jersey have contacted more than 200 people who attended a campaign fundraiser at the Trump National Golf Course in Bedminster on Thursday, hours before the president announced he had COVID-19, as they try to contain the spread of the deadly virus.

Somerset County officials were meanwhile contacting employees who worked the event, most of whom live in the county. In a joint statement issued Sunday, the officials asked guests and employees to monitor their symptoms and, if they were close to President Trump or his staff, to quarantine for 14 days.

The officials, who started seeking the information on Friday, said on Sunday that the White House had sent them a list of 206 guests. They declined to say when they had received the names. They were advising guests not to be tested for five to seven days out from the event.

“While the risk is low, a negative test earlier than that time cannot definitively rule out that COVID-19 will not develop,” the statement said.

White House spokesman Judd Deere said the president had no contact with any donors or staff that “would be considered to be ‘close’ based on CDC guidelines (more than 15 minutes and within 6 feet).”

—Associated Press

Washington confirms 455 new coronavirus cases

State health officials confirmed 455 new COVID-19 cases in Washington on Sunday.

The update brings the state’s totals to 89,874 cases and 2,142 deaths, although the Department of Health (DOH) no longer reports new deaths on weekends. The data is as of 11:59 p.m. Saturday.

The DOH also reported that 7,628 people have been hospitalized in the state because of the virus. 

In King County, the state’s most populous, state health officials have confirmed 23,022 diagnoses and 767 deaths.

—Elise Takahama

Trump pays 'surprise visit' to supporters outside hospital

Two days after being hospitalized with COVID-19, President Donald Trump declared, “I get it,” in a message to the nation Sunday before briefly leaving the hospital to salute supporters from his motorcade, a move that again showed his willingness to disregard basic precautions to contain the virus that has killed more than 209,000 Americans.

Hours earlier, Trump’s medical team reported that his blood oxygen level dropped suddenly twice in recent days and that they gave him a steroid typically only recommended for the very sick. The doctors also said his health is improving and that he could be discharged as early as Monday.

“It’s been a very interesting journey. I learned a lot about COVID,” Trump said, standing in his hospital room in a video posted on social media. “I learned it by really going to school.”

He added, “I get it, and I understand it.”

Before the video was posted, the infected president cruised by supporters in his sealed SUV, windows rolled up, driven by Secret Service agents in protective gear who were potentially exposed to the disease that has swept through the White House in recent days.

“This is insanity,” tweeted Dr. James P. Phillips, an attending physician at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, where Trump has been hospitalized since Friday evening.

“Every single person in the vehicle during that completely unnecessary presidential ‘drive-by’ just now has to be quarantined for 14 days. They might get sick. They may die,” the doctor wrote. “For political theater. Commanded by Trump to put their lives at risk for theater.”

—Associated Press

Sen. Patty Murray tests negative for COVID-19

Both U.S. senators from Washington state have tested negative for COVID-19.

Sunday afternoon, Sen. Patty Murray tweeted that she had tested negative and urged people to continue wearing masks and practice social distancing. A spokesperson for Sen. Maria Cantwell confirmed to The Seattle Times Saturday night that Cantwell had also tested negative.

—Sydney Brownstone

How the White House is trying to convince America that Trump’s illness isn’t a big deal

On Saturday evening, President Donald Trump’s personal Twitter account was updated with a video message. Trump has been at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center since Friday after contracting the coronavirus, but the video was pointed in its intent: The president is nonetheless doing well, well enough to offer up a bit of politicking and assurances that he’s confident in his recovery.

In case that point was somehow lost on observers, campaign aides like Jason Miller made it more explicitly by tweeting the video and saying “One take, from the heart, no teleprompter. Over to you, Sleepy Joe!”

The tacit message of the tweet: Even the virus can’t keep this guy down.

But Miller’s presentation of what’s shown is obviously questionable. For one thing, while he boasts that Trump didn’t need a teleprompter, the president can be seen looking down at the sheet of paper in front of him, almost certainly to consult notes about what he plans to say.

Read the full story here.

—The Washington Post

Pope: Market capitalism has failed in pandemic

Pope Francis waves during the Angelus noon prayer delivered from his studio window overlooking St. Peter’s Square, at the Vatican, Sunday, Oct. 4, 2020. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

Pope Francis says the coronavirus pandemic has proven that the “magic theories” of market capitalism have failed and that the world needs a new type of politics that promotes dialogue and solidarity and rejects war at all costs.

Francis on Sunday laid out his vision for a post-COVID world by uniting the core elements of his social teachings into a new encyclical aimed at inspiring a revived sense of the human family. “Fratelli Tutti” (Brothers All) was released on the feast day of his namesake, the peace-loving St. Francis of Assisi.

The document draws its inspiration from the teachings of St. Francis and the pope’s previous preaching on the injustices of the global economy and its destruction of the planet and pairs them with his call for greater human solidarity to confront the “dark clouds over a closed world.”

Read the full story here.

—Associated Press

Markets face potential turmoil after Trump's hospitalization

Markets face the prospect of additional turmoil this week after President Donald Trump’s hospitalization for coronavirus late Friday raised concerns over the president’s health and further roiled a Washington political landscape already riven by battles over fiscal stimulus and the Supreme Court.

Foreign-exchange markets were the first to open Monday, with attention focused on the outlook for havens such as the Japanese yen and riskier currencies like the Australian dollar. The yen, trading around 105.30 per dollar, held onto its gains from Friday in early Asia-Pacific trading, although with Sydney observing a holiday the market remained muted and liquidity appeared thin. The Australian dollar maintained the bulk of Friday’s decline and was quoted around 71.62 U.S. cents.

Market volatility jumped Friday as financial markets initially reacted to news of Trump’s diagnosis in a risk-averse manner. U.S. stock futures slid, Treasury rates fell and the yen advanced, although there was a reversal in these moves as the day wore on.

Read the story here.


Kellyanne Conway's daughter reveals COVID-19 diagnosis on TikTok

Claudia Conway, the daughter of former White House adviser Kellyanne Conway, revealed on TikTok Sunday that she has coronavirus.

“Hey guys currently dying of covid,” Conway captioned a video on the social media platform.

Kellyanne Conway announced she tested positive for coronavirus Friday night and was experiencing some symptoms including a “mild (light cough) and I’m feeling fine.”

Prior to that, Claudia Conway posted several TikTok videos about her mom “coughing all around the house.”

“Update my mom has covid,” Claudia Conway wrote on one post. “im furious. Wear your masks. dont listen to our idiot f ——— president piece of s — . protect yourself and those around you,” she captioned another post.

Read the story here.

—New York Daily News

COVID-19 outbreak in UW’s Greek system grows to 144 cases

Washington’s Greek Row, just north of campus, has been hit hard by an outbreak of COVID-19 with at least 10 fraternities reporting cases.

Photographed Wednesday, July 1, 2020 214403

The University of Washington is working to contain a COVID-19 outbreak among fraternities and sororities that had grown to 144 cases Saturday afternoon, up from 104 cases three days earlier.

Public health officials say it’s yet another sign that Seattle-area residents need to remain vigilant about the virus.

The UW outbreak, the second to strike the UW’s Greek system since June, involves students in 11 fraternities and sororities at the Seattle campus, where classes, most of them remote, started Wednesday. The outbreak, thought to have started Sept. 11, was identified with assistance from Public Health – Seattle & King County.

Read the full story here.

—Paul Roberts

Pelosi says she worries information from Trump's doctors 'has to be approved' by the president

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says the doctors treating President Donald Trump for the coronavirus must provide trustworthy information to the public.

Pelosi said Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation”: “We need to have trust that what they’re telling us about the President’s condition is real.”

Her interview aired before the president’s medical team held a news conference at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, where he is receiving treatment.

Pressed about the conflicting information he and the White House released the day before, Navy Cmdr. Dr. Sean Conley acknowledged Sunday that he had tried to present a rosy description of the president’s condition. The doctor also said Trump’s blood oxygen level dropped suddenly twice in recent days, but he “has continued to improve” since then.

Pelosi says she’s worried that the information the doctors are relaying to the public “has to be approved by the president. That’s not very scientific.”

—Associated Press

Vice President Pence and wife test negative for COVID-19

Vice President Mike Pence and his wife, Karen, have tested negative again for the coronavirus days after President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump were diagnosed with COVID-19.

A Pence spokesperson confirmed Sunday’s negative tests.

Despite the president’s hospitalization, Pence is expected to resume regular campaigning this week with no changes to protocols meant to keep him from getting infected.

Pence is set to debate Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris on Wednesday night in Salt Lake City.

—Associated Press

Doctors: Trump’s blood oxygen level dropped twice recently

Dr. Sean Conley, physician to President Donald Trump, walks to the microphone to brief reporters at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., Sunday, Oct. 4, 2020. Trump was admitted to the hospital after contracting the coronavirus. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

President Donald Trump’s blood oxygen level dropped suddenly twice in recent days, his doctors revealed Sunday as they continued to evade basic questions about his health during treatment for COVID-19. Still, they said he “continued to improve” and suggested he could be discharged as early as Monday.

Speaking on the steps of the military hospital where Trump spent a third day, his doctors again sidestepped questions, including the timing of his second dip in oxygen, which they neglected to mention in multiple statements the day before, or whether lung scans showed any damage.

It was the second straight day of obfuscation from a White House already suffering from a credibility crisis. And it raised serious questions about whether the doctors treating the president can be trusted to share accurate, timely information with the American public.

Read the full story here.

—Associated Press

Doctor says Trump treated with steroid Saturday

The president’s physician says President Donald Trump was treated with a steroid after a drop in oxygen levels on Saturday.

Dr. Sean Conley said at a news conference on Sunday that he was given the steroid dexamethasone while he was hospitalized at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

Conley said the president’s oxygen level had dropped down to 93% on Saturday. He says the president did not feel short of breath.

He says the president’s medical team is hoping Trump will be up and about, out of bed and eating and drinking throughout the day.

—Associated Press

Virus spreads on panel handling Supreme Court nomination

Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., meets with Judge Amy Coney Barrett, President Donald Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court at the U.S. Capitol Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2020, in Washington. (Bill Clark/Pool via AP)

Two Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee have tested positive for the coronavirus, raising questions about the timing of Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Judge Amy Coney Barrett and whether additional senators may have been exposed. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell declared the confirmation process was going “full steam ahead.”

North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis and Utah Sen. Mike Lee both said Friday that they had tested positive for the virus. Both had attended a ceremony for Barrett at the White House on Sept. 25 with President Donald Trump, who announced Friday that he had tested positive and was later hospitalized at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

Lee, who did not wear a mask at the White House event, said he had “symptoms consistent with longtime allergies.” Tillis, who did wear a mask during the public portion of the event, said he had “mild symptoms.” Both said they would quarantine for 10 days — ending just before Barrett’s confirmation hearings begin on Oct. 12.

Read the full story here.

—Associated Press

Homes selling quickly, planes filling slowly during COVID-19

Propelled by cheap mortgages, home buyers continue to step up despite rising prices across the region.

Not so for air travel. Passenger numbers are down sharply from a year ago, and an initial bounce from April lows has flattened out to a steady rate that remains disastrous for the airlines.

Read the full story here.

—Seattle Times business staff

163 veteran Metro bus drivers retire as ridership craters during pandemic

Retired bus driver Robert Duncan takes pride in his long career and his driving patches. (Ken Lambert / The Seattle Times)

You bet they have the stories. Decades of them. They’re a group with at least 4,400 combined years of memories.

They’re the 163 older King County Metro bus drivers who this summer applied and were approved for a “voluntary separation” package, although that number might increase a bit. It meant saving the jobs of younger transit operators, as ridership had cratered because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Their stories are from the likes of Robert Duncan, 65, 37 driving; or Kathleen Dunne, 63, 41 years; or Stanley Bascomb, 65, 32 years; or Patsy Breazeale, 63, 31 years.  

They are about the first time they drove one of the 40-foot, 15-ton behemoths, the well-being of some 60 passengers their responsibility. Or about choking on tear gas in the May 1999 “Battle of Seattle” during the WTO protests. Sometimes, they’re about the kind gestures during a bus ride.

Truth be told, they’re going to miss driving the buses.

Read the full story here.

—Erik Lacitis

Coming days are 'critical' for Trump

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, left, greets Dr. Sean Conley, physician to President Donald Trump, after Conley briefed reporters at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., Saturday, Oct. 3, 2020. Trump was admitted to the hospital after contracting the coronavirus. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

President Donald Trump went through a “very concerning” period Friday and faces a “critical” next two days in his fight against COVID-19 at a military hospital, his chief of staff said Saturday — in contrast to a rosier assessment moments earlier by Trump doctors, who took pains not to reveal the president had received supplemental oxygen at the White House before his hospital admission.

Trump offered his own assessment Saturday evening in a video from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, saying he was beginning to feel better and hoped to “be back soon.”

Hours earlier, chief of staff Mark Meadows told reporters outside the hospital, “We’re still not on a clear path yet to a full recovery.” In an update on the president Saturday night, his chief doctor expressed cautious optimism but added that the president was “not yet out of the woods.”

The changing, and at times contradictory, accounts created a credibility crisis for the White House at a crucial moment, with the president’s health and the nation’s leadership on the line. With Trump expected to remain hospitalized several more days and the presidential election looming, his condition is being anxiously watched by Americans.

Read the full story here.

—Associated Press