Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Wednesday, Sept. 16, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.
While some officials around the U.S. begin to loosen virus-related restrictions, public health experts are warning that the U.S. could see more new coronavirus outbreaks as a result.
In addition, researchers are finding that effects of the deadly virus on younger patients are mirroring patterns they see in adults — particularly that COVID-19 is killing Hispanic, Black and American Indian children in much higher numbers than their white peers.
Throughout Wednesday, 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 Tuesday are here, and all our coronavirus coverage can be found here.
Navigating the pandemic
- How to get a COVID-19 vaccine or booster in Washington state
- Should you still wear a mask after mandates lift? How to tackle that choice
- How to navigate the COVID pandemic in the Seattle area: resources on masks, tests, vaccines and more
Student’s class-action lawsuit against University of Washington demands reimbursement for tuition after COVID-19 campus closures
A University of Washington graduate student filed a class-action lawsuit Wednesday, accusing the school of a breach of contract following COVID-19-related campus closures and demanding reimbursement for tuition.
Alexander Barry said he paid UW for “opportunities and services that he did not receive, including on-campus education, facilities, services, and activities,” according to the complaint, which was filed in King County Superior Court.
“Despite sending students home, transitioning to online instruction, and closing its campuses, the University of Washington continued to charge for tuition, and/or fees as if nothing changed, continuing to reap the financial benefit of millions of dollars from students,” the complaint says.
Although Barry, along with thousands of other students, enrolled and paid for an on-campus experience — complete with activities and events that have since been canceled or moved online — the complaint alleges that the university provided “something far less.” Despite the change, the university has not refunded students and families for tuition and other fees, the complaint said.
Hawaii to allow travelers to skip quarantine with virus test
HONOLULU — Hawaii Gov. David Ige said Wednesday that starting Oct. 15, travelers arriving from out of state may bypass a 14-day quarantine requirement if they test negative for COVID-19.
Travelers will have to take the test within 72 hours before their flight arrives in the islands. Ige said drug store operator CVS and healthcare provider Kaiser Permanente will conduct the tests as part of an agreement with the state.
Earlier this year Ige planned to start a pre-travel testing program on Aug. 1 only to have to postpone it as COVID-19 cases spiked on the U.S. mainland and in Hawaii. A shortage of testing supplies also forced delays. Another start date for Sept. 1 was also canceled. Airlines are expected to help inform travelers of the requirement.
Hawaii leaders are hopeful that pre-travel testing will encourage people to return to a Hawaii in a way that keeps residents safe. Tourism traffic to the state has plunged more than 90% since the pandemic began, forcing hundreds of hotels to close and pushing many people out of work.
“I want to emphasize that this pre-travel testing will allow us to add a greater element of safety for travel into our state,” Ige said at a news conference.
Oklahoma’s epidemiologist warned of Trump rally deaths
OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma’s former state epidemiologist warned that President Donald Trump’s rally in Tulsa in June could lead to as many as nine deaths and 228 new cases of COVID-19, according to documents released Wednesday.
The documents released by the Oklahoma State Department of Health in response to an open records request show that the state’s former epidemiologist, Aaron Wendelboe, warned state and Tulsa health officials of the dire consequences if the rally were held, though his projection was based on it drawing an estimated 19,000 Trump supporters and only about 6,200 actually showed up.
“I am advocating here for clear communication of the risk of holding a mass gathering,” Wendelboe wrote in an email to Dr. Bruce Dart, the director of the Tulsa Health Department, five days before Trump’s June 20 rally at a downtown Tulsa arena. “I’m not sure of any instance where we would hold a public event and say ‘…and by the way, there is a chance that attending this could lead to a minimum of two deaths.’”
In another email to two of his former colleagues at the University of Oklahoma, Wendelboe expressed reservations about how forcefully he should share his concerns.
The Tulsa Health Department does not publicly identify where potential virus transmissions occurred, so it’s not clear how many people contracted COVID-19 at Trump’s rally. But among those who attended was former Republican presidential hopeful Herman Cain, who was photographed not wearing a mask and sitting close to other people who weren’t wearing them either. According to a statement on his Twitter account, Cain tested positive for the disease on June 29, nine days after the rally, and died on July 30.
Big Ten’s cardiac registry aims to study effects of COVID-19
ANN ARBOR, Mich. — The Big Ten’s plan to play football this fall includes trying to save lives in the future.
The conference, which reversed course and announced Wednesday it would have a fall football season, is setting up a cardiac registry to study the effects COVID-19 has on athletes’ hearts.
“It will help all students, our surrounding communities, and really it can have an impact on the entire nation,” Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren said. “When you’re able to have an opportunity in a global pandemic to be able to help solve some of these medical issues, especially from a cardiac-registry standpoint, and be leaders from a research standpoint, that was really important.”
Myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart, was among concerns cited by the Big Ten in August when it planned to postpone football to spring. The condition has drawn headlines for months as sports wrestled with how to return to play and medical experts have expressed differing opinions about its importance.
The Big Ten did not point directly to myocarditis its its decision, instead emphasizing the emergence of daily, rapid-response COVID-19 testing.
Weddings and funerals to resume under state's second and third COVID-19 reopening phases
Gov. Jay Inslee announced Wednesday that indoor and outdoor weddings and receptions will be allowed to resume under the state's second and third COVID-19 reopening phases — as long as they meet certain requirements.
Receptions and ceremonies must be capped at 30 people or 25% of venue occupancy — whichever is less — excluding vendors or event staffers, according to a statement from the governor's office. All tables must also be seated by household, with table sizes capped at five people, and facial coverings and social distancing are required.
Wedding receptions must be capped at three hours, and alcohol service and consumption must end at 10 p.m., the statement said.
The updated guidance goes into effect Wednesday.
Click here for more details about the new requirements.
CDC director says coronavirus vaccines won’t be widely available till the middle of next year
WASHINGTON – The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predicted Wednesday that most of the American public will not have access to a vaccine against the novel coronavirus until late spring or summer of next year – prompting a public rebuke from President Donald Trump, who declared the CDC chief was wrong.
At a Senate hearing on the government’s response to the pandemic, CDC director Robert Redfield adhered to Trump’s oft-stated contention that a safe and effective vaccine will become available in November or December – perhaps just before the presidential election seven weeks away.
But Redfield said the vaccine will be provided first to people most vulnerable to covid-19, the disease caused by the virus, and supplies will increase over time, with Americans who are lower priority for the protection offered the shot more gradually. For it to be “fully available to the American public, so we begin to take advantage of vaccine to get back to our regular life,” he said, “I think we are probably looking at late second quarter, third quarter 2021.”
Hours later, Trump sought to knock down Redfield’s predicted timeline from the White House press briefing room, saying at a news conference, “I think he made a mistake when he said that. . . . We’re ready to distribute immediately to a vast section of the country.”
Washington confirms 347 new coronavirus cases
Health officials confirmed 347 new COVID-19 cases and five additional deaths in Washington Wednesday.
The update brings the state’s totals to 80,812 infections and 2,020 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. Tuesday.
Health officials also reported that 7,162 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the virus.
In King County, the state’s most populous, state health officials have confirmed 21,049 infections and 749 deaths.
2 inmates with COVID-19 were evacuated among other inmates
PORTLAND, Ore. — Two inmates who were evacuated by bus among other inmates from the Coffee Creek Correctional Institution last week to the Deer Ridge Correctional Facility in Madras tested positive for the coronavirus on Monday, officials said.
The woman and man were tested on Sept. 5 and 6 but there was a delay in obtaining the results from a lab, according to Jennifer Black, spokeswoman for the state Department of Corrections.
The positive COVID-19 results of two inmates during the emergency transports because of wildfire emergencies and smoke are what lawyers and family members for inmates’ feared would happen in what they’ve criticized as a haphazard evacuation, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported.
Once the positive results came back, the two were immediately isolated and taken back to Coffee Creek, according to the department.
Follow the bell or learn when you can? Washington parents grapple with kids’ remote learning schedules
Maria Paras and her husband, Rolulo, are both taking a few weeks off work to try to help their three children navigate online schooling. It hasn’t been easy. And, Paras said, it will become much more difficult when neither parent is available to assist.
Both work outside of the home for Seattle Public Schools — Maria is a kitchen assistant who helps prepare meals, Rolulo a custodian. By mid-September they’ll both be back to work full-time. Aside from what teachers tell them, they won’t know how well, or poorly, 6-year-old Kaycee, 8-year-old Kian or 12-year-old Kyle did during the day.
This fall, many Washington public school students returned to a virtual version of the school schedule they followed in the spring, before the COVID-19 pandemic. For the Paras family, that means school starts at 8:30 a.m. and ends at 2:30 p.m.
For many like the Paras family who felt the spring’s sudden coronavirus closures left their children with little opportunity to interact with teachers, live instruction might be an upgrade. But not all families can hew to a strict online learning schedule. Parents who work outside of the home can’t oversee learning. In some households, an older child in charge of younger siblings may struggle to complete their own work. And state experts estimate only half of all households in Washington have robust broadband service, the kind needed to reliably tune into video classes.
Educators fear these issues could exacerbate gaps in learning between different groups of students as the year goes on.
Contact tracing report shows DOH not yet meeting goals
The Washington state Department of Health (DOH) hasn't been meeting its contact-tracing goals, according to a report released by the agency on Wednesday.
The report, which will be updated weekly, shows DOH case and contact investigators have reached 49% of people who have tested positive for the virus that causes COVID-19, and 70% of people who have been in contact with an infected person.
DOH's goals are to reach 90% of diagnosed people within one day and 80% of contacts within two days.
The report covers case and contact investigation from Aug. 2 to Sept. 5.
"While we expect our outcomes to improve over time, this initial data shows we have work to do," Secretary of Health John Wiesman said in a Wednesday news release about the report. "I urge all Washingtonians to please answer or call back right away if you are contacted by public health."
DOH doesn't do all case and contact investigations in the state and is working to collect data from local health jurisdictions handling the work, according to the release.
Madrid, Europe’s pandemic hot spot, mulls targeted lockdowns
The Spanish capital will introduce selective lockdowns in urban areas where the coronavirus is spreading faster, regional health authorities announced Wednesday.
The measures in Madrid, which has accounted for nearly one-third of the country's new cases, could include restrictions on mobility and would most likely affect southern, working-class neighborhoods where virus contagion rates have been steadily soaring since August, deputy regional health chief Antonio Zapatero said at a press briefing.
Zapatero also said that people have relaxed protection measures by holding large gatherings, often overlooking social distancing or masks. He announced that police will monitor compliance of mandatory self-isolation. At least 90 people have been found to be skipping quarantines after testing positive for the new virus, the regional government said.
With a coronavirus caseload above 600,000 and more than 30,000 confirmed deaths for the new virus, Spain has been the hardest hit European country in what some experts are describing as the second wave of the pandemic.
Study hints antibody drug may cut COVID-19 hospitalizations
A drug company says that partial results from a study testing an antibody drug give hints that it may help keep mildly to moderately ill COVID-19 patients from needing to be hospitalized, a goal no current coronavirus medicine has been able to meet.
Eli Lilly announced the results Wednesday in a press release, but they have not been published or reviewed by independent scientists.
The drug missed the study’s main goal of reducing the amount of virus patients had after 11 days, except at the middle of three doses being tested. However, most study participants, even those given a placebo treatment, had cleared the virus by then, so that time point now seems too late to judge that potential benefit, the company said.
Other tests suggest the drug was reducing virus sooner, and the results are an encouraging “proof of principle” as this and other studies continue, Lilly said.
UK to ration COVID-19 testing as illness surges
Government ministers in the U.K. said Wednesday they planned to ration coronavirus testing, giving priority to health workers and care home staff after widespread reports that people around the country were unable to schedule tests.
U.K. lawmakers criticized the government’s handling of the COVID-19 testing crisis for a second day Wednesday as opposition leaders said Prime Minister Boris Johnson lacked a cohesive plan to tackle the virus as the country faces a second wave in the pandemic.
The squeeze on tests comes amid a surge in COVID-19 cases across the U.K. that has pushed daily new infections to levels not seen since late May and has forced the Conservative government to impose limits on public gatherings.
Widespread testing is seen as crucial to controlling the spread of the virus because it allows those who are infected to self-isolate while helping health officials identify hot spots and trace those who are infected.
2020 hurricane hunting evolves with new technology in light of COVID-19 safety concerns
ORLANDO, Fla. — When the hurricane hunter aircraft collected data for Hurricane Laura in August, most of the meteorologists analyzing it weren’t on board. That’s something new for 2020. They now work thousands of miles away in their own homes interpreting the data thanks to new software developed out of necessity in a COVID-19 world.
Trump denies downplaying virus, casts doubt on mask usage
PHILADELPHIA — Fielding compelling questions about voters’ real-world problems, President Donald Trump denied during a televised town hall that he had played down the threat of the coronavirus earlier this year, although there is an audio recording of him stating he did just that.
Trump, in what could well be a preview of his performance in the presidential debates less than two weeks away, cast doubt on the widely accepted scientific conclusions of his own administration strongly urging the use of face coverings and seemed to bat away the suggestion that the nation has racial inequities.
How risky is going to the gym?
It's better than going to a bar, say Seattle gym owners who are pushing back on restrictions.
Here's how doctors say you can reduce risks at the gym, along with a county-by-county look at what you can and can't do these days.
U.S. outlines sweeping plan to provide free COVID-19 vaccines
Vaccines would be free for all Americans under a sweeping plan outlined by the federal government today. Here's how the feds say it will work.
Catch up on the past 24 hours
The U.S. is setting itself up for failure again as officials roll back social-distancing rules while case numbers are still high, public health experts warn. Track the pandemic in Washington.
COVID-19 is killing far more Hispanic and Black children than white youths, according to a new federal accounting of deaths in children. "What that should mean for people is steps like wearing a mask are not just about protecting your family and yourself," one infectious-diseases specialist says. "It is about racial equity."
Wedding guests are paying a steep price after a reception broke Maine's virus guidelines. At least seven people have died and more than 175 coronavirus cases, spanning hundreds of miles, have been linked to the August event.
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