Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Thursday, Sept. 10, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.

Wildfire smoke is adding to existing tension about public health, with health officials saying they’re nervous the smoke could worsen symptoms for COVID-19 patients and urging the public to stay indoors and keep the air inside clean.

In the past week, officials from President Donald Trump’s administration have said he’s been so fixated on finding a vaccine for the coronavirus that little else captures his attention. But the director of the National Institutes of Health said Wednesday — in response to the White House’s apparent rush to approve a vaccine — that one won’t be made available unless it was safe and effective.

Throughout Thursday, on this page, we’ll post updates on the pandemic and its effects on the Seattle area, the Pacific Northwest and the world. Updates from Wednesday are here, and all our coronavirus coverage can be found here.

(Jennifer Luxton / The Seattle Times)

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Peru’s Indigenous turn to ancestral remedies to fight virus

PUCALLPA, Peru — As COVID-19 spread quickly through Peru’s Amazon, the Indigenous Shipibo community decided to turn to the wisdom of their ancestors.

Hospitals were far away, short on doctors and running out of beds. Even if they could get in, many of the ill were too fearful to go, convinced that stepping foot in a hospital would only lead to death.

So Mery Fasabi gathered herbs, steeped them in boiling water and instructed her loved ones to breathe in the vapors. She also made syrups of onion and ginger to help clear congested airways.

“We had knowledge about these plants, but we didn’t know if they’d really help treat COVID,” the teacher said. “With the pandemic we are discovering new things.”

The coronavirus pandemic’s ruthless march through Peru — the country with the world’s highest per-population confirmed COVID-19 mortality rate — has compelled many Indigenous groups to find their own remedies. Decades of under-investment in public health care, combined with skepticism of modern medicine, mean many are not getting standard treatments like oxygen therapy to treat severe virus cases.

—Associated Press
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Student arrested for attending school in person, in protest

MASTIC BEACH, N.Y. — A high school senior was arrested Thursday after repeatedly showing up to the building in protest on days he had been scheduled for remote learning.

Maverick Stow, 17, was issued a five-day suspension for appearing Tuesday at William Floyd High School on Long Island and returned on the following two days, Newsday reported. He said he believes students should be in school five days a week.

Officials warned Wednesday that he would be arrested, and on Thursday he was arrested by Suffolk County police on a charge of third-degree criminal trespass and told to appear in court Sept. 24.

If Stow continues to try to attend school in person, the high school will have to close, school spokesperson James Montalto said.

“We are still in the midst of a pandemic and will abide by the regulations set in place by our government and health officials designed to keep our students and staff safe,” Montalto said in a written statement. “As we have said, Mr. Stow’s rights as a student do not surpass the rights of any of our other 8,799 students.”

Most in-person classes are at capacity, and it would be impossible to have all students back under social distancing guidelines, Montalto said.

—Associated Press

‘A wholesale failure’: Inslee, Murray blast Trump for downplaying coronavirus threat as outbreak hit Washington

OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee and U.S. Sen Patty Murray on Thursday blasted President Donald Trump after reports that he acknowledged the threat of the new coronavirus and then deliberately downplayed it as the pandemic took root.

The remarks by the pair of officials come after reports this week that Trump told journalist Bob Woodward that he realized the severity of the virus weeks before state officials announced the nation’s first reported death in Washington.

The president Thursday morning acknowledged making those remarks to Woodward — but downplayed their relevance.

In an interview, Murray, a Democrat from Washington, said the lack of urgency by the president and his administration cost lives.

“I have been saying since day one, way back in the end of January … of the urgency of this crisis and what we need to do,” Murray said in an interview. “It was downplayed by this administration, there was no urgency … and people have died.”

Read the full story here.

—Joseph O'Sullivan

Return of football renews fears over more virus spread

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The kickoff of the NFL season Thursday with 17,000 fans in the stadium illustrates the nation’s determination to resume its most popular sport in the middle of a pandemic that has already killed nearly 200,000 Americans.

The topic has led to passionate debates at the state and local level, including whether to allow high school seasons to proceed and how many fans to allow in professional and college stadiums.

While Major League Baseball and the NBA have played without fans, the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs were allowed to open the season Thursday night against the Houston Texans at 22 percent capacity. The remainder of the NFL teams start their seasons Sunday with restrictions that vary by stadium, with some games devoid of fans and others with scaled-back crowd sizes like Kansas City.

Across the country, many high schools have started football, but states like California and Illinois cancelled the entire season. There have been scattered outbreaks among players, including an entire football team and marching band in a small town in Alabama that had to go into quarantine because of exposure to the virus.

—Associated Press
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Black couple sues over social distancing fight at steakhouse

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — A Black couple who got into a fight with white customers at a Little Rock steakhouse who weren’t wearing masks and stood too close filed a lawsuit Thursday accusing the restaurant of discrimination and not enforcing coronavirus safety rules.

The federal lawsuit stems from a June 27 fight at the Saltgrass Steakhouse that was caught on cellphone video and widely shared on social media. Shayla Hooks and Tyrone Jackson accuse the restaurant of negligence, racial discrimination and defamation over its handling of the confrontation.

The lawsuit says the couple was sitting in the restaurant’s bar area when a group of white people from a Louisiana tour bus entered and asked if they could sit close to them, despite social distancing restrictions. Arkansas allows bars and restaurants to open but with capacity limits and distancing rules.

The lawsuit says the restaurant’s staff didn’t intervene as the customers harassed and intentionally stood near the couple when Jackson said he didn’t want them sitting nearby because of COVID-19. The lawsuit says some of the white customers intentionally coughed on Hooks and that one punched her in the face during the ensuing fight, giving her a black eye.

“What that manager was making my clients do was choose between aggression and possible violence on the one hand, and their own personal health and safety on the other,” Mike Laux, an attorney for the couple, said.

Landry’s Inc., the steakhouse chain’s parent company, called the lawsuit frivolous and cited videos that it said show Jackson hitting people at the beginning and the end of the brawl.

—Associated Press

Alabama college students sanctioned for COVID violations

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — More than 600 students at the University of Alabama have been sanctioned — including 33 who were effectively suspended — for violating rules intended to curb the spread of COVID-19 cases on campus, a school spokesman said Thursday.

The university had issued 639 individual student sanctions as of Tuesday as the university tries to clamp down on gatherings that could spread the virus, spokesman Shane Dorrill said. Thirty-three students have been suspended from campus while their cases proceed, he said.

The university did not provide examples of behavior that led to the disciplinary action, but said student suspensions could range in length depending on the severity of the conduct. Suspension is pending for one student organization, while three others have received COVID-related sanctions, Dorrill said.

More than 2,000 students tested positive for the coronavirus since classes resumed last month on the Tuscaloosa campus, which has more than 30,000 students. The outbreak led university officials to issue a moratorium on in-person student events through Sunday. The university also has banned visitors from dorms and fraternity and sorority houses.

—Associated Press

Washington confirms 458 new coronavirus cases

State health officials reported 458 new COVID-19 cases and seven additional deaths in Washington on Thursday.

The update brings the state’s totals to 78,467 cases and 1,985 deaths, meaning that 2.5% 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.

Health officials also reported that 6,993 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the virus. Statewide, 1,597,987 COVID-19 tests have been administered as of Wednesday night.

In King County, the state’s most populous, state health officials have confirmed 20,519 infections and 744 deaths.

—Elise Takahama
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Former NFL player Bellamy charged with virus relief fraud

TAMPA, Fla. — Former NFL player Josh Bellamy was arrested and charged Thursday with participating in a scheme to file fraudulent applications for more than $24 million in coronavirus relief funds, authorities said.

Bellamy, 31, of St. Petersburg, is charged with wire fraud, bank fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud, according to court records. At a hearing Thursday afternoon in Tampa federal court, Bellamy was ordered released on $250,000 bond. Bellamy’s case will be prosecuted in Fort Lauderdale federal court.

Bellamy’s attorney, Diego Weiner, said it’s common for professional athletes to be taken advantage of by people who are supposed to be representing their best interests, and he hopes the public will give Bellamy the benefit of the doubt.

According to a criminal complaint, the scheme began with Phillip Augustin, 51, of Coral Springs, using falsified documents to obtain money for his talent management company. Augustin then began to work with Bellamy and others on a scheme to submit numerous fraudulent loan applications for other applicants in order to receive kickbacks for obtaining the forgivable loans, prosecutors said.

Bellamy received more than $1.2 million for his own company, Drip Entertainment LLC, prosecutors said. He purchased over $104,000 in luxury goods and spent about $62,774 at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, according to the complaint. It adds Bellamy also allegedly sought loans for family members and close associates.

—Associated Press

U.S. to end enhanced coronavirus screening of airline passengers arriving from overseas

The United States will end coronavirus screening for airline passengers arriving from much of the world, saying the procedures have “limited effectiveness” for catching sick people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Travelers arriving from China, Iran, most of Europe and Brazil will also no longer be required to arrive at 15 designated airports when the new policy goes into effect Monday, the CDC announced late Wednesday.

“We now have a better understanding of COVID-19 transmission that indicates symptom-based screening has limited effectiveness because people with COVID-19 may have no symptoms or fever at the time of screening, or only mild symptoms,” the agency said in a statement.

A CDC statement said that 675,000 people underwent the screenings and that fewer than 15 were identified as having COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

Instead, the U.S. government’s efforts will focus on educating travelers before they leave and while they’re in the air, and on gathering passengers’ contact information so they can be reached if it is determined they may have been exposed to the virus.

The new policy does not change travel bans on non-U. S. residents that apply to the foreign countries.

—The Washington Post

UW Athletics eliminates 16 positions in latest round of cost-saving measures

University of Washington Husky Stadium in Seattle, seen Thursday, April 9, 2020. (Ken Lambert / The Seattle Times)
University of Washington Husky Stadium in Seattle, seen Thursday, April 9, 2020. (Ken Lambert / The Seattle Times)

In a presentation to the University of Washington’s board of regents on Thursday, athletics director Jen Cohen and chief financial officer Kate Cullen will outline plans to shrink department salaries by 17% — or $8 million — in the 2021 fiscal year. Those cuts are coming, according to an accompanying budget document, via “voluntary contract reductions, department-wide furloughs and other staffing cuts.”

On Thursday, those staffing cuts continued.

In a second round of cost-saving measures to combat the economic effects of COVID-19, UW Athletics has eliminated 16 positions — some of which were filled, and others vacant — and instituted temporary furloughs or FTE (full-time equivalent hours) reductions for an additional 35 staff members, according to a university release.

A UW spokesperson declined to share which specific positions were eliminated.

“Today is an extremely difficult day,” Cohen said in a statement. “We have remained committed to maintaining all 22 of our programs and to providing a world-class education and athletic experience for our students. In order to fulfill this commitment we are having to make some challenging personnel decisions that impact long-standing and dedicated members of our department.  The current pandemic continues to have a major impact on our entire country and we are not immune."

Read the full story here.

—Mike Vorel
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Nebraska to end nearly all social distancing restrictions

LINCOLN, Neb. — Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts will end nearly all of his state’s social-distancing restrictions on Monday even as the number of new coronavirus cases has trended upward over the last few months.

The new rules will still limit the size of large indoor gatherings, such as concerts, meeting halls and theaters, but will drop all other state-imposed mandates in favor of voluntary guidelines, as other conservative states have done.

State officials said they made the decision based on the availability of hospital beds and ventilators, in keeping with the Republican governor’s goal of not overwhelming medical facilities.

“The goal has always been to protect hospital capacity, and capacity remains stable,” said Ricketts spokesman Taylor Gage.

Nebraska’s hospitals have 36% of their regular beds, 31% of their intensive care unit beds and 81% of their ventilators available, according to the state’s online tracking portal. Those numbers have changed little in the last few months.

—The Associated Press

High numbers of Los Angeles patients complained about coughs as early as December, coronavirus study says

The number of patients complaining of coughs and respiratory illnesses surged at a sprawling Los Angeles medical system from late December through February, raising questions about whether the novel coronavirus was spreading earlier than thought, according to a study of electronic medical records.

The authors of the report, published Thursday in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, suggested that coronavirus infections may have caused this rise weeks before U.S. officials began warning the public about an outbreak. But the researchers cautioned that the results cannot prove that the pathogen reached California so soon, and other disease trackers expressed skepticism that the findings signaled an early arrival.

The debate about the findings underscores just how much remains to be known about the coronavirus, which has killed at least 187,000 people in the United States, according to a Washington Post analysis.

The researchers examined six years of electronic health records, representing nearly 10 million patients, at the UCLA health system from July 2014 through February. That included patient visits to three UCLA hospitals and to nearly 200 associated outpatient clinics.

—Los Angeles Times

Money for $300 unemployment boost to run out after 6 weeks

The temporary $300-a-week unemployment insurance boost implemented by President Donald Trump is about to end, with no extension in sight.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency said Thursday in an email to The Associated Press that it has distributed $30 billion of the $44 billion it had set aside for the benefit. The agency said the fund was enough to cover six weeks of additional jobless aid starting Aug. 1, so unemployed workers won’t receive any more after this week.

FEMA emphasized that all eligible recipients will get the $300 boost to cover six weeks, a period that ended Sept. 5.

Read the full story here.

—The Associated Press
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Washington state jobless claims jump as some employers eye an uncertain fall

The Mexican restaurant Cactus, at 350 Terry Ave. N. in Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood, has empty tables for outside dining in July.  (Greg Gilbert / The Seattle Times)
The Mexican restaurant Cactus, at 350 Terry Ave. N. in Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood, has empty tables for outside dining in July. (Greg Gilbert / The Seattle Times)

New unemployment claims jumped last week in Washington state as employers continued to shed jobs ahead of an autumn that could bring even sharper losses.

Workers in Washington filed 20,006 initial, or new, weekly claims for regular unemployment during the week ending Sept. 5, an increase of 10.1% over the prior week, the state Employment Security Department (ESD) said Thursday.

Nationally, workers filed 884,000 initial unemployment claims last week, unchanged from a week earlier, the U.S. Labor Department said Thursday.

Washington state’s increase in jobless claims was the first after seven consecutive weeks of modest declines. It comes as the state job market, still reeling after months of pandemic-related layoffs, moves toward autumn, when the typical seasonal jump in unemployment may be worsened by looming uncertainties in key sectors. Historically, jobless claims surge in late August and early September as seasonal employment tapers off.

Read the full story here.

—Paul Roberts

Food insecurity crisis in Washington likely to get worse as COVID-19 pandemic drags on, officials say

Food insecurity around the state is at historically high levels, state officials and food providers said Thursday morning, and they expect the crisis to continue for months to come.

“We know that, while over a half million Washingtonians have filed for unemployment since March, and we know the number of people facing hunger has doubled since the pandemic, we have likely not seen the worst yet,” said Linda Nageotte, CEO of Food Lifeline. “By the end of this year, potentially one in five Washingtonians could be facing hunger.”

The current numbers are already sobering.

“There has been an enormous crisis this year,” said Katie Rains, Food Assistance Specialist for the Washington Department of Agriculture. “To put it in perspective, in the previous state fiscal year ending in June 2019, 1.12 million Washingtonians sought food assistance from programs across the state. In contrast, the current model shows 2.2 million people are currently food insecure in Washington state.”

Read the full story here.

—Scott Hanson

Measures to control coronavirus also reduced other respiratory infections

Measures to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus also suppressed other respiratory viruses in Seattle and King County, according to a new analysis of results from the Seattle Coronavirus Assessment Network.

The project to monitor COVID-19 infection levels, which involves volunteers swabbing their own noses and sending the specimens to a lab at the University of Washington for analysis, was also able to detect a wide range of viruses, including the rhinoviruses and coronaviruses that cause common colds, along with influenza.

Flu season was already winding down when the pandemic hit. But after Washington’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” measures were imposed, flu cases plummeted along with other respiratory infections.

“The same steps we take to prevent COVID-19 — limiting activities outside the home, decreasing the numbers and duration of close contact with others, avoiding poorly ventilated spaces, wearing a mask whenever in public, and good handwashing — will also help reduce the spread of influenza and other respiratory viruses,” said Dr. Jeff Duchin, health officer for Public Health – Seattle & King County.

Over the past few weeks, the rhinovirus responsible for many common colds has begun to circulate more widely, though still at lower levels than last summer.

Stacked histogram showing cumulative test positive fraction for 10 pathogens across the last two years in the Seattle metro area. We see that in the summer of 2020 all respiratory disease was suppressed more and for longer than in the summer of 2019. This can largely be attributed to the various mitigation efforts put in place to combat COVID-19. (Public Health – Seattle & King County)
Stacked histogram showing cumulative test positive fraction for 10 pathogens across the last two years in the Seattle metro area. We see that in the summer of 2020 all respiratory disease was suppressed more and for longer than in the summer of 2019. This can largely be attributed to the various mitigation efforts put in place to combat COVID-19. (Public Health – Seattle & King County)
—Sandi Doughton
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When theaters reopen, will people return? Seattle moviehouse operators wrestle with the unknown

Majestic Bay Theatre closed down due to the stay-at-home order, but has an uplifting message for downtown Ballard on Wednesday, April 1, 2020. (Amanda Snyder / The Seattle Times)
Majestic Bay Theatre closed down due to the stay-at-home order, but has an uplifting message for downtown Ballard on Wednesday, April 1, 2020. (Amanda Snyder / The Seattle Times)

If movie theaters suddenly reopened tomorrow, would you go?

It’s a moot question, of course: Seattle-area moviehouses have been dark since the coronavirus pandemic shut their doors back in March, and can only resume business when King County reaches Phase 3 of reopening — which doesn’t seem likely to happen anytime soon. But movie lovers are asking ourselves a lot of questions these days: Would I feel comfortable in a movie theater? What would the theater have to do to make me feel comfortable? And is any movie worth the risk — however small — of contracting COVID-19?

Nationally, the picture is different: According to The Hollywood Reporter, about 62% of the movie marketplace was open as of the end of August, with more expected in September. Movies are beginning to make money again, though not much compared to a typical summer-blockbuster season.

But here, chain multiplexes sit empty, and owners of local independent theaters worry about their futures, finding creative ways to try to stay solvent.

Read the full story here.

Fall Arts Guide 2020

—Moira Macdonald

As Washington and other states struggle to report COVID-19 data accurately, auditors are stepping in

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Concerned about the accuracy and uniformity of COVID-19 data, a bipartisan coalition of fiscal watchdogs have banded together to try to help make sure states are compiling and tracking information the same way.

The state auditors will take a close look at how health officials in their own states are collecting, reporting and monitoring data. The goals are to ensure that information presented to the public is consistent and accurate, to allow apples-to-apples comparisons among states and to help officials get a better handle on the issue if the pandemic gets worse in the coming months or there is another disaster in the future.

So far, auditors from the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and 11 states — from Hawaii to Louisiana — have joined the effort. The auditors plan to release the findings from their states to the public as soon as their work is completed.

COVID-19 data presented to the public in many states has been conflicting and confusing. In Washington state, officials have blamed an overwhelmed disease reporting system, software issues and changes in methodology for creating hurdles to providing timely, accurate data, including the coronavirus positivity rate.

Read the full story here.

—Stateline.org

COVID-stricken, barely breathing, pastor kept fighting for the right of Black people to vote

The Rev. Greg Lewis could barely eat or get out of bed. He struggled to breathe. Doctors confirmed it was COVID-19.

Even so, the Milwaukee pastor persisted with his work helping Black parishioners vote. A couple of weeks into his illness, on March 26, he became lead plaintiff in a suit to postpone Wisconsin’s presidential primary because of the roaring pandemic — to no avail.

The next day, the 62-year-old was rushed to the hospital. “Baby, I’m dying,” he muttered to his wife.

From intensive care, Lewis kept working the phone, urging fellow Black pastors to do what they could to ensure voters could safely cast ballots.

Lewis recovered. He returned home just before the April 7 primary and watched the fiasco unfold on television. Thousands of mainly Black voters risked their health to wait in line for hours to vote. Many more cast absentee ballots that were disqualified for technicalities.

The pastor has spent much of his life fighting racial inequality, a central focus of the presidential campaign. Now he’s also at the vanguard of what former President Obama recently described as an existential fight to preserve democracy in the United States. He fears the pandemic, already taking a greater health toll on people of color, will make voter suppression worse than usual in November.

Read the full story here.

—Los Angeles Times
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Catch up on the past 24 hours

"This is deadly stuff." President Donald Trump acknowledged to journalist Bob Woodward that he knowingly played down the coronavirus earlier this year, according to Woodward's new book. The book depicts conscious choices by Trump to not only to mislead the public but also to pressure governors to reopen states before his own guidelines said they were ready.

President Donald Trump acknowledged to journalist Bob Woodward that he knowingly played down the coronavirus this year even though he was aware it was “deadly” and vastly more serious than the seasonal flu. (Doug Mills / The New York Times)
President Donald Trump acknowledged to journalist Bob Woodward that he knowingly played down the coronavirus this year even though he was aware it was “deadly” and vastly more serious than the seasonal flu. (Doug Mills / The New York Times)

Seattle scientists are testing a potentially groundbreaking COVID-19 treatment that uses humans' own "natural killer" cells.

Will a vaccine be approved before it's safe? As public health experts and lawmakers — including Washington's Sen. Patty Murray — worry about political pressure from the White House, a top health official is taking issue with Trump's suggestion that the vaccine will be available by Election Day.

Amazon raised prices on essentials as much as 1,000% amid the pandemic, a consumer watchdog says in a new report that accuses the retailer of price gouging.

Seattle is hiring a high-level point person to manage its COVID-19 recovery.

If your coworker has COVID-19, will you know? Some workers are unsettled by how employers are and aren't required to act.

—Kris Higginson

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