Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Tuesday, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.
State leaders’ concern is growing as the number of daily infections rises again. In Oregon, health officials expanded mask requirements. And in California, the governor said he won’t allow statewide distribution of coronavirus vaccines until they’re reviewed by the state’s panel of experts. Washington state is expected to make its own vaccine distribution plan public soon.
Throughout Tuesday, 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 Monday are here, and all our coronavirus coverage can be found here.
Most home health aides ‘can’t afford not to work’ — even when lacking PPE
During the pandemic, home health aides have buttressed the U.S. health care system by keeping the most vulnerable patients — seniors, the disabled, the infirm — out of hospitals.
Yet even as they’ve put themselves at risk, this workforce of 2.3 million — of whom 9 in 10 are women, nearly two-thirds are minorities and almost one-third are foreign-born — has largely been overlooked.
Home health providers scavenged for their own face masks and other protective equipment, blended disinfectant and fabricated sanitizing wipes amid widespread shortages. They’ve often done it all on poverty wages, without overtime pay, hazard pay, sick leave and health insurance. And they’ve gotten sick and died — leaving little to their survivors.
Speaking out about their work conditions during the pandemic has triggered retaliation by employers, according to representatives of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) in Massachusetts, California and Virginia.
“It’s been shocking, egregious and unethical,” said David Broder, president of SEIU Virginia 512.
Older workers face higher unemployment amid virus pandemic
For the first time in nearly 50 years, older workers face higher unemployment than their midcareer counterparts, according to a study released Tuesday by the New School university in New York City.
The pandemic has wreaked havoc on employment for people of all ages. But researchers found that during its course, workers 55 and older lost jobs sooner, were rehired slower and continue to face higher job losses than their counterparts ages 35 to 54.
It is the first time since 1973 that such a severe unemployment gap has persisted for six months or longer.
AARP said the study bolstered concerns about the economic impact of the virus on on older workers. When people over 50 lose their jobs, it typically takes them twice as long to find work as it does for younger workers, the organization representing the interests of older Americans estimates.
The pandemic “may be something that is pushing people out of the workforce and they may never get back in,” said Susan Weinstock, AARP’s vice president of financial resilience programing.
Seattle leaders announce flu vaccination sites, urge residents to get shots as COVID-19 cases climb
Seattle government and medical leaders are urging residents to get influenza vaccinations, both to protect against the seasonal flu and to minimize pressure on hospitals and clinics that are grappling with COVID-19.
“I can’t stress enough how important it is for you to get your vaccination this year,” Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan said in a virtual news conference Tuesday.
The Seattle Visiting Nurse Association (SVNA) has partnered with Seattle Public Schools, the city of Seattle and Public Health – Seattle & King County to offer walk-up/drive-thru flu shots at more than a dozen schools and other public sites in and near Seattle, Durkan’s office said.
The vaccinations should be covered for people with health insurance, and people without insurance will receive shots at no cost, Durkan’s office said.
For people who drive through, “Everything will be done from your car,” with wait times no longer than 10 minutes, said Jake Scherf, SVNA’s chief executive officer.
Seattle is contributing $150,000 in federal funding, including for SVNA to provide vaccinations from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday and on Oct. 31 at Genesee Park in South Seattle, the mayor’s office said. There will be extra support for people with language barriers at Genesee Park, Durkan’s office said.
People seeking flu shots at the SVNA sites should make appointments at seattlevna.com, which lists the dates and hours for each site. They should wear face coverings to their appointments.
Coronavirus pandemic has caused nearly 300,000 more deaths than expected in a typical year
The coronavirus pandemic has left about 299,000 more people dead in the United States than would be expected in a typical year, two-thirds of them of COVID-19 and the rest from other causes, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Tuesday.
The CDC said the novel coronavirus, which causes COVID-19, has taken a disproportionate toll on Latinos and Blacks, as previous analyses have noted. But the CDC also found, surprisingly, that it has struck 25- to 44-year-olds very hard: Their “excess death” rate is up 26.5% over previous years, the largest change for any age group.
It is not clear whether that spike is caused by the shift in COVID-19 deaths toward younger people between May and August, or deaths from other causes, the CDC said.
“The number of people dying from this pandemic is higher than we think,” said Steven Woolf, director emeritus of the Center on Society and Health at Virginia Commonwealth University, who has conducted independent analyses of excess mortality. “This study shows it. Others have as well.”
Outside analyses, including some by The Washington Post and researchers at Yale University, have found two main causes for excess deaths. Many probably were the result of COVID-19, although they were not recorded that way on death certificates. Others are probably the result of deaths at home or in nursing homes from heart attacks, diabetes, strokes and Alzheimer’s disease, among people afraid to seek care in hospitals or unable to get it.
Fall surge of COVID-19 here, state officials warn
The number of COVID-19 cases in Western Washington is rising at “an alarming rate” and health officials say we might be joining the rest of the nation in a “fall surge” of the pandemic, the Washington State Department of Health said in a Tuesday news release.
Statewide, confirmed cases are trending upward. Case counts in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties have been rising sharply since mid-September.
In King County, the seven-day average for new positive COVID-19 tests had dropped to a recent low of 77 cases on Sept. 17. About three weeks later, on Oct. 9, the most recent day for which complete data was available, that figure had doubled to about 154, according to state data.
Health experts have long feared a seasonal rise in cases could strain the capacity of the region’s health-care system.
“We are seeing a surge,” said Ali Mokdad, a professor of health metrics sciences at the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), which produces modeling of the pandemic. “In December and January, we are going to have a difficult couple of months.”
IHME predicts a spike in estimated COVID-19 infections that continues into February.
If projections hold true and without further preventive measures, Mokdad said the need for intensive-care-unit beds could stretch beyond the state’s current supply in mid-January.
Amazon to let corporate employees work from home through June 2021
Amazon.com will let corporate employees work from home through June 2021, the latest company to push back reopening offices as COVID-19 cases surge again across the U.S.
“We continue to prioritize the health of our employees and follow local government guidance,” an Amazon spokesperson said in an email. “Employees who work in a role that can effectively be done from home are welcome to do so until June 30, 2021.”
In July, the company told its tens of thousands of headquarters employees in Seattle they could work from home until January. Uncertainty around school reopenings — and abrupt closures tied to coronavirus outbreaks — has complicated the return to work for parents of school-aged children.
Alphabet’s Google announced several months ago that it will continue letting employees work from home until July 2021. Facebook, Twitter and Square are among the technology companies that have told some staff members they may move to remote work permanently if they choose.
Man charged with threatening Wichita mayor over mask mandate
TOPEKA, Kan. — A Kansas man who prosecutors say threatened to kidnap and kill Wichita’s mayor because he was upset with the city’s mask ordinance was charged Tuesday with three counts of criminal threat.
Meredith Dowty, 59, of Wichita, is accused of sending text messages to a city employee threatening to kill Mayor Brandon Whipple because of his role in the passage of a mask mandate to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
Dowty’s bond was continued at $50,000 and his next court date was set for Nov. 5.
“He said he was going to kidnap me and slash my throat and he needed my address because I needed to see the hangman,” Whipple said Saturday after the threats were revealed.
On Monday, Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly said the anger over restrictions imposed to protect public health was getting out of hand.
Members of a self-appointed militia group are facing charges accusing them of plotting to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. The FBI and Michigan law enforcement have charged 14 men in connection with a domestic terrorism plot.
DC debuts smartphone-based COVID-19 exposure alert system
The nation’s capital has become one of the first jurisdictions in the country to employ a new COVID-19 notification system, a joint Google-Apple venture that delivers alerts to people’s phones, notifying them that they may have been exposed to the coronavirus.
Mayor Muriel Bowser on Tuesday urged all residents with Apple or Android smartphones to opt in to the new DC COVID Alert Notice system, or DC CAN. Bowser called it “a quick and easy way to know if you might have been exposed to COVID-19. Opting in is one more way you can protect yourself, your friends and family, and our entire community.”
The new Exposure Notification Express model is a major tweak to existing Google-Apple contact tracing software that became available earlier this year. But that tool was not readily embraced by health departments around the country, partially because it required jurisdictions to build and maintain their own apps. The new system claims to be simpler and doesn’t require iPhone users to download an app — although Android users will still have to do so.
Washington, D.C., and the neighboring states of Maryland and Virginia are the first to embrace the ENE notification system. Those who opt in to the program will receive a push notification on their phone if they have been exposed to a positive COVID-19 case. The D.C. Department of Health defines exposure as being within 6 feet (1.8 meters) of an infected person for more than 15 minutes.
Snohomish County schools can continue limited in-person learning
In-person learning will be permitted to continue in Snohomish County in limited circumstances, according to a news release from the Snohomish Health District. Health officials made the recommendation after consulting the state Department of Health's decision tree for schools; the guidance was updated Oct. 16.
According to health officer Dr. Chris Spitters, distance learning remains "strongly recommended" in Snohomish County, but in-person learning may continue for younger students (in kindergarten through third grade) and high-need students, including students with disabilities, students facing homelessness, and those who are "farthest from educational justice."
While older high-need students will also have the option of returning to the classroom, Spitters broadly discouraged in-person learning for older students, and recommended canceling or delaying several in-person extracurricular programs such as "sports, performances, clubs, events … with the option to allow extracurricular activities in small groups of six or fewer students."
"These recommendations are a ceiling for what’s permissible, but not the floor," he said. "Each school and family needs to make decisions on what is best for them. We will continue to monitor case rates, hospitalization impacts, test positivity rates, and trends in cases occurring in schools. These recommendations may be revised if the COVID-19 situation continues to deteriorate in Snohomish County.”
The news release stated that the most effective way to bring stability to children and their education would be "for the entire community to reverse the current upward trend in COVID transmission."
To that end, the Snohomish Health District is encouraging residents to limit the size of social gatherings and hold them outdoors, practice good hand hygiene, stay home when sick, and continue to wear facial coverings "even with people you see regularly and in your smallest social circles and anytime you are using shared transportation, including while in your own vehicle with other people."
According to the Snohomish Health District's data, Snohomish County has reached "the high COVID-19 activity category," with over 75 cases per 100,000 residents over a two-week period.
Washington confirms 489 new coronavirus cases and 24 deaths
State health officials reported 489 new coronavirus cases and 24 more deaths in Washington on Tuesday afternoon.
The update brings the total number of reported cases to 99,150 and the number of deaths to 2,282.
Because the state Department of Health is no longer reporting deaths on weekends, tallies may be higher early in the week.
At least 8,124 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the virus, according to the Department of Health.
In King County, the state's most populous, state officials have confirmed 25,329 diagnoses and 800 deaths.
Britain to infect healthy volunteers with coronavirus in vaccine challenge trials
British scientists said Tuesday they will launch the world’s first human challenge trials for covid-19, in which healthy volunteers will be deliberately infected with the coronavirus in hopes of further speeding the drive to a vaccine.
The research, led by scientists at Imperial College London and funded by the British government, is a gutsy gambit, given that people will be submitting themselves to a deadly virus with no surefire treatment.
The United States is moving more cautiously, with leading government researchers saying human challenge trials might be too risky or unnecessary. But the British scientists say the potential payoff is massive – that accelerating vaccine development by even three months could save hundreds of thousands of lives globally.
The British experiment is scheduled to begin in January. Volunteers will have a purified, laboratory-grown strain of the live virus blown into their noses, while quarantined in a 22-bed biosecure unit at the Royal Free Hospital in London, where they will undergo daily, even hourly, tests over two to three weeks.
Inslee announces new COVID-19 restrictions at Washington colleges in response to outbreaks
Gov. Jay Inslee Tuesday announced a host of new restrictions for institutions of higher education that are intended to slow the spread of COVID-19.
The announcement comes as outbreaks of the new coronavirus have continued around college campuses, including at University of Washington’s Greek Row.
Under the new restrictions, colleges have to provide quarantine and isolation facilities for students living in dorms, Greek system houses, off-campus congregate houses and any personnel who don’t have somewhere to go.
Only one visitor will be allowed in a dorm room or sleeping room, and any visitor must wear facial coverings and keep physical distance.
Facial coverings will also be required when students are outside of their sleeping rooms, such as in the common areas of houses and dorms. And no more than two people will be allowed to sleep in a room.
Additionally, only five people can be in one place at a time. For instance, a group of students watching the Apple Cup cannot be larger than five, and they must wear facial coverings and keep a 6-foot distance from each other.
Meanwhile, higher-education institutions that don’t have residential facilities must come up with a plan in conjunction with their local health district to make sure their students or staff have places to isolate or quarantine.
Tuesday’s announcement comes as COVID-19 cases trend upward around the nation and in Washington.
Argentina passes 1 million cases as virus hits Latin America
USHUAIA, Argentina — At the edge of Argentina in a city known as “The End of the World,” many thought they might be spared from the worst of the coronavirus pandemic.
Sitting far from the South American nation’s bustling capital, health workers in Ushuaia were initially able to contain a small outbreak among foreigners hoping to catch boats to the Antarctic at the start of the crisis.
But as Argentina passed 1 million virus cases Monday, it is now smaller cities like Ushuaia that are seeing some of the most notable upticks. Doctors have had to quadruple the number of beds for COVID-19 patients over the last month. At least 60% of those tested recently are coming back positive for the virus.
“We were the example of the country,” said Dr. Carlos Guglielmi, director of the Ushuaia Regional Hospital. “Evidently someone arrived with the coronavirus.”
Europe’s museums are open, but the public isn’t coming
AMSTERDAM — Visitors to the Rijksmuseum’s vast, vaulted galleries of Dutch old master paintings can feel as if they’ve got the whole place to themselves these days. Before the pandemic, around 10,000 people used to crowd in each day. Now, it’s about 800.
In theory, even with strict social distancing guidelines — visitors must book ahead, wear a mask, follow a set path and stay at least 6 feet apart — the Dutch national museum could accommodate as many as 2,500 people a day. But the public isn’t exactly jostling for those limited tickets.
Across town, the Hermitage Amsterdam museum has extended an exhibition of imperial jewels from the Russian state collection that was attracting 1,100 visitors a day last year. Now, the museum has limited daily ticket sales to 600, though it’s only selling about half.
As cultural institutions reopen across the United States, with new coronavirus protocols in place, many have been looking to Europe, where many museums have been open since May, for a preview of how the public might respond to the invitation to return. So far, there’s little reason to be optimistic.
Confirmed COVID-19 cases in Oregon surpass 40,000
SALEM, Ore. — Health officials say Oregon has surpassed 40,000 confirmed coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic.
The Oregon Health Authority on Tuesday reported 346 new confirmed and presumptive cases, bringing the state’s case tally to 40,135. The death toll is 633.
The counties with the highest number of new cases Tuesday were Multnomah — with 101 cases — Washington and Marion counties.
The Oregon Health Authority announced Monday that face covering requirements were being expanded to include all private and public workplaces, including classrooms, offices, meeting rooms, work spaces, outdoor markets, street fairs, private career schools and public and private colleges and universities.
Second boat returns to Bremerton ferry route
After reducing the route to one boat early in the local coronavirus outbreak, Washington State Ferries will restore two-boat service on the Seattle/Bremerton route starting Sunday.
The route has had only one boat since March 29.
Washington State Ferries will continue to suspend the last roundtrip sailing of the day on the route, as it has done on the Seattle/Bainbridge and Mukilteo/Clinton routes, the agency said in an announcement Tuesday. Washington State Ferries previously said it could not run full schedules due to staffing shortages as employees in high-risk groups stayed home.
Ferry riders are required to where masks and encouraged to stay in their vehicles when possible.
Judge considers challenge to CDC order halting evictions
A federal judge in Atlanta is weighing a challenge to a Trump administration directive that halts the eviction of certain renters through the end of the year in an effort to prevent the further spread of the coronavirus.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last month issued an order barring landlords from evicting any person covered by the order from a residential property for failure to pay rent. The measure followed an executive order issued by President Donald Trump in early August that instructed public health officials to consider measures to temporarily halt evictions.
Individual landlords from four states — Georgia, New Jersey, South Carolina and Virginia — and a trade association representing owners and managers of rental housing in all 50 states filed a lawsuit challenging the order. The inability to evict tenants who aren’t paying rent is causing them irreparable harm, they argue, and they asked the court to prohibit the enforcement of the order while the lawsuit is pending.
CDC: ‘Strong recommendation’ but no rule for masks on planes
The government’s top public health agency is raising the importance of wearing face masks on planes, trains and buses, although the Trump administration has resisted making masks mandatory for travelers.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new interim guidelines for travelers, including a “strong recommendation” to wear face coverings to slow the spread of COVID-19.
“Transmission of the virus through travel has led to — and continues to lead to — interstate and international spread of the virus,” the CDC said in a statement. “Local transmission can grow quickly into interstate and international transmission when infected persons travel on public conveyances without wearing a mask and with others who are not wearing masks.”
The CDC said its advice on masks should be followed by passengers and workers on planes, ferries, trains, subways, buses, taxis and ride-sharing vehicles, including in airports and at subway and bus stations.
The new guidance issued Monday includes more specific advice for travelers than CDC has previously given.
U.S. drug overdoses appear to rise amid coronavirus pandemic
Matthew Davidson was beating his heroin addiction. The 31-year-old was attending group recovery meetings. He had a restaurant job he liked. He was a doting uncle to a baby nephew.
Then the coronavirus pandemic hit. Davidson lost his job. He started staying home alone in his apartment near Georgetown, Kentucky — depressed and yearning for his recovery support group that had stopped gathering in person, said his cousin Melanie Wyatt.
On May 25, his girlfriend came home to find him dead of a drug overdose.
Davidson was part of a surge in overdose deaths that hit Kentucky this spring. May was its deadliest month for overdoses in at least five years. At the end of August, the state had seen almost as many overdose deaths as it had in all of 2019.
It is not alone. National data is incomplete, but available information suggests U.S. drug overdose deaths are on track to reach an all-time high. Addiction experts blame the pandemic, which has left people stressed and isolated, disrupted treatment and recovery programs, and contributed to an increasingly dangerous illicit drug supply.
European nations mixed in their response to virus spikes
Countries across Europe are battling coronavirus infection spikes with new lockdowns, curfews, face mask orders and virus tracking smart phone apps.
In a small sign of success, Spain’s government said it won’t extend a state of emergency in the Madrid region when it expires Saturday, but will look to more local measures.
But as the second wave of the global pandemic sweeps across the continent, local and national governments also are facing swelling opposition to the new measures.
In The Hague, bar and restaurant owners launched a legal challenge Tuesday to an order to close their doors for at least four weeks. Bar owners in Berlin instigated a similar case last week. An outcry in Portugal has forced authorities to back away from a plan to make a tracing app mandatory nationwide.
Amid the public frustration, some countries are dangling a festive carrot in front of virus-weary populations, saying that tough action now could clear the way for an easing of measures before Christmas.
US trust in COVID-19 information way down, new poll finds
Americans have lost trust across the board in the people and institutions informing them about the coronavirus since the beginning of the pandemic, according to a new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research and USAFacts.
The poll finds that the percentage of people saying they trust COVID-19 information from their state or local governments, the news media, social media and their friends and family has dropped significantly compared to similar questions in April. A large chunk of Americans say they find it hard to know if coronavirus information is accurate.
Just 16% say they trust coronavirus information from President Donald Trump a great deal or quite a bit, down from 23% in April. And 64% now say they trust Trump only a little or not at all on COVID-19. Only social media, at 72%, is less trusted.
Chinese drugmaker setting up vaccine production lines
A state-owned Chinese drugmaker is setting up production lines to supply 1 billion doses of two possible coronavirus vaccines that are being tested on 50,000 people in 10 countries, the company chairman said Tuesday.
Testing by SinoPharm Group is “in the last kilometer of a long march,” chairman Liu Jingzhen said at a news conference. He gave no indication when results are expected.
China’s fledgling drug industry is part of a global race to produce a vaccine and has four candidates in final stages of testing. Health experts say, however, that even if China succeeds, stringent certification rules in the United States, Europe and Japan might mean its vaccine can be distributed only in other developing countries.
Quarantine Corner: Things to do while staying home
Stir up some at-home Halloween fun with teen chef Sadie's haunted-house glass window cookies.
Gray days call for nostalgic comfort foods, like the best-ever homemade cream of mushroom soup and fancy tuna noodle casserole. And then there’s this new spin on old-timey baked apples.
The next pick for Moira's Book Club is … drumroll, please … a lush crowd-pleaser called "Virgil Wander." And movie buffs will get a laugh out of a new Lindy West book with a profane title that asks bizarre questions about blockbuster films.
Catch up on the past 24 hours
Today is the deadline for a deal on COVID-19 economic relief, a target imposed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. It's not looking good. With time nearly up for Congress and the White House to deliver aid to Americans before the election, the big question is: If not now, when?
Researchers in the U.K. are starting a controversial experiment that will infect healthy volunteers with the coronavirus to study COVID-19 in hopes of speeding up a vaccine.
Oregon is expanding its mask requirements as COVID-19 cases approach a milestone. This comes after kids in the Willamette Valley got together without masks and — you guessed it — the coronavirus showed up, too, setting back schools' efforts to reopen.
The pandemic has turkey farmers flapping about a sizable problem: too many big birds to fit Americans' new Thanksgiving needs. (Here's guidance from disease specialists on how to decrease risk as you make tough calls about the holidays.)
Will the coronavirus force the Pac-12 to cancel football games? Perhaps not under the aggressive testing program that sets it apart from other conferences. But the Pac-12's tests do come with downsides.
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