Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Monday, Oct. 26, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.
Daily U.S. coronavirus infections are nearing record levels. Deaths climbed past 225,000 over the weekend, and the forecast from UW researchers does not look good. Take steps to prepare for a big winter surge.
Throughout Monday, 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 Sunday are here, and all our coronavirus coverage can be found here.
Global pandemic hits home in the West Virginia mountains
WEST UNION, W. Va. — Many in West Virginia proudly say they live in the original social distancing state.
The coronavirus often seemed like a distant phenomenon best viewed on a TV screen in living rooms in the remote mountain towns that dot the state’s expanses of wilderness.
But as another surge of COVID-19 grows across the nation, the global pandemic is hitting home in Doddridge County.
An unexpected jump in virus cases two weeks ago in the north-central West Virginia county upended the lives of its 8,400 residents, temporarily shutting down schools, football games and cross-country meets.
“People said it wasn’t real,” said Victoria Gains, a librarian in the county seat of West Union, which has a population of about 800. “You know it is real when it’s in Doddridge County.”
From the Dakotas to Kansas to West Virginia, rural America is now seeing coronavirus cases rising again. Hundreds of counties with fewer than 10,000 residents have experienced a surge in the past 14 days, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
Once one of the nation’s coronavirus success stories, West Virginia hit new peaks in its number of daily cases last week.
Issaquah man pleads guilty to COVID-19 fraud scheme
SEATTLE — An Issaquah man has pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud for carrying out a scheme to defraud several COVID-19 relief programs, according to federal prosecutors.
Baoke Zhang pleaded guilty last week in federal court in Seattle. He admitted that he submitted four fake applications to three different lenders for forgivable loans under the Paycheck Protection Program, which provides payroll help to small businesses, prosecutors said.
To support the loan applications, Zhang used fake entities for which he created fake payroll and tax records, prosecutors said. Two of the fake loan applications sought $600,000 each, a third application sought $325,000, and a fourth sought approximately $41,000.
In total, Zhang admitted to attempting to defraud the various COVID-19 relief programs of more than $550,000, prosecutors said.
Sentencing was set for Jan. 29, 2021.
Virus outbreak halts intake at Alaska Psychiatric Institute
ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Alaska’s state-run psychiatric hospital has said the facility will not admit any new patients for two weeks after four patients tested positive for the coronavirus.
The Alaska Psychiatric Institute on Friday said the patients who were infected will be isolated in a separate unit away from other patients and treated by fewer staff to reduce the risk of further spread of the virus.
The patients will be required to wear masks, while staff who treat them will wear masks, eye protection, gloves and gowns. It was not immediately clear when the patients received the positive test results or if they had virus symptoms.
Eight people connected with the psychiatric facility, including five patients and three staff members, have tested positive since the beginning of the pandemic.
Increasing confirmed coronavirus cases statewide, and particularly in Anchorage where the psychiatric institute is located, have increased the difficulty of keeping out the virus, CEO Scott York said.
Lakers, Dodgers fans helping drive uptick in LA virus cases
The success of the Los Angeles Lakers and Dodgers are bringing fans together in the LA area and that may be helping drive an uptick in coronavirus cases, Los Angeles County’s top health official said Monday,
The Lakers won the NBA championship two weeks ago and the Dodgers are one game away from winning the World Series. Their run through the playoffs has prompted watch parties and celebrations.
Los Angeles County is the nation’s largest, with 10 million residents, and positive cases there increased this month from an average of 940 per day to nearly 1,200 last week, Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said.
She praised fans’ “incredible spirit,” but “the downside of this is that during a pandemic some of the things we’ve done in the past just don’t make sense.”
Health officials have warned of a second wave of virus cases and Ferrer said LA County’s increase wasn’t immediately apparent because of a backlog of cases due to technical issues with data collection systems.
“We’ve been seeing, first, very low case numbers a couple weeks ago and then in the last few days very high case numbers,” she said. “Now that we’ve processed the backlog of cases from the state, and analyzed the numbers by episode date, it is clear that our cases increased. This increase is not as steep as what we saw in July, but this is a cause of concern.”
Social media scams skyrocket during the COVID-19 crisis
Social media is a great way to spot a sweet picture of your little niece getting a flu shot or your nephew scoring that big goal in hockey — especially as we try to embrace a new socially distant lifestyle.
But the scammers know exactly where to find you during the fight against the spread of COVID-19.
Social media isn’t just for keeping up with family — or arguing about politics. You might be scrolling through Facebook one day and spot a way to track down a missing stimulus payment. And, you might lose plenty of money along the way.
More people are reporting losing money to scams that started on places like Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Snapchat, TikTok and Twitter, according to a new report by the Federal Trade Commission.
Such complaints more than tripled in the past year, with a sharp increase in the second quarter of 2020, according to FTC data. Hot frauds often involve online shopping, romance scams and supposed economic relief or income opportunities.
To better address complaints, the FTC has launched a new website — ReportFraud.ftc.gov — where consumers can report a scam whether they have lost money or not. As part of this new service, the consumer also receives some advice on what to do next when it comes to a particular problem. The site is also in Spanish at ReporteFraude.ftc.gov.
Lilly antibody drug fails in a COVID-19 study; others go on
U.S. government officials are putting an early end to a study testing an Eli Lilly antibody drug for people hospitalized with COVID-19 because it doesn’t seem to be helping them.
Independent monitors had paused enrollment in the study two weeks ago because of a possible safety issue. But on Monday, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which sponsors the study, said a closer look did not verify a safety problem but found a low chance that the drug would prove helpful for hospitalized patients.
It is a setback for one of the most promising treatment approaches for COVID-19. President Donald Trump received a similar experimental, two-antibody drug from Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. on an emergency basis when he was sickened with the coronavirus earlier this month.
Washington confirms 587 new COVID-19 cases
State health officials reported 587 new coronavirus cases and 25 more deaths in Washington on Monday afternoon.
That brings the total number of reported cases to 103,500 and the number of deaths to 2,321.
Because the state Department of Health is no longer reporting deaths on weekends, tallies may be higher early in the week.
At least 8,322 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, DOH has confirmed 26,519 diagnoses and 809 deaths.
Italy closes gyms, shuts eateries early to fight COVID-19
Italy’s leader imposed at least a month of new restrictions across the country starting Mondy to fight rising coronavirus infections, shutting down gyms, pools and movie theaters, putting an early curfew on cafes and restaurants and mandating that people keep wearing masks outdoors.
On Sunday, Italy registered 21,273 new confirmed cases and 128 deaths since the day before. Italy has reported a total of 37,338 virus deaths, Europe’s second-highest pandemic death toll after Britain.
Restaurant and bar owners had lobbied hard against the new measures, which orders them to close at 6 p.m. when most restaurants in Italy usually don’t even start to serve dinner before 8 p.m.
El Paso imposes curfew as virus cases overwhelm hospitals
Residents in the Texas border city of El Paso have been urged to stay home for two weeks as a spike in coronavirus cases overwhelms hospitals, prompting the state to dedicate part of the city’s civic center as a makeshift care center for the ill.
El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego on Sunday night issued a stay home order with a daily curfew from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. Violators could be fined $500 under the order, but the curfew does not apply to people who are going to or from work or out for essential services, including grocery stores and healthcare.
On Monday, the county reported a new record high in daily coronavirus cases, with 1,443 cases of the virus recorded. The county had 853 patients hospitalized for the virus on Monday, up from 786 a day earlier.
Fed up California restaurants seek booze, health fee refund
California’s financially battered restaurants filed government claims Monday to recover more than $100 million in fees for liquor and health permits and tourism charges that they say were assessed even though their businesses were shuttered or only partially operating under long-running coronavirus orders.
Few industries have been hit as hard during the pandemic as restaurants, which in California were ordered closed, reopened, closed for a second time. Thousands of restaurants have closed permanently.
Owners say one thing has remained constant amid the turmoil. State and county governments have continued to charge fees for liquor licenses, health permits and tourism assessments — even though the restaurants were closed down by government orders or permitted to operate with limited capacity and dining.
US health official says pandemic can be controlled
A day after White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said “we’re not going to control the pandemic,” a Trump administration health official said Monday that Americans have already proven they can do that through basic safeguards shown to work.
“I think we can control the pandemic,” Assistant Secretary for Health Adm. Brett Giroir said on a call with reporters. “I want to be clear that what we have done — what the American people have done — has been able to put out very significant outbreaks … all across the Deep South."
President Donald Trump asserts the U.S. is rounding the corner on the virus as he pursues a fast-paced schedule of public rallies in the closing days of the campaign.
Coronavirus deaths are rising again in the US, as feared
Deaths per day from the coronavirus in the U.S. are on the rise again, just as health experts had feared, and cases are climbing in nearly every state, despite assurances from President Donald Trump over the weekend that “we’re rounding the turn, we’re doing great.”
With Election Day just over a week away, average deaths per day across the country are up 10% over the past two weeks, from 721 to nearly 794 as of Sunday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. Confirmed infections per day are rising in 47 states, and deaths are up in 34.
Health experts had warned that it was only a matter of time before deaths turned upward, given the record-breaking surge in confirmed cases engulfing the country. A widely cited model from the University of Washington projecting about 386,000 dead by Feb. 1.
As virus resurges, so does fear of more economic pain ahead
With winter looming and confirmed viral cases rising, Bob Szuter’s craft brewery and restaurant in Columbus, Ohio, could use another government lifeline to help survive until spring.
So could many restaurants and bars that buy his beer. Szuter knows of nearly 20 in the region that have folded, with many others “limping along.”
As a small businessman, Szuter benefited from the multi-trillion-dollar stimulus aid that Congress passed in March after the pandemic recession flattened the economy. But now, all that aid is gone and with confirmed COVID cases surging across the United States, so is the risk that the economy could weaken again, clouding the future for the unemployed, for small businesses like Szuter’s and for the economy as a whole.
Daily infections and virus deaths way down in India
India on Monday reported fewer than 46,000 new coronavirus cases, continuing a downward trend, though the Hindu festival season is raising fears of a fresh surge in infections.
The Health Ministry said that 45,148 new cases raised the country’s overall toll to over 7.9 million. The ministry also reported 480 new fatalities, raising the death toll to 119,014.
India is second in the world behind the U.S. in total cases. Last month, the country hit a peak of nearly 100,000 cases in a single day, but since then daily infections have fallen by about half and deaths by about a third.
Wary of angering public, Iran has few ways to contain virus
As coronavirus infections reached new heights in Iran this month, overwhelming its hospitals and driving up its death toll, the country’s health minister criticized his own government’s refusal to enforce basic health measures, but one day later had a vastly different message.
The rhetorical about-face is typical of Iranian leaders’ inconsistent response to the pandemic that many see as helping to fuel the virus’ spread. Experts say the mixed messages reflect the fact that the leadership has little room to impose severe restrictions that would damage an already fragile economy.
More than 32,000 people reportedly have died in what is the Middle East’s worst outbreak — and a top health official stressed recently that the true number is likely 2½ times higher.
Robust immune response in older adults produced by Astra-Oxford COVID-19 vaccine candidate
A COVID vaccine candidate developed by the University of Oxford with AstraZeneca has produced a robust immune response in older adults and the elderly, those at highest risk of severe illness.
Findings on blood tests carried out on a subset of older participants echo data released in July that showed the vaccine generated robust immune responses in healthy adults ages 18 to 55, Astra said Monday.
The July results, from an earlier trial phase, showed that the vaccine increased levels of both protective neutralizing antibodies and immune T-cells that target the virus.
UK doctors demand free meals for kids as COVID fuels hunger
Pediatricians are urging the British government to reverse course and provide free meals for poor children during school holidays as the COVID-19 pandemic pushes more families into poverty.
Some 2,200 members of the Royal College of Pediatrics and Child Health have written an open letter to Conservative Prime Minister Boris Johnson, saying they were shocked by his “refusal” to back down on the issue.
The doctors say some 4 million children live in poverty, and a third rely on free school meals. Many parents in Britain have lost their jobs or are working reduced hours during the pandemic, making it imperative to make it possible for poor children over the holidays get at least one nutritious meal a day, the doctors argue.
The House of Commons last week rejected legislation that would have provided free meals during all school holidays from October through the Easter break.
Belgium faces pivotal week as virus weighs on hospitals
Authorities warned Monday that Belgium faces a pivotal week in its struggle to limit the spread of the coronavirus, as a series of new restrictions took effect in one of the European countries hardest hit by the pandemic.
Almost 12,500 new cases are being reported on average every 24 hours, figures released Monday for the week from Oct. 16-22 showed and pressure is building on Belgium’s hospitals, where 467 people are being admitted on average each day, a rise of 85%.
“What we do now, what we will do in the next two weeks, will be decisive,” said Yves Van Laethem, a spokesman for Belgium’s COVID-19 crisis center who encouraged people to play with their kids, walk alone in he forest or start some DIY projects. “You don’t have to live like monks,” but “it’s now or never to discover your personal pause button.”
Poll: Virginia voters say virus, not economy, most important
Enacting restrictions to prevent the spread of the coronavirus is more important than removing them to get the economy going, according to a majority of Virginia voters polled this month.
The poll conducted by Hampton University and The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that 62% think the biggest priority for their community is to prevent the coronavirus from spreading, even if it hurts the economy, while 35% said removing restrictions to help the economy, even if more people get the virus, is the bigger priority.
Like other states, Virginia has debated the degree to which the economy and society should be open and the politics of that partisan debate have featured frequent barbs from President Donald Trump directed at Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam.
In April, during some of the strictest coronavirus restrictions, Trump tweeted “LIBERATE VIRGINIA.”
Quarantine Corner: How to celebrate Halloweek while keeping your distance
Enjoy a monster movie mash with "Dracula," "Frankenstein" and others from the golden age of monsters on film.
If your kid has the sniffles, does the whole family need to quarantine?
2020 is certainly the year to err on the side of caution. Medical specialists are explaining what you should do, and when your child needs a COVID test.
(We've been updating our list of testing sites in the Puget Sound area.)
Travel on Thanksgiving? Pass the COVID.
Public health officials don't recommend going to see loved ones for the holidays, though it's tempting — even Dr. Anthony Fauci wrestled with whether to see his daughters. But many are issuing guidelines to make get-togethers safer if people decide they really need to happen.
What's driving UW’s Dr. Vin Gupta as he shares coronavirus answers with the nation
Pick any weekday and you’ll likely see UW's Dr. Vin Gupta on at least one news show, giving quick answers with what MSNBC anchor Brian Williams calls "the perfect mix of passion and expertise" when it comes to masks, traveling, vaccines and more.
Gupta's role as one of the nation's most visible commentators on COVID-19 has come with political fire, death threats and scant time with his own family. But still, Williams says, "He speaks for those he is treating — the patients who cannot speak for themselves."
Seattle Restaurant Week: Pandemic Edition
As temperatures drop and patios close, Americans are wrestling with the risks of dining in — and there are no clear federal guidelines to consult, only "considerations." As the man long known as the Ethicist for The New York Times points out, “No matter what you do, you’ll do harm."
Seattle company says its spray treatment could make cloth masks more effective against COVID-19
What if you could spray your cloth mask with a special coating that uses electrical charges to stop the virus from getting through? A Seattle startup's work is getting national attention, and it all started with a comment from the CEO's mom.
This comes as the new UW projections show why masks are the easiest, cheapest way to save a vast number of U.S. lives.
Until that super spray comes along, here's a look at which masks work best.
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