Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Thursday, Oct. 15, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.
A new coronavirus economic relief bill is unlikely to be finalized before the 2020 presidential election, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Wednesday.
And big news from this Washington: The state’s top public health officer, Dr. Kathy Lofy, announced Wednesday she plans to step down at year’s end. Her announcement comes five months after the state’s Secretary of Health, John Wiesman, announced he was leaving his position to take a job at the University of North Carolina. Both said their decisions were unrelated to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Throughout Thursday, 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 Wednesday are here, and all our coronavirus coverage can be found here.
How to handle fights over masks is the latest training for retail workers
Many retail workers will receive a new sort of preparation for this year’s holiday season: training on how to manage conflicts with customers who resist mask-wearing, social distancing and store capacity limits.
The National Retail Federation, a trade group representing about 16,000 retailers, said Thursday that it had teamed with the Crisis Prevention Institute, a company focused on reducing workplace violence, to help retail workers learn how to prevent and de-escalate shopper disputes that emerge from pandemic restrictions.
The training puts a spotlight on the unexpected challenges that store workers have been forced to grapple with during the pandemic.
Most retailers were early to require masks and distancing in stores, but some shoppers have flouted the rules, putting employees in uncomfortable and sometimes frightening positions. Altercations with belligerent customers have regularly gone viral on social media this year and have even led to violence, spooking staff and other shoppers just as stores try to drum up foot traffic.
In the online training, “one of the major scenarios is around an employee asking a customer to wear a mask, and he reacts,” said Adam Lukoskie, vice president of the NRF Foundation, the trade group’s nonprofit arm.
Susan Driscoll, president of the Crisis Prevention Institute, said the online training program and accompanying COVID-19 Customer Conflict Prevention credential are “really focused on how to engage your thinking brain over your emotional brain.” It teaches employees how to recognize what stage of a crisis a consumer may be in, and what they can do to defuse the situation, she said.
“It is very practical,” Driscoll said.
After COVID-19 outbreak, SUNY Oneonta president departs
ONEONTA, N.Y. — The State University of New York at Oneonta on Thursday announced its president had resigned to “pursue other opportunities,” following a coronavirus outbreak that forced the school to switch to all-remote classes for the rest of the semester.
The central New York school said in a statement Dennis Craig would temporarily take on the role formerly held by Barbara Jean Morris and that a search for a permanent president would be starting soon.
SUNY Oneonta was the first campus in the state’s 64-institution system that had to shut down because of virus cases.
It switched to all-remote learning on Sept. 3, after hundreds of virus cases had broken out. Student body enrollment is above 6,700, according to the school’s website. Five students were suspended in connection to large parties.
Remdesivir fails to prevent COVID-19 deaths in large trial
Remdesivir, the only antiviral drug authorized for treatment of COVID-19 in the United States, fails to prevent deaths among patients, according to a study of more than 11,000 people in 30 countries sponsored by the World Health Organization.
The data, which were posted online Thursday, have not yet been peer-reviewed or published in a scientific journal.
“This puts the issue to rest — there is certainly no mortality benefit,” said Dr. Ilan Schwartz, an infectious-disease physician at the University of Alberta in Canada.
But Dr. Peter Chin-Hong, an infectious-disease expert at the University of California, San Francisco, was more circumspect.
A huge trial like this one, conducted in various countries with various health care systems, can lead to inconsistent treatment protocols whose effects can be difficult to analyze, he said.
That study, too, did not find that remdesivir prevented deaths in patients with COVID-19. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, acknowledged at the time that remdesivir was not a “knockout” drug.
Washington state unemployment claims hit 10-week high as virus anxieties weigh on job market
New unemployment claims in Washington state jumped to their highest level since early August as uncertainties over COVID-19 continue to blunt a jobs market recovery.
Washingtonians filed 22,324 new, or “initial,” claims for regular unemployment insurance last week, a 44.1% increase from the prior week, the state Employment Security Department (ESD) reported Thursday. The nation saw 898,000 new claims last week, up 6.3% from a week earlier.
Washington’s surge in claims, which rose to the highest level since the week ending Aug. 1, comes amid signs that the state’s economic recovery may be slowing.
On Wednesday, the ESD reported that the state added just 2,400 jobs in September, down from a revised 69,000 in August and 62,400 in July. The state’s unemployment rate for September was 7.8%, down from a revised rate of 8.4% in August.
Some of the state’s surge in jobless claims reflects the usual end-of-summer dip in seasonal employment, said Anneliese Vance-Sherman, an ESD regional labor economist who covers the Seattle area. Historically, initial jobless claims start rising in October and peak in December, she said.
But she and other economists pointed to several pandemic-related trends that could be contributing to the uptick in claims as well as to slowing job growth.
Tourists return to Hawaii amid ever-changing pandemic rules
HONOLULU — Angela Margos was among the first passengers in San Francisco to get on a plane headed for Hawaii, where tourists beginning Thursday will no longer be required to self-quarantine upon arrival.
“Vacation, peace of mind,” said Margos, a nurse from San Carlos, California, of why she’s flying to Hawaii. “I need time to relax, unwind.”
A new pre-travel testing program will allow visitors in Hawaii who test negative for COVID-19 to come to Hawaii and avoid the two weeks of mandatory quarantine — a measure that’s been in place for all arriving passengers for most of the year.
The state-run testing program is an effort to stem the devastating downturn the pandemic has had on Hawaii’s tourism-based economy.
Margos ran into hiccups with getting her test. She first did it at the hospital where she works, only to find out it wasn’t an approved site for United Airlines and the state of Hawaii. She then paid $105 for a drive-thru test, but was later informed there was an error with that test.
Fact check: Trump misquotes study on masks and coronavirus
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump twice botched the findings of a federal study on Thursday as he brushed off the importance of wearing a mask to prevent COVID-19.
Trump also was off the mark in stating that Democratic rival Joe Biden and running mate Kamala Harris never expressed best wishes when he came down with the disease. They did.
A look at those remarks before Trump and Biden take separate stages in the evening for competing town hall-style events.
TRUMP, on his rallies: “What I do is outside is a big thing. And if you look at those, people, they really are wearing masks. I’ll tell you, I looked last night in Iowa — there were many, many people wearing masks. But then you see CDC comes out with a statement that 85% of the people wearing masks catch it.” — Fox Business interview.
TRUMP, looking out over his crowd: “Look at all the masks. You know, they keep saying, ‘Nobody wears a mask, wear the mask.’ Although then they come out with things today. Did you see CDC? That 85% of the people wearing a mask catch it, OK?” — remarks at rally in Greenville, North Carolina.
THE FACTS: Not OK. The study cited, by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, did not find that 85% of mask wearers catch COVID-19. If that were the case, the majority of Americans would be infected.
State confirms 676 new COVID-19 cases and 11 new deaths
State health officials reported 676 new COVID-19 cases in Washington since Oct. 14, and 11 new deaths.
The update brings the state’s totals to 96,185 cases and 2,232 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. Wednesday.
The DOH also reported that 7,956 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the virus-- 73 new hospitalizations since Wednesday.
Statewide, 2,169,192 COVID-19 tests have been administered as of Wednesday night.
In King County, the state’s most populous, state health officials have confirmed 24,610 COVID-19 diagnoses -- 144 more than last reported -- and 791 deaths.
Jewish leaders call COVID rules ‘blatantly anti-Semitic’
Three Rockland County Jewish congregations are suing New York state and Gov. Andrew Cuomo, saying he engaged in a “streak of anti-Semitic discrimination” with a recent crackdown on religious gatherings to reduce the state’s coronavirus infection rate.
The lawsuit filed in Manhattan federal court Wednesday accused the Democrat of making negative, false, and discriminatory statements about the Jewish Orthodox community as he imposed new coronavirus measures to counter the state’s rising infection rate in so-called “red zone” areas.
The new measures limiting the size of religious gatherings in the COVID-19 hot spots to 25% capacity, or a maximum of 10 people have prompted several federal lawsuits, including two in Brooklyn and one in Albany.
Israel eases some lockdown measures as virus cases decline
Israel decided on Thursday to relax some of the restrictions imposed during a monthlong nationwide lockdown that was meant to drive down a raging coronavirus outbreak.
Israel imposed a second nationwide lockdown on Sept. 18 as the country was seeing surging case numbers, shutting down schools, restaurants and hotels, among other businesses, and at the time it had one of the world’s worst outbreaks, measured for its population of 9 million people.
During the lockdown infections dropped from highs of 9,000 new virus cases a day to around 2,000 new infections daily.
‘Sweet 16’ party infects 37 with coronavirus, forces 270 to quarantine
A "Sweet 16" party at a swanky inn on Long Island in September left 37 people infected with the coronavirus and forced over 270 to quarantine, according to New York officials.
More than 80 people attended the Sept. 25 party, well above the 50-person limit imposed by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo as part of New York’s broader effort to keep the virus at bay.
As a result, Cuomo said Wednesday, what was planned as a celebration turned into a so-called superspreading event.
“They had a Sweet 16 party,” the governor said at a news conference. “How sweet. Yeah, it wasn’t that sweet. Dozens of people from the Sweet 16 party got sick. It just shows you how one event can generate so many cases.”
Miller Place Inn has been temporarily closed and its owners, who had previously been warned about event size limits, were fined, said Suffolk County officials.
China fires 2 health officials following new virus outbreak
A hospital president and the director of the health commission in the northern Chinese city of Qingdao have been fired after China’s latest coronavirus outbreak, authorities said Thursday.
Health Commission Director Sui Zhenhua and Deng Kai, president of the Qingdao hospital linked to the new cases, were placed under further investigation, according to a Thursday post on the city government’s official microblog.
Authorities ordered testing of all 9 million people in the city after a total of 12 cases, including those not displaying symptoms, were discovered over the weekend, accounting for China’s first local transmissions in about two months.
Months into pandemic, Iran sees worst wave of virus deaths
Iran is confronting a new surge of coronavirus infections that is filling hospitals and cemeteries alike. The single-day death toll hit a record high three times this week.
Eight months after the pandemic first stormed Iran, pummeling its already weakened economy and sickening officials at the highest levels of its government, authorities have not been able to prevent its spread.
On social media, Iranians describe chaotic scenes at overwhelmed hospitals. On state TV, gravediggers can be seen breaking new ground in vast cemeteries for virus victims, as the daily death toll shattered records Sunday, Monday and Wednesday.
From miniature houses to a one-room schoolhouse, Seattle Times readers show off pandemic projects
From miniature houses to model ships, art pieces, sewing projects and more, Seattle Times readers are creating projects during the pandemic filled with creativity, dedication and love.
COVID spike arrives late, hits hard in rural Kansas county
The pandemic arrived late to Gove County in rural northwestern Kansas but last week the county saw some of the state’s biggest spikes in COVID-19 cases and saw its sheriff sent to a hospital an hour away because the local one had no more coronavirus beds.
The county’s 22-bed medical center only has a handful of beds dedicated to coronavirus patients and not enough staff to monitor the most serious cases around the clock.
At the local nursing home, most of the 30-plus residents tested positive with six have died since late September. Besides the sheriff, the county’s emergency management director, the hospital CEO and more than 50 medical staff have tested positive.
Even so, some leaders are reluctant to stir up ill will by talking about how often friends and neighbors wear masks or questioning how officials responded.
EU chief leaves summit to go into quarantine
European Union chief Ursula von der Leyen was forced to leave an EU summit Thursday shortly after it opened because one of her close staffers tested positive for COVID-19.
She said that she herself tested negative but “as a precaution I am immediately leaving the European Council to go into self-isolation.”
Von der Leyen had already been mingling with other EU leaders ahead of the formal opening of the two-day summit.
Some European officials use virus as a cover to target Roma
In Bulgaria, Roma communities were sprayed with disinfectant from crop dusters this spring as coronavirus cases surged in the country. In Slovakia, their villages were the only ones where the army conducted testing. And across Central and Eastern Europe, reports of police using excessive force against Roma spiked as officers were deployed to enforce lockdowns in their towns.
Human rights activists and experts say local officials in several countries with significant Roma populations have used the pandemic to unlawfully target the minority group, which is Europe’s largest and has faced centuries of severe discrimination. With COVID-19 cases now resurging across the continent, some experts fear the repression will return, too.
To make matters worse, activists say such discrimination often draws little opposition from other Europeans and the Roma are reluctant to speak about it, fearing repercussions.
Harris suspends travel after staffer tests positive for COVID-19
Vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris will suspend in-person events until Monday after two people associated with the campaign tested positive for coronavirus, Joe Biden’s presidential campaign said Thursday.
The campaign said Biden had no exposure, though he and Harris spent several hours campaigning together in Arizona on Oct. 8.
Biden's campaign said neither of the infected staffers had contact with Biden or Harris, but that Harris would suspend travel for several days out of an abundance of caution.
Americans critical of Trump's handling of virus, new poll finds
Less than three weeks from Election Day, majorities of Americans are highly critical of President Donald Trump’s handling of both the coronavirus pandemic and his own illness, according to a new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.
The survey also shows that few Americans have high levels of trust in the information the White House has released about Trump’s health.
Trump’s illness and hospitalization for COVID-19 has focused the critical final stretch of the presidential campaign on the pandemic with Democratic challenger Joe Biden saying Trump has mismanaged the pandemic and cost American lives.
The AP-NORC poll shows 65% believe Trump has not taken the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S. seriously enough. The poll, which was taken a week after Trump disclosed his own COVID-19 diagnosis, also shows that 54% of Americans disapprove with how the White House handled the episode.
When there’s a COVID-19 outbreak at a hotel, who gets to know and when?
Salish Lodge guests were furious that they weren't told of multiple workers' positive tests for more than a week. The hotel says it followed county health protocols, but the loss of trust has made it a case study for other local hoteliers.
Public Health – Seattle & King County confirmed Tuesday that six guests at the Residence Inn by Marriott Seattle Downtown/Lake Union have tested positive for COVID-19. The hotel is working with Public Health – Seattle & King County to protect workers and guests. The infected guests have been isolated and there has been no evidence suggesting that the guests were exposed at the hotel or that any other guests have been exposed, according to Vance Kawakami, an epidemiologist with Public Health – Seattle & King County.
Although the hotel’s general manager stated that he cannot comment due to guest privacy concerns, he asserted, and Public Health - Seattle & King County confirmed, that there are no cases among hotel employees as of Oct. 13.
With no high school football, a frustrated trainer staged his own game, violating Washington’s COVID-19 protocols
Tracy Ford's Tacoma mini-camp and showcase game two weekends ago, videotaped for college recruiters, featured up to 112 top players and well-known guest coaches.
The only problem: It broke Washington's COVID-19 safety rules.
The event thrust the wants of high school athletes — and sometimes parents, coaches and trainers — against fears about spreading a coronavirus that’s killed more than 215,000 Americans and sickened 8 million. While Ford said no players have since reported symptoms of COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus — and had self-quarantined one week beforehand, with pregame temperature checks — only frequent testing after possible exposure can identify asymptomatic cases.
When it comes to athletics, enforcement varies from county to county and even town to town.
Seattle-area man is the third person in the U.S. confirmed to have been infected twice with coronavirus
A Seattle-area man is the third person in the nation confirmed to have been infected twice with the coronavirus.
His doctors were able to get the most detailed look yet at how the body responds to a second infection.
They've since confirmed another local reinfection, and expect more in coming months.
Quarantine Corner: Things to do while staying home
Pandemic projects: Wow, readers, you’ve been wildly creative! Check out a Bellevue teacher’s charming one-room schoolhouse, two teens’ couture-inspired dresses, gorgeous homemade guitars and much more.
Halloween can still be a scream with these face-mask-friendly costumes for kids and adults.
Watch ballet twirl back. PNB's 7-month closure is ending with an intimate online program that starts tonight.
Catch up on the past 24 hours
The health officer who has helped lead Washington state's COVID-19 response is stepping down. "It's the right time for me personally," Dr. Kathy Lofy says.
President Donald Trump's son Barron had the coronavirus, but the 14-year-old didn't fall ill, first lady Melania Trump wrote yesterday as she chronicled her own "roller coaster" experience with COVID-19.
Sixty-one people who went to a spin studio got COVID-19 — even though they followed health guidelines.
COVID-19 is roaring back in Europe, which thought it had tamed the virus. England tightened restrictions on millions of people today, and French police searched top officials' homes in an investigation of how they've handled the pandemic.
Alert, fellow word nerds: Coronaspeak has gone viral, and the English language may never be the same. Quarantini is kind of catchy, but we've had some spectacular flops.
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