Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Wednesday, Oct. 28, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.
The U.S. reported a record of more than 500,000 new cases over the past week, even as the Trump administration claimed to have ended the pandemic.
After weeks of dangling the possibility of coronavirus vaccine results by October, Pfizer’s chief executive said Tuesday that would now be nearly impossible. And Washington state, along with a handful of other Western states, plans to review coronavirus vaccines itself once they’re approved by the Food and Drug Administration, Gov. Jay Inslee said Tuesday.
Throughout Wednesday, 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 Tuesday are here, and all our coronavirus coverage can be found here.
India’s coronavirus cases cross 8 million, behind US
NEW DELHI — India’s confirmed coronavirus caseload surpassed 8 million on Thursday with daily infections dipping to the lowest level this week, as concerns grew over a major Hindu festival season and winter setting in.
India’s trajectory is moving toward the worst-hit country, the United States, which has over 8.8 million cases.
The Health Ministry reported another 49,881 infections and 517 fatalities in the past 24 hours, raising the death toll to 120,527.
Life in India is edging back to pre-virus levels with shops, businesses, subway trains and movie theaters reopening and the country’s third-largest state of Bihar with a population of about 122 million people holding elections.
But health experts warn that mask and distancing fatigue is setting in and can lead to a fresh wave of infections.
Virus arrives in Marshall Islands with 2 cases
WELLINGTON, New Zealand — The Marshall Islands has reported its first cases of the coronavirus after two people who flew from Hawaii to a U.S. military base tested positive.
The small Pacific nation had been among the last places in the world to have no reported cases of the virus.
The Office of the Chief Secretary said in a statement that a 35-year-old woman and a 46-year-old man had tested positive this week after flying directly from Honolulu to the base on Kwajalein Atoll.
The office said the two cases weren’t connected, that both people remained in quarantine, and that there was no chance of community transmission.
The office asked people to remain calm and said all businesses and government operations would continue as normal.
Home to about 78,000 people, the Marshall Islands maintains close military and civilian ties with the U.S. under a compact of free association.
With vacation rentals empty, European cities see a chance to reclaim housing
LISBON, Portugal — Long before the coronavirus swept across Europe this spring, many cities had been complaining that a proliferation of short-term apartment rentals aimed at tourists through platforms like Airbnb was driving up housing costs for locals and destroying the character of historic districts.
Now that the coronavirus pandemic has all but cut off the steady flow of visitors, many European cities are seizing an opportunity to push short-term rentals back onto the long-term housing market.
In Lisbon, the Portuguese capital, the city government is becoming a landlord itself by renting empty apartments and subletting them as subsidized housing. In Barcelona, Spain, the housing department is threatening to take possession of empty properties and do the same.
Other city governments are enacting or planning laws to curb the explosive growth of rentals aimed largely at tourists. Amsterdam has banned vacation rentals in the heart of the old city, a Berlin official warned of a crackdown on short-term leasing platforms “trying to evade regulation and the enforcement of law,” and Paris is planning a referendum on Airbnb-type listings.
“We cannot tolerate that accommodations that could be rented to Parisians are now rented all year to tourists,” the deputy mayor of Paris, Ian Brossat, said in a phone interview.
High COVID-19 rates persist in South King County as public health officials urge more testing
An Auburn road designated as a volcano evacuation route currently leads to a site set up to deal with a more immediate disaster.
At the end of C Street SW, where Mount Rainier peeks over the hills to the east, is a COVID-19 testing site at the sprawling U.S. General Services Administration location. Since Sept. 1, the site has been testing anyone for free regardless of their immigration status and whether they have health insurance.
Public Health – Seattle & King County, UW Medicine and the Valley Regional Fire Authority opened the site in an effort to increase testing for a population that has been disproportionally affected by SARS-CoV-2 compared to the county at large.
Countywide, 3.2% of all tests have come back positive. At the Auburn site, the positivity rate for all tests is 12.8% and the overall number for the city along the Pierce County line is 8.4%.
The stubbornly high numbers were addressed by Gov. Jay Inslee in July when he met with officials in Federal Way. Despite the governor highlighting the problem in South King County, infections continued to spread.
The problem is particularly pronounced in communities of color that have long dealt with poorer health outcomes and have sizable populations in the area.
Public health data shows the disparity in how SARS-CoV-2 and the disease it causes, COVID-19, has moved through the county’s communities of color: The age-adjusted rate for the 26,512 infections in King County as of Oct. 27 is 1,190.9 cases per 100,000 residents. That number skyrockets for Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islanders to 3,040 and 2,770 for Hispanics. The rate is 1,758.1 for Black people and 982 for American Indians/Alaska Natives.
Khloe Kardashian confirms she had coronavirus in video
LOS ANGELES — Khloe Kardashian says she had tested positive for the coronavirus.
The reality star confirmed she was diagnosed Wednesday in a sneak peek clip of “Keeping Up with the Kardashians.” The bedridden Kardashian spoke in the video with a hoarse voice.
“Just found out that I do have corona,” she said in the teaser of the episode, which was filmed months ago. A teaser in September showed Kardashian being tested for the virus.
“I have been in my room,” she continued. “It’s gonna be fine, but it was really bad for a couple days.”
Kardashian said her symptoms included coughing, shaking, vomiting, headaches along with cold and hot flashes. She said she had a burning sensation while coughing.
Gatherings and get-togethers are big factor in state's recent uptick in COVID-19 cases, report shows
COVID-19 transmission continues to increase in both Western and Eastern Washington, with case counts and hospitalizations rising from mid-September to mid-October, according to the state's latest situation report.
The report shows the latest reproduction number — which measures how many new people each coronavirus patient will infect — was at 1.34 in Western Washington and 1.12 in Eastern Washington, which is "not where we want to be," Dr. Kathy Lofy, the state's health officer, said during a Wednesday briefing.
Gatherings and get-togethers are a big contributing factor, Lacy Fehrenbach, the state's deputy secretary of health for COVID-19 response, said during the briefing.
Several larger counties, including Snohomish, Pierce, Clark and Thurston, are particularly concerning, Lofy said. Snohomish County, for example, is on a "very steep incline," she said, adding its rate of recent infection almost looked like a vertical line.
While cases are rising at a slower rate in Eastern Washington, other trends indicate a risk for faster growth in the future, according to the report, which was released Wednesday.
In terms of age groups, the sharpest increase has been among people 25 to 39 years old and 40 to 59 years old, though officials have also been seeing an increase in cases among 60-year-olds and older.
Lofy ended the discussion by reminding the public that future COVID-19 deaths could be mitigated with universal masking, meaning at least 95% of the population masked up at all times.
"It's not too late to reverse these trends," Fehrenbach said. " … This is a critical moment to recommit to the actions we know can prevent the spread of COVID-19."
Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer wants voters to have the facts
Former Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer is no stranger to regulation.
Ballmer led the Washington state software giant from 2000 to 2014, steering the company through years of antitrust battles.
And now he still has a foot in the political world through his nonpartisan nonprofit group, USAFacts. The organization aims to make government data available so Americans can form their own positions on policy issues by accessing everything from the amount of COVID cases by county to the number of visas granted last year.
The group’s mission has taken on a new level of significance since the 2016 election, with fake news and “alternate facts” frequently in the headlines. The organization recently launched a $10 million campaign, which has been running ads during the presidential debates to encourage voters to “find the nonpartisan facts behind the real stories.”
We recently spoke about that work and some of the top regulatory issues facing the tech industry.
Read the full interview here.
Anchorage urges masks, staying home as virus infections rise
JUNEAU, Alaska — Anchorage is on a “dangerous path” as coronavirus cases rise, the city’s health director said Wednesday as officials implored people to avoid gatherings and follow orders to wear masks in public.
Acting Anchorage Mayor Austin Quinn-Davidson told reporters she has been meeting with business leaders, health officials and others to make decisions that protect health but also impose minimal restrictions on businesses so they can stay open.
“None of us wants another hunker-down” order, she said, adding that it’s people’s actions “that set us up for success or not. So, please, we are all asking you to make those good health decisions.”
Statewide, virus transmission has accelerated over the last month, according to the Alaska health department, which says most residents known to have COVID-19 are getting it from family or someone they work or socialize with. State officials on Wednesday announced plans to bolster testing and expand contact tracing efforts, using the National Guard as a resource.
White House could have traced and contained its COVID-19 outbreak; it didn’t
There are long-standing protocols for investigating the spread of a virus: contact tracing, or interviewing infected people about their recent interactions and advising those exposed that they should get tested. There’s also a more cutting-edge technology that can map the spread of a virus by tracking tiny changes in its genetic code.
The Trump administration did not effectively deploy either technique in response to what Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease specialist, has called a “superspreader event” at the White House, leaving not just the president and his staff at risk, but also the hundreds of people who were potentially exposed.
Officials say the White House called off early efforts to get to the bottom of the outbreak, including sequencing the genomes of virus samples from infected individuals. This genetic analysis could have revealed shared mutations that linked cases in Washington and other affected communities.
Had the administration done such an investigation, it would know whether infections among aides to Vice President Mike Pence that were reported this past weekend bore the same genetic signature as earlier cases at the White House. That could indicate whether the virus was circulating among administration officials for weeks or had slipped through infection-control measures a second time.
But the administration has shown little interest in investigating its outbreak, said Mark Fox, a county public health officer in South Bend, Indiana. To this day, Fox, the local official tasked with contact tracing for the outbreak, has not seen a full list of people from his county who attended the Rose Garden ceremony.
Biden shuns easy virus answers; Trump vows to ‘vanquish’ it
BULLHEAD CITY, Ariz. — Joe Biden vowed Wednesday not to campaign “on the false promises of being able to end this pandemic by flipping a switch,” pledging instead to prioritize science, even as President Donald Trump used the race’s final days to maintain a whirlwind schedule aimed at focusing on anything but the coronavirus.
The Democratic presidential nominee also argued that a Supreme Court conservative majority stretched to 6-3 by newly confirmed Justice Amy Coney Barrett could dismantle the Obama administration’s signature health law and leave millions without insurance coverage during the pandemic. He called Trump’s handling of the coronavirus an “insult” to its victims, especially as cases spike dramatically around the country.
His comments reflected an unwavering attempt to keep the political spotlight on the pandemic. That was a departure from the president, who downplayed the threat and spent his day in Arizona, where relaxed rules on social distancing made staging big rallies easier.
Trump, who frequently lauds rising markets, failed to mention the decline. But he promised that economic growth figures for the summer quarter, due Thursday, would be strong, declaring during a rally in Bullhead City, Arizona, “This election is a choice between a Trump super-recovery and a Biden depression.”
Regulators suspend Missouri nursing home COVID-19 test lab
COLUMBIA, Mo. — A federal judge refused to intervene Wednesday to keep open a Missouri lab that handled coronavirus tests for about 2,500 nursing homes in 11 states after the federal government suspended the lab for what it alleged were serious violations that put patients’ health at risk.
U.S. District Judge Douglas Harpool said that the lab, Gamma Healthcare, was in effect asking him to step into a role that belongs to federal health and safety regulators.
Missouri nursing homes are worried that loss of the lab’s services will slow down testing for their elderly and frail patients.
Gamma Healthcare’s Poplar Bluff lab handled COVID-19 testing for thousands of long-term care centers in Arkansas, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas.
Attorneys for the Medicare agency, or CMS, in court documents wrote that two testing machines at the lab operated for months producing false-negatives on over a quarter of known-positive COVID-19 samples. Regulators also found multiple false-positive COVID-19 test results at the lab.
A CMS spokeswoman in an email said following federal lab regulations is especially important during the coronavirus pandemic to ensure accurate test results and slow the spread of the virus.
Feds issue insurance rules for COVID-19 vaccine and treatments
WASHINGTON — Federal health officials Wednesday issued insurance coverage rules designed to deliver on the promise that every American will have access to free COVID-19 vaccines when they are approved.
The regulations from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, or CMS, will also increase what Medicare pays hospitals for COVID-19 treatments. The changes arrive at a time when coronavirus infections are rising in much of the country, signaling a third wave that could eclipse the number of cases seen earlier this year.
Congress and President Donald Trump have already enacted legislation that calls for vaccines to be free, but the new rules were needed to align that policy with the many arcane payment requirements for public and private insurance.
“CMS is acting now to remove bureaucratic barriers while ensuring that states, providers and health plans have the information and direction they need to ensure broad vaccine access and coverage for all Americans,” agency head Seema Verma said in a statement.
The rules aim to resolve potential legal issues over whether Medicare could cover a vaccine that receives “emergency use authorization” from the Food and Drug Administration. That’s a step short of full approval, and questions arose about whether Medicare could pay under its standard coverage policies.
Health officials confirm 716 new COVID-19 cases in Washington
State health officials confirmed an additional 716 COVID-19 cases and 16 deaths in Washington on Wednesday afternoon.
The update brings the state’s totals to 104,743 cases and 2,353 deaths, meaning that 2.2% of people diagnosed in Washington have died, according to the state Department of Health (DOH). The data is as of 11:59 p.m. Tuesday.
DOH also reported that 8,383 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the coronavirus.
In King County, the state’s most populous, state health officials have confirmed 26,789 COVID-19 diagnoses and 814 deaths.
Cemeteries, memorial parks in the Philippines closed to prevent virus spread on All Saints' Day
The Philippines closed cemeteries and memorial parks late Wednesday to prevent an annual influx of millions of Filipinos on All Saints’ Day that could spark new coronavirus outbreaks.
Marking All Saints’ Day in the largely Roman Catholic country has become unwieldy in some Manila cemeteries with the solemn holiday being turned by some groups into noisy family reunions with blaring music, singing and drinking.
Catholic bishops revived a website that in the past allowed for millions of Filipinos working overseas to remember their dead online with prayers and virtual candles. The website was launched . The Philippines has more than 375,000 confirmed infections, the second-highest number in Southeast Asia, with at least 7,114 deaths.
UK vaccine chief warns of over-optimism, early imperfection
Warning that the first COVID-19 vaccines may be imperfect, the head of the U.K effort to develop a vaccine called Wednesday for immediate international cooperation to prevent the “largest global recession in history.’’
U.K. Vaccine Taskforce chair Kate Bingham also warned against over-optimism, saying there is no guarantee a successful vaccine against the novel coronavirus will ever be developed.
No successful vaccine has ever been developed against any coronavirus.
Numerous attempts to design vaccines against SARS and MERS, two which are related to the virus that causes COVID-19, have failed. Scientists also warn that immunity against coronaviruses appears to fade over time and that achieving any vaccine-induced immunity to protect against infection or severe disease could be challenging.
Lockdowns, business rollbacks threatened amid surging virus in US and EU
An alarming surge in coronavirus cases in Europe and the U.S. is wiping out months of progress against the scourge on two continents, prompting new business restrictions, and raising the threat of another round of large-scale lockdowns and sending a shudder through financial markets.
In France, doctors urged another nationwide lockdown, with 58% of the country’s intensive care units now occupied by COVID-19 patients. Belgium, the Netherlands, most of Spain and the Czech Republic are seeing similarly high rates of infection. Most U.S. states are seeing a rise in cases.
Stocks around the world tumbled on worries that fresh lockdowns and rollbacks of business will further drag down economies.
India’s confirmed virus cases near 8 million
India’s tally of confirmed coronavirus cases is moving closer to 8 million, with 43,893 new cases reported in the last day and the Health Ministry reporting 508 fatalities from COVID-19 across India in the past 24 hours.
The total reported Wednesday includes the highest single-day number of cases for New Delhi, the Indian capital — 4,853. In September, India hit a peak of nearly 100,000 reported cases in a single day, but since then daily infections have fallen by more than half and deaths by about a third.
Voting began Wednesday in India’s third-largest state of Bihar, the first major election in the country since the pandemic. Bihar, with a population of 122 million people, has reported more than 200,000 cases and there are concerns over a surge in infections during the elections.
Sanofi, GSK to provide COVID-19 vaccine to global alliance
Drugmakers Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline have agreed to provide 200 million doses of their potential COVID-19 vaccine to the COVAX Facility, a collaboration designed to give countries around the world equal access to coronavirus vaccines.
The Sanofi-GSK vaccine candidate is in early stage trials, with results expected in early December. The drugmakers said Wednesday that they plan to begin phase three trial by the end of the year and request regulatory approval of the vaccine in the first half of 2021.
The facility is part of COVAX, a coalition of governments, health organizations, businesses and charities working to accelerate the development of COVID-19 vaccines.
Merkel seeks limited lockdown as German virus cases surge
Alarmed by the steady rise in new coronavirus cases, German Chancellor Angela Merkel is pressing governors of the country’s 16 states to agree to a partial lockdown Wednesday that could include further restrictions on public gatherings and the closure of bars and restaurants.
Germany’s disease control agency said a record 14,964 new cases were recorded across the country in the past 24 hours, taking the total since the start of the outbreak to 449,275. Germany also saw a further 27 COVID-related deaths, raising its overall death toll to 10,098, the Robert Koch Institute said.
Merkel has repeatedly urged Germans over the past two weeks to reduce their social contacts in a bid to curb the spread of the virus — so far with little success.
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.
Store guard stabbed 27 times for asking women to wear masks
Two sisters accused of stabbing a West Side Chicago store security guard 27 times with a knife after he asked them to wear face masks and use hand sanitizer were ordered held without bond Tuesday.
The alleged attack late Sunday by Jessica Hill, 21, and Jayla Hill, 18, left the 32-year-old victim hospitalized in critical condition, police spokeswoman Karie James said.
An argument that began after the women refused the guard’s request to wear masks became physical when one of the women punched the man, James said. Jessica Hill allegedly pulled a knife from her back pocket and began stabbing the man, while Jayla Hill held him in place by his hair.
Yes, it’s OK to use cash again
Many people have stopped using cold, hard — and dirty — cash in favor of debit, credit, or contactless forms of payment. Transferred from one person to the next, money is susceptible to picking up a whole host of germs. And naturally, when the coronavirus hit, this left people questioning if cash was safe, while many businesses started encouraging cashless forms of payment.
But do we really need to be concerned about getting coronavirus from cash?
Neal Goldstein, assistant research professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at Drexel University. “Surface transmission is really a negligible component of transmission of coronavirus, and the likelihood of getting COVID-19 from touching money is extremely low.”
UK under pressure amid warning hospital cases may triple
The British government is under pressure to develop a national strategy to combat a surge of COVID-19 cases and “rescue Christmas’’ as scientists warn that the number of people hospitalized with the disease in the U.K. could almost triple by the end of next month unless something more is done now.
It is “not unrealistic’’ that 25,000 people in the U.K. could be hospitalized by the end of November — up from about 9,000 now, said Mark Walport, a former chief scientific officer.
Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey said the four nations --England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland -- must develop a unified strategy to avoid confusion and deliver a clear message. He said, "If we don’t get the virus back under control, I’m afraid there’s little chance of being able to rescue Christmas."
Maskless pope blames ‘this lady called COVID’ for distance
Pope Francis has blamed “this lady called COVID” for forcing him to keep his distance again from the faithful during his general audience, which was far smaller than usual amid soaring coronavirus infections in Italy.
Francis again eschewed a protective mask Wednesday even when he greeted a few maskless clergymen at the end of his audience. While the prelates wore masks throughout the hour-long audience, they took them off when they lined up to shake Francis’ hand and speak briefly with him one-on-one.
A Vatican official who is a key member of Francis’ COVID-19 response commission, the Rev. Augusto Zampini, said he hoped Francis would don a mask at least when he greeted people during the general audience. “We are working on that,” he said.
Francis has only been seen wearing a mask in public twice: On Sept. 9 as he entered and exited his general audience, and last week during a two-hour interfaith prayer service in downtown Rome.
Dodgers’ Justin Turner pulled from last World Series game after positive coronavirus test
Los Angeles Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner was pulled from Game 6 of the World Series because of a positive test for the coronavirus.
When the Dodgers took the field for the eighth inning Tuesday against the Tampa Bay Rays, Turner was replaced at third base by Edwin Ríos. Los Angeles went on to win the game, 3-1, and earn its first MLB championship since 1988.
He wasn’t on the field initially as the Dodgers enjoyed the spoils of the title, but returned after the game, hugging longtime teammate Clayton Kershaw and sitting front-and-center for a team photo with his mask pulled down.
Quarantine Corner: Making it easier to stay home
Family takeout meal deals: Critic Tan Vinh is dishing on his favorites, from a 4-pound pizza to Seattle’s best lasagna.
Thrilling reads: A King County investigator is out with his stunning debut novel, joining two veteran journalists in our crime-fiction picks.
Seattle among cities endorsing a green economic recovery from the impacts of COVID-19
Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan is among 14 U.S. mayors advocating for “green solutions” to recover from the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Durkan signed on to a statement of the C40 Global Mayors Covid-19 Recovery Task Force endorsing “an end to all public fossil fuel investments and subsidies,” “protecting mass transit” and “investing in clean energy,” according to a news release from the group.
The mayors say these investments would create jobs, reduce the costs of health care and prevent premature deaths from air pollution.
Seattle is aiming to become carbon neutral by 2050. The amount of greenhouse gas emission per resident fell some 23% from 1990 to 2016, the most recent year data was available.
But as the city’s population has swelled, overall emissions have grown. The city emitted 5% more greenhouse gases in 2016 than in 1990.
The economic shock of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the subsequent stimulus money aimed at softening its blow, represents an opportunity to refashion the economy, the C40 mayors said.
Seattle voters have a say in the future of mass transit here. Voters turning in ballots by this Election Day will decide whether to approve a sales tax hike to support transit in the city.
Seattle City Light, with an energy portfolio dominated by hydropower from its dams, already provides carbon-neutral energy to the city.
Catch up on the past 24 hours
Washington state will decide for itself whether vaccines are safe after they're approved by the FDA, Gov. Jay Inslee announced yesterday. As trust in the federal government wavers, several other states are doing this, too, but top health experts have said it could backfire.
The U.S. reported a record of more than 500,000 new cases over the past week, even as the Trump administration said it ended the pandemic.
Canada has had its Thanksgiving — and now it has a COVID-19 spike.
Europe is in deep virus trouble. France is bracing for a new lockdown today, Germany's leader and its businesses are facing off over fresh restrictions, and bewildered Belgium has become the continent's worst hot spot.
Yes, it’s OK to use cash again. Scientists' knowledge of how the virus spreads has evolved, and shoppers should have bigger concerns than the money itself.
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