Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Monday, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.
Washington’s daily confirmed case counts, hospitalizations and deaths have all dropped since spiking in July. Human behavior is driving the changes, a state health official says, emphasizing the need to stick to masking, social distancing and other precautions. The state is also counting tests differently. Know what to look for as you track the trends on these graphics.
The coronavirus spreads mainly in the air, through droplets or aerosols that apparently can travel more than 6 feet and remain suspended, the CDC now says.
Throughout Monday, on this page, we’ll post updates on the outbreak and its effects on the Seattle area, the Pacific Northwest and the world. Updates from Sunday are here, and all our coronavirus coverage can be found here.
State health officials says Monday's coronavirus numbers were incorrect
The Washington State Department of Health is rolling back its latest coronavirus numbers after officials discovered incorrect data in its most recent update, the department said in a statement Monday night.
"After posting our regular data release on our data dashboards on 9/21, the Washington State Department of Health discovered incorrect data," the statement said. "We believe the issue started with data posted on 9/21. As a result, we have rolled back the COVID-19 data dashboard and the COVID-19 risk assessment dashboard to reflect the data posted on 9/20."
According to the statement, officials don't know which data were impacted and are in the process of identifying and correcting the problem.
"We apologize for any confusion this delay may cause," the statement said. "We plan to update our dashboards tomorrow afternoon (9/22)."
As of Sunday, the state had reported 82,548 total infections, 2,037 deaths and 7,262 hospitalizations.
Duterte extends virus calamity status by a year
MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte says he has extended a state of calamity in the entire Philippines by a year to allow the government to draw emergency funds faster to fight the COVID-19 pandemic and harness the police and military to maintain law and order.
Duterte first placed the country under a state of calamity in March when the number of confirmed infections was approaching 200 with about a dozen deaths. The country now has more than 290,000 confirmed cases, the highest in Southeast Asia, with nearly 5,000 deaths.
The tough-talking president lashed anew at critics in his televised remarks late Monday for accusing his administration of not doing enough to contain the outbreaks.
“What ‘enough’ do you want? There are hospitals, beds and funeral parlors. Everything is there,” Duterte said, specifying Vice President Leni Robredo, who leads the opposition, in his tirade.
Columbia Sportswear is the latest downtown Seattle business to pull out amid the pandemic
In yet another sign of COVID-19’s mounting economic costs, the Columbia Sportswear store has joined the list of businesses that won’t reopen in downtown Seattle after the pandemic.
Portland-based Columbia Sportswear hasn’t publicly commented on the fate of store, at Third Avenue and Pine Street, which was looted during the May 30 protests and is currently boarded up.
But three company employees confirmed that the store, which opened in 2008, is now permanently closed. They said the decision was driven by losses from the pandemic and concerns over downtown’s economic recovery, but also broader business challenges in downtown, including shoplifting and street crime.
“There were multiple issues,” including “the hardships of working downtown,” said a Columbia Sportswear employee who requested anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to speak to the media.
Columbia Sportswear’s departure is the latest in a series of high-profile closures in a part of the city that has been particularly hard-hit by the pandemic. Since March, 126 street-level downtown business locations have closed, according to Downtown Seattle Association (DSA).
Yemen gets new virus hospital after other facilities close
COPENHAGEN, Denmark — The Red Cross on Monday announced the opening of a new field hospital in southern Yemen specifically to treat coronavirus patients, as the virus continues to spread largely unchecked in the war-torn country.
In the south, an already wrecked health system seems to have completely shut down. Many medical facilities in Aden, southern Yemen’s main city, have closed as staffers fled or simply turn patients away.
In a news release, the International Committee for the Red Cross said the new 60-bed field hospital in Aden has emergency rooms, wards, an X-ray department and a laboratory.
Norway was a major donor to the new facility. The United Nations has repeatedly called on other countries to make good on their pledges of financial aid to Yemen at a donor conference earlier this year.
Airline denies mom and son, 2, after he refused to wear mask
PORTSMOUTH, N.H. — A New Hampshire woman was not allowed to stay on an American Airlines flight with her 2-year-old son because he would not wear a mask, stoking a discussion about how to balance compassion with rules designed to keep others safe.
In an Instagram post, Rachel Starr Davis of Portsmouth said while she was boarding a plane in Charlotte, North Carolina, a flight attendant told her the airline’s policy is that all passengers over the age of 2 must wear a covering over their nose and mouth, the Portsmouth Herald reported.
Davis was flying with her mother and son to Manchester, New Hampshire, on Thursday, when her son refused to put on a mask, she wrote.
In her post, she said she “did everything I could while he was screaming and crying as I tried to hold him and put the mask on,” but eventually, the flight’s crew asked all of the passengers to get off the plane. She also got off the plane and was then left behind as the other passengers got back on and departed.
Davis’s post garnered over 180,000 likes and thousands of comments as some users on Instagram argued that the flight attendants were doing their jobs while others decried a lack of compassion for a mother traveling with a young child.
Seahawks’ Pete Carroll among three coaches fined $100,000 for not wearing face coverings properly
In a move by the NFL designed to send a message about compliance with COVID-19 protocols, Seattle coach Pete Carroll and two others were fined $100,000 Monday for violating rules on wearing face coverings in the bench area.
Other coaches fined were Denver’s Vic Fangio and San Francisco’s Kyle Shanahan.
Each team was also fined $250,000.
The fines come in the wake of the NFL last week having sent teams a memo reiterating that the league expected compliance from coaches with the rules.
The fines being levied are an apparent next step at showing the NFL intends to levy consequences.
Hollywood unions, studios agree on rules to start production
LOS ANGELES — Hollywood’s unions announced Monday that they have reached an agreement on pandemic protocols with major studios that will allow the broad resumption of production of films and television after six months of stagnant sets and widespread unemployment.
The Directors Guild of America, the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the Basic Crafts unions and the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists jointly announced the deal reached with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers after months of planning and negotiating.
The deal includes mandatory and comprehensive use of personal protective gear and testing of cast and crew members, and a dedicated coronavirus supervisor to oversee it all.
It requires the use of a “zone system” that strictly limits interactions between people on sets based on their job’s requirements. Those who must deal with more people will be tested more frequently and have more strict protective equipment and spacing requirements. Actors will be tested especially often because their on-camera work won’t allow for many protective measures.
The agreement also gives 10 days of paid COVID-19 sick leave per employee, which can be used after positive tests or when quarantine is necessary, and says that employees who use the leave must be reinstated so long as their jobs still exist.
“The protocols pave the way for creative workers, who have been hard hit by the pandemic, to resume their crafts and livelihoods in workplaces redesigned around their health,” the unions said in a joint statement.
Fox News apologizes for using debunked coronavirus story
NEW YORK — Fox News Channel apologized on Monday “for any confusion” in reporting a now-debunked story about the mayor of Nashville, Tennessee, supposedly concealing the number of coronavirus cases linked to bars and restaurants in that city because they were so low.
The story came from a Thursday report by Nashville’s Fox affiliate WZTV on “leaked emails” that the station retracted late Friday upon learning that they didn’t mean what its reporter thought they did.
The story spread among national conservative commentators as a supposed example of the harm of coronavirus restrictions. It was the lead segment on “Tucker Carlson Tonight” on Thursday night and “Fox & Friends” devoted time to it the following morning.
A fact-check done Friday by The Nashville Tennessean debunked the WZTV reporting, which was retweeted by Donald Trump Jr. and led to Tennessee Sen. Marsha Blackburn, a Republican, to publicly call for an investigation into Mayor John Cooper, a Democrat.
The station’s story quoted an exchange between a Nashville health official and a representative of the mayor’s office, where the health expert sought and received assurance that coronavirus data linked to specific bars and restaurants would not be released to the public.
The mayor’s office later said that data was kept private for fear that it could inadvertently lead to the names of people who test positive for COVID-19 being revealed, a violation of federal privacy laws.
COVID-19 expected to be the third most common cause of death in Pierce County
In a blog post published today, the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department said that COVID-19, the illness caused by the new coronavirus, could be among top causes of death based on available data. "For the months of April and August, we expect COVID-19 to be the third most common cause of death in our county, compared to data through 2018," Ingrid Friberg, an epidemiologist with the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department, wrote in the post.
Friberg said that more deaths could be attributed to COVID-19 than strokes, accidents, Alzheimer's, suicides or diabetes. "This is true both when most COVID-19 cases are in older people, like in April, or like in August when most COVID-19 cases were in younger people. We won’t know for certain until next year," Friberg wrote.
So far, 164 residents of Pierce County have died from COVID-19. People with underlying health conditions and those over age 75 are more likely to be affected, but the post points out that nearly half of people age 18 and above have some kind of underlying health condition, so "COVID-19 is a threat to everybody," including younger adults.
Nationally, COVID-19 is expected to be the third leading cause of death this year. A Seattle Times analysis in August also identified the novel coronavirus as likely the third leading cause of death in King County so far in 2020, causing more deaths than Alzheimer’s disease.
Washington confirms 300 new COVID-19 cases
Health officials confirmed 300 new coronavirus cases on Monday and 18 deaths.
The update brings the state’s totals to 82,848 infections and 2,055 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. Sunday. Death tallies may be higher early in the week, as DOH is no longer reporting COVID-19-related deaths on weekends.
Health officials also reported that about 7,296 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the virus and 1,720,769 total coronavirus tests have been administered.
In King County, the state’s most populous, state health officials have confirmed 21,516 infections and 757 deaths.
Hayrides, pumpkin patches and bonfires can resume in five hard-hit Washington counties with COVID-19 protections in place
OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee Monday issued guidance allowing traditional fall activities — such as hayrides, corn mazes, pumpkin patches and bonfires — to resume in five counties in Central and Eastern Washington hit hard this summer by COVID-19.
The guidance comes on the eve of autumn and as wildfire smoke clears across the state. It allows counties in the modified first phase of Inslee’s four-part reopening plan to resume those activities, with protections to guard against the new coronavirus.
The five counties that remain in the modified first phase are Benton, Chelan, Douglas, Franklin and Yakima counties.
The guidance defines agritourism “as a form of commercial enterprise that links agricultural production and/or processing with tourism in order to attract visitors onto a farm, ranch, or other agricultural business for the purposes of entertaining and/or educating the visitors and generating income for the farm, ranch, or business owner,” according to the document.
“Examples of agritourism include, but are not limited to Christmas tree farms, u-pick berry farms, corn mazes and pumpkin patches.”
Monday’s announcement also allows people in those five counties to have private firepits or bonfires. Those activities are already allowed for Washington’s other 34 counties, which have advanced to the second or third phases of the reopening plan.
In order to hold the activities, facial coverings must be worn and people must stay at least 6 feet apart.
Businesses holding such events should seek to minimize in-person interactions, for instance by taking cash-free payment options and allowing reservations online or by phone. Requirements for specific activities — from hayrides, to corn mazes and bonfires — can be found here.
Coronavirus restrictions ‘mocking God’ in San Francisco, says Catholic archbishop
Protesters led by the Catholic archbishop of San Francisco on Sunday condemned limits on reopening churches in the city as it battles the coronavirus pandemic.
“This is mockery, they are mocking you — even worse, mocking God,” said Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, KGO reported. “To City Hall, you don’t matter.”
The city plans to permit services of up to 25 people indoors or 50 people outdoors by Oct. 1, The Mercury News reported.
But Cordileone told hundreds of protesters wearing “we are essential” shirts Sunday that those restrictions are unfair.
“The city continues to place unrealistic and suffocating restrictions on our natural and constitutional right to worship,” Cordileone said, The Mercury News reported. “This discrimination affects all of us.” “Going to Mass is like freedom of speech, without that, you take away our souls,” said protester Stella Marinucci from San Francisco, KGO reported.
Cruise lines vow 100% testing in plan for resuming sailing
Major cruise lines say they will test all passengers and crew for COVID-19 prior to boarding as part of their plan for resuming sailing in the Americas.
The Cruise Lines International Association, a trade group that represents 95% of global oceangoing cruise capacity, said Monday that its members will also require passengers and crew to wear masks while onboard whenever physical distancing can’t be maintained.
No date has been set for the resumption of cruising in the Americas. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a no-sail order for U.S. waters through Sept. 30. The association’s safety plan will now go to the CDC, which will consider it as the agency decides whether to lift the no-sail order. The order has been extended twice since March.
N95 masks save lives. So why are they still hard to get this far into a pandemic?
The patient started coughing.
One cough can send 3,000 droplets into the air, one droplet can contain millions of coronavirus particles, and now some of those particles were heading for the face of emergency department nurse Kelly Williams.
Strapped over the nurse's mouth and nose was an N95 respirator, the disposable filtering mask that has become the world’s most reliable and coveted defense against the virus.
N95s were designed to be thrown away after every patient. By this July afternoon, Williams had been wearing the same one for more than two months.
To get to her, the N95 had traveled from a British factory to a Baltimore warehouse, in a supply chain as tangled and layered as the web of microscopic fibers inside the mask’s filter.
Six months after the coronavirus pandemic began, the continued shortage of the masks persists, leaving health-care workers exposed, patients at risk and public health experts flummoxed over a seemingly simple question: Why is the world’s richest country still struggling to meet the demand for an item that once cost around $1 apiece?
Europe adopts tougher virus restrictions as infections surge
As the U.S. closed in on 200,000 coronavirus deaths Monday, the crisis deteriorated across Europe, with Britain working to draw up new restrictions, Spain clamping down again in Madrid and the Czech Republic replacing its health minister with an epidemiologist because of a surge of infections.
The growing push to reimpose tough measures in Europe to beat back a scourge that was seemingly brought under control in the spring contributed to a sharp drop on Wall Street in the morning.
In Britain, Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to announce a round of restrictions Tuesday to slow the spread of the disease. British Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty warned that cases are doubling every seven days, and the experience in other countries shows that that will soon lead to a rise in deaths.
The chief medical officers of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland raised the nation’s COVID-19 alert Monday from three to four, the second-highest level. More than 4,300 new infections were reported on Monday, a level not seen since early May.
More than 41,000 signed up for Seattle's coronavirus utility help
At the end of August, 41,961 Seattle households were enrolled in the city's COVID-19 assistance program providing a 60% discount on Seattle City Light (SCL) electricity bills and a 50% discount on Seattle Public Utilities (SPU).
The two utility companies began the program in March utilizing a self-certification format that provided immediate utility service relief for people who need it, according to a statement released by Mayor Jenny Durkan's office on Monday.
Durkan said the two utility companies have halted disconnections for non-payment and are continuing to waive late fees and interest charges.
“We know that many people are dealing with the negative financial impacts of Covid-19 and our hearts go out to them,” said Mami Hara, general manager of Seattle Public Utilities. “Expanding enrollment in the City’s Utility Discount Program and creating an easy application process was the right thing to do. We hope that customers who are experiencing financial stress will apply for the Utility Discount Program or contact us to arrange a flexible payment arrangement. Staying in touch with us helps customers stay on top of their bills, and we work hard to make the process as easy as possible."
While walk-in counters remain closed, SPU and SCL customer service representatives are available by phone at 206-684-3000 or online.
Income-eligible customers can apply to the Utility Discount Program and receive a 60% discount on Seattle City Light electricity bills and a 50% discount on Seattle Public Utilities water/sewer/garbage bills. Check for eligibility and apply here or call 206-684-0268.
On this date in 1918: First cases of deadly 'Spanish flu' reported in Pierce County
By Sept. 21, 1918, there were 11 service members at the U.S. Army's Camp Lewis, now known as Joint Base Lewis-McChord, in Pierce County, being treated for the "Spanish flu," according to an entry on HistoryLink.
Earlier that year, in March, a wave of influenza brought by an arriving infantry unit hit Camp Lewis, but the cases were mild and the people who got it recovered quickly, HistoryLink reports.
But it was a different story when the virus reappeared in the fall.
"The stricken men came from army camps in the eastern and southern United States and were already infected with the virulent and lethal new strain of influenza when they reported to Camp Lewis. At about the same time, at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard at Bremerton, a trainload of sailors arrives from Philadelphia that includes men suffering from the same infection, named 'Spanish influenza' because the first verified cases appeared in Spain the previous May. By the end of September, nine to 11 deaths a week are occurring at Camp Lewis."
Millions in danger of missing coronavirus payments, government watchdog says
A government watchdog says millions of Americans are in danger of missing coronavirus relief payments of up to $1,200 per individual because of incomplete records.
The Government Accountability Office, Congress’ auditing arm, said in a report Monday that possibly 8.7 million or more individuals who are eligible for the economic impact payments have yet to receive those payments because of inadequate IRS and Treasury Department records.
That was one of a number of findings in the latest GAO report on the handling of the unprecedented $2.6 trillion in support passed by Congress last spring to cushion the impact from a sharp recession triggered by the global pandemic.
CDC reverses itself, says guidelines on coronavirus airborne transmission were wrong
The Centers for Disease Control on Monday reversed course on a recent policy change, removing a days-old statement on airborne transmission of the novel coronavirus.
On Friday, the agency had posted guidelines suggesting the virus can transmit over a distance larger than 6 feet and that indoor ventilation is key to protection against its spread. This is a point that many independent experts have also been advancing, and it had appeared that the agency had come around to their point of view.
But Monday morning, those guidelines were removed because “that does not reflect our current state of knowledge,” a top CDC official said.
For months, scientists and public health experts have warned of mounting evidence that the coronavirus is airborne, transmitted through tiny droplets called aerosols that linger in the air much longer than the larger globs that come from coughing or sneezing.
On Friday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention appeared to agree. The CDC changed its official guidance to note that aerosols are “thought to be the main way the virus spreads” and to warn that badly ventilated indoor spaces are particularly dangerous.
Madrid adopts virus restrictions exposing poor-rich divide
Heightened restrictions to stem Europe’s fastest coronavirus spread in some of Madrid’s working-class neighborhoods brought a heated debate over the prevalence of inequality in Spain back into the spotlight Monday.
The measures, including a requirement to justify trips out of the neighborhoods and reduce occupancy in shops and restaurants, affect some 860,000 residents and have been met with protests because many of those affected believe that authorities are targeting the poor.
The restrictions target areas that have a 14-day rate of transmission above 1,000 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, among the highest in Europe. They are also densely populated with less-affluent residents who cram into small apartments and use public transportation to work in manual jobs in other areas of the city.
The protesters called for the new restrictions to be extended to all the city. They expressed anger at authorities for acting late and targeting the poorest areas while not doing enough to reinforce the region’s health centers with more staff.
‘I miss mommy’: Families shattered by COVID forge new paths
Just four months had passed since Ramon Ramirez buried his wife and now, here he was, hospitalized himself with COVID-19. The prognosis was dire, and the fate of his younger children consumed him. Before ending his final video call with his oldest, a 29-year-old single mother of two, he had one final request: “Take care of your brothers.”
Before long, he was added to the rolls of the pandemic’s dead, and his daughter, Marlene Torres, was handed the crushing task of making good on her promise. Overnight, her home ballooned, with her four siblings, ages 11 to 19, joining her own two children, 2 and 8.
The emotional and financial demands are so overwhelming that Torres finds herself pleading to the heavens. “Please help me,” she begs her parents. “Guide me.”
As the U.S. approaches the milestone of 200,000 pandemic deaths, the pain repeats: An Ohio boy, too young for words of his own, who plants a kiss on a photo of his dead mother. A New Jersey toddler, months ago the center of a joyous, balloon-filled birthday, now in therapy over the loss of her father. Three siblings in Michigan who lost both parents, thrusting the oldest child, a 21-year-old, into the role of parent to his sisters.
With eight in 10 American virus victims age 65 and older, it’s easy to view the young as having been spared its wrath. But among the dead are an untold number of parents who’ve left behind children that constitute another kind of victim.
New Zealand set to ease most restrictions once again as second outbreak slows
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced plans Monday to lift coronavirus-related restrictions for most of the country, saying the nation’s mystery outbreak that began in August appears to be largely under control.
Last month’s cluster of cases detected in Auckland, the country’s largest city, disrupted what had been a relatively normal summer for New Zealanders, even as other countries that had enacted stringent measures to control the spread of the virus earlier in the pandemic recorded surges in new case numbers.
Restrictions are to be eased Monday evening everywhere in New Zealand except Auckland, where rules will be eased starting Wednesday.
World Health Organization unveils plan for distributing coronavirus vaccine
The World Health Organization on Monday will announce which countries have signed on to its vaccine plan — and provide more details about how a vaccine, when it is developed, will be doled out.
More than 170 countries are in talks to join the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access Facility, or Covax, which aims to develop and distribute $2 billion in doses of a vaccine by the end of 2021.
Under the plan, rich and poor countries will pool money to provide manufacturers with volume guarantees for a slate of vaccine candidates. The idea is to discourage hoarding and focus on vaccinating high-risk people in every participating country first.
Quarantine Corner: Things to do while staying home
There’s never been a Seattle Symphony opening night like this one, streamed through car speakers on a wet evening as drivers and passengers sat in a parking lot. The concert, which rang with energy, is streaming for free.
What does your school-at-home setup look like? We'd love to see drawings from young people, like this fun one from Seattle comic artist Lyla Dalnekoff, age 11.
"I gotta do something": Seattle-area seniors in pandemic "prison" have gotten creative about finding new hobbies and reasons to keep going. Got a pandemic-era project of your own? Now’s your chance to show it off (and check out what one Seattle Times designer did with matchsticks).
Catch up on the past 24 hours
The coronavirus spreads mainly in the air, through droplets or aerosols that apparently can travel more than 6 feet and remain suspended, the CDC now says. Experts say this represents a profound shift, but the CDC changed the guidance on its website quietly, without issuing an announcement. Here's more on the new guidance.
As U.S. coronavirus deaths approach 200,000, the nation’s daily count of new cases is climbing again, fueling worries of a resurgence. For comparison, the death toll is more than twice the population of Federal Way. And it's grown fast; only four months ago, the number stood at 100,000.
Washington state’s guidelines to open school buildings are more cautious than some others. Our state is one of the few that clearly tie virus case counts to reopening, with counties classified by risk level. See the current risk level in each county, along with what other states are doing.
The pandemic has scrambled the local job market in weird ways: Despite deep unemployment, some employers can’t hire fast enough.
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