Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Sunday, Sept. 13, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.

Although restaurants, gyms, salons and more businesses have reopened across the country with varied COVID-19 guidelines, Dr. Anthony Fauci on Friday warned against the idea of a return to “normal,” pre-coronavirus life until 2021, when a vaccine can be widely distributed in the United States.

Many other scientists are saying the same — despite the decline in the number of daily U.S. deaths from the coronavirus, a new bout with the disease this fall could claim more lives.

Throughout Sunday, 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 Saturday are here, and all our coronavirus coverage can be found here.

(Jennifer Luxton / The Seattle Times)

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Washington’s COVID-19 case count rises by 350

The tally of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Washington reached 79,826, an increase of 350, according to new numbers posted by state health officials Sunday afternoon.

The state does not update the number of deaths from the coronavirus on weekends. That count stood at 1,991.

The Washington State Department of Health, in its Sunday update, counted 7,081 hospitalizations from COVID-19, up 33.

Statewide, more than 1,644,585 COVID-19 tests have been administered, up 13,423 from Saturday’s count.

The data is as of 11:59 p.m. Saturday.

—Benjamin Romano
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Moviegoers slow to return to theaters amid pandemic

Moviegoing audiences in North America are not rushing back to the theater just yet and “Mulan” is also faltering in its China release as the global box office slowly comes back online in the COVID-19 era.

In the second major weekend for U.S. and Canadian movie theaters, Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” earned only $6.7 million from 2,910 locations, according to studio estimates Sunday. Warner Bros’ sci-fi thriller was viewed as the main litmus test for whether audiences were ready to embrace the theatrical experience again, after nearly six months of shuttered theaters due to the pandemic.

Although it was enough to top the scattershot domestic releases, it also isn’t enough to jumpstart the struggling exhibition industry. Warner Bros. has already pushed back its next major release, “Wonder Woman 1984,” even further.

Read the full story here.

—The Associated Press

Central American refugees stopped by Trump, then by pandemic

MIAMI (AP) — After years of waiting in countries marred by violence, Central Americans who were finally cleared to reunite with their families in the U.S. are facing a major obstacle: the coronavirus pandemic.

Only about 338 — or 12% — of 2,700 people approved to come to the U.S. through a small refugee program have arrived since a court settlement more than a year ago, according to the latest government data. President Donald Trump has shut down the program, but a judge said those already cleared could travel.

After navigating legal snags and rigorous checks requiring they show they’re in danger in Central America, the refugees faced more delays as the pandemic grounded flights, canceled interviews and closed clinics that conduct needed medical exams.

Read the full story here.

—The Associated Press

Virus America, six months in: Disarray, dismay, disconnect

On Friday, March 13, 2020, a COVID curtain descended upon the United States, and a new season — a season of pandemic — was born. Now we are half a year into it — accustomed in some ways, resistant in others, grieving at what is gone, wondering with great trepidation what will be.

New conflicts and causes have risen. Anger and death sit in daily life’s front row. A sense of uncertainty reigns. Great chunks of the national emotional infrastructure are buckling. We are locked in a countrywide conversation about control — who has it and who should. And as the most contentious of presidential elections approaches, the very notion of what it means to be an American — and to be the United States of America itself — is perhaps the biggest contention point of all.

“Six months in, we are in a different place,” says Alicia Hinds Ward, an entrepreneur in Washington, D.C. “We don’t want to stay in this place. It’s ugly, it’s dark and we know we have to change.”

Read the full story here.

—The Associated Press
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As Trump played down virus, health experts’ alarm grew

WASHINGTON, D.C. (AP) — Public health officials were already warning Americans about the need to prepare for the coronavirus threat in early February when President Donald Trump called it “deadly stuff” in a private conversation that has only now has come to light.

At the time, the virus was mostly a problem in China, with just 11 cases confirmed in the United States. There was uncertainty about how the U.S. ultimately would be affected, and top U.S. officials would deliver some mixed messages along the way. But their overall thrust was to take the thing seriously.

“We’re preparing as if this is a pandemic,” Dr. Nancy Messonnier of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told reporters on Feb. 5. “This is just good commonsense public health.”

Trump, however, had a louder megaphone than his health experts, and in public he was playing down the threat. Three days after delivering his “deadly” assessment in a private call with journalist Bob Woodward, he told a New Hampshire rally on Feb. 10, “It’s going to be fine.”

Trump’s acknowledgment in Woodward’s new book “Rage” that he was minimizing the severity of the virus in public to avoid causing panic has triggered waves of criticism that he wasn’t leveling with the American people. Read the full story here.

—The Associated Press

Teacher departures leave schools scrambling for substitutes

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — With many teachers opting out of returning to the classroom because of the coronavirus, schools around the U.S. are scrambling to find replacements and in some places lowering certification requirements to help get substitutes in the door.

Several states have seen surges in educators filing for retirement or taking leaves of absence. The departures are straining staff in places that were dealing with shortages of teachers and substitutes even before the pandemic created an education crisis.

Among those leaving is Kay Orzechowicz, an English teacher at northwest Indiana’s Griffith High School, who at 57 had hoped to teach for a few more years. But she felt her school’s leadership was not fully committed to ensuring proper social distancing and worried that not enough safety equipment would be provided for students and teachers.

Teachers in at least three states have died after bouts with the coronavirus since the start of the new school year. It’s unclear how many teachers in the U.S. have become ill with COVID-19, but Mississippi alone reported 604 cases among teachers and staff.

In cases where teachers are exposed to the virus, they could face pressure to return to the classroom. The Trump administration has declared teachers to be “critical infrastructure workers” in guidance that could give the green light to exempting them from quarantine requirements.

Read the full story here.

—The Associated Press

Israel to set new nationwide lockdown as virus cases surge

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday announced a new countrywide lockdown will be imposed amid a stubborn surge in coronavirus cases, with schools and parts of the economy expected to shut down in a bid to bring down infection rates.

Beginning Friday, the start of the Jewish High Holiday season, schools, restaurants, malls and hotels will shut down, among other businesses, and Israelis will face restrictions on movement and on gatherings.

“Our goal is to stop the increase (in cases) and lower morbidity,” Netanyahu said in a nationally broadcast statement. “I know that these steps come at a difficult price for all of us. This is not the holiday we are used to.”

The tightening of measures marks the second time Israel is being plunged into a lockdown, after a lengthy shutdown in the spring. That lockdown is credited with having brought down what were much lower infection numbers, but it wreaked havoc on the country’s economy, sending unemployment skyrocketing.

The lockdown will remain in place for at least three weeks, at which point officials may relax measures if numbers are seen declining. Israelis typically hold large family gatherings and pack synagogues during the important fast of Yom Kippur later this month, settings that officials feared could trigger new outbreaks.

Read the full story here.

—The Associated Press
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As fires disrupt schools, ‘the pandemic has actually helped’

As the worst wildfire season in decades scorches the West amid a still-raging pandemic, families and educators who were already starting the strangest and most challenging school year of their lifetimes have been traumatized all over again. Tens of thousands of people have been forced to flee their homes, with some mourning the loss of their entire communities.

But amid the twin disasters, the remote-learning preparations that schools made for the coronavirus are providing a strange modicum of stability for teachers and students, letting many stay connected and take comfort in an unexpected form of virtual community.

“The pandemic has actually helped,” said Patsy Oxford, the principal of Berry Creek Elementary in Northern California.

Schools in other towns most damaged by the fires appear to have survived the flames, but as in Berry Creek, their students have been scarred and scattered. The fires prompted some West Coast schools to delay or cancel classes; and educators across parts of California, Washington and Oregon have spent recent days tracking down students to check on their safety.

Some schools have continued teaching remotely or are preparing to do so this week, even as families find themselves huddling in hotels, shelters and relatives’ homes.

Read the full story here.

—The New York Times

Seahawks players test negative for COVID-19 ahead of season opener

All Seahawks players and staff have tested negative for COVID-19 ahead of their season opener Sunday morning against the Atlanta Falcons.

The Seahawks are playing in Atlanta, where no fans were allowed in the stands.

Catch up on the past 24 hours

COVID-19 cases have generally decreased across all age groups since the start of August in Washington, according to new data from DOH. Whitman County is the exception, with an outbreak linked to Washington State University students living off campus in Pullman.

Washington confirmed 465 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday. The update brings the state’s totals to 79,476 cases and 1,991 deaths, meaning that 2.5% of people diagnosed in Washington have died, according to the state Department of Health (DOH).

Every day, twice a day, Sheila Belcher is visited by her husband, Don Belcher, where she’s living at CRISTA Rehabilitation Center. The Seattle couple has been married for more than 60 years. They now communicate by phone. (Alan Berner / The Seattle Times)
Every day, twice a day, Sheila Belcher is visited by her husband, Don Belcher, where she’s living at CRISTA Rehabilitation Center. The Seattle couple has been married for more than 60 years. They now communicate by phone. (Alan Berner / The Seattle Times)

People living in nursing homes have lived separated from their loved ones, including -- in some cases -- spouses of decades. Read the stories of who they are, how they coped and where they are now.

Oxford University announced it was resuming a trial for a coronavirus vaccine it is developing with pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, a move that comes days after the study was suspended following a reported side-effect in a U.K. patient.

Measures to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus brought an extra bonus to Seattle and King County: Reduced levels of respiratory infections of all types, according to a new analysis.

The Vatican said Saturday it was “necessary and urgent” to return to in-person Masses as soon as anti-coronavirus measures permit.

A whole continent is free of coronavirus. Antartica has recorded zero cases and aims to keep it that way, as more than 1,000 researchers who wintered there are seeing the sun for the first time in weeks or months.

—Seattle Times staff and wire services