Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Thursday, Sept. 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 It is no longer being updated.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.

With the world racing to develop a coronavirus vaccine, the U.S. government announced Wednesday that states should be ready to distribute one by Nov. 1 — raising concerns among public-health experts that a vaccine approval could be rushed by political considerations ahead of a presidential election.

The Washington State Department of Health said later Wednesday that it hopes the federal government will “critically evaluate these new vaccines for their safety and efficacy in an unbiased way.”

Throughout Thursday, on this page, we’ll be posting updates on the outbreak and its effects on the Seattle area, the Pacific Northwest and the world. Updates from Wednesday can be found here, and all our COVID-19 coverage can be found here.


India adds another 83K, nears 2nd-most in world

NEW DELHI — The number of people infected with the coronavirus in India rose by another 80,000 and is near Brazil’s total, the second-highest in the world.

The 83,341 cases added in the past 24 hours pushed India’s total past 3.9 million, according to the Health Ministry. Brazil has confirmed more than 4 million infections while the U.S. has more 6.1 million people infected, according to Johns Hopkins University.

India’s Health Ministry on Friday also reported 1,096 deaths in the past 24 hours, taking total fatalities up to 68,472.

India’s case fatality rate of 1.75% is well below the global average of 3.3%, the ministry said. Experts have questioned whether some Indian states have undercounted deaths.

—Associated Press

Macy’s to abandon some shopping malls, move into smaller stores

Macy’s is moving out.

The department store chain is planning to abandon its core position as an anchor tenant at some shopping malls and move into smaller, standalone stores in an effort to regain footing amid the coronavirus pandemic.

With the holiday shopping season approaching, and with malls struggling for business, the company will test several smaller, independent Macy’s stores. The shakeup includes at least one Bloomingdale’s store, CNBC reported.

“We continue to believe that the best malls in the country will thrive,” CEO Jeff Gennette told analysts Wednesday, according to CNBC. “However, we also know that Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s have high potential (off)-mall and in smaller formats.”

Big department stores such as Macy’s have always been a mainstay at malls as they lure retail traffic to smaller shops, kiosks and food courts, providing much-needed financial stability.

But the pandemic has crippled what had been a surefire business model as many shoppers bypass malls in favor of buying online. 

—The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

COVID-19 outbreak at Bremerton hospital possibly traced to aerosol-generating procedures, report says

Aerosol-generating procedures may have contributed to the spread of a recent COVID-19 outbreak at a Bremerton hospital, which has confirmed at least 70 infections, according to a new report from the state Department of Health.

According to the findings, the outbreak at St. Michael Medical Center — one of CHI Franciscan’s 10 hospitals in Washington state — could possibly be traced to procedures performed on asymptomatic COVID-19 patients. The report, which said 54 cases had been confirmed when the findings were finalized, also stated that hospital staff were using personal protective equipment (PPE) longer than recommended by current national guidelines. 

The report also cites the timing of room turnover as another possible reason for exposure.

“Some staff present for (aerosol generating procedures) were not wearing N95s, only surgical masks and eye protection,” the report said. “Shorter than recommended room turnover may have exposed patients and staff. The rooms were left empty for < two hours and (aerosol generating procedures) were performed in rooms without negative air pressure, which conflicts with (hospital) policy.”

While it wasn’t immediately clear what kinds of procedures were potentially at fault at St. Michael, aerosol-generating procedures often include intubation, extubation, transesophageal echocardiography or endoscopy, according to University of Washington Medicine. It was also not immediately clear from hospital officials Thursday evening why PPE had been used for longer periods than recommended.

Read the full story here.

—Elise Takahama

Here’s why you won’t see reporting from inside Seattle-area virtual classrooms this week

Thousands of Washington children are headed back to school this week — a majority of them remotely — but you’ll hear few firsthand accounts from our reporting team about what’s happening inside.

That’s because no local school district we asked allowed our team to sit in on students’ first days of class.

In the days leading up to this week, our reporters reached out to teachers and officials at Seattle, Highline, Bellevue, Lake Washington and Renton school districts.

Several district officials said they asked teachers to consider our request: We hoped to document this important historical moment for students and teachers who are facing an unprecedented and challenging school season.

But, these officials said, no teachers volunteered to participate. “It’s a lot of pressure already — doing something that is all so new in a situation fraught with uncertainty,” one district spokesperson wrote to us. 

Other officials cited concerns about student privacy and technical issues. Some gave no reason.

Read the full story here.

—Hannah Furfaro

A common North American mouse can catch and spread the coronavirus, lab studies show

Deer mice, the most abundant mammal native to North America, can catch the coronavirus and pass it to other mice in laboratory settings, raising a remote possibility that they could become a reservoir for the pathogen in nature and transmit it to humans, according to two new studies not yet peer-reviewed.

The findings also mean that deer mice may be useful to study coronavirus vaccines, antiviral therapies and infections in the laboratory.

Experts played down the probability that deer mice are harboring the infection in nature, although Tony Schountz, an expert in bat-borne viruses at Colorado State University and a study author, said it is conceivable that a person could give the coronavirus to a wild mouse and begin the chain of transmission.

The mice, belonging to the genus Peromyscus, are often studied in biology fieldwork because they are so abundant; in such cases, captured animals may come in close contact with scientists.

“It’s a statistically unlikely event, but I don’t think it’s zero,” Schountz said.

He said he would not be concerned about encounters with mice if a vaccine were developed before the virus becomes endemic in the United States. 

—The Washington Post

With COVID-19 outbreaks dampened for now, corrections officials say they are preparing for the long haul

OLYMPIA — Washington officials are working to increase regular testing for workers and bring back some in-person visitation options for inmates as prisons adapt to the coronavirus pandemic.

In a video news conference Thursday, state Corrections Secretary Stephen Sinclair said a work group is crafting guidelines to allow some visits with proper safety equipment and physical barriers to protect against the virus.

The idea at this point is to “have some level of no-contact visiting” said Sinclair, saying a plan is expected to be finalized soon.

“A lot of our facilities do have outdoor visitation locations, and that’s something that we will certainly consider as part of the plan,” Sinclair said later. “But truly it’s going to be about having barriers in place” during visits to make sure there is no transmission of the virus.

The Department of Corrections (DOC) is currently preparing those barriers, he said.

Thursday’s news conference comes as DOC appears for now to have moved past outbreaks at Coyote Ridge Corrections Center, and earlier, at Monroe Correctional Complex.

Read the full story here.

—Joseph O'Sullivan

Seattle landlords sue Gov. Jay Inslee and Mayor Jenny Durkan over eviction moratoriums

A small group of Seattle landlords is suing Mayor Jenny Durkan and Gov. Jay Inslee over the constitutionality of city and state eviction moratoriums, which in Seattle’s case has been extended to December to protect people who can’t pay rent amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The suit, filed Thursday in the U.S. District Court in Seattle, comes two days after the federal Centers for Disease Control initiated a nationwide eviction moratorium through the end of 2020.

“We’re all facing various fallout from (coronavirus), landlords and tenants alike, and I think that’s the problem taken by the approach now — it expects landlords shoulder the burden of the pandemic rather than putting the burden on the public as a whole,” Blevins said.

Tara Lee, a spokesperson for Inslee, said the governor welcomes the court’s review of the state’s eviction moratorium, which she called “a difficult but necessary measure to prevent widespread homelessness during this unprecedented pandemic.”

She noted that the moratorium does not erase the debt of past due rent.

Read the full story here.

—Scott Greenstone

State confirms 479 new COVID-19 cases and 10 new deaths

State health officials reported 479 new COVID-19 cases in Washington as of Wednesday night, and 10 new deaths.

The update brings the state’s totals to 75,856 cases and 1,945 deaths, meaning that 2.6% 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 6,834 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the virus. 

Statewide, 1,518,089 COVID-19 tests have been administered as of Wednesday night.

In King County, the state’s most populous, state health officials have confirmed 19,892 diagnoses and 732 deaths.

—Nicole Brodeur

Tacoma-Pierce county health officials say younger learners could be back in school buildings soon

Young students in Pierce County could return to in-person learning soon, the health department said Tuesday.
And schools may now offer in-person learning in small groups — five students and two adults — to younger learners and those with the highest needs.
"Our case numbers and positivity rates are declining, and we are close to meeting the 4 metrics of the state's decision tree that allow phasing in of in-person learning," Dr. Anthony Chen, the director of health at Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department and chief health strategist for Pierce County, wrote in a blog post Tuesday.
Pierce County has reported 6,873 cases of the novel coronavirus as of Sept. 1. The rate per 10,000 residents is 76.3, which is considered high by the state's metrics, "but we are on track to fall below that very soon," Chen wrote.
Expanding in-person learning to elementary students is permissible when the county's rate falls below 75, which is considered in the moderate range.
Public- and private-school leaders have participated in calls with the health department throughout August, Chen said. The department will talk with school leaders again Thursday to continue the discussion of gradual reopening.

—Michelle Baruchman

Pac-12 announces ‘groundbreaking’ rapid-results COVID-19 testing initiative

The Pac-12 has entered into an agreement with diagnostic healthcare manufacturer Quidel Corporation to implement daily rapid-results COVID-19 testing for close-contact sports across all of its campuses, the conference announced Thursday. The improved testing will also significantly reduce the amount of contact tracing required on each campus.

“This is a major step toward the safe resumption of Pac-12 sport competitions,” Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott said in a statement. “The availability of a reliable test that can be administered daily, with almost immediate results, addresses one of the key concerns that was expressed by our medical advisory committee, as well as by student-athletes, coaches and others.

“At the same time, our partnership with Quidel, the industry leader in point-of-care antigen testing, will provide crucial research data that will benefit our members’ communities as well as the entire country.”

Quidel’s Sofia 2 testing machines and tests are expected to be delivered to each of the Pac-12’s athletic departments by the end of September, according to the release.  Over the coming weeks, the Pac-12’s sport planning committees will evaluate this technology’s impact on return to competition scenarios.

The statement did add, however, that “any return to competition is subject to requisite approvals from public health officials.”

Last month, the Pac-12 announced that all fall sports seasons had been postponed through at least the end of the year. It’s unclear at this juncture how Thursday’s news might affect that tentative timeline.

This story will be updated.

—Sean Quinton

Schools, funerals and protests: Photos from around the world Sept. 3

—Courtney Riffkin

COVID-19 is sixth leading cause of death in King County, report finds

Although the number of local people who have died from COVID-19 has slowed since the early peak of the outbreak in April, it remains the sixth leading cause of death in King County, according to a new report from Public Health — Seattle & King County

This report uses different categorizations for cause of death from a recent Seattle Times column by FYI Guy Gene Balk, which found the disease to be the third leading cause of death in King County by comparing the most recent numbers for COVID-19 deaths with the CDC's list of the 15 leading causes of death for January through August 2018.

The report published Thursday by Public Health — Seattle & King County uses information about the overall count of deaths associated with COVID-19 and the toll that the virus is taking on particular segments of our community, including older adults and some communities of color.

The analysis did not find evidence that there were unrecognized COVID-19 deaths in the weeks leading up to identification of the first COVID-19 case in King County or that there were large numbers of COVID-19 deaths that were unrecognized in the official death counts.

—Christine Clarridge

Signs of depression triple in the U.S. since COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has touched pretty much every person in America — and it shows in the state of our mental health.

The prevalence of sleep troubles, lethargy, feelings of hopelessness and other depression symptoms in adults across the country has more than tripled since the pandemic began, according to a new study.

In the weeks after the outbreak prompted quarantines and stay-at-home orders, 27.8% of those surveyed had at least one symptom of depression. That compares to just 8.5% of people in 2017 and 2018.

And it’s not just that the proportion of people experiencing signs of depression had increased by mid-April — the burden of those symptoms increased as well. After the pandemic caused a radical shift in daily life, there were “fewer people with no symptoms and more people with more symptoms,” researchers wrote this week in the journal JAMA Network Open.

Read the story here.

—Karen Kaplan, Los Angeles Times

Tyson Foods to open medical clinics at some meat plants

Tyson Foods is planning to open medical clinics at several of its U.S. plants to improve the health of its workers and better protect them from the coronavirus.

The Springdale, Arkansas-based company, which processes about 20% of all beef, pork and chicken in the U.S., said its plan to open the clinics near its plants was in the works before the coronavirus struck this year, but that they will help the company respond to the pandemic.

Tyson is joining a long list of companies that have clinics on or near their worksites or bring in physicians to ensure employees receive annual physicals. Companies say having clinics can reduce health insurance costs by cutting out unnecessary emergency room visits and helping better manage chronic conditions such as diabetes and obesity. '

It can also improve productivity because employees don’t have to take as much time off for doctor’s appointments.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

Quarantine Corner: Making it easier to stay home

Need takeout ideas? Food critic Tan Vinh ate at 100 (!!) banh mi spots in the Seattle area, and came up with 12 favorites.

On the bookshelf: A new COVID-era anthology features literary luminaries such as Garth Stein telling tales of hope, heartache and more — with a heavy Seattle presence.

—Kris Higginson

Catch up on the past 24 hours

Why wasn’t the public told sooner about a COVID-19 outbreak at a Bremerton hospital, even though health officials knew? During a weeklong silence, the hospital admitted patients who now have infections linked to the outbreak, which has grown to 65 confirmed cases.

The CDC has told states to be ready to distribute vaccines to high-risk people as soon as next month. But some medical experts find that timeline "deeply worrisome," and the historic task looks overwhelming in many places. Here's what Washington state officials are saying about this.

Cheap, widely available steroids can save lives of seriously ill COVID-19 patients, according to studies that prompted health officials to issue new treatment guidance.

COVID-19 has killed more police officers this year than all other causes combined, statistics show, and the toll on officers may eventually surpass that of 9/11.

A biker who went to the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally has died. It's the first fatality among hundreds of cases tied directly to the event.

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and his family tested positive. He calls the ordeal "one of the most challenging and difficult things we've ever had to endure."

Santa Claus is nervous about coming to town. And department-store Santas aren't the only worried ones as struggling retailers plan for a holiday season unlike any other.

—Kris Higginson

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