Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Monday, September 20, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.

Demand for COVID testing has increased in the Yakima Valley and statewide as infection rates have increased. The community testing site at Yakima Valley College tested an average of 612 people each day from Monday through Friday last week, with the Sunnyside site picking up another 250 people each day. That’s higher than daily testing numbers this summer. 

Around the world, surging consumption of plastics and packaging during the pandemic has produced mountains of waste. But because fears of COVID-19 have led to work stoppages at recycling facilities, some reusable material has been junked or burned instead.

Meanwhile, the financial burden of COVID is falling unevenly on patients across the country, varying widely by health-care plan and geography, according to a survey of the two largest health plans in every state by the nonprofit and nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation.

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.

India to resume vaccine exports starting in October as COVID pressure eases

 India’s health minister announced Monday that the country will restart vaccine exports from October, giving a major boost to strained global vaccine supplies.

India, the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer, had been expected to play a huge role in getting the shots to the rest of the world, but then it halted all exports to deal with its own crushing coronavirus wave earlier this year.

Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya told reporters that vaccine production is likely to increase in the coming weeks. After fulfilling the country’s domestic requirements, Mandaviya said, excess supplies will be exported next month under the Vaccine Maitri or Friendship program. “We will help the world and fulfill our responsibility to Covax,” he said.

New vaccines were also likely to be approved, he said, which would augment the supply.

Read the full story here.

—Niha Masih, The Washington Post

One lawyer’s rise shows how vaccine misinformation can fuel fundraising and far-right celebrity

In one of dozens of recent media appearances, Ohio attorney Thomas Renz was claiming that coronavirus vaccines were more harmful than the virus itself. “The people that are dying are vaccinated,” he said on a conservative online talk show in July.

As Renz spoke, a message flashed across the screen with his website address. “Donate to his cause,” it urged.

Renz, who became a licensed attorney only months before the pandemic began, has rapidly gained prominence among COVID-19 skeptics for leading federal lawsuits in six states that challenge shutdowns, mask mandates and the safety of vaccines while alleging that the danger of the virus has been overblown.

Anti-vaccine groups, conspiracy theory enthusiasts and far-right media have embraced him, and his best-known client, the group America’s Frontline Doctors, calls him part of a “Legal Eagle Dream Team.”

Read the full story here.

—Shawn Boburg and Jon Swaine, The Washington Post

Olympic gold medalist Madison Wilson hospitalized for COVID

NAPLES, Italy (AP) — Olympic gold medal swimmer Madison Wilson of Australia has been hospitalized for treatment of COVID-19.

Wilson, who is fully vaccinated, was forced to withdraw from the International Swim League competition in Naples, Italy because of the diagnosis.

Wilson wrote on her Instagram account that she was “moved into hospital for further care and observation.” She said a full recovery is expected.

“I’m taking some time to rest and I’m sure I’ll be ready to bounce back in no time,” Wilson said in a post Sunday, which included a picture from her hospital bed as well as a video from her ISL teammates.

Read the full story here.

—The Associated Press

India to resume exports of coronavirus vaccines in October

NEW DELHI (AP) — India, the world’s largest vaccine producer, will resume exports and donations of surplus coronavirus vaccines in October after halting them during a devastating surge in domestic infections in April, the health minister said Monday.

Mansukh Mandaviya said the surplus vaccines will be used to fulfill India’s “commitment towards the world for the collective fight against COVID-19,” but vaccinating Indians will remain the government’s “topmost priority.”

India was expected to be a key supplier for the world and for the U.N.-backed initiative aimed at vaccine equity known as COVAX. It began exporting doses in January but stopped doing so to inoculate its own population during a massive surge in infections in April that pushed India’s health system to the breaking point.

The halt in exports left many developing countries without adequate supplies and delayed vaccines for millions of people.

Read the full story here.

—Sheikh Saaliq & Aniruddha Ghosal, The Associated Press

FDA likely to make decision on boosters this week

The Food and Drug Administration is likely to authorize Pfizer-BioNTech booster shots this week for many Americans at high risk of falling seriously ill from the coronavirus, now that a key advisory committee has voted to recommend the measure.

On Friday, a panel of experts endorsed offering Pfizer booster shots for people 65 and older, and for people 16 and older who are at high risk of getting severe COVID-19 or who work in settings that make them more likely to get infected.

The agency, which often follows the committee’s advice but is not required to, is expected to decide early this week. An advisory committee of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is scheduled to meet Wednesday and Thursday to discuss booster shots before that agency — which sets vaccine policy — issues its recommendations.

On Monday, Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, defended the federal regulatory process for signing off on booster shots and urged patience from those eager for an additional dose.

Read the full story here.

—Katie Thomas, The New York Times

Washington governor asks feds for medical staffing help

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — Washington Gov. Jay Inlsee has asked the federal government for assistance staffing hospitals and long-term care facilities in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“In Washington State, our hospitals are currently at or beyond capacity, and we need additional assistance at this time,” Inslee wrote in Friday’s letter — released publicly Monday — to Jeffrey Zients, the White House COVID-19 coordinator.

Inslee wrote that the state Department of Health has requested 1,200 clinical and non-clinical staff, and that he was requesting deployment of Department of Defense medical personnel “to assist with the current hospital crisis.”

Inslee spokesman Mike Faulk said the state had not yet received a response.

Read the full story here.

—The Associated Press

State health officials confirm 1,971 new coronavirus cases

The state Department of Health (DOH) reported 1,971 new coronavirus cases and 70 new deaths on Monday.

The update brings the state's totals to 628,488 cases and 7,271 deaths, meaning that 1.2% of people diagnosed in Washington have died, according to the DOH. The data is as of 11:59 p.m. Sunday. Tallies may be higher earlier in the week because new state data isn’t reported on the weekends.

In addition, 35,216 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the virus — 395 new hospitalizations. In King County, the state's most populous, state health officials have confirmed a total of 146,735 COVID-19 diagnoses and 8,182 deaths.

Since vaccinations began in mid-December, the state and health care providers have administered 8,881,671 doses and 56.8% of Washingtonians have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to vaccination data, which the state updates on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Providers are currently giving an average of about 16,617 vaccine shots per day.

The DOH says its daily case reports may also include duplicate test results, results assigned to the wrong county, results that are reported for today but are actually from a previous day, occasional false positive tests and other data discrepancies. Because of this, the previous day’s total number of cases plus the number of new daily cases does not add up to the new day’s total number of cases. State health officials recommend reviewing the dashboard's epidemiologic curves tab for the most accurate representation of the state's COVID-19 spread.


COVID-19 hospitalizations down in Washington, but deaths are on the rise

After an alarming surge in coronavirus cases this summer — leading to new masking and vaccination requirements — COVID-19 hospitalizations are ticking down statewide, hospital leaders said Monday.

This week hospitals counted 1,504 COVID-19 patients throughout the state, compared to 1,673 last week, Washington State Hospital Association CEO Cassie Sauer said during a Monday news briefing.

“Washingtonians are really taking this very seriously,” she said. “We’ve seen an increase in vaccination rates, the governor’s order on masking (and) county actions, like the vaccine verification that’s happening in a number of counties.”

She added, “And it looks like case rates might be going down a tiny bit.”

Read the full story here.

—Elise Takahama

New York City to conduct weekly COVID-19 tests in schools

NEW YORK (AP) — New York City will begin conducting weekly, random COVID-19 tests of unvaccinated students in the nation’s largest school district in an attempt to more quickly spot outbreaks in classrooms.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio made the announcement Monday, a day after the city’s teachers’ union sent de Blasio a letter calling for weekly testing instead of biweekly testing in the district with about a million students.

The mayor also announced also a change in quarantine rules for schools, no longer requiring unvaccinated students to quarantine at home if they were masked and at least 3 feet away from someone who tested positive for the coronavirus.

De Blasio said the changes followed U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines and would keep students from missing vital classroom time.

Read the full story here.

—Michelle L. Price, The Associated Press

COVID has killed about as many Americans as the 1918-19 flu

COVID-19 has now killed about as many Americans as the 1918-19 Spanish flu pandemic did — approximately 675,000. And like the worldwide scourge of a century ago, the coronavirus may never entirely disappear from our midst.

Instead, scientists hope the virus that causes COVID-19 becomes a mild seasonal bug as human immunity strengthens through vaccination and repeated infection. That would take time.

“We hope it will be like getting a cold, but there’s no guarantee,” said Emory University biologist Rustom Antia, who suggests an optimistic scenario in which this could happen over a few years.

For now, the pandemic still has the United States and other parts of the world firmly in its jaws.

Read the full story here.

—Carla K. Johnson, The Associated Press

Fauci says data on Moderna, Johnson & Johnson boosters ‘a few weeks away’ from FDA review

Anthony Fauci, the White House’s chief coronavirus medical adviser, said data about booster shots for those who had received the Moderna or Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccines could be a few weeks away from being reviewed by the Food and Drug Administration, days after an FDA panel approved booster shots for a limited population of those who had received the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

“The actual data that we’ll get [on] that third shot for the Moderna and second shot for the J & J is literally a couple to a few weeks away,” Fauci said on NBC News’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday. “We’re working on that right now to get the data to the FDA, so they can examine it and make a determination about the boosters for those people.”

An FDA advisory panel on Friday voted unanimously to approve a third shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine six months after the last dose for people 65 and older, for anyone at risk of severe illness, or for those whose occupations would put them at higher risk of exposure. However, the same FDA committee declined to issue a blanket approval for booster shots for Americans 16 and older. The FDA is expected to release a decision about boosters this week.

The FDA committee also did not address possible booster shots for the 81 million or so people who have received the Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccines. On Sunday, Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, acknowledged that those who had received vaccines other than the Pfizer-BioNTech one could be “understandably feeling left out” but sought to reassure them that data was on the way.

Read the full story here.

—Amy B Wang, The Washington Post

Biden easing foreign travel restrictions, requiring vaccines

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden will ease foreign travel restrictions into the U.S. beginning in November and allow foreign nationals into the country if they have proof of vaccination and a negative COVID-19 test, the White House said Monday.

The new rules replace a hodgepodge of restrictions that had barred non-citizens who had been in certain countries in the prior 14 days from entering the U.S. It would allow families and others who have been separated by the travel restrictions for 18 months to plan for long-awaited reunifications.

White House COVID-19 coordinator Jeff Zients announced the new policies, which will require all foreign travelers flying to the U.S. to demonstrate proof of vaccination before boarding, as well as proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within three days of flight. Biden will also tighten testing rules for unvaccinated American citizens, who will need to be tested within a day before returning to the U.S., as well as after they arrive home.

Fully vaccinated passengers will not be required to quarantine, Zients said.

Read the full story here.

—Zeke Miller, The Associated Press

Here’s how the most- and least-vaccinated states fared against the Delta variant

The latest wave of COVID-19, driven by the Delta variant, has brought hospitals back to the brink and destroyed hopes of a return to normalcy anytime soon.

But the damage from the coronavirus has been far from homogenous, in large part because of geographic differences in vaccination rates.

To help understand how those differences have played out, The Times looked at the five states with the lowest rates of full vaccination and compared them with the five states with the highest rates.

Mississippi, West Virginia, Idaho, Alabama and Wyoming — all deeply red states — each have a vaccination rate of about 40%.

Read the full story here.

—Emily Baumgaertner, Los Angeles Times

Pfizer says COVID-19 vaccine works in kids ages 5 to 11

Pfizer said Monday its COVID-19 vaccine works for children ages 5 to 11 and that it will seek U.S. authorization for this age group soon — a key step toward beginning vaccinations for youngsters.

The vaccine made by Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech already is available for anyone 12 and older. But with kids now back in school and the extra-contagious delta variant causing a huge jump in pediatric infections, many parents are anxiously awaiting vaccinations for their younger children.

For elementary school-aged kids, Pfizer tested a much lower dose — a third of the amount that’s in each shot given now. Yet after their second dose, children ages 5 to 11 developed coronavirus-fighting antibody levels just as strong as teenagers and young adults getting the regular-strength shots, Dr. Bill Gruber, a Pfizer senior vice president, told The Associated Press.

The kid dosage also proved safe, with similar or fewer temporary side effects — such as sore arms, fever or achiness — that teens experience, he said.

Read the full story here.

—Lauran Neergaard, The Associated Press

Scientists examine kids’ unique immune systems as more fall victim to COVID

Eighteen months into the COVID-19 pandemic, with the delta variant fueling a massive resurgence of disease, many hospitals are hitting a heartbreaking new low. They’re now losing babies to the coronavirus.

The first reported COVID-related death of a newborn occurred in Orange County, Florida, and an infant has died in Mississippi. Merced County in California lost a child under a year old in late August.

“It’s so hard to see kids suffer,” said Dr. Paul Offit, an expert on infectious diseases at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, which — like other pediatric hospitals around the country — has been inundated with COVID-19 patients.

Until the delta variant laid siege this summer, nearly all children seemed to be spared from the worst ravages of COVID-19, for reasons scientists didn’t totally understand.

Read the full story here.

—Liz Szabo, Kaiser Health News

Average daily COVID deaths in U.S. hit a mark not seen since March 1

The average U.S. daily death toll from COVID-19 over the past seven days surpassed 2,000 this weekend, the first time since March 1 that deaths have been so high, according to a New York Times database.

Texas and Florida, two of the hardest-hit states in the country, account for more than 30% of those deaths: Florida, where 56% of the population is vaccinated, averages about 353 deaths a day, and Texas, where 50% of the population is vaccinated, averages about 286 deaths a day. In the United States as a whole, 54% of all people are vaccinated.

Hot spots continue to speckle the map of the country, many of them in line with low vaccination rates but others in areas where vaccinations are among the highest. Vermont, for example, has a vaccination rate of 69% and reported more coronavirus cases in the past week than in any other seven-day period, thought it still has the fewest cases in the country.

As of Saturday, Guam, where 64% are vaccinated, and Idaho, where 41% are vaccinated, reported more deaths in the previous week than in any other seven-day period.

Read the full story here.

—Ethan Hauser, The New York Times

Catch up on the past 24 hours

Pfizer says its COVID-19 vaccine works for children ages 5 to 11 and that it will seek U.S. authorization for this age group soon. This is a key step toward starting long-awaited vaccinations for youngsters. Here's what to expect next. Urgency for the shot is growing as nearly a third of our nation's new COVID-19 infections hit children, and scientists dig into why some are falling critically ill.

Researchers are finding a big gap between the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines when it comes to preventing hospitalizations. It's playing into the continuing debate over booster shots.

Average daily deaths in the U.S. have hit a mark not seen since March 1, with two of the hardest-hit states accounting for more than 30% of the deaths. You can see how the most- and least-vaccinated states fared against the delta variant and track the virus' spread on these maps.

If you want to keep going to restaurants, bars, gyms or entertainment venues in King County, today is the last day you can get the Pfizer vaccine to be ready in time for the rule change. If you're getting the J&J shot, you have a bit more time. 

For older adults in the Seattle area, isolation has led to overwhelming loneliness. The effects of more than a year of this, experts say, could be long-term for physical and mental health. We've compiled these resources in case you or your loved ones need help.

Wondering why society went off-kilter in the pandemic? It was all predicted in this book, columnist Danny Westneat writes.

—Kris Higginson