Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Tuesday, Oct. 27, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.
Average deaths per day across the United States are up 10% over the past two weeks, with daily confirmed infections rising in 47 states, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. Hospitals nationwide are seeing a flood of patients.
On Monday, a top U.S. health official said the pandemic can clearly be controlled — as long as people wear masks and follow other safety guidance.
Throughout Tuesday, 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 Monday are here, and all our coronavirus coverage can be found here.
Gov. Jay Inslee will hold a press conference at 10:30 a.m. today to provide an update on the state’s ongoing response to COVID-19.
Recession’s silver lining: American households are doing better than expected
For months, Americans have barely dined at restaurants or traveled for vacation. There have been no ballgames or concerts to attend. Gym and other memberships mostly remain frozen.
Forced into lockdown mode by the coronavirus, people put big purchases on hold and scaled back their spending. Around the same time, mortgage lenders, student loan collectors and other creditors offered struggling borrowers a break on payments. And stimulus checks from the government arrived.
These trends have come together to form an unlikely silver lining to the economic recession, which set in eight months ago: Despite the pandemic’s economic devastation, which has tipped millions of people into unemployment, many American households are in relatively good shape.
Since April, consumer savings have increased, credit scores have surged to a record high and household debt has dropped. The billions of dollars that banks set aside at the start of the crisis to cover anticipated losses on loans to customers have been largely untouched. And lending at pawnshops and payday lenders, where business tends to boom during downturns, has been unexpectedly slow.
“Everything was upside down,” said John Hecht, an analyst at the investment bank Jefferies. Usually, in times of distress and unemployment, more people find themselves with deteriorating credit and are forced to seek high-interest, or subprime, loans, Hecht said, but not this year.
The pain may still be coming.
Test to allow Japanese visitors to bypass Hawaii quarantine
But Japanese travelers will still have to spend two weeks in quarantine upon returning home, which will likely limit the number of people taking advantage of the plan.
The testing option takes effect on Nov. 6. Travelers must take a COVID-19 test from an approved clinic or hospital in Japan within 72 hours of their departure.
Hawaii earlier this month implemented a similar testing program for travelers from other parts of the U.S.
Some COVID survivors have antibodies that attack the body, not the virus
Some survivors of COVID-19 carry worrying signs that their immune system has turned on the body, reminiscent of potentially debilitating diseases like lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, a new study has found.
At some point, the body’s defense system in these patients shifted into attacking itself, rather than the virus, the study suggests. The patients are producing molecules called “autoantibodies” that target genetic material from human cells, instead of from the virus.
This misguided immune response may exacerbate severe COVID-19. It may also explain why so-called “long haulers” have lingering problems months after their initial illness has resolved and the virus is gone from their bodies.
The findings carry important implications for treatment: Using existing tests that can detect autoantibodies, doctors could identify patients who might benefit from treatments used for lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. There is no cure for these diseases, but some treatments decrease the frequency and severity of flare-ups.
“It’s possible that you could hit the appropriate patients harder with some of these more aggressive drugs and expect better outcomes,” said Matthew Woodruff, an immunologist at Emory University in Atlanta and lead author of the work.
The results were reported Friday on the preprint server MedRxiv, and have not yet been published in a scientific journal.
Washington will join other states to review coronavirus vaccines approved by the federal government
OLYMPIA — Washington will join a handful of other Western states to review coronavirus vaccines once they are approved by the Food and Drug Administration, Gov. Jay Inslee announced Tuesday.
The move is intended “to give Washingtonians the highest confidence that when a [coronavirus] vaccine is available, that it’s safe and works,” the governor said in a news conference.
“This will be an added layer of assurance” for residents “so that we can increase the number of folks that actually get the vaccination,” Inslee added later.
The idea was started by California Gov. Gavin Newsom, with Washington, Oregon and Nevada now part of the group.
Experts will be appointed by each of the states, though Washington has not yet named its own, according to a news release by Inslee’s office.
The announcement comes after the state Department of Health this month released a draft plan to distribute vaccines in phases.
Governor extends Oregon’s state of emergency due to COVID-19
SALEM, Ore. — Gov. Kate Brown on Tuesday extended Oregon’s declaration of a state of emergency until Jan. 2 as COVID-19 cases in the state continue to rise.
The Oregon Health Authority reported 391 new confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19 Tuesday, bringing the state total to 42,808. There were nine additional deaths, increasing the death toll to 664.
“Extending the COVID-19 state of emergency is not something I do lightly, but we know all too well that not taking action would mean an even greater loss of life,” Brown said. “The second wave of COVID-19 has arrived in the United States, and this time it is hitting all of our communities.”
The declaration is the legal underpinning for the executive orders the governor has issued, including her orders surrounding reopening Oregon, childcare, schools and higher education operations. Extending the state of emergency declaration allows those orders to stay in effect.
Telemedicine or in person? The pros and cons of doctor visit options during the COVID-19 pandemic
As COVID-19 took hold in March, U.S. doctors limited in-person appointments — and many patients avoided them — for fear of infection. The result was a huge increase in the volume of remote medical and behavioral health visits.
Doctors, hospitals and mental health providers across the country reported a 50- to 175-fold rise in the number of virtual visits, according to a report released in May by the consulting firm McKinsey & Co.
The COVID-fueled surge has tapered off as patients venture back to doctors’ offices. But medical professionals and health experts predict that when the pandemic is over, telehealth will still play a much larger role than before.
Studies show patient satisfaction with telehealth is high. And for physicians who previously were skeptical of remote care, necessity has been the mother of invention.
“There are still a few doubting Thomases, but now that we’ve run our practices this way for three months, people have learned that it’s pretty useful,” says Dr. Joseph Kvedar, president of the American Telemedicine Association and a practicing dermatologist who teaches at Harvard Medical School in Boston.
UN cancels in-person meetings after report of 5 COVID cases
UNITED NATIONS — The United Nations on Tuesday canceled all in-person meetings for this week after a U.N. member nation reported five cases of COVID-19 among its staff.
General Assembly President Volkan Bozkir sent a letter to the 193 U.N. member nations initially announcing a cancellation of Tuesday meetings on the advice of the U.N. Medical Unit in order to carry out contact tracing.
He then followed up with a second letter in the evening saying Secretary-General Antonio Guterres recommended that in-house meetings be suspended for the rest of the week “to allow for a better understanding of the extent of the exposure and for full contact tracing to be completed.”
Bozkir said after consulting with the chairs of the assembly’s six main committees, “and in light of the need to safeguard public health,” he was canceling all in-person meetings this week.
How Trump and Bolsonaro broke Latin America’s defenses against COVID-19
The coronavirus was gathering lethal speed when President Donald Trump met his Brazilian counterpart, Jair Bolsonaro, on March 7 for dinner at Mar-a-Lago. Bolsonaro had canceled trips that week to Italy, Poland and Hungary, and Brazil’s health minister had urged him to stay away from Florida, too.
But Bolsonaro insisted, eager to burnish his image as the “Trump of the Tropics.” His grinning aides posed at the president’s resort in green “Make Brazil Great Again” hats. Trump declared he was “not concerned at all” before walking Bolsonaro around the club shaking hands.
Twenty-two people in Bolsonaro’s delegation tested positive for the virus after returning to Brazil, yet he was not alarmed. Trump had shared a cure, Bolsonaro told advisers: a box of the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine, the unproven treatment that Trump was then promoting as a remedy for COVID-19.
“He said the trip was wonderful, that they had a great time, that life was normal at Mar-a-Lago, everything was cured, and that hydroxychloroquine was the medicine that was supposed to be used,” recalled the health minister, Luiz Henrique Mandetta, who was fired by Bolsonaro the next month for opposing reliance on the drug.
“From that time on, it was very hard to get him to take the science seriously.”
New lockers provide contactless access to KCLS materials
Congresswoman Suzan DelBene (WA-01) and King County Library System (KCLS) Executive Director Lisa Rosenblum on Wednesday will inaugurate new lockers that will allow patrons contactless access to library materials.
DelBene and Rosenblum will host a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Bothell Library, where the locker service will be immediately open to the public. The lockers will also be located at the Covington Library. (The event is not open to the public due to COVID-19 safety precautions).
The library lockers “provide a safe and convenient way for patrons to access KCLS’ physical materials during the COVID-19 pandemic,” according to a statement from KCLS. The lockers are available 24/7, and accompany KCLS’ other contactless pickup service, Curbside to Go. The lockers were made possible with funds from the KCLS Foundation.
Public Health offers support to caregivers taxed by COVID-19
Unpaid caregivers are so stressed that they are experiencing mental health problems, increased substance abuse and elevated suicidal thoughts, according to a study from the Centers for Disease Control.
And since the pandemic has increased social isolation and altered access to social services, the role of caregiving -- tending to an ill spouse or partner, a disabled child or an aging relative -- has become more challenging.
Public Health -- Seattle & King County is offering tips and resources to help caregivers attend to their own emotional well-being and support.
Signs of stress include feeling overwhelmed or constantly worried; feeling tired; becoming easily irritated or angry; losing interest in activities you once enjoyed; and having frequent headaches, bodily pain or other physical problems.
Public Health recommends that caregivers care for themselves by researching caregiving resources in their community, finding support groups and connecting with others; accepting help; and making a list of acts that others can choose to do, such as cooking or errands. Reach out to friends and loved ones, and schedule time with them at least once a week.
Other tips: Attend to your own physical needs, rest and focus on your mental health.
The best option for your well-being may be finding someone else to care for your loved one. Consider in-home respite, where a health-care aide comes to your home to provide companionship, nursing services or both; adult care centers and programs, or short-term nursing homes.
Additional resources and mental health resources can be found on Washington State Coronavirus resources website.
State confirms 527 new COVID-19 cases and reports 16 new deaths
The state Department of Health (DOH) reported 527 new COVID-19 cases in Washington state Tuesday, and 16 new deaths.
The update brings the state’s totals to 104,027 cases and 2,337 deaths, meaning that 2.2% of people diagnosed in Washington have died, according to the DOH. The data is as of 11:59 p.m. Monday.
The DOH also reported that 8,358 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the virus-- 36 new hospitalizations since the weekend.
Statewide, 2,362,595 COVID-19 tests have been administered as of Monday night.
In King County, the state’s most populous, state health officials have confirmed 26,599 COVID-19 diagnoses -- 80 more than last reported -- and 809 deaths.
Senior Trump official tests positive for coronavirus after trip to Europe
A senior Trump administration official tested positive for the coronavirus after a recent trip to Britain, Hungary and France, raising concerns about the spread of the virus to high-level officials across the Atlantic, according to four U.S. and foreign officials familiar with the situation.
Peter Berkowitz, the director of policy planning at the State Department, met with senior officials at 10 Downing Street and the Foreign Office in London, and in Budapest and Paris earlier this month. One official said that Berkowitz’s mask-wearing and social-distancing practices were lax during the trip and that U.S. Embassy staff in Europe expressed some concerns before the trip about traveling during the pandemic.
Pfizer CEO all but rules out vaccine before Election Day
After weeks of dangling the possibility of coronavirus vaccine results by October, Pfizer’s chief executive said Tuesday that would now be nearly impossible.
The announcement, by Dr. Albert Bourla, came on the same day that Pfizer announced third-quarter earnings, and all but ruled out the possibility of early results before the presidential election next Tuesday. President Donald Trump had long sought to tie the possibility of positive vaccine news to his own prospects for reelection.
In a call with investors Tuesday, Wall Street analysts pushed Bourla to be more specific about when the company would have early results that could show the effectiveness of its vaccine, and how much detail the company would provide. Pfizer is one of four companies with large, late-stage clinical trials underway in the United States.
In his remarks, Bourla acknowledged the urgency of developing a vaccine amid a global resurgence in infections. In the United States over the past week, there have been an average of more than 71,000 coronavirus cases per day, and hospitalizations are increasing, too.
“Let’s be very patient — I know how much the stress levels are growing,” Bourla said. “I know how much the vaccine is needed for the world.” He also pushed back against any suggestion that politics were motivating the speed of development, saying “this is not a Republican vaccine, or a Democrat vaccine.”
South Dakota medical groups promote masks, countering governor
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — South Dakota’s largest medical organizations on Tuesday launched a joint effort to promote mask-wearing to prevent the spread of the coronavirus as the state suffers through one of the nation’s worst outbreaks, a move that countered Gov. Kristi Noem’s position of casting doubt on the efficacy of masks.
As the number of cases, hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19 have multiplied in recent weeks, the Republican governor has tried to downplay the severity of the virus, highlighting that most people don’t die from COVID-19. Noem, who has staked out a reputation for keeping her state free from federal government mandates to stem the virus’ spread, has repeatedly countered the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendations to wear face coverings in public.
Shortly after the Department of Health reported that the number of hospitalizations from COVID-19 broke records for the third straight day on Tuesday, people who represent doctors, nurses, hospitals, school administrators and businesses huddled to promote mask-wearing, social distancing and handwashing. They warned the state’s hospitals could face a tipping point in their ability to care for COVID-19 patients.
“Masking is a simple act that each one of us can participate in and it can save lives,” said Dr. Benjamin Aaker, the president of the South Dakota State Medical Association. “If you mask, that life could be your mother, father, your friend, or even your own.”
October has already become the state’s deadliest during the pandemic, with 152 people dying. Health officials have tallied 375 total deaths from COVID-19.
The groups calling for mask-wearing detailed the upheaval caused by virus infections — from school administrators struggling to conduct contract tracing to businesses worried about the economic impacts of widespread outbreaks.
Virus pushes twin cities El Paso and Juarez to the brink
AUSTIN, Texas — A record surge in coronavirus cases is pushing hospitals to the brink in the border cities of El Paso and Ciudad Juarez, confronting health officials in Texas and Mexico with twin disasters in the closely knit metropolitan area of 3 million people.
Health officials are blaming the spike on family gatherings, multiple generations living in the same household and people under 40 going out to shop or conduct business.
The crisis — part of a deadly comeback by the virus across nearly the entire U.S. — has created one of the most desperate hot spots in North America and underscored how intricately connected the two cities are economically, geographically and culturally, with lots of people routinely going back and forth across the border to shop or visit with family.
“We are like Siamese cities,” said Juarez resident Roberto Melgoza Ramos, whose son recovered from a bout of COVID-19 after taking a cocktail of homemade remedies and prescription drugs. “You can’t cut El Paso without cutting Juarez, and you can’t cut Juarez without cutting El Paso.”
In El Paso, authorities have instructed residents to stay home for two weeks and imposed a 10 p.m. curfew, and they are setting up dozens of hospital beds at a convention center.
In Juarez, the Mexican government is sending mobile hospitals, ventilators and doctors, nurses and respiratory specialists. A hospital is being set up inside the gymnasium of the local university to help with the overflow.
Push for pre-election stimulus checks fails as lawmakers head for the exits
Congress has left town until after the election without passing any new economic or health care relief measures even as the coronavirus pandemic surges and the economy sputters.
Negotiations faltered in part because the bipartisan urgency that the White House and Congress shared earlier this year evaporated over the summer as the November elections neared.
The House has been out of session for weeks and after days of bitterly partisan debate and a vote late Monday confirming Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, senators are headed back home to campaign for reelection.
Heads up from Canada where Thanksgiving led to a COVID-19 spike
As the holiday season approaches amid a surge in novel coronavirus cases across the country, a Thanksgiving-related spike in Canada may serve as a cautionary tale for the United States.
Case counts in much of Canada are climbing, even in parts of the country that imposed new autumn restrictions. Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving on the second Monday of October, and both provincial and federal officials have pointed to the holiday as a culprit.
Before the holiday, officials advised Canadians to curtail their plans by limiting celebrations to those living under the same roof or moving the party online, but it is not clear how widely the advice was heeded.
In the United States, which hit an all-time high in new coronavirus cases, exceeding 80,000 in a day for the first time, officials warn that Thanksgiving events could lead to new cases.
Medicare finalizing coverage policy for coronavirus vaccine
Medicare will cover the yet-to-be approved coronavirus vaccine free for older people under a policy change expected to be announced shortly, a senior Trump administration official said Tuesday.
The coming announcement from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services aims to align the time-consuming process for securing Medicare coverage of a new vaccine, drug or treatment with the rapid campaign to have a coronavirus vaccine ready for initial distribution once it is ready, possibly as early as the end of the year.
It’s questionable under normal circumstances if Medicare can pay for a drug that receives emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration, as expected for the eventual coronavirus vaccine. Emergency use designation is a step short of full approval.
Virus found in Thai hotel gym where French woman quarantined
Health officials in Thailand said Tuesday it is likely that a French woman who earlier this month tested positive for the coronavirus became infected when she stayed under quarantine at a hotel near Bangkok.
The 57-year-old woman experienced symptoms and tested positive after she and her family flew on Oct. 15 from Bangkok to the island of Koh Samui, where they own a home. Her case was one of the few of local transmission reported in Thailand over the past several months.
After her infection was confirmed, the communal areas of the hotel where she stayed were checked, and traces of the coronavirus were found in its gym area.
Ongoing pandemic contributes to election stress disorder, a real thing that lots of us have
Heading into a contentious national election with an ongoing pandemic and racial unrest, many people are experiencing tension and stress.
More than two-thirds, approximately 68%, of American adults say the 2020 U.S. presidential election is a significant source of stress in their lives, according to a recent survey by the American Psychological Association. In comparison, only 52% said the same before the 2016 election. The proportion of Black adults reporting the election as a source of stress jumped from 46% in 2016 to 71% in 2020.
And it’s affecting people on both sides of the political aisle, with 76% of Democrats, 67% of Republicans and 64% of independents saying the election is a source of significant stress.
Election stress disorder isn’t a scientific diagnosis, but the concept is real, according to Dr. Robert Bright, a Mayo Clinic psychiatrist. It’s an experience of overwhelming anxiety that can manifest in a number of ways.
New protests loom as Europeans tire of virus restrictions
Italy braced Tuesday for more protests in cities nationwide against virus-fighting measures like regional curfews, evening shutdowns for restaurants and bars and the closures of gyms, pools and theaters — a sign of the growing discontent across Europe with renewed coronavirus restrictions.
Police in the financial capital of Milan arrested 28 people after protests turned violent on Monday night when police blocked their procession to the regional government headquarters. And in Italy’s industrial northern city of Turin, at least 11 people were arrested, including a pair who smashed the window of a Gucci boutique and stripped a mannequin of its lemon yellow trousers.
Italy is not the only country facing unrest. All of Europe is grappling with how to halt a fall resurgence of the virus before its hospitals become overwhelmed again.
Worst place, worst time: Trump faces virus spike in Midwest
The virus is getting worse in states that President Donald Trump needs the most, at the least opportune time. New infections are raging in Wisconsin and elsewhere in the upper Midwest. In Iowa, polls suggest Trump is in a toss-up race with Democrat Joe Biden after carrying the state by 9.4 percentage points four years ago.
Gabe Loiacono is the kind of voter President Donald Trump can ill afford to lose. He lives in a pivotal county of a swing state that is among a handful that will decide the presidency.
A college history professor who last cast a ballot for a Democrat more than 20 years ago, Loiacono is voting for Democrat Joe Biden because he thinks Trump has utterly failed in his handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
“President Trump still does not seem to be taking the pandemic seriously enough. I wish he would,” said Loiacono. He said he never thought of Trump as “all bad” but added, “There is still too much wishful thinking and not enough clear guidance.”
‘We’re working on it:’ Pope’s COVID advisers and the mask
Pope Francis’ decision to forego wearing a mask has been noticed, with some concern, by the commission of Vatican experts he appointed to help chart the Catholic Church’s path through the coronavirus pandemic and the aftermath.
The Rev. Augusto Zampini, one of the key members of the pope’s COVID-19 commission, acknowledged Tuesday that at age 83 and with part of his lung removed after an illness in his youth, Francis would be at high risk for complications if he were to become infected with COVID-19.
Francis has courted some criticism for declining to wear a mask when indoors, even though Vatican regulations call for masks indoors and out when social distancing cannot be guaranteed.
“He has started to use the mask now,” Zampini said in response to reporters’ questions. “And I hope he will use it in the general audiences, when he is close to the people. If you’re in an open space, we know that it’s different. But well, we are working on that.”
Thieves take $1M worth of gloves meant for Florida hospitals
Thieves have stolen over 6 million gloves, worth $1 million, meant for first responders at Florida hospitals.
Medgluv, a supplier of medical gloves to the national health care industry, said it received the shipment at its office in Coral Springs on Friday night. On Sunday night, surveillance video shows thieves backing a truck up to the shipping container and hauling off the personal protective equipment. It took only a few minutes.
The company did not say whether it believes the theft was lucky timing or an inside job.
Quarantine Corner: Things to do while staying home
Something to cook: Few treats are more comforting than hand pies, and these Halloween mummy ones from teen chef Sadie are creepy-cute. Here are more tricks for making treats with your kids.
Something to read: Bill Nye the Science Guy has a new book full of at-home experiments, and a message for middle schoolers: "You can change the world — and we need you to." His own bookshelf looks intriguing.
Something to watch (or not): There's an entire genre of movies set in Seattle but not actually filmed here. The latest: Netflix rom-com “Love, Guaranteed.” How Seattle is it, anyway?
Catch up on the past 24 hours
U.S. coronavirus deaths have risen 10% in the past two weeks, and cases are climbing in 47 states. Hospitals nationwide are seeing a flood of patients, and it's so bad in one Texas city that residents can be fined $500 if they break a new curfew.
An Issaquah man has pleaded guilty to a COVID-19 fraud scheme that involved trying to squeeze more than $550,000 from relief programs, prosecutors say.
On the lighter side, pandemic trick-or-treat setups are getting wildly creative as they go far beyond socially distant candy chutes.
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