Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Thursday, Oct. 29, 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 It is no longer being updated.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. 

Gatherings are a big reason behind the rise in cases in Washington, the state’s health officer said yesterday. The number of people infected and hospitalized rose between mid-September and mid-October, according to the state’s latest situation report. In particular, South King County is seeing high rates of positive tests compared to the rest of the county. Track the trends and know the key things to look for on the charts.

Throughout Thursday, 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 Wednesday are here, and all our coronavirus coverage can be found here.

(Jennifer Luxton / The Seattle Times)

More

Live Updates:

Japan crosses 100,000 cases, 9 months after 1st

TOKYO — Japan’s coronavirus cases have topped 100,000, nine months after the first case was found in mid-January, the health ministry said Friday.

The country confirmed 808 new cases on Thursday, bringing the cumulative COVID-19 cases to 100,334, including 712 people who were on a cruise ship that was docked off a Japanese port earlier this year.

About one-third of the cases come from Tokyo, where 221 cases were confirmed Thursday, bringing a prefectural total to 30,677, with 453 deaths. Nationwide, Japan has more than 1,700 deaths.

Experts say Japan has so far managed to avoid “explosive” infections as in Europe and the U.S. without enforcing lockdowns, most likely thanks to the common use of face masks and disinfectant, as well as other common preventive measures including social distancing.

Japan had a nationwide state of emergency in April and May, and experienced a less serious second wave in August, but has since been seeing a slight uptrend in new cases in northern Japanese prefectures, setting off concerns of a surge in the winter.

—Associated Press
Advertising

Europe now has more than 10 million COVID-19 cases

LONDON — The World Health Organization’s Europe director said Thursday that the 53-country region has again reached a new weekly record for confirmed cases, with more than 1.5 million confirmed last week and more than 10 million since the start of the pandemic.

During a meeting with European health ministers, WHO European regional director Dr. Hans Kluge said, “hospitalizations have risen to levels unseen since the spring” and that deaths have risen by more than 30% in the last week.

“Europe is at the epicenter of this pandemic once again,” Kluge said. “At the risk of sounding alarmist, I must express our very real concern.”

Testing systems have been unable to keep up with widespread levels of transmission, and “test positivity levels have reached new highs,” with most European countries exceeding 5% and many cases spreading unchecked, he said.

Along with the usual European countries, WHO includes includes Russia and some central Asian countries like Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan in its Europe region.

—Associated Press

We won’t go: California inmates refuse move to safer cells

More than 200 California inmates at the highest risk from coronavirus won’t move to safer cells, confounding officials who want to transfer thousands of prisoners to locations where they are less vulnerable to infection.

The unexpected development leaves corrections officials in a quandary as they consider how to avoid a repeat of deadly outbreaks like those at San Quentin State Prison north of San Francisco, where 75% of inmates were sickened and 28 died this summer.

An initial 238 of 302 highly vulnerable inmates systemwide refused to move to solid-door cells where they would be less at risk for airborne transmission of the virus, said the federal court-appointed official who controls health care in California state prisons.

“What are they frightened of? Why wouldn’t they go?” asked Michael Bien, one of the lead attorneys who has been pushing for such transfers and broader inmate releases for months. “We don’t have an easy answer for it.”

Usually, inmates are given little choice in where or how they are housed. But in this case, corrections officials respected inmates’ wishes to stay put.

“There are times when the demands of public health can overcome patient preferences,” federal receiver J. Clark Kelso said in a statement to The Associated Press, but in this case he said the transfers would mainly benefit individual inmates. “What we can and must do is fully educate our patients about the comparative COVID-19 risks of dorm housing versus celled housing.”

—Associated Press

Get your hand sanitizer costume. Halloween is still happening.

Animatronics triggered by motion sensor welcome customers to Morris Costumes in Charlotte, N.C., on Oct. 27. Sales of Halloween outfits and decorations have been surprisingly strong this year, with some seeing the holiday as a last hurrah before winter and the pandemic send people back inside. (Alycee Byrd / The New York Times)
Animatronics triggered by motion sensor welcome customers to Morris Costumes in Charlotte, N.C., on Oct. 27. Sales of Halloween outfits and decorations have been surprisingly strong this year, with some seeing the holiday as a last hurrah before winter and the pandemic send people back inside. (Alycee Byrd / The New York Times)

Scott Morris, co-owner of Morris Costumes in Charlotte, North Carolina, has slept at the office for the past 50 days — but he isn’t complaining.

His company, which distributes Halloween costumes and décor and operates the Halloween Express chain, has been racing to meet demand for a holiday that, earlier this year, seemed as if it might not happen as it usually does. Retailers that typically place orders between May and July largely held off, nervous about whether people would dress up and go out during a pandemic.

“Then they all woke up in early August and said, ‘Oh my gosh, Halloween is going to happen,’ ” Morris said last week in an interview.

So began a mad dash for a business that is surprisingly robust this year — with certain twists. Coronavirus-related costumes like hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes and illustrations of the virus itself have boomed, Morris said. People are also dressing up as rolls of toilet paper in a nod to the obsessive stockpiling of the item during the early months of the pandemic. The e-commerce surge has Morris Costumes mailing out as many as 30,000 packages a day.

“Halloween is turning out to be the last potential holiday that people can celebrate, either outside under a patio with some heating lamps or being able to trick or treat, before Thanksgiving hits,” said Robert Berman, chief executive of Rasta Imposta, a costume seller. “The whole family is getting into the spirit because everyone keeps saying we need Halloween; we need something for the kids,” added Berman, who is closely involved with the Halloween & Costume Association trade group.

Read the full story here.

—The New York Times
Advertising

JetBlue is the latest airline to retreat from blocking seats

The days of airlines blocking seats to make passengers feel safer about flying during the pandemic are coming closer to an end.

JetBlue is the latest to indicate it is rethinking the issue. A spokesman for the carrier said Thursday that JetBlue will reduce the number of seats it blocks after Dec. 1 to accommodate families traveling together over the holidays.

Southwest Airlines said last week that it will stop limiting the number of seats it fills after Dec. 1. Delta Air Lines and Alaska Airlines say they will lift caps on seating early next year.

The pandemic and resulting border restrictions caused U.S. air travel to plunge 95% in April. Some airlines promised to block middle seats to create more distance between passengers. Others, notably United Airlines and American Airlines, did not, arguing that ventilation systems and air filters made planes safe without social distancing.

Since then, all the airlines have reported a slow rise in the number of passengers, although U.S. travel is still down 65% from a year ago.

—Associated Press

Only 1 Seattle Public Schools student is receiving special-education services in person right now

Within Seattle Public Schools, only one student with disabilities is currently receiving services in person. Next week, that number will increase to two.

District officials say there are a few reasons why it’s taking a long time to get in-person services delivered to students while the school year proceeds online for most kids. A major reason for the delay: The district chose to set up services at students’ home schools — as opposed to at districtwide hubs — which meant making sure 104 school sites were safe for adult work, said Concie Pedroza, chief of student supports.

Other districts are using different models to get students what they need in person. In Bellevue, which this September enrolled fewer than half of Seattle’s 52,481 students, 150 students were receiving services in person as of Thursday, according to spokesperson Michael May. There, the district is concentrating services at four school sites — not all of which are students’ home schools.

In Lake Washington, 475 students with disabilities were getting assistance in person as of Thursday, said spokesperson Shannon Parthemer. Educators recommended in-person services for 580 students; 105 families declined them. Lake Washington provides these services across 34 school sites.

Focusing on home schools was “the most important thing,” Pedroza, the Seattle schools official, said in a briefing with journalists Thursday.

Read the full story here.

—Joy Resmovits

Early data suggests some schools can safely reopen, state health officials say

Bringing students back into school buildings for in-person classes does not seem to spur significant coronavirus transmission, Washington state health officials say, suggesting that buildings can reopen so long as strong health and safety measures are in place.

The statement from Lacy Fehrenbach, one of the state’s top health officials, fits with emerging data from inside and outside the United States which hints that schools — particularly elementary schools — aren’t driving coronavirus spread.

The state has logged 36 coronavirus outbreaks in schools since the start of the pandemic, including 26 since Sept. 1, Fehrenbach, deputy secretary of health for COVID-19 response at the Washington State Department of Health, said during a media briefing Wednesday. An Oct. 22 report from DOH suggests that 10 of those outbreaks were reported between Oct. 10 and Oct. 17.

Outbreaks include at least two cases among staff or students over two weeks, and signs that transmission happened on school grounds. Nearly all of the recorded outbreaks included fewer than five cases, Fehrenbach said.

Only 57 school districts, which together serve about 3% of Washington students, are serving more than three-quarters of their students face to face, state data suggests.  

Read the full story here.

—Hannah Furfaro
Advertising

‘So frustrating’: Grave missteps seen in U.S. virus response

NEW YORK — A president who downplayed the coronavirus threat, scorned masks and undercut scientists at every turn. Governors who resisted or rolled back containment measures amid public backlash. State lawmakers who used federal COVID-19 aid to plug budget holes instead of beefing up testing and contact tracing.

As a powerful new wave of infections sweeps the U.S. just ahead of Election Day, the nation’s handling of the nearly 8-month-old crisis has been marked by what health experts see as grave missteps, wasted time and squandered opportunities by leaders at all levels of government.

The result: The country could be looking at a terrible winter.

“The inconsistency of the response is what’s been so frustrating,” said Dr. Irwin Redlener of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University. “If we had just been disciplined about employing all these public health methods early and aggressively, we would not be in the situation we are in now.”

Read the full story here.

—The Associated Press

As pandemic raged and thousands died, government regulators cleared most nursing homes of infection-control violations

At the outset of a looming pandemic, just weeks after the first known coronavirus outbreak on U.S. soil, the woman responsible for helping to protect 1.3 million residents in America’s nursing homes laid out an urgent strategy to slow the spread of infection.

In the suburbs of Seattle, federal inspectors had found the Life Care Center of Kirkland failed to properly care for ailing patients or alert authorities to a growing number of respiratory infections. At least 146 other nursing homes across the country had confirmed coronavirus cases in late March when Seema Verma, the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, vowed to help “keep what happened in Kirkland from happening again.”

The federal agency and its state partners, Verma said, would conduct a series of newly strengthened inspections to ensure 15,400 Medicare-certified nursing homes were heeding long-standing regulations meant to prevent the spread of communicable diseases. It was another key component of a national effort, launched in early March, to shore up safety protocols for the country’s most fragile residents during an unprecedented health emergency.

But the government inspectors deployed by CMS during the first six months of the crisis cleared nearly 8 in 10 nursing homes of any infection-control violations even as the deadliest pandemic to strike the United States in a century sickened and killed thousands, a Washington Post investigation found.

Those cleared included homes with mounting coronavirus outbreaks before or during the inspections, as well as those that saw cases and deaths spiral upward after inspectors reported no violations had been found, in some cases multiple times. All told, homes that received a clean bill of health earlier this year had about 290,000 coronavirus cases and 43,000 deaths among residents and staff, state and federal data shows.

That death toll constitutes roughly two-thirds of all COVID-19 fatalities linked to nursing homes from March through August.

Read the full story here.

—The Washington Post

State wants health providers to enroll to administer COVID-19 vaccine

The federal government has asked Washington state to be prepared to distribute doses of vaccine as soon as November 15, according to a news release from the state health department.

Meantime, the state Department of Health wants health care providers to prepare to enroll as vaccine providers. It sent health providers a letter with instructions on how enroll this week. 

Health officials also are encouraging long-term care facilities to consider enrolling in a federal program that would administer vaccine doses to residents in partnership with CVS and Walgreens pharmacies.

—Evan Bush
Advertising

Scammers posing as Department of Health officials targeting medical providers

State health officials are warning health-care professionals with Washington state licenses about scammers who defrauded one dentist out of $40,000 and tried to defraud a pharmacist.

The scammers falsely claimed to represent the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) when they called the dentist from a bogus telephone number and sent two faxes, according to a statement from the DOH. One claimed to be from the DOH and the other from the federal Department of Justice. The scammer went to the trouble of copying and using actual logos from both agencies.

The fake Department of Health fax falsely said that the dentist’s license had been suspended, the statement said. In an attempt to resolve that, the dentist wired more than $40,000 to an account in Warsaw, Poland. That account has nothing to do with the Department of Health.

In the second case, a licensed pharmacist reported receiving phone calls from a Department of Health number, but the calls did not come from the agency. The pharmacist was told that her license was under investigation, which it wasn’t; and was asked questions for which she knew the Department of Health already had the answers. She hung up, but the same person called multiple times and left voicemails.

The DOH will never ask providers to wire money to save a license. If any issues arise around a health-care professional’s license, the provider will receive written communication by mail and/or email from an investigator with a verifiable DOH email address, who will also provide a verifiable phone number to contact with questions.

—Nicole Brodeur

As virus surges, Trump rallies keep packing in thousands

WASHINGTON — There are no crowds at Disneyland, still shut down by the coronavirus. Fewer fans attended the World Series this year than at any time in the past century. Big concerts are canceled.

But it’s a different story in Trumpland. Thousands of President Donald Trump’s supporters regularly cram together at campaign rallies around the country — masks optional and social distancing frowned upon.

Trump rallies are among the nation’s biggest events being held in defiance of crowd restrictions designed to stop the virus from spreading. This at a time when public health experts are advising people to think twice even about inviting many guests for Thanksgiving dinner.

“It doesn’t matter who you are or where you are, when you have congregate settings where people are crowded together and virtually no one is wearing a mask, that’s a perfect setup to have an outbreak of acquisition and transmissibility,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, recently told Yahoo News. “It’s a public health and scientific fact.”

The Trump campaign, which distributes masks and hand sanitizer at its rallies, says those who attend are peaceful protesters who, just like Black Lives Matter demonstrators, have a right to assemble. The president says he wants to get the country back to normal.

Some states have fined venues that host Trump rallies for violating caps on crowd size. But the rallies continue — even as the U.S. sees cases spike, especially in the Midwest and the Plains. The nation posted a record high number of new infections last week — nearly 500,000.

Read the full story here.

—The Associated Press

State confirms 814 new COVID-19 cases -- 232 in King County -- and reports 6 new deaths

The state Department of Health (DOH) reported 814 new COVID-19 cases in Washington state Wednesday, and 16 new deaths.

In King County, the state’s most populous, 232 new cases were reported in one day.

The update brings the state’s totals to 105,557 cases and 2,359 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 8,467 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the virus-- 84 new hospitalizations since the weekend.

Statewide, 2,405,352 COVID-19 tests have been administered as of Wednesday night.

In King County, state health officials have confirmed a total of 27,021 COVID-19 diagnoses and 814 deaths. 

—Nicole Brodeur
Advertising

Pope ends public audiences, eyes Christmas as virus surges

Pope Francis arrives in the Paul VI Hall at the Vatican for his weekly general audience, Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2020. Pope Francis has blamed “this lady COVID” for forcing him to keep his distance from the faithful during his general audience, which was far smaller than usual amid soaring coronavirus infections in Italy. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
Pope Francis arrives in the Paul VI Hall at the Vatican for his weekly general audience, Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2020. Pope Francis has blamed “this lady COVID” for forcing him to keep his distance from the faithful during his general audience, which was far smaller than usual amid soaring coronavirus infections in Italy. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

ROME — Pope Francis is halting his public general audiences and will limit participation at Christmas and other upcoming Masses amid a surge of coronavirus cases in Italy and the Vatican, officials said Thursday.

Starting next week, Francis will resume livestreaming his weekly catechism lessons from his library in the Apostolic Palace, as he did during the Vatican’s COVID-19 lockdown during the spring and summer, the Vatican said.

In addition, Francis’ liturgical events over the next few weeks and months — including Christmas — will be attended by limited numbers of faithful, the Vatican said, though it noted plans could change as the health situation evolves.

The shift nevertheless indicated that the Vatican is moving back into partial lockdown mode along with the rest of Italy as Europe experiences surging COVID-19 infections that are putting pressure on already overburdened health care systems.

The Vatican City State has not been spared, with 13 Swiss Guards testing positive this month. All told, the Holy See’s official caseload stands at 27, according to the Johns Hopkins University running tally.

After Italy largely tamed the virus with a strict lockdown over the spring and summer, Francis resumed his Wednesday general audiences on Sept. 2 in a Vatican courtyard with limited numbers of faithful participating.

Read the full story here.

—The Associated Press

United to offer free coronavirus testing on select Newark-to-London flights

United Airlines announced Thursday that it will offer free coronavirus testing to travelers on select flights between Newark Liberty International in New Jersey and London’s Heathrow Airport beginning next month – part of an effort to boost passenger confidence in air travel at a time when passenger numbers have plummeted.

The four-week pilot program will run Nov. 16 through Dec. 11. All passengers over the age of 2 on select flights between Newark and London will be given free rapid tests. Those who do not wish to be tested will be rebooked on other flights. The goal, United officials said, is to ensure everyone on board has tested negative for the virus.

Travelers will still be required to follow local quarantine requirements.

Increasingly, the aviation industry sees testing as a key strategy for restarting travel – particularly international travel, which was down 77% compared with a year ago.

Read the story here.

—Lori Aratani, The Washington Post

Lummi Nation considers new vaccine trial after dropping out of AstraZeneca’s

The Lummi Nation has applied to participate in a clinical trial for the Novavax COVID-19 vaccine, according to a news release from the tribe.

The tribe on Oct. 15 announced that it had withdrawn from participating in a clinical trial for AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine before any members had received a vaccination, citing a lack of communication with the pharmaceutical company during a pause in the trial.

The tribe plans extensive review of the Novavax application before joining the trial and enrolling volunteers. The Northwest Indian College Institutional Review Board, the Lummi Health and Family Services Commission and the Lummi Indian Business Council will review the application for the study and weigh the risks and benefits of joining, the news release says.

The Lummi Tribal Health Commission will decide whether to recommend joining the trial. The Lummi Indian Business Council will then vote. 

“This decision will be made carefully and with community input. Other tribes have experienced such loss from this virus that we want to provide as many options to protect people as possible,” said Lawrence Solomon, chairman of the Lummi Nation.

COVID-19 has had a disproportionate impact on Native American communities.

A study published in August found that American Indians and Alaska Natives represented 1.3% of COVID-19 cases reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). These communities make up 0.7% of the U.S. population.

Native Americans are hospitalized at a rate 5.3 times higher than white Americans, according to the CDC.

“… We continue to believe it’s important for our people to have the opportunity to volunteer for a trial as we’re at a much higher risk than other populations,” said Dakotah Lane, medical director of the Lummi Public Health Department and member of the Lummi Nation.

—Evan Bush
Advertising

Options dwindling for U.S. voters diagnosed with COVID-19 as Election Day nears

Linda Harrison of Austin tested positive for the coronavirus on July 2, the deadline to apply for mail-in ballots in Texas’s primary runoff. She asked a judge to waive the requirement for a doctor’s signature but was denied. (Photo by Ilana Panich-Linsman for The Washington Post)
Linda Harrison of Austin tested positive for the coronavirus on July 2, the deadline to apply for mail-in ballots in Texas’s primary runoff. She asked a judge to waive the requirement for a doctor’s signature but was denied. (Photo by Ilana Panich-Linsman for The Washington Post)

Hundreds of thousands of Americans will be diagnosed with COVID-19 between now and Election Day, leaving many scrambling for alternatives to in-person voting and injecting another dimension of uncertainty into an election already shadowed by the coronavirus pandemic.

Those voters will need to navigate an unfamiliar and varied landscape to cast their ballots. Some will be required to get doctor’s notes or enlist family members to help. Others, in isolation, will need to have a witness present while they vote. Planned accommodations — such as officials hand-delivering ballots — may prove inadequate or could be strained beyond limits.

Sudden illness is an impediment to voting every election year, typically for a small number of Americans. Many provisions to help those voters apply exclusively to people who are hospitalized.

But with some 70,000 new cases of COVID-19 recorded each day, a swath of Americans larger than the population of Wyoming or Vermont will probably contract the disease in the 10 days leading up to Nov. 3, which is now five days away. The number of people affected is greater still when accounting for those who quarantine not because they are diagnosed but because they had contact with an infected person.

Many of these people will already have voted or will not be eligible to vote. But for those who intended to vote in person, the options are dwindling.

Read the story here.

—Neena Satija, The Washington Post

How does coronavirus affect the heart?

How does COVID-19 affect the heart?

Doctors believe coronavirus can directly infect the heart muscle and cause other problems leading to heart damage. It is not known yet whether that damage is permanent.

In some people, as COVID-19 decreases lung function, it may deprive the heart of adequate oxygen or cause an overwhelming inflammatory reaction that taxes the heart as the body tries to fight off the infection.

People with heart disease are most at risk for virus-related damage to the heart, but heart complications also have been found in COVID-19 patients with no known previous disease. Heart involvement has been found in at least 25% of hospitalized coronavirus patients, according to the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, and in some centers the rate is 30% or higher.

Read the story here.

AP Illustration/Peter Hamlin; A recent review in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology notes evidence of heart involvement found in at least 25% of hospitalized coronavirus patients. At some centers, the rate is 30% or higher. It is not known whether that damage is permanent.
AP Illustration/Peter Hamlin; A recent review in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology notes evidence of heart involvement found in at least 25% of hospitalized coronavirus patients. At some centers, the rate is 30% or higher. It is not known whether that damage is permanent.

—The Associated Press

San Francisco curbs virus but once-vibrant downtown is empty

 San Francisco is reopening more businesses this week, thanks to low coronavirus case numbers that have allowed the city to move into California’s most permissive tier. It means more people can go back to offices, dine indoors and visit museums.

But businesses and those residents who haven’t joined an exodus out of the city are wondering when san Francisco’s once-vibrant economy may bounce back.

As the coronavirus pandemic transforms the workplace, legions of tech workers have left, able to work remotely from anywhere. Families have fled for roomy suburban homes. The exodus has pushed rents in the prohibitively expensive city to their lowest in years. Tourists are scarce, and the famed cable cars sit idle. Bay Area Rapid Transit ridership is down nearly 90%.

That has people wondering will it ever be as busy as it once was, and if so, when?

A worker crosses an intersection in San Francisco’s financial district mid-afternoon, during what would’ve been a bustling time before the COVID-19 pandemic, on Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020. The area remains largely devoid of activity as many employees continue to work from home. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)
A worker crosses an intersection in San Francisco’s financial district mid-afternoon, during what would’ve been a bustling time before the COVID-19 pandemic, on Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020. The area remains largely devoid of activity as many employees continue to work from home. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press
Advertising

Relief and despair; France braces for monthlong lockdown as virus deaths mount

French doctors expressed relief but business owners were in despair as France prepared Thursday to shut down again for a month to try to put the brakes on a fast-moving fall coronavirus outbreak.

Shoppers at a Paris farmers’ market said Thursday they were ready to restrict their freedoms given the rising number of virus-related deaths and COVID-19 patients filling French hospitals.

The new lockdown is gentler than what France saw in the spring, but still a shock to restaurants and other non-essential businesses that have been ordered to close their doors in one of the world’s biggest economies.

French schools will stay open this time, to reduce learning gaps and allow parents to keep working. Farmer’ markets, parks and factories can also continue operating, officials said.

French lawmakers are voting Thursday on the new restrictions announced by President Emmanuel Macron, which are set to come into effect at midnight.

Read the story here.

Pelosi scolds White House over no response in virus talks

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued a scolding assessment of COVID-19 relief talks on Thursday, blaming Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin for failing to produce answers to her demands for Democratic priorities as part of an almost $2 trillion aid package.

Pelosi lobbed her latest public relations volley with a letter to Mnuchin that blames Republicans for the failed talks, which ground on for three months only to crater in the final days before the election. Disagreement remains on big-ticket items, including a testing plan, aid to state and local governments, funding for schools, jobless benefits and a GOP-sought shield against coronavirus-related lawsuits, she said.

Republicans, who will control the White House and the Senate until January regardless of the outcome of Tuesday’s election, have said items like refundable tax credits for the working poor and families with children aren’t directly related to fighting COVID-19.

Read the story here.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill, in Washington, Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill, in Washington, Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
—The Associated Press

Merkel warns of ‘difficult winter’ as virus surges in Europe

Chancellor Angela Merkel told Germans to expect a “difficult winter” as the number of newly reported coronavirus cases in the country hit a new high Thursday, neighboring France prepared to resume life under a new lockdown and some experts urged the Spanish government to take more aggressive action to curtail the latest wave of infections.

Speaking to Parliament a day after she and the governors of Germany’s 16 states agreed upon new, far-reaching restrictions to curb the spread of the virus, Merkel said the country faces “a dramatic situation at the beginning of the cold season.”

Health authorities reported 16,774 new positive tests for COVID-19 in the past day, pushing the country’s total since the start of the outbreak close to the half million-mark. The Robert Koch Institute also recorded 89 additional deaths, taking the country’s total in the pandemic to 10,272, a number that is one-fourth the death toll in Britain.

“The winter will be difficult, four long, difficult months. But it will end,” Merkel told lawmakers.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) takes off her mask after a press conference at the Chancellery in Berlin, Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2020. Merkel is pressing for a partial lockdown as the number of newly recorded infections in the country hit another record high Wednesday. (Fabrizio Bensch/pool photo via AP)
German Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) takes off her mask after a press conference at the Chancellery in Berlin, Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2020. Merkel is pressing for a partial lockdown as the number of newly recorded infections in the country hit another record high Wednesday. (Fabrizio Bensch/pool photo via AP)

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press
Advertising

Quarantine Corner: Ideas to help you get through the pandemic

Rachael Tom and her husband, Brandon Tams, moved to the Puget Sound area from Washington, D.C., and didn’t immediately forge new friendships — but they’ve made connections despite social isolation during the coronavirus pandemic. They’re shown in Burien Oct. 9, 2020. (Dean Rutz / The Seattle Times)
Rachael Tom and her husband, Brandon Tams, moved to the Puget Sound area from Washington, D.C., and didn’t immediately forge new friendships — but they’ve made connections despite social isolation during the coronavirus pandemic. They’re shown in Burien Oct. 9, 2020. (Dean Rutz / The Seattle Times)

What Seattle Freeze? Moving here during a pandemic may seem like a recipe for bone-chilling loneliness, but new Seattleites are finding ways to thaw it. “You can actually forge lifelong, lasting friendships from home, too,” says one woman who came here from the other Washington in June. Maybe the rest of us could learn from what’s working for the fresh arrivals.

Pandemic project of the week: We’re loving this sweet, sassy newspaper sculpture made for a beloved’s 85th birthday.

—Kris Higginson

Taiwan marks 200 days without domestic COVID-19 infection

Taiwan hit 200 days without any domestically transmitted cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, highlighting the island’s continued success at keeping the virus under control even as cases surge in other parts of the world.

Taiwan’s Center for Disease Control last reported a domestic case on April 12. CDC officials noted the milestone and thanked the public for playing a role, while urging people to continue to wear masks and to wash their hands often. Since the pandemic began, Taiwan has recorded 553 cases of COVID-19, and just seven deaths.

A municipal worker sprays sanitizer into a woman’s hands at the entrance to the Ningxia Night Market in Taipei, Taiwan, earlier in July. (Bloomberg)
A municipal worker sprays sanitizer into a woman’s hands at the entrance to the Ningxia Night Market in Taipei, Taiwan, earlier in July. (Bloomberg)

Taiwan has been pointed to as a success story in how to respond to the pandemic, especially considering its close business and tourism ties with China, where the virus first emerged late last year.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

Coronavirus spreading rapidly in South King County as public health officials urge more testing

At a King County COVID-19 testing site in Auburn on Wednesday, Cody Tupen, a firefighter with the Puget Sound Regional Fire Authority, performs a deep nasal swab to test for the coronavirus on Nancy Backus, left, the mayor of Auburn. (Ted S. Warren / The Associated Press)
At a King County COVID-19 testing site in Auburn on Wednesday, Cody Tupen, a firefighter with the Puget Sound Regional Fire Authority, performs a deep nasal swab to test for the coronavirus on Nancy Backus, left, the mayor of Auburn. (Ted S. Warren / The Associated Press)

An Auburn road designated as a volcano evacuation route currently leads to a site set up to deal with a more immediate disaster: the coronavirus.

As it keeps spreading through South King County, hitting communities of color especially hard, Federal Way's mayor is worrying about another shutdown.

Above, firefighter Cody Tupen tests Auburn Mayor Nancy Backus, who urged residents, “You might save the life of a loved one if you take this test.”

Here's our updating list of where to get tested.

—Ryan Blethen
Advertising

Catch up on the past 24 hours

A major ransomware assault on the U.S. healthcare system is threatening patient care just as COVID-19 cases are spiking, the FBI warned last night. Independent security experts say the cyberattacks by a Russian-speaking criminal gang have hobbled at least five U.S. hospitals this week and could affect hundreds more.

Many Americans and Europeans are facing a new round of shutdowns as COVID-19 patients pour into hospitals. Globally, 2 million new cases have been reported in just a week, the fastest increase ever. Much of France is closing down again, and Germany is drastically reducing social life. U.S. National Guard troops with medical training are headed to central Europe, where doctors are terrified.

Health care workers transport a COVID-19 patient from an intensive care unit (ICU) at a hospital in Kyjov to a hospital in Brno, Czech Republic, on Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020. With cases surging in central Europe, some countries are calling in soldiers, firefighters, students and retired doctors to help shore up buckling health care systems. Many faced a shortage of medical personnel even before the pandemic, and now the virus has sickened many health workers, compounding the shortfall. (Petr David Josek / The Associated Press)
Health care workers transport a COVID-19 patient from an intensive care unit (ICU) at a hospital in Kyjov to a hospital in Brno, Czech Republic, on Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020. With cases surging in central Europe, some countries are calling in soldiers, firefighters, students and retired doctors to help shore up buckling health care systems. Many faced a shortage of medical personnel even before the pandemic, and now the virus has sickened many health workers, compounding the shortfall. (Petr David Josek / The Associated Press)

In Washington, gatherings are a big reason behind the rise in cases, the state's health officer said yesterday. Track the trends and know the key things to look for on the charts.

How can you have a safe outdoor Thanksgiving? Some health experts don't recommend it at all. But if you do it, take steps to reduce the risks as much as possible.

President Donald Trump continues to flood the zone with false and misleading claims about the coronavirus pandemic. "We saved 2 million lives, and we’re rounding the turn," he says. No, no and more no, fact-checkers counter.

The virus has finally arrived in one of the last unscathed parts of the world.

—Kris Higginson

Do you have questions about the coronavirus that causes COVID-19?

Ask in the form below and we'll dig for answers. If you're using a mobile device and can't see the form on this page, ask your question here. If you have specific medical questions, please contact your doctor.