Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Thursday, Oct. 22, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.
While the United States races toward developing and approving a coronavirus vaccine, Washington state health officials are working on a plan to distribute one once it’s approved. On Wednesday, the state released a draft of that plan; here’s what you need to know about it.
New guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention redefines what counts as “close contact” with an infected person, after unsettling evidence emerged from a Vermont prison. The agency confirmed shorter but repeated interactions within 6 feet of someone who tested positive can put you at risk of contracting the virus.
Throughout Thursday, 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 Wednesday are here, and all our coronavirus coverage can be found here.
Vaccine promise is election issue in India state
NEW DELHI — A promise of free COVID-19 vaccination has become an issue in key state elections in India.
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman made the promise when releasing the ruling Hindu nationalist party’s manifesto for elections that begin in Bihar state next week.
Every Bihar resident will be given vaccinated for free when a COVID-19 vaccine becomes available, she said, adding at least three vaccines are in the final trial stage and are on the cusp of production in the country.
The promise angered the Congress and other opposition parties who accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party of politicizing the pandemic and playing on people’s fears.
Bihar is India’s third-largest state with about 122 million people.
India added fewer than 60,000 new cases for a fifth day Friday, with the 54,366 new cases taking the overall tally past 7.7 million. It has the second-most cases in the world behind the U.S., though cases have declined in recent weeks. Modi and others have urged continued vigilance during ongoing religious festivals and the cold season.
Gap Inc. exiting malls, to shutter 350 stores by 2024
NEW YORK — Gap Inc. is moving away from the nation’s malls.
The San Francisco-based retailer, which was for decades a fixture at shopping malls around the country, said Thursday that it will be closing 220 of its namesake Gap stores — or one-third of its store base — by early 2024. That will result in 80% of its remaining Gap stores being in off-mall locations.
As part of its restructuring, Gap Inc. said it also plans to close 130 of its Banana Republic stores in North America in three years.
The announcement made at a Gap Inc. investor meeting detailed a three-year plan that calls for closing what amounts to 30% of the company’s Gap and Banana Republic stores in North America and focusing on outlets and e-commerce business.
The moves come as Gap and other clothing retailers are trying to reinvent themselves during the pandemic, which forced many non-essential stores to temporarily close in the spring and early summer. The lockdown of the economy led many shoppers to shift more of their spending to online, which many experts believe will be permanent.
State Department of Health to release monthly report on multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children
Washington state announced Thursday it's planning to release new data on the number of cases of multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C), a condition experts believe could be associated with COVID-19.
The state Department of Health (DOH) will release a monthly report that includes county-level counts of MIS-C cases. MIS-C causes inflammation in different body parts, including the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes or gastrointestinal organs. Children with MIS-C could face a fever, abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, neck pain or rash, DOH said in a statement.
"While we do not yet know what causes MIS-C, we know that many children with MIS-C had the virus that causes COVID-19," the statement said.
As of Oct. 10, the state confirmed 15 children in Washington had been diagnosed with MIS-C since April.
"Children who suffer from MIS-C can become critically ill and some can even die," said State Health Officer Dr. Kathy Lofy in the statement. “That’s why it’s important that children also take measures to decrease their risk of COVID-19 like masking, hand washing, and social distancing. These are the best ways to limit the spread of COVID-19.”
Hospitals are full but some parts of Idaho refuse mask rules
BOISE, Idaho — Moments after hearing an Idaho hospital was overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients and looking at sending people as far away as Seattle for care, members of a regional health department board voted Thursday to repeal a local mask mandate.
“Most of our medical surgical beds at Kootenai Health are full,” Panhandle Health District epidemiologist Jeff Lee told board members in the state’s third most populated county.
The hospital in Coeur d’Alene reached 99% capacity a day earlier, even after doubling up patients in rooms and buying more hospital beds. Idaho is one of several states where a surge of COVID-19 infections is overwhelming hospitals, likely in part because cooler weather is sending people indoors, U.S. health officials said.
“We’re facing staff shortages, and we have a lot of physician fatigue. This has been going on for seven months — we’re tired,” Lee said.
He introduced several doctors who testified about the struggle COVID-19 patients face, the burden on hospitals and how masks reduce the spread of the virus.
100,525 COVID-19 cases: Washington state passes ‘sobering’ pandemic milestone as country faces ‘fall surge’
Washington hit another disheartening coronavirus milestone Thursday, when health officials announced the state surpassed 100,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began nearly eight months ago.
The state Department of Health (DOH) reported 651 new cases Thursday, including three more deaths, which brings Washington to 100,525 infections and 2,289 deaths. The state also reported 8,183 people have been hospitalized due to the virus.
“This a sad and sobering milestone. … One hundred thousand people is too many,” the DOH said in a blog post. “Too many worried families. Too many fevers. Too many coughs. Too many nights spent awake struggling to breathe.”
The department continues to urge Washingtonians to get flu shots, keep social gatherings small, sanitize often and mask up — even in the smallest social circles.
Despite a drop in daily infections in late summer, the number of new cases in Western Washington has recently shot up at “an alarming rate,” a sign that health officials worry could mean the state is joining the rest of the country in a “fall surge.”
‘We are not going to lie down’: a coronavirus revolt in England
LIVERPOOL, England — The first time the police came to the Body Tech Fitness gym it was with a polite warning. But four hours later they were back, and this time in force.
As lunchtime gymgoers worked out, about half a dozen officers, some with Tasers, ordered the closure of the fitness center, which had been deemed in breach of England’s toughest coronavirus restrictions.
But even a show of strength like that doesn’t always work — particularly not in a city like Liverpool.
While the main entrance was closed, the gym kept a discreet side door open for members to come in and work out. On Friday, in a head-snapping turn of events, the gym will operate legally for the first time in nine days, having forced the authorities into an unlikely retreat.
The Body Tech Fitness saga, with its combination of opaque rule making, inconsistent enforcement and, ultimately, reversal, is in many ways emblematic of the British government’s overall performance since the outbreak of the coronavirus. Its handling of the pandemic has been in turns hesitant, halting, confused and contradictory — with policy deliberations taking place behind closed doors and limited engagement with the people and places bearing the brunt of the orders.
Washington surpasses 100,000 COVID-19 cases and reports 3 new deaths
The number of COVID-19 cases in Washington state surpassed 100,000 Wednesday, when state health officials reported 651 new cases and confirmed 3 new deaths.
The update brings the state’s totals to 100,525 cases and 2,289 deaths, meaning that 2.3% of people diagnosed in Washington have died, according to the DOH. The data is as of 11:59 p.m. Wednesday.
The DOH also reported that 8,183 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the virus-- 34 new hospitalizations since Tuesday.
Statewide, 2,296,275 COVID-19 tests have been administered as of Wednesday night.
In King County, the state’s most populous, state health officials have confirmed 25,712 COVID-19 diagnoses -- 172 more than last reported -- and 798 deaths. That number is two fewer than last reported.
The state Department of Health removes deaths from the statewide total when the primary cause of death is determined not to have been COVID-19.
King County seeks to partner with and fund programs for BIPOC communities
In response to social-justice actions taking place across the country, King County is making money available to local and community-based organizations that serve Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC).
The county seeks to invest in “partnerships” with 25 to 35 community-based organizations, in an effort to implement “a racially equitable response to declaring Racism is a Public Health Crisis that centers the voices and lived experiences of communities impacted most,” according to a statement released through Public Health - Seattle & King County.
Community partners have the opportunity to be funded at the $5,000, $7,500 and $10,000 levels. Recipients will partner with the county “to focus on engaging BIPOC community members about the anti-racist budget proposals and policy agendas created in response to demands expressed by community members during its development,” the statement said.
“Intentional and meaningful community engagement, leading to co-creation, is key to King County’s success in living up to its value of leading with racial justice and effectively becoming a more anti-racist government and region.”
Letters of intense should be sent to Calli Knight at email@example.com no later than 5 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 30.
Organizations will be notified about whether they are selected for funding no later than 5:00 pm on Friday, November 13, 2020.
FDA approves first COVID-19 drug: the antiviral remdesivir
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved the first drug to treat COVID-19: remdesivir, an antiviral medicine given through an IV for patients needing hospitalization.
The drug, which California-based Gilead Sciences Inc. is calling Veklury, cut the time to recovery by five days — from 15 days to 10 on average — in a large study led by the U.S. National Institutes of Health.
It had been authorized for use on an emergency basis since spring, and now has become the first drug to win full U.S. approval for treating COVID-19.
Gilead says Veklury is approved for people at least 12 years old and weighing at least 88 pounds (40 kilograms) who need hospitalization for their coronavirus infection. It works by inhibiting a substance the virus uses to make copies of itself.
Wikipedia and WHO join to combat COVID-19 misinformation
As part of efforts to stop the spread of false information about the coronavirus pandemic, Wikipedia and the World Health Organization announced a collaboration Thursday: The health agency will grant the online encyclopedia free use of its published information, graphics and videos.
The collaboration is the first between Wikipedia and a health agency.
“We all consult just a few apps in our daily life, and this puts WHO content right there in your language, in your town, in a way that relates to your geography,” said Andrew Pattison, a digital content manager for the health agency who helped negotiate the contract. “Getting good content out quickly disarms the misinformation.”
Melania Trump nixes campaign trip due to cough from COVID
WASHINGTON — Melania Trump’s return to the campaign trail will have to wait.
The first lady has decided against accompanying President Donald Trump to a campaign rally Tuesday in Erie, Pennsylvania, because of a lingering cough after her bout with COVID-19, said Stephanie Grisham, her chief of staff.
It was to be Mrs. Trump’s first public appearance since recovering from the coronavirus, as well as her first time out on the campaign trail in more than a year.
The first lady’s announcement served as yet another reminder for the president that, as much as he wishes the virus would “just disappear” — as he has said — it remains a powerful presence in everyday life, including his.
Trump said Monday that people are tired of hearing about COVID-19. More than 58,000 Americans a day are testing positive for the virus, and more than 700 a day are dying from the disease.
Mrs. Trump continues to feel better every day “but with a lingering cough, and out of an abundance of caution, she will not be traveling today,” Grisham said.
'2nd wave is here,' says French PM, extending curfews
French Prime Minister Jean Castex announced on Thursday a vast extension of the nightly curfew that is intended to curb the spiraling spread of the coronavirus, saying “the second wave is here.”
The curfew imposed in eight regions of France last week, including Paris and its suburbs, is being extended starting Friday at midnight to 38 regions and Polynesia. Of the 67 million people living in France, 46 million of the will be under curfews.
The virus is spreading less rapidly during the second wave but more extensively, the prime minister said. The number of cases of COVID-19 has doubled in France in the past 15 days.
Kansas coronavirus positivity rate climbs above 20%
Kansas’ coronavirus positivity rate has climbed above 20%, even as one top GOP lawmaker pushed back against Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly’s call for a statewide mask mandate to curb the spread of COVID-19.
The seven-day rolling average of the positivity rate in Kansas rose from 15.04% on Oct. 7 to 20.64% on Wednesday, according to data from The COVID Tracking Project. Only three states fared worse. The seven-day average for new cases also set another record of 757 on Wednesday, with many of the new cases coming from rural parts of the state.
More than 90 of the state’s 105 counties have opted out of the current mask order. That’s why Kelly said Wednesday that she plans to speak with House and Senate leadership to work toward a bipartisan mask requirement with more teeth.
But Kansas Senate President Susan Wagle, a Wichita Republican, said Thursday in a written statement, “A one-size-fits-all COVID solution doesn’t work for our diverse state.”
WHO Africa: New rapid tests a ‘game changer’ against COVID
Health officials in Africa say the rollout of rapid diagnostic tests for COVID-19 could be a “game changer” in their fight against the coronavirus but also said increased testing could drive up numbers on a continent that has seen them decline or plateau.
Early in the pandemic, officials at WHO headquarters in Geneva, including the U.N. health agency’s Ethiopian director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, have expressed concerns that COVID-19 could have a big impact on weaker health systems like those in Africa.
However, developed countries with world-class health systems so far have been among the ones hardest hit by virus outbreaks. WHO’s 54-nation European region tallied 927,000 cases in its latest weekly count, a new record high.
One concern has been that the continent's case counts may not be accurate due to Africa's previous lack of tests.
Santa Claus won’t be coming to Macy’s this year
Santa Claus won’t be greeting kids at Macy’s flagship store in New York City this year due to the coronavirus, interrupting a holiday tradition started nearly 160 years ago.
More than a quarter of a million people come to see Santa each year, the company said, making it hard to create a safe environment during a pandemic. Before taking a picture with the jolly old man, crowds walk in tight quarters through a maze-like Santaland with Christmas trees, running toy trains and elves in green costumes.
Macy’s has been using Santa Claus to draw crowds since the early 1860s and had a starring role in the 1947 film classic “Miracle on 34th Street.”
Stressing freedom, vaccine opponents rebranding in virus era
Years before this year’s anti-mask and reopening demonstrations, vaccine opponents were working on reinventing their image around a rallying cry of civil liberties and medical freedom.
Now, boosted by the pandemic and the political climate, their rebranding is appealing to a different subset of society invested in civil liberties — and, some health officials say, undercutting public health efforts during a critical moment for vaccines.
A new analysis from several institutions has found that between 2009 to 2019, conversations around civil liberties in the anti-vaccine community had increased, with Facebook pages framing vaccines as an issue of values and civil rights.
Researchers reviewed over 200 Facebook pages supporting vaccine refusal for their paper published in the American Journal of Public Health this month. David A. Broniatowski, the paper’s lead author, said current protests against government lockdowns and masks took their pages directly from the anti-vaccine playbook.
“We could’ve seen it coming,” said Broniatowski, an associate professor at George Washington University’s School of Engineering and Applied Science. “This was all happening right under our noses, and it’s continuing to happen.”
Regulators, experts take up thorny vaccine study issues
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 really works?
Italy faces more curfews, restrictions, as virus surges
Italy’s three largest cities face new curfews as regional authorities try to slow the spread of COVID-19 where it first struck hard in Europe, most of whose countries are now imposing, or mulling, new restrictions to cope with rapidly rising caseloads.
A midnight-to-5 a.m. curfew in Lazio, which includes Rome, begins on Friday and lasts for 30 days, under an order signed by regional governor Nicola Zingaretti — who himself was seriously sickened with COVID-19 in the first weeks of the pandemic.
The governor of Campania, the southern region which includes densely populated Naples, on Thursday ordered residents to stay at home from 11 p.m. to shortly before dawn starting the next day. A similar curfew in Lombardy, where infections are particularly surging in its main city, Milan, will go into effect Thursday night.
Italy was Europe’s first country to be put under a national lockdown in March. But so far Premier Giuseppe Conte, wary of crippling the country’s long-lame economy, hasn’t repeated the drastic move — even as daily new confirmed infections hit a record of more than 15,000 on Wednesday. Instead, Conte urged Italians to avoid “unnecessary” movements.
Court orders California to cut San Quentin inmates by half
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.”
Assemblyman Marc Levine, a Democrat who represents the area, on Wednesday said that without a further significant reduction, “it is not a question of if another COVID-19 spike will happen at San Quentin, it is a question of when.”
Alabama lieutenant governor tests positive for COVID-19
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.
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.
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.”
Sri Lanka closes fish market, expands curfew
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.
Czechs enter 2nd lockdown to avoid health system collapse
Amid a record surge of coronavirus infections that’s threatening the entire health system with collapse, the Czech Republic is adopting on Thursday exactly the same massive restrictions it slapped on citizens in the spring. Prime Minister Andrej Babis had repeatedly said these measures would never return.
“We have no time to wait,” Babis explained Wednesday. “The surge is enormous.”
The Czech Republic had initially set an example with its effective and fast response when the pandemic first struck, but failed to learn from other countries’ subsequent experiences and now faces the consequences.
In April, the country was the first, with Austria, to start to ease restrictions and — again unlike most other European countries — almost completely abandoned them in the summer.
In June, thousands declared victory over the coronavirus at a big party on Prague’s medieval Charles Bridge. Babis, considered a populist leader, was jubilant and told an international conference in August that his country was the “best in COVID,” despite already growing numbers of infected people.
Former Belgian PM in intensive care with COVID-19
Sophie Wilmes, who as Belgian’s prime minister led the country’s fight against the coronavirus, has been hospitalized in intensive care with COVID-19, her office said Thursday.
Wilmes, 45, who handed the reins over to Alexander de Croo earlier this month and is now Belgian’s foreign minister, announced last week that she had tested positive. She was admitted to the hospital on Wednesday.
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Elke Pattyn told The Associated Press that Wilmes is in a stable condition and conscious. She said her condition “is not worrying.”
Wilmes was in charge when the first wave of infections hit the country this spring. She said last week she thought she got infected within her family circle.
Quarantine Corner: Things to do while staying home
Need ideas on how to celebrate Halloween? From a socially distant "candy tube" to a dance party Zoom, here's what your fellow readers are doing.
Or you could lock the doors, turn out the lights and read these fresh horror books.
Dinner at a Movie: Our critics ordered a special feast from Din Tai Fung, queued up Netflix’s "Over the Moon" and dove in, sweaty buns and all.
Catch up on the past 24 hours
If you worked at or near Amazon's headquarters, you'll remember when this spot was packed. But now, people are far and few between, and more than 130 retail, restaurant and service businesses have closed their physical locations in downtown Seattle permanently. With Amazon's announcement this week that it's extending its work-from-home plan through June, some remaining business owners say they can't imagine making it without help — which seems unlikely in the near term.
How vaccines will be distributed in Washington state: Officials yesterday outlined who will get the doses first and how they will be made available to everyone else in several phases, prioritizing equity. But with a limited supply expected, decisions within each phase will be complicated.
We may not know if any children's vaccines work in time for the next school year, pediatricians are fearing, because pediatric studies are only beginning. Meanwhile, vaccine opponents are kicking into a new gear.
When are you at risk? New CDC guidance redefines what counts as "close contact" with an infected person, after unsettling evidence emerged from a Vermont prison. The CDC and some health experts aren't aligned, though, on whether you should mask up when you're 6 feet away from others.
Seattle may soon get an influx of Idahoans with COVID-19, because Idaho hospitals are nearing capacity amid the state's biggest coronavirus spike. In one community there, a quarter of hospital patients have COVID-19, but local residents still aren't wearing masks. Hospitals around the U.S. are starting to buckle from the resurgence.
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