Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Wednesday, Sept. 2, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.

The Trump administration said Tuesday it won’t work with an international cooperative effort to develop and distribute a vaccine for the novel coronavirus.

Wednesday is the first day of school in 59 Washington districts, and you can watch how this weird year starts to unfold by following our live dispatches here. In Seattle, some new help for families is available in the form of child care, food benefits and school health centers.

Parents are again stepping into critical roles as schools and researchers race to understand how serious children’s mental health troubles might become when they return to online classes. Here’s crisis help for young people, and a Q&A on schools and mental health services.

Throughout Wednesday, 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 Tuesday can be found here, and all our coronavirus coverage can be found here.

The state Department of Health has changed how it reports testing totals, and testing data for the past few weeks is incomplete. Also: As of Aug. 28, the DOH is no longer publishing COVID-19 death counts on weekends. Instead, the number of weekend deaths will be added to death tallies reported on Mondays and Tuesdays.
The state Department of Health has changed how it reports testing totals, and testing data for the past few weeks is incomplete. Also: As of Aug. 28, the DOH is no longer publishing COVID-19 death counts on weekends. Instead, the number of weekend deaths will be added to death tallies reported on Mondays and Tuesdays.
(Jennifer Luxton / The Seattle Times)

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State Department of Health says it's 'closely monitoring' progress toward vaccine development

While the nation races toward approval of a coronavirus vaccine, the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) said Wednesday that it's monitoring vaccine progress and will be "ready to distribute" one as soon as it's ready.

However, the department reminded Washingtonians, all vaccine candidates remain in clinical trials.

"DOH’s position is that any COVID-19 vaccine should complete Phase 3 trials before being distributed, unless an independent board of scientists reviewing the data finds otherwise based on data from those trials," the statement said.

DOH continued, "At this crucial juncture, it is incumbent upon the federal government to critically evaluate these new vaccines for their safety and efficacy in an unbiased way."

In the meantime, state health officials will continue working with federal and local agencies to "build the infrastructure needed for distribution," the statement said.

"When a vaccine is ready, we will be prepared to deploy it in a manner (ensuring) that (it) is equitable, safe and timely for the people of Washington," it said.

On Wednesday, the federal government announced that states should prepare for a coronavirus vaccine and be ready to distribute one by Nov. 1 — raising concerns among public-health experts that a vaccine approval could be rushed by political considerations ahead of a presidential election.

—Elise Takahama
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Beijing receiving first international flights since March

BEIJING — Beijing’s main international airport on Thursday began receiving international flights again from a limited number of countries considered at low risk of coronavirus infection.

Passengers flying in from Cambodia, Greece, Denmark, Thailand, Pakistan, Austria, Canada and Sweden, must have first shown a negative coronavirus test before boarding, city government spokesperson Xu Hejian told reporters.

Passenger arrivals will be limited to roughly 500 per day during a trial period and all will need to undergo additional testing for the virus on arrival, followed by two weeks of quarantine. The first flight under the arrangement, Air China Flight 746, arrived from Pnom Penh, Cambodia, just before 7 a.m.

Beginning in March, all international flights to Beijing had been redirected to a dozen other cities where passengers were tested and processed before being allowed to travel on to the Chinese capital.

China has gone weeks without new cases of local infection and the 11 new cases recorded Thursday were all imported.

—Associated Press

Inslee extends 26 proclamations related to in-person services during COVID-19 pandemic

Gov. Jay Inslee on Wednesday announced the extension of 26 of the state’s COVID-19 proclamations, including those that involve requirements for nursing home transfers, health care workers, unemployment insurance and medical appointments.

Democratic and Republican legislative leaders approved the extensions within the past week, allowing the proclamations to remain in effect until 11:59 p.m. Oct. 1, according to a statement from the governor’s office.

In the proclamations, Inslee again states he’s exercising his emergency powers to prohibit certain activities or waive and suspend laws and regulations during a state of emergency.

In addition, the Washington State Department of Corrections is expected to provide a six-month update on its current status and overall agency response to COVID-19 on Thursday.

Read the full story here.

—Elise Takahama

If you’re hiring or job hunting as the economy reopens, what challenges are you facing?

As Washington’s economy slowly reopens, employers and workers alike face unexpected challenges in rebuilding a workforce hit hard by the pandemic.

If you're an employer: How has it been, recruiting people for your job openings?

And if you’re unemployed right now and looking at returning to your old job or starting a new one, what concerns do you have about getting back into the workplace?

Whatever your experience, tell me about it here.

—Paul Roberts
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The Rock, his family tested positive for the coronavirus

LOS ANGELES — Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson shared some unfortunate news on his home front: He and his family tested positive for the coronavirus.

Johnson announced their diagnosis in an 11-plus minute video on Instagram on Wednesday.. He said he was shocked after hearing their positive tests, calling the ordeal “one of the most challenging and difficult things we’ve ever had to endure.”

The actor said he along with his wife, Lauren Hashian, and two young daughters contracted the virus, but have now recovered. He said his daughters “bounced back” after having sore throats for a couple days.

But for Johnson and his wife, he said they both had a “rough go.”

—Associated Press

Pelosi says hair salon should apologize for ‘set-up’ visit

SAN FRANCISCO — A testy Nancy Pelosi said Wednesday she takes responsibility for trusting the word of a San Francisco hair salon that it was OK to come in for a solo visit — even though the city still does not allow indoor beauty services because of the coronavirus pandemic.

But the Democratic House Speaker called Monday’s visit a “set-up” and said the salon owes her an apology for misrepresenting city health orders.

“I take responsibility for trusting the word of a neighborhood salon that I’ve been to over the years many times, and that when they said … we’re able to accommodate people one person at a time, and that we can set up that time, I trusted that,” Pelosi told reporters Wednesday. “As it turns out, it was a set-up.”

“I take responsibility for falling for a set-up,” she said.

Pelosi is facing fierce backlash after Fox News Channel aired surveillance footage from the salon that showed her walking through the salon with her hair wet and with a mask around her neck rather than on her face. In the clip, a masked stylist follows her.

Critics, including President Donald Trump, called her a hypocrite and asked why she did not know the coronavirus-related rules in her home city.

—Associated Press

Biden slams Trump as absent in the ‘national emergency’ of schooling in the pandemic

Joe Biden, aiming to refocus the presidential race back to the coronavirus pandemic, denounced President Trump’s approach to reopening schools in the midst of the outbreak and accused the president of being absent in the face of a “national emergency.”

“If President Trump and his administration had done their jobs early on with this crisis, America’s schools would be open and would be open safely,” Biden said in a speech in Wilmington, Del., on Wednesday. “Instead, American families all across this country are paying the price for his failures.”

The address marks Biden’s latest attempt to claim the mantle as the candidate most likely to keep the country safe, challenging the central pitch for Trump’s reelection bid. While Trump has prioritized talking about crime over the coronavirus by calling himself the “law and order president,” Biden has tried to strike a balance between condemning violence, supporting those who seek police reform and reframing the definition of security to include protection from the pandemic and economic instability.

The schools dilemma has taken on added resonance as the start of the academic year approaches, and families across the country are contending with a patchwork of approaches, from in-person instruction to virtual learning.

Trump has urged for full reopening of schools, seeing it as crucial to revive the economy that had been battered by the virus.

—Los Angeles Times
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Washington confirms 438 new coronavirus cases

State health officials reported 438 new COVID-19 cases in Washington on Wednesday, including four new deaths.

The update brings the state’s totals to 75,377 cases and 1,935 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. Tuesday.

The DOH also reported that 6,795 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the virus. 

Statewide, 1,496,353 COVID-19 tests had been administered as of Tuesday night.

In King County, the state’s most populous, state health officials have confirmed 19,797 diagnoses and 731 deaths.

—Elise Takahama

CDC tells states: Be ready to distribute vaccines on Nov. 1

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — The federal government has told states to prepare for a coronavirus vaccine to be ready to distribute by Nov. 1.

The timeline raised concern among public health experts about an “October surprise” — a vaccine approval driven by political considerations ahead of a presidential election, rather than science.

In a letter to governors dated Aug. 27, Robert Redfield, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said states “in the near future” will receive permit applications from McKesson Corp., which has contracted with CDC to distribute vaccines to places including state and local health departments and hospitals.

Several vaccine and public health experts pointed out that final stage trials of experimental vaccines are still recruiting, and are at best halfway through that process. The vaccines are two doses, and each is given a month apart. Several experts told the AP they did not understand how there could be adequate data on whether the vaccines work and are safe before Nov. 1.

—Associated Press

COVID-19 has killed more police officers this year than all other causes combined, statistics show

In a speech this week in Pittsburgh, Joe Biden linked the Trump administration’s mismanagement of the coronavirus to its handling of protests and riots with a surprising statistic: “More cops have died from COVID this year than have been killed on patrol,” he said.

The Democratic presidential nominee’s claim is true, according to data compiled by the Officer Down Memorial Page and the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, two nonprofits that have tracked law enforcement fatalities for decades.

As of Sept. 2, on-the-job coronavirus infections were responsible for more officer deaths than all other causes combined, including gun violence and car accidents, according to the Officer Down group, which received a grant from the U.S. Department of Justice for its work.

NLEOMF reported a nearly identical number of COVID-related law enforcement deaths. It also noted that fatalities due to non-COVID causes are actually down year-over-year, undermining President Donald Trump’s claims that “law enforcement has become the target of a dangerous assault by the radical left.”

—The Washington Post
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High school athlete group including UW QB commit Sam Huard advocates for reinstatement of fall sports season

Kennedy Catholic and Eastside Catholic were originally scheduled to meet in a nationally televised football game on Friday. It would have featured a pair of five-star prospects — Kennedy Catholic quarterback Sam Huard and Eastside Catholic defensive tackle J.T. Tuimoloau — angling for Washington prep supremacy on ESPN.

Instead, high school football in the state of Washington has been postponed until the spring.

And Huard and Tuimoloau have turned into teammates.

On Monday, Student-Athletes of Washington (SAW) — a group formed by Huard, Tuimoloau, Kennedy Catholic wide receiver (and Arizona State commit) Junior Alexander, Kennedy Catholic wide receiver Reed Shumpert, Mount Si running back Cole Norah, Archbishop Murphy defensive end (and Virginia commit) Josh McCarron, O’Dea quarterback Milton Hopkins Jr., Lakes athlete Jaedon Hall, Garfield athlete Leon Neal Jr. and North Creek offensive guard (and Utah commit) Kolinu’u Faaiu — published a petition urging Gov. Jay Inslee and the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association to reinstate traditional fall sports schedules in the state.

To read the full story click here.

—Mike Vorel

Second Trump appointee out at FDA amid credibility concerns

A second Trump administration appointee has been ousted at the Food and Drug Administration in the wake of the agency’s botched announcement about an experimental therapy for COVID-19, which medical experts said damaged the health regulator’s credibility with the public.

An FDA spokesperson confirmed Wednesday that John “Wolf” Wagner, a political appointee installed by the White House earlier this summer, is no longer heading the agency’s office of external affairs. Instead, Heidi Rebello, a longtime FDA career official, has stepped into the position on an acting basis, overseeing all FDA public communications. Politico first reported the news.

The shake-up comes just five days after conservative communications specialist Emily Miller was removed from her post heading the agency’s press office. Miller worked on the agency’s announcement that it had granted emergency authorization to convalescent plasma for COVID-19 patients.

That announcement triggered a backlash and concerns that the FDA had buckled to political pressure from the president.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

Former Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi tests positive for COVID-19

Italy’s former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi tested positive for COVID-19, his press office said Wednesday.

Berlusconi, who is 83, is currently isolated in his Arcore residence near Milan, his office said, adding that the three-time premier will continue to work from there as he completes the necessary quarantine period.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press
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First COVID-19 death linked to Sturgis Motorcycle Rally reported

A Minnesota biker who attended the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally has died of COVID-19 — the first fatality from the virus traced to the 10-day event that drew more than 400,000 to South Dakota.

The man was in his 60s, had underlying conditions and was hospitalized in intensive care for several weeks after returning from the rally, said Kris Ehresmann, infectious-disease director at the Minnesota Department of Health. The case is among at least 260 cases in 11 states tied directly to the event, according to a survey of health departments by The Washington Post.

Epidemiologists believe that figure is a significant undercount, due to the resistance of some rallygoers to testing and the limited contact tracing in some states. As a result, the true scope of infections stemming from the event that ran Aug. 7-16 is unlikely to ever be known. Public health officials had long expressed concern over the decision to move forward with the annual event, believed to be the largest held anywhere in the U.S. since the pandemic shelved most large-scale gatherings.

People ride through Sturgis, S.D., during the 80th annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally on Aug. 10. A Minnesota biker who attended the rally has died of COVID-19 – the first fatality from the virus traced to the 10-day event that drew more than 400,000 to South Dakota. (Grace Pritchett/Rapid City Journal via AP, file)
People ride through Sturgis, S.D., during the 80th annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally on Aug. 10. A Minnesota biker who attended the rally has died of COVID-19 – the first fatality from the virus traced to the 10-day event that drew more than 400,000 to South Dakota. (Grace Pritchett/Rapid City Journal via AP, file)

Now, just over two weeks after the conclusion of the rally, the Midwest and the Dakotas in particular are seeing a spike in coronavirus cases even as infections decline or plateau in the rest of the country. Besides the fallout from Sturgis, Ehresmann and other health officials attribute much of the increase in the Midwest to people not following public health guidelines, not wearing masks and attending social gatherings such as weddings and funerals.

But Sturgis was unique in drawing people from across the nation to one small town, where they crowded into bars, restaurants, tattoo shops and other businesses, many without masks. An analysis of anonymized cellphone data, conducted by a firm called Camber Systems, found that 61% of all U.S. counties had been visited by a rallygoer.

Read the full story here.

—Lena H. Sun and Brittany Shammas / The Washington Post

Steroids lifesaving for COVID-19 patients, scientists report

International clinical trials published Wednesday confirm the hope that cheap, widely available steroid drugs can help seriously ill patients survive COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus.

Based on the new evidence, the World Health Organization issued new treatment guidance, strongly recommending steroids to treat severely and critically ill patients, but not to those with mild disease.

“Clearly, now steroids are the standard of care,” said Dr. Howard C. Bauchner, the editor-in-chief of JAMA, which published five papers about the treatment.

International clinical trials published Wednesday confirm the hope that cheap, widely available steroid drugs can help seriously ill patients survive COVID-19. Steroids like dexamethasone, hydrocortisone and methylprednisolone are often used by doctors to tamp down the body’s immune system. (Nati Harnik / The Associated Press)
International clinical trials published Wednesday confirm the hope that cheap, widely available steroid drugs can help seriously ill patients survive COVID-19. Steroids like dexamethasone, hydrocortisone and methylprednisolone are often used by doctors to tamp down the body’s immune system. (Nati Harnik / The Associated Press)

The new studies include an analysis that pooled data from seven randomized clinical trials evaluating three steroids in more than 1,700 patients, concluding that all three drugs reduced the risk of death.

Read the story here.

—The New York Times

Pullman police clamp down on gatherings to slow rise in COVID-19 at WSU

The Pullman Police Department said it has issued 10 nuisance party infractions to hosts over the last six days in an effort to address the dramatic increase of COVID-19 cases that the community has experienced over the past few weeks.

Pullman police issued 10 nuisance party infractions over the last six days in an effort to address the dramatic increase of COVID-19 cases that the community has experienced over the past few weeks. (Alan Berner/The Seattle Times. file)
Pullman police issued 10 nuisance party infractions over the last six days in an effort to address the dramatic increase of COVID-19 cases that the community has experienced over the past few weeks. (Alan Berner/The Seattle Times. file)

"Pullman PD first started with an education campaign and then found the need to begin an assertive enforcement stance on Nuisance Party violations, after the education portion was largely ignored," police said in a statement released on Wednesday.

Among other things, the local Nuisance Party ordinance prohibits anyone from hosting or allowing a gathering or party that endangers the health of others.
"Violating Governor Inslee’s proclamation requirements or ignoring health department orders to wear a face mask, social distance, and not gather in groups of more than 10 constitute a violation of the Nuisance Party ordinance," police said.

Nine of the violations occurred on College Hill and one on Sunnyside Hill, police said.

Violation of the Nuisance Party ordinance is a civil infraction, and violators are subject to a minimum $250 fine for a first offense, and minimum $350 fine for second and subsequent offenses.

—Christine Clarridge
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Health officials worry nation not ready for COVID-19 vaccine

Millions of Americans are counting on a COVID-19 vaccine to curb the global pandemic and return life to normal.

While one or more options could be available toward the end of this year or early next, the path to delivering vaccines to 330 million people remains unclear for the local health officials expected to carry out the work.

“We haven’t gotten a lot of information about how this is going to roll out,” said Dr. Umair Shah, executive director of Texas’ Harris County Public Health department, which includes Houston.

As the nation awaits a vaccine to end the COVID pandemic, health departments say they lack the staff, money and tools to distribute, administer and track millions of vaccines, most of which will require two doses. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, file)
As the nation awaits a vaccine to end the COVID pandemic, health departments say they lack the staff, money and tools to distribute, administer and track millions of vaccines, most of which will require two doses. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, file)

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told health departments across the country to draft vaccination plans by Oct. 1 “to coincide with the earliest possible release of COVID-19 vaccine.” But health departments that have been underfunded for decades say they lack the staff, money and tools to educate people about vaccines and then to distribute, administer and track hundreds of millions of doses.

In addition only about half of Americans saying they would get vaccinated, according to a poll from AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, it also will be crucial to educate people about the benefits of vaccination, said Molly Howell, who manages the North Dakota Department of Health’s immunization program.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

Six months after tragedy struck a nursing home in Kirkland, everything is different

Jean LeBouttier visits with her son-in-law Kevin Callahan and daughter Laurie Callahan at Life Care Center of Kirkland on Aug. 25. Life Care Center of Kirkland recently restarted in-person visits at the facility. (Erika Schultz / The Seattle Times)
Jean LeBouttier visits with her son-in-law Kevin Callahan and daughter Laurie Callahan at Life Care Center of Kirkland on Aug. 25. Life Care Center of Kirkland recently restarted in-person visits at the facility. (Erika Schultz / The Seattle Times)

Last spring, Life Care Center of Kirkland became the site of the first known COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S. More than one-fourth of its 120 residents died, revealing how lethal the illness would be for a vulnerable population.

Now, the virus' grip has eased, with residents finally able to take part in short outdoor visits with families.

But views remain deeply polarized on how Life Care handled the outbreak: Did the virus ravage a loving place, or a death trap with top-to-bottom failures?

Read the full story here.

—Paige Cornwell

Catch up on the past 24 hours

The U.S. won’t join a global effort to develop and distribute a vaccine, a decision that could shape the course of the pandemic. That's in part because in part because the White House doesn't want to work with the World Health Organization.

A large study is offering hope for vaccine efforts as it provides clues to one of the pandemic's biggest mysteries: whether having had the coronavirus helps protect against future infection, and for how long.

Help for families: Seattle is offering child care at 19 sites, with scholarships available. King County's School-Based Health Centers will provide primary health care at 34 schools, even though students will be learning remotely. And a new food benefit will help families buy groceries.

Gov. Jay Inslee announced this week that Washington state will award nearly $190 million of its federal stimulus funding to local governments that didn't receive CARES Act money directly.

A superspreader tale of two buses: On a sunny January day in China, a group of Buddhists boarded two buses, bound for an outdoor service. The difference between what happened next to those buses' passengers provides more evidence that the virus can be transmitted by tiny particles that linger in the air.

Meals on Heels: San Francisco's drag queens have taken on a new pandemic role as they deliver food, cocktails and socially distant entertainment.

—Kris Higginson
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