As coronavirus continues to spread and the potential for a winter spike in cases looms, the United States is set to hit 200,000 deaths since the start of the pandemic. The death toll represents the outer limit of what President Donald Trump projected in March, when he said that if the death tally remained between 100,000 and 200,000, his administration had “done a very good job.”

In Washington, 2,037 people have died from the virus as of Friday. Coronavirus cases are continuing to surge in India, which has reported the highest single-day rise in the world every day for more than five weeks.

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

(Jennifer Luxton / The Seattle Times)

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New Zealand to begin lifting virus restrictions

All remaining virus restrictions will be lifted across much of New Zealand from late Monday with the exception of the largest city, Auckland, which will continue to have some restrictions for at least another 16 days.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern made the announcement Monday after meeting with top lawmakers. The nation of 5 million people reimposed some restrictions last month after the Auckland outbreak, which now appears to be under control.

Under the plan, maximum gathering sizes in Auckland will be increased from 10 to 100 on Wednesday and then caps removed two weeks after that.

“Auckland needs more time,” Ardern told reporters in the city. “Whilst we have reasonable confidence we are on the right track, there is still a need in Auckland for that cautious approach.”

Health authorities reported no new cases on Monday. The number of active COVID-19 cases is 62, with 33 of those from community spread and 29 among quarantined returning travelers.

—The Associated Press
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‘We may be surprised again’: An unpredictable pandemic takes a terrible toll

It is a staggering toll, almost 200,000 people dead from the coronavirus in the United States, and nearly five times that many — close to 1 million people — around the world.

And the pandemic, which sent cases spiking skyward in many countries and then trending downward after lockdowns, has reached a precarious point. Will countries like the United States see the virus continue to slow in the months ahead? Or is a new surge on the way?

“What will happen, nobody knows,” said Catherine Troisi, an infectious disease epidemiologist at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. “This virus has surprised us on many fronts, and we may be surprised again.”

In the U.S., fewer new coronavirus cases have been detected week by week since late July, following harrowing outbreaks first in the Northeast and then in the South and the West.

But in recent days, the nation’s daily count of new cases is climbing again, fueling worries of a resurgence of the virus as universities and schools reopen and as colder weather pushes people indoors ahead of what some epidemiologists fear could be a devastating winter.

Read the full story.

—Simon Romero, Manny Fernandez and Marc Santora, The New York Times

Washington confirms 349 new COVID-19 cases

Health officials confirmed 349 new coronavirus cases on Sunday. The state no longer updates deaths on weekends.

The update brings the state’s totals to 82,548 infections and 2,037 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. Saturday.

Health officials also reported that about 7,262 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the virus and 1,736,556 total coronavirus tests have been administered.

In King County, the state’s most populous, state health officials have confirmed 21,453 infections and 751 deaths.

—Megan Burbank

WNBA postpones Game 1 of semifinals between Storm and Lynx due to inconclusive COVID-19 test

WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert answers questions about a postponed game between the Seattle Storm and the Minnesota Lynx after Game 1 of a WNBA basketball semifinal round playoff game between the Connecticut Sun and the Las Vegas Aces, Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, in Bradenton, Fla. (Phelan M. Ebenhack / The Associated Press)
WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert answers questions about a postponed game between the Seattle Storm and the Minnesota Lynx after Game 1 of a WNBA basketball semifinal round playoff game between the Connecticut Sun and the Las Vegas Aces, Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, in Bradenton, Fla. (Phelan M. Ebenhack / The Associated Press)

The WNBA postponed the start of the Sunday’s semifinal series between the No. 2 seed Storm and No. 4 Minnesota due to inconclusive pregame COVID-19 test results from Seattle players.

In a statement the league cited an “abundance of caution” spurred its decision.

“Players with inconclusive results have undergone additional testing today and are currently in isolation,” the WNBA said in a statement. “The new date for Game 1 will be communicated as developments warrant.”

Storm co-owner Lisa Brummel and CEO and general manager Alisha Valavanis released a joint statement that read: “The Storm organization fully supports the decision to postpone the game. The health and safety of the WNBA players, team staff and all those involved in the production of this season remains our top priority.”

Read the full story here.

—Percy Allen
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Cases decline in Western Washington, but Eastern Washington plateaus

Cases of COVID-19 transmission are continuing to decline across Western Washington, but Eastern Washington is seeing its progress plateau, according to a new statewide "situation report" from the state Department of Health.

The plateau in Eastern Washington is driven by increases in Whitman County, particularly among college-age people. Pullman, home to Washington State University, has recently been topping lists of cities with high numbers of cases, despite the fact that nearly all of its classes are being conducted online.

Overall cases are declining in Western Washington, though some counties — Snohomish, Pierce, Clark and Whatcom — have plateaued. Lewis County has seen increases due to an outbreak at a rehabilitation and care center, the state report said.

The state said that the reproductive number (how many new people each COVID-19 patient will infect) was close to 1 in both Western and Eastern Washington as of Aug. 29 — an estimated 1.07 for western Washington and .94 in eastern Washington. If those numbers drop significantly below 1, that means transmission of the virus is declining.

“While we continue to see some encouraging declines in case counts, it is clear we cannot let our guard down,” Secretary of Health John Wiesman said in a statement. “The counties where we are seeing plateaus or increases in case counts illustrate the continued importance of limiting the size and frequency of our in-person gatherings, wearing face coverings and staying home when we are sick.”

The pandemic has made ghost kitchens one of restaurant industry's few growth areas

Like most restaurant groups around the country, BBQ Holdings’ four restaurant brands got hit hard by the pandemic — shelter-in-place orders and limitations on dining-room occupancy meant sales plummeted in March, April and May. At Famous Dave’s, an affordable barbecue concept with 125 locations mostly in the Midwest, and Granite City Brewery, a group of 18 restaurants in the Upper Midwest, staff stood idle and annual sales projected at $6 million per store started looking like half of that.

Management made a decision, embracing one of the industry’s hottest trends, one that has been supercharged by the coronavirus crisis.

It decided to raise a ghost. These are kitchens without dining rooms, culinary concepts designed for delivery, most never becoming a bricks-and-mortar destination for diners.

Ghost kitchens, dark kitchens, virtual restaurants, cloud kitchens: The path forward for restaurateurs trying to escape the collapse of their business models is illuminated by a digital glow. The stratospheric rise in online ordering and food delivery during the pandemic has prompted restaurateurs to chase those delivery dollars in a number of novel ways.

Read the full story here.

—The Washington Post

Sweden spared surge of virus cases but many questions remain

A train pulls into the Odenplan subway station in central Stockholm, where morning commuters without masks get off or board before settling in to read their smartphones.

Whether on trains or trams, in supermarkets or shopping malls — places where face masks are commonly worn in much of the world — Swedes go about their lives without them.

When most of Europe locked down their populations early in the pandemic by closing schools, restaurants, gyms and even borders, Swedes kept enjoying many freedoms.

The relatively low-key strategy captured the world’s attention, but at the same time it coincided with a per capita death rate that was much higher than in other Nordic countries.

Now, as infection numbers surge again in much of Europe, the country of 10 million people has some of the lowest numbers of new coronavirus cases — and only 14 virus patients in intensive care.

Whether Sweden’s strategy is succeeding, however, is still very uncertain. Read the full story here.

—The Associated Press
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Seattle-area families of color are talking about improving remote education amid coronavirus. Here are some of their ideas.

Ann Ishimaru, left, and Regina Elmi co-wrote an essay on how education can better serve Black and brown students. 
They are seen here Wednesday. (Dean Rutz / The Seattle Times)
Ann Ishimaru, left, and Regina Elmi co-wrote an essay on how education can better serve Black and brown students. They are seen here Wednesday. (Dean Rutz / The Seattle Times)

Thousands of families and caregivers in King County are anxious as schools operate online. In recent months, we’ve experienced the devastation of COVID-19 and a summer of reckoning with anti-Black racism sparked by the killings of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and the shooting of Jacob Blake.

We also see racial inequities deepening in our schools. As difficult and heartbreaking as this time has been, many families in BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and people of color) communities have been mobilizing and finding creative ways to support and educate their children.

We challenge educational systems to consider: What might we create together if we stepped outside of what is considered “normal”? Some of our ideas include family co-ops, community educators, intergenerational technology help, and cultural learning outside schools.

Where are these ideas coming from? We are part of a network of families of color across the region who have been meeting and sharing experiences for months online since COVID-19 closed schools. 

As the new school year approached, we came together to summarize the conversations we had with other families of color and issue a call to action: Learn from and work with families of color to change how we do school.

Read the full story, which the authors wrote with 10 other African American, Somali, Latina and Vietnamese parent leaders from the Renton, Federal Way, Kent, Highline and Seattle school districts.

—Regina Elmi and Ann Ishimaru

Analysis: US to hit 200K dead; Trump sees no need for regret

WASHINGTON (AP) — As the coronavirus pandemic began bearing down on the United States in March, President Donald Trump set out his expectations. 

If the U.S. could keep the death toll between 100,000 to 200,000 people, Trump said, it would indicate that his administration had “done a very good job.” 

In the coming days, the number of U.S. deaths is set to clear the outer band of the president’s projections: 200,000, according to the official tally, though the real number is certainly higher. The virus continues to spread and there is currently no approved vaccine. Some public health experts fear infections could spike this fall and winter, perhaps even doubling the death count by the end of the year. 

Yet the grim milestone and the prospect of more American deaths to come have prompted no rethinking from the president about his handling of the pandemic and no outward expressions of regrets. Instead, Trump has sought to reshape the significance of the death tally, trying to turn the loss of 200,000 Americans into a success story by contending the numbers could have been even higher without the actions of his administration. 

“If we didn’t do our job, it would be three and a half, two and a half, maybe 3 million people,” Trump said Friday, leaning on extreme projections of what could have happened if nothing at all were done to fight the pandemic. “We have done a phenomenal job with respect to COVID-19.”

Read the full story here.

—Julie Pace, The Associated Press

Pandemic scrambles the local job market: Despite deep unemployment, some employers still can’t hire fast enough

If you want a sense of what six months of COVID-19 have done to the Seattle-area job market, ask Amy Fenning.

Last year, the former college administrator decided she wanted to be an elementary school teacher and is currently finishing her training in the Renton School District. 

But thanks to the pandemic, Fenning has no idea when or where any teaching jobs will be available. So she’s hedging her bets and keeping the cashier job she took this summer at Target, where work is so plentiful she often has to turn down shifts. “They are always busy and always hiring,” says Fenning. “These are just strange times to be looking for work.”

Fenning’s two-track job search is emblematic of a local labor market unlike anything in recent memory. 

Overall, unemployment in Washington state remains painfully high: 8.5% as of August, with nearly 340,000 people still out of work. New jobless claims are continuing at triple their pre-pandemic levels, and in some sectors, including hotels, restaurants, travel, and arts and entertainment, layoffs and closures have been so severe it may take years for employment to fully recover.

Read the full story here.

—Paul Roberts