Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Tuesday, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.
Prospects have faded further for new coronavirus financial relief as the federal government remains at a stalemate. Many Senate Republicans are rejecting a proposal from the White House, and members of the U.S. House of Representatives have been told not to expect any action this week.
In our own Washington, more than a dozen movie theaters will reopen at 25% capacity this Friday, after the governor’s newly revised Phase 2 guidelines gave them the go-ahead to do so. But the state is still struggling with several outbreaks, including on the University of Washington’s Greek Row, where more than 200 infections have been confirmed.
Throughout Tuesday, on this page, we’ll post updates on the pandemic and its effects on the Seattle area, the Pacific Northwest and the world. Updates from Monday are here, and all our coronavirus coverage can be found here.
Hawaii to stop using online program after parent complaints
HONOLULU — Hawaii’s public schools will stop using a distance learning program after parents complained about racist and sexist content.
The state Department of Education completed a review of Acellus Learning Accelerator and reviewers recommended discontinuing its use as a primary curriculum resource “due to its inconsistency in quality and rigor,” Superintendent Christina Kishimoto said in a letter to parents on Monday.
The department “recognizes the curriculum does contain content that reviewers found acceptable and aligned to standards, and will be working with schools that use Acellus to identify and leverage such content, as appropriate,” the letter said.
Acellus representatives didn’t return phone messages from The Associated Press Monday and Tuesday.
Schools across the nation use Acellus, according to the Missouri-based company.
Parental complaints have prompted schools in other states to drop the program.
Pandemic leaves American Samoa residents stranded, homesick
PAGO PAGO, American Samoa — Makerita Iosefo Vaʻa hasn’t been home for nearly eight months — the longest she’s ever been away from American Samoa.
She longs for the breezes that cool island humidity and the ocean sounds and smells that permeate her home in the village of Tula. She also misses the food that’s impossible to recreate in Tracy, California, where the coronavirus pandemic has left her and her husband stranded.
“Every time I talk about it, I just cry,” she said.
Vaʻa left the U.S. territory in the Pacific in February with her husband for medical treatment. They planned to fly home in March from San Francisco but decided to postpone after hearing a security worker at the airport had contracted the virus.
Since then, they haven’t been able to leave because American Samoa Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga closed the territory on March 13 to protect those on the islands from COVID-19 — and it hasn’t reported any cases.
“The interests of the 60,000 residents on-island and protecting their lives outweighs the interest of the 600 or more residents stranded in the United States,” said Iulogologo Joseph Pereira, chairman of the territorial government COVID-19 task force. “As the governor has continuously pointed out, more healthcare facilities are available in Hawaii and mainland states that they can access if they contract the virus.”
Northwest Flower & Garden Festival cancels 2021 event
The Northwest Flower & Garden Festival, which is held annually at the Washington State Convention Center, has canceled its 2021 festivities because of concerns surrounding the coronavirus pandemic, organizers announced this week.
The festival cited the state's current limitations on large public gatherings and the "continuing uncertainty" around COVID-19. The show, which usually showcases display gardens, seminars and workshops, was scheduled for Feb. 17 though 21, a statement from the organization said.
"Though we have been working diligently with local health authorities and our facilities to develop a safe action plan for a return to events, the current climate of the pandemic is not conducive to the operation of consumer and trade shows in the city of Seattle at this time," the statement said.
Festival organizers urged the public to stay tuned through the next several months for updates.
"We're committed to creating safe, successful and vibrant marketplaces for our consumers and exhibitors alike" the statement said, "and will do so in a virtual manner until the day when we can all meeting in person again!"
UW weighs ‘harsher’ response to Greek Row COVID-19 outbreak
The University of Washington could levy “harsher disciplinary actions” against UW’s Greek Row for a growing COVID-19 outbreak involving hundreds of students, UW officials said.
The school hasn’t yet cracked down, saying its options for controlling students’ off-campus behavior are limited, but officials are painting a clearer picture of what sanctions could be imposed, including fines and restrictions on campus involvement.
The consequences, so far, have come from within the Greek system. One fraternity is suspended and one is on probation for running afoul of rules put in place by the Interfraternity Council (IFC), a student-run body governing frats, according to IFC President Erik Johnson.
Johnson wouldn’t disclose specifics, but a spreadsheet on IFC’s website shows that Sigma Chi has been suspended and Beta Theta Pi is on probation.
Between Sept. 11 and Oct. 13, the UW confirmed infections in 242 students belonging to 10 sororities and seven fraternities. It’s Greek Row’s second COVID-19 outbreak; the first began in June and infected 154 students in 15 fraternity houses.
5 Washington counties to go to Phase 2 in Inslee’s 4-part reopening plan
OLYMPIA — Five counties east of the Cascade Mountains will advance to the second phase in Gov. Jay Inslee’s four-part reopening plan.
Those counties — Benton, Chelan, Douglas, Franklin and Yakima — have been stuck in a modified first phase, the most restrictive of Inslee’s emergency plan governing limits on businesses and social activities.
Inslee’s announcement Tuesday is the first large change since the governor this summer put his county-by-county plan on hold amid a spike in cases.
Still, Inslee himself in a news conference called it a “modest change,” noting that those five counties had already been in “phase 1.5.”
The five counties this summer represented some of the biggest COVID-19 hot spots in the state.
State confirms 1,740 new COVID-19 cases and 21 new deaths
State health officials reported 1,740 new COVID-19 cases in Washington since Oct. 9, and 21 new deaths.
The state Department of Health (DOH) was unable to update numbers on Monday, citing “data issues,” nor was it able to process the weekly file on COVID-19 cases, deaths, hospitalizations and testing. The latest numbers -- through Oct. 9 -- were published Oct. 10.
The update brings the state’s totals to 94,775 cases and 2,211 deaths, meaning that 2.3% of people diagnosed in Washington have died, according to the DOH. The data is as of 11:59 p.m. Monday.
Statewide, 2,123,908 COVID-19 tests have been administered as of Monday night.
In King County, the state’s most populous, state health officials have confirmed 24,297 diagnoses -- 492 more than last reported -- and 788 deaths.
Coronavirus reinfections are real but very, very rare
Reports of reinfection with the coronavirus evoke a nightmarish future: Repeat bouts of illness, impotent vaccines, unrelenting lockdowns — a pandemic without an end.
A case study published Monday, about a 25-year-old man in Nevada, has stoked those fears anew. The man, who was not named, became sicker the second time that he was infected with the virus, a pattern the immune system is supposed to prevent.
But these cases make the news precisely because they are rare, experts said: More than 38 million people worldwide have been infected with the coronavirus, and as of Monday, fewer than five of those cases have been confirmed by scientists to be reinfections.
“That’s tiny — it’s like a microliter-sized drop in the bucket, compared to the number of cases that have happened all over the world,” said Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at Columbia University in New York.
Coronavirus cases are rising in U.S., sparking worries that next big wave has begun
WASHINGTON — The United States’ coronavirus cases are rising again, driven by rapid transmission in Midwestern states and sparking fears that a forewarned wave of infections this fall and winter has begun.
For almost a month, new U.S. cases have been trending upward. On Monday, 17 states hit a new high in their seven-day average of case counts, and eight of those states hit records by Tuesday afternoon.
The rising numbers are especially concerning because they set the stage for an even greater surge this winter, when the virus will be helped by drier conditions and people spending more time indoors. The upward trend comes before the increased mingling of people expected to arrive with Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas.
The virus has become especially rampant in Midwestern states after dominating America’s coastal and urban areas this spring, according to data tracked by The Washington Post.
Proposal to hasten herd immunity grabs White House attention, appalls top scientists
WASHINGTON — Maverick scientists who call for allowing the coronavirus to spread freely at “natural” rates among healthy young people while keeping most aspects of the economy up and running have found an audience inside the White House and at least one state capitol.
The scientists met last week with Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Scott Atlas, a neuroradiologist who has emerged as an influential adviser to President Donald Trump on the pandemic.
When asked for comment, HHS referred a reporter to Azar’s subsequent Twitter statement about the meeting: “We heard strong reinforcement of the Trump Administration’s strategy of aggressively protecting the vulnerable while opening schools and the workplace.”
A senior administration official told reporters in a background briefing call Monday that the proposed strategy — which has been denounced by other infectious-disease experts and has been called “fringe” and “dangerous” by National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins — supports what has been Trump’s policy for months.
“We’re not endorsing a plan. The plan is endorsing what the president’s policy has been for months. The president’s policy — protect the vulnerable, prevent hospital overcrowding, and open schools and businesses — and he’s been very clear on that,” the official said.
Mountlake Terrace-based Premera to slash workforce by 8%
Premera Blue Cross, one of Washington state’s largest health insurers, will lay off 285 employees, or 8% of its 3,442-person workforce, starting Thursday because of economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, a spokesperson said.
The Mountlake Terrace-based not-for-profit insurer, which occupies 13% of the state’s health insurance marketplace, is trying to cut costs with the goal of making health plans for individuals and groups more affordable, spokesperson Dani Chung said in an email.
“While Premera remains strong financially, we recognize the tremendous toll the global pandemic has taken on the economy and many of our group and individual customers,” Chung wrote.
In response to questions about why Premera would lay off employees while its financial performance remains strong, Chung said that “affordability and lower costs are important to our customers, and Premera must continue to do all it can to meet that need and make healthcare more affordable.”
Wisconsin hits new daily records for virus cases, deaths
Wisconsin has hit a pair of grim coronavirus milestones, with record highs for positive cases and deaths reported Tuesday, on the eve of an overflow field hospital opening near Milwaukee.
The state Department of Health Services reported 3,279 confirmed new cases, breaking a record of 3,132 set just five days earlier. There were 34 deaths reported, also a new high, bringing the total number of people who have died to 1,508. To date, more than 155,000 people in Wisconsin have tested positive.
The 595 new cases per 100,000 people in Wisconsin over the past two weeks, which ranks fourth in the country for new cases per capita.
UK defends new restrictions as virus cases triple; critics say it’s too late
Britain’s government on Tuesday defended its new three-tier system of COVID-19 risks and restrictions, but critics suggested it was too little, too late amid reports that the government’s own scientific advisers had recommended tougher action three weeks ago.
Since then Britain’s daily number of new confirmed COVID-19 cases has more than tripled, with 17,234 further cases confirmed Tuesday. Infection rates are rising across all age groups and regions.
The highest infection rates are in the northeast and northwest, with more than 600 cases per 100,000 people in Liverpool and nearly 500 per 100,000 in Manchester, compared with fewer than 100 cases per 100,000 in many parts of London.
Americans less willing to be vaccinated, polling says
Just half of Americans would agree to be vaccinated if a free, approved vaccine were available now, according to recent polling.
The Gallup Panel polling results published Monday show a drop in vaccine trust since the summer. In July, 66 percent of Americans were willing to be vaccinated.
Gallup saw willingness to be vaccinated drop among Democrats but grow among Republicans since the summer. The percentage of women willing to be vaccinated also dropped.
The drop in support could reflect concern about politicization of the vaccine approval process and an overall drop in public confidence in a coronavirus vaccine, according to Gallup.
As researchers race to create vaccines and get them approved, confidence among Americans in vaccines’ safety and efficacy could be a significant hurdle to achieving herd immunity, the point at which so many people are immune to the novel coronavirus that it cannot readily spread in the community.
Dutch order bars, restaurants closed over pandemic fears
The Dutch government decided to close bars and restaurants as of Wednesday to counter the sustained surge in coronavirus cases across the nation.
In the week ending Tuesday, the new cases stood at 43,903 in the nation of 17.3 million, an increase of some 60% over the preceding week. People ending up in the intensive care units shot up to 192 from 121, and coronavirus deaths reached 150 compared to 89 the week earlier. The Amsterdam and Rotterdam regions are the current hotbeds of the virus in the Netherlands.
France launches flu vaccine campaign amid COVID-19 crisis
With coronavirus spreading in the country, France launched a flu vaccine campaign Tuesday in an effort to avoid facing two epidemics at the same time.
Health Minister Olivier Veran said France ordered 30% more flu vaccine than last year, but French health authorities said they fear increased demand due to the COVID-19 pandemic could lead to flu vaccine shortages.
They advised medical staff to prioritize people over 65, pregnant women and those suffering from respiratory illness.
Last winter, about 52% of people over age 65 received the flu vaccine, according to French health authorities. This year, French authorities have set a goal to reach up to 75%.
The campaign was launched as French health authorities reporting COVID-19 patients now occupy more than 42% of intensive care unit beds in the Paris region.
Beth's Cafe, of 12-egg omelet fame, closes temporarily due to pandemic
Beth's Cafe, famed for its 12-egg omelets, late-night liveliness and drawing-covered walls, is closing temporarily, another victim of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"It's not economically feasible working at 50% occupancy for our particular business model," operators of the 66-year-old destination diner posted on social media Tuesday. "Our food and our customer habits are not accustomed to takeout or delivery. Hard because we love what we do and we love our community."
The 24/7 Green Lake diner, which was once considered one of the smokiest restaurants in Seattle, opened in 1954 as a nickel slots gambling parlor. Long known by locals and their visitors, it got a taste of national fame when its giant omelets were featured on the Food Network and Travel Channel.
Beth's emphasized the closing is temporary and it will reopen as "soon as feasible."
Taiwan reports first coronavirus case from China since February
Taiwan says it has diagnosed coronavirus in a Taiwanese citizen returning from China for the first time since February.
The patient reported having a runny nose and cough to quarantine officials upon his arrival in Taiwan on Sunday, Central Epidemic Command Center spokesperson Chuang Jen-hsiang said Tuesday.
Chuang said the man had been working in the eastern province of Jiangsu, which, according to China’s National Health Commission, has not reported any recent cases of local transmission of the virus.
Taiwan took strong measures to arrest the spread of COVID-19 but has since relaxed many of them to allow schools and businesses to reopen. The island has reported 530 cases, the vast majority of them brought from outside, with seven deaths and 34 people currently in treatment.
More masks, less play: Europe tightens rules as virus surges
Governments across Europe are ratcheting up restrictions in an effort to contain the spread of the coronavirus as the continent recorded its highest weekly number of new infections since the start of the pandemic.
The World Health Organization said Tuesday there were more than 700,000 new COVID-19 cases reported in Europe last week, a jump of 34% compared to the previous week, with Britain, France, Russia and Spain accounting for more than half of new infections recorded in the region. The U.N. health agency said deaths were also up 16% in the region last week compared to the previous week.
In response to the latest numbers, Italy and France are restricting parties and putting limits on restaurants and bars, measures that Slovenia is also considering.
How long can I expect a COVID-19 illness to last?
How long can I expect a COVID-19 illness to last?
It depends. Most coronavirus patients have mild to moderate illness and recover quickly. Older, sicker patients tend to take longer to recover. That includes those who are obese, or have high blood pressure and other chronic diseases.
The World Health Organization says recovery typically takes two to six weeks. One U.S. study found that around 20% of non-hospitalized individuals ages 18 to 34 still had symptoms at least two weeks after becoming ill. The same was true for nearly half of people age 50 and older.
Among those sick enough to be hospitalized, a study in Italy found 87% were still experiencing symptoms two months after getting sick. Lingering symptoms included fatigue and shortness of breath.
Dr. Jay Varkey, an Emory University infectious diseases specialist said, “Once you get over the acute illness, it’s not necessarily over."
Hong Kong orchestra quarantines after member contracts COVID
About 100 members of the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra are in quarantine after one of its members, a bass clarinet player, tested positive for the coronavirus.
The Hong Kong orchestra had begun its new season of performances last Friday with a sold-out socially distanced concert.
In a statement Tuesday, the orchestra said it would cancel four upcoming performances and issue refunds to those who had bought tickets.
Poll: New angst for caregivers in time of COVID-19
The coronavirus pandemic has thrust many Americans into the role of caring for an older or disabled loved one for the first time, a new poll finds.
The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll finds that 17% of Americans say they are providing ongoing caregiving, part of an informal volunteer corps. About 1 in 10 caregivers has begun since the virus outbreak, and about half of those say they are providing care specifically because of the pandemic.
The fear of unwittingly passing on the virus has become a major preoccupation for caregivers. In the poll, 44% were extremely or very concerned about risks to the person they care for, versus 28% who said the same about their own risks.
Which was the saddest pandemic day of them all?
It varies depending on the individual, of course. But researchers pinpointed one very common day with their Hedometer, which parses word choices across social media to reveal a measure of humans' well-being. The things we can learn are fascinating as the Hedometer's stockpile of data grows to towering highs.
How much screen time is too much? Pandemic throws new wobble into parents' balancing act
Northgate mother Karla Petersen had a gut-level feeling that staring at screens all day was harmful as she tried to help seven kids manage up to 32 separate daily log-ons to schooling platforms. So she redesigned school, supplementing with her own on-the-fly adventures.
As families struggle to balance their kids' relationships with screens, pediatricians are backing away from hard-and-fast rules. Here's what the research says, and what pediatricians and educators advise.
Catch up on the past 24 hours
Creating a vaccine won't mean "problem solved," because getting it to 230 million Americans is no small order. Here's what will need to happen, and who's likely to get it first. Prepare for confusion, because you may get a choice of several so-so vaccines — with little way of knowing which one is best. Meanwhile, a major vaccine trial has been paused after a participant fell ill.
Sounders forward Raul Ruidiaz has tested positive while playing with Peru's national team, and the Sounders' match tomorrow has been postponed.
COVID-19 was worse the second time for an otherwise healthy 25-year-old man whose positive tests came more than a month apart. The Nevada man's hospitalization is bad news for people hoping one infection will make them immune, scientists say.
AMC and Cinemark movie theaters will reopen this week in the Seattle area under new guidelines. Here's our updated look at what you can and can't do in each county.
"Well done, Seattle!" Rant & Rave features a reader who was cheerfully surprised by a coronavirus testing experience (here's where you can get tested, by the way). But another reader has a less sunny message for unmasked parents.
What a treat: South Seattle neighbors are keeping Halloween traditions alive with a map of houses that offer "candy chutes" and other socially distant candy delivery options. You can add your house if you'd like.
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