Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Friday, September 24, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.
In the latest twist in the debate over booster vaccinations, advisers to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention said Pfizer boosters should be offered to people 65 and older, nursing home residents and those ages 50 to 64 who have risky underlying health problems.
The panel also offered the option of a booster for those ages 18 and 48 with chronic health problems, but did not open boosters to healthy front-line health care workers.
At the U.N., county leaders brought attention to the global inequity of COVID-19 vaccine distribution. South Africa’s president Cyril Ramaphosa said 82% of the world’s vaccine doses have been acquired by wealthy countries, while less than 1% has gone to low-income countries.
“It is therefore a great concern that the global community has not sustained the principles of solidarity and cooperation in securing equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines,” he said.
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.
After objecting to state mandate, Vashon Island Fire chief says he got vaccinated
Despite his objections to Gov. Jay Inslee’s vaccine mandate, Vashon Island Fire Chief Charles Krimmert announced last week he received a Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine.
Krimmert, subject to Washington’s vaccine requirement for health care workers — including firefighters — requested Vashon Island Fire & Rescue commissioners to change his job description last month to stay on as chief without being vaccinated.
The news about his vaccination status led to widespread public discourse among the island community, which ranks among the highest vaccinated parts of Washington state, with calls for his resignation as well as praise for his stance.
But Krimmert’s request was denied, he wrote in a letter Thursday addressed to commissioners, staff and volunteers explaining his decision to get vaccinated.
Biden promised to follow the science, but sometimes he gets ahead of the experts
As he announced Friday that booster shots would be available to some Americans, President Joe Biden made a prediction: His administration was likely to soon provide third doses of the vaccine “across the board” to anyone who wanted one.
“In the near term, we’re probably going to open this up,” he told reporters in remarks from the State Dining Room at the White House.
But that assessment — a politically popular one in a country where most vaccinated people say they are eager for a booster — was the latest example of how Biden and some of his team have been ahead of the nation’s top public health scientists, who have emphatically said in recent days that there is simply not enough evidence to suggest that boosters are necessary for the entire U.S. population.
In fact, two panels of scientists — one for the Food and Drug Administration and the other for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — voted in recent days against recommending boosters for everyone after fierce public debates streamed online.
A daily pill to treat COVID-19 could be just months away, scientists say
Within a day of testing positive for the coronavirus in June, Miranda Kelly was sick enough to be scared. At 44, with diabetes and high blood pressure, Kelly, a certified nursing assistant, was having trouble breathing, symptoms serious enough to send her to the emergency room.
When her husband, Joe, 46, fell ill with the virus too, she really got worried, especially about their five teenagers at home: “I thought, ‘I hope to God we don’t wind up on ventilators. We have children. Who’s going to raise these kids?’”
But the Kellys, who live in Seattle, had agreed just after their diagnoses to join a clinical trial at the nearby Fred Hutch cancer research center that’s part of an international effort to test an antiviral treatment that could halt COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, early in its course.
By the next day, the couple were taking four pills, twice a day. Though they weren’t told whether they had received an active medication or a placebo, within a week, they said, their symptoms were better. Within two weeks, they had recovered.
Western states recommend Pfizer booster shots for older adults, those at higher COVID risk
A group of public health experts who have been advising Western states’ governors on the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines has recommended Pfizer’s booster dose for older adults and those at higher risk for severe illness from the virus, according to a Friday statement from Washington Gov. Jay Inslee.
The Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup provided its recommendation to governors of Washington, Oregon, California and Nevada on Friday. The panel is made up of scientists specializing in immunization and public health who have been independently reviewing the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s actions related to COVID-19 vaccines.
The workgroup’s recommendation urges people 65 and older, those living in long-term care facilities and people 50 to 64 years old with underlying medical conditions to get a booster shot six months after their second Pfizer dose. The announcement falls in line with similar authorizations from the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
With deadline approaching, WSU President Kirk Schulz indicates football coach Nick Rolovich is not vaccinated
Washington State University President Kirk Schulz indicated during a faculty senate meeting Thursday that Cougar football coach Nick Rolovich has not received a COVID-19 vaccination.
“The major elephant in the room, the thing that’s gotten The Seattle Times all excited, has been one individual who’s in a very prominent position that up until this date has not been vaccinated and has not talked to the media much about where that is,” Schulz said, per PullmanRadio.com.
Rolovich declined to comment Wednesday on a Twitter rumor that claimed the second-year coach had recently gotten the shot in the wake of a state mandate announced in August that requires Washington’s educational employees to either be fully vaccinated by Oct. 18, or be granted a religious or medical exemption.
State health officials confirm 3,107 new coronavirus cases
The state Department of Health (DOH) reported 3,107 new coronavirus cases and 60 new deaths on Friday.
The update brings the state's totals to 640,496 cases and 7,494 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. Thursday.
In addition, 35,800 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the virus — 111 new hospitalizations. In King County, the state's most populous, state health officials have confirmed a total of 148,650 COVID-19 diagnoses and 1,845 deaths.
Since vaccinations began in mid-December, the state and health care providers have administered 8,937,585 doses and 57.2% 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 15,529 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.
Delta Air Lines calls for carriers to share names of unruly passengers
Delta Air Lines is calling for an industrywide effort to keep passengers from boarding competitors’ flights after being banned for disruptive behavior.
So far this year, Delta says it has submitted the names of more than 600 banned passengers to the Federal Aviation Administration, which has sought to enforce rules against interfering with flight crews.
“We’ve also asked other airlines to share their ‘no fly’ list to further protect airline employees across the industry,” Delta said in a memo this week. “A list of banned customers doesn’t work as well if that customer can fly with another airline.”
The company did not say whether sharing of passenger lists should be through the federal government or among companies themselves, and declined to elaborate. Delta said it has more than 1,600 people on its internal no-fly list and did not clarify why it submitted fewer than that to the FAA.
COVID-19 cases in children rose faster in counties without school mask requirements, CDC says
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday offered more evidence that school mask requirements can help keep children healthy and in classrooms, showing lower spikes in pediatric COVID-19 cases and fewer school closures in places that require them.
In an analysis of 520 U.S. counties, the CDC found that pediatric cases rose more sharply in places without school mask requirements. And in a separate report that looked at Arizona’s two largest counties, the agency found that schools without mask requirements were 3.5 times more likely to be forced to close than schools with them.
Though polls show a majority of parents support mask requirements — and despite recommendations from pediatricians and the CDC — schools remain bitterly divided over whether to implement them. Opponents of mask mandates say parents should get to decide whether their children wear them.
The pandemic has already taken a toll on the new school year. In a third report, the CDC said more than 900,000 students in 44 states had been affected by closures since the start of school. Many schools are contending with challenges on multiple fronts, including outbreaks that force staff to quarantine, and staff shortages that make it difficult to find replacements.
Costco brings back purchase limits on toilet paper and cleaning products amid supply-chain snags
Costco is once again setting limits on the purchase of popular brands of toilet paper and cleaning products, as the pandemic continues to put strains on shipping products from suppliers.
Costco’s Chief Financial Officer Richard Galanti said the company was putting temporary purchase limits on toilet paper, paper towels, the company’s Kirkland Signature bottled water and high-demand cleaning products because of “the uptick in delta-related demand.” Galanti did not specify what limits Costco would put on those purchases.
Customers at Costco’s South Seattle store are limited to purchasing one pack of toilet paper and one of paper towel rolls. The store also is limiting bulk purchases of popular items like Clorox wipes, according to an administrative staff person.
Like many retailers, Costco also has had trouble stocking liquid hand soap.
COVID-infected lions and tigers won’t eat their meat, so zookeepers are trying goat cheese and chicken broth
COVID-infected lions and tigers at the National Zoo in Washington won’t eat their meat, so zookeepers are adding foods to their diets that sound like they’re for a sick human — baby food and chicken broth.
In the week since the zoo said six African lions, a Sumatran tiger and two Amur tigers tested positive for the coronavirus, the big cats have been showing some signs of improvement. But a few of the animals are still experiencing coughs, fatigue and a loss of appetite.
Pamela Baker-Masson, a spokeswoman for the zoo, said on Friday that caretakers noticed some of the great cats weren’t eating or drinking. “We saw a real decrease in appetite interest so this week they’ve done more to stimulate their appetite.”
Caretakers added baby food, chicken broth, milk and cheese from goats, and elk meat to the big cats’ diets. Animal experts said that since some of the new foods have a strong scent, they’re hoping that stimulates the big cats’ senses.
Caretakers at the zoo first noticed symptoms in some of the animals Sept. 11 and 12.
Civil-rights complaint targets Idaho health-care rationing
An advocacy group for older adults has filed a civil rights complaint against Idaho over the state’s “crisis standards of care” guidelines for hospitals that are overwhelmed by patients amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The group Justice in Aging asked the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on Tuesday to investigate Idaho’s health care rationing plan — contending it discriminates against older adults and especially older Black and Native American adults by using factors like age in prioritizing which patients may get access to life-saving care.
Since the pandemic began, public health officials in Arizona, Utah and northern Texas have modified their crisis care plans amid complaints from Justice in Aging and other disability rights and civil rights organizations
Coronavirus numbers in Idaho, one of the least vaccinated states, have continued to surge, leading to record-high hospitalization rates.
Biden urges COVID-19 booster shots for those now eligible
President Joe Biden on Friday urged those now eligible for boosters of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine to get the added protection a day after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention endorsed the extra doses for millions of older or otherwise vulnerable Americans.
Now public health officials must clear up confusion over exactly who should get a booster, and why — as they juggle vaccinating the unvaccinated who still make up the vast majority of the nation’s coronavirus cases.
People 65 and older, nursing home residents and those ages 50 and up who have chronic health problems such as diabetes should be offered a booster once they’re six months past their last Pfizer dose, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky ruled late Thursday.
And a broad swath of other adults can decide for themselves if they want a booster once they reach that six-month mark: Younger people with underlying health problems — plus people at increased risk of infection because of their jobs, such as health workers, or their living conditions, such as jails or homeless shelters.
Walensky overruled objections from her own advisory panel in adding that last category, but the decision drew praise from health organizations that need their employees to avoid even a mild infection so they can come to work.
More rental aid is reaching tenants to stave off eviction
Almost a month after a federal eviction moratorium ended, the Treasury Department said Friday that states and cities distributed money for nearly 1.4 million payments in August and the pace picked up from the month before.
More than 16.5% of the tens of billions of dollars in federal rental assistance reached tenants last month, compared with 11% in July. The latest data from the department, which oversees the program, also found that states and cities that were slow to get their programs off the ground are now sending tens of millions of dollars out the door.
Lawmakers approved $46.5 billion in spending on rental assistance but so far states and cities are mostly allocating the first installment of $25 billion, which must be spent by Sept. 30, 2022. Allocation of the second installment of $21.5 billion, can go through through Sept. 30, 2025.
Treasury officials acknowledged they were not satisfied with the total distribution. But they insisted that what has gone out so far represented meaningful numbers and that the money was having an impact in helping keep families in their homes.
Trump’s election challenges distracted from COVID response, White House adviser told colleagues
White House officials prioritized former President Donald Trump’s attempt to challenge the election over the pandemic response last winter, according to emails obtained by the House select subcommittee probing the government’s coronavirus response and shared with The Washington Post.
Steven Hatfill, a virologist who advised White House trade director Peter Navarro and said he was intimately involved in the pandemic response, repeatedly described in the emails how “election stuff” took precedence over coronavirus, even as the outbreak surged to more than 250,000 new coronavirus cases per day in January.
“Now with the elections so close, COVID is taking a back-seat, yet the disease is rearing it[s] ugly head again,” Hatfill wrote to an outside colleague in October 2020. Following the election, which was disputed by former president Donald Trump, Hatfill wrote in another email that he personally “shifted over to the election fraud investigation in November.”
VP interview delayed, ‘View’ hosts test positive for COVID
A live televised interview with Vice President Kamala Harris was delayed on Friday after two hosts of the “The View” learned they tested positive for COVID-19 moments before they were to interview her.
Co-host Sunny Hostin and guest host Ana Navarro both learned they tested positive for breakthrough cases ahead of the interview. Both Navarro and Hostin were at the table for the start of the show, but then were pulled from the set.
Harris, who had planned to join the table, instead was now expected to be interviewed remotely from a different room in the ABC studio in New York. Co-hosts Joy Behar and Sara Haines remained on set.
Washington unemployment system braces for new normal minus federal pandemic benefits
Federal pandemic assistance may be officially ended, but it could be months before Washington’s unemployment system returns to anything resembling a pre-COVID-19 normal — especially for the thousands of people still awaiting benefits.
Last week brought the first big drop in benefits paid under two expiring federal pandemic programs: 18,016 Washingtonians received $11.3 million in federal pandemic unemployment assistance, down from the 137,811 who received $133 million the week before, the state Employment Security Department said Thursday.
Washington also saw fewer new claims for regular unemployment benefits, the ESD reported. The 4,850 initial claims filed last week marked a 0.2% decrease from the prior week and a 8% drop versus the same week in 2019, according to the ESD’s claims database. Nationally, unemployment claims rose nearly 5%, to 351,000.
Doctor who has lost more than 100 patients to COVID says some deny virus from their death beds: ‘I don’t believe you’
As a pulmonologist and director of the palliative care unit at a Beaumont Health hospital in southeastern Michigan, Matthew Trunsky sees some of the facility’s sickest patients and is often the bearer of bad news.
When a well-regarded intensive care unit nurse told him during a recent shift that the wife of an unvaccinated COVID patient had berated her when she informed the woman of her husband’s deteriorating condition, Trunsky, who has lost more than 100 patients to the coronavirus, reached his breaking point.
On Facebook, he vented about a critically ill patient who disputed his COVID-19 diagnosis. Another threatened to call a lawyer if he wasn’t given ivermectin. A third, Trunsky wrote, told the doctor they would rather die than take one of the vaccines. Another demanded another doctor, saying "I don't believe you" to Trunsky.
The physician added: “Of course the answer was to have been vaccinated – but they were not and now they’re angry at the medical community for their failure.”
Catch up on the past 24 hours
COVID-19 booster shots have launched for millions of Americans. The CDC split with its advisers on one part of the plan late last night, recommending the shots for a larger group of people as it vaulted the nation into a major new phase of the vaccine drive.
Washington state analyzed two COVID-19 scenarios for fall, and one is much worse than the other. Deaths are rising "rapidly," the state says, and Washingtonians are at a critical moment in terms of how our actions can shape the pandemic's severity in coming months. The state reported 4,154 new coronavirus cases and 61 new deaths yesterday.
Many unvaccinated people aren't opposed to getting a shot. The challenge is trying to get it to them. The U.S. is coming off its slowest week of first-dose vaccinations since July, worrying health experts ahead of what may be a brutal flu season.
A nurse's brother died of COVID-19 "in the same hospital, and I didn't even know." Shanette Harper, who was caring for patients just down the hallway when her 43-year-old brother was rushed in, is telling her story in hopes of saving someone else's life. “I need to talk about this,” she says. “Because I am a person of color. Because I hesitated to get (the vaccine). Because I did get it.”
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