Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Tuesday, September 14, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.
Dozens of Washington State government employees have sued Gov. Jay Inslee arguing that his mandate oversteps his authority and violates their rights.
Washington hospital officials said they are experiencing the worst peak of coronavirus cases since the onset of the pandemic. Hospital officials counted 1,673 hospitalized COVID-19 patients in the state as of Monday, compared with last week’s count of 1,674, Taya Briley, executive vice president of the Washington State Hospital Association, said at a news conference.
Meanwhile, in Idaho, where vaccination rates are some of the lowest in the nation, is sending patients across the border to Washington.
“We certainly need our friends in Idaho government to do more to preserve their citizens’ health, because we know that their crisis is becoming our problem,” Gov. Jay Inslee said last week.
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.
Alaska’s largest hospital implements crisis care standards
Overwhelmed by a surge in COVID-19 patients, Alaska’s largest hospital on Tuesday implemented crisis standards of care, prioritizing resources and treatments to those patients who have the potential to benefit the most.
“While we are doing our utmost, we are no longer able to provide the standard of care to each and every patient who needs our help,” Dr. Kristen Solana Walkinshaw, chief of staff at Providence Alaska Medical Center, wrote in a letter addressed to Alaskans and distributed Tuesday.
“The acuity and number of patients now exceeds our resources and our ability to staff beds with skilled caregivers, like nurses and respiratory therapists. We have been forced within our hospital to implement crisis standards of care,” Walkinshaw wrote.
Alaska, like other places, has seen a surge in coronavirus cases driven by the highly contagious delta variant. State health officials said Tuesday there were 691 new cases and six recent deaths, all Anchorage men ranging in age from 50s to 70s. A woman in her 60s from out-of-state also recently died in Juneau, the department said.
Florida gov defends the right to choose whether to vaccinate
Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Tuesday that people who decide not to get a COVID-19 vaccine might be making the wrong choice, but defended their right to make that choice.
Speaking a day after holding a news conference to condemn vaccine mandates, DeSantis agreed that vaccines save lives.
“There are some of those folks who may make a decision that’s not ultimately the right decision for them,” DeSantis said at a news conference Tuesday in Miami-Dade county. “There’s obviously probably people that have been hospitalized who probably wouldn’t have been if they had done that.”
The discussion was a follow-up to a campaign-like event Monday, where DeSantis and the two independently elected Republican Cabinet members criticized local government and federal vaccine mandates. Several Gainesville city employees spoke at the event, saying government shouldn’t force them to get vaccinated.
Buffalo Bills to require proof of vaccination from fans
The Buffalo Bills joined the Las Vegas Raiders on Tuesday as the only NFL teams to require proof of vaccination against COVID-19 for all fans over the age of 12.
The rules will be the same for Buffalo Sabres games at the KeyBank Center when the NHL season gets under way next month.
The change comes after reports from fans about lax mask enforcement during the Bills’ opening game at Highmark Stadium Sept. 12.
Unvaccinated fans were allowed to attend, but were supposed to wear masks at all times under guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Many at the game said they saw very few face coverings at the packed stadium, including in restrooms and other indoor areas where even vaccinated fans were expected to wear a mask.
WHO, partners aim to get Africa 30% of needed doses by Feb
GENEVA (AP) — The World Health Organization and its partners said they hope to provide Africa with about 30% of the COVID-19 vaccines the continent needs by February, badly missing the 60% vaccination coverage goal that African leaders had once hoped for this year.
At a press briefing Tuesday, WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called the massive disparity in vaccination rates between rich and poor countries a “solvable problem” and called again for pharmaceutical companies to prioritize the U.N.-backed initiative known as COVAX, which is designed to share vaccines globally.
But drugmakers — including Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna — have shown no indications they are eager to switch their current tactics, which involve appealing to rich countries and their regulators to authorize booster shots.
Tedros called last week for a “moratorium” on the use of boosters in healthy populations until the end of the year. Countries including Israel, France and Germany have already started dispensing third doses to certain people; the U.K. announced plans on Tuesday to offer boosters to anyone over 50 as well as younger people who might be more vulnerable to COVID-19.
Over 7,000 people have died from COVID-19 in Washington state
Over 7,000 people have died from COVID-19 in Washington state, according to data from the state Department of Health.
Washington eclipsed previous milestones of 6,000 deaths on July 12 and 5,000 deaths on March 3 this year. The country’s first reported COVID-19 death, which took place in King County, was announced March 1, 2020.
The DOH on Tuesday reported 2,820 new coronavirus cases and 56 new deaths from COVID-19.
Reopening of 3 powerhouse Broadway shows signals new dawn
NEW YORK (AP) — We know when it paused. But when did it restart?
One of the recurring debates among theater lovers has been what would signify Broadway’s return after the global pandemic shuttered live theater in March 2020.
Was it when Bruce Springsteen played his concert show on June 26? Was it the opening of the new play, “Pass Over” on Aug. 22? Or was it when two big musicals — “Hadestown” and “Waitress” — allowed patrons inside again on Sept. 2? Is it when the iconic TKTS booth reopens?
For the producers of three powerhouse shows — “The Lion King,” “Hamilton” and “Wicked” — the answer is Tuesday, when the spiritual anchors of modern Broadway’s success rev their engines again.
Census: Relief programs staved off hardship in COVID crash
WASHINGTON (AP) — Massive government relief passed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic moved millions of Americans out of poverty last year, even as the official poverty rate increased slightly, the Census Bureau reported Tuesday.
The official poverty measure showed an increase of 1 percentage point in 2020, with 11.4% of Americans living in poverty, or more than 37 million people. It was the first increase in poverty after five consecutive annual declines.
But the Census Bureau’s supplemental measure of poverty, which takes into account government benefit programs and stimulus payments, showed that the share of people in poverty dropped significantly after the aid was factored in.
The supplemental poverty measure was 2.6 percentage points lower than its pre-pandemic level in 2019. Stimulus payments moved 11.7 million people out of poverty, while expanded unemployment benefits kept 5.5 million from falling into poverty. Social Security continued to be the nation’s most effective anti-poverty program.
India’s COVID wave is receding. Now the world wants it to get back to exporting vaccines.
India is facing growing pressure to lift its ban on exporting coronavirus vaccines, months after curbs were imposed to tackle a massive domestic outbreak that has since relented.
The world’s second most populous country — and also one of its biggest vaccine manufacturers — imposed the ban this spring as India raced to raise its immunization rate. Now officials in the United States and with Covax, the United Nations-backed vaccine distribution initiative that had counted on India to supply around a billion shots this year, hope a more stable health situation will persuade the country to resume exports.
The pressure comes as wealthy nations, including the United States, move to offer booster shots to their own vaccinated residents.
But Indian officials have not committed to a firm date. Instead, mixed messaging has clouded production forecasts, even as President Joe Biden plans to call on global leaders to make new commitments to fight the pandemic, including fully vaccinating 70% of the world’s population by next September.
Thousands of Washington state workers seek exemptions from COVID-19 vaccine mandate
OLYMPIA — About 7% of Washington state government workers subject to Gov. Jay Inslee’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate have so far requested medical or religious exemptions, highlighting the breadth of resistance to the order.
As of Tuesday morning, more than 4,179 exemptions have been filed by workers at 19 different state agencies, according to spokespeople.
That amounts to roughly 7% of the approximately 60,000 state government employees subject to the mandate that they be fully vaccinated by Oct. 18, or lose their jobs.
A final number likely will be higher. As of late Tuesday morning, five state agencies hadn’t yet provided figures at the request of The Seattle Times.
Biden administration moves to stave off shortage of monoclonal antibodies
WASHINGTON — The Biden administration moved this week to stave off a shortage of monoclonal antibodies, taking over distribution of the critical COVID-19 therapy while it tries to purchase more.
The policy change that went into effect Monday is all but certain to result in cuts of the medication to some states, especially seven in the Deep South with high infection rates that have been using about 70% of the national supply.
Soaring demand for the therapy represents a sharp turn from just two months ago, when monoclonal antibodies were widely available and awareness of them was low. With little promotion by the government, consumers, doctors and states were using just a tiny fraction of the available supply.
Since then, however, word of the highly effective therapy — which is free to patients — has spread, with federal officials and Republican lawmakers including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis urging their use. Now, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will, at least temporarily, set the rules for distribution of monoclonal antibodies instead of allowing states, medical facilities and doctors to order them directly.
Judge blocks medical worker vaccine mandate in NY state
UTICA, N.Y. (AP) — A federal judge temporarily blocked the state of New York on Tuesday from forcing medical workers to be vaccinated after a group of health care workers sued, saying their Constitutional rights were violated because the state’s mandate disallowed religious exemptions.
Judge David Hurd in Utica issued the order after 17 health professionals, including doctors and nurses, claimed in a lawsuit Monday that their rights were violated with a vaccine mandate that disallowed the exemptions.
The judge gave New York state until Sept. 22 to respond to the lawsuit in federal court in Utica.
The state issued the order Aug. 28, requiring at least a first shot for health care workers at hospitals and nursing homes by Sept. 27.
COVID-19 cases climbing across U.S., wiping out months of progress
COVID-19 deaths and cases in the U.S. have climbed back to where they were over the winter, wiping out months of progress and potentially bolstering President Joe Biden’s argument for sweeping new vaccination requirements.
The cases — driven by the delta variant combined with resistance among some Americans to getting vaccinated — are concentrated mostly in the South.
While one-time hot spots like Florida and Louisiana are improving, infection rates are soaring in Kentucky, Georgia and Tennessee, fueled by children now back in school, loose mask restrictions and low vaccination levels.
The dire situation in some hospitals is starting to sound like January’s infection peak: Surgeries canceled in hospitals in Washington state and Utah. Severe staff shortages in Kentucky and Alabama. A lack of beds in Tennessee. Intensive care units at or over capacity in Texas.
Putin in self-isolation due to COVID cases in inner circle
MOSCOW (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin entered self-isolation after people in his inner circle became infected with the coronavirus, the Kremlin said Tuesday, adding that the leader himself tested negative for COVID-19.
Putin, who is fully vaccinated with Russia’s Sputnik V, held several public engagements indoors Monday and even said that he may have to quarantine soon. An aide at the time sought to suggest he was speaking generally and insisted Tuesday that no one’s heath was endangered.
During a daily conference call with reporters, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Putin is “absolutely healthy” but had come in contact with someone who contracted the virus. Asked if Putin tested negative for the virus, Peskov said “definitely, yes.”
Peskov didn’t say when Putin began self-isolating, when he tested negative, how long he would remain in self-isolation or who among the president’s contacts was infected. He did say there were several cases.
Jeff Bridges says tumor shrank, COVID ‘in rear view mirror’
Jeff Bridges says his cancer is in remission and his COVID-19 case is “in the rear view mirror.”
The actor shared the good news on his website on Monday, saying his tumor shrank from 12 inches to the size of a marble. But in an update he said he is sharing only now, Bridges said he and his wife, Susan Geston, were infected with COVID-19 while he was undergoing chemotherapy.
“Covid kicked my a(asterisk)(asterisk) pretty good, but I’m double vaccinated & feeling much better now,” he wrote.
Bridges said Geston spent five days in the hospital, but he was stuck in a hospital bed for five weeks and was even “getting close to the Pearly Gates” at one point because his immune system was shot. Recovery was difficult, he said — until recently, he’s needed oxygen support just to walk around. But with the help of an excellent medical team, he was finally able to walk his daughter, Hayley, down the aisle and dance with her at her wedding to “a wonderful guy, Justin Shane.”
‘Maddening’: With Idaho hospitals full of COVID-19 patients, needed care gets delayed
Ophelia Ramirez was in some of the worst pain of her life — on par with childbirth, she said. The culprit was gallstones, hard deposits that formed in her gallbladder, the small organ that stores bile to aid in digestion.
Doctors told Ramirez, 71, that her gallbladder would have to come out. But they couldn’t be sure when.
Ramirez received her diagnosis as the Treasure Valley’s two major health care systems announced that they would pause or delay non-emergency surgeries and procedures. Her doctors had to weigh her gallbladder surgery against the other medical needs they were facing and decide who could wait.
“My doctors told me repeatedly this (surgery) was not a done deal, there was a big chance this might not happen,” Ramirez said in a phone interview.
UK recommends COVID-19 booster shots for over 50s
LONDON (AP) — The U.K. said Tuesday it will offer a third dose of COVID-19 vaccine to everyone over age 50 and other vulnerable people after an an expert panel said the boosters were needed to protect against waning immunity this winter.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid told lawmakers that the government had accepted the recommendation of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization and would start offering booster shots next week. The World Health Organization has asked wealthy nations to delay booster shots until every country has vaccinated at least 40% of their populations.
“The JCVI is advising that a booster dose be offered to the more vulnerable, to maximize individual protection ahead of an unpredictable winter,” Professor Wei Shen Lim, the panel’s chair, said during a media briefing. “Most of these people will also be eligible for the annual flu vaccine and we strongly advise them to take up this offer as well.”
Catch up on the past 24 hours
The good news: COVID-19 hospitalizations in Washington may be plateauing. The bad news: Infections remain high and scenes inside health care facilities are "really bad," hospital leaders say. But so far we're avoiding what's happening in Idaho, where people in excruciating pain can't get the help they need.
What the next six months of the pandemic may bring: Well, not the end, scientists agree: "This is a coronavirus forest fire that will not stop until it finds all the human wood that it can burn." Past influenza pandemics offer clues about how COVID-19 might play out, but key differences mean we need to brace for big challenges ahead, scientists say.
Yes, you can get a flu shot with your COVID-19 booster or first vaccine. Here’s what you need to know about side effects, timing and more. Whether you need that booster is a point of much debate, though, with two FDA experts joining an international group of scientists who said no yesterday.
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