Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Sunday, September 27, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.
Desks have become the new toilet paper. Virtual school and remote work has driven demand for the furniture, causing a nationwide desk shortage.
Meanwhile, a Seattle Times investigation has examined how staffing struggles that had hampered the state’s nursing homes during the coronavirus outbreaks have long been a pressing issue for many of the facilities.
In Washington, the state Department of Health (DOH) reported 604 new coronavirus cases on Saturday, based on data through Friday night. The total number of diagnoses statewide has climbed to 85,830, including 2,100 deaths. Hospitalizations from the virus that causes the COVID-19 disease rose to 7,431: 19 more than a day earlier.
Throughout Sunday, 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 Saturday are here, and all our coronavirus coverage can be found here.
More than 400 new cases reported by state health officials
The state Department of Health (DOH) reported 439 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 based on data through Saturday night, bringing the total number of diagnoses to 86,269, including 2,100 deaths.
The department no longer reports new deaths on weekends, but the death toll has remained unchanged since data through Thursday night was posted online Friday.
While 25% of the total number of confirmed diagnoses have occurred in King County, 32% of the 7,455 patients hospitalized and 36% of the state's death toll have occurred here, the data show.
To date, more than 1.8 million tests have been conducted, according to DOH.
COVID-19 research gains follow 1 million deaths worldwide
While more COVID-19 deaths are expected this fall amid another surge in infections, scientists are learning more about how to prevent and treat the disease as case fatality rates decline.
The Associated Press reports the desperate efforts to save those killed by COVID-19 have resulted in more understanding about the illness.
COVID-19 has killed nearly 1 million people worldwide this year — a toll significantly higher than the 690,000 lives lost to AIDS or the 400,000 to malaria in all of 2019.
We’re in the “stormy adolescence” phase of learning what treatments work — beyond infancy but not “all grown up either,” said Dr. Francis Collins, director of the U.S. National Institutes of Health.
Several drugs have proved useful and doctors know more about how to care for the sickest patients in hospitals, he said.
Cases are rising but death rates seem to be falling, said Dr. Cyrus Shahpar, a former U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention scientist now at the nonprofit group Resolve to Save Lives.
“The U.S. cumulative case fatality rate in April was around 5%. Now we’re around 3%,” Shahpar said.
In England, researchers reported that case fatality rates have fallen substantially since peaking in April. The rate in August was around 1.5% versus more than 6% six weeks earlier.
Off-campus parties in Oregon fuel string of new cases, officials say
Health officials are linking a string of new COVID-19 cases to off-campus parties and gatherings at the University of Oregon and Oregon State University.
The outbreaks have emerged despite both schools deciding to hold the vast majority of their classes online this semester. The universities have also issued rules against gatherings of 10 people or more, both on and off campus.
Nationally, colleges and universities have been struggling to tamp down on students who break social distancing rules.
Dr. Dean Sidelinger, Oregon’s state epidemiologist, said Friday that officials have identified “outbreaks” linked to three Greek life parties, one other off-campus party and social gatherings involving three athletic teams at the University of Oregon or Oregon State University.
In all, there are 22 cases linked to UO and 13 cases to OSU, The Oregonian reported.
“What we’re seeing is individuals, as they return to college when they’ve been away, they want to celebrate, they want to see their friends,” Sidelinger said.
Because of new cases, residents of Lane County -- home to UO’s campus in Eugene -- have been told to stay away from social gatherings with anyone outside their households.
Military suicides increase during COVID-19 pandemic
Military officials say the coronavirus pandemic, war-zone deployments, national disasters and civil unrest are all adding more stress for their strained forces as figures show suicides among services members have increased.
The Pentagon refused to provide 2020 data or discuss the issue, but Army officials said discussions in Defense Department briefings indicate there has been roughly a 20% jump in overall military suicides this year.
The numbers vary by service, with the active Army seeing a 30% spike — from 88 last year to 114 this year. Meanwhile, the Navy total is believed to be lower this year.
Senior Army leaders told The Associated Press that they are looking at shortening combat deployments. The move would be part of a broader effort to make the wellbeing of soldiers and their families the Army’s top priority, overtaking combat readiness and weapons modernization.
Army leaders say they can’t directly pin the increase on the virus, but the timing coincides.
“I can’t say scientifically, but what I can say is – I can read a chart and
a graph, and the numbers have gone up in behavioral health related issues,” Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy said in an AP interview.
He added:“We cannot say definitively it is because of COVID. But there is a direct correlation from when COVID started, the numbers actually went up.”
Nursing homes struggled with staffing long before COVID-19
As COVID-19 devastated nursing homes across the state, years-long staffing problems and other issues added yet another challenging layer to the fight against the virus in facilities.
In all, COVID-19 has spread to roughly two-thirds of some 200 nursing homes in Washington state. The outbreaks in the facilities have resulted in more than 625 deaths.
In the years leading up to the pandemic, a Seattle Times investigation found inspectors had routinely documented appalling instances of time-strapped staff and patient suffering over the years. Yet Washington state hadn’t raised its standard for adequate staffing.
In dozens of interviews and a review of inspection reports, workers described poor wages and understaffing by facilities, while former residents and their relatives detailed how patients suffered as a consequence.
Inspectors cited more than half of the state’s skilled nursing facilities a total of 225 times for having insufficient or unqualified staff, according to federal data from 2018 through the start of the pandemic. The state rarely penalized nursing homes for these deficiencies, according to an analysis of thousands of pages of enforcement.
In the months since the outbreaks began, regulators and families have been more in the dark about what’s happened inside facilities.
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