Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Friday, Oct. 16, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.
Unemployment claims in Washington state jumped to their highest level since early August as anxieties about the pandemic continue to weigh on the job market.
Meanwhile, the only antiviral drug authorized to treat COVID-19 in the United States, remdesivir, fails to prevent death, according to a new study sponsored by the World Health Organization.
Throughout Friday, 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 Thursday are here, and all our coronavirus coverage can be found here.
Melbourne ready to ease rules with 1 new case
The state’s coronavirus death toll remains at 816 and the Australian total is 904.
Melbourne residents are expecting COVID-19 restrictions to be eased on Sunday but it is unclear how much freedom will be regained.
Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews has indicated the changes would be more “in the social space,” prompting pleas from business operators for relief from restrictions that once included an overnight curfew.
White House: Tennessee mask mandate ‘must be implemented’
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The White House quietly told Tennessee early this week that “a statewide mask mandate must be implemented” to curb its growing spread of COVID-19, strong instructions that the White House and governor did not discuss publicly before the report emerged in a records request.
The Oct. 11 state report for Tennessee, where Republican Gov. Bill Lee has let counties decide whether to require masks in public, first came to light in a records request by WUOT-FM. The Associated Press obtained the report from the Knox County Health Department afterward.
“A statewide mask mandate must be implemented to stop the increasing spread among residents in rural and urban areas of Tennessee,” the item in a list of recommendations states.
President Donald Trump has repeatedly said he was not in favor of mask mandates, but the recommendations of the task force and public health agencies, like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, have often been at odds with the White House’s rhetoric.
The report takes the strongest tone to date in urging Tennessee to act, though Lee has made it clear for months that he did not think masks should be required across the state.
New virus cases boost count to 53 at Fairbanks senior home
The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services said no deaths have occurred, and one resident is hospitalized, The Anchorage Daily News reported Wednesday.
“An isolation unit has been set up at the home so all positive residents can be cared for in one area by staff who have recovered and were cleared to return to work,” the health department said.
The state operates six Pioneer Homes serving nearly 500 Alaska residents ages 60 and older in Anchorage, Palmer, Juneau, Sitka, Ketchikan and Fairbanks.
Most of the new cases in the Fairbanks home were identified over the weekend, while the outbreak appeared to be contained to two areas within the home, emails sent to families said.
Puerto Rico to relax COVID-19 restrictions, extend curfew
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Puerto Rico’s governor on Friday announced that more people will be able to visit restaurants, gyms, theaters and casinos as the U.S. territory relaxes some pandemic-related restrictions.
In addition, public transportation including buses and trains will resume service next week, and ferries will be allowed to only take tourists to the popular nearby island of Culebra.
A 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew remains in place, and face masks continue to be mandatory.
“We cannot lower our guard,” said Gov. Wanda Vázquez.
Starting Saturday, capacity at restaurants will increase from 50% to 55%, while capacity at theaters, gyms and casinos will increase from 25% to 30%. Business owners had been demanding that capacity increase by at least 60% given an economic crisis that the pandemic has worsened.
State DOH confirms 709 new COVID-19 cases in Washington, 7 new deaths
State health officials confirmed 709 new COVID-19 cases in Washington on Friday afternoon, and also reported seven new deaths.
The update brings the state’s totals to 96,894 cases and 2,239 deaths, meaning that 2.3% of people diagnosed in Washington have died, according to the DOH's coronavirus data dashboard. The data is as of 11:59 p.m. Thursday.
The DOH also reported that 7,971 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the virus.
Statewide, 2,194,254 COVID-19 tests have been administered as of Thursday night.
In King County, the state’s most populous, state health officials have confirmed 24,769 COVID-19 diagnoses and 792 deaths.
Pandemic driving world’s children back to work, jeopardizing gains
JOTOLCHEN, Mexico (AP) — The coronavirus pandemic is threatening the future of a generation of the world’s children, depriving them of schooling and sending them to work. Across the developing world, two decades of gains against child labor are eroding.
With classrooms shuttered and parents losing their jobs, children are trading their ABC’s for the D of drudgery: Reading, writing and times tables are giving way to sweat, blisters and fading hopes for a better life.
Instead of going to school, children in Kenya are grinding rocks in quarries. Tens of thousands of children in India have poured into farm fields and factories. Across Latin America, kids are making bricks, building furniture and clearing brush, once after-school jobs that are now full-time work.
These children and adolescents are earning pennies or at best a few dollars a day to help put food on the table.
“Child labor becomes a survival mechanism for many families.” says Astrid Hollander, UNICEF’s head of education in Mexico.
Governments are still analyzing how many students have dropped out of their school systems, but with school closures affecting nearly 1.5 billion children around the world, UNICEF estimates the numbers could be in the millions.
Experts say the longer their education is put on hold, the less likely children will return to school. The ramifications, especially for those already lagging, can be lifelong — narrowed job opportunities, lower potential earnings and greater likelihood of poverty and early pregnancy.
“The repercussions could be felt in economies and societies for decades to come,” Henrietta Fore, executive director of UNICEF, the U.N. children’s agency, warned in August. For at least 463 million children whose schools closed, there is no possibility of remote learning.
It is, she said, a “global education emergency.”
Judge refuses to block New York COVID-19 restrictions on religious gatherings
A federal judge has refused to block Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s order limiting worship to 10 congregants in communities seeing spikes in coronavirus infections.
Ruling in a lawsuit brought by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn, U.S. District Court Judge Nicholas Garaufis said in an order Friday that even though the rules clearly harmed religious groups, it is not in the public interest to block the restrictions right now if they might be helping prevent a wave of new infections.
“In fact, if the court issues an injunction and the state is correct about the acuteness of the threat currently posed by hotspot neighborhoods, the result could be avoidable death on a massive scale like New Yorkers experienced in the spring,” Garaufis wrote.
The ruling doesn’t end the lawsuit, but denies the church’s request for a temporary injunction.
The judge said if the diocese ends up ultimately winning, the worst that would happen to the diocese’s churches is that 26 of them “will have experienced extra weeks with severely curtailed in-person ceremonies.”
Virus surges in key battleground states as election nears
Rising coronavirus cases in key presidential battleground states a little more than two weeks before Election Day are the latest worry for election officials and voters fearing chaos or exposure to the virus at polling places despite months of planning.
The prospect of poll workers backing out at the last minute because they are infected, quarantined or scared of getting sick has local election officials in Midwest states such as Iowa and Wisconsin opening more early voting locations, recruiting backup workers and encouraging voters to plan for long lines and other inconveniences.
Confirmed virus cases and COVID-19 deaths are on the rise in the swing states of Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Wisconsin.
Pubs, central to cultural life in Northern Ireland, close to control COVID-19
BELFAST — Bittles, a destination whiskey bar in the center of Belfast, was firebombed during the decades of sectarian violence known as the Troubles.
Proprietor John Bittles recalls being warned by police that he should get a weapon to protect himself, that militants might show up ready for a shooting.
The coronavirus era, he said, has been worse.
“This stuff with COVID has actually had a bigger detrimental effect than all that there,” said Bittles, 59. “Maybe it’s because I was younger and it went over my head, but this here is completely unprecedented times.”
The roughly 1,200 pubs of Northern Ireland were forced Friday to close, again, to beat back the coronavirus. They will remain shuttered for at least a month, part of a “circuit breaker” to limit social contact and slow transmission. Schools will be closed for an extended half-term break, as well.
The 7,000 pubs in the Republic of Ireland could follow, as health officials there recommended on Friday the country move to Level 5 measures, the most strict.
Bellevue School District delays plans for in-person learning until 2021; Seattle plans for outdoor classes
The Bellevue School District is delaying in-person learning until January because of rising numbers of coronavirus cases in King County, scrapping its earlier plans to bring its youngest students back into classrooms in just a few weeks.
“Considering the current level of transmission and the steady increase we have observed over the last week, we do not feel that we can successfully mitigate risks to health and safety if we are to bring larger numbers of students back into our school buildings,” reads an announcement posted Thursday evening on the district’s website.
At the time of the district’s initial announcement earlier this month of a plan to restart in-person learning, King County’s infection rate was 53 cases per 100,000 people, comfortably within the 25 to 75 cases per 100,000 range that state guidelines say would indicate it’s safe to start reintroducing elementary school students to school buildings. On Thursday, the rate had spiked to 92 cases.
Outbreak of COVID-19 at Harborview Medical Center
Harborview Medical Center has confirmed an outbreak of COVID-19 has killed one patient and infected three others. Ten staffers have also tested positive and are isolating.
The patient died in the intensive care unit, said Dr. John Lynch, medical director of Harborview’s Infection Control, Antibiotic Stewardship and Employee Health programs. Lynch didn’t know immediately what date the patient died.
The hospital is working to stem the outbreak and determine how the virus got into the surgical unit, Lynch said. “We’re going to need some time to determine whether it’s contained or not.”
Pfizer: Mid-November earliest it can seek virus vaccine OK
Pfizer Inc. cannot request emergency authorization of its COVID-19 vaccine before the third week of November — and that’s if everything goes well, the company’s CEO announced Friday.
Despite President Donald Trump’s repeated promises of a vaccine before Election Day, scientists have been cautioning that it’s unlikely data showing a leading shot actually works would come until November or December.
Another leading U.S. contender, Moderna Inc., previously announced the earliest it could seek authorization of its own vaccine would be Nov. 25.
Feds unveil plan to get coronavirus shots to nursing homes
Federal health officials on Friday unveiled a plan to get approved coronavirus vaccines to nursing home residents free of cost, with the aid of two national pharmacy chains.
No vaccine has yet been approved by the Food and Drug Administration, and the distribution program is contingent on that happening first.
Under the plan, trained staff from CVS and Walgreens will deliver the vaccines to each nursing home and administer shots. The idea is to give hard-pressed states an all-inclusive system for vaccinating their most vulnerable residents, said Paul Mango, a senior policy adviser at the Department of Health and Human Services.
A "serious situation" as COVID-19 continues European surge
Doctors are warning that Europe is at a turning point as the coronavirus surges back across the continent, including among vulnerable people, and governments try to impose restrictions without locking whole economies down.
With newly confirmed cases reaching records, the Czech Republic has shut schools and is building a field hospital, Poland has limited restaurant hours and closed gyms and schools, and France is planning a 9 p.m. curfew in Paris and other big cities. In Britain, authorities are closing pubs and bars in areas in the country’s north, while putting limits on socializing in London and other parts of the country.
“This is a serious situation that should not be underestimated. It is serious on a European level,’’ Italy’s health minister, Roberto Speranza, said Friday.
China rapidly expands use of experimental COVID-19 vaccines
China is rapidly increasing the number of people receiving its experimental coronavirus vaccines, with a city offering one to the general public and a biotech company providing another free to students going abroad.
The city of Jiaxing, south of Shanghai, is offering a vaccine under development by Sinovac, it said in an announcement Thursday. It said high-risk groups, including people who are “responsible for the basic operations of the city” will receive priority, but that residents who have emergency needs can also sign up.
The vaccine is in the final stage of clinical testing, but has not yet been approved. The city government said it is being provided under an emergency authorization.
Chinese drug companies have five vaccines in final stages of testing but none is approved for public use. They are part of a global race to develop a vaccine that, if successful, offers the fledgling Chinese industry the potential for prestige and worldwide sales.
Swiss hospital chief: Europe at ‘turning point’ vs. COVID
Europe is at a “turning point” in the fight against the coronavirus, the head of Switzerland’s biggest hospital complex said, acknowledging growing public fatigue over anti-COVID measures but insisting people must buckle down as Switzerland grapples with record daily case counts.
Bertrand Levrat, CEO of Geneva University Hospitals, which counts 12,000 personnel, spoke to The Associated Press at a time when Switzerland — like many other European countries — is fighting a second wave of coronavirus cases that grew in large part out of a summertime lull in which people let down their guard about the highly infectious pandemic.
“The virus doesn’t spread alone — we are the ones who spread it,” Levrat said.
“If we don’t get a handle on this, we run the risk of getting into a situation that’s harder to control," he said. "We are really at a turning point — things can go both ways."
Lummi Nation withdraws from AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine trial
The Lummi Nation has withdrawn from AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine trial, according to a news release from the tribe.
The tribe, Washington’s third largest, cited “ongoing communications challenges” with AstraZeneca.
“We expect any vaccine trial we enroll in to meet the highest standards,” said Dr. Dakotah Lane, medical director for the Lummi Nation and also a tribal member. “While the AstraZeneca trial is not a good fit at this time, we will assess future trials to see if they are safe and appropriate for our tribal members who wish to participate.”
The AstraZeneca clinical trial remains on hold for investigation in the United States after a volunteer developed an illness, The New York Times has reported. Trials for the AstraZeneca vaccine have resumed in other countries.
Could your car keep you safe from COVID-19?
The novel coronavirus has created an opportunity for businesses that purport to offer high-end products with enhanced protections against infection — from $250 face masks to $20,000 private jet flights and $200,000 home ventilation systems.
Luxury car makers could be the next to capitalize.
At a time when there’s more focus than ever on what people are breathing in — read: a deadly virus, wildfire smoke — well-heeled buyers could be enticed by cars with advanced air filtration systems and other devices designed to protect against a variety of dangerous particulates, including some pathogens.
Chinese automaker Geely Auto, whose parent company owns Volvo and Lotus, announced in February that in response to the coronavirus, its forthcoming Icon electric SUV would feature an N95-certified air purification system that could “isolate and eliminate harmful elements in the cabin air” including viruses. Volvo and Lincoln are rolling out advanced air filtration systems for 2021 models.
But there are issues with the idea.
How to form a 'pandemic pod' to help you get through the winter
A "pandemic pod," bubble or "quaranteam" could help you get through winter by allowing some social connection as long as everyone follows strict safety protocols to protect each other.
It's become a popular strategy for families and close-knit friend groups.
Forming one is "a little bit like dating," researchers say, outlining what to discuss and consider first.
FAQ Friday: What we know about how long COVID-19 illness lasts and the likelihood of catching the coronavirus more than once
If you fall ill with COVID-19, how long will the sickness last? It varies wildly, but statistics on typical recoveries offer clues.
This week's FAQ Friday also tackles the latest research on getting the virus a second time.
Quarantine Corner: Things to do while staying home
Here's something to watch: Macklemore, Dave Matthews and other Seattle superstars are performing in a virtual festival that starts tonight, to boost ailing music venues.
Here's something to cook: Warm up with the bright flavors of Sri Lanka. A Mercer Island cookbook author is sharing recipes for deviled prawns and coconut roti.
And, pick something to read: What should Moira’s Book Club read next? Vote on these recommended reads from Seattle-area indie bookstores.
Catch up on the past 24 hours
Remdesivir, the only antiviral drug authorized for treatment of COVID-19 in the United States, fails to prevent deaths, a large study sponsored by the World Health Organization has found.
A "sweet 16" party went terribly sour when 37 guests at an opulent New York catering hall left with the coronavirus and hundreds more ended up in quarantine.
About 8,000 people poured into Hawaii yesterday, the first day of a program that allows travelers to skip quarantine if they test negative. But opponents say it's not enough to keep everyone safe.
"I was wrong to not wear a mask." After spending seven days in intensive care with COVID-19, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is telling Americans to learn from his mistakes.
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