Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Tuesday, September 21, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.
Pfizer announced on Monday that it will seek U.S. authorization for its COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5 to 11. With children in school and the contagious delta variant, many parents have been anxiously awaiting vaccinations.
Even though the dose for elementary school-aged kids is a third of the amount that’s in each shot now, children ages 5 to 11 developed antibody levels just as strong as teenagers and young adults, Dr. Bill Gruber, a Pfizer senior vice president, told The Associated Press.
Anthony Fauci, the White House’s chief coronavirus medical adviser, said data concerning Moderna or Johnson & Johnson booster shots could be a few weeks away from being reviewed by the Food and Drug Administration.
An FDA advisory panel on Friday voted unanimously to approve a third shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech for people 65 and older, anyone at risk of severe illness and those whose jobs would put them at higher risk of exposure. The FDA is expected to release a decision about boosters this 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.
Idaho’s COVID outlook is dire as cases continue to climb
Health care workers are exhausted and angry. Some of Idaho’s coronavirus vaccines are expiring because they have sat unused for so long. And coronavirus case numbers and deaths continue to climb, putting the state among the worst in the nation for the rate of new COVID-19 diagnoses.
Idaho’s public health leaders painted a grim picture — again — during a weekly briefing on the pandemic Tuesday.
The state continues to set record highs with 686 hospitalized COVID-19 patients as of Sept. 18, 180 of them in intensive care unit beds and 112 on ventilators, Idaho Department of Health and Welfare Dave Jeppesen said. At the moment, there is no end in sight to the surge.
“The numbers continue to increase, and we expect them to continue to increase,” Jeppesen said.
The entire state entered “crisis standards of care” last week, officially allowing hospitals to ration health care as needed so that scarce resources can be directed to the patients most in need and most likely to survive.
Report: Births decline in pandemic may have turned corner
While there has been a decline in births in the U.S. during the pandemic, a new report released Tuesday by the U.S. Census Bureau suggests the drop may have turned a corner last March as births started rebounding.
The decline in births was most noticeable at the end of 2020 and beginning of 2021. In December 2020, births in the U.S. were down 7.7% from the previous year, and they were down 9.4% last January compared to the previous January.
Births continued to be down 2.8% in February from the previous year, but in March births barely declined, only 0.15%, compared to March 2020, when the new coronavirus was declared a national emergency.
“This trend suggests that some people who postponed having babies last year had them this year,” said Anne Morse, a Census Bureau demographer in the report. “The winter decrease in births may have been prompted by couples who consciously chose to delay having children amid the uncertainty of the pandemic. It may also have been influenced by stress or limited physical interaction with a sexual partner.”
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee calls on Idaho to ‘take some commonsense measures’ to address COVID surge
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee criticized Idaho’s political leaders for their response to the recent surge in COVID-19 cases during a television appearance Friday that was being widely circulated on social media Monday.
Inslee appeared on MSNBC and said Washington hospitals are having to take in patients from Idaho who are sick with COVID-19.
“Today in my state, Washington citizens in many cases cannot get heart surgery, cannot get cancer surgery that they need, because we are having to take too many people of unvaccinated nature and unmasked, many of whom come from Idaho, and that’s just maddening frankly,” Inslee said.
“So we are calling for Idaho and the leaders there to lead and take some commonsense measures. I’m disappointed the governor of Idaho has spent more time trying to reduce protection by reducing vaccine usage instead of concentrating on this, and then clogging up my hospitals.”
An Idaho ICU doctor’s touching message went viral. Here’s what he told his co-workers
Dr. Kenneth Krell, 71, was driving to East Idaho’s largest intensive care unit in Idaho Falls on a Saturday.
It was supposed to be his day off. He had been working shifts of 36 hours, with 12 hours off. But when he received a phone call saying the ICU was overwhelmed, he immediately agreed to come in.
“Driving in, it just occurred to me how beleaguered our staff seemed and what remarkable people they are,” Krell told The Idaho Statesman by phone Friday. “We have been through a lot. And we keep persevering.”
After arriving at Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center, he made his way to the staff whiteboard and scrawled a message to his co-workers.
“In the end what sustains us, and what we will remember about having survived this madness, are the remarkable people who endured this with us, the best of humanity — all of us — who demonstrated the best of our calling. We endured this together, and supported each other. We saved lives and lost lives, and we did both with compassion and competence. We will not forget this.”
State health officials confirm 2,523 new coronavirus cases
The state Department of Health (DOH) reported 2,523 new coronavirus cases and 44 new deaths on Tuesday.
The update brings the state's totals to 631,023 cases and 7,315 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. Monday. Tallies may be higher earlier in the week because new state data isn’t reported on the weekends.
In addition, 35,382 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the virus — 166 new hospitalizations. In King County, the state's most populous, state health officials have confirmed a total of 147,108 COVID-19 diagnoses and 1,832 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.
Lawmakers attempt to revive nationwide eviction moratorium
Several progressive lawmakers on Tuesday introduced a bill that would reimpose a nationwide eviction moratorium at a time when deaths from COVID-19 are running at their highest levels since early March.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Rep. Cori Bush, D-Mo., said the bill would direct the secretary of Health and Human Services to implement a ban on evictions in response to the COVID pandemic. It would also amend a section of the Public Health Service Act to grant permanent authority to Health and Human Services to implement an eviction moratorium to address public health crises.
The Supreme Court’s conservative majority at the end of August allowed evictions to resume across the United States, blocking the Biden administration from enforcing a temporary ban that was put in place because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“This pandemic isn’t over, and we have to do everything we can to protect renters from the harm and trauma of needless eviction, which upends the lives of those struggling to get back on their feet,” Warren said in a statement. “Pushing hundreds of thousands of people out of their homes will only exacerbate this public health crisis, and cause economic harm to families, their communities, and our overall recovery.”
Seattle’s COVID-19 eviction moratoriums extended into January 2022 by Mayor Jenny Durkan
Seattle’s pandemic eviction moratoriums will remain in place through Jan. 15, 2022, rather than expiring at the end of September, Mayor Jenny Durkan said Tuesday.
Durkan has extended the moratoriums with an executive order, she announced in a news release, citing the spread of COVID-19’s Delta variant and an ongoing effort to distribute rent assistance to tenants who are behind on their payments.
Hospitalizations related to the virus appear to be decreasing across Washington state, but deaths appear to be increasing.
As many as 60,000 Seattle-area residents are estimated to be in households with rent debt, according to a survey last month.
‘Soul-crushing’: US COVID-19 deaths are topping 1,900 a day
COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. have climbed to an average of more than 1,900 a day for the first time since early March, with experts saying the virus is preying largely on a distinct group: 71 million unvaccinated Americans.
The increasingly lethal turn has filled hospitals, complicated the start of the school year, delayed the return to offices and demoralized health care workers.
“It is devastating,” said Dr. Dena Hubbard, a pediatrician in the Kansas City, Missouri, area who has cared for babies delivered prematurely by cesarean section in a last-ditch effort to save their mothers, some of whom died. For health workers, the deaths, combined with misinformation and disbelief about the virus, have been “heart-wrenching, soul-crushing.”
Twenty-two people died in one week alone at CoxHealth hospitals in the Springfield-Branson area, a level almost as high as that of all of Chicago. West Virginia has had more deaths in the first three weeks of September — 340 — than in the previous three months combined. Georgia is averaging 125 dead per day, more than California or other more populous states.
Consumers get online tool to check nursing home vaccine data
WASHINGTON (AP) — Families and patients have a new online tool to compare COVID-19 vaccination rates among nursing homes, Medicare announced Tuesday, addressing complaints from consumer groups and lawmakers that the critical data had been too difficult to find.
The information is now being made available through the “ Care Compare ” feature at Medicare.gov, the online tool for basic research on quality and safety issues at nursing homes. Consumers will be able to compare up to three nursing homes at the same time, and the webpage shows vaccination rates for residents and staff, as well as national and state averages.
“We want to give people a new tool to visualize this data to help them make informed decisions,” Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said in a statement.
Nursing home residents are a tiny proportion of the U.S. population, but they have borne a crushing burden from the COVID-19 pandemic, accounting for more than 150,000 deaths, or roughly 1 in 5. Nationally, about 84% of residents are now vaccinated, which has slowed — but not totally prevented — the spread of the delta variant among frail patients.
OECD urges rich nations to share vaccines to even-up growth
PARIS (AP) — A leading international economic watchdog urged developed countries to put more effort into providing low-income countries with coronavirus vaccines in order to ensure that the global recovery from the pandemic is more even.
In its latest assessment of the state of the global economy, the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development said Tuesday that the global recovery from the shock of the pandemic is faster than it anticipated a year ago. Though the global economy has more than recouped the 3.4% output lost in 2020, it cautioned that the recovery is “uneven.”
The OECD, which monitors and advises its 38 member countries, modestly downgraded its growth forecast for this year to 5.7% from 5.8% previously. For 2022, the OECD raised its forecast to 4.5% from 4.4%.
Among developed countries, the OECD said the U.S. economy is set to grow this year by 0.9 percentage points less than it anticipated in May, though at a still-healthy 6%, while the 19-country eurozone is bouncing back by a full percentage point more than previously thought at 5.3%. It left its China growth unchanged at 8.5%.
San Francisco’s mayor blasted for dancing maskless at a crowded club. She called her critics the ‘fun police.’
At San Francisco’s Black Cat club last Wednesday, San Francisco Mayor London Breed, D, rose from her seat and started getting down to the music.
In a room full of maskless people, the mayor moved her hips, swung her arms and appeared to sing along at the top of her lungs as the R&B group Tony! Toni! Toné! performed their 1996 hit “Let’s Get Down.”
But after a San Francisco Chronicle reporter posted a video of the mayor busting moves at the nightclub, critics noted that Breed may have been violating a city health order: She wasn’t wearing a mask, a requirement for patrons who are not eating or drinking indoors.
“Elected officials have a greater responsibility to model the behavior that’s necessary to control the pandemic,” John Swartzberg, an infectious diseases expert at University of California at Berkeley, told the Chronicle. “Any time the elected officials behave like this, it undermines public confidence in them and that translates to people saying, ‘Well, if the mayor can do this, I can.'”
Family urges others to get vaccinated after bride-to-be dies of COVID: ‘Misinformation killed her’
After dating for more than 10 years, Samantha Wendell and her fiancé, Austin Eskew, were ready to settle down and have kids.
Following their engagement in 2019, the couple set a wedding date for Aug. 21, 2021, at a church in Lisle, Ill., where Wendell’s parents had married years earlier. They planned to start a family soon after.
Wendell was eager to have children, so when she heard false claims that the coronavirus vaccine could affect her fertility, she decided to hold off on getting immunized, her family members told NBC News. But over the summer, Wendell, a surgical technician in Grand Rivers, Ky., changed her mind and scheduled a vaccine appointment for the end of July. It was too late — days before the appointment, she and Eskew tested positive for the virus.
After a long hospitalization, during which she was placed on a ventilator, Wendell died Sept. 10. She was 29.
Biden bets on rapid COVID tests but they can be hard to find
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden is betting on millions more rapid, at-home tests to help curb the latest deadly wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, which is overloading hospitals and threatening to shutter classrooms around the country.
But the tests have already disappeared from pharmacy shelves in many parts of the U.S., and manufacturers warn it will take them weeks to ramp up production, after scaling it back amid plummeting demand over the summer.
The latest shortage is another painful reminder that the U.S. has yet to successfully manage its COVID-19 testing arsenal, let alone deploy it in the type of systematic way needed to quickly crush outbreaks in schools, workplaces and communities.
Experts say encouraging signs last spring led to false confidence about the shrinking role for tests: falling case numbers, rising vaccination rates and guidance from health officials that vaccinated people could largely skip testing. Officials recently reversed that advice as cases and deaths driven by the delta variant surged anew.
Seattle brothers expand billion-dollar biotech company’s focus to include COVID
Harlan and Chad Robins started Seattle-based Adaptive Biotechnologies 12 years ago to find a cure for cancer. Now, they have broadened their mission to take on COVID-19.
Adaptive sells an ultra-detailed blood test that analyzes immune responses to different diseases. It says the technology can advance research, diagnosis, and treatment of cancer, autoimmune disorders and infectious diseases.
“Your immune system knows about every disease you have,” said Harlan Robins, chief scientific officer at Adaptive. “If we could just ask the immune system what it knows, we would be able to diagnose every disease.”
The company now hopes its technology can help government agencies make more informed decisions related to COVID-19. Adaptive created a specialized test that provides new data about how immune cells respond to the coronavirus.
A couple wore masks inside a Texas restaurant to protect their newborn son. The owner kicked them out.
Natalie Wester and her husband were waiting for their appetizer to arrive when the server came to their table, not with the fried jalapeños, but an ultimatum.
Take your masks off or get out.
On Sept. 10, the couple left their 4-month-old son, Austin, with his maternal grandmother and went to Hang Time Sports Grill & Bar in Rowlett, Texas, a Dallas suburb — a rare night out for the young parents, Wester told The Washington Post. The plan was to have dinner and a couple of drinks, catch up with friends they hadn’t seen in a while and call it a night.
Instead, they got kicked out in what Wester called a “bizarre” incident because they chose to wear masks to protect Austin, who has cystic fibrosis and is immunocompromised. The restaurant bans customers from wearing masks as part of its dress code, something owner Tom Blackmer said is his right as someone who purchased and has invested in a private business.
Q&A: America’s new COVID-19 rules for international travel
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Biden administration is rolling out new international travel policies affecting Americans and noncitizens alike who want to fly into the U.S. The goal is to restore more normal air travel after 18 months of disruption caused by COVID-19.
The across-the-board rules, which will take effect in November, will replace a hodgepodge of confusioning restrictions. Some details of the plan announced Monday are being worked out, but here are some questions and answers about what to expect:
WHAT IS THE NEW POLICY IN A NUTSHELL?
All adult foreign nationals traveling to the U.S. will be required to be fully vaccinated before boarding their flight. This is in addition to the current requirement that travelers show proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of departure to the U.S.
J&J: Booster dose of its COVID shot prompts strong response
LONDON (AP) — Johnson & Johnson said Tuesday that a booster of its one-shot coronavirus vaccine provides a stronger immune response months after people receive a first dose.
J&J said in statement that an extra dose — given either two months or six months after the initial shot — revved up protection. The results haven’t yet been published or vetted by other scientists.
The J&J vaccine was considered an important tool in fighting the pandemic because it requires only one shot. But even as rollout began in the U.S. and elsewhere, the company already was running a global test of whether a two-dose course might be more effective — the second dose given 56 days after the first.
That two-dose approach was 75% effective globally at preventing moderate to severe COVID-19, and 95% effective in the U.S. alone, the company reported — a difference likely due to which variants were circulating in different countries during the monthslong study.
Catch up on the past 24 hours
COVID-19 has now killed about as many Americans as the 1918-19 Spanish flu, which was universally considered the worst pandemic in human history — perhaps until now. History offers context as we face a predicted winter surge.
COVID-19 hospitalizations are down in Washington, but one reason is that death rates are rising. “That is a way we do not want to be creating hospital capacity,” the head of the state hospital association says as worried doctors look ahead to flu season (here are eight things to know about getting your flu shot this year). Gov. Jay Inslee has asked the federal government to send medical workers.
Charlie Callagan was on the road to Portland for a bone-marrow transplant when he got word that the hospital had canceled it, swamped by COVID-19 patients. Patients scheduled for open-heart surgeries and brain-tumor procedures are getting turned away, too. "You always hope they come back," one doctor says.
Unvaccinated American travelers will need COVID-19 tests before and after returning to U.S. soil under a new Biden administration rule that also reopens air travel for people from 33 countries. A Q&A tackles how this will work.
An Oregon elementary-school worker showed up in blackface, apparently to protest the school district's vaccine mandate. It's the latest in a string of "deeply disturbing expressions of racism" in the district, the superintendent there says.
Samantha Wendell was supposed to marry her college sweetheart last month. Instead, in the same church where she planned to walk down the aisle, her funeral was held on Saturday. Her cause of death was misinformation, Wendell's family says, urging others to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
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