Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Friday, September 17, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.
King County made it official yesterday: Gyms, indoor recreation spaces, restaurants and bars must check for proof of vaccination or a negative coronavirus test beginning Oct. 25. Here’s how you can show proof of vaccination, who’s exempt and when you need to start your inoculation by in order to be fully vaccinated by the time the order takes effect.
Meanwhile, debate over President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate continues. Over two dozen Republican attorneys general threatened to sue if the mandate, which is expected to impact as many as 100 million Americans, goes into effect.
“Your plan is disastrous and counterproductive,” the prosecutors, led by Attorney General Alan Wilson of South Carolina, wrote in a letter.
Biden has tasked the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to write a rule to require employers with over 100 workers to force employees to get vaccinated or produce weekly negative test results.
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.
Going to the Seahawks’ home opener Sunday? Here’s how to follow their COVID-19 requirements
Pete Carroll is fired up. He’s always fired up, of course, but he’s especially fired up to welcome fans back into Lumen Field for the Seahawks’ 2021 home opener Sunday.
Football, obviously, is more fun with fans in the stands, and the Seahawks will extend their streak of home sellouts to 148 games Sunday against the Tennessee Titans.
So, yes, Carroll is excited to again feel the thunderous noise and the pent-up energy from the 12s who weren’t allowed into home games in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic last year.
But he sounds most excited about how fans will be welcomed back — under strict orders from the team to be vaccinated, or provide proof of a negative COVID test, and with a mask on.
UN using honor system to check vaccinations for big meeting
The U.N. General Assembly is relying on an honor system — and only an honor system — to ensure that world leaders have been vaccinated before they speak at next week’s big meeting, the assembly president said.
Presidents, premiers, monarchs and other dignitaries won’t have to show vaccination cards or other proof of inoculation — they’ll simply attest to it by swiping their ID badges at the assembly hall, G.A. President Abdulla Shahid said in a letter Thursday. The assembly began testing the same policy in June for diplomats at its day-to-day meetings.
Still, it could quickly raise thorny questions at the biggest global diplomatic gathering of the year. Russia has criticized the requirement, and the first speaker, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, isn’t vaccinated and reiterated Thursday that he doesn’t plan to get the shot anytime soon.
Four patients, two dialysis machines: Rationing care becomes a reality in hospitals jammed with COVID patients
Kristen Solana Walkinshaw, a physician on the coronavirus triage committee at Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage, found her team last weekend making one of the most agonizing decisions of their careers. With the delta variant surging, the hospital was overwhelmed, and the doctor on call had paged the group for guidance.
Four patients needed continuous kidney dialysis, her colleague explained, but only two machines were available. How should I choose?
“This is the worst it’s been for us,” Solana Walkinshaw said, and “it’s not over.”
Rationing medical care, one of the most feared scenarios of the pandemic, is becoming a reality in a few parts of the United States as coronavirus infections remain at surge levels. On Thursday, Idaho officials announced the state was taking the extraordinary step of activating crisis standards of care statewide, giving hospitals the power to allocate — and potentially even deny — care based on the goal of who could benefit the most when faced with a shortage of resources such as ventilators, medications, or staff. The decision will impact both COVID and non-COVID patients in a health care system that is fraying.
Board revokes license of doctor who bucked COVID guidelines
The Oregon Medical Board has revoked the license of a doctor west of Salem for refusing to follow COVID-19 guidelines in his office, spreading misinformation about masks and over-prescribing opioids.
According to medical board documents, the board also fined Steven Arthur LaTulippe $10,000 on Sept. 2, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported.
LaTulippe sued the medical board in January after his license was suspended for placing patients in danger by disregarding COVID-19 mandates and asking patients to remove their masks.
LaTulippe’s family practice, South View Medical Arts in Dallas, did not properly screen patients and relied on the receptionist’s ability to visually gauge whether visitors were sick, according to the medical board documents.
State health officials confirm 4,132 new coronavirus cases
The state Department of Health (DOH) reported 4,132 new coronavirus cases and 57 new deaths on Friday.
The update brings the state's totals to 620,752 cases and 7,201 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. Thursday.
The new cases may include up to 280 duplicates, according to DOH.
In addition, 34,821 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the virus — 192 new hospitalizations. In King County, the state's most populous, state health officials have confirmed a total of 145,409 COVID-19 diagnoses and 1,821 deaths.
Since vaccinations began in mid-December, the state and health care providers have administered 8,835,249 doses and 56.5% 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 14,163 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.
Judge: Tennessee governor’s mask opt-out can endanger disabled kids
A federal judge has indefinitely blocked Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee from allowing parents to opt out of school mask requirements in Shelby County, saying Friday that evidence shows Lee’s order prevents children with health problems from safely going to school during the coronavirus pandemic.
U.S. District Judge Sheryl Lipman issued the preliminary injunction after parents of students with health conditions argued that the Republican governor’s executive order endangered their children and hurt their ability to attend in-person classes by allowing others to opt-out of a mask mandate.
“It is that unmasked presence that creates the danger to these Plaintiffs,” the judge wrote Friday.
How Fauci, NIH got ahead of the FDA and CDC in backing coronavirus boosters
In January — long before the first jabs of COVID-19 vaccine were even available to most Americans — scientists working under Dr. Anthony Fauci at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases were already thinking about potential booster shots.
A month later, they organized an international group of epidemiologists, virologists and biostatisticians to track and sequence COVID-19 variants. They called the elite group SAVE, or SARS-Cov-2 Variant Testing Pipeline. And by the end of March, the scientists at NIAID were experimenting with monkeys and reviewing early data from humans showing that booster shots provided a rapid increase in protective antibodies — even against dangerous variants.
Fauci, whose team has closely tracked research from Israel, the United Kingdom and elsewhere, said in an exclusive interview with KHN on Wednesday that “there’s very little doubt that the boosters will be beneficial.” But, he emphasized, the official process, which includes reviews by scientists at the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, needs to take place first.
“If they say, ‘We don’t think there’s enough data to do a booster,’ then so be it,” Fauci said. “I think that would be a mistake, to be honest with you.”
The support for an extra dose of COVID-19 vaccine clearly emerged, at least in part, from an NIH research dynamo, built by Fauci, that for months has been getting intricate real-time data about COVID-19 variants and how they respond to vaccine-produced immunity. The FDA and CDC were seeing much of the same data, but as regulatory agencies, they were more cautious.
‘I need surgery, and I don’t know when I am going to get it’: COVID’s impact on other vital health care
Emily Wynne needs a high-grade tumor in her left breast removed.
It will be the start of her breast cancer treatment, before the chemotherapy and the radiation.
But because her surgeon’s entire medical team has been called to COVID-19 wards instead, Wynne waits, along with other community members whose procedures have been postponed.
The fifth wave of coronavirus cases, largely preventable, has sent shock waves through the entire health care system.
Some patients are told there is no way for them to be operated on because there is no hospital bed for them to recover in after (for one patient, this meant being in an operating room, then being told to go home).
Many faith leaders say no to endorsing vaccine exemptions
As significant numbers of Americans seek religious exemptions from COVID-19 vaccine mandates, many faith leaders are saying: Not with our endorsement.
Leaders of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America said Thursday that while some people may have medical reasons for not receiving the vaccine, “there is no exemption in the Orthodox Church for Her faithful from any vaccination for religious reasons.”
The Holy Eparchial Synod of the nationwide archdiocese, representing the largest share of Eastern Orthodox people in the United States, urged members to “pay heed to competent medical authorities, and to avoid the false narratives utterly unfounded in science.”
“No clergy are to issue such religious exemption letters,” Greek Orthodox Archbishop Elpidophoros said, and any such letter “is not valid.”
Similarly, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America issued a recent statement encouraging vaccine use and saying that “there is no evident basis for religious exemption” in its own or the wider Lutheran tradition.
The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York laid out its own stance during the summer, saying that any priest issuing an exemption letter would be “acting in contradiction” to statements from Pope Francis that receiving the vaccine is morally acceptable and responsible.
FDA advisory panel rejects widespread Pfizer booster shots
An influential federal advisory panel overwhelmingly rejected a plan Friday to offer Pfizer booster shots against COVID-19 to most Americans, dealing a heavy blow to the Biden administration’s effort to shore up people’s protection amid the highly contagious delta variant.
The surprising vote by the committee of outside experts assembled by the Food and Drug Administration was 16-2, with members expressing frustration that Pfizer had provided little data on the safety of extra doses. Many also raised doubts about the value of mass boosters, rather than ones targeted to specific groups.
In an extraordinary move, both FDA leaders and the panel indicated they were likely to take a second vote Friday afternoon on recommending the booster shots for older Americans and other high-risk groups.
That would help salvage part of the White House’s campaign but would still be a huge step back from the sweeping plan proposed by administration a month ago to offer booster shots of both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to nearly all Americans eight months after they get their second dose.
U.S. to buy hundreds of millions more doses of Pfizer vaccine to donate to the world
The Biden administration is buying hundreds of millions more doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine to donate to the world, according to two people familiar with the deal, as the United States looks to increase efforts to share vaccines with the global population.
The announcement of the purchase is slated for early next week and timed to the United Nations General Assembly meeting, said the people acquainted with the deal, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the donation.
The White House declined to comment. Pfizer did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
As experts warn of brutal flu ‘twindemic,’ here are 8 things to know about getting your flu shot
Medical experts warn the approaching flu season could be particularly severe, renewing fears of a potential “twindemic,” with COVID-19 still spreading.
In preparation, health officials are urging the public to get vaccinated against the flu as soon as possible.
Influenza was at record low levels last year across the United States, mostly due to masking and social distance protocols amid the pandemic.
But that means many people weren’t exposed to the flu last season and didn’t have the opportunity to boost their immunity. At the same time, some pandemic restrictions have been loosened or dropped, but COVID-19 is still circulating, said Dr. Jacqueline Korpics, the Cook County Department of Public Health’s medical director for COVID-19.
“There is concern this will be an especially bad flu season due to loosening of mitigations, the fact that many of us were not exposed last year due to COVID mitigations and because influenza will be circulating simultaneously with COVID,” she said. “So individuals could potentially get both at the same time, which could lead to more severe illness and more deaths.”
Maskless San Francisco mayor bucks health order at nightclub
The mayor of San Francisco was spotted dancing and singing along to live music without a mask at Black Cat, an indoor nightclub, despite a strict order by her public health department that requires wearing masks at indoor establishments unless someone is actively eating or drinking.
Mayor London Breed, a Democrat, has promoted restrictive measures aimed at curbing the coronavirus.
Even runners in this weekend’s San Francisco Marathon will be required to wear masks in areas of the course that cross into National Park Service territory. The federal agency requires masks indoors and in crowded outdoor spaces.
“San Francisco’s rules have been very restrictive, and I don’t see her playing her part in that photo,” said Danielle Rabkin, owner of CrossFit Golden Gate gym and critic of the mayor’s policies.
Last year, Breed also was accused of hypocrisy when she attended a group dinner at the posh French Laundry restaurant in Napa in spite of strong recommendations by state and public health officials at the time to avoid gatherings with people outside the household.
Did you recently receive the COVID vaccine? We would like to hear from you
Did you recently decide to get vaccinated? What convinced you to get the shot?
Seattle Times reporter Paige Cornwell would like to speak with Washington residents who initially didn’t want to get a COVID-19 vaccine but ultimately changed their mind. If you were vaccinated within the past three months, she would like to hear from you. She can be reached at (206) 464-2530 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Slovenia starts mandatory vaccination for government workers
Slovenia’s government said on Friday that it would immediately start with compulsory COVID-19 vaccination for all government employees, stepping up anti-virus measures that had already sparked a major riot in the small Alpine state.
All government workers will need to receive one shot by Oct. 1 and a second a month later, unless they get the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
Earlier this week, the government introduced the compulsory display of COVID-19 passes proving vaccination in order to access private places of work as well as hospitals, gas stations, shopping malls, restaurants and other public places. That measure spawned major street riots in the capital, Ljubljana, on Wednesday.
How you can help America deal with its COVID-related coin circulation problem
There isn’t a coin shortage in the United States. There’s a coin circulation problem, according to the U.S. Coin Task Force.
The task force was formed in July 2020 and made up of members from 11 groups including the U.S. Mint, Federal Reserve, American Bankers Association and the National Association of Federal Credit Unions.
The task force found that the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the U.S. coin supply chain. People stopped spending cash in stores and turned to electronic spending, such as via your smartphone or computer.
There is approximately $48.5 billion in coin already in circulation, much of which is sitting dormant inside America’s 128 million households, the U.S. Coin Tax Force said.
“Returning coins into circulation by spending them, or depositing or exchanging them at banks or kiosks, will make a meaningful difference for the millions of American people and businesses that rely on coins to support cash transactions.”
Alabama councilman, 19, hospitalized with COVID after opposing mask mandate: ‘It feels terrible not to be able to breathe’
A teenage city council member in Decatur, Ala., who voted in April to end his city’s mask mandate landed in the hospital with the coronavirus Wednesday night after developing pneumonia and struggling to breathe.
“I am still shallow in breathing but my oxygen remains OK for now!” 19-year-old Hunter Pepper, who in August 2020 became the youngest person ever elected to the Decatur City Council, said on Facebook on Thursday. “Confirming last night after a ‘CT-Scan’ I am now shown to have ‘Covid Pneumonia’ which is absolutely terrible.”
Pepper, who is against vaccine and mask mandates, said he and his family began worrying after he developed symptoms, including difficulty breathing. He tested positive for the virus on Wednesday morning.
Lions, tigers at National Zoo test positive for COVID
Six lions and three tigers at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., have tested positive for the coronavirus.
Zoo officials said Friday that they got back results showing the animals — African lions, a Sumatran tiger and two Amur tigers — tested “presumptive positive” for the coronavirus.
The big cats are displaying symptoms of the virus, including nasal discharge and coughing. They live in groups with their specific species and are not being separated at this time, officials said.
Zoo officials said no other animals are “showing any signs of infection.”
FDA panel is first key test for Biden COVID-19 booster plan
The Biden administration’s embattled plan to dispense COVID-19 booster shots to most Americans faced its first major hurdle Friday as a government advisory panel met to decide whether to endorse extra doses of the Pfizer vaccine.
Scientists inside and outside the government have been divided in recent days over the need for boosters and who should get them, and the World Health Organization has strongly objected to rich nations giving a third round of shots when poor countries don’t have enough vaccine for their first.
The panel, made up of outside experts who advise the Food and Drug Administration, are scheduled to vote on one basic question: Does the evidence show that a Pfizer booster would be safe and effective for people 16 and older? In the event of a yes vote, the FDA is expected to quickly approve boosters for Pfizer’s shot.
But that is just one step in the process. The more thorny question of who should get the shots and when will be debated next week by advisers to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC generally adopts the recommendations of the group, which sets policy for U.S. vaccination campaigns.
She demanded a hospital treat her husband’s COVID-19 with ivermectin — a judge said no
After her husband was infected with the coronavirus and entered an intensive care unit this month, Angela Underwood pushed the Louisville, Kentucky, hospital that was treating him to administer ivermectin, the deworming drug some people have used to treat or prevent COVID-19 in recent months.
She sued Norton Brownsboro Hospital after it allegedly refused to administer the treatment to Lonnie Underwood, 58, without a court order and supervision by a doctor with the authority to do so.
“As a Registered Nurse, I demand my husband be administered ivermectin whether by a Norton physician or another healthcare provider of my choosing including myself if necessary,” Angela Underwood wrote in the complaint filed last week, asking the court to designate the unproven treatment as “medically indicated.”
Florida surpasses 50K COVID deaths after battling delta wave
Florida surpassed 50,000 coronavirus deaths since the pandemic began, health officials reported Thursday, with more than one fourth of those succumbing this summer as the state battled a fierce surge in infections fueled by the delta variant.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tallied 50,811 deaths after adding more than 1,500 COVID-19 deaths provided Thursday by the state’s health department. Those reported deaths occurred over various dates in recent weeks.
Florida has the 11th worst per-capita death rate among the 50 states, the CDC says. New Jersey, Mississippi and New York have had the worst, but Florida has risen from the 17th spot in the past two weeks.
Overall, about one in every 400 Florida residents who were alive in March 2020 has since died of COVID-19. Only cancer and heart disease have killed more Floridians during that period, according to state health department statistics. Those have each killed about 70,000 Floridians.
NYC restaurant hostess attacked over vaccine status request
A hostess at a popular New York City restaurant was assaulted by three women from Texas after she asked for proof they had been vaccinated against COVID-19, police said.
The three women punched the 24-year-old hostess at Carmine’s on the upper west side repeatedly and broke her necklace Thursday afternoon after she asked for proof of vaccination, which is required to dine inside at a restaurant in New York City, police said in a news release.
The three women were arrested on charges of misdemeanor assault and criminal mischief. They were given desk appearance tickets and ordered to appear in court Oct. 5.
Catch up on the past 24 hours
Will Americans get booster shots? FDA advisers will decide today whether to recommend them for Pfizer's vaccine, and the debate is a loud one.
You'll soon have to show proof of coronavirus vaccination or a recent negative test if you're going to a King County restaurant, movie theater or gym, among other places. The new order comes as projections show COVID-19 cases worsening in the months ahead. Our Q&A answers how you'll need to show that information, who's exempt and more.
“We have a little girl here, and she doesn’t have her people.” An 8-year-old Moses Lake girl was orphaned after her unvaccinated family visited a county fair and her parents, both in their 30s, came down with COVID-19. Suddenly without them, Lillie flew to San Diego this week to start a new life with her aunt and uncle.
Experts are warning of a brutal flu season ahead, renewing worries about a potential "twindemic." Here are eight things to know about getting your flu shot.
Hawaii told tourists to stay away, and they appear to have listened (kind of). Tourism officials are standing by the governor's plea, but others who depend on tourists have a different message about COVID-19 safety — and respect.
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