Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Friday, Oct. 23, as the day unfolded. It is no longer being updated. Click here to see all the most recent news about the pandemic, and click here to find additional resources.
Washington state on Thursday surpassed 100,000 confirmed coronavirus infections since the pandemic began nearly eight months ago.
Although a vaccine for the novel coronavirus is still in the works, the United States has for the first time approved a drug to treat COVID-19: remdesivir, an antiviral medicine given to hospitalized patients through an IV. Here’s what to know about remdesivir and other potential treatments.
Throughout Friday, 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 Thursday are here, and all our coronavirus coverage can be found here.
Sri Lanka closes harbors after 609 test positive
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — Authorities in Sri Lanka on Saturday closed at least two fishery harbors and many stalls after a surge of 609 cases linked to the country’s main fish market.
The government also widened the curfew in parts of Colombo. At least 11 villages were isolated in the densely populated Western province, which includes the capital.
Health authorities on Wednesday temporarily closed the fish market on Colombo’s outskirts after 49 traders tested positive for the coronavirus. By Saturday, the number of cases went up to 609.
Hundreds of traders and fishermen are being tested.
Authorities say the outbreak is related to a cluster in a garment factory early this month, which has grown to 3,426 cases, almost half the country’s total of 6,287. It broke a two-month lull in infections.
Several thousand people have been asked to quarantine at home. Schools and key public offices are closed, gatherings banned and restrictions imposed on public transport.
Sri Lanka has had 14 deaths since March.
Trump administration closed vaccine safety office last year; now what?
As the first coronavirus vaccines arrive in the coming year, government researchers will face a monumental challenge: monitoring the health of hundreds of millions of Americans to ensure the vaccines don’t cause harm.
Purely by chance, thousands of vaccinated people will have heart attacks, strokes and other illnesses shortly after the injections. Sorting out whether the vaccines had anything to do with their ailments will be a thorny problem, requiring a vast, coordinated effort by state and federal agencies, hospitals, drugmakers and insurers to discern patterns in a flood of data. Findings will need to be clearly communicated to a distrustful public swamped with disinformation.
For now, Operation Warp Speed, created by the Trump administration to spearhead development of coronavirus vaccines and treatments, is focused on getting vaccines through clinical trials in record time and manufacturing them quickly.
The next job will be to monitor the safety of vaccines once they’re in widespread use. But the administration last year quietly disbanded the office with the expertise for exactly this job, merging it into an office focused on infectious diseases. Its elimination has left that long-term safety effort for coronavirus vaccines fragmented among federal agencies, with no central leadership, experts say.
“We’re behind the eight ball,” said Daniel Salmon, who served as the director of vaccine safety in that office from 2007 to 2012, overseeing coordination during the H1N1 flu pandemic in 2009. ”We don’t even know who’s in charge.”
A Health and Human Services spokesperson said that the vaccine office was not shuttered. “The office was not ‘closed,’ but was merged with the Office of Infectious Disease and HIV/AIDS Policy and was strengthened,” the spokesperson said in a statement. “All the functions continue in this new organizational structure.”
Palmer voting site temporarily closes after virus diagnosis
JUNEAU, Alaska — An early voting location in Palmer closed temporarily Friday after a poll worker was diagnosed with COVID-19, the Division of Elections said.
The division, in a statement, said the risk to voters who cast ballots early at the main administrative offices of the Matanuska-Susitna Borough is considered to be low. The worker wore a face covering and a partition separated the worker from voters, the division said.
Early voting at the location began Monday, and the division said the worker was at the location through Thursday.
The Palmer location is undergoing cleaning and is set to reopen Monday morning, the division said. The division highlighted as an alternative in the meantime the Wasilla Public Library, which will continue to have voting hours through Election Day on Nov. 3.
Appeals court stays Wisconsin limits on gatherings
MADISON, Wis. — A Wisconsin appeals court on Friday temporarily blocked Gov. Tony Evers’ restrictions on indoor public gatherings pending appeal, dealing the Democratic governor a setback in his efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
The ruling from the 3rd District Court of Appeals follows Evers’ administration issuing an emergency order on Oct. 6. The directive limited indoor public gatherings to 25% of a building or room’s capacity or 10 people in places without an occupancy limit.
The order also came as COVID-19 cases surged in Wisconsin, where the state this week was among the worst in the nation in daily new cases per capita and hospitals are near capacity. But the powerful Tavern League of Wisconsin argued the capacity limits amount to a “de facto closure” order for bars and restaurants and sued to strike down the order.
The capacity limits have been on a seesaw ever since, with a Sawyer County judge blocking the order Oct. 14, only to have a Barron County judge reinstate it five days later. A three-judge panel of the appellate court wrote that the plaintiffs had shown “sufficient likelihood of success” with the appeal to grant the stay.
As Seattle nears 300,000 coronavirus tests, Mayor Jenny Durkan and Fire Chief Harold Scoggins tour a testing site
The tests are free at North Aurora drive-through, and the city has performed nearly 300,000 tests at four citywide sites. Appointments required for drive-up.
Mayor Jenny Durkan and Seattle Fire Chief Harold Scoggins toured the City of Seattle’s free COVID-19 testing site. The city has performed nearly 300,000 tests citywide at four sites with the support of the Seattle Fire Department.
19 people at Seattle work-release facility test positive for coronavirus
A COVID-19 outbreak has infected 19 men at a work-release facility on Seattle’s First Hill.
The men who tested positive for the virus have been moved to Department of Health housing for people with COVID-19, Susan Biller, interim communications director for the state Department of Corrections, wrote in an email.
Bishop Lewis houses 49 men on work-release. The 30 people remaining are being quarantined in the building at 703 Eighth Ave.
Those still at Bishop Lewis will be tested again Tuesday, Biller wrote.
The outbreak was reported to Public Health – Seattle & King County on Oct. 16, which is investigating, said spokesperson Kate Cole.
As of Friday, 516 people incarcerated in Washington’s correction centers or living in work-release facilities have contracted the virus. The largest outbreak was at the Coyote Ridge Corrections Center in Franklin County, where 233 were infected; two people died.
Candlielight vigils for COVID-19 victims to continue
Candlelight vigils to honor victims of COVID-19 -- and whatever else is weighing on peoples' hearts -- will continue on Monday nights at Seattle's First AME Church.
The vigils, which started in response to COVID-19 restrictions making it difficult for people to mourn the pandemic’s victims, started Oct. 12. They were held again on Oct. 19 and will continue next Monday.
The “Mourning Into Unity” vigils — held at more than 20 sites around the country — are conducted outdoors, with participants masked and socially distanced or attending online. The vigils will be led by faith leaders and medical professionals.
In Seattle, the #MourningIntoUnity vigils will be held from 6 to 7 p.m. on Monday at the First AME Church, 1522 14th Ave.
“People become connected when we can share in each other’s sorrow,” said The Rev. Dr. Carey G. Anderson, pastor of the First AME. “We are no longer an audience. We become partners. We become family.
“This is a critical time in our nation’s history, when there is so much rhetoric being spread. So we have to hand an olive branch to each other. Then the ‘we’ becomes an ‘us’, the ‘us’ becomes an ‘all’ and the ‘all’ becomes ‘together.’ Unified.”
The church, founded in 1886, is the oldest African American church in the state of Washington.
“In 2020, a year of unprecedented loss, COVID has stopped America from mourning together,” read a statement from the organizer of the vigils: Reimagine, a San Francisco-based nonprofit “sparking community-driven festivals and conversations that explore death and celebrate life.”
The vigils, the statement said, “offer a chance for healing.”
Seattle Public Schools won’t return for in-person learning until at least the end of January 2021
Seattle Public School students will continue learning remotely until at least Jan. 28, 2021, school officials announced late Friday afternoon.
It’s the latest area school district to decide to continue virtual classes for the rest of the year, as COVID-19 cases climb in the region. Earlier this month, Bellevue also announced it would remain online.
The Seattle district, which serves more than 52,000 students, began the school year remotely but has weighed options for returning in-person, such as teaching some classes outdoors. But Friday’s announcement nixes that possibility: officials said that only a handful of students — those who receive special education services and can’t learn remotely — will qualify for in-person learning before the end of January.
Officials cited increasing coronavirus case counts in King County, and said they made the decision after consulting with labor representatives, school board members, students, and members of the Seattle Council PTSA.
Some hospitals in crisis as US nears high for COVID-19 cases
BOISE, Idaho — The United States is approaching a record for the number of new daily coronavirus cases in the latest ominous sign about the disease’s grip on the nation, as states from Connecticut to the Rocky Mountain West reel under the surge.
The impact is being felt in every section of the country — a lockdown starting Friday at the Oglala Sioux Tribe’s reservation in South Dakota, a plea by a Florida health official for a halt to children’s birthday parties, dire warnings from Utah’s governor, and an increasingly desperate situation at a hospital in northern Idaho, which is running out of space for patients and considering airlifts to Seattle or Portland, Oregon.
“We’ve essentially shut down an entire floor of our hospital. We’ve had to double rooms. We’ve bought more hospital beds,” said Dr. Robert Scoggins, a pulmonologist at the Kootenai Health hospital in Coeur d’Alene. “Our hospital is not built for a pandemic.”
State confirms 820 new COVID-19 cases and reports 7 new deaths
The number of new COVID-19 cases in Washington state hit 820 on Wednesday, when state health officials also reported 7 new deaths.
The update brings the state’s totals to 101,345 cases and 2,296 deaths, meaning that 2.3% of people diagnosed in Washington have died, according to the Department of Health (DOH). The data is as of 11:59 p.m. Thursday.
The DOH also reported that 8,231 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the virus-- 48 new hospitalizations since Wednesday.
Statewide, 2,318,931 COVID-19 tests have been administered as of Thursday night.
In King County, the state’s most populous, state health officials have confirmed 25,896 COVID-19 diagnoses -- 184 more than last reported -- and 798 deaths.
What those studies on mouthwash and coronaviruses mean
Contrary to some of the recent buzz around mouthwash, a daily gargle is probably not going to protect you from the novel coronavirus.
Over the past few months, researchers in the United States and abroad have examined mouthwashes, oral antiseptics and nasal rinses in controlled laboratory settings to see whether they can effectively inactivate the new coronavirus and other viruses within the same family.
A team in Germany found that when several products, including Listerine, were applied to strains of the novel coronavirus for 30 seconds, they “significantly reduced viral infectivity to undetectable levels,” according to a study published in July in the Journal of Infectious Diseases.
Studying the effects of mouthwash and other oral antiseptic rinses on infectious viruses is not a novel idea. But there's new interest now that there's a pandemic fueled by a contagious pathogen often found in people’s mouths.
As governor resists mask mandate, Iowans sour on the GOP
As Iowa set a record for patients hospitalized with COVID-19, Gov. Kim Reynolds appeared at an indoor fundraiser for the Republican Party this week where social distancing and face masks were not high priorities.
Iowa’s governor is not on the ballot next month. But that defiant attitude toward the advice of health experts on how to fight the coronavirus outbreak, as her state sees a grim tide of new cases and deaths, may be dragging down fellow Republicans who are running, including President Donald Trump and Sen. Joni Ernst.
Reynolds, the first woman to lead Iowa, refuses to issue mandates and flouts the guidance of infectious disease experts, who say that universal masking and social distancing are essential to limiting the virus’ spread.
Public and private polls show that defying such advice has eroded support for both Trump and Reynolds in Iowa, especially among voters over 65, normally a solid Republican constituency.
Rick Flanagan, a 61-year-old voter from Newton who had planned to vote for Ernst in the Senate race, recalled the moment he changed his mind in favor of her Democratic opponent.
It was “when Ernst said she didn’t believe the deaths and the science from COVID,” Flanagan said.
America is poised to enter into its worst stretch yet of the pandemic
America is poised to enter the worst stretch ever of the coronavirus pandemic, with cases spiking and the country on the precipice of shattering its daily record for infections in the next few days.
The current surge is already considerably more widespread than the waves from last summer and spring. On Thursday, the number of cases topped 70,000 for the first time since July.
The unprecedented geographic spread of the current surge makes it especially dangerous, with experts warning it could lead to dire shortages of medical staff and supplies.
Within the last two weeks, COVID-19 hospitalizations have increased in 38 states and 22 states have broken their single-day high records.
Johnson & Johnson, AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine trials set to resume
The Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine trial, paused earlier this month due to an unexplained illness in a participant, will resume very soon.
An independent committee investigated the case of a man in the trial who suffered a stroke and concluded it was not related to the vaccine, according to two individuals familiar with the trial who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
The AstraZeneca vaccine trial, on hold in the United States since early September, also got the greenlight to restart from the Food and Drug Administration, according to a company statement.
Hospitalization data flawed in Missouri, perhaps elsewhere
With the number of coronavirus patients requiring hospitalization rising at alarming levels, Missouri and perhaps at least five other states are unable to post accurate data on COVID-19 dashboards because of a flaw in the federal reporting system.
Since Tuesday, the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Service’s coronavirus dashboard has posted a message that the total number of patients hospitalized for COVID-19 has been underreported since Oct. 17. The note blamed challenges uploading data to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
The COVID Tracking Project said five states may have a problem: the number of reported intensive care unit patients in Kansas decreased from 80 to one without explanation, Wisconsin’s hospitalization figures stayed unexpectedly flat and Georgia, Alabama, and Florida reported only partial updates to hospitalization data.
France surpasses 1 million confirmed virus cases amid spike
French health authorities say France has recorded over 1 million confirmed coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic, becoming the second country in Western Europe after Spain to reach that number of known infections.
France has seen its daily case counts rise sharply in recent weeks as the virus rebounds in Europe. COVID-19 patients now occupy more than 42% of ICU beds nationally, and 64% in the Paris region. France has 42,032 new cases reported in the past 24 hours and more than 11,000 new COVID-19 patients hospitalized in the past week.
Speaking earlier Friday after visiting a hospital in Pontoise, a suburb north of Paris, French President Emmanuel Macron said “the epidemic is very strongly accelerating.”
UW forecasts show why masks are easiest — and cheapest — way to save U.S. lives
If Americans would stop complaining about face masks and wear them when they leave their homes, they could save well over 100,000 lives — and perhaps more than half a million — through the end of February, according to a study published Friday in Nature Medicine.
The researchers considered five scenarios for how the COVID-19 pandemic could play out with different levels of mask-wearing and rules about staying home and social distancing. All the scenarios assumed that no vaccine was available, nor any medicines capable of curing the disease.
Consistently, the most effective — not to mention cheapest and easiest — way to reduce deaths was to increase the number of people wearing masks.
As of Sept. 21, only 49% of Americans said they “always” wore a mask in public, according to the study. If U.S. residents do not mask up in increasing numbers, they risk another round of mandatory social distancing measures that could shut businesses and schools around the country, the authors said.
“The potential life-saving benefit of increasing mask use in the coming fall and winter cannot be overstated,” wrote the team from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington.
Vaccine promise is election issue in India state
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. She said every Bihar resident will be given vaccinated for free when a COVID-19 vaccine becomes available.
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.
SNAP benefits expanded for Washington’s community college students as coronavirus increases need
More technical and community college students are now eligible for food benefits.
Effective immediately, more types of students with financial need — those in apprenticeships, pre-apprenticeships, contact training, work-based learning/internships, entrepreneurship preparation and two-year non-vocational degree programs — can partake in Washington’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
As more people faced financial need amid the COVID-19 pandemic, many students were unable to access food assistance because of program restrictions, an August National Institutes of Health report found.
“This change allows us to further our efforts to ensure all students experiencing food insecurity can access SNAP assistance AND pursue a career pathway of their choosing,” Washington State Board for Community and Technical College administrators said in a Thursday statement.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture approved the state’s proposal to allow more students to qualify through the state’s Basic Food Employment and Training Program, which uses state, local and private funding to garner matching federal money. On average, administrators said, 10,000 community and technical college students receive assistance through the program each year.
Six in 10 Washington community or technical college students reported recently facing housing insecurity or hunger, according to a February report from Temple University. The results were based on 13,550 students surveyed at 28 of the state’s 34 community and technical colleges in fall 2019. Nearly half reported having insecure housing in the previous year.
Czech health minister breaks virus rules, asked to resign
The Czech Republic’s prime minister called on his health minister to resign or be fired after he broke strict government restrictions designed to slow a record surge of coronavirus infections and visited a Prague restaurant.
Prime Minister Andrej Babis said Friday he will meet with the country’s president later in the day to discuss a possible replacement of the health minister, Roman Prymula.
“If we want the people to abide by the rules … it is us who have to set an example,” Babis said. “We can’t preach water and drink wine.”
The Blesk tabloid daily said Prymula wasn't wearing a mandatory face mask when he met with another government official at a Prague restaurant on Wednesday night.
Spain PM appeals for public unity, sacrifice in virus fight
Prime Minster Pedro Sánchez appealed Friday for Spaniards to pull together and defeat the new coronavirus, warning: “The situation is serious.”
Sánchez, in a televised address to the nation Friday, acknowledged public fatigue with restrictions to contain the spread of COVID-19.
But he added: “We have to step up the fight,” with more limits on people’s movement that will demand more sacrifices.
Spain this week became the first European country to surpass 1 million officially recorded COVID-19 cases. Sánchez admitted, though, that the true figure could be more than 3 million, due to gaps in testing and other reasons.
Dutch hospital airlifts patients to Germany amid virus surge
A bright yellow helicopter rose into a blue sky Friday carrying a COVID-19 patient from the Netherlands to a German intensive care unit, the first such international airlift since the global pandemic first threatened to swamp Dutch hospitals in the spring.
The Dutch airlift to a hospital in the German city of Muenster came amid soaring rates of infection in the Netherlands, where the seven-day rolling average of daily new cases has risen over the past two weeks from 24.58 new cases per 100,000 people on Oct. 7 to 47.74 new cases per 100,000 on Oct. 21. As of Thursday, there were 463 COVID-19 patients in Dutch intensive care units.
Across the continent, the resurgence of the virus is seen in major cities from Rome to Paris as they rein in nightlife as part of the increasingly drastic measures nations are enforcing in an attempt to slow the spread of the pandemic.
A warm concept for your pandemic winter
You've heard about hygge, a Danish word that describes coziness and conviviality, and Seattle has been called one of the top hygge cities in the U.S.
Now, as we approach the first true COVID winter, the Scandinavian concept of friluftsliv may help us spend time outdoors during the coldest, darkest time of the year. Essentially, it describes the spirit of “whatever you go to REI for.”
Quarantine Corner: Things to do while keeping your distance
Crispy phyllo dough steals the show in the latest Seattle Times Pantry Kitchen Challenge. Check out readers' impressive creations, then test yourself with an odd mishmash of ingredients in the next challenge.
Brrrr! It's the perfect time to cozy up on the couch with one of these six paperbacks.
Or you could try a Halloween recipe, or hike between local breweries. Those are among our ideas for heartwarming fun on this chilly weekend.
Catch up on the past 24 hours
The first drug to treat COVID-19 has been approved, the FDA announced yesterday. But remdesivir is "not some kind of miracle cure," and it won't be used on everyone. Our FAQ Friday looks at how effective remdesivir is and what other treatments are being used.
100,525 COVID-19 cases: Washington state passed a grim milestone yesterday, as infections shoot up at an "alarming rate," health officials say. A widely cited UW model predicts the spike will continue for several months.
Tilth is closing forever. The James Beard award-winning restaurant, which represented a movement in Seattle dining with its organic and creative Pacific Northwest fare, joins a long list of eateries shuttered amid the pandemic.
"We are not going to lie down." A coronavirus revolt is unfolding in a battered, bewildered British city that looks like a poster child for how not to impose pandemic restrictions.
Will Halloween masks protect you from COVID-19? Sorry, no, and doctors say you shouldn't wear a cloth mask under a costume mask either. Here's how they do recommend dressing and celebrating.
Target shoppers can now make reservations to avoid another frightening prospect: holiday crowds. And Santa Claus may still be coming to town … but not, alas, to Macy’s flagship store in New York, where he’s appeared since the 1860s. Other stores plan socially distanced Santas. There's not much holiday cheer at the Gap, which yesterday said it's closing hundreds of stores.
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