Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Thursday, Oct. 8, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.
Washington state’s handling of the pandemic was in the spotlight during Wednesday night’s debate between Gov. Jay Inslee and GOP challenger Loren Culp, the police chief of the small town of Republic. Culp, who’s been hosting rallies across the state with little social distancing, repeatedly ripped the governor for his mandates on businesses and mask-wearing. Inslee responded that his restrictions have slowed the virus and saved hundreds, if not thousands, of lives.
President Donald Trump, back at the White House despite still being contagious, is singing the praises of the experimental antibody cocktail he received. The president posted a video Wednesday evening promising to get the treatment approved for broader use, even though he doesn’t have the power to do that — it’s up to the FDA.
Throughout Thursday, 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 Wednesday can be found here, and all our coronavirus coverage can be found here.
Federal Way Public Schools will likely be online through winter break, superintendent says
As school districts around the Puget Sound region begin to consider returning to school buildings, Federal Way Public Schools announced this week that classes will likely remain entirely online until December.
Superintendent Tammy Campbell said she came to that conclusion because “Federal Way continues to have some of the highest infection rates in the region, well above the threshold to return to in-person instruction.”
Federal Way’s infection rates, Campbell said, were 128 per 100,000 over the two weeks between Sept. 22 and Oct. 6. That’s higher than King County’s rate of 53 per 100,000 over the period between Sept. 12 and 26, she noted. In some areas within the district, that number is higher — up to 185.
Campbell cited Washington State Department of Health’s decision tree, which recommends that rates be below 75 per 100,000 over 14 days before districts attempt any sort of in-person learning.
“Looking at current trends, and knowing there’s a little more than two months until winter break, we don’t anticipate rates in Federal Way staying below the threshold of 75 per 100,000 for the duration needed to reopen our schools in time to reopen before winter break,” Campbell said.
When the time does come to reopen, the district's nearly 21,000 students will return gradually, starting with the youngest students.
This week, the Bellevue School District became the largest King County School district for bringing some kids into the classroom when it unveiled a plan to potentially reopen by Nov. 9. Issaquah has also set a target date.
What do Gov. Inslee’s loosened COVID-19 restrictions mean for youth sports in Washington?
Youth sports leagues across the state are gearing up for a traditional fall season — or at least something close to it — after new safety guidelines were approved by the governor’s office and state health officials this week.
Since June, most youth sports leagues have been allowed only to practice in small-group sessions. The new COVID-19 restrictions — outlined in a five-page plan from Gov. Jay Inslee’s office — give most sports in most counties the chance to resume relatively normal activities, including scrimmages and games.
Washington Youth Soccer (WYS), in partnership with the Seattle United soccer club and Dr. Jon Drezner, the director of the University of Washington’s Center for Sports Cardiology, presented the governor’s office with a return-to-play plan last month. Local soccer clubs celebrated the plan’s approval this week.
As Trump battles COVID-19, here’s how much of his health information can legally be shared with the public
Within one day, President Donald Trump announced his COVID-19 diagnosis and was admitted to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center for treatment. The flurry of events was stunning, confusing and triggered many questions. What was his prognosis? When was he last tested for COVID-19? What is his viral load?
The answers were elusive.
Picture the scene on Oct. 5. White House physician Dr. Sean Conley, flanked by other members of Trump’s medical team, met with reporters outside the hospital. But Conley would not disclose the results of the president’s lung scans and other vital information, invoking a federal law he said allows him to selectively provide intel on the president’s health.
“There are HIPAA rules and regulations that restrict me in sharing certain things for his safety and his own health,” he told the reporters.
The law he’s referring to, HIPAA, is the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, which includes privacy protections designed to shield personal health information from disclosure without a patient’s consent.
Because this is likely to remain an issue, we decided to take a look. In what cases does HIPAA restrict the sharing of information — and is the president covered by it?
Experts agreed that he is, but several noted there are exceptions to its protections — stirring debate over the airwaves and on Twitter regarding what information about the president’s health should be released.
State confirms 710 new COVID-19 cases and 6 new deaths
State health officials reported 710 new COVID-19 cases in Washington as of Wednesday night, and 6 new deaths.
The update brings the state’s totals to 91,918 cases and 2,183 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. Wednesday.
The DOH also reported that 7,733 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the virus.
Statewide, the number of COVID-19 tests administered passed 2 million, with 2,016,471 tests given as of Monday night.
In King County, the state’s most populous, state health officials have confirmed 23,547 diagnoses -- 196 more than last reported -- and 782 deaths, which is two more than reported on Wednesday.
Inslee extends eviction moratorium through Dec. 31 amid COVID-19 pandemic
Gov. Jay Inslee announced Thursday he would extend the existing moratorium on evictions in light of the economic downturn sparked by the new coronavirus.
The extension will keep the moratorium in place through Dec. 31.
The latest version of the moratorium – which has been extended and modified a few times -- was set to expire Oct. 15. More details on the latest extension are expected early next week.
Those updated orders had added a freeze on residential rents, and allowed some evictions – such as for property damage – to move forward.
The new measure also allows rent increases on commercial propertiesInslee Thursday also announced $15 million in federal grant money to help businesses struggling amid the virus downturn.
Macklemore, Dave Matthews and other Seattle stars will perform in virtual benefit fest for ailing U.S. music venues
Independent music venues haven’t received much applause-worthy news these days, but COVID-battered clubs across the country aren’t going down without a fight. A national coalition of indie clubs announced Thursday a virtual fundraising festival, with a number of Seattle heavyweights getting in on the benevolent action.
Most notably, Seattle rap star Macklemore will perform at Capitol Hill staple Neumos as part of the digital fest running Oct. 16-18. Organized by the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA) with YouTube Music, the Save Our Stages Festival — or “#SOSFEST” — will broadcast prerecorded performances from 35 artists at 25 venues through NIVA’s YouTube channel. The online fest aims to raise money for NIVA’s Emergency Relief Fund, which issues grants to struggling venues that have been shuttered by the pandemic.
In other local ties, the Seattle-born Foo Fighters will play “an intimate set” from Los Angeles’ iconic Troubadour club and Virginia-rooted Seattleite Dave Matthews will perform from the Jefferson Theater in Charlottesville. The three-day online event is hosted by musician/actor Reggie Watts, who came up with Seattle soul rockers Maktub.
“The smaller music venues and the ones that are really struggling are not only culturally important, they are emotionally important,” said leading Foo Fighter Dave Grohl in a news release.
DC faults White House over Rose Garden event, urges testing
WASHINGTON — In an extraordinary step, the Washington, D.C. Department of Health has released an open letter appealing to all White House staff and anyone who attended a Sept. 26 event in the Rose Garden to seek medical advice and take a COVID-19 test.
The letter indicates a lack of confidence in the White House medical team’s own contact tracing efforts regarding an ongoing virus outbreak that has infected President Donald Trump, multiple senior staff members and two U.S. senators, among others.
Co-signed by nine other local health departments from neighboring jurisdictions in Maryland and Virginia, the letter flatly states a belief that contact tracing on the outbreak has been insufficient.
It says the public appeal is based on, “our preliminary understanding that there has been limited contact tracing performed to date, there may be other staff and residents at risk for exposure to COVID positive individuals.”
It asks all White House employees, anyone who attended the Sept. 26 event and anyone who may have been in contact with those people to “contact your local health department for further guidance/questions regarding your potential need to quarantine.”
The letter represents a rising level of concern and a clear shift in strategy by Mayor Muriel Bowser’s government, which had previously remained publicly hands-off and said it trusted the White House’s robust medical operation to handle its own contact tracing and follow-up.
13 charged in plots against Michigan governor, who has been criticized for her coronavirus safety rules
DETROIT — Agents foiled a stunning plot to kidnap Michigan Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, authorities said Thursday in announcing charges in an alleged scheme that involved months of planning and even rehearsals to snatch Whitmer from her vacation home.
Six men were charged in federal court with conspiring to kidnap the governor in reaction to what they viewed as her “uncontrolled power,” according to a federal complaint. Separately, seven others were charged under the state’s anti-terrorism laws for allegedly targeting police and the state Capitol.
Whitmer, who was considered as a potential running mate for Joe Biden, has been praised but also deeply criticized by the Republican-controlled Legislature and conservative areas of the state for Michigan’s response to the coronavirus. She put major restrictions on personal movement throughout the state and on the economy, although many of those limits have been lifted. Authorities have not said specifically whether the men were angry about Whitmer’s coronavirus orders.
Trump, Biden teams debate next debate: Next week? Never?
WASHINGTON — The fate of the final debates between President Donald Trump and Democrat Joe Biden was thrown into uncertainty as the campaigns offered dueling proposals for moving forward with a process that has been upended by the president’s coronavirus infection.
By Thursday afternoon, it was unclear when or how the next debates would proceed, or whether voters would even get to see the two men running for the White House on the same stage again before Election Day.
‘So frustrating’: Doctors and nurses battle virus skeptics
Treating the sick and dying isn’t even the toughest part for nurse Amelia Montgomery as the coronavirus surges in her corner of red America.
It’s dealing with patients and relatives who don’t believe the virus is real, refuse to wear masks and demand treatments like hydroxychloroquine, which President Donald Trump has championed even though experts say it is not effective against the scourge that has killed over 210,000 in the U.S.
Montgomery finds herself, like so many other doctors and nurses, in a world where the politics of the crisis are complicating treatment efforts, with some people even resisting getting tested.
“The majority of people don’t understand and can’t picture what we are seeing. That has been frustrating for all of us,” Montgomery said in an interview, adding: “It wears.”
Combating virus skeptics is a battle for medical professionals across the country.
Trump official ignored virus rules at daughter’s big wedding, paper says
White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows hosted a large wedding for his daughter that appeared to violate a Georgia order and city of Atlanta guidelines to stop the spread of COVID-19, a newspaper reported Thursday.
Photos of the event show many of the guests crowding together, dancing and hugging during the May 31 nuptials at the Biltmore Ballrooms Atlanta, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
About 70 guests, including U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, wore tuxedos and ball gowns but no masks at the indoor wedding, and photographs show groups of people clustered closely together in the same room throughout the evening, the newspaper said.
Sri Lanka expands curfew, closes gov’t offices
Authorities in Sri Lanka have closed key government offices and further expanded a curfew in an attempt to contain a surging coronavirus outbreak.
The foreign ministry closed its consular affairs office for the week and suspended all services to prevent the public from congregating. It said Thursday it would only accept queries and documentation assistance related to deaths of Sri Lankans overseas, strictly by appointment.
The outbreak that surfaced this week has quickly grown to 1,034 cases with more than 2,000 other people asked to quarantine at home.
Antibody drugs are no cure but seem promising for COVID-19
WASHINGTON — They’re not cures and it’s not likely that everyone will be able to get them as President Donald Trump has suggested. But experimental antibody drugs like the one Trump was given are among the most promising therapies being tested for treating and preventing coronavirus infections.
Eli Lilly and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. are asking the U.S. government to allow emergency use of their antibody drugs, which aim to help the immune system clear the virus. The medicines are still in testing; their safety and effectiveness are not yet known.
Trump is among fewer than 10 people who were able to access the Regeneron one under “compassionate use” rules, without enrolling in a study.
Wallen dropped as ‘SNL’ performer after breaking COVID rules
Morgan Wallen has been dropped from performing on “Saturday Night Live” after breaking the show’s COVID-19 protocols.
The country singer posted a two-plus minute video on social media Wednesday about the show’s decision. He apologized after he was shown on TikTok socializing maskless at a crowded bar and house party this past weekend in Alabama.
Wallen was listed as a musical guest for this Saturday’s show. The 27-year-old singer was emotional during his post, saying he respects the show’s decision.
Paris hospitals on emergency footing as virus cases rise
PARIS — Health authorities in the Paris region ordered hospitals to activate emergency measures starting Thursday to cope with fast-rising numbers of COVID-19 patients, who now fill 40% of the region’s intensive care units.
The French health minister is expected to announce new restrictions for areas where hospitals are facing strain and infections are mounting, after shutting down bars in Paris and several cities and limiting private gatherings in recent weeks.
The director of the Paris region public health agency, Aurelien Rousseau, tweeted Thursday that he ordered hospital directors to activate a special emergency plan to free up resources and protect medical staff. The move was necessary, he said, “given the pressure on intensive care units and on conventional hospital activity.”
England’s big northern cities braced for more lockdown curbs
LONDON — The British government is mulling fresh restrictions on everyday life in England, potentially in the big northern cities such as Liverpool and Manchester, amid mounting fears that hospitals in coronavirus hot spots may soon be overwhelmed by growing numbers of patients.
With the number of people needing to go to the hospital with virus-related conditions rising, and in some areas in the north of England alarmingly so, the pressure on the government to do more is mounting.
Because the virus has been accelerating at differing speeds around England, the government has opted for local restrictions to combat the spread. The differing rules though have stoked confusion and there is growing speculation the government will back a new simplified three-tier system for England soon, potentially coming into force as soon as next week.
Analyzing Trump’s illness is humbling for media’s med teams
NEW YORK — Here’s an assignment to humble even the most confident doctor: Assess a patient’s condition before millions of people without being able to examine him or see a complete medical chart.
That, in effect, is what medical experts at news organizations have been asked to do since President Donald Trump revealed Friday that he had tested positive for COVID-19.
They have a fine line to walk, needing to decide what level of speculation — if any — that they’re comfortable with, how much to read into medications the president has been prescribed and how to explain the course of a virus so new that it still confounds the people who study it.
US layoffs remain elevated as 840,000 seek jobless aid
The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits fell slightly last week to a still-high 840,000, evidence that job cuts remain elevated seven months into the pandemic recession.
The latest sign of a flagging recovery comes two days after President Donald Trump cut off talks over a new rescue aid package that economists say is urgently needed for millions of unemployed Americans and struggling businesses. A failure to enact another round of government aid would crimp household income and spending, and some economists say it would raise the risk of a double-dip recession.
Thursday’s report from the Labor Department said the number of people who are continuing to receive unemployment benefits dropped 1 million to 11 million.
California evangelical school tells students to quarantine
An evangelical college in Northern California said Wednesday it has asked its entire 1,600-student body to self-quarantine as the number of coronavirus cases among students and staff rose to 137 since classes started a month ago.
In a statement, the Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry in Redding, California, said off-campus housing has been a primary source of transmission, along with “social interactions outside of school hours.”
Officials in Shasta County, where the school is located, say the outbreak has driven a recent spike in COVID-19 cases that led the state on Tuesday to restore more restrictions on restaurants, bars and other businesses there.
The county recorded more than 500 new coronavirus cases in the past two weeks, pushing its total number of cases since March to 1,158.
Sharp jump in Germany's coronavirus cases
Germany is seeing a sharp jump in new coronavirus infections, a development that is raising fears the pandemic is picking up pace in a country that so far has coped better than many of its European neighbors.
The country’s disease control agency, the Robert Koch Institute, on Thursday reported 4,058 new infections and 16 deaths over the past 24 hours, taking the total number of confirmed cases to 310,144, with 9,578 deaths. That death toll is one-fourth of Britain’s and one-third of the confirmed virus toll in Italy.
Health Minister Jens Spahn urged Germans to respect social distancing and hygiene measures to avoid reaching a point “where we lose control.”
Quarantine Corner: Things to do while staying home
Readers took the "Weeknight Challenge" with The Seattle Times Pantry Kitchen, conjuring delicious-sounding fall magic (donut holes!) with a few ingredients. Here are the top submissions and our Round 2 challenge.
Few things bring people together like a good meal — even, it turns out, if they can’t sit at the same table. A group of friends, a supper club and a crew of teaching chefs have found nourishment together in the pandemic.
Catch up on the past 24 hours
The second Trump-Biden debate will happen virtually because of President Donald Trump's coronavirus infection, the debate commission said today. Trump immediately said he wouldn't participate.
Regeneron has asked the FDA for emergency approval of the antibody cocktail that Trump claims cured him. The president says he feels great, although some have their doubts, and it's impossible for his doctors to know whether the drug had any effect. Learn more about antibody treatments, including work on them happening in the Seattle area. It doesn't come cheaply, according to a breakdown of what Trump's full coronavirus treatment would cost most Americans.
Washington state's handling of the pandemic was in the spotlight during Wednesday night's debate between Gov. Jay Inslee and GOP challenger Loren Culp, the police chief of the small town of Republic. Culp, who's been hosting rallies across the state with little social distancing, repeatedly ripped the governor for his mandates on businesses and mask-wearing. Inslee responded that his restrictions have slowed the virus and saved hundreds, if not thousands, of lives.
COVID-19 was a big subject in the U.S. vice presidential debate as well. VP Mike Pence, who leads the president's coronavirus task force, defended the White House's response to the pandemic as Sen. Kamala Harris labeled it “the greatest failure of any presidential administration.”
Where are Washington's kindergartners? Thousands haven't shown up or logged on to public schools amid the pandemic. That's creating big questions about whether they're getting any sort of instruction, and what will happen when (if?) they eventually enroll.
Even mild COVID-19 infections can sicken people for months, according to a new study that tracked which lasting symptoms are most common.
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Has the pandemic affected who you decide to vote for in local and state races? Reporter Paige Cornwell would like to speak with you for a story. She can be reached at 206-464-2530 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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