Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Saturday, October 24, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.

America entered the worst stretch yet 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. On Thursday, the number of cases topped 70,000 for the first time since July and on Friday the caseload climbed nationwide to 83,757, a new record.

Meanwhile, Seattle is nearing 300,000 COVID-19 tests. On Friday, Seattle Public Schools announced it won’t return to in-person learning until at least the end of January 2021.

Throughout Saturday, 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 Friday are here, and all our coronavirus coverage can be found here.

(Jennifer Luxton / The Seattle Times)

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COVID-19 makes its way onto the ballot as Kirkland fire and emergency services levy includes money for personal protective equipment

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic struck, Kirkland officials intended to put a levy measure on the November 2020 election ballot that would help pay for the Eastside city’s fire and medical services and to upgrade its firehouses.

But the COVID-19 outbreak at Life Care Center this year — the first outbreak in the U.S. — in Kirkland underscored the need for more resources, Mayor Penny Sweet said. Every shift was covered, but at one point, 34 of the Fire Department’s roughly 100 personnel were in quarantine. They had enough personal protective equipment, but the supply has been depleted.

“We had enough PPE, and now we have none,” Sweet said. “Having that stockpile made a difference for us when Life Care first happened.”

Kirkland voters will decide whether to pass Proposition 1, a measure that would increase the property tax levy to about 24 cents per $1,000 of assessed home value.

Read the full story here.

—Paige Cornwell
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None of the biggest coronavirus hot spots are in a large city. The worst outbreaks are now in rural areas

The coronavirus was slow to come to Foster County, North Dakota, a community of just over 3,000 people in the eastern part of the state. When virus cases surged in the Northeast in the spring, the county recorded just one positive case. When national case counts peaked in mid-July, it had recorded just two more.

But by Tuesday, about 1 in every 20 residents had tested positive for the virus. More than half of those cases were reported in the past two weeks.

Most of the worst U.S. outbreaks right now are in rural places like Foster County. Where earlier peaks saw virus cases concentrated mainly in cities and suburbs, the current surge is the most geographically dispersed yet, and it is hitting remote counties that often lack a hospital or other critical health care resources.

Since late summer, per capita case and death rates in rural areas have outpaced those in metropolitan areas.

Read the full story here.

—The New York Times

Europe, U.S. watch case totals grow, debate new restrictions

Confirmed coronavirus infections continued to soar Saturday in many parts of the U.S. and Europe. In some cases, so did anger over the restrictions governments put in place to try to stem the tide.

Oklahoma, Illinois, New Mexico and Michigan were among states announcing new record highs in daily confirmed cases Saturday, a day after a nationwide daily record of more than 83,000 reported infections, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, Michigan’s chief medical executive, said it’s “now more important than ever that people take this seriously.” The 3,338 new COVID-19 cases in her state topped the old record by more than 1,300.

Read the full story here.

—The Associated Press

State confirms 919 new COVID-19 cases and reports no new deaths

The number of new COVID-19 cases in Washington state hit 919 on Friday, according to state health officials.

While the number of confirmed cases rose since Thursday, no new deaths were reported. The state’s totals are 102,264 cases and 2,296 deaths, meaning that 2.2% of people diagnosed in Washington have died, according to Department of Health (DOH) data as of 11:59 p.m. Friday.

The DOH also reported that 27 people have been hospitalized since Thursday. In total, 8,258 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the virus.

Statewide, 2,343,022 coronavirus tests have been administered as of Friday night.

—Melissa Hellmann
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Poland’s president has coronavirus, apologizes to contacts

Polish President Andrzej Duda says he feels well despite testing positive for the coronavirus, and he apologized Saturday to everyone who must quarantine because they had contact with him.

Duda, 48, said in a recording published on Twitter that he was experiencing no COVID-19 symptoms “but unfortunately, the test result is absolutely unambiguous.”

“I would like to apologize to all those who are exposed to quarantine procedures because of meeting me in recent days,” he said. “If I had had any symptoms of coronavirus, please believe me, all meetings would have been canceled.”

Duda’s diagnosis comes amid a huge surge in confirmed new cases of COVID-19 and virus-related deaths in Poland, a nation of 38 million that saw very low infection rates in the spring.

Read the whole story here.

—The Associated Press

UW study finds hydroxychloroquine doesn't prevent COVID-19

A large study coordinated by the University of Washington found that people who took hydroxychloroquine were just as likely to get COVID-19 as those who took a placebo, adding to growing evidence that the drug frequently promoted by President Trump doesn’t seem to work against the novel coronavirus.

Nearly 800 people at several sites across the country participated in the trial, which was funded with $9.5 million from the COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator, a research fund created by The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and others.

Participants all had a family member or close contact who had tested positive for the infection, and were randomly assigned to get either a daily tablet of hydroxychloroquine or placebo over a 14-day period. The volunteers swabbed their noses every day and sent the specimens to a lab for analysis to see if they became infected.

The results are being presented today at IDWeek 2020, the annual scientific meeting of the Infectious Disease Society of America.

Read the full story, which will be updated with more details later today.

—Sandi Doughton
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U.S. coronavirus cases hit record Friday

The U.S. coronavirus caseload has reached record heights with more than 83,000 infections reported in a single day, the latest ominous sign of the disease’s grip on the nation, as states from Connecticut to the Rocky Mountain West reel under the surge.

The U.S. death toll, meanwhile, has grown to 223,995, according to the COVID-19 Dashboard published by Johns Hopkins University. The total U.S. caseload reported on the site Friday was 83,757, topping the 77,362 cases reported on July 16.

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.”

Read more about the national picture here.

—The Associated Press