Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Wednesday, Oct. 13, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.
The U.S. will reopen its borders with Canada and Mexico next month for fully vaccinated people taking nonessential trips, ending a 19-month freeze. Here’s what travelers can expect.
Unvaccinated Boeing workers will need to act quickly to keep their jobs under the timeline for the company’s new vaccine mandate, announced Tuesday. But “our members are polarized on this issue,” the head of the Machinists union says.
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.
Why many Black Americans changed their minds about COVID vaccinations
TUSKEGEE, Ala. — By the time vaccines for the coronavirus were introduced late last year, the pandemic had taken two of Lucenia Williams Dunn’s close friends. Still, Dunn, a former mayor of Tuskegee, contemplated for months whether to be inoculated.
It was a complicated consideration, framed by the government’s botched response to the pandemic, its disproportionate toll on Black communities and an infamous 40-year government experiment for which her hometown is often associated.
“I thought about the vaccine most every day,” said Dunn, 78, who finally walked into a pharmacy this summer and rolled up her sleeve for a shot, convinced after weighing with her family and doctor the possible consequences of remaining unvaccinated.
“What people need to understand is some of the hesitancy is rooted in a horrible history, and for some, it’s truly a process of asking the right questions to get to a place of getting the vaccine.”
In the first months after the vaccine rollout, Black Americans were far less likely than white Americans to be vaccinated. In addition to the difficulty of obtaining shots in their communities, their hesitancy was fueled by a powerful combination of general mistrust of the government and medical institutions, and misinformation over the safety and efficacy of the vaccines.
But a wave of pro-vaccine campaigns and a surge of virus hospitalizations and deaths this summer, mostly among the unvaccinated and caused by the highly contagious delta variant, have narrowed the gap, experts say.
Read more here.
Prepare for a "twindemic" as the flu, colds and COVID-19 collide this winter
Doctors in the United States are bracing for a “twindemic” of flu and coronavirus spikes.
Meantime, Germany has purchased extra flu vaccines and tens of thousands of people in Britain are looking up “worst cold ever” on search engines.
In countries with relatively high vaccination rates such as the United States and in Europe, it could get tricky this winter for the immunized to tell a nasty cold from a breakthrough case of COVID. It’s also hard to predict how bad this flu season will be after last year’s historically low flu rates during lockdowns.
With children back in school in many parts of the world and travel picking up in tourist spots, health care professionals worry that the flu season could come roaring back and are urging people to get their shots.
Health experts say Americans have built up less natural immunity against influenza because so few were infected in 2020. The comeback of common viruses including RSV brought toddlers, who were not exposed as babies, to U.S. hospitals with severe cases this year.
While a feared collision of infections remained at bay last winter, viruses will have more potential to spread this fall in venues opening up again. This has medical staff worried that flu and COVID-19 admissions could surge together in the next few months.
Read more about this concerning collision of viruses here.
An unvaccinated man met a doctor at a bar. He left agreeing to get his first dose.
The conversation started with Brussels sprouts.
Mark Hall was not fond of Duane Mitchell’s appetizer selection.
“That sounds awful. No, thank you,” Hall joked.
Soon, the icebreaker that got the two strangers chatting at the bar of a Gainesville, Fla., restaurant earlier this month turned into an over three-hour-long conversation about coronavirus vaccines.
“What do you think about the vaccine?” Hall asked after Mitchell disclosed that he was a researcher studying human diseases at the University of Florida.
Mitchell replied that he believed in the vaccine and that he had been vaccinated. But Hall had no plans to get the shot. Hall said he had done extensive research about the vaccines, but plenty of his questions remained unanswered.
“It was a back and forth,” Mitchell, 50, told The Washington Post. “It was clear that he was skeptical, but he kept asking questions.”
By the end of the dinner, the men exchanged numbers, and Hall cracked one more joke. He’d get the vaccine — but only if Mitchell gave it to him, the physician told The Post. To Mitchell’s surprise, Hall followed through and texted him to schedule his appointment at the university’s clinic. Five days after their chance meeting, Hall received his first shot.
“I couldn’t believe it,” Mitchell told The Post. ” … After the encounter I said, ‘I don’t know if he’s ever going to actually call and follow through, but maybe he’ll get the vaccine where he is, maybe down the road the opportunity will come up.’ It seemed like our conversation made a difference.”
World Health Organization names new group to look into the origins of COVID-19
The World Health Organization has named 26 scientists to a new advisory body devoted to understanding the origins of COVID-19 and other future outbreaks, marking a change in approach for the world’s top global health body to one of the most politically sensitive issues of a pandemic that has killed more than 4.8 million people.
The group, which includes scientists from the United States and China as well as 24 other nations, will be formalized after a brief period of public consultation. It is set to consider not only the big, unresolved question of the novel coronavirus — how did it first infect humans? — but also is to set up a framework for future outbreaks involving other pathogens, so similar big questions aren’t left unresolved again.
It will likely prove to be a difficult and politically sensitive process. China E has repeatedly said it considers any investigation into the origins of COVID-19 on its soil completed. This new group, dubbed the Scientific Advisory Group for the Origins of Novel Pathogens (SAGO), will also face a politicized environment from countries in the West, including the United States.
“If you believe that SAGO will answer the question, what was the origins of SARS-CoV-2,
The renewed impetus to investigate the pandemic’s origins comes more than six months after the conclusion of a joint WHO-China mission on the subject. That study, which saw a group of international scientists visit sites at the virus’ known epicenter in Wuhan, China, became mired in controversy for its inconclusive results. Read the story here.
State health officials confirm 2,709 new coronavirus cases
The state Department of Health (DOH) reported 2,709 new coronavirus cases and 88 new deaths on Wednesday.
The update brings the state's totals to 689,484 cases and 8,152 deaths, meaning that 1.2% of people diagnosed in Washington have died, according to the DOH. The data is as of 11:59 p.m. Tuesday.
In addition, 38,236 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the virus — 278 new hospitalizations. In King County, the state's most populous, state health officials have confirmed a total of 157,342 COVID-19 diagnoses and 1,910 deaths.
Hospitalization and death counts may be higher on Wednesday because the totals were incomplete on Tuesday due to a data processing interruption, according to DOH.
Since vaccinations began in mid-December, the state and health care providers have administered 9,328,239 doses and 59% of Washingtonians have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to vaccination data, which the state updates on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Providers are currently giving an average of about 20,529 vaccine shots per day.
The DOH says its daily case reports may also include duplicate test results, results assigned to the wrong county, results that are reported for today but are actually from a previous day, occasional false positive tests and other data discrepancies. Because of this, the previous day’s total number of cases plus the number of new daily cases does not add up to the new day’s total number of cases. State health officials recommend reviewing the dashboard's epidemiologic curves tab for the most accurate representation of the state's COVID-19 spread.
Romanian doctors issue ‘cry of despair’ amid virus surge
Romanian doctors sent an open letter Wednesday titled “a cry of despair” as the country’s overwhelmed and deteriorated health care system copes with a record-setting surge of coronavirus infections and deaths.
The College of Physicians of Bucharest, a nongovernmental organization representing doctors in Romania’s capital, said in a letter addressed to Romanians that the medical system has “reached the limit” and that low vaccination rates reveal a “failure of trust” between doctors and the population.
“We are desperate because every day we lose hundreds of patients who die in Romanian hospitals,” the letter reads. “We are desperate, because, unfortunately, we have heard too many times: I can’t breathe.… I’m not vaccinated.”
Romania, a country of 19 million people, is the European Union member nation with the population second-least vaccinated against COVID-19. Just 34% of its adults are fully inoculated, compared to an EU average of 74%.
On Tuesday, Romania reported daily pandemic records of nearly 17,000 new confirmed cases and 442 deaths. Data from health authorities indicate that more than 90% of coronavirus patients who died last week were unvaccinated against COVID-19.
Washington’s coronavirus cases are down across all age groups, state says
Coronavirus cases in Washington are down across all age groups, including school-age children, the state Department of Health said Wednesday.
“We’re seeing some signs of improvement, but disease remains high across the state,” Lacy Fehrenbach, DOH’s deputy secretary for COVID-19 response, said during a news conference. “We’re encouraged that we’re going the right direction, but we have a long way to go to get through this delta wave and prepare for the winter respiratory virus season.”
As of Oct. 3, the state’s seven-day case rate was 234 infections per 100,000 people, Fehrenbach said. According to DOH’s coronavirus data dashboard, the current rate is similar to that of early January and down from a peak in early September of over 300 infections per 100,000 people.
A few weeks ago, Fehrenbach had reported pediatric infection rates were plateauing, but hadn’t yet started to dip.
COVID-19 hospital visitor rules: Families want more access
Banned from the Florida hospital room where her mother lay dying of COVID-19, Jayden Arbelaez pitched an idea to construction employees working nearby.
“Is there any way that I could get there?” Arbelaez asked them, pointing to a small third-story window of the hospital in Jacksonville.
The workers gave the 17-year-old a yellow vest, boots, a helmet and a ladder to climb onto a section of roof so she could look through the window and see her mother, Michelle Arbelaez, alive one last time.
A year and a half into a pandemic that has killed 700,000 people in the U.S., hospitals in at least a half-dozen states have loosened restrictions governing visits to COVID patients. Others, however, are standing firm, backed by studies and industry groups that indicate such policies have been crucial to keeping hospital-acquired infections low.
Some families of COVID-19 patients — and doctors — are asking hospitals to rethink that strategy, arguing that it denies people the right to be with loved ones at a crucial time.
“We need to get people thinking about that risk-benefit equation,” said Dr. Lauren Van Scoy, a pulmonary and critical care physician at Penn State who has researched the effects of limited visits on the relatives of COVID-19 patients. “The risk of getting COVID versus the risk of what we know these families are going through, the psychological and emotional harm.”
FDA grapples with timing of booster for J&J COVID-19 vaccine
The Food and Drug Administration said Wednesday it is wrestling with whether and when recipients of the single-shot Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine need another dose — at six months or as early as two months.
In an online review, FDA scientists didn’t reach a firm conclusion, citing shortcomings with J&J’s data, including little information on protection against the extra-contagious delta variant of the coronavirus.
The review comes ahead of meetings Thursday and Friday when an FDA advisory panel will recommend whether to back booster doses of both the J&J and Moderna vaccines. That’s one step in the government’s vaccine review process: Next week, the FDA will make a final decision on authorizing those boosters and then the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will debate who actually should get them.
Aiming for uniform recommendations, Moderna likewise asked the FDA to clear its booster dose at six months. But J&J complicated the decision by proposing a second shot over a range of two to six months.
Almost 20% of U.S. households lost entire savings in COVID pandemic
For many Americans, coronavirus lockdowns — with nowhere to go and nothing to do — were a time to save. But for almost 20% of U.S. households, the pandemic wiped out their entire financial cushion, a poll released Tuesday finds.
The share of respondents who said they lost all their savings jumped to 30% for those making less than $50,000 a year, the poll from NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health finds. Black and Latino households were also harder hit. The researchers surveyed a nationally representative sample of 3,616 U.S. adults ages 18 or older.
Avenel Joseph, a vice president at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, said many people dipped into their savings to cover child or health care expenses. “When crisis hits, or anything goes out of the norm — your child is sick, for example — you are sacrificing wages,” she said. Almost two-thirds of households earning less than $50,000 a year said they had trouble affording rent, medical care, and food.
About two-thirds of people surveyed said they received financial assistance from the government in the past few months. But 44% said those programs only “helped a little.”
Russia sets another daily COVID-19 deaths record
Russia on Wednesday reported another record of daily coronavirus deaths amid a slow vaccination rate and authorities’ reluctance to tighten restrictions.
The government coronavirus task force reported 984 coronavirus deaths over the past 24 hours, the pandemic’s new high. The country has repeatedly marked record daily death tolls over the past few weeks as infections soared to near all-time highs, with 28,717 confirmed new cases reported Wednesday.
The Kremlin has attributed the mounting contagion and deaths to a laggard vaccination rate. Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin said Tuesday that about 43 million Russians, or about 29% of the country’s nearly 146 million people, were fully vaccinated.
President Vladimir Putin has emphasized the need to speed up the vaccination rate, but he also has cautioned against forcing people to get the shots by applying administrative pressure. Experts have attributed the slow pace of vaccination to widespread vaccine skepticism and disinformation about COVID-19 vaccines.
‘Choice of jobs’: As COVID-19 takes a toll on nurses, some turn to lucrative travel jobs
Heather Norton had long wanted to travel the country, but her schedule — and salary — wouldn’t permit it.
So last month, Norton took the plunge, leaving her positions at a Raleigh, North Carolina, hospital and part-time nursing instructor to sign on as a travel nurse, combining the profession she loves with the change of scenery she craved, boosting her salary in the process.
“Once you decide you want to do travel nursing, recruiters are everywhere,” said Norton, who graduated from nursing school a decade ago. “You can have your choice of jobs in every state in the country. This gives me a lot more opportunity.”
As the COVID-19 pandemic has worn on, taxing nurses’ physical strength and emotional tolerance for bedside work, thousands of travel nursing companies have been luring away hospital staff and hospitals often have to then fill in the gaps using travel nurses, sometimes hiring back their own former employees at a much higher rate.
Parents sue Wisconsin schools after COVID sickens their children
When Shannon Jensen and Gina Kildahl sent their children back to their Wisconsin schools during the last school year, everyone had to wear masks. But when school resumed this fall, that was not the case — even as health experts warned that masks were necessary to keep a new highly contagious coronavirus variant from sweeping through classrooms.
Jensen and Kildahl both sent their sons to their elementary schools in masks anyway. Jensen’s son attends Rose Glen Elementary School in Waukesha, outside Milwaukee. Kildahl’s son goes to school about 200 miles away at Fall Creek Elementary, in between Green Bay and Minneapolis.
Just weeks into the new school year, both boys tested positive for the coronavirus. Lawsuits filed this month in two Wisconsin federal courts blame the schools’ lax policies on masks, quarantining and contact tracing.
Both the boards of education for the School District of Waukesha and the School District of Fall Creek had voted to end many of the COVID-19 mitigation policies that had been in place last year, according to the two lawsuits. That included getting rid of universal mask requirements.
The moves defied strategies recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, the lawsuits add. Jensen’s suit was filed in a federal court in eastern Wisconsin on Oct. 6. Kildahl’s lawsuit was filed on Monday in Wisconsin’s western district court.
‘It’s not Satanism’: Zimbabwe church leaders preach vaccines
Yvonne Binda stands in front of a church congregation, all in pristine white robes, and tells them not to believe what they’ve heard about COVID-19 vaccines.
“The vaccine is not linked to Satanism,” she says. The congregants, members of a Christian Apostolic church in the southern African nation of Zimbabwe, are unmoved. But when Binda, a vaccine campaigner and member of an Apostolic church herself, promises them soap, buckets and masks, there are enthusiastic shouts of “Amen!”
Apostolic groups that infuse traditional beliefs into a Pentecostal doctrine are among the most skeptical in Zimbabwe when it comes to COVID-19 vaccines, with an already strong mistrust of modern medicine. Many followers put faith in prayer, holy water and anointed stones to ward off disease or cure illnesses.
The congregants Binda addressed in the rural area of Seke sang about being protected by the holy spirit, but have at least acknowledged soap and masks as a defense against the coronavirus. Binda is trying to convince them to also get vaccinated — and that’s a tough sell.
‘We’ve lost the war’: Idaho doctor says COVID is there to stay as state adds more cases, deaths
With the pandemic in its 19th month, Idaho intensive care units still have high numbers of COVID-19 patients.
As of Thursday, there were 185 COVID-19 patients in ICUs at Idaho hospitals, according to data from the Department of Health and Welfare. And there were 705 patients hospitalized with confirmed or suspected COVID-19.
Health experts have long argued that if the state’s and/or the nation’s vaccination rate did not reach a high enough level, COVID-19 would become endemic, meaning it would be regularly found and not eradicated. On Tuesday, Dr. Steven Nemerson, chief clinical officer at Saint Alphonsus Health System, told reporters at a Health and Welfare briefing that the virus is here to stay.
“Today I’m here to tell you that we’ve lost the war,” Nemerson said. “The reason it is here to stay is because we cannot vaccinate enough of the public to fully eradicate the disease. And absent being able to do that … we now need to move into the phase of recognizing that COVID is going to be a disease to be managed for the long-term future.”
As of Tuesday, 53.3% of the state’s eligible population (12 and older) is vaccinated against COVID-19, lower than the nationwide average of 66%.
Catch up on the past 24 hours
"We’ve lost the war" — or have we? In the words of one Idaho hospital official, COVID-19 is here to stay "because we cannot vaccinate enough of the public." But the bigger arms race between us and the virus is just beginning, scientists say in this look at what the future holds, and we still have powerful weapons to bring to the fight.
Moderna's half-dose booster shot will juice up people's virus-fighting antibodies, an FDA review says, but there's still plenty of suspense heading into this week's meetings on Moderna and J&J boosters.
Florida fined one of its own counties $3.5 million yesterday for mandating vaccines, raising the noise level as Republican governors undercut President Joe Biden's vaccine mandates before they're even announced.
Two boys went to school with unmasked classmates and fell ill with COVID-19. Their parents' response: They sued the schools.
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