Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Thursday, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.
United Nations leaders gathering at a virtual summit this week are hoping a coronavirus vaccine will be affordable to all countries, rich and poor, and some say they’re concerned that the U.S., China and Russia have opted out of the collaborative effort.
Meanwhile, President Donald Trump said Wednesday the White House might reject a plan by the Food and Drug Administration that would issue tough new standards for emergency approval of a vaccine, suspicious that it was a “political move.”
Throughout Thursday, 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 Wednesday are here, and all our coronavirus coverage can be found here.
Hair loss can be another consequence of the coronavirus pandemic
Annrene Rowe was getting ready to celebrate her 10th wedding anniversary this summer when she noticed a bald spot on her scalp. In the following days, her thick, shoulder-length hair started falling out in clumps, bunching up in the shower drain.
Rowe, who was hospitalized for 12 days in April with symptoms of the coronavirus, soon found strikingly similar stories in online groups of COVID-19 survivors. Many said that several months after contracting the coronavirus, they began shedding startling amounts of hair.
Doctors say they too are seeing many more patients with hair loss, a phenomenon they believe is related to the coronavirus pandemic, affecting both people who had the virus and those who never became sick.
In normal times, some people shed noticeable amounts of hair after a profoundly stressful experience such as an illness, major surgery or emotional trauma.
Now, doctors say, many patients recovering from COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, are experiencing hair loss — not from the virus itself but from the physiological stress of fighting it off.
UK may take part in COVID-19 vaccine ‘challenge studies’
LONDON — The British government says it may take part in a study that tries to deliberately infect volunteers who have been given an experimental vaccine against the coronavirus in an effort to more quickly determine if the vaccine works.
The approach, called a challenge study, is risky but proponents think it may produce results faster than typical studies, which wait to see if volunteers who have been given an experimental treatment or a dummy version get sick.
“We are working with partners to understand how we might collaborate on the potential development of a COVID-19 vaccine through human challenge studies,” the U.K. Department for Business, Enterprise and Industrial Strategy said in a prepared statement. “These discussions are part of our work to research ways of treating, limiting and hopefully preventing the virus so we can end the pandemic sooner.”
Challenge studies are typically used to test vaccines against mild diseases to avoid exposing volunteers to a serious illness if the vaccine doesn’t work. While the coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms in most people and seems to be especially mild in young, healthy people, the long-term effects of the disease aren’t well understood, and there have been reports of lingering problems in the heart and other organs even in those who don’t ever feel sick.
For cruise companies, ‘Death on the High Seas Act’ protects the bottom line
If the ruling by a Los Angeles federal judge in one case holds for others, it offers the cruise line something of a safe harbor under the Death on the High Seas Act. The century-old federal law limits payouts for survivors to “pecuniary” damages such as how much the deceased contributed through wages or housework.
One maritime lawyer said that in the case of retirees, who make up a large portion of Carnival’s customers, the recovery may amount to little more than burial costs.
The subject of the ruling was a 71-year-old man who died in April after allegedly contracting COVID-19 while cruising on the Coral Princess. His family was trying to keep its wrongful-death lawsuit in state court, but the judge said the only way to proceed is under federal law.
“Basically, the question to the widow is, ‘What did it cost you to lose your husband?'” said Charles Naylor, a lawyer who specializes in maritime injury and death. “‘If it didn’t cost you anything, we don’t owe you a nickel.'”
Tacoma Public Schools will not return to in-person instruction next week
Although Tacoma Public Schools said last week it was possible its youngest students could return to in-person instruction next Monday, the district told families in a Thursday email that that's no longer the case.
The school district decided to delay the return to in-person instruction after receiving guidance from the state about types personal protective masks for schools and discovering its masks don't pass the safety standards, according to the email.
"For Tacoma Public Schools, this clarified guidance from (the state Department of Labor and Industries) means school-based staff members must wear a higher level of personal protective masks than previously planned and communicated," the email said.
The district will now require a "significant number" of staff members -- including nurses, health clerks, special education teachers, paraeducators and custodians -- to be trained and fitted with N95 masks, the email said.
School officials said they are expecting more information about school operations from the Department of Labor and Industries next week, and are planning to delay in-person instruction until they "receive and understand any new information and can ensure the safety of our staff and students."
A fair to remember: County fairs weigh risk of outbreak against financial ruin
Laura Stutzman had no doubts that this year’s Twin Falls County Fair should go on despite the pandemic still raging across the U.S. — and several outbreaks tied to such community fairs.
Though she saw few people wearing masks from her volunteer station in the fair’s hospitality tent in southern Idaho earlier this month, she said she wasn’t concerned. Stutzman, 63, had been attending the fair off and on for 30 years, and she didn’t consider this year that different. People in rural communities know how to respect one another’s space, she said, and don’t have time to “fret and worry” about the coronavirus.
“Common sense is knowing that COVID-19 is in the picture,” she said, yet not allowing fear to “dictate how we live.”
Hundreds of state and county fairs typically take place across the U.S. each year. They are a centerpiece for the agricultural industry — particularly for the 4-H kids who raise livestock all year to show off at their local events. Thousands of people are drawn to small towns for the concerts, rodeos, races and carnivals that flesh out the experience.
But only about one in five fairs took place as scheduled this summer, while the rest were dramatically modified or outright canceled because of the pandemic, according to data provided by the International Association of Fairs & Expositions.
Fairs are the economic lifeblood and cultural high point of the year for many rural communities, so the decision to cancel one is especially consequential. Scaling back can have devastating effects on the finances of the fair organizers and local community. And organizers fear that skipping a single year could mean losing a fair permanently.
Iowa fines beef plant $957 after huge coronavirus outbreak
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Iowa regulators have issued their first citation to a meatpacking plant with a large coronavirus outbreak that sickened its workforce — a $957 fine for a minor record-keeping violation.
The outbreak at the Iowa Premium Beef Plant in Tama in April resulted in 338 of the plant’s 850 workers testing positive for the virus, 80 more than the state previously acknowledged, according to inspection records released Thursday.
The Iowa Occupational Safety and Health Administration said on June 1 that it had launched inspections at the Tama plant and four other meatpacking plants where thousands of workers had tested positive.
Records show that the inspections did not lead to any citations at the other four plants, where at least nine workers have died after contracting the COVID-19 virus. Those included Tyson Foods plants in Waterloo, Columbus Junction and Perry and the JBS plant in Marshalltown.
The agency cited Iowa Premium Beef in August for failing to keep a required log of workplace-related injuries and illnesses, and for failing to provide the document within four hours after inspectors requested it.
Both violations were labeled “other-than-serious,” according to documents obtained by The Associated Press under the open records law.
Drive-thru flu, childhood vaccination clinics offered by nurse association
The Seattle Visiting Nurse Association (SVNA) is hosting a series of drive-thru flu clinics for community members aged 4 and up.
The clinics will be held at the Showare Center in Kent from 10 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. on Wednesday Oct. 7 and Saturday, Oct. 10; and on weekdays at North Seattle College in Seattle between September 25 and Oct. 2.
All insurances are accepted, and there will be no cost to the uninsured or underinsured.
More dates will be added in October.
And, in an effort to give schoolchildren the vaccinations they need when in-person learning resumes, the SVNA is partnering with Public Health - Seattle & King County and the Kent School District for two drive-thru vaccination and flu clinics in October.
The school vaccinations -- including Tdap, DTaP, MMR, hepatitis B, varicella, and polio -- are available to King County children aged 4-18.
The first event will be held from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Oct. 7; and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Oct. 10. Both events will be held at the ShoWare Center in Kent.
No registration is required for childhood vaccines, but participants should be prepared for a possible wait during high-traffic periods.
If participants are coming for a flu vaccine only, they should register in advance at www.schedule.seattlevna.com.
Childhood vaccines are available to all kids at no cost, and no insurance is required.
Those coming for a flu vaccine will be asked for insurance at registration. Those without insurance, or with plans that don’t cover a flu vaccine can be vaccinated at no cost.
Participants are asked to wear short sleeves and make sure that everyone over the age of 2 wears a mask. If getting childhood vaccines, please bring your child’s vaccination records, if available.
Will colleges’ virus prevention efforts get trashed by a few student parties?
University officials planned for months for the resumption of fall classes amid the pandemic, with experts advising them on the rapidly evolving understanding of the novel coronavirus. They spent tens of billions of dollars creating massive testing programs, clearing out dorm space for quarantines, sticking reminder dots six feet apart on sidewalks, overhauling ventilation systems and crafting public health campaigns centered around feisty mask-wearing mascots.
But as cases of the coronavirus have popped up on campuses, forcing some schools to empty their dorms or switch to virtual classes, one factor cannot be ignored: Students like to party. And good luck reining that in.
College presidents, student leaders and local officials are trying a variety of approaches. Some – like the University of Maryland’s president – are dropping by popular bars near campus to hand out masks to students outside and remind them to stay safe. Others are moving to shut down socializing altogether, or berating fraternities who host parties. Others have gone so far as to kick students out for violating rules. All of this has created new tension over who really is to blame.
At UN, Africa urges fiscal help against virus ‘apocalypse’
JOHANNESBURG — African nations came out swinging on the third day of the United Nations annual gathering of world leaders Thursday, calling for dramatic fiscal measures to help economies survive the coronavirus pandemic — which one leader called the “fifth horseman of the apocalypse.”
Africa’s 54 countries estimate they need $100 billion in support annually for the next three years, pointing out that it’s a fraction of the trillions of dollars some richer countries are using to revive their economies.
As some world powers go their own way during the crisis — what Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa called “the blind pursuit of narrow interests” — the African nations that make up more than a quarter of U.N. members are leaning hard into multilateralism.
Reminding fellow leaders of what brought the U.N. to life 75 years ago, President Teodoro Obiang of Equatorial Guinea said the victors of World War II “had conflicting interests but were able for a moment to unite and were able to place the salvation of the world above their own interests.”
Dozens of Iowa students quarantine as virus cases rise
Dozens of students in Iowa schools were quarantined after both staff and students tested positive for the coronavirus, while a high school switched to online classes after some students were absent as cases surged Thursday by more than 1,300 across the state in the last 24 hours.
An Iowa elementary school quarantined 130 elementary students after a staff member tested positive for coronavirus, while a high school switched to online classes after some students were absent as coronavirus cases surged Thursday by more than 1,300 across the state in the last 24 hours.
Officials at the Hartwick-Ladora-Victor Community School District quarantined 130 kindergarten through sixth grade students beginning Wednesday after a staff member tested positive for the virus a day earlier, Superintendent Brad Hohensee said.
The district has no mask requirement, though it has posted a notice on its website that it began requiring masks at indoor athletic events on Sept. 20. The district is based in Victor, nearly 76 miles east of Des Moines.
How genetic science helped expose a secret coronavirus outbreak in Iowa
POSTVILLE, Iowa — It wasn’t until their colleagues began to disappear that workers at Agri Star Meat and Poultry realized there was a killer in their midst.
First came the rumors that rabbis at the kosher plant had been quarantined. Then a man who worked in the poultry department fell ill. They heard whispers about friends of friends who had been stricken with scorching fevers and unbearable chills — characteristic symptoms of the novel coronavirus.
Where was the contagion coming from?
No one would say. Not Agri Star’s wealthy owner, who didn’t shut down production lines after cases were confirmed among workers. Not the Iowa Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which closed a complaint containing multiple allegations against the plant without an inspection. Not Iowa Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds, whose administration threatened to prosecute officials who released covid data and did not conduct testing at the plant until seven weeks after the first infections.
State confirms 536 new COVID-19 cases; removes one death from total
State health officials reported 519 new COVID-19 cases in Washington as of Wednesday night, and one less death than last reported.
The state Department of Health removes deaths from the statewide total when the primary cause of death is determined not to have been COVID-19.
The update brings the state’s totals to 84,238 cases and 2,080 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. Wednesday.
The DOH also reported that 7,357 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the virus.
Statewide, 1,783,279 COVID-19 tests have been administered as of Wednesday night.
In King County, the state’s most populous, state health officials have confirmed 21,760 diagnoses and 759 deaths.
Yakima County sees progress, 6 months into the pandemic
In the past several weeks, Yakima County residents have been allowed to resume activities taken for granted before the coronavirus pandemic — eating inside a restaurant, getting a haircut, attending indoor religious services, going to the gym.
Every restored opportunity, no matter how limited, has felt a little like an early Christmas present. Business owners have missed their customers. Their customers have missed shopping opportunities and meeting friends for a meal or seeing them at church.
It feels great being back out there, and the county’s improving COVID-19 metrics have people eager for more. Could Yakima County move from a modified Phase 1 of Gov. Jay Inslee’s four-phase Safe Start plan to Phase 2 anytime soon? Is reopening possible by the time Christmas comes?
Dr. Teresa Everson, the health officer for Yakima County, has enjoyed sharing some good news after a rough spring and early summer that saw more and more deaths and daily increases in confirmed cases of COVID-19 topping 200 and a testing positivity rate close to 30%. That’s dropped to 6.3% in Yakima County; the state’s goal is 2%, Everson said.
State has highest state daily COVID-19 case count since July
SALEM, Ore. — The Oregon Health Authority reported 382 new confirmed COVID-19 cases Thursday, the state’s highest daily case count since mid-July.
Officials also said 77 employees at a seafood processing plant on the Oregon Coast tested positive for coronavirus. The outbreak was tied to Labor Day social activities
Oregon’s confirmed COVID-19 case count, since the start of the pandemic, is now 31,865. The death toll is 539.
Nearly 25% of the cases reported Thursday were in Multnomah County, Oregon’s most populous county and home to Portland.
Last week the health authority said that data suggested that the rate of transmission is continuing in a downward trend, meaning that each case is generating less than one other case. If transmission continued at that rate then by early October new cases could decrease to 80 a day.
Inslee announces safety guidelines for air travel amid coronavirus pandemic
OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee Thursday announced safety requirements for commercial airport service, as the airline industry continues to struggle amid COVID-19.
The new statewide requirements are geared toward making sure airport employees, passengers and air crew are kept safe against the new coronavirus.
Hand sanitizer stations must be provided in public areas of airport terminals.
Airport businesses and vendors — including construction, hospitality and other industries — are required to follow county and state health requirements. That includes any provisions for physical distancing, employee screening, personal protective equipment, and ways to provide services while reducing close interactions with others.
Democrats to redraft virus relief in bid to jump-start talks
WASHINGTON — House Democrats are going back to the drawing board on a huge COVID-19 relief bill, paring back the measure in an attempt to jump-start negotiations with the Trump administration.
The Democratic-controlled chamber could also pass the $2 trillion-plus measure next week if talks fall through to demonstrate that the party isn’t giving up on passing virus relief before the election.
The chamber passed a $3.4 trillion rescue measure in May but Republicans dismissed the measure as bloated and unrealistic. Even as Democrats cut their ambitions to $2.2 trillion or so, Senate Republicans have focused on a much smaller rescue package in the $650 billion to $1 trillion range.
An aide familiar with the leadership discussions and authorized to characterize them said the new bill would total about $2.4 trillion and is likely to contain additional relief for the airline and restaurant sectors, which have been especially slammed by slumps in business from the virus. The aide requested anonymity to characterize the closed-door talks.
“We’re trying to figure out how to move a negotiation forward because we believe the American people need some help. And so we’re going to try,” said Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern, D-Mass. “Our chairs are looking at everything again and the hope is that we can come up with something.”
DNA link behind severe COVID-19 may lead to a new treatment
When two brothers fell critically ill with COVID-19 around the same time in March, their doctors were baffled. Both were young — 29 and 31 years old — and healthy. Yet within days they couldn’t breathe on their own and, tragically, one of them died.
Two weeks later, when a second pair of COVID-stricken brothers, both in their 20s, also appeared in the Netherlands, geneticists were called in to investigate. What they uncovered was a path leading from severe cases, genetic variations, and gender differences to a loss of immune function that may ultimately yield a new approach to treating thousands of coronavirus patients.
The common thread in the research is the lack of a substance called interferon that helps orchestrate the body’s defense against viral pathogens and can be infused to treat conditions such as infectious hepatitis. Now, increasing evidence suggests that some COVID-19 patients get very ill because of an impaired interferon response. Landmark studies published Thursday in the journal Science showed that insufficient interferon may lurk at a dangerous turning point in SARS-CoV-2 infections.
“It looks like this virus has one big trick,” said Shane Crotty, a professor in the Center for Infectious Disease and Vaccine Research at the La Jolla Institute for Immunology in California. “That big trick is to avoid the initial innate immune response for a significant period of time and, in particular, avoid an early type-1 interferon response.”
As virus surges, critics say U.K. hasn’t learned from mistakes
The virus is on the rise once more in the U.K. with confirmed daily infections hitting a record-high 6,634 on Thursday and almost 42,000 COVID-19 deaths.
The surge has brought new restrictions on daily life, the prospect of a grim winter of mounting deaths — and a feeling of deja vu.
“We didn’t react quick enough in March,” epidemiologist John Edmunds, a member of the government’s scientific advisory committee, told the BBC. “I think we haven’t learnt from our mistake back then and we’re, unfortunately, about to repeat it.”
U.K. may take part in COVID-19 vaccine ‘challenge studies’
The British government says it may take part in a study that tries to deliberately infect volunteers who have been given an experimental vaccine against the coronavirus, in an effort to more quickly determine if the vaccine works.
The approach, called a challenge study, is risky but proponents think it may produce results faster than typical studies, which wait to see if volunteers who have been given an experimental treatment or a dummy version get sick.
Challenge studies are typically used to test vaccines against mild diseases, to avoid exposing volunteers to a serious illness if the vaccine doesn’t work.
Dr. Peter Horby, professor of emerging infectious diseases and global health at the University of Oxford, said the risk to young and healthy people is low and the concept stretches back to 1796, when a scientist found exposing patients to cowpox disease protected them from smallpox, the first step in eradicating that deadly disease.
Alastair Fraser-Urquhart, an 18-year-old volunteer organizer at 1Day Sooner, a group that advocates for challenge volunteers, told the BBC he wanted to take part because of the potential to save thousands of lives and bring the world out of the pandemic.
Missouri crowds amid pandemic prompt real-life ‘Footloose’
With bars and nightclubs limiting capacity and closing early in the St. Louis area due to COVID-19, neighboring city St. Charles is seeing so many large and unruly crowds that it's taken a cue from the 1984 movie “Footloose” and banned dancing.
City leaders met Wednesday with restaurant, bar and club operators and then announced a temporary ban on “music activities” after 11 p.m., starting Friday. The ban includes dancing and the DJ music that accompanies it.
“I feel a little bit like the movie ‘Footloose’ but that’s not what this is about,” Mayor Dan Borgmeyer told KTVI-TV.
The temporary suspension of late-night music in St. Charles is in response to rowdy crowds that have been spilling into the streets, resulting in fights and creating enough concern that police presence downtown at night has tripled over the past five months.
Choir practice in Spain infects 30 of 41 members with virus
At least 30 of 41 members of a gospel choir in northeastern Spain have contracted coronavirus after a rehearsal inside an old building with the air conditioner on, local authorities and the chorus say.
The River Troupe Gospel, a volunteer gospel group, rehearsed on Sept. 11 ahead of an open-air performance two days later for a local festival in Sallent, a town in the province of Barcelona. It was their first public show since the beginning of the pandemic.
After one member of the chorus tested positive after the Sept. 13 performance, more than 40 other members and their close contacts went into isolation, the chorus said. Since then, at least 30 singers have tested positive, the Sallent municipal government said.
Parents delaying preschool and kindergarten amid pandemic
Claire Reagan was feeling overwhelmed as her oldest child’s first day of kindergarten approached and with a baby on the way. Her 5-year-old boy has autism, and she worried he would struggle with juggling in-person and virtual learning, and that she wouldn’t have enough time to give him the help he needs.
So she decided to wait a year before sending him to school.
“I was stressed about everything and then thought, ‘Why does he need to start kindergarten?’ And it was like a weight was lifted,” said Reagan, a 36-year-old high school teacher in Olathe, Kansas.
Thousands of parents around the U.S. have made similar decisions, having their children delay or skip kindergarten because of the coronavirus pandemic. The opt-outs are contributing to plunging enrollment in many places this fall as parents weigh health concerns and the prospect of helping young children navigate distance learning while also holding onto their jobs.
Chinese company says coronavirus vaccine ready by early 2021
A Chinese pharmaceutical company said Thursday the coronavirus vaccine it is developing should be ready by early 2021 for distribution worldwide, including the United States.
Yin Weidong, the CEO of SinoVac, vowed to apply to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to sell CoronaVac in the United States if it passes its third and final round of testing in humans. Yin said he personally has been given the experimental vaccine.
“Our goal is to provide the vaccine to the world including the U.S., EU and others,” Yin said.
Stringent regulations in the U.S., European Union, Japan and Australia have historically blocked the sale of Chinese vaccines. But Yin said he's confident that the vaccine will meet the stricter standards.
Quarantine cooking: Recipes to try at home
The Pantry Kitchen Challenge is back! Take part in Round 1 of our fall season with these four ingredients.
And forget scampi. A quick, alternative shrimp recipe is perfect for weeknight cooking.
Flu and COVID-19
Catch up on the past 24 hours
This fall, UW will test smartphone technology that tells you if you were exposed to the coronavirus, sending a notification if you got within six feet of someone who tested positive. If this pilot goes well, it could be available statewide. Here’s how it works.
A massive genetic study shows the virus mutating and possibly growing more contagious as it spreads through the U.S.
Our neighbors to the north are in a second COVID-19 wave, Canada's prime minister said yesterday, warning that this fall is looking far worse than the spring.
Some airports are deploying speedy virus tests and sniffer dogs in a race to unlock travel.
Missouri's governor, an opponent of mandatory masks, has tested positive.
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