Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Friday, September 3, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.
Masks will soon be required at all outdoor events in King County with 500 or more people, regardless of vaccination status, the county’s top health official announced Thursday.
The new requirement comes as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continue to surge throughout the region, driven by the contagious delta variant, King County health officer Dr. Jeff Duchin said in a statement. The order, which applies to everyone age 5 and up, will go into effect next Tuesday.
Meanwhile, the United States has entered the fourth wave of the pandemic — or fifth, depending on which expert you ask. As the vaccination campaign lags and the contagious delta variant spreads, cases and hospitalizations are at their highest since last winter. COVID-19 deaths, too, are on a steady incline.
But after cases peaked in Britain and India, delta outbreaks dissipated in those countries. Now, scientists are struggling to understand why and what that may mean for similar surges, including the one in the U.S.
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.
Why cloth masks are on some airlines’ no-fly lists
Air travelers need to do more than just remember to bring a mask — they need to bring the right kind.
A handful of airlines, mostly in Europe, have banned cloth face coverings in favor of higher-standard versions including surgical masks or respirators. Last month, Finnair joined a list that includes Air France, Lufthansa, Swiss International Air Lines and Croatia Airlines.
“The health and safety of our customers and crew is our first priority, and fabric masks are slightly less efficient at protecting people from infection than surgical masks,” Finnair spokeswoman Heidi Lemmetyinen said in an email. The airline allows surgical masks and filtering respirators such as FFP2 or FFP3, as well as others that are equivalent to the N95 standard.
While U.S. airlines do have some restrictions on masks — none with valves are allowed, for example — they do not prohibit travelers from wearing fabric versions. The federal mask mandate for planes, trains and buses has been extended until mid-January.
“Some studies show a modest improvement of efficacy of surgical masks compared with cloth masks,” said Perry Flint, a spokesman for the International Air Transport Association. “But any face covering has shown to significantly reduce spread of aerosols, and at this point we have not taken a position on what types of face masks should be required.”
Dave Matthews Band, citing potential coronavirus exposure, playing Gorge shows in ‘alternate format’
The Dave Matthews Band will continue its longstanding tradition of playing the Gorge Amphitheatre Labor Day weekend. But this year, just hours before the start of its first show in a three-night stand, the band posted that, due to a potential exposure to the coronavirus, it would be using an “alternate format.”
The band did not say initially what the new format would be and confused fans heading to the Gorge for the start of the three-night run took to social media to voice their frustrations and seek answers. Like the thousands of ticketholders, Live Nation, which operates the Gorge, was also in the dark about the “alternate format” the band would perform in.
“We have absolutely no idea,” wrote Jeff Trisler, Live Nation’s Pacific Northwest president, in an email. “It’s up to the artist to perform the show that they want to perform. [We’ll all] find out together.”
A Dave Matthews Band representative did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
But based on tweets coming from those at the show, it looks like the “alternate format” involves the band performing without founding members bassist Stefan Lessard and drummer Carter Beauford. Fan-shot video showed Matthews addressing the still-accumulating crowd while introducing opening band Dumpstaphunk.
Brazil starts booster shots while many still await a 2nd jab
SAO PAULO (AP) — Some cities in Brazil are providing booster shots of the COVID-19 vaccine, even though most people have yet to receive their second jabs, in a sign of the concern in the country over the highly contagious delta variant.
Rio de Janeiro, currently Brazil’s epicenter for the variant and home to one of its largest elderly populations, began administering the boosters Wednesday. Northeastern cities Salvador and Sao Luis started on Monday, and the most populous city of Sao Paulo will begin Sept. 6. The rest of the nation will follow the next week.
France, Israel, China and Chile are among those countries giving boosters to some of their older citizens, but more people in those countries are fully vaccinated than the 30% who have gotten two shots in Brazil. A U.S. plan to start delivery of booster shots by Sept. 20 for most Americans is facing complications that could delay third doses for those who received the Moderna vaccine, administration officials said Friday.
About nine out of 10 Brazilians have been vaccinated already or plan to be, according to pollster Datafolha. Most have gotten their first shot but not their second.
Anti-mask protests force 3 Washington state schools into lockdown
VANCOUVER, Wash. — Three schools in Vancouver were placed on lockdown Friday after anti-mask protesters tried to access school grounds.
Pat Nuzzo, communications director for Vancouver Public Schools, said the lockdowns were a safety precaution.
Oregon Public Broadcasting reports Patriot Prayer, a far-right extremist group, and other far-right activists made posts online incorrectly claiming a student at the school who did not want to wear a mask would face arrest if they entered school grounds.
School Board President Kyle Sproul said locking down Skyview High School, Alki Middle School and Chinook Elementary was the proper decision to ensure student safety.
“Regardless of one’s stance on mask mandates, I think most parents in our community agree that protesting at our school campuses and disrupting the school day is not in the best interest of students,” Sproul said.
Booster shots hitch: Some may miss the Sept. 20 start
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden’s plans to start delivery of booster shots by Sept. 20 for most Americans who received the COVID-19 vaccines are facing new complications that could delay the availability of third doses for those who received the Moderna vaccine, administration officials said Friday.
Biden announced last month that his administration was planning for boosters to be available for all Americans who received the mRNA vaccines in an effort to provide more enduring protection against the coronavirus, pending approvals from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration.
Those agencies, though, are awaiting critical data before signing off on the third doses, with Moderna’s vaccine increasingly seen as unlikely to make the Sept. 20 milestone.
According to one official, Moderna produced inadequate data for the FDA and CDC to recommend the third dose of its vaccine and FDA has requested additional data that is likely to delay those boosters into October. Pfizer, which is further along in the review process, in part because of data collected from the vaccine’s use in Israel, is still expected to be approved for a third dose for all by Sept. 20. A key FDA panel is to review Pfizer’s data on boosters on Sept. 17.
State health officials confirm 4,094 new coronavirus cases
The state Department of Health (DOH) reported 4,094 new coronavirus cases and 48 new deaths on Friday.
The update brings the state's totals to 575,490 cases and 6,691 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, 32,236 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the virus — 565 new hospitalizations. In King County, the state's most populous, state health officials have confirmed a total of 137,712 COVID-19 diagnoses and 1,760 deaths.
Since vaccinations began in mid-December, the state and health care providers have administered 8,616,877 doses and 55.2% 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 15,391 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.
Here’s what we know about the mu variant
A coronavirus variant known as “mu” or “B.1.621” was designated by the World Health Organization as a “variant of interest” earlier this week and will be monitored by the global health body as cases continue to emerge across parts of the world. It is the fifth variant of interest currently being monitored by the WHO.
Q: Where was it first detected and where is it now?
A: The variant was first detected in Colombia in January 2021, where cases continue to rise. It has since been identified in more than 39 countries, according to the WHO, among them the United States, South Korea, Japan, Ecuador, Canada and parts of Europe.
Q: How widespread is mu in the United States?
A: About 2,000 mu cases have been identified in the United States, so far, according to the Global Initiative on Sharing All Influenza Data (GISAID), the largest database of novel coronavirus genome sequences in the world. Most cases have been recorded in California, Florida, Texas and New York among others.
Pandemic once again disrupts plans for Jewish High Holy Days
As customary, there will be celebrations and somber reflections as American Jews observe the upcoming High Holy Days — their faith’s most important period. There also will be deep disappointment, as rabbis once again cancel or limit in-person worship due to the persisting COVID-19 pandemic.
The chief culprit is the quick-spreading delta variant of the coronavirus, dashing widespread hopes that this year’s observances, unlike those of 2020, could once again fill synagogues with congregants worshipping side by side and exchanging hugs.
“I’m crushed emotionally that we’re not able to be in-person,” said Rabbi Judith Siegal, whose Temple Judea in Coral Gables, Florida, will hold only virtual services for the holy days as the pandemic’s upsurge buffets South Florida.
“For many rabbis, this is our favorite time of the year — we’re extroverts who love to be with people,” Siegal said. “We really miss being able to be together.”
An Arizona school ordered a student to quarantine. His dad and 2 others confronted the principal with zip ties.
When an Arizona school employee called a parent on Thursday to share that his son had come in close contact with someone who tested positive for the coronavirus, the dad was told his son must stay at home for at least a week.
Instead, later that morning, the man walked into Mesquite Elementary School with his son and two other men carrying zip ties before confronting the principal over the school’s quarantine policy, Vail Unified School District Superintendent John Carruth told The Washington Post.
In a meeting with the principal, Carruth said, the men threatened to call local authorities and conduct a “citizen’s arrest” if the student was not allowed to rejoin school activities immediately. That is when the principal, who explained that the school was following guidance issued by the local health department, ordered the trio to leave, Carruth said.
“Today was a tough day,” he told The Washington Post. “One of the most powerful tools as adults is the behavior that we model to young people — and the behavior that was modeled today makes me really sad.”
NHL to punish unvaccinated players more harshly this season
The NHL plans to punish unvaccinated players more harshly if they test positive for the coronavirus as part of new protocols for the upcoming season.
Teams will be able to suspend unvaccinated players without pay if they cannot participate in hockey activities as part of the protocols, according to a person with knowledge of the new rules. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Friday because the protocols had not been announced.
Fully vaccinated players will have any COVID-19 positives treated as hockey injuries and still be paid. Coaches and other team staff who closely interact with players are required to be fully vaccinated.
Unvaccinated players also will have their movements restricted when on the road. There will still be regular coronavirus testing for vaccinated players.
Oregon officials: 84% of recent COVID cases in unvaccinated
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Oregon officials say unvaccinated people accounted for more than 84% of the state’s recent COVID-19 cases.
The Oregon Health Authority said Thursday its latest breakthrough case report showed 2,592 breakthrough cases between Aug. 22 to Aug. 28 accounting for 15.9% of the state’s total cases that week. During that same time period, unvaccinated people accounted for 84.1% of Oregon’s reported COVID cases.
KOIN reports that to date, there have been 13,166 COVID vaccine breakthrough cases in Oregon. The median age of all cases was 48. Of Oregon’s total breakthrough cases, health officials say 4.9% of people were hospitalized and 0.9% died. The median age of those who died was 81.
More than 100 COVID-19 cases linked to Northwest Washington Fair in Lynden
LYNDEN — Health officials said Thursday that 108 COVID-19 cases have been linked to the Northwest Washington Fair in Lynden.
Whatcom County Health Department spokesperson Jennifer Moon told The Bellingham Herald in an email Thursday that the number may continue to increase as they continue to investigate cases.
After being canceled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the fair returned with an extended 10-day schedule that ran from Aug. 12-21.
Although fair officials track the number of people who visit the fair north of Bellingham, they have declined to release this year’s attendance numbers.
“What we are seeing regarding the fair highlights the need for masking or other precautions when attending large events, given our high case rate right now,” Moon’s statement said.
Idaho hospitals nearly buckling in relentless COVID surge
BOISE, Idaho (AP) — The intensive care rooms at St. Luke’s Boise Medical Center are full, each a blinking jungle of tubes, wires and mechanical breathing machines. The patients nestled inside are a lot alike: All unvaccinated, mostly middle-aged, paralyzed and sedated, reliant on life support and locked in a silent struggle against COVID-19.
But watch for a moment, and glimpses of who they were before the coronavirus become clear.
Artfully inked tattoos cover the tanned forearm of a man in his 30s. An expectant mother’s slightly swollen belly is briefly revealed as a nurse adjusts her position. The young woman is five months pregnant and hooked to a breathing machine.
Down the hall, another pregnant woman, just 24 and hooked to a ventilator, is lying prone — on top of her developing fetus — to get more air into her ravaged lungs.
Keep your mask and vaccine card close: What to expect for Labor Day travel
The last time the country celebrated a long holiday weekend, the mood was lighter. Travel boomed, and the delta variant had not yet caused a surge that sparked new mask requirements, restrictions and unease.
Experts believe travelers will be out and about during Labor Day weekend, but the concerns are different from what they were in early July. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this week said unvaccinated people should not travel during the holiday.
Still, there is one piece of good news: The airline delays and cancellations that plagued air travel earlier this summer appear to have been resolved, even amid nasty tropical weather.
“This summer was an outlier for operations,” said Mike Arnot, a spokesperson for airline data company Cirium.
WHO Lists Mu as ‘Variant of Interest’
The World Health Organization is monitoring a new coronavirus variant called “mu” — known by scientists as B.1.621 — and has added it to the list of “variants of interest” because of preliminary evidence it can evade antibodies.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top U.S. infectious disease expert, said the United States was also monitoring the new variant, which was first identified in Colombia in January and now makes up 39% of all cases there.
The WHO says the variant has the potential to evade immunity provided by vaccines and antibodies, and because of that, it was listed as a “variant of interest” on Aug. 30.
Still, Fauci said it is not at all common in the United States, where the highly contagious delta variant makes up 99% of all COVID-19 cases. He said the new variant “has a constellation of mutations that suggests it would evade certain antibodies,” but there is so far very little clinical data supporting that conclusion.
Unvaccinated Americans shouldn’t travel during Labor Day weekend, CDC says
Those who are not fully vaccinated against covid-19 should avoid travel over the upcoming holiday weekend, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Rochelle Walensky said.
“First and foremost, if you are unvaccinated, we would recommend not traveling,” she said in response to a question at a White House briefing Tuesday.
That has long been the position of the agency, which recommends that people delay domestic travel and not travel internationally until they are fully vaccinated. Walensky reiterated the guidance that people who are fully vaccinated, and wearing masks, can travel – but she added a caveat.
“Although given where we are with disease transmission right now, we would say that people need to take these risks into their own consideration as they think about traveling,” she said.
Catch up on the past 24 hours
You'll have to mask up at big outdoor gatherings in King County, regardless of whether you're vaccinated. Here's how the new mandate will change the game for Seattle-area sports fans. It came on the same day local health officials said new infections could soon plateau here — but, worried about full emergency rooms and Labor Day weekend gatherings, they're calling for caution.
Labor Day weekend travelers, keep your vaccine card and mask close. Here's what to expect if you're out and about. If you're not vaccinated, the CDC's director says please just stay home — but she did suggest one kind of local trip to take.
If you need to get vaccinated to keep your job, time is ticking down. State workers and teachers covered by Washington's vaccine mandate need to get Moderna’s first dose by Monday to reach full vaccination by the deadline, although you still have time if you’re getting a vaccine made by Pfizer or Johnson & Johnson. Find the timeline and more information here.
A new variant may be able to evade immunity provided by vaccines and antibodies. The U.S. and the World Health Organization are watching the mu variant closely.
"Vaccine snob" travelers are flocking to a U.S. territory for sun, sea and shots as they enjoy upscale hotels and luxury shopping.
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