Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Tuesday, Oct. 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 It is no longer being updated.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.
Less than a week after announcing he tested positive for the novel coronavirus, President Donald Trump left Walter Reed military hospital and returned to the White House, where he’ll continue receiving treatment. His words and actions on Monday, and throughout his illness, have alarmed both the Secret Service and infectious-disease experts who say the president is being too cavalier about a virus that’s killed more than 210,000 Americans in less than a year.
Meanwhile, the White House has blocked safety guidelines from the Food and Drug Administration that would almost certainly have delayed the approval of potential vaccines until sometime after Nov. 3.
In Seattle, all playgrounds in city parks are set to officially reopen to the public Tuesday, with new rules, more than six months after they were closed.
Throughout Tuesday, on this page, we’ll be posting Seattle Times journalists’ updates on the pandemic and its effects on the Seattle area, the Pacific Northwest and the world. Updates from Monday can be found here, and all our coronavirus coverage can be found here.
Trump reports ‘no symptoms,’ returns to downplaying virus
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump, said to be making progress in his recovery from COVID-19, tweeted his eagerness to return to the campaign trail even as the outbreak that has killed more than 210,000 Americans reached ever more widely into the upper echelons of the U.S. government.
As Trump convalesced out of sight in the White House on Tuesday, the administration defended the protections it has put in place to protect the staff working there to treat and support him. Trump again publicly played down the virus on Twitter after his return from a three-day hospitalization, though even more aides tested positive, including one of his closest advisers, Stephen Miller.
In one significant national coronavirus action, Trump declared there would be no action before the election on economic-stimulus legislation — an announcement that came not long after the Federal Reserve chairman said such help was essential for recovery with the nation reeling from the human and economic cost of the pandemic. Stocks fell on the White House news.
As for Trump’s own recovery, his doctor, Navy Cmdr. Sean Conley, said in a letter that the president had a “restful” Monday night at the White House and “reports no symptoms.”
Meanwhile, Trump was grappling with next political steps exactly four weeks from Election Day. Anxious to project strength, Trump, who is still contagious with the virus, tweeted Tuesday that he was planning to attend next week’s debate with Democrat Joe Biden in Miami and “It will be great!”
Biden, for his part, said he and Trump “shouldn’t have a debate” as long as the president remains COVID positive.
Virus response on stage with Pence, Harris
Mike Pence and Kamala Harris do not have a tough act to follow.
The vice presidential debate set for Wednesday night follows the disorderly prime-time spectacle last week that had viewers of President Donald Trump and Democratic rival Joe Biden’s matchup bemoaning the moderator’s inability to shut off a candidate’s microphone.
As vice president Pence has worked to level Trump’s roughshod style and steer his response to the coronavirus pandemic. He will face a U.S. senator known for sharp questioning who has made it clear she wants to invoke her prosecutorial chops on the debate stage.
The handling of the pandemic and the president’s contraction of COVID-19, along with several others in the White House, will almost literally be center stage. Pence and Harris are expected to be separated by a plexiglass shield to reduce the risk of virus transmission.
The debate starting at 9 p.m. EDT at the University of Utah is the only matchup scheduled between Pence and Harris.
Virus leads two prime Atlantic City restaurants to close
ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — Two popular and highly regarded restaurants in Atlantic City will remain closed permanently, victims of the coronavirus and the restrictions that came with it.
Philadelphia restaurateur Stephen Starr told The Associated Press on Tuesday that Buddakan and The Continental, which have been closed since mid-March, will not reopen.
Both were located inside the former Playground Pier, which Caesars Entertainment recently repurchased from developer Bart Blatstein. The pier has had extremely low levels of foot traffic and a majority of its stores have been empty for more than a year.
The two eateries combined employed more than 100 people. Employees were notified late Monday that the businesses would not reopen.
“It was a nice run, but we had to say goodbye,” said Starr, who operates high-profile restaurants in Philadelphia, New York, Washington and Paris that remain in business.
Sri Lanka bans public gatherings amid sharp rise
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — Sri Lankan authorities have banned all public gatherings as a new cluster of COVID-19 expands in the Indian Ocean island nation.
Health authorities said early Wednesday the outbreak centered at a garment factory has risen to 830 confirmed infections while more than 1,000 people have been asked to quarantine at their homes.
The health ministry ordered the public not to conduct public gatherings such as exhibitions, parties, conferences, indoor or outdoor events, carnivals, musical shows and processions.
The majority of the infected people are co-workers at a garment factory. Already, the government imposed a curfew in two suburbs of Colombo where many of the patients live, closed schools and universities, and imposed restrictions on public transport.
The cluster emerged Monday, a day after Sri Lanka reported its first community infection in two months.
Small gyms devastated by coronavirus fear, restrictions
Gyms, health clubs and workout studios began reopening in late spring following government-ordered shutdowns aimed at halting the coronavirus spread. But most are only allowed to have a fraction of their regular clientele onsite at one time. And some clients are staying away for fear of catching the virus.
The International Health Racquet & Sportsclub Association, an industry group, estimates that gyms, health and fitness clubs lost an aggregate $13.9 billion during shutdowns as of Aug. 31. The group warns that without government help, at least a quarter could close by Dec. 31 as limits on indoor workouts continue.
Michael Hanover is lucky if he gets 45 client hours a week in his Northbrook, Illinois gym, Fitness Hero Wellness Center, down from his usual 60. He sometimes opens at 5 a.m. or stays late at night to get those hours; many clients are too uneasy to come in when other people are there.
Whistleblower who accuses White House of failure on pandemic resigns
WASHINGTON — A high-ranking government whistleblower who alleges the Trump administration fumbled its coronavirus response resigned Tuesday, saying he has been forced out.
Lawyers for Dr. Rick Bright said he was sidelined at the National Institutes of Health, where he had been transferred this spring after being ousted as head of a biodefense agency.
Attorneys Debra Katz and Lisa Banks said NIH superiors ignored a national coronavirus testing strategy that Bright developed because he had become politically toxic within the Trump administration.
“NIH leadership declined to support Dr. Bright’s recommendations because of political considerations, plain and simple,” the lawyers said. “This was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. He can no longer countenance working for an administration that puts politics over science to the great detriment of the American people.”
There was no immediate response from the Department of Health and Human Services.
Inslee clears movie theaters in Phase 2 to operate at 25% capacity. But will local theaters actually reopen?
Movie theaters in the Seattle area have been closed since March, but it may finally be time for some of them to dust off those popcorn machines. Gov. Jay Inslee announced Tuesday that cinemas in Phase 2 counties (which includes King, Pierce, Snohomish and Kitsap, among others) may reopen at 25% capacity.
Jeff Brein, managing partner of the local theater chain Far Away Entertainment, said Tuesday that his theaters would reopen on Friday, Oct. 16, after taking time to order films, bring back staff and implement new safety procedures. “We are delighted that the Governor is expressing confidence in our industrywide safety protocols and will be uncompromising in assuring that movie fans will enjoy a safe and enjoyable experience in our theaters,” he said in an email. The Far Away chain includes the Admiral in West Seattle, the Varsity in the University District and several others.
Representatives for the AMC and Cinemark national chains did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
But many theaters will likely still remain closed, for reasons involving both safety and the inability to make their business model work at greatly reduced capacity. The national chain Regal Cinema’s parent company Cineworld announced earlier this week that it is temporarily closing all of its U.S. theaters until further notice. Local Regal theaters include the Meridian downtown, Thornton Place in north Seattle, the Alderwood in Lynnwood and others.
Gov. Inslee loosens pandemic restrictions for some Washington restaurants, movie theaters, outdoor sports, other activities
OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee Tuesday loosened restrictions on a range of activities, from movie theaters to restaurants and sports, under his four-part coronavirus reopening plan.
The move came after Washington this summer stopped counties from advancing to further stages of reopening under that plan.
In a news conference, Inslee said he wasn’t resuming those county-by-county reopenings, but described Tuesday’s measures as “targeted things to show how we can do this in a safe way” amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The changes come as Washington — like states across the nation — start to see an uptick in cases that health officials worry could worsen in the coming months.
But Inslee — who also said the state would make another push to encourage the widespread use of facial coverings — said the new measures were a way safely open up a little further. State health officials reported 387 new COVID-19 cases in Washington as of Monday night, and seven new deaths. The update brings the state’s totals to 90,663 cases and 2,165 deaths.
“We believe that if we continue to increase our use of masks, and we hope that we’re heading in that direction, that will allow us to make these shifts to allow more social interactions,” said Inslee.
State extends protections for energy customers affected by pandemic
State regulators on Tuesday extended protections until April 2021 for electric and natural gas utility customers who are struggling to pay their bills because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The moratorium on disconnections and late fees will be in effect until April 30, 2021, according to a statement from the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC). Utilities will also continue to waive deposits for new customers and all late fees through Oct. 27.
In April, Gov. Jay Inslee banned utility companies from disconnecting water, energy and phone service to homes due to nonpayment, citing the public health emergency and the resulting unemployment crisis. That moratorium is set to expire Oct. 15, the UTC statement said.
Under the extended moratorium, the commission will work with customers to establish long-term payment arrangements for up to 18 months for residential customers and up to 12 months for small commercial customers, the statement said.
In addition, utilities will create a COVID-19 bill payment assistance program funded at 1% of their state retail revenues, the statement said.
The commission is planning to discuss final terms at its next open meeting on Oct. 15.
University of Washington and Greek Row struggle to contain COVID-19 outbreak
As the coronavirus spreads through the University of Washington’s fraternities and sororities, the school contends it can’t do much to contain the outbreak — the second to hit Greek Row since June.
UW and local public health officials have advised the students on safety, met with chapter presidents and had them submit COVID-19 prevention plans. But students who live nearby report big parties that stretch into the early-morning hours and seem to invite further infections — and the cluster is starting to have effects beyond the Greek system.
The current outbreak was identified Sept. 11 with two cases and has grown to 179 as of Tuesday afternoon. The number of confirmed cases has climbed by about 37% in just the past four days, from 131 cases as of 4 p.m. Friday, according to the university’s tally.
UW has instituted outbreak prevention restrictions in dormitories, such as restricting the number of people who can ride in an elevator, closing some common spaces and moving furniture in common places to encourage adequate distancing, said university spokesperson Victor Balta.
Bellevue students may be among first in Seattle area to return to classroom
Bellevue elementary students could be back in the classroom for face-to-face learning by Nov. 9, under a plan unveiled Tuesday by school district officials.
The announcement makes Bellevue the largest King County school district to set a target date for bringing some kids back into the classroom. Neighboring Issaquah has also set a target date.
If the date sticks, Bellevue, with an enrollment of 21,000 students, will be one of a handful of districts in the county to phase out of a fully online learning model since the start of the pandemic. Issaquah plans to bring back kindergarten and first grade students Oct. 19. Other districts that have set target dates to bring back elementary students include Tahoma, Mercer Island, Vashon Island and Riverview.
At 53 cases per 100,000 people for the past two weeks, King County is within range of the state’s guidelines to bring young students back to schools in a hybrid model. But other large districts in the region such as Seattle Public Schools, Lake Washington, Highline and Northshore have not committed to target dates.
“We have been in that moderate range for a little bit of time now. That is why we are looking at coming back,” said Melissa deVita, deputy superintendent of finance and operations.
White House adviser Stephen Miller tests positive for COVID-19
White House adviser Stephen Miller has tested positive for COVID-19, according to CNN. He is the 11th positive case in the White House outbreak.
“Over the last 5 days I have been working remotely and self-isolating, testing negative every day through yesterday," Miller said in a statement. "Today, I tested positive for COVID-19 and am in quarantine."
Miller's diagnosis was first reported and confirmed by CNN White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins.
Miller, a senior adviser for policy to President Donald Trump, has been described as far-right and anti-immigration. He was previously the communications director for then-Senator Jeff Sessions.
State confirms 387 new COVID-19 cases and 7 new deaths
State health officials reported 387 new COVID-19 cases in Washington as of Monday night, and 7 new deaths.
The update brings the state’s totals to 90,663 cases and 2,165 deaths, meaning that 2.4% of people diagnosed in Washington have died, according to the state Department of Health (DOH). The data is as of 11:59 p.m. Monday.
The DOH also reported that 7,673 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the virus.
Statewide, 1,961,067 COVID-19 tests have been administered as of Monday night.
In King County, the state’s most populous, state health officials have confirmed 23,218 diagnoses -- 103 more than last reported -- and 775 deaths, which is four more than reported on Monday.
Experts call Trump’s rosy virus message misguided
Should people fear the coronavirus?
Public health experts say 1 million worldwide deaths are among reasons to be concerned, if not fearful, and to take everyday precautions despite rosy advice from the still-recovering president.
“Don’t let it dominate you. Don’t be afraid of it. You’re going to beat it,” Donald Trump said in a White House video released after he left the hospital Monday.
In the United States alone, more than 210,000 people weren’t able to beat it.
The seven-day rolling average for new U.S. cases has climbed over the past two weeks to almost 42,000 per day. The nation also sees more than 700 COVID-19 deaths each day.
COVID-19 also is deadlier than the flu, despite Trump’s claim otherwise. Flu has killed 12,000 to 61,000 Americans annually since 2010, according to CDC estimates.
It is true that the vast majority of people who get COVID-19 develop only mild symptoms. But experts can’t predict which patients will develop dangerous or deadly infections. And only a small percentage of Americans have been sickened by the coronavirus, meaning the vast majority are still at risk for infection.
Trump halts COVID-19 relief talks until after election
President Donald Trump abandoned COVID-19 relief talks on Tuesday, saying they won’t resume until after the election. The move came as the chairman of the Federal Reserve said that further fiscal intervention is needed to prevent the economy from spiraling downward.
Trump tweeted that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was “not negotiating in good faith” and said he’s asked Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to direct all his focus before the election into confirming his U.S. Supreme Court nominee, Amy Coney Barrett.
“I have instructed my representatives to stop negotiating until after the election when, immediately after I win, we will pass a major Stimulus Bill that focuses on hardworking Americans and Small Business,” Trump tweeted.
In pandemic, underground insulin exchanges fill gaps for those who’ll die without it
D.j. Mattern had her Type 1 diabetes under control until COVID’s economic upheaval cost her husband his hotel maintenance job and their health coverage. The 42-year-old Denver woman suddenly faced insulin’s exorbitant list price — anywhere from $125 to $450 per vial — just as their household income shrank.
She scrounged extra insulin from friends, and her doctor gave her a couple of samples. But as she rationed her supplies, her blood sugar rose so high her glucose monitor couldn’t even register a number. In June, she was hospitalized.
“I was almost near death," she said.
So she turned to a growing underground network of people with diabetes who share extra insulin when they have it, free of charge.
After meat workers die of COVID-19, families fight for compensation
After Saul Sanchez tested positive for the coronavirus at a hospital in Greeley, Colorado, he spoke to his daughter on the phone and asked her to relay a message to his supervisors at work.
“Please call JBS and let them know I’m in the hospital,” his daughter Beatriz Rangel remembered him as saying. “Let them know I will be back.”
The meat-processing company JBS had employed Sanchez, 78, at its plant in Greeley for three decades. He was one of at least 291 people there who tested positive for the coronavirus, according to data from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
On April 7, Sanchez became one of at least six employees at the plant to die of COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus.
Now Rangel, 53, is among relatives of JBS employees in Greeley seeking compensation for a death caused by COVID-19.
Military leaders quarantined after official tests positive
The chairman of the joint chiefs of staff and other top military leaders are under quarantine after a senior Coast Guard official tested positive for the coronavirus, two U.S. officials said.
The officials said the military leaders were working from home and this has not affected military readiness.
Up to 14 officials are believed to have been potentially exposed to the virus after meetings last week with the vice commandant of the Coast Guard, Adm. Charles W. Wray, who has tested positive.
Facebook removes Trump post on COVID; Twitter adds warning
Facebook removed a post by President Donald Trump that suggested Covid-19 is less deadly than the seasonal flu, saying the message violated its rules about misinformation related to the virus. Twitter Inc. put a warning screen over the tweet but left it accessible for those who choose to click through to read it.
Twitter has a policy to label, but not remove, violating tweets from elected officials, but the company also limited the ability to share or comment on Trump’s post.
Trump posted the message the day after returning to the White House from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, where he was treated for Covid-19.
White House staff, Secret Service eye virus with fear, anger
The West Wing is a ghost town. Staff members are scared of exposure. And the White House is now a treatment ward for not one — but two — COVID patients, including a president who has long taken the threat of the virus lightly.
President Donald Trump’s decision to return home from a military hospital despite his continued illness is putting new focus on the people around him who could be further exposed if he doesn’t abide by strict isolation protocols.
Throughout the pandemic, White House custodians, ushers, kitchen staff and members of the U.S. Secret Service have continued to show up for work in what is now a coronavirus hot spot, with more than a dozen known cases this week alone.
As Trump arrived back at the White House on Monday evening, he defiantly removed his face mask and stopped to pose on a balcony within feet of a White House photographer.
He was seen inside moments later, surrounded by numerous people as he taped a video message urging Americans not to fear a virus that has killed more than 210,000 in the U.S. and 1 million worldwide.
Email points to ban on masks in virus-stricken Maine jail
An email points to an outright ban on masks in housing units in a Maine jail dealing with a coronavirus outbreak that’s linked to a wedding and reception that made national news.
The York County Jail became a coronavirus hotspot after an employee who attended an August wedding more than 200 miles away in the Katahdin region spread the virus. The number of infected inmates and corrections officers is approaching 90, and the number of cases linked to the wedding and reception has topped 170 with eight deaths.
The email obtained by news outlets said inmates were not permitted to bring masks into any housing unit, a policy that likely exacerbated the outbreak.
White House blocks new coronavirus vaccine guidelines
Top White House officials are blocking strict new federal guidelines for the emergency release of a coronavirus vaccine, objecting to a provision that would almost certainly guarantee that no vaccine could be authorized before the election Nov. 3, according to people familiar with the approval process.
Facing a White House blockade, the Food and Drug Administration is seeking other avenues to ensure that vaccines meet the guidelines, The New York Times reported.
The struggle over the guidelines is part of a tug of war between federal agencies on the front lines of the pandemic and White House officials who have repeatedly tried to shape public announcements in ways favorable to the administration.
How do I politely ask someone to wear a mask?
How do I politely ask someone to wear a mask?
Ask discreetly, experts say, because shaming the person could put them on the defensive and make them much less likely to accommodate.
It might just be better off to avoid them if possible, the experts say.
Some Orthodox Jews bristle at NYC’s response to virus surge
Amid a new surge of COVID-19 in New York’s Orthodox Jewish communities, many members are reviving health measures that some had abandoned over the summer — social distancing, wearing masks. For many, there’s also a return of anger: They feel the city is singling them out for criticism.
The latest blow: an order Monday from Gov. Andrew Cuomo temporarily closing public and private schools in several areas with large Orthodox populations. It will take effect Tuesday.
“People are very turned off and very burned out,” said Yosef Hershkop, a Hasidic Jew from Brooklyn who works for a chain of urgent-care centers. “It’s not like we’re the only people in New York getting COVID.”
80-year-old dies after mask confrontation in NY bar
A New York man who was shoved to the ground after confronting another patron at a bar for not wearing a mask has died.
Rocco E. Sapienza, 80, was at a bar near Buffalo in September when he confronted Donald M. Lewinski, 65, for not wearing a mask, Erie County prosecutors said
The older man was shoved, then fell, hit his head and later died of his injuries, prosecutors alleged in documents charging Lewinski with criminally negligent homicide.
Dozens of University of Oregon students positive for virus
Dozens of University of Oregon students have tested positive for COVID-19.
The university’s website showed on Monday that 57 coronavirus cases had been confirmed in the previous four days alone.
All of those cases involve students, but only one of the students lives in on-campus housing. The rest live off campus.
University of Oregon has reported a total of more than 200 cases since June 1.
Quarantine Corner: Things to do while keeping your distance
If you'd like to try trail running, Kirkland’s Bridle Trails State Park is a great place to start. And bring a mask in case you encounter fellow runners; here's how three common masks stack up for exercising.
This lovely fall weather is perfect for making creamy caramel mousse with roasted apples, teen chef Sadie Davis-Suskind writes.
Chicken cutlets can stretch your dollar in delicious ways. Here's one.
There may be no joy in Mudville these days, but at least there’s still “Bull Durham.” Critic Moira Macdonald explains why you should watch it again and disappear into a different world.
Catch up on the past 24 hours
President Donald Trump returned to the White House last night and immediately alarmed health experts by ripping off his face mask and urging Americans not to fear the deadly coronavirus that sent him to the hospital and has killed more than 210,000 people in this country. Inside the White House, though, that fear is spreading along with the virus (new cases include press secretary Kayleigh McEnany). And Trump “may not entirely be out of the woods yet,” his doctor said, holding back key details from the public. Follow the latest developments on the president and his condition. In Seattle and across the U.S., it's all left some COVID-19 survivors fuming.
People farther than six feet apart can get infected by tiny droplets that stay suspended in the air, the CDC acknowledged yesterday in a long-awaited update that adds to concerns about indoor spaces with poor ventilation.
The COVID-19 outbreak on UW’s Greek Row keeps worsening, with cases climbing more than 27% in just three days. Fall quarter began less than a week ago.
Nearly one-third of hospitalized COVID-19 patients experienced an altered mental state, ranging from confusion to delirium, the authors of a large new study report. After those patients went home, many were unable to handle routine daily tasks.
Seattle parks' playgrounds reopen today with new guidelines, more than six months after they were closed to slow the virus' spread. Here's our county-by-county look at what else you can and can't do these days.
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