Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Wednesday, October 6, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.
People living in the U.S. will soon have an easier time scoring a quick at-home COVID-19 test following the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of Acon Laboratories to mass-produce testing kits.
Meanwhile, a study from Pfizer and Kaiser Permanente researchers found that the Pfizer vaccine is 90% effective when it comes to preventing coronavirus hospitalizations for up to six months. The vaccine also showed 93% effectiveness in preventing hospitalizations from the delta variant.
We’re updating this page with the latest news about the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects on the Seattle area, the U.S. and the world. Click here to see previous days’ live updates and all our other coronavirus coverage, and here to see how we track the daily spread across Washington.
A new vaccine strategy for children: Just one dose, for now
Even as parents in the United States wrestle with difficult questions over vaccinating their children against the coronavirus, families in other countries have been offered a novel option: giving children just one dose of the vaccine.
Officials in Britain, Hong Kong, Norway and other countries have recommended a single dose of the Pfizer vaccine for children ages 12 and older — providing partial protection from the virus, but without the potential harms occasionally observed after two doses. On Wednesday, Sweden and Denmark joined the ranks, announcing that adolescents should get only one jab of the Moderna vaccine.
Health officials in those countries are particularly worried about increasing data suggesting that myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart, may be more common among adolescents and young adults after vaccination than had been thought.
The risk remains very small, and significant only after the second dose of an mRNA vaccine. But the numbers have changed the risk-benefit calculus in countries where new infections are mostly lower than in the United States.
What to ask about COVID-19 and air quality at work
Whether you’ve already returned to your workplace or will do so eventually, it’s a good idea to ask what steps your employer has taken to improve indoor air quality.
The more time we spend indoors with other people, the more likely we are to breathe each other’s exhaled air — and germs. The majority of scientists now agree that the coronavirus is airborne, and infectious droplets can linger in the air, float around the room or build up in spaces with poor air flow, like conference rooms.
Early in the pandemic, a coronavirus outbreak on the 11th floor of an office building in South Korea showed how just one infectious person can increase the risk for everyone in a workplace. Out of 216 people on the floor, 94 were infected. Most of the infected worked in rows of desks grouped on one side of the office.
Even before COVID-19, it was clear that indoor air quality could affect workers’ health. A well-known Harvard study of more than 3,000 workers showed that sick leave increased by 53% among employees in poorly ventilated areas.
Kaiser Permanente suspends 2,200 employees who didn’t get COVID-19 vaccine
Kaiser Permanente announced Tuesday that it had put a little more than 2,200 employees on unpaid leave nationwide because they had failed to either get the COVID-19 vaccine or to provide a religious or medical exemption.
“This number is declining daily, and as employees respond, they may return to work,” Kaiser leaders said in a written statement. “Those not responding have until Dec. 1, 2021, to do so, to be able to return to work.”
Kaiser employed roughly 216,700 people in 2020, including more than 8,100 in Washington state, according to the company’s website. Kaiser leaders said they would continue educating unvaccinated employees about the COVID-19 vaccines, their benefits and risks as part of an effort to ensure no one loses their job as a result of the mandate.
When Kaiser announced the vaccination requirement on Aug. 2, it reported that 78% of workers were already vaccinated. As of Wednesday, company leaders said, more than 92% of employees are vaccinated.
Idaho governor repeals political rival’s executive order
The Idaho governor on Wednesday issued an executive order repealing his political rival’s executive order from the previous day involving COVID-19 vaccine passports and mandatory testing.
Republican Gov. Brad Little issued the order while still in Texas, a move that challenges the state’s longstanding practice of making the lieutenant governor acting governor when the governor is out of state.
Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin, a far-right Republican who is running to take Little’s job, issued her order Tuesday and also sought to activate the Idaho National Guard and send soldiers to the U.S.-Mexico border.
Little is in Texas meeting with nine other Republican governors over concerns on how President Joe Biden is handling border issues. In Idaho, the governor and lieutenant governor don’t run on the same ticket. Little was expected back late Wednesday.
COVID cases in kids are soaring. In Tennessee, most remain unmasked and unvaccinated.
Sarah Rymer suspects her 11-year-old son was infected with the coronavirus, and she knows her husband was. He coaches Pee Wee football, and at least two other kids on his team also tested positive.
The Grundy County schools, which her three children attend, were forced to close for more than a week soon after the fall semester began. Her best friend’s uncle recently died from COVID-19, and a close friend’s mother spent her 53rd birthday in the hospital at Vanderbilt University up in Nashville.
The coronavirus pandemic feels more serious than ever to Rymer. But her children do not wear masks in school, and she is not considering vaccinating her 13-year-old daughter. Like most other people in the area, she remains unvaccinated herself. “It’s one of those things. We don’t get the flu shot so I don’t know,” she said. “It was developed so quick. I’m nervous.”
A pandemic that first ravaged nursing homes is, today, more likely to rage through school lunchrooms. Children are still far less likely to become dangerously ill than older people, but with so many becoming infected, pediatric hospitalizations have spiked in the last few weeks.
Workers with unvaccinated spouses will pay more for insurance, one health system says
Louisiana’s largest health-care system is giving its employees a choice as it seeks to boost coronavirus vaccination numbers: ensure your spouse has received a shot or face higher health insurance costs.
Beginning next year, employees of Ochsner Health System will see a roughly $200-a-month surcharge if their spouse or domestic partner on the company health plan is not vaccinated against the coronavirus, according to a letter sent to affected employees last week. The surcharge does not apply to child beneficiaries covered by the plan.
“This fee is similar to what’s been in place for tobacco users and is in line with the benefits offered by many health care organizations and companies,” Ochsner President and CEO Warner Thomas said in a statement. Thomas said the policy was not a “mandate” because nonemployee spouses and partners can opt for health insurance outside the company’s plan.
With about 33,000 employees, Ochsner appears to be one of the first large companies in the United States to include dependent spouses and partners in a coronavirus vaccination surcharge policy. With doses widely available in the United States and the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine fully approved by the FDA in August, a growing number of companies are shifting their vaccine approach from carrot to stick.
State health officials confirm 2,613 new coronavirus cases
The state Department of Health (DOH) reported 2,613 new coronavirus cases and 57 new deaths on Wednesday.
The update brings the state's totals to 672,782 cases and 7,917 deaths, meaning that 1.2% of people diagnosed in Washington have died, according to the DOH. The data is as of 11:59 p.m. Tuesday.
In addition, 37,362 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the virus — 124 new hospitalizations. In King County, the state's most populous, state health officials have confirmed a total of 154,144 COVID-19 diagnoses and 1,892 deaths.
Since vaccinations began in mid-December, the state and health care providers have administered 9,188,575 doses and 58.4% of Washingtonians have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to vaccination data, which the state updates on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Providers are currently giving an average of about 18,940 vaccine shots per day.
The DOH says its daily case reports may also include duplicate test results, results assigned to the wrong county, results that are reported for today but are actually from a previous day, occasional false positive tests and other data discrepancies. Because of this, the previous day’s total number of cases plus the number of new daily cases does not add up to the new day’s total number of cases. State health officials recommend reviewing the dashboard's epidemiologic curves tab for the most accurate representation of the state's COVID-19 spread.
New HUD rule aimed at preventing public housing evictions
The Biden administration is trying to prevent evictions from public housing for nonpayment of rent, seeking to shore up protections following the end of the nationwide eviction moratorium.
Under a new rule from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, tenants in HUD-subsidized public housing cannot be evicted for nonpayment without providing them 30 days’ notice and information about available federal emergency rental assistance. The rule is scheduled to be published Thursday in the Federal Register.
Technically, the rule would go into effect 30 days after publication, but a senior HUD official told The Associated Press that public housing authorities across the country were expected to comply immediately. The official, who was not authorized to comment publicly and spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the rule change was due to significant concern about a looming wave of evictions as cases begin to work their way through courts.
Flush with COVID-19 aid, schools steer funding to sports
One Wisconsin school district built a new football field. In Iowa, a high school weight room is getting a renovation. Another in Kentucky is replacing two outdoor tracks — all of this funded by the billions of dollars in federal pandemic relief Congress sent to schools this year.
The money is part of a $123 billion infusion intended to help schools reopen and recover from the pandemic. But with few limits on how the funding can be spent, The Associated Press found that some districts have used large portions to cover athletics projects they couldn’t previously afford.
Critics say it violates the intent of the legislation, which was meant to help students catch up on learning after months of remote schooling. But many schools argue the projects support students’ physical and mental health, one of the objectives allowed by the federal government.
White House to announce $1 billion purchase of rapid, at-home coronavirus tests
The White House on Wednesday is set to expand access to rapid coronavirus tests, a plan hailed by public health experts who called the move long overdue.
The administration said the plan to buy $1 billion worth of rapid, at-home coronavirus tests and other actions should address ongoing shortages and quadruple the number of tests available to Americans by December, according to a White House official and senior administration official with knowledge of the pending announcement. The news follows Monday’s decision by the Food and Drug Administration to allow the sale of an antigen test from U.S.-based Acon Laboratories.
The White House expects the FDA decision and the purchase of the additional tests to increase the number of at-home tests to 200 million per month by December.
The administration is also aiming to increase free testing by doubling President Joe Biden’s earlier commitment to expand the number of pharmacies in the federal government’s free testing program to 20,000, the White House official said. Biden last month announced a coronavirus response plan that envisioned a significant expansion of testing capacity.
While US summer surge is waning, more mandates in the works
COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. are coming down again, hospitalizations are dropping, and new cases per day are about to dip below 100,000 for the first time in two months — all signs that the summer surge is waning.
Not wanting to lose momentum, government leaders and employers are looking at strengthening and expanding vaccine requirements.
Across the nation, deaths per day have dropped by nearly 15% since mid-September and are now averaging about 1,750. New cases have fallen to just over 103,000 per day on average, a 40% decline over the past three weeks.
The number of Americans now in the hospital with COVID-19 has declined by about one-quarter since its most recent peak of almost 94,000 a month ago.
What’s behind the decline isn’t entirely clear, though health experts point out that the numbers are falling as more are people getting vaccinated and new requirements for the shot are being put in place by government and private employers.
Airlines see COVID-related losses exceeding $200 billion
Airline losses from the coronavirus pandemic are set to surpass $200 billion as travel curbs weigh on corporate and long-haul demand well into 2022, according to the industry’s main lobby.
Carriers are poised to post a collective deficit of $11.6 billion next year, the International Air Transport Association said Monday in Boston at its annual meeting. The trade body also increased its loss estimate for this year, and revised upward the shortfall for 2020.
The combined $201 billion in net losses over the pandemic-blighted period eclipses close to nine years of industry earnings, based on IATA figures. While domestic and regional travel have begun to rebound, there’s been little recovery in the globe-spanning business routes so crucial to many carriers.
The U.S. is poised to open its borders to trans-Atlantic visitors next month, but other long-haul markets remain in the doldrums, especially those connecting Asia with Europe and North America.
The biggest employers are successfully enacting vaccine mandates. Many smaller ones need help
As health promotion manager for Utz Quality Foods, Ginger Miller has struggled to persuade the 3,300 workers at the potato chip and pretzel-maker to get the coronavirus vaccine. Only about half of the company’s production workers have gotten the shot.
Miller has found the vaccine is a tough sell, and nothing like the workplace flu shot campaigns she’s run in the past. The COVID-19 vaccine drives a politicized wedge between those eager to take it and those who proclaim they never will, and she is forced to try to knock down insidious misinformation and assuage genuine fears without appearing too heavy-handed at the snack company based in Hanover, Penn.
“It’s chaotic and unnerving to figure out the logistics of all this while you’re trying to run a business,” she said.
Coronavirus deaths in Russia surpass 900 a day for 1st time
Russia’s daily coronavirus death toll surpassed 900 on Wednesday for the first time in the pandemic, a record that comes amid the country’s low vaccination rate and the government’s reluctance to impose tough restrictions to control new cases.
Russia’s state coronavirus task force reported 929 new deaths on Wednesday, the fourth time this month that daily COVID-19 deaths have reached record highs. The previous record, of 895 deaths, was registered Tuesday. Russia already has Europe’s highest death toll in the pandemic at over 212,000 people, but some official data suggests that is an undercount.
The task force also reported 25,133 new confirmed cases Wednesday.
The rise in infections and deaths began in late September. The Kremlin has blamed it on too few Russians getting vaccinated. As of Tuesday, almost 33% of Russia’s 146 million people had received at least one shot of a coronavirus vaccine, and 29% were fully vaccinated.
Despite the surge, government officials rejected the idea of imposing a lockdown and said regional authorities would take steps to stem the spread of the virus.
Hospital system in Colorado says it will deny transplants to unvaccinated in ‘almost all situations’
A Colorado-based health system says it is denying organ transplants to patients not vaccinated against the coronavirus in “almost all situations,” citing studies that show these patients are much more likely to die if they get COVID-19.
The policy illustrates the growing costs of being unvaccinated and wades into deeply controversial territory — the use of immunization status to decide who gets limited medical care. The mere idea of prioritizing the vaccinated for rationed health resources has drawn intense backlash, as overwhelmingly unvaccinated COVID-19 patients push some hospitals to adopt “crisis standards of care,” in which health systems can prioritize patients for scarce resources based largely on their likelihood of survival.
UCHealth’s rules for transplants entered the spotlight Tuesday when Colorado state Rep. Tim Geitner, a Republican, said it denied a kidney transplant to a Colorado Springs woman because she was not vaccinated against the coronavirus. Calling the decision “disgusting” and discriminatory, Geitner shared a letter that he said the patient got last week from UCHealth’s transplant center at the University of Colorado’s Anschutz Medical Campus in the city of Aurora.
The letter said the woman would be “inactivated” on a kidney transplant waiting list and had 30 days to start coronavirus vaccination. If she refused the shots, it said, she would be removed.
Conditions on organ transplants are not new. Transplant centers around the country may require patients to get other vaccinations, stop smoking, avoid alcohol or demonstrate that they will take crucial medications, in an effort to ensure that people do well post-surgery and do not “reject” organs for which there is fierce competition.
Los Angeles poised to enact strict vaccination mandate
Los Angeles leaders on Wednesday were poised to enact one of the nation’s strictest vaccine mandates — a sweeping measure that would require the shots for everyone entering a bar, restaurant, nail salon, gym or even a Lakers game.
The City Council was scheduled to consider the proposal after postponing a vote last week to deal with concerns ranging from who could be fined for violations to whether employees could end up in fist-fights when they have to serve as vaccine door monitors.
The nation’s second-most populous city faced a huge rise in infections and hospitalizations last winter and a smaller surge this summer linked to the spread of the highly contagious delta variant.
Sweden suspends Moderna vaccine for those 30 and under
Swedish health authorities on Wednesday suspended the use of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine for those ages 30 and under, saying the move was done out of precaution.
The reason for the pausing is “signals of an increased risk of side effects such as inflammation of the heart muscle or the pericardium” — the double-walled sac containing the heart and the roots of the main vessels, Sweden’s Public Health Agency said in a statement. “The risk of being affected is very small.”
U.S. and European regulators caution that both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines appear linked to a rare reaction in teenagers and young adults — chest pain and heart inflammation. The Swedish health authorities said that the heart symptoms “usually go away on their own,” but they must be assessed by a doctor.
New preliminary Nordic analyzes indicate that the connection is especially clear when it comes to Moderna’s vaccine, especially after the second dose, the agency said.
Idaho’s governor left the state. His lieutenant governor took power and banned state vaccine mandates.
Idaho Republican Gov. Brad Little left the state Tuesday. His second-in-command — empowered with executive authority in his absence — used that power to pick an old fight.
As acting governor, Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin, a Republican, issued an executive order Tuesday afternoon banning state officials from requiring COVID-19 “vaccine passports” from new or current employees. Little quickly promised to undo McGeachin’s order as soon as he returned from touring the U.S.-Mexico border with a group of fellow Republican governors.
This is the second time the state’s top two officials have battled after Little left the state and McGeachin seized the opportunity to issue an executive order in his absence. While Little attended a Republican governors’ conference in Nashville in May, McGeachin banned local governments from issuing mask mandates. Little, saying he wanted those local governments to have control over their communities, rescinded her order when he returned the next day.
Idaho’s constitution requires the lieutenant governor to take over when the governor is out of state. The top two elected leaders run for office separately, not on a joint ticket.
Catch up on the past 24 hours
One-third of Seattle cops haven’t submitted proof of vaccination as their deadline approaches. "We have to assume we have hundreds of unvaccinated individuals," the interim chief wrote as top brass planned for possible staffing problems.
A King County woman has become the first person in Washington state to die from a rare blood-clotting syndrome after receiving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, local health officials say. It's important to understand the context as health officials emphasize how rare this is.
One hospital system is denying transplants to unvaccinated people in "almost all situations," including a woman with 12 percent of her kidney function left.
Kaiser Permanente has suspended more than 2,000 workers who didn’t get vaccines. Another health system is amping up pressure in a different way: Workers with unvaccinated spouses will pay more for insurance.
Eight days into the school year, all five of Amber Cessac’s daughters had COVID-19. “Parents are exhausted on a level we’ve not seen before,” a psychologist says as schools become a constant worry for many. But in one state where skyrocketing infections keep shutting down schools, most kids are still unmasked and unvaccinated.
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