Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Monday, September 27, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.
A Washington State Patrol trooper credited with a key role in the investigation into a deadly 2017 Amtrak derailment in DuPont, Pierce County, has died from COVID-19 contracted while on the job, the agency said.
Eric Gunderson, 38, a 16-year patrol veteran and accident reconstruction expert, died Sunday morning. Officials did not say whether he had been vaccinated, saying they were focused for the moment on supporting his family, including his wife and two young children.
Meanwhile, in Norway, police reported dozens of disturbances and violent clashes as people flooded streets, bars and restaurants to celebrate the end of COVID-19 restrictions that lasted more than a year.
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.
As COVID-19 mandate looms, 68% of Washington state workers verified as vaccinated
OLYMPIA — More than two-thirds of Washington workers subject to Gov. Jay Inslee’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate have gotten their shots, according to state data.
Meanwhile, state agencies have granted nearly 800 accommodations to state workers whose religious or medical exemptions from the mandate were approved. The accommodations allow workers to avoid getting fired for not being vaccinated, and allow them to work in a role that does not put others at potential risk.
The figures released Monday by the Office of Financial Management come a week before a crucial deadline for Inslee’s mandate that state workers get their shots or lose their jobs.
By Oct. 4, most workers must show that they have gotten all their shots in order to be considered fully vaccinated by Oct. 18.
Seattle, King County to reopen vaccine clinics to provide booster shots
Seattle and King County will reopen government-led vaccination clinics to help provide booster shots for those who are newly eligible, officials announced Monday.
King County said it has already reopened or expanded capacity at 17 vaccination sites across the county and began providing booster shots last weekend.
Seattle will open three additional vaccination sites in October, the city announced. The sites will also provide initial vaccines to those not yet fully vaccinated.
Vaccines, which are free and do not require health insurance, continue to be available at pharmacies, primary care clinics, community health centers and other health care facilities throughout the region.
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends a vaccine booster shot for anyone 65 years or older who received the Pfizer vaccine at least six months ago. The CDC also recommends a booster shot for recipients of the Pfizer vaccine who live in long-term care facilities and people 50 to 64 years old who have underlying medical conditions.
State Dept. spokesman tests positive for COVID-19 after UNGA
State Department spokesman Ned Price has tested positive for COVID-19 and will be self-quarantining for the next 10 days.
Price, who is vaccinated, said he tested positive for coronavirus on Monday morning after returning from New York, where he attended the annual UN General Assembly meeting with Secretary of State Antony Blinken last week. Price said his symptoms were relatively mild.
“After experiencing symptoms for the first time this morning, I tested positive for COVID-19 shortly thereafter, & will now quarantine for the next 10 days,” Price said in a tweet. “I’m feeling under the weather but am grateful for the protection from severe illness offered by safe and effective vaccines.”
Jalina Porter, a deputy State Department spokesperson, said Blinken tested negative for COVID on Monday morning.
Cuba launches commercial exports of COVID-19 vaccines
Cuba has begun commercial exports of its homegrown COVID-19 vaccines, sending shipments of the three-dose Abdala vaccine to Vietnam and Venezuela.
President Miguel Díaz-Canel announced the arrival in Vietnam on his Twitter feed Sunday. The official Cubadebate news website said the shipment included 900,000 doses purchased by Hanoi and 150,000 more donated by Cuba.
Vietnam’s President Nguyen Xuan Phuc visited Cuba last week and toured the laboratory that produces the vaccine, announcing an agreement to buy at least 5 million doses.
Cuba’s Center of Genetic Immunology and Biotechnology also announced that initial shipments of the Abdala shots were sent to Venezuela over the weekend.
State health officials confirm 2,421 new coronavirus cases
The state Department of Health (DOH) reported 2,421 new coronavirus cases and 34 new deaths on Monday.
The update brings the state's totals to 649,284 cases and 7,528 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. Sunday. Tallies may be higher earlier in the week because new state data isn’t reported on the weekends.
In addition, 36,213 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the virus — 413 new hospitalizations. In King County, the state's most populous, state health officials have confirmed a total of 150,197 COVID-19 diagnoses and 8,467 deaths.
Since vaccinations began in mid-December, the state and health care providers have administered 8,983,222 doses and 57.5% 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 14,733 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.
COVID hospitalizations continue to drop, but optimism still measured: ‘I just don’t know what the winter will bring’
While COVID-19 hospitalizations continue to drop in Washington, state hospital leaders said Monday they’re wary of feeling too optimistic because of so much uncertainty about what the pandemic — and flu season — will bring this winter.
Infection and hospital admission rates “look better,” Cassie Sauer, CEO of the Washington State Hospital Association, said during a weekly news briefing. While hospitalizations are still on the decline, the numbers remain “really high,” Sauer said.
Deaths continue to rise — an expected trend that often comes two to four weeks after a surge of hospitalizations, she said. She added Monday morning that about 30 Washingtonians are dying of COVID-19 per day.
As of two weeks ago, the state Department of Health’s most recent, complete COVID-19 data, Washington’s average hospitalization rate was about 14.7 admissions per 100,000 people, down from 17.7 admissions per 100,000 people in late August.
Alabama trying to use COVID relief funds for new prisons
Facing a Justice Department lawsuit over Alabama’s notoriously violent prisons, state lawmakers on Monday began a special session on a $1.3 billion construction plan that would use federal pandemic relief funds to pay part of the cost of building massive new lockups.
Gov. Kay Ivey has touted the plan to build three new prisons and renovate others as a partial solution to the state’s longstanding troubles in its prison system. The proposal would tap up to $400 million from the state’s $2.2 billion share of American Rescue Plan funds to help pay for the construction.
“I am pleased and extremely hopeful that we are finally positioned to address our state’s prison infrastructure challenges,” the Republican governor said in a statement last week. “While this issue was many years in the making, we stand united to provide an Alabama solution to this Alabama problem.”
But critics of the plan say the state’s prison problems go beyond building conditions and that the state should not be using pandemic relief dollars to build prisons.
Hospitals fear staffing shortages as vaccine deadlines loom
Hospitals and nursing homes around the country are bracing for worsening staff shortages as state deadlines arrive for health care workers to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
With such ultimatums taking effect this week in states like New York, California, Rhode Island and Connecticut, the fear is that some employees will quit or let themselves be fired or suspended rather than get the vaccine.
“How this is going to play out, we don’t know. We are concerned about how it will exacerbate an already quite serious staffing problem,” said California Hospital Association spokesperson Jan Emerson-Shea, adding that the organization “absolutely” supports the state’s vaccination requirement.
New York health care employees had until the end of the day Monday to get at least one dose, but some hospitals had already begun suspending or otherwise taking action against holdouts.
Yemen uses UN speech to call for more COVID-19 vaccines
The top diplomat of Yemen’s internationally recognized government said Monday his conflict-torn country needs millions more coronavirus vaccines to ensure some of the world’s poorest are not left behind.
In a speech to the United Nations General Assembly, Ahmed Awad Bin Mubarak said the roughly 1 million doses Yemen was given are not enough to vaccinate even the most vulnerable portions of its population.
Yemen has a long way to go toward vaccinating the majority of its some 30 million people, most of whom are facing multiple humanitarian crises, including poverty, hunger and poor access to adequately run hospitals.
Yemen’s government has received just roughly 500,000 doses so far this year through the COVAX initiative, and the rest through direct donations from other countries.
For many families, the countdown has begun to coronavirus vaccines for younger children
For almost a year, Whitney Kuhn has been trying to escape the grip of long-haul symptoms after contracting COVID-19. And she has not stopped worrying about how to protect her 10-year-old son, Tyler, from the illness she experienced.
She has been too anxious to go on family vacations, visit relatives for the holidays or even take Tyler to the grocery store. She has pulled him from basketball – his favorite sport – and other extracurriculars. And when he had to return to school, she could only hope his classmates wore their masks the right way.
The stay-at-home mom and trained nurse from Pinehurst, N.C., said her head has been on a swivel, alert to every cough and sneeze: “‘Are you feeling OK? Do you have a headache? Can you smell your food?’ I try to be a little more surreptitious about it so it doesn’t scare him, but I do watch him.”
Vaccination deadline arrives for NY healthcare workers
As the deadline closed in for hospital and nursing home workers in New York state to be vaccinated against COVID-19, Gov. Kathy Hochul made an 11th-hour plea to holdout health care workers to get inoculated.
“To those who have not yet made that decision, please do the right thing,” Hochul said at a press briefing. “A lot of your employers are anxious to just give you the jab in the arm and say you’re part of the family, we need your help to continue on.”
Hospitals and nursing homes braced for the prospect of severe staff shortages fueled by workers getting suspended or fired for refusing to be inoculated. With thousands of workers still thought to be holding out, administrators prepared contingency plans that included cutting back on noncritical services and limiting admissions at nursing homes.
Hochul said she will sign an executive order that will allow her to call in medically trained National Guard members and retirees, or vaccinated workers from outside the state, to fill any gaps. The governor has held firm on the mandate in the face of pleas to delay it and multiple lawsuits challenging its constitutionality.
Biden getting COVID-19 booster shot after authorization
President Joe Biden will receive his COVID-19 booster shot on Monday, days after federal regulators recommended a third dose of the Pfizer vaccine for Americans age 65 or older and approved them for others with preexisting medical conditions and high-risk work environments.
The White House said Biden, 78, would deliver remarks and receive the additional dose at 1 p.m. Monday.
Biden got his first shot on Dec. 21 and his second dose three weeks later, on Jan. 11, along with his wife, Jill Biden. It was not immediately clear whether the first lady, who’s 70, would also receive the booster dose on Monday.
Speaking on Friday after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration authorized the Pfizer booster, Biden told reporters, “I’ll be getting my booster shot. It’s hard to acknowledge I’m over 65, but I’ll be getting my booster shot. ”
UK’s Johnson finally agrees to meet COVID-bereaved group
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will on Tuesday finally meet with members of the COVID-19 Bereaved Families for Justice campaigning group, who for more than a year have sharply criticized his handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
Johnson’s Downing Street office confirmed Monday that the prime minister will hold a “private meeting” with members of the group.
At the meeting, the group said family members will tell the stories of how their loved ones caught the virus and reiterate their calls for a statutory inquiry into the pandemic to start soon.
The group, which has requested a meeting with Johnson on at least eight occasions, has asked for it to take place outside and that social distancing is observed — even though all restrictions on social contact have been lifted.
Why you might not return to the office until 2022
Uber executives recently huddled on a nighttime video call to make a difficult decision. They considered whether the ride-hailing company should join a growing list of companies once again delaying their return-to-office dates. Soon after, they announced that Uber would fully reopen its offices on Jan. 10, postponed from Oct. 25.
“I’ve been in HR for 30 years, and this is probably the hardest crisis I’ve had to deal with,” said Laura Faith, the senior director of people experience and operations at Uber. “This really is about life or death and health and safety.”
In the nearly 18 months since the COVID-19 pandemic first forced companies to require that employees work from home, the date companies have planned to bring workers back to offices has changed again and again. First it was January, a full year after the coronavirus first surfaced in China. January slipped to July, as tens of millions of people lined up across America to be vaccinated.
But then the surge of vaccinations peaked, and the highly contagious delta variant of the coronavirus drove another spike in cases. For many companies, September became the new July.
Staten Island crowd defies vaccine mandate by storming mall food court, video shows
As customers enjoyed their Saturday afternoon at Staten Island Mall and prepared to enjoy their meals, a raucous, maskless crowd of dozens opposing New York City’s indoor vaccination mandate stormed into the mall while chanting, “U-S-A!”
Their goal: to eat at the food court without showing proof of vaccination.
“Everybody go get food and eat. That is what we’re here to do!” one woman said to the group, according to a video from freelance journalist Oliya Scootercaster. “We’re going to meet over there and go into the food court area and sit our butts down and stay as long as we like!”
Videos posted to social media show the protesters marching into Staten Island Mall in defiance of the city’s indoor dining vaccination mandate. Although people are not required to show proof of vaccination or wear masks inside the mall, they do need to show proof of immunization to eat at the food court. Some chanted, “My body, my choice,” while others recited the Pledge of Allegiance.
Catch up on the past 24 hours
COVID-19 has killed a Washington State Patrol trooper whose work was key to the investigation of a deadly Amtrak train derailment in Pierce County in 2017. Trooper Eric Gunderson, 38, died yesterday after contracting the virus while on the job, the agency says.
A congressman from Washington state proposed a "Masks Off Act" for schools — and 29% of COVID-19 cases in his area are among schoolchildren, columnist Danny Westneat writes. He also has an update to another culture war story out of Lopez Island.
Visitors to one Caribbean island find themselves in an alternate reality where the coronavirus doesn't seem to exist and masks aren't needed. But the unusual price they pay to join the audacious island's 5,000-person bubble isn't for everyone.
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