Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Thursday, October 7, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.
While COVID-19 deaths and hospitalizations across the nation appear to be waning from the summer surge, officials are considering expanding and strengthening vaccine requirements to keep case rates low.
At the same time, a health clinic in Colorado opted to deny organ transplants, under most circumstances, to patients who have not received the coronavirus vaccine. Health officials cited studies showing that organ transplant patients who are unvaccinated are much more likely to die from COVID-19.
Los Angeles city council leaders approved a vaccine mandate requiring anyone ages 12 and up entering a bar, restaurant, gym or other public space to be fully vaccinated.
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.
US health experts urge flu shots to avoid ‘twindemic’
The U.S. is gearing up in case of a bad flu season on top of the continuing COVID-19 crisis, with a plea Thursday for Americans to get vaccinated against both.
“I get it: We are all tired of talking about vaccines,” said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
But “it is doubly important this year” to get your flu shot, added Walensky, who got her own vaccination earlier this week just as she has every year since she was a medical student in 1995. “We are preparing for the return of the flu.”
Flu cases dropped to historically low levels globally over the pandemic, as restrictions designed to slow the spread of the coronavirus helped block other respiratory viruses. But with schools and businesses reopened, international travel resuming and far less masking, there’s no way to predict how bad a flu season the U.S. might expect this winter.
Idaho hospital says crush of COVID patients getting worse
The Northern Idaho hospital that was the first in the state to institute health care rationing due to surging COVID-19 cases says the situation is growing worse.
Kootenai Health reported a record 150 coronavirus inpatients on Wednesday, with 43 requiring critical care, 17 on ventilators, and two patients under the age of 18.
Panhandle Health District reported 202 new COVID-19 cases and the death toll attributed to the virus is 499.
Kootenai Health Clinical Services Director Debbie Callins said Wednesday “the numbers are going up and the staff are tired.”
Colorado woman who won’t get vaccinated denied transplant
When a Colorado woman found out her hospital wouldn’t approve her kidney transplant surgery until she got the COVID-19 vaccine, she was left with a difficult decision pitting her health needs against her religious beliefs.
Leilani Lutali, a born-again Christian, went with her faith.
Even though she has stage 5 kidney disease that puts her at risk of dying without a new kidney, Lutali, 56, said she could not agree to be vaccinated because of the role that stem cells have played in the development of vaccines.
“As a Christian, I can’t support anything that has to do with abortion of babies, and the sanctity of life for me is precious,” she said.
UCHealth requires transplant recipients to be vaccinated because recipients are at significant risk of contracting COVID-19 as well as being hospitalized and dying from the virus, spokesman Dan Weaver said. Unvaccinated donors could also pass COVID-19 to the recipient even if they initially test negative for the disease, he said.
Young, pregnant and unvaccinated: Hospitals confront a wave of severe illness and death
Over video calls from her bed in a Texas intensive care unit, Paige Ruiz gazed at the newborn girl who had gone home without her.
Taking in baby Celeste’s round cheeks, brown eyes and fine hair, she sometimes became so overcome with longing that she started crying, recalled her mother, Robin Zinsou. Then crying would turn to coughing, and Ruiz would have to hang up.
Those calls, painful as they could be, were “how she got to be a mom to Celeste,” Zinsou said. Ruiz, a 32-year-old wife and mother of two, died of coronavirus complications on Aug. 15, within days of giving birth on a ventilator.
She spent some of her final days urging others to get the vaccine she was waiting to receive out of concern for the baby she never got to hold.
State health officials confirm 2,943 new coronavirus cases
The state Department of Health (DOH) reported 2,943 new coronavirus cases and 55 new deaths on Thursday.
The update brings the state's totals to 675,695 cases and 7,972 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. Wednesday.
In addition, 37,504 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the virus — 142 new hospitalizations. In King County, the state's most populous, state health officials have confirmed a total of 154,687 COVID-19 diagnoses and 1,898 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.
‘This is a crisis’: Tens of thousands of U.S. children affected by COVID-related deaths of parents
Ten months after James Vance, a former Marine and retired policeman in Princeton, W.Va., died of COVID-19, his two young children are still reeling from his death.
Julia, 12, a middle-schooler who used to do everything with her father, is withdrawn. Her sister, Jamie, 7, still talks about him in the present tense. As for Mom, Jerri, a third-grade teacher, she is struggling to keep up with bills and maintain a sense of normalcy for her daughters while dealing with losing the love of her life.
“All three of us are in therapy,” Jerri Vance said. “Every time we go out, everything is about COVID. We have to see that daily and deal with people who say it isn’t real when it’s beyond real to us.”
Throughout the pandemic, public health experts and other observers have often noted that children have been largely spared the worst because they are less likely to develop severe illness from the virus. The fact that many of the dead are parents or caregivers has been largely left out of the conversation.
Marines: Pandemic contributed to tragedy of troops’ drowning
The coronavirus pandemic that curtailed trainings in 2020 contributed to nine service members drowning off San Diego’s coast, according to a new military investigation into one of the Marine Corps’ deadliest training accidents in recent years.
Senior commanders leading up to the accident also were strapped with extra “nonstandard” missions including sending Marines to the U.S.-Mexico border as part of the Trump administration’s tightening of border security and assisting with the Navy’s hospital ship, the USNS Mercy, that anchored off Los Angeles to relieve hospitals overwhelmed with coronavirus cases, according to investigation findings made public Wednesday.
A previous investigation by the maritime branch found the accident July 30, 2020, off San Clemente Island was caused by inadequate training, shabby maintenance of the 35-year-old amphibious assault vehicles and poor judgment by commanders.
The families of the eight Marines and one sailor have filed a lawsuit against BAE Systems, the manufacturer of the amphibious assault vehicles, alleging the company knew for a decade or more about a design defect that makes it nearly impossible for troops to open the cargo hatches and escape the 26-ton amphibious vehicles when they sink.
Hungary offers to care for Romanian COVID-19 patients
Hungary has offered neighboring Romania help in caring for coronavirus patients as the country faces an alarming surge of COVID-19 cases and a shortage of intensive care beds — pushing its health care system to the brink of collapse.
Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto sent a letter over the weekend offering assistance to Romania in treating COVID-19 patients, Hungary’s Foreign Ministry told The Associated Press.
Romania, a European Union nation of 19 million, is the second-least vaccinated country in the EU — with 34% of adults fully vaccinated, compared to 74% across the bloc.
San Francisco Bay Area to drop some indoor mask mandates
Indoor masking requirements in the San Francisco Bay Area will be eased for certain indoor public settings, including offices, gyms, college classrooms and churches, once counties reach low COVID-19 case and hospitalization rates and at least 80% of the total population is fully vaccinated, officials announced Thursday.
The Bay Area, with among the highest vaccination rates and lowest case rates in the nation, has been cautious throughout the pandemic, when counties in the region issued the nation’s first stay-home order in March 2020.
After lifting some restrictions in the spring, public health officials in San Francisco, Marin, Napa, Sonoma, Contra Costa, Alameda, Santa Clara and San Mateo reinstated an indoor mask mandate in August as COVID-19 infections surged because of the highly contagious delta variant.
Pfizer asks US to allow COVID shots for kids ages 5 to 11
Pfizer asked the U.S. government Thursday to allow use of its COVID-19 vaccine in children ages 5 to 11 in what would be a major expansion that could combat an alarming rise in serious infections in youngsters and help schools stay open.
If regulators give the go-ahead, reduced-dose kids’ shots could begin within a matter of weeks for the roughly 28 million children in that age group.
The Food and Drug Administration will have to decide whether the shots are safe and effective in elementary school-age children. An independent expert panel will publicly debate the evidence on Oct. 26.
Maryland triple-slaying suspect was angry because pharmacist brother gave COVID vaccines, police say
A Maryland man who said he was angry at his pharmacist brother for administering coronavirus vaccines killed the brother, his brother's wife and a family friend before setting off an interstate manhunt, investigators allege in court documents.
Jeffrey Burnham, 46, of Cumberland, had previously told his mother that he wanted to confront his older brother, Brian Robinette, about what he claimed was the government poisoning people with the shots, according to court documents filed in Howard County District Court.
“Brian knows something!” he repeatedly said to her, according to the documents first reported by Baltimore-area news outlets.
On Sept. 30, Burnham fatally shot his 58-year-old brother and his brother’s wife, 57-year-old Kelly Robinette, police said. He is also charged with fatally stabbing of a family friend, 83-year-old Rebecca Reynolds, a day earlier.
Ghost towns: Nursing home staffing falls amid pandemic
When Natalie Walters arrived at her father’s nursing home, the parking lot was nearly empty and, inside, the elevator made no stops. On the 13th floor, the lights were off and the TVs silent. The last time she was allowed inside, nine months earlier, aides passed in the hall and a nurse waved from the records room.
Now, it felt like a ghost town.
One of the few staffers on duty broke the news: Walters was too late and her father was already dead of COVID-19.
“It was so still and quiet,” says Walters, whose description of desolation at the home aligns with records showing its staffing level has fallen over the course of the pandemic. “How alone must he have been.”
Even before COVID-19 bared the truth of a profit-driven industry with too few caring for society’s most vulnerable, thin staffing was a hallmark of nursing homes around the country. Now, staffing is even thinner, with about one-third of U.S. nursing homes reporting lower levels of nurses and aides than before the pandemic began ravaging their facilities, an Associated Press analysis of federal data finds.
The American Health Care Association, which lobbies for care facilities, said 99% of nursing homes and 96% of assisted living facilities said they had staffing shortages in a September survey. In a June survey, AHCA found 84% of nursing homes were losing revenue due to fewer patients coming from hospitals, and that nearly half of nursing homes and assisted living facilities had made cuts.
Russia’s infections reach the highest level so far this year
Russia’s daily coronavirus infections soared Thursday to their highest level so far this year as authorities have struggled to control a surge in new cases amid a slow pace in vaccinations and few restrictions in place.
The daily coronavirus death toll topped 900 for a second straight day, with 924 new deaths reported Thursday — a day after reaching a record 929.
Russia already has Europe’s highest death toll in the pandemic — topping 213,000.
On Thursday, the government’s coronavirus task force reported 27,550 new confirmed cases, a nearly 10% rise from the previous day. New infections in Moscow soared by nearly 50% to 5,404 cases.
A quick rise in infections and deaths began in late September, with authorities blaming it on the low vaccination rate with only 29% of the populace fully vaccinated. The Kremlin, however, has shrugged off the idea of imposing a new nationwide lockdown, delegating the power to tighten restrictions to regional authorities.
Fed up by pandemic, US food workers launch rare strikes
A summer of labor unrest at U.S. food manufacturers has stretched into fall, as pandemic-weary workers continue to strike for better pay.
Around 1,400 workers at Kellogg Co.’s U.S. cereal plants walked off the job this week, saying negotiations with the company over pay and benefits are at an impasse. Meanwhile, in Kentucky, a strike by 420 workers against Heaven Hill Distillery is in its fourth week.
The actions come on top of strikes earlier this summer by 600 workers at a Frito-Lay plant in Topeka, Kansas, and 1,000 workers at five Nabisco plants across the U.S. In June, Smithfield Foods narrowly avoided a strike by thousands of workers at a plant in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
The number of actions is unusual. Kellogg says this is the first time its U.S. cereal workers have gone on strike since 1972. Nabisco workers last walked off the job in 1969.
But after a difficult 18 months, which saw many workers putting in 12-hour shifts and mandatory overtime to meet pandemic demand, employees are in no mood to compromise.
A man said he hired a person with COVID-19 to lick groceries. He got 15 months in prison
A federal jury has sentenced a Texas man to 15 months in federal prison after finding him guilty of staging a COVID-19-related hoax on social media, prosecutors said.
Christopher Charles Perez, 40, was arrested in April 2020 after posting two “threatening messages” on Facebook claiming he had paid someone infected with the virus “to lick items at grocery stores in the San Antonio area to scare people away,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Western District of Texas said in a news release Monday.
“My homeboys cousin has covid19 and has licked every thing for past 2 days cause we paid him to,” Perez wrote on Facebook, according to court documents. “Big difference is we told him not to be these (expletive) idiots who record and post online … YOU’VE BEEN WARNED.”
Perez was found guilty of two counts of violating a federal law that makes it a crime to carry out a hoax involving biological weapons, in this case, COVID-19. The crime can be punished with up to a life sentence if it results in the loss of life.
Biden, a convert to mandates, making economic case for shots
President Joe Biden is wielding his weapon of last resort in the nation’s fight against COVID-19, as he champions vaccination requirements across the country in an effort to force the roughly 67 million unvaccinated American adults to roll up their sleeves.
It’s a tactic he never wanted to employ — and had ruled out before he took office — but one that he feels he was forced into by a stubborn slice of the public that has refused to get the lifesaving shots and jeopardized the lives of others and the nation’s economic recovery.
In coming weeks, more than 100 million Americans will be subject to vaccine requirements ordered by Biden — and his administration is encouraging employers to take additional steps voluntarily that would push vaccines on people or subject them to onerous testing requirements.
Forcing people to do something they don’t want to do is rarely a winning political strategy. But with the majority of the country already vaccinated and with industry on his side, Biden has emerged as an unlikely advocate of browbeating tactics to drive vaccinations.
Virus measures stop legal return of thousands to New Zealand
WELLINGTON, New Zealand — When Silvia Dancose’s daughter called in distress from Canada in August, Dancose flew over right away to comfort her. But now, after weeks of trying, she has no idea when she’ll be allowed to return home to New Zealand.
This week, Dancose found herself waiting in vain behind 17,000 others in an online queue. New Zealanders desperate to return to their home country are forced each week or so to enter a lottery for coveted beds in quarantine hotels.
As part of its effort to minimize the spread of the coronavirus, New Zealand requires all returning citizens and residents — whether vaccinated or not — to spend 14 days isolating in a hotel run by the military.
Because demand is far outstripping supply, New Zealanders are being locked out indefinitely, despite the right of return enshrined in New Zealand’s constitutional arrangements and in international law.
The quarantine system remains in place despite New Zealand’s government acknowledging this week that it can no longer wipe out the virus. The tight border controls, along with strict lockdowns and aggressive contact tracing, ensured New Zealand eliminated each outbreak of the virus for the first 18 months of the pandemic, but the delta variant has changed that.
Catch up on the past 24 hours
The Washington State Patrol marked a striking turnaround on vaccinations, with the rate of vaccinated employees — now 93% — nearly doubling in a few weeks as their deadline nears. Tallies are climbing for the two largest local police departments in Washington, too.
As COVID-19's summer surge wanes, many U.S. cities aren't taking chances: More mandates are in the works. President Joe Biden is in Chicago today to tout mandates as he pushes employers to take additional steps that go beyond them.
There's a new vaccine strategy for children: Just one dose, for now. As several countries defer a second jab to reduce (already very small) risks, some experts say that idea hasn't received enough attention in the United States.
Dueling executive orders are flying as Idaho's leaders feud over COVID-19. First the governor left town, which unintentionally allowed his lieutenant to ban vaccine mandates (among other things). Now the still-traveling governor has issued an executive order overturning his rival's executive order. But this fight is apparently not over.
During WWII, getting a vaccine became synonymous with patriotism: "Science … helped us win the war." It was a time in which unassuming researchers seemed to work miracles with daring breakthroughs. But the moment also contained seeds of division and distrust that would metastasize across the country decades later during another hour of crisis. Here is a look at how we got to this point.
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