As healthcare workers throughout the country continue to battle coronavirus, Harborview Medical Center in Seattle confirmed Friday an outbreak in a surgical unit has infected four patients, killing one. Ten Harborview staffers have tested positive for the virus, and 30 more are in quarantine after possible exposure.

Chances remain low, however, that a vaccine for the virus will be approved before Election Day — and on Friday, pharmaceutical corporation Pfizer Inc. announced it cannot request emergency authorization of its vaccine before the third week of November.

Throughout Saturday, 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 Friday are here, and all our coronavirus coverage can be found here.

Navigating the pandemic
(Jennifer Luxton / The Seattle Times)


Seattle church joining nationwide vigil mourning those lost to COVID-19

In response to COVID-19 restrictions making it difficult for people to mourn the pandemic’s victims, Seattle’s First AME Church is joining a nationwide series of candlelight vigils on Monday, Oct. 19.

The “Mourning Into Unity” vigils — to be held at more than 20 sites around the country — are being held outdoors, with participants masked and socially distanced or attending online. The vigils will be led by faith leaders and medical professionals.

In Seattle, the #MourningIntoUnity vigils will be held from 6 to 7 p.m. on Monday at the First AME Church, 1522 14th Ave. Organizers hope to continue the weekly vigils until early November.

The church, founded in 1886, is the oldest African American church in the state of Washington.

Read the full story.

—Nicole Brodeur

A Fenway first: Ballpark becomes voting venue amid pandemic

A woman places her ballot in a dropbox after voting at Fenway Park, Saturday, Oct. 17, 2020, in Boston. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

Bostonians who lined up at the nation’s oldest ballpark on Saturday were far more focused on the ballot box than the batter’s box.

Hundreds of people cast their votes at Fenway Park, which city officials are using as an alternative to indoor venues during the pandemic.

Fenway Park was one of 10 locations across Boston where residents could cast their votes on Saturday, when early voting began across the state. Early voting in the state will run through Oct. 30, but Fenway Park is being used only for this weekend as an early voting location.

The ballpark provided a safer voting venue during the pandemic because it’s both outdoors and covered, providing protection from the elements while also having plenty of ventilation.

Read the full story.

—The Associated Press

Washington confirms 777 new COVID-19 cases

State health officials confirmed 777 new COVID-19 cases in Washington on Saturday afternoon.

The update brings the state's totals to 97,671 cases and 2,239 deaths, although the state no longer reports new deaths on weekends. The data is as of 11:59 p.m. Friday.

The Department of Health also reported that about 7,994 people have been hospitalized in the state because of the virus.

In King County, the state's most populous, state officials have confirmed 24,985 diagnoses and 793 deaths.

—Megan Burbank

Dutch king returns from vacation after lockdown uproar

The Dutch royal couple were back in the Netherlands Saturday after their vacation trip to Greece had to be abandoned because of an uproar back home, where people are urged to stay at home as much as possible.

King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima said in a statement that they saw the reactions of people, “which are intense, and they touch us.” As a result they said they would cancel the rest of their vacation.

“Let there be no doubt: To beat the COVID-19 virus it is necessary to follow the rules. The discussion caused by our vacation does not contribute to that.”

The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in the Netherlands has more than doubled over the past two weeks, to 42 cases per 100,000 people on Friday.

Read the full story.

—The Associated Press

Why the coronavirus is killing more men than women

Early in the coronavirus outbreak, hospital data from China revealed a startling disparity: COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, was killing far more men than women.

That difference persisted in other Asian countries, such as South Korea, as well as in European countries, such as Italy. Then, it appeared in the United States.

By mid-October, the coronavirus had killed almost 17,000 more American men than women, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. For every 10 women claimed by the disease in the United States, 12 men have died, found an analysis by Global Health 50/50, a U.K.-based initiative to advance gender equality in health care.

That disparity was one of many alarming aspects of the new virus. It bewildered those unfamiliar with the role of gender in disease.

Read the full story here.

—The Washington Post

COVID-19's first wave largely missed southern Italy. The second wave is hitting it hard.

ROME — Italy is about to test the value of “flattening the curve.”

When northern Italy became the epicenter of the pandemic in the spring, one urgent concern was that the country’s coronavirus outbreak would quickly spread to the less-prosperous south and overwhelm under-resourced regional health systems.

That fear wasn’t realized. A strict nationwide lockdown largely contained the virus in the north and brought the outbreak under control.

But now the virus is raging again, through Europe and through Italy, with a spike that is again hitting the north but this time also the south. In Campania, which includes Naples, the daily number of detected new cases is five times larger than March’s peak.

So the question becomes whether Italy bought itself enough time.

Read the full story here.

—The Washington Post

U.S. resorts adapt to new normal of skiing amid pandemic

DENVER (AP) — Helmet, goggles, skis? Check. Hand sanitizer, face covering, reservation? Check.

Roughly seven months after the coronavirus cut the ski season short at the height of spring break, resorts across the United States and Canada are slowly picking up the pieces and figuring out how to safely reopen this winter. While many of the details are still being worked out, resort leaders are asking guests to curb their expectations and to embrace a new normal while skiing and snowboarding amid a pandemic.

That could mean wearing masks, standing 6 feet (1.8 meters) apart in lift lines (about the length of a typical ski), no dine-in service, riding lifts only with your group and no large gatherings for an apres drink.

“We’re very optimistic about skiing this winter,” said Dave Byrd, director of risk and regulatory affairs at the Colorado-based National Ski Areas Association. “The fact that we ski outside in ultraviolet sun and in the wind, and it’s common for us to wear goggles, gloves and face coverings. All of those things bode very well for us as a sport.”

Resorts, some of which are set to open at the beginning of November, are trying to avoid a repeat of last spring when many mountain communities were disproportionately hurt by the virus as travelers from all over the country and the world hit the slopes during one of the busiest times of the season.

Read the full story here.

—The Associated Press

Luxury home sales surge in Washington, driven by tech employees with big pandemic paychecks

Underscoring the uneven impact of the pandemic, sales of the most expensive Seattle-area homes surged in the third quarter of the year at more than double the rate of the area’s most affordable homes.

Sales of homes over $2 million, the top 5% of the market in King and Snohomish counties, jumped more than 35% from July to September, compared to the same three months last year, according to Seattle-based digital brokerage Redfin. 

Sales of homes under $600,000 rose by half that amount, 18% — and for homes under $417,000, sales fell by nearly 4%.

“Luxury listings are skyrocketing because high-end homeowners have the financial means and the flexibility to move during this pandemic,” said Redfin chief economist Daryl Fairweather in a statement. “Meanwhile, buyers who are in search of more affordable homes are grappling with fewer choices and fierce competition.”

Around the Seattle area, more affordable homes have trickled slowly onto the market over the course of the pandemic. New listings plunged nearly 40% in March, only recovering in mid-July. 

The major inventory crunch has pulled prices up — way, way up, in the case of the county’s most affordable homes, those that appeal most to former renters looking for more space as the pandemic stretches into its eighth month. Home prices in affordable Southeast King County jumped nearly 18% over last year, to a new all-time high of $552,000, according to the Northwest Multiple Listing Service.

Read the full story here.

—Katherine Khashimova Long

The coronavirus pandemic sidelined many Seattle-area food trucks. Here’s how the survivors made it

Lorelei Johnston, manager of the BeanFish food truck, pushes a cart toward the kitchen where she picks up supplies for the day ahead. The food truck stays overnight at Chop Kitchens in White Center, the commissary where food trucks park and where owners and their employees do kitchen prep. (Ellen M. Banner / The Seattle Times)

If you’ve ever wondered what happens to a food truck in a global pandemic, swing by Chop Kitchens in White Center. 

Before COVID-19, the commercial commissary was a bustling mother ship for nine food trucks. The vendors prepped their meals in the big commercial kitchen, raced out to crowded spots like South Lake Union or a farmers market or a festival and returned a few hours later — often just as others were leaving for evening shifts. “It was just nonstop,” recalls Avery Hardin, who launched his Layers Sandwich Co. truck with his wife Ashley at Chop Kitchens last fall. 

All that changed when COVID-19 came to town this spring. Office parks became ghost towns. Festivals canceled and diners hunkered down at home. The food truck bubble collapsed like a mishandled soufflé. 

Today, just four of Chop Kitchens’ 10 current tenants take their trucks out with any regularity, say owners Vatsana Nouanthongme, 53, and Montanee Suthanasereporn, 44, two former truck vendors who opened the commissary in 2017 in an old Dairy Queen. Most of the rest of the big trucks, each of which can represent investments of $75,000 or more, now sit in the commissary’s big, fenced lot waiting for better times.

Chop Kitchens is probably a microcosm of the larger food truck business.

In King County, the official tally of “health-permitted food trucks,” which includes both trucks and trailers, fell from 460 in January 2020 to 327 as of September, according to the Washington State Food Truck Association. 

It isn’t clear how much of that decline is pandemic-related — but it’s also unclear how many of those 327 are actually operating. Anecdotally, vendors say, many trucks are either temporarily parked or working just a few days a month. 

Read the full story here.

—Paul Roberts

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