From Los Angeles and Chicago to Boston and New York, central business districts find themselves deserted in the seventh month of a pandemic that has killed more than 200,000 Americans and left millions unemployed. And as hopes of a quick recovery sputter, fear is rising that a long-term collapse of downtown economies could soon become irreversible, including in the nation’s capital, The Washington Post reports.
“We’ve heard all about the gender gap in politics. Call this the coronavirus gap, or maybe an empathy gap,” wrote Seattle Times columnist Danny Westneat about a new poll that found there was a 30-point difference between women and men’s approval ratings of Gov. Jay Inslee’s handling of the pandemic.
The number of coronavirus tests conducted in the state has surpassed 1.8 million, with nearly 18,000 more tests reported Thursday compared to Wednesday, according to data released Friday by the state Department of Health (DOH). Through Thursday night, DOH reported that there have been 85,226 confirmed cases in the state and 2,100 people have died since the pandemic began.
Throughout Saturday, on this page, we’ll post updates on the outbreak and its effects on the Seattle area, the Pacific Northwest and the world. Updates from Friday are here, and all our coronavirus coverage can be found here.
Thousands of Israelis protest in Jerusalem, despite lockdown
Thousands of Israelis gathered outside the official residence of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday night to demand his resignation, pressing ahead with weeks of protests against the embattled Israeli leader despite a strict new lockdown order.
With Israel facing one of the world’s worst coronavirus outbreaks, the tough lockdown rules went into effect Friday, closing many businesses, banning large gatherings and ordering people to stay close to home. But Israel’s Knesset, or parliament, was unable to agree on proposed legislation that would ban the right to protest.
Netanyahu has pushed hard for a ban on the demonstrations, claiming they pose a threat to public safety, and he has threatened to declare a state of emergency to halt the unrest. But his opponents accuse him of using the health crisis as a pretext to put a halt to weeks of demonstrations against him.
Coronavirus Survey Halted After Workers Faced Racial Slurs, Officials Say
A coronavirus survey in Minnesota was stopped after multiple cases of residents “intimidating and shouting racial and ethnic slurs” at public health workers who had been going door to door, the state Department of Health said.
In an episode in Eitzen, Minnesota, a city of 250 people about 170 miles southeast of Minneapolis along the border with Iowa, a team of workers was “surrounded by three men who refused to accept their identification as public health workers,” Dan Huff, an assistant commissioner at the Minnesota Health Department, said in a statement.
One of the men was armed and the men used “racial epithets” during the confrontation, he said.
On Capitol Hill, a choir carries on through the pandemic
There’s something about being in an empty church that doesn’t feel truly empty.
“This is a very live space right now,” says Jason Anderson, director of the Compline Choir at St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle. “We get a lot of reverb.”
The Compline Choir is a men’s group practicing an ancient tradition of a sung prayer service. Anderson has kept it going every Sunday through the coronavirus pandemic.
“It’s a mix of duty and appreciation for continuing the tradition,” he said. And, he added, a huge amount of reading, studying and anxiety about gathering singers.
Washington reports 85,830 coronavirus cases
The state Department of Health (DOH) reported 604 new coronavirus cases on Saturday, based on data through Friday night. The state no longer reports new deaths on weekends.
The total number of diagnoses has climbed to 85,830, including 2,100 deaths. Hospitalizations from the virus that causes the COVID-19 disease rose to 7,431, 19 more than a day earlier, the data showed.
Over 1.82 million coronavirus tests have been conducted in Washington. Nearly 37% of the 2,100 deaths reported state-wide were in King County.
Airlines say flying is safe, but recent studies reveal potential for superspreader coronavirus disaster
How risky is it to fly during the coronavirus pandemic?
For clues, consider the travel histories of two of the country’s top infectious disease experts, each with parents on the other side of the country. One hasn’t flown since January when the new coronavirus was just emerging as a global threat.
The other just flew back to San Francisco after visiting his 90-year-old father in Florida last month — wearing a face shield and removing his medical-grade N-95 respirator mask for just 30 seconds to chug some water and pretzels — and “felt pretty safe” to see everyone else wearing masks as well.
“If the virus was able to get to me through that, it deserves it,” said Dr. Bob Wachter, chair of UC San Francisco’s Department of Medicine. “I was being as careful as I could.”
Major U.S. airlines say there has not been a single confirmed case of coronavirus transmitted on a domestic flight. A pair of recent studies, however, shed new light on the potential for a superspreading disaster aboard aircraft, even though the findings were based on long, overseas flights in the spring before mask-wearing was widespread.
Maine lobster business salvaged its summer despite pandemic
Maine’s lobster fishermen braced for a difficult summer this year because of the coronavirus pandemic, but then the unexpected happened. They kept catching lobsters, and people kept buying them.
The pandemic has posed significant challenges for the state’s lobster fishery, which is the nation’s largest, but members of the industry reported a steady catch and reasonable prices at the docks. Prices for consumers and wholesalers were low in the early part of the summer but picked up in August to be about on par with a typical summer.
How Amazon conquered Italy in the pandemic
Amazon has been one of the biggest winners in the pandemic as people in its most established markets — the United States, Germany and Britain — have flocked to it to buy everything from toilet paper to board games. What has been less noticed is that people in countries that had traditionally resisted the e-commerce giant are now also falling into its grasp after retail stores shut down for months because of the coronavirus.
The shift has been particularly pronounced in Italy, which was one of the first countries hard hit by the virus. Italians have traditionally preferred to shop in stores and pay cash. But after the government imposed Europe’s first nationwide virus lockdown, Italians began buying items online in record numbers.
Black doctors want to vet coronavirus vaccine process, worried about mistrust from years of medical racism
As the Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention repeatedly assure the public that the vaccine for the novel coronavirus will be safe, indications that the review process may be undercut by politics has turned off people in minority communities to getting the vaccine when it becomes available — worrying physicians that communities disproportionately devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic are most at risk of being left out of immunization efforts.
To assuage fears within minority communities, a panel of Black doctors will vet the federal review of companies’ vaccines, said Leon McDougle, president of the National Medical Association (NMA), the largest and oldest group of Black physicians in the country.
Pandemic could widen the gender gap at work
As if working mothers did not have enough to worry about, experts are now sounding the alarm that progress toward gender equality may be the latest in a long list of casualties of the coronavirus pandemic.
Substantial research has shown that most professional gender gaps are in fact motherhood gaps; women without children are much closer to parity with men when it comes to salaries and promotions, but mothers pay a large career penalty.
Women tend to take on more of the burdens of caring for children and the family. To go to work, they need someone to help with that care. But fathers have been slow to change their behavior. And without subsidies, private child care can be prohibitively expensive.
Workplaces already tend to penalize women who choose to work fewer hours or need more flexibility, and that, too, is proving to be exacerbated in the pandemic.
India's hospitals face oxygen shortage as COVID-19 cases soar
India has added more coronavirus cases in the last month than any country during the pandemic. While much of the focus was on ventilators around the world during the earlier phase of the outbreak, the surge in India is now intensifying overall demand for oxygen and exposing the weak points in the system for getting it to hospitals.
Millions of unintended pregnancies could result from pandemic blocking women and girls from reproductive care
Argentina’s president was expected to propose a landmark law to decriminalize abortion, setting a new standard for Latin America. Then the coronavirus hit. The release date was delayed, indefinitely.
Ruth Zurbiggen, a reproductive rights activist with the group Socorristas en Red, felt “pain and rage.” But the group’s work continued — efforts, she said, made even more pressing as the pandemic took center stage.
This spring, Socorristas en Red’s more than 500 members shifted to working virtually: By phone and online, they advised women about medical abortions and connected them with doctors who would help. Between March and June, they helped more than 6,000 women navigate the abortion process, nearly half as many as in all of 2019.
Across the globe, the pandemic has made it harder for women and girls to access reproductive services, as clinics close and barriers to medical care rise. The United Nations warned that millions of unintended pregnancies could result, with some 47 million women potentially cut off from modern contraception.
Report warns crumbling child care industry will slow economic recovery in Washington state
Without child care, there can be no economic recovery from the pandemic.
Those are the dire consequences that can transpire if the government doesn’t give more financial assistance to U.S. child care providers, including those in Washington state, a new report warns.
Since July, nationwide, 40% of child care centers and 27% of home-based child care providers closed, according to research compiled by Child Care Aware of America, a national child care advocacy organization. The causes, Child Care Aware found, were dropping attendance in child care facilities and extra costs associated with the pandemic.
The group’s Washington chapter estimates 16% of the state’s 5,000-plus licensed child care providers were closed as of Sept. 21. With their closure went the combined capacity to serve more than 38,000 kids. Those figures are a slight improvement over late July numbers, when the state estimated that about 19% had been closed.
At UN, India vows to help produce virus vaccine for world
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi pledged to help the world produce and deliver potential coronavirus vaccines while making no mention Saturday of the heavy toll the pandemic has taken on his own country, where the enormous population has suffered among the highest numbers of cases and deaths in the world.
India’s vaccine production and delivery capacity will be used to help all humanity in fighting this crisis,” Modi said, adding that his country would also help others boost their capacity to provide cold storage for the potential inoculations.
India, the world’s second-most populous country, has reported over 93,000 deaths from COVID-19, fewer only than the U.S. and Brazil, according to figures collected by Johns Hopkins University. India also is behind only the U.S. in number of cases, with 5.9 million reported so far. However, India’s daily number of new cases has been declining, with recoveries exceeding reported new cases this week.
Italy’s COVID-19 ‘Patient No. 1’ joins relay race as sign of hope
Italy’s coronavirus “Patient No. 1,” whose case confirmed one of the world’s deadliest outbreaks was underway, is taking part in a 180-kilometer (112-mile) relay race as a sign of hope after he himself recovered from weeks in intensive care.
Mattia Maestri, a 38-year-old Unilever manager, was suited up Saturday for the start of the two-day race between Italy’s first two virus hot spots. It began in Codogno, south of Milan, where Maestri tested positive Feb. 21, and was ending Sunday in Vo’Euganeo, where Italy’s first official COVID-19 death was recorded the same day.
The latest pandemic shortage? Desks
First it was toilet paper. Disinfectant wipes. Beans. Coins. Computers. Now, desks are in short supply because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Millions of kids logging onto virtual school this fall has parents scrambling to find furniture for them. It’s a small indignity compared with the kids who don’t even have home internet or computers, but it’s a hassle for parents lucky enough to have the space and money to afford desks just the same.
At the same time, some people are realizing they’ll be working from home for the long haul and require new furniture. To find desks, people are scouring stores near and far and even making their own.
Boris Johnson urges world leaders to unite against COVID-19
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Saturday that the coronavirus pandemic has frayed the bonds between nations, and urged world leaders to unite against the “common foe” of COVID-19.
Johnson, who made the remarks in a prerecorded speech to the United Nations General Assembly, said that, nine months into the pandemic, “the very notion of the international community looks tattered.”
New York logs more than 1,000 daily COVID-19 cases
More than 1,000 New Yorkers tested positive for COVID-19 in a single day Friday, marking the first time since June 5 the state has seen a daily number that high.
The number of positive tests reported daily in the state has been steadily inching up in recent weeks, a trend possibly related to increasing numbers of businesses reopening, college campuses reopening and children returning to school. Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Saturday there were 1,005 positive cases tallied on the previous day out of 99,953 tests, for a 1% positive rate.
Colleges struggle to salvage semester amid outbreaks
Colleges across the country are struggling to salvage the fall semester amid skyrocketing coronavirus cases, entire dorm complexes and frat houses under quarantine, and flaring tensions with local community leaders over the spread of the disease.
Many major universities are determined to forge ahead despite warning signs, as evidenced by the expanding slate of college football games occurring Saturday. The football-obsessed SEC begins its season with fans in stadiums. Several teams in other leagues have had to postpone games because of outbreaks among players and staff.
Institutions across the nation saw spikes of thousands of cases days after opening their doors in the last month, driven by students socializing with little or no social distancing. School and community leaders have tried to rein in the virus by closing bars, suspending students, adding mask requirements, and toggling between in-person and online instruction as case numbers rise and fall.
Employers can require workers to get a COVID-19 vaccine. Will it come to that?
Here’s one way to get a lot more people to take a vaccine: require it as a condition of employment.
Private companies can adopt that policy, which could have a big impact on the uptake of the new COVID-19 vaccines under rapid development. But such a move would be controversial.
The risk of a potential backlash can be seen in the vocal reaction against mask mandates coming from some corners. Given the current politics, imagine the potential opposition to requiring a coronavirus vaccine in order to come to the workplace.
Outdoor dining during COVID is here to stay
We usually don’t get excited about patios when the calendar bumps into pumpkin season. But after a week of orange, Mordor skies, a forecast of clouds and drizzle sounds like sunny, shorts-and-sandals weather to us. We get to breathe fresh air again.
Fall has arrived, but the plastic chairs and patio furniture that restaurants usually mothball around this time of the year are staying put for a while. Restaurants are doubling down with awnings and heat lamps to weather the wet autumn, and many are expected to keep their outdoor dining areas going through midwinter.
There are streeteries, parklets and dining decks in just about every Seattle neighborhood. Picnic tables have been plopped in alleyways and parking lots. Even secondary streets have closed down and been remade into “plazas” or outdoor dining areas around Ballard and other Seattle neighborhoods; blocks are lined with sidewalk cafes, resembling Paris’s Boulevard Saint-Germain. Of course, the reality is less romantic than that.
French virus testing labs under strain amid resurgent demand
France’s COVID-19 resurgence is palpable in the buzzing biology lab of this public hospital in the Paris suburb of Argenteuil.
Tube after tube arrive with new nasal swabs, now about 240 per day. And the lab director struggles to obtain enough reagents to keep up with escalating demand.
More than 1 million of France’s 67 million people took a virus test over the past week, putting labs like this under growing strain. Getting a virus test in Paris this month has involved long waits, both to be tested and to receive the result, complicating authorities’ efforts to trace the epidemic in real time.
Thousands protest COVID-19 restrictions in central London
Police moved into London’s Trafalgar Square on Saturday afternoon to break up a protest against restrictions imposed to slow the spread of COVID-19 after demonstrators ignored warnings to observe social distancing rules.
Thousands of people, most of whom weren’t wearing masks, crowded into the iconic square to hear speakers who criticized government-imposed restrictions as an overreaction to the pandemic that needlessly restricted the public’s human rights and freedom of expression.
China pushes emergency use of COVID vaccine despite concerns
After the first shot, he had no reaction. But Kan Chai felt woozy following the second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine approved for emergency use in China.
“When I was driving on the road, I suddenly felt a bit dizzy, as if I was driving drunk,” the popular writer and columnist recounted in a webinar earlier this month. “So I specially found a place to stop the car, rest a bit and then I felt better.”
His is a rare account from the hundreds of thousands of people who have been given Chinese vaccines, before final regulatory approval for general use. It’s an unusual move that raises ethical and safety questions, as companies and governments worldwide race to develop a vaccine that will stop the spread of the coronavirus.
Chinese companies earlier drew attention for giving the vaccine to their top executives and leading researchers before human trials to test their safety and efficacy had even begun. In recent months, they have injected a far larger number under an emergency use designation approved in June, and that number appears poised to rise.
Tiny airborne particles may pose a big coronavirus problem
At a University of Maryland lab, people infected with the new coronavirus take turns sitting in a chair and putting their faces into the big end of a large cone. They recite the alphabet and sing or just sit quietly for a half hour. Sometimes they cough.
The cone sucks up everything that comes out of their mouths and noses. It’s part of a device called “Gesundheit II” that is helping scientists study a big question: Just how does the virus that causes COVID-19 spread from one person to another?
It clearly hitchhikes on small liquid particles sprayed out by an infected person. People expel particles while coughing, sneezing, singing, shouting, talking and even breathing. But the drops come in a wide range of sizes, and scientists are trying to pin down how risky the various kinds are.
The answer affects what we should all be doing to avoid getting sick. That’s why it was thrust into headlines a few days ago when a U.S. health agency appeared to have shifted its position on the issue, but later said it had published new language in error.
The recommendation to stay at least 6 feet (2 meters) apart — some authorities cite about half that distance — is based on the idea that larger particles fall to the ground before they can travel very far. They are like the droplets in a spritz of a window cleaner, and they can infect somebody by landing on their nose, mouth or eyes, or maybe being inhaled.
But some scientists are now focusing on tinier particles, the ones that spread more like cigarette smoke. Those are carried by wisps of air and even upward drafts caused by the warmth of our bodies. They can linger in the air for minutes to hours, spreading throughout a room and build up if ventilation is poor.
How some Washington nonprofits are trying to make pandemic ‘learning pods’ accessible for all
About 1 million Washington students are learning remotely this year, and educators worry the pandemic will exacerbate an already steep academic divide between the haves and have-nots. Families who can afford to do so are hiring tutors and forming small learning communities, also known as pandemic pods or microschools, to keep their kids on track. Parents who work from home are playing teaching assistant and solving tech problems on the fly.
But there are thousands of parents who must leave the house every day to work, who need child care, don’t have internet access or the tech skills needed to solve tricky computer problems, perhaps also struggle with English. These parents are disproportionately people of color. What happens to their children?
WATCH: Peace Arch Park is the one place this cross-border couple could marry during COVID
The words on a handmade sign spoke eloquently: “Love is not tourism.”
Last Sunday, a wedding — one of many — took place at busy Peace Arch Historical State Park in Blaine, uniting a couple who had been separated by a closed border for more than six months. Allyssa Howard drove north from the Everett area, where she has lived for the past four years; Sara Morosan came from her home in Chilliwack, British Columbia, an 80-minute drive east of Vancouver. Both wore lace dresses — one black, one white — with black lace-up boots; both of their faces glowed.
Howard and Morosan are just one of many cross-border couples whose plans for a life together have been affected by new pandemic regulations — and who came together, appropriately, at the Peace Arch. The park is unique along the U.S.-Canada border, in that it is a place where people from either side of the border can gather together. The border itself officially closed to nonessential travel in March (essentially banning tourism), and the Canadian side of the park closed in June. But the gatherings at the Peace Arch have continued; a peaceful loophole.
And the weddings there have multiplied. “It’s happening every day, literally dozens of couples at the border, people from around the country,” said Len Saunders, an immigration attorney in the border town of Blaine. He noted that he’s doing a “huge business in spousal green cards — never in this capacity before.”
Social media and COVID shaming make a toxic combination
In the spring, Rick Rose drew the wrath of strangers after he practically shouted on Facebook that he wasn’t buying a face mask. Two months later, he contracted COVID-19 — and, he posted, he was struggling to breathe. Days later, on July 4, he was dead.
That post, among the Ohio man’s final public words on Facebook, attracted attention in the form of more than 3,100 “haha” laughing face emoji and a torrent of criticism from strangers.
“If they would have known him, they would have loved him like everybody else did,” says Tina Heschel, mother of the 37-year-old Rose. She says she’s “tired of all the hate.”
“I just want him to rest,” she says.
Shaming people who get sick or don’t follow the rules in a public health crisis has been a thing since well before coronavirus, researchers say. But the warp speed and reach of social media in the pandemic era gives the practice an aggressive new dimension.
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