Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Tuesday, Sept. 1, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.
South King County will have two more coronavirus testing sites, in Auburn and Renton, shoring up access in an area where fewer tests per capita were being performed compared to Seattle.
These sites will use nasal swabs, which have been the most common method of diagnostic testing in King County, but there is hope for people who find that method uncomfortable: two new studies suggest tests that use samples of saliva are about as reliable as those using samples from the back of the nasal cavity.
While researchers continue to work on potential vaccines for the novel coronavirus, the White House has begun to promote a “herd immunity” strategy, which would deliberately allow the virus to spread in the hopes that people would build up immunity. Scientists have widely criticized this idea because not enough is known about how much immunity people with the virus develop, or how long it might last, and thousands who are vulnerable to severe COVID-19 symptoms would likely die along the way.
Throughout Tuesday, on this page, we’ll be posting updates on the outbreak and its effects on the Seattle area, the Pacific Northwest and the world. Updates from Monday can be found here, and all our coronavirus coverage can be found here.
Feds to ship fast COVID-19 tests to assisted living sites
WASHINGTON — A federal official said Tuesday the government plans to ship rapid coronavirus tests to assisted living facilities, moving to fill a testing gap for older adults who don’t need the constant attention of a nursing home.
Health and Human Services Assistant Secretary for Health Adm. Brett Giroir said assisted living facilities will be followed by senior day care centers and home health agencies in getting the tests.
The tests will come from a supply of 150 million ordered from test maker Abbott Laboratories. Abbott’s rapid test, the size of a credit card, is the first that doesn’t require specialty computer equipment to process. It delivers results in about 15 minutes and is priced at $5, significantly lower than similar older tests.
Until now, the government’s effort to improve COVID-19 testing for vulnerable older adults has been focused on nursing homes, which are overseen by Medicare. Assisted living facilities don’t provide skilled nursing care and are outside of Medicare’s purview. Nursing homes have already been receiving another kind of fast test, from different manufacturers.
US says it won’t join global effort to find COVID-19 vaccine
WASHINGTON — The Trump administration said Tuesday that it will not work with an international cooperative effort to develop and distribute a COVID-19 vaccine because it does not want to be constrained by multilateral groups like the World Health Organization.
The decision to go it alone, first reported by The Washington Post, follows the White House’s decision in early July to pull the United States out of the WHO. Trump claims the WHO is in need of reform and is heavily influenced by China.
Some nations have worked directly to secure supplies of vaccine, but others are pooling efforts to ensure success against a disease that has no geographical boundaries. More than 150 countries are setting up the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access Facility, or COVAX.
That cooperative effort, linked with the WHO, would allow nations to take advantage of a portfolio of potential vaccines to ensure their citizens are quickly covered by whichever ones are deemed effective. The WHO says even governments making deals with individual vaccine makers would benefit from joining COVAX because it would provide backup vaccines in case the ones being made through bilateral deals with manufacturers aren’t successful.
Large antibody study offers hope for virus vaccine efforts
Antibodies that people make to fight the new coronavirus last for at least four months after diagnosis and do not fade quickly as some earlier reports suggested, scientists have found.
Tuesday’s report, from tests on more than 30,000 people in Iceland, is the most extensive work yet on the immune system’s response to the virus over time, and is good news for efforts to develop vaccines.
If a vaccine can spur production of long-lasting antibodies as natural infection seems to do, it gives hope that “immunity to this unpredictable and highly contagious virus may not be fleeting,” scientists from Harvard University and the U.S. National Institutes of Health wrote in a commentary published with the study in the New England Journal of Medicine.
One of the big mysteries of the pandemic is whether having had the coronavirus helps protect against future infection, and for how long. Some smaller studies previously suggested that antibodies may disappear quickly and that some people with few or no symptoms may not make many at all.
The new study was done by Reykjavik-based deCODE Genetics, a subsidiary of the U.S. biotech company Amgen, with several hospitals, universities and health officials in Iceland.
Meals on heels: San Francisco drag queens deliver amid virus
SAN FRANCISCO — These divas deliver.
Drag queens don their colorful wigs, elaborate makeup and knee-high stiletto boots, but instead of stepping on a stage, they’re putting on a face covering, grabbing a takeout bag and bringing their musical numbers to fans’ doorsteps in San Francisco.
The Oasis nightclub is turning the boring dinner blues into “Meals on Heels,” dispatching drag queens like Amoura Teese and Kochina Rude to bring food, cocktails and socially distant lip-synching performances to people during the coronavirus pandemic.
Oasis owner D’Arcy Drollinger said it’s a way to reconnect with their fans and bring a little joy to those who haven’t had much to smile about recently.
“You have the choice: You can either give up, go home and call it a night, or you can put some duct tape on, find a song you don’t know that well and go out there and sell the number,” Drollinger said. “That’s how I’ve been looking at this whole thing, is we’ve got to sell the number. The show must go on.”
Virus cases prompt 3 schools to suspend in-person learning
ANCHORAGE, Alaska — The largest school district in Alaska to open for in-person classes has shifted to online learning only for three schools after five new cases of COVID-19 were confirmed.
The new infections emerged among three schools in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough School District, Alaska Public Media reported.
Colony middle and high schools plan distance learning until next Tuesday, while the district said an update is pending on how long Pioneer Peak Elementary will be closed to in-person classes.
The schools will be cleaned, and public health officials will notify any families with children who are considered close contacts of those who tested positive for COVID-19.
Another school, Wasilla’s Machetanz Elementary, has resumed in-person learning after a student tested positive. District spokeswoman Jillian Morrissey said 36 people, including staff and students, were identified as close contacts in that case and are under quarantine.
Back-to-school will be different this year. We want to hear about your first week.
A new school year is beginning for Washington state students over the next few weeks. Some students will head back into the classroom; some will start online; others will have a hybrid schedule of in-person and virtual instruction.
But one thing is clear: After the unexpected emergency school closures in the spring, all students, and the teachers who guide them, will need to make adjustments as they meet a school year with higher expectations.
We’re looking for students, teachers and parents to share with us dispatches from your experiences throughout the first week of school.
Each day, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with about 100 words about how that day turned out. What went well? What challenges did you face? What are your concerns? How are you feeling?
We’ll take in your responses and post some among our school updates. At the end of the week, we’re hoping to gather a clearer picture of how the return to school is shaping up.
For more information about what we're looking for, click here.
CDC directs halt to renter evictions to prevent virus spread
WASHINGTON — The Trump administration has issued a directive halting the eviction of certain renters though the end of 2020 to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Federal, state and local governments have approved eviction moratoriums during the course of the pandemic for many renters, but those protections are expiring rapidly. A recent report from one think tank, the Aspen Institute, stated that more than 20 million renters live in households that have suffered COVID-19-related job loss and concluded that millions more are at risk of eviction in the next several months.
The administration’s action stems from an executive order that President Donald Trump issued in early August. It instructed federal health officials to consider measures to temporarily halt evictions. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention followed up Tuesday by declaring that any landlord shall not evict any “covered person” from any residential property for failure to pay rent.
Senior administration officials explained that the director of the CDC has broad authority to take actions deemed reasonably necessary to prevent the spread of a communicable disease.
Small-business failures loom as federal aid dries up
The United States faces a wave of small-business failures this fall if the federal government does not provide a new round of financial assistance — a prospect that economists warn would prolong the recession, slow the recovery and perhaps reshape the American business landscape.
As the pandemic drags on, it is threatening even well-established businesses that were financially healthy before the crisis. If they shut down or are severely weakened, it could accelerate corporate consolidation and the dominance of the biggest companies.
Tens of thousands of restaurants, bars, retailers and other small businesses have already closed. But many more have survived, buoyed in part by billions of dollars in government assistance to both businesses and their customers.
The Paycheck Protection Program provided hundreds of billions in loans and grants to help businesses retain employees and meet other obligations. Now that aid is largely gone, even as the economic recovery that took hold in the spring is losing momentum.
The fall will bring new challenges: Colder weather will curtail outdoor dining and other weather-dependent adaptations that helped businesses hang on in much of the country, and epidemiologists warn that the winter could bring a surge in coronavirus cases.
New food benefit helps students, families impacted by school closures
Families impacted by COVID-19-related school closures, and who receive free- or reduced-price meals at school may be eligible for extra food benefits under the Pandemic EBT Emergency School Meals Program, or P-EBT.
The new and temporary benefit will help families buy groceries because schools were closed, according to Public Health - Seattle & King County.
Any family with a child in grades K-12 who is eligible for free or reduced-price school meals -- including children who go to a school where meals are free for all students -- may apply.
P-EBT is for all students regardless of citizenship or immigration status. The maximum, one-time benefit is $399 per child. The amount is based on when a family applied for free or reduced-priced meals, or for Basic Food. P-EBT benefits are based on the number of school days that schools were closed.
Parents have until 5 p.m. Friday, September 11 to apply for the benefits online at WashingtonConnection.org (choose “Pandemic EBT - Emergency School Meals Program” in the Food Assistance section), or by calling the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) at 877-501-2233.
Know the name of your child’s school or school district; your child’s first and last name as it appears on enrollment records; and your child’s date of birth.
P-EBT cannot be used for non-food items; alcohol; hot or prepared foods; vitamins or medicine.
State confirms 304 new COVID-19 cases and 16 new deaths
State health officials reported 304 new COVID-19 cases in Washington as of Monday night, and 16 new deaths.
The update brings the state’s totals to 74,939 cases and 1,931 deaths, meaning that 2.6% of people diagnosed in Washington have died, according to the state Department of Health (DOH). The data is as of 11:59 p.m. Monday.
The state no longer reports deaths on weekends; tallies may be higher early in the week.
The DOH also reported that 6,787 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the virus.
Statewide, 1,480,039 COVID-19 tests have been administered as of Monday night.
In King County, the state’s most populous, state health officials have confirmed 19,698 diagnoses and 728 deaths.
City of Seattle to offer child care for 55 children at 19 sites
The City of Seattle will provide child care for 550 children at 19 sites through Seattle Parks and Recreation (SPR), which will also launch seven “Teen Resource Hubs” across the city to support students’ virtual learning, provide internet access, connect them with “caring adults” and refer them to basic needs and mental-health resources.
The city-sponsored child care and resource hubs a meant to supplement Seattle Public Schools school year preparations, “and ensure students are best-served in a virtual learning environment,” Mayor Jenny Durkan said in a statement on Tuesday.
“This time of year looks significantly different for our Seattle families than years past,” Durkan said, “and it’s required for all of us to figure out how we’re best service students and families in a virtual learning environment.”
Registration is open for City child care and scholarships are available for those who qualify (up to 90 percent of the monthly rate could be covered for families).
Families can register for full- or partial-week child care online, contact their preferred child care location, or contact the Business Service Center at 206-684-5177.
A full list of SPR child care locations is listed here.
School-Based Health Centers will be open in 34 King County schools this fall
Even though most students will be learning remotely, King County's School-Based Health Centers will be open at 34 schools this fall despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Public Health-Seattle & King County announced this week.
The School-Based Health Centers offer routine primary care, including vaccinations and mental health counseling.
The health centers serve students enrolled in the participating school districts and operate out of 27 Seattle Public Schools, including all high schools and middle schools, along with a number of elementary schools.
Five additional centers serve students in the Bellevue, Highline, Renton and Vashon school districts. The centers are independent clinics based inside schools or on school campuses.
School-Based Health Centers were started in King County as a pilot program at Rainier Beach High School in 1989 and now serve more than 10,000 elementary, middle and high school students each year.
Apple, Google build virus-tracing tech directly into phones
Apple and Google are trying to get more U.S. states to adopt their phone-based approach for tracing and curbing the spread of the coronavirus by building more of the necessary technology directly into phone software.
That could make it much easier for people to get it on their phone even if their local public health agency hasn’t built its own compatible app.
The tech giants on Tuesday launched the second phase of their “exposure notification” system, designed to automatically alert people if they might have been exposed to the coronavirus.
Florida announces ban on nursing home visits will be lifted
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Tuesday that he will lift the state’s ban on visiting nursing homes that has cut off vulnerable seniors from family since mid-March over fears of spreading the new coronavirus.
DeSantis said he would lift the ban in an executive order later Tuesday, following recommendations from a nursing home task force that has met in recent weeks.
The task force recommends that homes allow family members to visit their loved ones no more than two at a time, and that they wear protective gear including masks. Facilities would need to go 14 days without any new cases of COVID-19 among staff or residents to allow the visits.
Hong Kong begins mass testing for virus amid public doubts
Hong Kong tested more than 120,000 people for the coronavirus Tuesday at the start of a mass-testing effort that’s become another political flash point in the semiautonomous Chinese territory.
Volunteers stood in lines at some of the more than 100 testing centers, though many residents are distrustful of the resources and staff being provided by China’s central government and some have expressed fear DNA could be collected.
The Hong Kong government has dismissed such concerns, and leader Carrie Lam appealed to critics to stop discouraging people from being tested, since participation is crucial to the program’s success.
Third virus vaccine reaches major hurdle: final U.S. testing
A handful of the dozens of experimental COVID-19 vaccines in human testing have reached the last and biggest hurdle — looking for the needed proof that they really work.
AstraZeneca announced Monday its vaccine candidate has entered the final testing stage in the U.S. The Cambridge, England-based company said the study will involve up to 30,000 adults from various racial, ethnic and geographic groups.
Two other vaccine candidates began final testing this summer in tens of thousands of people in the U.S. One was created by the National Institutes of Health and manufactured by Moderna Inc., and the other developed by Pfizer Inc. and Germany’s BioNTech.
Inslee announces $190 million in federal funding for local governments and public health
Nearly $190 million will be awarded from the state’s federal stimulus funding to local governments that did not receive CARES Act money directly, Gov. Jay Inslee announced this week.
The new funding includes nearly $126 million that will be distributed to cities and counties and about $62 million to local health jurisdictions, Inslee's office said in a news statement. The governor’s budget office approved the distributions, in consultation with legislative leaders.
“Our local public health jurisdictions, cities and counties have worked tirelessly since the first confirmed case of COVID-19 appeared in Washington to protect their communities,” Inslee said in the statement. “This much needed infusion of funds will help sustain their efforts to stop the spread of this virus.”
The new funding for cities and counties comes on top of nearly $300 million that was distributed last spring to cities and counties with populations under 500,000 that were ineligible to receive direct funding from the federal government under the CARES Act.
Specific allocations to cities and counties will be released by the Department of Commerce in the coming days. Each county will receive a minimum distribution of $300,000, and each city will receive a minimum distribution of $30,000 from the state.
Russia’s virus cases exceed 1 million, globally 4th-highest
Russia’s tally of confirmed coronavirus cases surpassed 1 million on Tuesday as authorities reported 4,729 new cases.
With a total of 1,000,048 reported cases, Russia has the fourth largest caseload in the world after the U.S., Brazil and India. Over 815,000 people have so far recovered, authorities said, and more than 17,000 have died.
As of Tuesday, Russia has lifted most lockdown restrictions in the majority of the country’s regions.
U.S. medical supply shortage affects far more tests than the one for COVID-19
U.S. laboratories have struggled for months to secure desperately needed supplies for COVID-19 screenings, but another testing crisis is brewing.
Other workhorse supplies are back-ordered too, hampering labs’ ability to detect urinary tract infections, sexually-transmitted infections like chlamydia and gonorrhea, gastroenteritis – also known as the stomach flu – and more.
That means longer turnaround times and less frequent testing. One Nashville, Tenn., hospital lab has been intermittently unable to screen for a bug that causes pneumonia since mid-June. Scientists worry this may cause doctors to miss disease-causing pathogens or prescribe more broad-spectrum antibiotics, leading to resistance.
Uber to require that passengers provide face-mask selfies
Mask slackers will now have to provide photographic proof they’re wearing a face covering before boarding an Uber.
The San Francisco-based company unveiled a new policy Tuesday stipulating that if a driver reports to Uber that a rider wasn’t wearing a mask, the rider will have to take a selfie with one strapped on the next time they summon a driver on the world’s largest ride-hailing service,
The mask verification rules expand upon a similar requirement that Uber imposed on its drivers in May to help reassure passengers worried about being exposed to the novel coronavirus that has upended society. Now, Uber believes it’s time to help make its drivers feel safer, too.
At military academies, COVID-19 is the enemy to be defeated
Under the siege of the coronavirus pandemic, classes have begun at the Naval Academy, the Air Force Academy and the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.
But unlike at many colleges around the country, most students are on campus and many will attend classes in person.
This is largely due to advantages the military schools have. They’re small, each with about 4,500 students who know that joining the military means they’re subject to more control and expected to follow orders.
Their military leaders, meanwhile, are treating the virus like an enemy that must be detected, deterred and defeated. They view the students as the next generation of commanders who must learn to lead troops through any crisis, including this one.
“If you look at COVID as a threat, it helps you frame it in a way that I think you can then conduct action against it,” said Brig. Gen. Curtis Buzzard, West Point’s commandant.
Quarantine Corner: Things to do while keeping your distance
Ding Dongs! Teen chef Sadie offers a throwback recipe straight from the 1960s, with a new twist.
Coming soon to a school near you? How one district in Washington is going back in-person
More than 94% of public school students in Washington will be learning remotely this fall — even in some places where coronavirus risks are considered low. This sets us apart from much of the nation.
But about 60 of the state's 300 school districts are going back into buildings for at least part of the week, serving as a preview of how school may eventually look for the rest of the state.
Catch up on the past 24 hours
A Thanksgiving on Zoom? Some public health experts say we should start planning for it, predicting COVID-19 outbreaks may worsen this fall as people head inside and back to school.
‘Herd immunity’: One of President Donald Trump’s top medical advisers is pushing a controversial strategy of allowing the coronavirus to spread through most of the population while taking steps to protect those who are most vulnerable. “A lot of people would die,” experts warn. Here's a Q&A on what herd immunity is and why it's drawing such concern.
August was the deadliest month in California, the pandemic's hardest-hit state. But doors are creaking back open this week as the numbers ease. In L.A., architect Frank Gehry and a developer are placing an audacious, billion-dollar bet that people will come back downtown.
No, the CDC didn't backpedal on the number of deaths caused by COVID-19. Here's the reality after that misinformation was widely tweeted by Trump and supporters of the QAnon conspiracy theory.
Any child can pick up free meals at schools this fall, even if families don't traditionally qualify for no-cost or reduced-price meals. The federal government is extending the program that's served millions of children since the pandemic shuttered schools.
There will be no baseball at T-Mobile Park today or tomorrow. Two Mariners games against the A's have been postponed after a member of the A’s traveling party tested positive.
Can you use a face shield instead of a mask? Health officials are explaining why they don't recommend it, and which kinds make the best sense if you want to double up.
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