Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Tuesday, Oct. 19, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.
Washington State University on Monday fired its head football coach Nick Rolovich for refusing to get vaccinated. On the same day, judges separately ruled against last-ditch legal bids to halt COVID-19 vaccination mandates in Washington and Oregon.
Meanwhile, as vaccination deadlines loomed for thousands of public-sector employees statewide, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan’s office reported that 99 percent of the city’s 11,000 employees had complied with the city’s requirement by either submitting proof of vaccination or an exemption application ahead of a midnight cut-off.
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.
Nearly 1,900 Washington state workers quit or are fired over COVID vaccine mandate
OLYMPIA — About 3% of the 63,000 Washington state workers subject to Gov. Jay Inslee’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate have left their jobs or were terminated as this week’s deadline passed.
So far, 1,887 state employees were terminated or left their positions over the mandate that they be fully vaccinated by Oct. 18 or lose their jobs, according to the Office of Financial Management.
Another roughly 3%, or 1,927 workers, received an accommodation that allows them to work in a less-public role without being vaccinated.
And additional 4.6% of state workers — nearly 2,900 — are still in a state of flux, according to a statement by OFM Tuesday afternoon.
That means they may have more time to get the vaccine or could be retiring, according to OFM. Others in that group could still be waiting to see if they get an accommodation — and if not, could still lose their jobs. Those outcomes will be determined in the weeks to come.
Of the state workers still employed, more than 92% are verified as vaccinated.
Puerto Rico leads nation’s vaccination rates
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Puerto Rico has the highest percentage of fully vaccinated people against coronavirus in the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a milestone celebrated by local officials, who hail the island’s vaccination campaign a success.
“This means hundreds, if not thousands, of lives saved,” said Daniel Colón Ramos, president of the coalition of scientists that offers Gov. Pedro Pierluisi public policy recommendations on the pandemic. “There are people who are literally living their lives with normalcy who would not be here if it weren’t for these efforts.”
According to CDC data, 72.2% of the island’s total population of about 3.3 million was fully vaccinated as of Oct. 19. The U.S. territory of Guam, along with Vermont, followed. The island also has among the lowest COVID-19 community transmission rates in the United States to date. It has reported 18 cases per 100,000 residents in the last seven days, a “moderate” level, compared to Florida’s “substantial” community transmission rate of 79.5 cases per 100,000 residents over the last week.
“It is no coincidence that Puerto Rico has the highest number of vaccinated and the lowest number of cases,” said Colón Ramos, who added the island had reached this goal despite the pandemic starting on the island amid a devastating sequence of earthquakes and with fewer resources available to tackle it than other places in the U.S.
South African regulator rejects Russia’s COVID-19 vaccine
he South African drug regulator has rejected the Russian-made coronavirus vaccine Sputnik V, citing some safety concerns the manufacturer wasn’t able to answer.
The South African Health Products Regulatory Authority, or SAHPRA, said in a statement Tuesday that the request for Sputnik V to be authorized could “not be approved at this time,” referring to past failed HIV vaccines that used a similar technology. But the regulator added that its review process was continuing and that it was open to any further safety data from the Russian manufacturer.
A late-stage study published in the journal Lancet last year in more than 20,000 participants found that Sputnik V was safe and about 91% effective in preventing people from becoming severely ill with COVID-19.
Sputnik V uses two types of harmless viruses known as adenoviruses to carry the spike protein into the body, which then primes the immune system to produce antibodies against COVID-19. SAHPRA said concerns have been raised about the safety of Adenovirus Type 5, which is used in one of the Sputnik V doses. The other dose contains Adenovirus Type 26, which is also used by Johnson & Johnson.
South African officials pointed to two failed research studies testing an HIV vaccine also using Adenovirus Type 5, which found men who were vaccinated had a higher risk of being infected with HIV.
In a statement, Sputnik V’s manufacturer called the concerns about the vaccine’s vector “completely unfounded.”
More than 170 Seattle officers, firefighters off duty one day after vax deadline
Just one day after the deadline for Seattle city employees to become vaccinated against the coronavirus, 176 Seattle police officers and firefighters are unable to report to work as the city’s mandate took effect and hundreds of employees failed to comply or sought exemptions, according to Mayor Jenny Durkan’s office.
While the city boasted 99% of its roughly 11,000 employees were in compliance with the mandate of as of Monday’s deadline, 5% of those employees filed for or received a religious or medical exemption from the vaccine.
Now, some of those roughly 520 employees will be given temporary accommodations to work off-site, while others face uncertainty as they seek accommodations to maintain their jobs without vaccines.
Meanwhile, departments that rely heavily on front-line workers, especially first responders, are facing staffing shortfalls.
US Homeland Security secretary tests positive for COVID
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas tested positive Tuesday for COVID-19 and is isolating at home, the agency said.
The secretary has been fully vaccinated and is experiencing only “mild congestion,” DHS said in a statement.
The agency said he will work from home under the protocols recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease and Prevention.
DHS said contract tracing is being done to check for possible exposure among others.
COVID outbreak causes Edmonds school to shut down
Hundreds of students in a Snohomish County school will switch to remote learning Wednesday after 26 students tested positive for coronavirus in the last 10 days, forcing the school to shut down.
Madrona K-8 School, in the Edmonds School District, was closed to students on Tuesday. Teachers were given one day to prep for the transition to remote learning, said Harmony Weinberg, a district spokesperson.
Most employees were working at the school after the building was cleaned Tuesday morning, and teachers will be teaching students virtually out of their classrooms starting Wednesday, school officials said. There are about 90 employees.
The district is planning to reopen the school to in-person learning on Nov. 1. Madrona is the first school in the district to close due to the virus, Weinberg said.
“We’ve done this before so families … are familiar with the process,” Weinberg said. “We’ve been preparing and knew that this could be a possibility as we started the school year. We have plans in place.”
US high court won’t block vaccines for Maine health workers
The U.S. Supreme Court declined Tuesday to block a vaccine requirement imposed on Maine health care workers, the latest defeat for opponents of vaccine mandates.
It was the first time the Supreme Court weighed in on a statewide vaccine mandate. It previously rejected challenges of vaccine requirements for New York City teachers and Indiana University staff and students.
Justice Stephen Breyer rejected the emergency appeal but left the door open to try again as the clock ticks on Maine’s mandate. The state will begin enforcing it Oct. 29.
The Maine vaccine requirement that was put in place by Democratic Gov. Janet Mills requires hospital workers and nursing home workers to get vaccinated or risk losing their jobs.
Washington state health department reports 1,627 new coronavirus cases and 88 new deaths
The state Department of Health (DOH) reported 1,627 new coronavirus cases and 88 new deaths on Tuesday.
The update brings the state's totals to 702,425 cases and 8,322 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. Monday. Tallies may be higher earlier in the week because new state data isn’t reported on weekends.
In addition, 38,895 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the virus — 36 new hospitalizations. In King County, the state's most populous, state health officials have confirmed a total of 159,701 COVID-19 diagnoses and 1,940 deaths.
Since vaccinations began in mid-December, the state and health care providers have administered 9,429,191 doses and 59.4% 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 16,672 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.
State agency inadvertently releases employees’ vaccine status
Oregon’s central administrative agency inadvertently released the COVID-19 vaccination status of more than 40,000 state employees to two media outlets.
The Oregonian/OregonLive reports a spreadsheet sent to them and the Statesman Journal was supposed to contain the latest vaccination rates and vaccine exemption rates for each executive branch agency overseen by Gov. Kate Brown.
Brown issued an executive order in August requiring all executive branch employees — along with individuals working in educational and health care settings — to be fully vaccinated against the coronavirus by Monday at midnight.
Instead, Oregon Department of Administrative Services External Relations Director Adam Crawford emailed a file to the outlets Monday containing vaccination status by employee name.
Crawford took the blame for the data release and asked that the personal information not be reported. “It’s a mistake on my part,” he said.
The newspapers said they will not publish the full dataset.
In secret vaccine contracts with nations, Pfizer took hard line in push for profit, report says
The coronavirus vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech has proven a success. First to receive emergency use approval in the United States, the Pfizer shot has become the world’s most popular, with 3.5 billion purchased. Sales could double in 2022, according to projections.
But the rapid proliferation of the vaccine, under contracts negotiated between the company and governments, has unfolded behind a veil of strict secrecy, allowing for little public scrutiny of Pfizer’s burgeoning power, even as demand surges amid new negotiations for one of the world’s most sought-after products.
A new report by Public Citizen, a consumer rights advocacy group that gained access to a number of leaked, unredacted Pfizer contracts, released Tuesday sheds light on how the company uses that power to “shift risk and maximize profits,” the organization argues.
The Manhattan-based pharmaceutical giant has maintained tight levels of secrecy about negotiations with governments, over contracts that can determine the fate of populations. The “contracts consistently place Pfizer’s interests before public health imperatives,” said Zain Rizvi, the researcher who wrote the report.
As deaths rise, Russian doctors despair at low vaccine rate
Dr. Georgy Arbolishvili doesn’t need to see government statistics or hear about the records being broken every day for infections and deaths to know that Russia is struggling through a particularly alarming phase of the coronavirus pandemic.
He simply looks around his filled-to-capacity intensive care unit at Moscow’s Hospital No. 52.
With only about a third of Russia’s 146 million people vaccinated against COVID-19, the country has hovered near 1,000 reported deaths per day for weeks and surpassed it on Saturday — a situation that Arbolishvili says “causes despair.”
“The majority of ICU patients in grave condition are unvaccinated,” he told The Associated Press. These illnesses “could have been very easily avoided if a person had been vaccinated.”
Tuberculosis, like COVID, spreads in aerosols, report finds, upending centuries of conventional wisdom
Upending centuries of medical dogma, a team of South African researchers has found that breathing may be a bigger contributor to the spread of tuberculosis than coughing, the signature symptom.
As much as 90% of TB bacteria released from an infected person may be carried in tiny droplets, called aerosols, that are expelled when a person exhales deeply, the researchers estimated. The findings were presented Tuesday at a scientific conference held online.
The report echoes an important finding of the COVID pandemic: The coronavirus, too, spreads in aerosols carried aloft, particularly in indoor spaces — a route of transmission that was widely underappreciated as the pandemic began to unfold.
TB is caused by a bacterium called Mycobacterium tuberculosis, which usually attacks the lungs. It is the world’s deadliest infectious disease after COVID-19, claiming more than 1.5 million lives last year — the first increase in a decade, according to a report published last week by the World Health Organization.
The finding helps explain why tightly packed indoor spaces, like prisons, often are breeding grounds for TB, as they are for COVID. And the research suggests that some of the methods used to limit coronavirus transmission — masks, open windows or doors, and being outdoors as much as possible — are important in curtailing TB.
“Those of us who are TB people look at COVID and say, ‘Wow, it’s just a sped-up version of TB,’” said Dr. Robert Horsburgh, an epidemiologist at Boston University who was not involved in the work.
Ted Cruz called an Australian vaccine mandate ‘tyranny.’ Then came the stinging response
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and an Australian politician have traded barbs on Twitter after Cruz criticized an Australian territory’s vaccination and reopening plans.
Michael Gunner, chief minister of Australia’s Northern Territory, imposed a strict vaccine mandate last week. The mandate requires all workers, public and private, to get at least one COVID-19 vaccine shot by mid-November.
On Twitter, Cruz called the action “tyranny,” expressing his affinity with Australia, which he called “the Texas of the Pacific.”
“The Covid tyranny of (Australia’s) current government is disgraceful & sad,” Cruz tweeted. “Individual liberty matters. I stand with the people of #Australia.”
Last night, Gunner struck back, tweeting that nearly 70,000 Texans have died from COVID-19, while none have died in the Northern Territory.
“We don’t need your lectures, thanks mate. You know nothing about us. And if you stand against a life-saving vaccine, then you sure as hell don’t stand with Australia. I love Texas (go Longhorns) but when it comes to COVID, I’m glad we are nothing like you.”
Gunner’s tweet currently has about 25,000 likes. Cruz’s tweet has under 3,000 likes.
California accounts for 12% of U.S. students but only 1% of COVID school closures
The signs at scattered rallies across California on Monday were familiar to anyone who has followed the state’s yearslong childhood vaccine wars.
“Our kids are not lab rats.” “My body, my choice.” “Coercion is not consent.”
California has mandated that all schoolchildren must eventually get COVID-19 vaccines, the first and only state to do so. In protest, some parents pulled their children from school Monday and took to the streets in Bakersfield, Los Angeles, Vacaville, Sacramento and more.
At the heart of this fight is a complicated truth: California’s new student vaccination requirements haven’t yet begun, but the state already has a remarkably low number of outbreaks at schools.
Of the 2,321 nationwide school closures since August because of COVID-19, about 1% have been in California — even though the state accounts for 12% of the nation’s K-12 students, according to data from Burbio, a technology company that monitors outbreaks.
Conservative radio host said he constantly hugged strangers to catch COVID: ‘What I hoped for the entire time’
Early in the pandemic, right-wing radio show host Dennis Prager said he did not mind eating with utensils that had fallen on the ground. Now, after the virus has killed more than 700,000 Americans, Prager has revealed that he’s been actively trying to get a coronavirus infection all along.
On Monday, the 73-year-old host of “The Dennis Prager Show” told his audience that his plan worked. Prager said he tested positive for the coronavirus last week.
“I have engaged with strangers, constantly hugging them, taking photos with them knowing that I was making myself very susceptible to getting covid,” he said. “Which is, indeed, as bizarre as it sounded, what I wanted, in the hope I would achieve natural immunity and be taken care of by therapeutics.”
Prager, an outspoken supporter of former president Donald Trump, is the founder of Prager University, a nonprofit that produces short videos aimed at popularizing conservative ideas. During the pandemic, he has falsely compared the coronavirus to the flu and to snakebites. He says he in no danger of hospitalization.
COVID-19 and pregnancy: Women regret not getting the vaccine
Sometimes when she’s feeding her infant daughter, Amanda Harrison is overcome with emotion and has to wipe away tears of gratitude. She is lucky to be here, holding her baby.
Harrison was 29 weeks pregnant and unvaccinated when she got sick with COVID-19 in August. Her symptoms were mild at first, but she suddenly felt like she couldn’t breathe. Living in Phenix City, Alabama, she was intubated and flown to a hospital in Birmingham, where doctors delivered baby Lake two months early and put Harrison on life support.
Kyndal Nipper, who hails from outside Columbus, Georgia, had only a brief bout with COVID-19 but a more tragic outcome. She was weeks away from giving birth in July when she lost her baby, a boy she and her husband planned to name Jack.
Now Harrison and Nipper are sharing their stories in an attempt to persuade pregnant women to get COVID-19 vaccinations to protect themselves and their babies. Their warnings come amid a sharp increase in the number of severely ill pregnant women that led to 22 pregnant women dying from COVID in August, a one-month record.
“We made a commitment that we would do anything in our power to educate and advocate for our boy, because no other family should have to go through this,” Kipper said of herself and her husband.
Harrison said she will “nicely argue to the bitter end” that pregnant women get vaccinated “because it could literally save your life.”
Romania hits record infections, deaths amid vaccination lag
Romania on Tuesday hit daily records in both coronavirus infections and deaths as the country grapples with an acute virus surge amid alarmingly low vaccination uptake.
Romania confirmed a record high of 18,863 new COVID-19 infections and 574 deaths in one day. It was the first time the European Union nation of 19 million surpassed 500 deaths in a single day.
Romania has the second-lowest vaccination rate in the EU behind Bulgaria — with just 34% adults fully inoculated against COVID-19, compared to the bloc average of 74%. That is stretching the country’s ailing health care system to maximum capacity: more than 1,800 coronavirus patients are now in intensive care.
Romania has so far confirmed more than 1.4 million COVID-19 infections and the deaths of 42,616 COVID-19 patients.
67 troopers, 6 sergeants, 1 captain leave Washington State Patrol rather than comply with COVID vaccine mandate
As of Monday, 127 individuals had separated from employment at the Washington State Patrol because of the coronavirus vaccine mandate, WSP said in a statement released early Tuesday.
Among them are 53 civil servants and 74 commissioned officers: 67 troopers, 6 sergeants, and 1 captain, according to the statement.
Earlier this month, the agency’s vaccination rate was at 93% as 152 of the agency’s 2,200 employees had not submitted paperwork to show they were vaccinated. That was a sharp increase from earlier data showing the State Patrol’s vaccination rate as of Sept. 20 was just under 63%.
Since Gov. Jay Inslee issued the order — one of the strictest in the nation, with no option for regular testing of those who forgo the shots — state employees have protested, filed lawsuits and sought exemptions to avoid the vaccines.
Edmonds school closed after 26 COVID cases in 10 days
Edmonds School District has temporarily closed the Madrona K-8 school after 26 COVID-19 cases were reported over the last 10 days, the district said in a letter to parents and on its website.
The district said that, after consultation with the Snohomish Health District, it was closing the Madrona K-8 building Tuesday, Oct. 19, with plans to reopen Monday, Nov. 1. Remote learning will begin Wednesday, Oct. 20.
"In the last ten days, there were 26 COVID-19 cases at Madrona K-8," the district said. "Of the 591 enrolled students, 236 are at home because of classroom closures. Of those students, 135 are quarantined as they were direct close contacts of confirmed COVID-19 cases."
UK faces calls for ‘Plan B’ with virus cases high and rising
Life has returned to normal for millions in Britain since coronavirus restrictions were lifted over the summer. But while the rules have vanished, the virus hasn’t.
Many scientists are now calling on the government to reimpose social restrictions and speed up booster vaccinations as coronavirus infection rates, already Europe’s highest, rise still further.
The U.K. recorded 49,156 new COVID-19 cases on Monday, the largest number since mid-July. New infections averaged 43,000 a day over the past week, a 15% increase on the week before.
Last week, the Office for National Statistics estimated that one in 60 people in England had the virus, one of the highest levels seen in Britain during the pandemic.
2 rule-breaking retirees go on a road trip, leaving COVID cases in their wake
China’s latest COVID-19 outbreak, centered on a rule-breaking elderly couple enjoying China’s tourist sites, has now spread to the closely-guarded capital city of Beijing and possibly beyond.
The flare-up that surfaced over the weekend has been tied to two retired university lecturers from Shanghai who started a road trip with several others through the nation’s scenic northwestern provinces in early October, according to media reports.
One traveler from Gansu — a close contact of an infected patient — was diagnosed in Beijing on Monday. It’s the city’s first case since a widespread outbreak caused by the highly infectious delta variant this summer prompted officials to scrap travel there to stop further transmission. Authorities have now sealed off apartment buildings and other related venues, according to a statement Tuesday from local health officials.
It’s the latest resurgence in China, the last holdout of several so-called Covid Zero countries seeking to eliminate the virus. It comes just days after the country contained two separate delta outbreaks in its northeastern and coastal provinces.
The elderly couple at the center of the outbreak tested positive on Saturday during their tour, which started around Oct. 9 and included stops in Gansu and Inner Mongolia, according to the Global Times. A day earlier, on Friday, Oct. 15, the pair underwent batch testing in Gansu, where they were informed that their results came back abnormal.
Coronavirus cases rise in the northern U.S. amid lower temperatures
Even as the coronavirus wave driven by the delta variant is receding in much of the United States, many counties across the country’s northernmost regions are experiencing rising cases as colder weather arrives.
The top five states in new daily cases per capita are led by Alaska, which is logging the highest daily average: 125 cases per 100,000 people, according to a New York Times database. The next four states, with at least 67 cases per 100,000 people, are Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota and Idaho.
Cases are at least trending downward or holding steady in those states. The five states with the fastest rising caseloads are Vermont, Colorado, New Hampshire, Michigan and Minnesota, and the two counties with the most cases per capita in Vermont and New Hampshire are on the Canadian border.
The virus followed a similar pattern last fall: Cases receded in the Southern regions after summer surges, while they steadily increased throughout the North as the weather became colder and people moved indoors.
The big difference this year is that COVID-19 vaccines are widely available, and most experts don’t expect another catastrophic winter wave, but they are warning Americans not to let their guard down as long as a large portion of the population remains unvaccinated.
Catch up on the past 24 hours
WSU football coach Nick Rolovich became one of the nation's highest-profile terminations for refusing to get a vaccine. He and four of his assistant coaches were fired yesterday for not complying with the state's mandate. This ended the only way it could as Rolovich fired Rolovich, Jon Wilner writes. But Cougar football players are still voicing love for their former coach. Here's what happens next for him and for the team.
Now that the COVID-19 vaccine deadline has passed, the vast majority of Washington state and Seattle workers have gotten their shots. Here's how this is playing out in Seattle and around the Puget Sound area, where even some who received religious exemptions are out of work for now. If you're in the minority who quit or got fired over the mandate, don't expect jobless benefits, state officials say.
Vaccination verification will be required in a few days to enter many public spaces in King County, from indoor restaurants and gyms to outdoor sporting events. Here's what you need to know about proving your status.
You'll be able to "mix and match" different COVID-19 vaccines under federal action on booster shots that's expected this week. By the end of the week, tens of millions more Americans could be eligible for boosters. Getting lost on who qualifies for which one? This Q&A sorts out the latest on boosters, as some people wonder why the shots weren't customized to fight the most worrisome variants.
A fit 50-year-old had a mild case of COVID-19, or that's what he thought for the next six months. Then suddenly, Derek Stipetich was on life support in a heart-stopping moment that changed his life.
Two rule-breaking retirees went on a road trip and left a trail of COVID-19 cases in their wake, rattling a closely guarded world capital.
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