Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Wednesday, Oct. 21, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.

Coronavirus infections are rising “at an alarming rate” in Western Washington, health officials say, and projections indicate we’re facing several difficult months. This has state health officials warning that the fall surge might strain local hospitals. And it’s not just our region: Across nearly the entire nation, the virus is rebounding with a vengeance, and this wave threatens to be the worst yet.

Throughout Wednesday, 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 Tuesday are here, and all our coronavirus coverage can be found here.

(Jennifer Luxton / The Seattle Times)

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Sri Lanka closes fish market, expands curfew

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — Sri Lanka’s main fish market was closed Thursday and a curfew widened as a COVID-19 outbreak grows.

The government imposed the curfew in parts of the capital and some areas outside Colombo after earlier isolating at least six villages in Western province where the new cluster was discovered early this month. Colombo is inside Western province.

Health authorities also temporarily closed the island nation’s main fish market after 49 traders tested positive. Hundreds of other traders at the market on the outskirts of Colombo are being tested for the coronavirus.

By Thursday, 2,510 infections have been connected to the cluster first tied to a garment factory and which authorities identified as Sri Lanka’s first community outbreak in two months.

Schools and key public offices have been closed, public gatherings banned and restrictions imposed on public transport.

Sri Lanka has reported a total of 5,811 confirmed cases with 13 deaths since March.

—Associated Press
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Regulators, experts take up thorny vaccine study issues

WASHINGTON — The U.S. regulators who will decide the fate of COVID-19 vaccines are taking an unusual step: Asking outside scientists if their standards are high enough.

The Food and Drug Administration may have to decide by year’s end whether to allow use of the first vaccines against the virus. Thursday, a federal advisory committee pulls back the curtain on that decision process, debating whether the guidelines FDA has set for vaccine developers are rigorous enough.

“We will not cut corners, and we will only use science and data to make that determination,” FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn pledged at a meeting of the Milken Institute Wednesday.

Exactly how much data his agency needs to be sure a vaccine is safe and effective is a key question for the advisers. An even bigger one: If the FDA allows emergency use of a vaccine before final testing is finished, will that destroy chances of ever learning just how well that shot — and maybe competitors still being studied — really work?

—Associated Press

Former Masters champ Scott tests positive for coronavirus

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. — Former Masters champion Adam Scott has tested positive for the coronavirus and withdrew from the Zozo Championship at Sherwood on Wednesday, becoming the second high-profile golfer in as many weeks to do so.

Dustin Johnson, the world’s No. 1 player, tested positive last week at the CJ Cup at Shadow Creek in Las Vegas.

Scott has not played since the U.S. Open, and the Australian has played only four times — two majors and two FedEx Cup playoff events — in the four months since the PGA Tour returned from the COVID-19 shutdown.

“While it’s difficult news to receive – as I really looked forward to playing this week – my focus now is on recovery for the final stretch of the fall,” Scott said in a statement.

—Associated Press

What will another 9 months without Amazon workers mean for Seattle’s downtown?

A lone person leaves an Amazon building in South Lake Union  Wednesday, October 21, 2020. Amazon is extending its work-from-home plan through June of 2021. (Ellen M. Banner / The Seattle Times)
A lone person leaves an Amazon building in South Lake Union Wednesday, October 21, 2020. Amazon is extending its work-from-home plan through June of 2021. (Ellen M. Banner / The Seattle Times)

For many business owners struggling to survive the pandemic’s upending of office work, news that downtown Seattle’s biggest employer had extended its work-from-home policy by six months is yet another blow.

Many small businesses have already adjusted to the absence of Amazon workers — along with those of many other downtown companies — and their appetites for coffee, food, an after-work drink and other services. But scores of others have succumbed, and business leaders said that without help, more will fail in the coming months.

“We’ve already endured six months, with some help from the government,” said Justin Young, owner of Flow Fitness, with locations in South Lake Union and Fremont. “I don’t see us being able to do another six months” without additional support, or an easing in state limits on the number of customers in the gyms.

Amid the pandemic’s turmoil, some new patterns emerged downtown this summer, including an uptick in the number of people choosing to work in the office at least some of the time.

Read the full story here.

—Benjamin Romano
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Alabama lieutenant governor tests positive for COVID-19

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Alabama’s lieutenant governor, who has called the state’s mask order a government overstep, announced Wednesday that he has tested positive for COVID-19.

Republican Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth said he had a positive test result but so far, he has no symptoms. He said he took the test after being notified Wednesday that a member of his Sunday school church group had acquired the coronavirus. Ainsworth has criticized mandatory mask orders, although he says he personally wears one.

“Because I follow social distancing rules and wear a mask both in church and in my daily interactions, the positive result shows that even those of us who are the most cautious can be at risk,” Ainsworth said in a statement.

Ainsworth said he “will quarantine for the appropriate period and seek follow-up tests to ensure the virus has run its course before resuming public activities.”

Ainsworth has been critical of the state’s COVID-19 response under Republican Gov. Kay Ivey. In March, he criticized what he said at the time was the state’s slow response to prepare for a possible “tsunami of hospital patients.” He has also been critical of the state’s mandatory mask order. He said last month that “masks should be voluntary, not mandatory.”

—Associated Press

Court orders California to cut San Quentin inmates by half

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A California appeals court has ordered state corrections officials to cut the population of one of the world’s most famous prisons to less than half of its designed capacity, citing officials’ “deliberate indifference” to the plight of inmates during the coronavirus pandemic.

State prison officials said Wednesday that they are deciding whether to appeal the order, which otherwise will force them to parole or transfer about 1,100 inmates serving time in San Quentin State Prison north of San Francisco.

California’s oldest prison, home to its death row, was the site of one of the nation’s worst coronavirus outbreaks, with 28 inmate deaths and 2,200 infections at its peak — about 75% of the inmate population. Nearly 300 employees were sickened and one died, though all but nine employees are now back to work.

It was “the worst epidemiological disaster in California correctional history,” the First District Court of Appeal in San Francisco said in Tuesday’s ruling.

The three-justice court said officials’ decision not to cut the inmate population by half, as recommended by prison officials’ outside advisors in June, was “morally indefensible and constitutionally untenable.”

—Associated Press

Brazil’s Bolsonaro rejects coronavirus vaccine from China

SAO PAULO — Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro on Wednesday rejected the announced purchase of 46 million doses of a potential vaccine against the coronavirus being developed by a Chinese company and tested in a state governed by a political rival, prompting some to question if he was allowing politics to steer public health decisions.

“The Brazilian people will not be anyone’s guinea pig,” Bolsonaro said on his social media channels, adding that the vaccine has not yet completed testing, which is the case with all potential vaccines for the virus. “My decision is to not purchase such a vaccine.”

Health Minister Eduardo Pazuello had announced the purchase Tuesday in a meeting with Sao Paulo Gov. João Doria, a foe of Bolsonaro’s whose state is participating in the vaccine’s development through its Butantan Institute. The cost of the acquisition was estimated at 2 billion reais ($360 million).

“Butantan’s vaccine will be Brazil’s vaccine,” Pazuello said.

A Brazilian Health Ministry document issued Monday and shared by Sao Paulo’s government Wednesday confirmed that the ministry had put in writing its intention to buy the doses of the “Butantan Vaccine-Sinovac/Covid-19” for an estimated price of $10.30 each.

—Associated Press
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Protesters in Colombia decry government pandemic response

BOGOTA, Colombia — Protesters filled a historic square in Colombia’s capital Wednesday to demonstrate against the government’s handling of a wide range of issues including the economic fallout of the pandemic and implementation of the peace accord.

Indigenous leaders, students and union members gathered at the Plaza Bolivar waving flags and banners decrying the government nearly one year after massive protests rocked the country only to fizzle with little to show by way of reform.

The COVID-19 pandemic had largely put a halt to demonstrations this year, but organizers were hoping to renew momentum after the government lifted six months of strict quarantine measures aimed at containing the virus.

“There are lot of people going to sleep hungry and waking up hungry,” union organizer Julio Roberto Gómez told Colombia’s BLU Radio.

Colombia is on track to reach 1 million confirmed virus cases this week and is one of the hardest hit nations in Latin America. Millions of jobs have been lost and unemployment reached nearly 17% in August. Though President Iván Duque’s approval rating has improved during the pandemic, the country remains divided on a host of issues.

“It’s very difficult for President Duque to carve a path forward without further dividing society,” said Sergio Guzman, director of Colombia Risk Analysis.

—Associated Press

Washington confirms 724 new coronavirus cases and four deaths

State health officials reported 724 new coronavirus cases and four more deaths in Washington on Wednesday afternoon.

The update brings the total number of reported cases to 99,874 and the number of deaths to 2,286.

At least 8,149 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 25,540 diagnoses and 800 deaths.

—Brendan Kiley

With COVID-19 beds full, Coeur d’Alene hospital may send new cases to Seattle and Portland

COVID-19 patients from Northern Idaho soon may have to be sent to Seattle or Portland because of soaring infection rates that have filled the region's hospitals, Kootenai Health hospital said in a statement Wednesday.

The Coeur d’Alene hospital said it has 31 COVID-19 patients, including 11 requiring critical care, and is short-staffed.

"Because all regional hospitals are experiencing the same situation, there will be limited opportunities to transfer patients to other facilities once at capacity," the health center said. "If there is no room available, Kootenai Health is currently looking at hospitals in Seattle or Portland to find space to transfer patients, but it is very limited."

 Idaho is seeing its largest coronavirus spike since the pandemic began, with the number of new cases increasing 46.5% over the past two weeks, while grappling with continued calls to ease mask rules and virus restrictions, according to The Spokesman-Review.

Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, has navigated a delicate political landscape in Northern Idaho, a conservative corner of the country where some have sought refuge from political and social changes elsewhere. On Wednesday, Kootenai Health hospital said it may have to send new COVID-19 cases to Seattle as surging coronavirus cases have filled its beds to capacity. (Matthew Hamon / The New York Times)
Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, has navigated a delicate political landscape in Northern Idaho, a conservative corner of the country where some have sought refuge from political and social changes elsewhere. On Wednesday, Kootenai Health hospital said it may have to send new COVID-19 cases to Seattle as surging coronavirus cases have filled its beds to capacity. (Matthew Hamon / The New York Times)

—Christine Clarridge
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With 1 in 4 patients sick with COVID-19, an Idaho hospital tries to weather the storm

Suzanne Hansen was at the grocery store in Twin Falls, Idaho, with her daughter — both of them in masks — when a man approached her in the baking aisle.

“This guy gets within a foot of my face, telling me how stupid I am because I’m wearing a mask and I’m just blindly following,” she said. “He said, ‘Why do you think you need to wear a mask?’”

Hansen explained to him that she is an emergency room nurse, coming into contact with COVID-19 patients. She wasn’t wearing the mask for herself, she said; she was wearing it to protect people around her, in case she was unknowingly infected.

“And while I’m saying this, he takes like 10 steps back,” she said. “But he still keeps yelling at me.”

Hansen recounted that story last week, as her hospital, St. Luke’s Magic Valley Medical Center in Twin Falls, was inundated with COVID-19 patients. The hospital serves a metro area of more than 100,000 people, taking patients from several surrounding counties. For the past three weeks, a growing number of those patients have come in with COVID-19.

The hospital’s resources are strained. People who work there are tired. Some are out sick, or in quarantine, as the virus spreads in the community. Those who are healthy are offered emergency pay to work extra shifts.

Interviews in the past week with hospital management and employees shared a theme: They wonder how much longer they can keep up with the demands of this coronavirus surge. They worry about the coming weeks and months, as case numbers climb and Idaho enters flu season. About 20% of the COVID-19 tests done by St. Luke’s for residents of Twin Falls, Jerome and Gooding counties are coming back positive.

Read the story here.

—The Idaho Statesman

Whitmer: Michigan at ‘dangerous moment’ as virus cases spike

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer warned Wednesday that Michigan has more confirmed cases of the coronavirus than ever, noting a sharp increase since the state Supreme Court invalidated her sweeping orders earlier this month.

The number of COVID-19 cases had been gradually rising for months prior to the Oct. 2 ruling, from a seven-day average of 119 in June to roughly 984 — as the Democratic governor loosened economic restrictions and allowed schools to reopen. Since the court decision, the seven-day average is up to 1,818 — nearly double.

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer speaks at Beech Woods Recreation Center, in Southfield, Mich., Friday, Oct. 16, 2020. Whitmer warned Wednesday that Michigan has more confirmed cases of the coronavirus than ever, noting a sharp increase since the state Supreme Court invalidated her sweeping orders earlier this month. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer speaks at Beech Woods Recreation Center, in Southfield, Mich., Friday, Oct. 16, 2020. Whitmer warned Wednesday that Michigan has more confirmed cases of the coronavirus than ever, noting a sharp increase since the state Supreme Court invalidated her sweeping orders earlier this month. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Whitmer pleaded with people to wear a mask and maintain distance from others. “We are in a dangerous moment where there’s the possibility of it just becoming community spread that becomes out of control."

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

Ireland focuses on Christmas as it enters new lockdown

Ireland is already focused on Christmas. It’s a major national priority.

Unless the country can get the COVID-19 pandemic under control, there won’t be much Christmas cheer this year in Galway, Cork or Dublin.

With infections on the rise, the government has imposed a tough new lockdown that begins at midnight Wednesday, shutting down non-essential shops, limiting restaurants to takeout service and ordering people to stay within five kilometers (three miles) of their homes for the next six weeks.

The restrictions are among the toughest in Europe, and Prime Minister Micheal Martin said he imposed them in part to ensure Ireland can celebrate Christmas “in a meaningful way.”

People place shutters on a jewellery shop in Dublin, Ireland, Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020. With COVID-19 cases on the rise, the government has imposed a tough new lockdown, shutting down non-essential shops, limiting restaurants to takeout service and ordering people to stay within five kilometers (three miles) of their homes for the next six weeks. (AP Photo/Peter Morrison)
People place shutters on a jewellery shop in Dublin, Ireland, Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020. With COVID-19 cases on the rise, the government has imposed a tough new lockdown, shutting down non-essential shops, limiting restaurants to takeout service and ordering people to stay within five kilometers (three miles) of their homes for the next six weeks. (AP Photo/Peter Morrison)

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press
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Spain 1st in western Europe to hit 1 million virus cases

Spain became the first country in western Europe to accumulate more than 1 million confirmed COVID-19 infections on Wednesday as the nation of 47 million struggles to contain a resurgence of the virus.

The health ministry said that its accumulative case load since the start of the pandemic reached 1,005,295 after reporting 16,973 more cases in the past 24 hours. The ministry attributes 34,366 deaths to COVID-19.

In Spain, which is now the first nation in Western Europe to reach 1 million coronavirus cases, a man holds up banner in support of hotel industry and the job reading,” I search for work”, in Pamplona, northern Spain, Wednesday. (AP Photo/Alvaro Barrientos)
In Spain, which is now the first nation in Western Europe to reach 1 million coronavirus cases, a man holds up banner in support of hotel industry and the job reading,” I search for work”, in Pamplona, northern Spain, Wednesday. (AP Photo/Alvaro Barrientos)

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

Virus spikes have officials looking to shore up hospitals

Hospitals across the United States are starting to buckle from a resurgence of COVID-19 cases, with several states setting records for the number of people hospitalized and leaders scrambling to find extra beds and staff. New highs in cases have been reported in states big and small — from Idaho to Ohio — in recent days.

The rise in cases and hospitalizations was alarming to medical experts who see a pattern: First, the number of cases rises, then hospitalizations and finally there are increases in deaths. An ambulance is parked at the University Medical Center in Las Vegas on Oct. 12, 2020. Spikes of the coronavirus are hitting spots around the United States, forcing public health officials to scramble to ensure there are enough hospital beds to accommodate the sick. (AP Photo/John Locher)

In Kentucky, the governor called the number of daily confirmed cases “grim,” forcing another round of preparations to expand hospital capacity. And in Nebraska began imposing new coronavirus restrictions Wednesday, after the number of people hospitalized remained at a record level of 380 for two straight days and the state reported 11 new deaths from the virus.

Read the story here.

—Christine Clarridge

Texas woman died of covid-19 on a Spirit Airlines flight from Las Vegas

A Texas woman died of covid-19 while she was on board a Spirit Airlines flight heading home to Dallas from Las Vegas in late July, officials said this week.

The Spirit flight left Las Vegas on the evening of July 24, bound for Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport and was diverted to Albuquerque because the woman was unresponsive, said Stephanie Kitts, a spokeswoman for Albuquerque International Sunport. The woman was dead by the time she arrived, Kitts said.

The woman has not been identified publicly, but the Dallas County Judge’s Office, which first disclosed her death, said she was in her 30s and had an underlying medical condition.

Airport managers in Albuquerque did not learn until later that the woman had covid-19, so the case was handled as a typical medical diversion, Kitts said. Officials in Dallas County added the woman to their virus death toll on Sunday.

It’s unknown how many people were on the flight or whether they were notified that they might have been exposed to the virus.

Read the story here.

—The Washington Post
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CDC redefines COVID-19 close contact, adds brief encounters

U.S. health officials Wednesday redefined what counts as close contact with someone with COVID-19 to include repeated short encounters that add up to 15 minutes over a 24-hour period.

For months, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said close contact meant spending a solid 15 minutes within 6 feet of someone who tested positive for coronavirus. On Wednesday, the CDC changed it to include short but repeated contacts that add up to 15 minutes over a 24-hour period.

The change may prompt health departments to do contact tracing in cases where an exposure might previously have been considered too brief, said Dr. William Schaffner, a Vanderbilt University infectious diseases expert.

It’s also serves notice that the coronavirus can spread more easily than many people realize, he added.

Signage stands outside the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S, on Saturday, March 14, 2020.  U.S. health officials Wednesday redefined what counts as close contact with someone with COVID-19 to include briefer but repeated encounters. Photographer: Elijah Nouvelage/Bloomberg (Bloomberg)
Signage stands outside the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S, on Saturday, March 14, 2020. U.S. health officials Wednesday redefined what counts as close contact with someone with COVID-19 to include briefer but repeated encounters. Photographer: Elijah Nouvelage/Bloomberg (Bloomberg)

The definition change was triggered by a study of a 20-year-old Vermont correctional officer, who was diagnosed with a coronavirus infection in August. The guard, who wore a mask and goggles, had multiple brief encounters with six transferred prisoners before test results showed they were positive.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan unveiled for Washington state

This 2020 electron microscope image made available by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases shows a novel coronavirus particle. Officials in Olympia on Wednesday released the criteria that they will use to distribute a vaccine for the virus, once one is developed. (NIAID/NIH via AP)
This 2020 electron microscope image made available by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases shows a novel coronavirus particle. Officials in Olympia on Wednesday released the criteria that they will use to distribute a vaccine for the virus, once one is developed. (NIAID/NIH via AP)

The Washington state Department of Health on Wednesday released its draft plan to distribute vaccines to protect against the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

The plan, which was submitted to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last Friday and released to the public five days later, describes the state’s preparations as pharmaceutical companies race to create an effective and safe vaccine.

The plan recognizes the disproportionate impact COVID-19 has had on some communities, and promises that allocation of vaccines “will be guided by maximizing health and societal benefit while taking an equity lens into consideration.”

Read more here.

—Evan Bush

Swiss fear rise in COVID-19 cases could overburden hospitals

The Swiss health minister said coronavirus case counts and hospitalizations were doubling every week, warning of the prospect of overburdened hospitals as Switzerland has gone from one of the least-affected countries in Europe to one of the worst-hit in just three weeks.

Alain Berset made the comments after the country of 8.5 million tallied on Wednesday a record 5,583 new cases over the latest 24 hours, obliterating the previous one-day record — set two days earlier — by about 14%.

“The situation is worsening, and worsening fast,” Berset told a news conference in Bern, the capital.

New measures to restrict the spread of coronavirus were announced Sunday, including a requirement for people to wear face and nose coverings in all publicly accessible indoor areas. In this file photo, Swiss Health Minister Alain Berset
speaks during the opening of High Mountain Summit, at the headquarters World Meteorological Organization (WMO) in Geneva, Switzerland, Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2019. (Salvatore Di Nolfi/Keystone via AP)
New measures to restrict the spread of coronavirus were announced Sunday, including a requirement for people to wear face and nose coverings in all publicly accessible indoor areas. In this file photo, Swiss Health Minister Alain Berset speaks during the opening of High Mountain Summit, at the headquarters World Meteorological Organization (WMO) in Geneva, Switzerland, Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2019. (Salvatore Di Nolfi/Keystone via AP)

“Three weeks ago, we had a situation that was among the best on the European continent,” he said. “Three weeks later, we have one of the worst situations as far as Europe goes.”

Europe has faced a punishing second wave in recent weeks and has again become one of the epicenters of the COVID-19 pandemic. It tallied a record 927,000 confirmed cases over the last week.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press
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Next up in hunt for COVID-19 vaccine: Testing shots in kids

The global hunt for a COVID-19 vaccine for kids is only just beginning — a lagging start that has some U.S. pediatricians worried they may not know if any shots work for young children in time for the next school year.

Older adults may be most vulnerable to the coronavirus, but ending the pandemic will require vaccinating children, too. Last week, Pfizer Inc. received permission to test its vaccine in U.S. kids as young as 12, one of only a handful of attempts around the world to start exploring if any experimental shots being pushed for adults also can protect children.

“I just figured the more people they have to do tests on, the quicker they can put out a vaccine and people can be safe and healthy,” said 16-year-old Katelyn Evans, who became the first teen to get an injection in the Pfizer study at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital.

Clinical research coordinator Tammy Lewis-McCauley administers an injection to Katelyn Evans as part of a clinical trial of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. (Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center via AP)
Clinical research coordinator Tammy Lewis-McCauley administers an injection to Katelyn Evans as part of a clinical trial of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. (Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center via AP)

Multiple vaccine candidates are in final-stage studies in tens of thousands of adults, and scientists are hopeful that the next few months will bring evidence that at least some of them are safe and effective enough for widespread use.

But when the first shots arrive, they’re unlikely to be recommended for children. Vaccines can’t be given to youngsters unless they’ve been tested in their age group — a major hurdle in efforts to reopen schools and resume more normal activities that are critical to families’ well-being.

Read the story here.

—Lauran Neergaard, The Associated Press

US surgeon general to be in court on Hawaii virus citation

The U.S. surgeon general is set to be arraigned Wednesday in a virtual court hearing in Hawaii on charges he illegally entered a public park that was closed because of the coronavirus.

The criminal complaint against Jerome Adams, who was on Oahu in August helping with surge testing amid a spike in coronavirus cases, says he and two other men were looking at the view and taking pictures at Kualoa Regional Park on the island’s northeastern coast. The rural park offers a view of the famed Mokolii island, also known as Chinaman’s Hat for its cone shape.

FILE – In this Aug. 27, 2020 file photo U.S. Surgeon General Vice Adm. Jerome Adams speaks during a press conference on the second day of surge COVID-19 testing, at Kalakaua District Park in Honolulu. Adams who was cited for being in a closed Hawaii park in August while in the islands helping with surge testing amid a spike in coronavirus cases, appears for a virtual arraignment in a Hawaii court on Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020. (Jamm Aquino/Honolulu Star-Advertiser via AP,File)
FILE – In this Aug. 27, 2020 file photo U.S. Surgeon General Vice Adm. Jerome Adams speaks during a press conference on the second day of surge COVID-19 testing, at Kalakaua District Park in Honolulu. Adams who was cited for being in a closed Hawaii park in August while in the islands helping with surge testing amid a spike in coronavirus cases, appears for a virtual arraignment in a Hawaii court on Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020. (Jamm Aquino/Honolulu Star-Advertiser via AP,File)

Adams told a police officer who cited him that he was visiting Hawaii to work with Gov. David Ige on COVID-19 and didn’t know parks were closed. Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell had closed them at the time to try to prevent crowding that could spread the virus.

Violating any of the mayor’s emergency orders is punishable as a misdemeanor, with fines of up to $5,000, up to a year in jail or both.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

Pope reverts to mask-less old ways amid growing criticism

A day after donning a face mask for the first time during a liturgical service, Pope Francis was back to his mask-less old ways Wednesday despite surging coronavirus infections across Europe and growing criticism of his behavior and the example he is setting.

Francis shunned a face mask again during his Wednesday general audience in the Vatican auditorium, and didn’t wear one when he greeted a half-dozen mask-less bishops at the end. He shook hands and leaned in to chat privately with each one.

Pope Francis meets with bishops in the Paul VI hall on the occasion of the weekly general audience at the Vatican, Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020. His decision to eschew masks is drawing criticism. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
Pope Francis meets with bishops in the Paul VI hall on the occasion of the weekly general audience at the Vatican, Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020. His decision to eschew masks is drawing criticism. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

While the clerics wore masks while seated during the audience, all but one took his mask off to speak to the pope. Only one kept it on, and by the end of his tete-a-tete with Francis, had lowered it under his chin.

Vatican regulations now require facemasks to be worn indoors and out where distancing can’t be “always guaranteed.” The Vatican hasn’t responded to questions about why the pope wasn’t following either Vatican regulations or basic public health measures to prevent COVID-19.

Francis has faced sharp criticism even from his most ardent supporters and incredulousness from some within the Vatican for refusing to wear a mask. And when he has worn a mask, he has apologized for it.

Read the story

—The Associated Press
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Another chunk of England faces tight virus restrictions

The British government on Wednesday put another 1.4 million people into England’s tightest coronavirus restrictions, but faced growing criticism that its piecemeal approach to curbing the outbreak is sowing division and confusion.

The northern England city of Sheffield will face Tier 3 restrictions, the highest level, as of Saturday, joining a densely populated swath of the country where the measures have been imposed despite protests from local politicians.

The measures focused on the hardest hit areas have caused tension between Boris Johnson’s Conservative government and local authorities in northern England, which has the country’s highest infection rates. Britain has had Europe’s deadliest coronavirus outbreak, with almost 44,000 confirmed deaths.

A man cycles past anti-lockdown graffiti in Manchester, England, Monday, Oct. 19, 2020 as the row over Greater Manchester region’s coronavirus status continues. Britain’s government says discussions about implementing stricter restrictions in Greater Manchester must be completed Monday because the public health threat caused by rising COVID-19 infections is serious and getting worse. (Peter Byrne/PA via AP)
A man cycles past anti-lockdown graffiti in Manchester, England, Monday, Oct. 19, 2020 as the row over Greater Manchester region’s coronavirus status continues. Britain’s government says discussions about implementing stricter restrictions in Greater Manchester must be completed Monday because the public health threat caused by rising COVID-19 infections is serious and getting worse. (Peter Byrne/PA via AP)

The feud has reopened a longstanding rift between the north of England — whose cities are still recovering from decades of post-industrial decline — and the more affluent south. 

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

Coronavirus spreads in region near Armenia amid heavy fighting

People who are sick with the coronavirus pack into chilly basements alongside the healthy to hide from artillery fire. The local health minister who tested positive keeps working, despite a fever and pneumonia. Doctors with the virus perform surgery on the wounded.

These are the grim realities of the pandemic in Nagorno-Karabakh, a separatist region in the South Caucasus mountains beset by weeks of heavy fighting between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces.

“We just don’t have time to think about coronavirus,” said Irina Musaelyan, a resident of the regional capital of Stepanakert who was sheltering in a basement with her neighbors.

A medic cares for a coronavirus patient in an infectious diseases clinic in Stepanakert, the separatist region of Nagorno-Karabakh, Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2020. Nagorno-Karabakh, which lies within Azerbaijan but has been under the control of ethnic Armenian forces since a war there ended in 1994, faces an outbreak of the coronavirus amid the largest outbreak of hostilities in more than a quarter-century. (AP Photo)
A medic cares for a coronavirus patient in an infectious diseases clinic in Stepanakert, the separatist region of Nagorno-Karabakh, Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2020. Nagorno-Karabakh, which lies within Azerbaijan but has been under the control of ethnic Armenian forces since a war there ended in 1994, faces an outbreak of the coronavirus amid the largest outbreak of hostilities in more than a quarter-century. (AP Photo)

Nagorno-Karabakh lies within Azerbaijan but has been under the control of ethnic Armenian forces backed by Armenia for more than a quarter-century. It is facing the largest escalation of fighting since a war there ended in 1994, with hundreds killed since Sept. 27. Two attempts at cease-fires have failed.

A general view of a destroyed after shelling by Azerbaijan’s artillery house during a military conflict in Stepanakert, the separatist region of Nagorno-Karabakh, Saturday, Oct. 17, 2020.Nagorno-Karabakh, which lies within Azerbaijan but has been under the control of ethnic Armenian forces since a war there ended in 1994, faces an outbreak of the coronavirus amid the largest outbreak of hostilities in more than a quarter-century. (AP Photo)
A general view of a destroyed after shelling by Azerbaijan’s artillery house during a military conflict in Stepanakert, the separatist region of Nagorno-Karabakh, Saturday, Oct. 17, 2020.Nagorno-Karabakh, which lies within Azerbaijan but has been under the control of ethnic Armenian forces since a war there ended in 1994, faces an outbreak of the coronavirus amid the largest outbreak of hostilities in more than a quarter-century. (AP Photo)

The fighting has diverted the region’s scarce resources from containing the virus, which spread unchecked amid artillery fire and drone attacks that have people spending many hours in overcrowded bunkers, whether they are sick or healthy. Contact tracing has ground to a halt and health care workers have been hit particularly hard.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

Poland heralds virus strategy protecting both lives and jobs

Poland’s prime minister on Wednesday outlined a “middle of the road” strategy of defending people’s health and lives while also protecting the economy and jobs in the country’s fight against COVID-19.

Mateusz Morawiecki said the policy rejected the approaches of those playing down the danger posed by the pandemic, as well as of those calling for another lockdown.

On Wednesday, Poland registered a record of over 10,000 new confirmed infections, bringing the total to almost 203,000 in a country of some 38 million.

An ambulance brings a COVID-19 patient to a specialized hospital in Warsaw, Poland, on Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2020. Poland is seeing a sharp spike in new cases daily of coronavirus infections, filling up hospital beds. Poland’s government is transforming the National Stadium in Warsaw into a field hospital to handle the surging number of people infected with the coronavirus, and expects it to be operational within days, officials said. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)
An ambulance brings a COVID-19 patient to a specialized hospital in Warsaw, Poland, on Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2020. Poland is seeing a sharp spike in new cases daily of coronavirus infections, filling up hospital beds. Poland’s government is transforming the National Stadium in Warsaw into a field hospital to handle the surging number of people infected with the coronavirus, and expects it to be operational within days, officials said. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press
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Czechs impose more restrictions as virus cases surge

The Czech government on Wednesday announced further restrictions to fight the coronavirus pandemic, including limits on free movement, after a series of earlier restrictive measures failed to slow a surge in the number of new infections.

A woman wearing a face mask walks in Prague, Czech Republic, Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2020. Facing a record surge of coronavirus infections, the Czech Republic returns to a recipe that was believed to work well to contain the pandemic in the spring. Starting Wednesday, face masks will be again mandatory outdoors. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)
A woman wearing a face mask walks in Prague, Czech Republic, Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2020. Facing a record surge of coronavirus infections, the Czech Republic returns to a recipe that was believed to work well to contain the pandemic in the spring. Starting Wednesday, face masks will be again mandatory outdoors. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)

Prime Minister Andrej Babis apologized for the measures but said that if they were not taken, “our health system would collapse between Nov 7-11.”

“We have no time to wait,” Babis said. “The surge (of new cases) is enormous.”

The restrictions will become affective on Thursday and will last until at least Nov 3.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

Seattle-area movie theaters reopened from COVID closures last weekend. Here’s what it’s like to return to the multiplex

Cinemark at Lincoln Square in Bellevue is open and despite a disconcerting email from a reader dismayed by “beyond horrifying” COVID precautions at another Seattle-area movie theater, I went to check things out.

Is there such a thing as safe moviegoing in a world without a coronavirus vaccine? How will social distancing be enforced, if at all? Will folks keep their masks on during an activity intrinsically tied to snacking?

A handful of customers wait in line for refreshments at Cinemark Lincoln Square Cinemas in Bellevue last weekend.  (Trevor Lenzmeier / The Seattle Times)
A handful of customers wait in line for refreshments at Cinemark Lincoln Square Cinemas in Bellevue last weekend. (Trevor Lenzmeier / The Seattle Times)

The experience, overall, wasn’t at all the same as pre-COVID, and nothing felt very “normal.”

“Honest Thief” wasn’t my guilty pleasure pick; there just isn’t much to see at the movies right now. And the reasoning has gone from “I may as well, it’s just two hours,” to “Am I going to get someone sick for Liam Neeson?”

My favorite part of the moviegoing experience might be the post-credits camaraderie, when folks file out into the hallways laughing, sharing theories, debating different scenes, their eyes bulging with excitement and their pupils readjusting to the light. On Sunday, everyone gathered their things and chatted quietly among themselves on the way out like we were leaving evening Mass. I walked back to my car in the rain, missing my couch.

Yes, the silver screen has returned to Seattle. But no matter how many coronavirus precautions are put in place, it’s hard to imagine going to the movies and ignoring the nagging worry of infection. And if our collective incentive to return to the theaters is golden-hearted bank robber Liam Neeson fighting a crooked cop, I think I’d rather keep watching from home.

Read the story here.

—Trevor Lenzmeier

Quarantine Corner: Things to do while staying home

Di Fiora’s Korat chicken wings have a coating so incredibly crispy that taking them to-go is no problem. They might be the city’s best wings — and they’re huge and organic, too. (Ellen M. Banner / The Seattle Times)
Di Fiora’s Korat chicken wings have a coating so incredibly crispy that taking them to-go is no problem. They might be the city’s best wings — and they’re huge and organic, too. (Ellen M. Banner / The Seattle Times)

Takeout food favorites: Critic Bethany Jean Clement has fallen in love with three new Seattle restaurants.

Snuggle up on the couch: A San Juan Islands mutt known as Eba the Whale Dog gets her close-up tonight on PBS' "The Age of Nature," thanks to her stinky role in whale research. Plus, here are our top streaming picks.

Halloweeny reads: Give yourself the chills with six spooky, odd and just-plain-weird tales. Or, for a different flavor, check out the latest Jess Walter novel. It's set in his hometown of Spokane.

—Kris Higginson
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Catch up on the past 24 hours

Registration technician André Grady checks in with community members for COVID-19 testing at the City of Seattle’s Testing Site on Aurora Avenue North. “I like to help people, calm people down in a stressful situation,” he says. “It feels good to give back to the community.” (Erika Schultz / The Seattle Times)
Registration technician André Grady checks in with community members for COVID-19 testing at the City of Seattle’s Testing Site on Aurora Avenue North. “I like to help people, calm people down in a stressful situation,” he says. “It feels good to give back to the community.” (Erika Schultz / The Seattle Times)

Coronavirus infections are rising "at an alarming rate" in Western Washington, health officials say, and projections indicate we're facing several difficult months. This has state health officials warning that the fall surge might strain local hospitals. And it's not just our region: Across nearly the entire nation, the virus is rebounding with a vengeance, and this wave threatens to be the worst yet.

Gov. Jay Inslee announced new restrictions at colleges yesterday after more than 800 cases — including hundreds on UW's Greek Row — were tied to social gatherings or student living spaces. The rules cover sleeping arrangements, masks and more.

More than a dozen free flu vaccination sites are sprouting in the Seattle area. “I can’t stress enough how important it is for you to get your vaccination this year,” Mayor Jenny Durkan said yesterday. (We've written about why this is crucial, and how you can tell whether you have the flu or COVID-19.)

Can ordinary COVID-19 patients get the Trump treatment? It’s OK to ask and "be a little pushy," as one Seattle-area man found out when he ended up in a Fred Hutch clinical trial of the same antibody cocktail. But take a hard look at what you're asking for, researchers say.​​​​​

"We will not let grief have the final word." COVID-19 funerals are the antithesis of the touch and togetherness that mourning demands, because of mandates that limit gatherings. But several Washington churches are taking part in nationwide candlelight vigils. Reporter Nicole Brodeur went to one, and came back with a powerful and surprisingly hopeful story.

Dr. Phyllis Gearring-Anderson, right, joins parishioners at First AME Church in a candlelight vigil for victims of COVID-19 on Monday. The Rev. Carey Anderson, of First AME Church on Capitol Hill, led the candlelight vigil and service, which were also streamed online.  (Dean Rutz / The Seattle Times)
Dr. Phyllis Gearring-Anderson, right, joins parishioners at First AME Church in a candlelight vigil for victims of COVID-19 on Monday. The Rev. Carey Anderson, of First AME Church on Capitol Hill, led the candlelight vigil and service, which were also streamed online. (Dean Rutz / The Seattle Times)
—Kris Higginson

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