Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Wednesday, Oct. 20, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.
About 3% of Washington’s 63,000 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 fired or left their positions over the requirement that they be fully vaccinated by Oct. 18, according to the Office of Financial Management.
Meanwhile, in Seattle on Tuesday — the day after the deadline for city employees to submit proof of vaccination — 176 Seattle police officers and firefighters were unable to report for duty as hundreds of workers failed to comply with, or sought exemptions to, the city’s mandate, according to Mayor Jenny Durkan’s office.
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.
Egypt imposes a broad COVID vaccine mandate
Egyptian authorities, anticipating the delivery of tens of millions of doses of COVID-19 vaccines, have issued a sweeping vaccine mandate that encompasses a broad swath of society, including teachers, other government employees, university students and people seeking any government services.
Egypt is the Arab world’s most populous country, with more than 100 million citizens. Its decision to ramp up its vaccination campaign with a mandate follows the model set by wealthier regional neighbors like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which are far ahead of Egypt in vaccinating their smaller populations.
A spokesman for the Egyptian Cabinet, Nader Saad, said on Sunday in a television appearance that beginning on Nov. 15, civil servants will not be allowed into their workplaces unless they can show that they have received at least one vaccine dose, or can provide proof of a negative PCR test each week.
Studies confirm COVID-19 vaccine’s effectiveness in teens, even against delta
LOS ANGELES — When the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized the first COVID-19 vaccine for use in adolescents as young as 12, regulators based their decision on clinical trial data collected before the delta variant became the dominant coronavirus strain. That left open the question of whether the vaccine’s real-world protection was still as good as advertised.
Two new studies provide strong reassurance that the answer is yes.
Even when confronted by the highly transmissible delta variant, the vaccine made by Pfizer greatly reduced the risk of coronavirus infection, COVID-19 illness and hospitalization among teens.
The results show why it’s “imperative” that the shots be administered to unvaccinated adolescents across the U.S., one of the research teams wrote Tuesday in a study published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As of Monday, 54% of Americans ages 12 to 15 and 46% of those ages 16 or 17 were not fully vaccinated against COVID-19, they noted.
Can the TSA vaccinate enough screeners before the Thanksgiving travel rush?
A potential shortage of airport screeners triggered by a federal COVID-19 vaccine mandate could mean extra-long queues at airport security checkpoints during the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday travel week.
Only about 60% of Transportation Security Administration employees are at least partially vaccinated with about a month to go before the Nov. 22 deadline for federal employees to be fully vaccinated. Federal employees who ignore the mandate face discipline, including being fired, according to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.
TSA Administrator David Pekoske told CNN last week that he is “very hopeful” the agency won’t have a worker shortage but said the TSA is preparing contingency plans in case it can’t be avoided.
Read the full story.
Washington state House access limited to vaccinated through January
OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — Lawmakers and legislative employees at the Washington state House must prove they are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to access House facilities through early January, under a rule adopted by a House committee late last month.
The policy took effect Monday, the same day that a statewide COVID-19 vaccine mandate deadline passed for many state workers and others to provide proof of vaccination — or an accommodated exemption — in order to keep their jobs. More than 1,800 state workers were either fired, resigned or retired due to the mandate.
Legislative staff and lawmakers are not covered by Gov. Jay Inslee’s vaccination requirement, so policy for the House and Senate facilities are left up to leaders within each chamber. In the House, the Executive Rules Committee — which handles chamber policies — comprises four Democrats and three Republicans.
Bernard Dean, the chief clerk of the House, said the change in facility access is only for the 2021 legislative interim and said that no decisions have yet been made on whether to extend the policy to the legislative session that begins on Jan. 10.
Secretary of the Senate Brad Hendrickson said the Senate has not adopted a similar interim policy, but that decisions on building access and what format session will take in January are expected soon.
State health officials confirm 2,457 new coronavirus cases
The state Department of Health (DOH) reported 2,457 new coronavirus cases and 49 new deaths on Wednesday.
The update brings the state's totals to 704,878 cases and 8,371 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. Tuesday.
In addition, 39,045 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the virus — 150 new hospitalizations. In King County, the state's most populous, state health officials have confirmed a total of 160,163 COVID-19 diagnoses and 1,943 deaths.
Since vaccinations began in mid-December, the state and health care providers have administered 9,454,044 doses and 59.5% 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 15,831 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.
White House details plans to vaccinate 28M children age 5-11
Children ages 5 to 11 will soon be able to get a COVID-19 shot at their pediatrician’s office, local pharmacy and potentially even their school, the White House said Wednesday as it detailed plans for the expected authorization of the Pfizer shot for elementary school youngsters in a matter of weeks.
Federal regulators will meet over the next two weeks to weigh the safety and effectiveness of giving low-dose shots to the roughly 28 million children in that age group.
Within hours of formal approval, which is expected after the Food and Drug Administration signs off and a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisory panel meets on Nov. 2-3, millions of doses will begin going out to providers across the country, along with the smaller needles needed for injecting young children.
Within days of that, the vaccine will be ready to go into arms on a wide scale.
The Pfizer vaccine requires two doses three weeks apart and a two-week wait for full protection to kick in, meaning the first youngsters in line will be fully covered by Christmas.
FDA OKs mixing COVID vaccines; backs Moderna, J&J boosters
U.S. regulators on Wednesday signed off on extending COVID-19 boosters to Americans who got the Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccine and said anyone eligible for an extra dose can get a brand different from the one they received initially.
The Food and Drug Administration’s decisions mark a big step toward expanding the U.S. booster campaign, which began with extra doses of the Pfizer vaccine last month. But before more people roll up their sleeves, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will consult an expert panel later this week before finalizing official recommendations for who should get boosters and when.
The latest moves would expand by tens of millions the number of Americans eligible for boosters and formally allow “mixing and matching” of shots — making it simpler to get another dose, especially for people who had a side effect from one brand but still want the proven protection of vaccination.
Specifically, the FDA authorized a third Moderna shot for seniors and others at high risk from COVID-19 because of their health problems, jobs or living conditions — six months after their last shot. One big change: Moderna’s booster will be half the dose that’s used for the first two shots, based on company data showing that was plenty to rev up immunity again.
Former NFL player guilty of ID theft, COVID-19 relief fraud
A former NFL wide receiver has pleaded guilty to stealing identities to fraudulently obtain coronavirus-related unemployment insurance benefits in California.
Kenbrell Armod Thompkins, 33, pleaded guilty Monday in Miami federal court to one count of unauthorized access device fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft, according to court records. He faces up to 12 years in prison at his scheduled Jan. 6 sentencing.
According to a plea agreement, Thompkins used the stolen identities of numerous Florida residents to obtain fraudulent unemployment insurance benefits from the state of California. California distributed these unemployment benefit funds as debit cards, which were mailed to addresses associated with Thompkins in Miami and nearby Aventura, prosecutors said.
Prosecutors said the scheme involved approximately $300,000 in California unemployment insurance funds, out of which about $230,000 of the funds were withdrawn.
Thompkins was signed as an undrafted free agent by the New England Patriots in 2013 and has also been a member of the Oakland Raiders and New York Jets.
Serbia introduces evening COVID passes amid infection surge
Serbia on Wednesday introduced COVID-19 passes for indoor venues late at night following weeks of surging infections and relatively low vaccination rates.
Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic said the new measure will take effect on Saturday and will be applied starting from 10 p.m. in bars, restaurants, nightclubs or any other indoor gatherings.
Medical experts repeatedly have urged Serbian authorities to tighten the country’s loose anti-virus measures. Serbia has seen several thousand new infections a day since early October and about 50 virus-related deaths a day.
Infections also have soared in other Central and Eastern European countries where vaccination rates are lower than European Union average.
Brnabic said the introduction of COVID-19 passes will be confirmed at a government session on Thursday. She said late evening hours are when nightclubs have their biggest crowds. The passes will show a person’s vaccination status, or if they have recovered from the virus or tested negative recently.
“We hope this will boost vaccinations,” said Brnabic after a session of Serbia’s pandemic crisis group. “This is the only way to beat the coronavirus.”
Florida chief fired for not forcing firefighter vaccinations
A Florida battalion chief has been fired for refusing to discipline workers who hadn’t gotten a COVID-19 vaccine in violation of a requirement for county employees.
Orange County Fire Rescue battalion chief Stephen Davis was fired Tuesday for failure to follow a direct order and issue disciplinary actions earlier this month, said Lisa McDonald, a spokeswoman for the fire department in metro Orlando.
But a union representing firefighters told WFTV that Davis didn’t write up the disciplines because the workers on his list were mistakenly identified as unvaccinated or hadn’t gotten their requests for religious exemptions in on time.
Virus: Morocco suspending UK, Germany, Netherlands flights
Morocco is suspending until further notice all flights to and from the United Kingdom, Germany and the Netherlands amid rising coronavirus infections in those countries. The new restriction will come into force just before midnight Wednesday, the North African kingdom’s airports authority said.
In a tweet, national carrier Royal Air Maroc said the move was due to “the pandemic situation.” It did not provide further detail.
Morocco’s Health Ministry warned Monday of the threat of a new virus surge, stressing “the need to avoid possible a relapse of serious and critical cases and COVID-19-related deaths, which have occurred in several European countries.”
COVID-19 cases have been rising sharply in the Netherlands over the past two weeks and also are climbing in Germany.
Former WSU football coach Nick Rolovich to file lawsuit after being fired for noncompliance with COVID vaccine mandate
Nick Rolovich will reportedly take his dismissal as Washington State football coach to court, with his lawyer alleging he was illegally fired and accusing Athletic Director Pat Chun of “discriminatory and vindictive” behavior.
In perhaps the highest-profile case to date of a public employee being terminated because of a state’s coronavirus vaccine mandate, the school on Monday announced the dismissal of Rolovich after he had not complied with a statewide order issued by Gov. Jay Inslee in August. Rolovich, the state’s highest-paid employee at $3.2 million per year, had remained unvaccinated as the state’s Monday vaccination deadline arrived.
Rolovich had cited his religious beliefs as the reason for not being vaccinated.
Russians to stay off work for a week as virus deaths rise
President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday ordered most Russians to stay off work for a week later this month amid rising COVID-19 infections and deaths, and he strongly urged reluctant citizens to get vaccinated.
The government coronavirus task force reported 1,028 deaths in the past 24 hours, the highest number since the start of the pandemic. That brought Russia’s death toll to 226,353, by far the highest in Europe.
Putin said he supports the Cabinet’s proposal to introduce a nonworking period starting Oct. 30 and extending through the following week, when four of seven days already are official state holidays. In some regions where the situation is the most threatening, he said the nonworking period could start as early as Saturday and be extended after Nov. 7.
“Our task today is to protect life and health of our citizens and minimize the consequences of the dangerous infection,” Putin said in a video call with top officials. “To achieve that, it’s necessary to first of all slow the pace of contagion and mobilize additional reserves of the health care system, which is currently working under a high strain.”
Gates Foundation to spend $120M on access for COVID-19 pill
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation says it will spend $120 million to boost access to generic versions of drugmaker Merck’s antiviral COVID-19 pill for lower income countries, if the drug gets approved by regulators.
The private foundation said in a statement released Wednesday it hasn’t determined how it will allocate the money, but will use the funds to “support the range of activities required to develop and manufacture generic versions” of the drug, molnupiravir.
Merck has licensed its technology with generic drug manufacturers in India. Under the agreement, the company said it will provide licenses to manufacturers to supply the drug to India and more than 100 other lower and middle income countries.
The Gates Foundation says its funding is also intended to help ready regulatory, delivery and other pathways in order to make the pill more accessible, if it becomes available.
The Food and Drug Administration hasn’t authorized the pill, and its outside experts are expected to meet on Nov. 30 to scrutinize the drug. If cleared by regulators, the drug will be the first pill available to treat COVID-19.
WHO: Europe the only region with rise in COVID-19 last week
The World Health Organization said there was a 7% rise in new coronavirus cases across Europe last week, the only region in the world where cases increased.
In its weekly assessment of the pandemic released late Tuesday, the U.N. health agency said there were about 2.7 million new COVID-19 cases and more than 46,000 deaths last week worldwide, similar to the numbers reported the previous week.
WHO said the two regions with the highest rates of COVID-19 incidence were Europe and the Americas. Globally, the U.S. reported the biggest number of new cases, more than 580,000, which still represented a 11% decline.
Britain, Russia and Turkey accounted for the most cases in Europe.
The biggest drop in COVID-19 cases were seen in Africa and the Western Pacific, where infections fell by about 18% and 16%, respectively. The number of deaths in Africa also declined by about a quarter, despite the dire shortage of vaccines on the continent.
UK encourages booster jabs, resists new virus restrictions
Under pressure from rising infections and alarmed health experts, the British government on Wednesday urged millions of people to get booster vaccine shots but resisted calls to reimpose coronavirus restrictions such as mandatory mask-wearing.
Britain is relying heavily on vaccines to keep the virus at bay during the fall and winter months. Almost 80% of people 12 and over in the U.K. have received two vaccine doses and millions are being offered a booster shot, including everyone over 50.
But critics say the booster campaign is moving more slowly than the virus. The U.K. recorded almost 50,000 new infections in a single day this week, and cases are averaging more than 44,000 a day, up 16% from a week earlier.
Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the health care group the NHS Confederation, said Britain’s health system risked being overwhelmed unless more measures to slow the spread of COVID-19 are introduced now.
Brazil Senate report urges charging Bolsonaro over pandemic
A Brazilian senator has formally presented a report recommending President Jair Bolsonaro be indicted on criminal charges for allegedly bungling Brazil’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and pushing the country’s death toll to second-highest in the world.
The nearly 1,200-page report by Sen. Renan Calheiros is based on six months of work by the committee investigating the government’s management of the pandemic and was made available on the Senate’s electronic system Wednesday. It calls for Bolsonaro to be indicted on a series of charges, from charlatanism and inciting crime all the way up to crimes against humanity.
The report can still be modified before the committee vote on Oct. 26, and the decision on whether to file most of the charges would be up to Brazil’s prosecutor-general, who was appointed by the president.
Analysts say it’s unclear if he would act.
Recommended charges also include misuse of public funds and “prevarication,” which entails delaying or refraining from action required as part of a public official’s duty for reasons of personal interest, and several others.
Catch up on the past 24 hours
Nearly 1,900 Washington state workers are gone after not getting vaccines. About 3% of the state workers subject to the COVID-19 vaccine mandate have left their jobs or were fired after this week's deadline passed. Another 3% received special accommodations that allow them to work without vaccinations, and others are still in flux. Here's what we know about how the departures are spread out. In Seattle, more than 170 first responders are off duty, at least for now.
See if you qualify for a COVID booster shot in Washington state. Our updating guide tracks the status of each vaccine's booster approval, who's eligible and how to get a shot. Today, the FDA is expected to act on two types of boosters and possibly a "mix and match" approach.
A COVID-19 outbreak has shut down an Edmonds school, sending hundreds of students into remote learning.
"We are coming for you," the Port Angeles doctor was threatened after announcing mask and vaccine mandates. The angry crowd that swarmed a courthouse, looking for Dr. Allison Berry, casts harsh light on one of the many ways public health departments and their workers are in crisis.
Dear tourists, Hawaii wants you back. Visitors are welcome to return soon, the governor said after COVID-19 cases plummeted. But if you're going, you'll need to take steps to avoid a vacation in quarantine.
The famed In-N-Out hamburger chain is sizzling mad after San Francisco shut down its indoor dining for breaking a COVID-19 rule. "We refuse to become the vaccination police," one exec says.
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