Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Wednesday, September 30, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.
As schools reopen and sports and activities resume in some parts of the U.S., the virus is increasingly infecting American children and teens. And on Tuesday, a North Carolina university reported its first virus-related death: a 19-year-old student.
During the first 2020 presidential debate Tuesday night, President Donald Trump reinforced his skepticism of masks and of health officials’ advice, and former Vice President Joe Biden called Trump’s handling of the issue “totally irresponsible.”
Throughout Wednesday, on this page, we’ll post updates on the pandemic and its effects on the Seattle area, the Pacific Northwest and the world. Updates from Tuesday are here, and all our coronavirus coverage can be found here.
Singapore to allow entry from Vietnam, Australia
SINGAPORE — Singapore will allow entry to travelers from Vietnam and Australia, excluding its coronavirus hot spot Victoria state, beginning next week.
The tiny city-state last month welcomed visitors from Brunei and New Zealand, and is cautiously reopening its borders after a virus closure to help revive its airport, a key regional aviation hub.
The aviation authority has said there is a low risk of virus importation from the two countries. Travelers must undergo a virus swab test upon arrival, travel on direct flights without transit and download a mobile app for contact tracing.
The Vietnam and Australia changes start from Oct. 8.
Singapore’s move is unilateral and not reciprocated by the other four countries.
But Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung said in a Facebook post Wednesday that “with each step of safe opening of our borders, we start to rebuild the bridges and resuscitate Changi Airport.”
Singapore has managed to control the pandemic after an earlier upsurge due to infections among foreign workers living in packed dormitories. It has confirmed more than 57,000 cases of infection with 27 deaths from COVID-19.
Pelosi and Mnuchin have ‘extensive’ talks on COVID relief
WASHINGTON — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin held an “extensive conversation” Wednesday on a huge COVID-19 rescue package, meeting face to face for the first time in more than a month in a last-ditch effort to seal a tentative accord on an additional round of coronavirus relief.
After a 90-minute meeting in the Capitol, Pelosi issued a statement saying the two would continue to talk. “We found areas where we are seeking further clarification,” she said. Talks resume Thursday.
“We made a lot of progress over the last few days. We still don’t have an agreement,” Mnuchin said after meeting with Pelosi and briefing top Senate Republican Mitch McConnell.
At the very least, the positive tone set by Pelosi and Mnuchin represented an improvement over earlier statements. But there is still a considerable gulf between the two sides, McConnell said.
“I’ve seen substantial movement, yes, and certainly the rhetoric has changed,” White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said.
In an appearance on Fox Business Wednesday night, Mnuchin described the talks as the first serious discussions with Pelosi in “several weeks” and said he is raising his offer into “the neighborhood” of $1.5 trillion. That’s well above what many Senate Republicans want but would probably be acceptable to GOP pragmatists and senators in difficult races.
Hospitals feel squeeze as coronavirus spikes in Midwest
MILWAUKEE — The coronavirus tightened its grip on the American heartland, with infections surging in the Midwest, some hospitals in Wisconsin and North Dakota running low on space and the NFL postponing a game over an outbreak that’s hit the Tennessee Titans football team.
Midwestern states are seeing some of the nation’s highest per capita rates of infection, and while federal health officials again urged some governors in the region to require masks statewide, many Republicans have resisted.
Like other states, health officials in Wisconsin had warned since the pandemic began that COVID-19 patients could overwhelm hospitals. That’s now happening for some facilities as experts fear a second wave of infections in the U.S.
A record number of people with COVID-19 were hospitalized in Wisconsin. In North Dakota, hospitals are adding extra space amid concerns from employees about capacity. Iowa also reported a spike in people hospitalized with the virus, to 390.
At least 25 infected in COVID-19 outbreak at Salish Lodge
Salish Lodge & Spa will close for a week starting Thursday after 23 staff members and two guests tested positive for coronavirus, according to the hotel’s general manager and Public Health – Seattle & King County.
The county health agency is recommending anyone who visited the hotel or spa in Snoqualmie — whether overnight or as a daytime guest — between Sept. 16 and 30 get tested for the coronavirus, monitor their symptoms and avoid close contact with others.
The lodge follows strict health protocols, said general manager Alan Stephens. He said he did not believe any of the infected employees had been in “close contact” with guests or colleagues, using the term as defined by Public Health – Seattle & King County: Being within 6 feet of another person for more than 15 minutes.
Hotel managers first learned of the outbreak Sept. 23, Stephens said, and began working with the county health authority to contain the virus’s spread, including by closing sit-down dining Sunday morning.
COVID-19 cases could be creeping up across Washington
The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases could be creeping up after more than a month of decreasing numbers.
The state is still verifying numbers from the past couple of weeks, but it appears that after six weeks of decline the number of people being infected is again climbing.
“I think this highlights how relentless this virus is and any time we let down our guard and think we can go back to doing things how we did before the pandemic, we often will see increases in disease activity,” said Dr. Kathy Lofy, the state’s health officer, during the state’s regular COVID-19 press briefing.
Case counts aren’t the only numbers that have the state’s public health officials worried. The amount of people being hospitalized for COVID-19 had flattened, but recent numbers show hospitalizations are also rising.
The percentage of tests coming back positive is 3.2%. The state Department of Health (DOH) and Gov. Jay Inslee have pegged a 2% positivity rate as one of the key metrics guiding the pandemic response.
UW Greek system confirms second COVID-19 outbreak is growing
The second COVID-19 outbreak among University of Washington's Greek life members continues to grow, the school's student newspaper reported Wednesday.
The school's Interfraternity Council (IFC), which governs 25 UW fraternities, has confirmed 88 cases since Sept. 1, according to organization president Erik Johnson. Seventy-three of those were reported within the last week, he said.
Johnson told UW's student newspaper, The Daily, he believes the most recent cases are isolated since they came from one fraternity's house and its live-out facilities.
"At this time, we are continuing to emphasize to our community the importance of testing as well as only interacting with individuals inside your household," Johnson wrote in an email. "... As has been the case since March 3rd, 2020, all fraternities are under a full social moratorium and strict no-guest policy, and we will continue to hold chapters accountable should they be in violation of these policies."
The school's first outbreak hit the Greek system in July, when more than 150 students in 15 fraternity houses tested positive, The Daily reported.
Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson sues Brown Paper Tickets
After receiving nearly 600 consumer complaints from around the country about Brown Paper Tickets, Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed a lawsuit Wednesday against the Seattle-based ticket broker in King County Superior Court.
According to the lawsuit, Brown Paper Tickets owes $6 million to event producers (many of them artists, small businesses and nonprofits) who were never paid their box-office revenues and $760,000 in refunds to people who bought tickets for events that were canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The State alleges that Brown Paper Tickets engaged in unfair or deceptive acts or practices in violation of the Consumer Protection Act,” the complaint says. “Brown Paper Tickets had failed to remit payment to event organizers for events that took place and has failed to provide refunds to ticket buyers who purchased tickets for cancelled or rescheduled events.”
The complaint asks the court to order restitution payments to both ticket buyers and event producers, and to fine Brown Paper Tickets up to $2,000 per violation of the Consumer Protection Act.
Washington to recieve rapid antigen test from federal government
Washington will be getting a shipment of tests that can detect a COVID-19 infection in about 15 minutes.
The state is expecting about 149,000 of the rapid antigen tests from the federal government sometime during the next five to 10 days and will distribute the initial batch to tribes, federally qualified health centers and critical access hospitals, said Dr. Charissa Fotinos, who leads the state's testing efforts, during the state's regular COVID-19 press briefing.
The tests are only for people who are showing symptoms and don't require the upper nose to be swabbed, as with the common diagnostic PCR tests that are more widely used and more accurate. The antigen tests are also less expensive than the PCR tests.
Fotinos said that the state expects to get around 2.3 million more of the antigen tests by December, which will be helpful in quickly identifying people with COVID-19 during cold and flu season.
The state Department of Health won't yet incorporate positive test results from antigen tests in its case counts because at the moment positive antigen tests, which are being used at long-term care facilities, only make up about 5% of all positive cases, said Dr. Kathy Lofy, the state's health officer.
"So while it's still a small proportion, we're watching the data really carefully," she said. "Because we anticipate seeing antigen tests being used more and more and they may soon start to affect some of the trends we're seeing in our data."
King County Metro fares resume tomorrow
King County Metro has announced that on Oct. 1, it will resume collecting fares for transit services.
Metro has not been collecting fares for several months in an effort to prevent contact between riders and drivers. In a statement, Metro encouraged riders to use contactless payment methods, such as ORCA cards.
This year, Metro has cut some bus service due to the pandemic, but has also made financially driven cuts that amount to 15% of the agency's pre-COVID service.
From a Sept. 19 story in the Seattle Times: "Metro expects to lose about $240 million to $265 million this year, representing about a quarter of the $1 billion a year it spends on operations. Federal funding from the CARES Act helped shore up Metro and other agencies, but Metro will run out of that aid by the end of this year. "
Metro has said that the loss of car-tab tax revenue due to Initiative 976 has also contributed to the contraction in service.
State confirms 480 new COVID-19 cases and two new deaths
State health officials reported 480 new COVID-19 cases in Washington as of Tuesday night, and two new deaths.
The update brings the state’s totals to 87,522 cases and 2,126 deaths, meaning that 2.4% of people diagnosed in Washington have died, according to the state Department of Health (DOH). The data is as of 11:59 p.m. Tuesday.
The DOH also reported that 7,533 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the virus.
Statewide, 1,868,089 COVID-19 tests have been administered as of Tuesday night.
In King County, the state’s most populous, state health officials have confirmed 22,367 diagnoses and 761 deaths, meaning that 3.4% of people diagnosed in King County have died.
White House blocked CDC order to keep cruise ships docked
The White House has blocked a new order from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to keep cruise ships docked until mid-February, a step that would have displeased the politically powerful tourism industry in the crucial swing state of Florida.
The current “no sail” policy is set to expire on Wednesday.
Dr. Robert R. Redfield, the director of the C.D.C., had recommended the extension, worried that cruise ships could become viral hot spots, as they did at the beginning of the pandemic, but he was overruled at the coronavirus task force on Tuesday, Dr. Redfield’s plan was overruled, according to a senior federal health official
Instead cruise ships can sail after Oct. 31, the date the powerful industry had already agreed to in its own, voluntary plan.
Redfield, who has been scolded by President Trump for promoting mask wearing and cautioning that vaccines won’t be widely available until next year, worried before the Tuesday decision that he might get fired.
The cruise ship industry has considerable political influence in Florida, generating $53 billion in economic activity.
COVID-19 recession most unequal in modern U.S. history, Washington Post reports
The economic blow from the recession caused by COVID-19 has hit Americans more unequally than any other in recent history, disproportionally affecting low-wage and minority workers the hardest, according to a special project by The Washington Post.
The impact has been for some a mild setback and for others a debilitating blow, the paper's analysis of job losses across incomes revealed.
Young adults aged 25 to 34, mothers of school-aged children, Asian Americans, Hispanic men, Black men and women and people without college degrees are bearing the brunt of the economic fall out, the post reports.
Americans ages 20 to 24 suffered the greatest job losses when retail and restaurant businesses closed with young Black workers even further behind.
UK lawmakers to renew govt’s contentious COVID-19 powers
British lawmakers were set Wednesday to renew the government’s sweeping powers to impose emergency restrictions to curb the coronavirus pandemic, though many slammed the way Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative administration has used them.
Legislators are increasingly unhappy about the government’s handling of the pandemic, which has seen Britain go from a national lockdown imposed in March to a patchwork of local measures of varying stringency. Along the way, Britain’s official virus death toll has reached more than 42,000 — the highest in Europe — and the country is seeing a second spike in new daily cases.
Lindsay Hoyle, the impartial Speaker of the House of Commons, said the government had treated lawmakers with “contempt,” with new laws being brought in without scrutiny and measures sometimes published just hours before taking effect.
South Korea has virus jump before holiday period
South Korea has reported 113 new cases of COVID-19, its first daily increase over 100 in five days, as the country entered a holiday break that officials fear would possibly worsen transmissions.
The numbers released by the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency on Wednesday brought the caseload to 23,812, including 413 deaths.
While millions of South Koreans travel during Chuseok every year to visit relatives, officials have pleaded that people stay home to help stem transmissions. Nightclubs, bars, buffet restaurants and other establishments deemed as “high-risk” will be shut in Seoul during the holiday period to reduce gatherings.
Appalachian State student dies following COVID complications
The University of North Carolina system reported its first coronavirus-related student death on Tuesday since several campuses reopened with at least partial in-person learning last month.
Chad Dorrill, a 19-year student at Appalachian State University who lived off campus in Boone and took all of his classes online, died on Monday due to coronavirus complications, officials said.
The university reported a new high of 159 current COVID-19 cases among students on Tuesday. Nearly 550 students have tested positive for the virus since in-person classes resumed last month. Appalachian State remains open for in-person instruction.
Three North Carolina colleges, including UNC-Chapel Hill, North Carolina State University and East Carolina University, have halted physical classes for undergraduate students, after reporting nearly 1,000 UNC students tested positive for COVID-19 after classes resumed in August.
Sharp virus spread in Madrid leads to new anti-outbreak plan
Madrid and its suburbs, the region in Europe where a second coronavirus wave is expanding by far the fastest, are edging toward stricter curbs on personal movement and social gatherings after a political dispute that has angered many Spaniards.
Health officials from Spain’s central government and the Madrid region agreed late Tuesday on a set of health metrics that should dictate standardized restrictions in cities with a population of 100,000 or more. The new plan needs to be approved at a meeting with health officials from all Spanish regions later Wednesday.
The deal follows weeks of a sour public disagreement on how to tackle uncontrolled virus clusters in the Spanish capital.
The central left-wing government has demanded tougher action in Madrid that wouldn’t only target the city’s working-class neighborhoods, while the center-right Madrid government resisted a city-wide partial lockdown for fear of damaging the regional economy further.
Neanderthal genes are a liability for COVID patients, study finds
Scientists say genes that some people have inherited from their Neanderthal ancestors may increase the likelihood of suffering severe forms of COVID-19.
A study by European scientists published Wednesday by the journal Nature identifies a cluster of genes that are linked to a higher risk of hospitalization and respiratory failure in patients who are infected with the new coronavirus.
“It is striking that the genetic heritage from the Neandertals has such tragic consequences during the current pandemic,” Paabo said in a statement. “Why this is must now be investigated as quickly as possible.”
Quarantine Corner: Things to do while staying home
Recipes to try: Almost every region in Italy has its own gnocchi variation. This light, tender one comes from the Seattle kitchen of teen chef Sadie Davis-Suskind. (Her panna cotta would go well for dessert.)
Need to zone out in front of the TV? Here are the most intriguing new streaming shows.
Or, check out a new book: Bestselling author Tana French’s eighth crime-fiction novel comes out next week. She talked with us about the surprising work of writing mysteries. And National Book Award winner Phil Klay is back with his visceral debut novel.
Catch up on the past 24 hours
COVID-19 cases are rising among U.S. children as schools reopen and youth sports and other activities resume.
"Herd immunity" is still very far away, top epidemiologists say, with about 85% to 90% of Americans still susceptible to the coronavirus. That sharply contrasts with a theory, cited by Trump's pandemic adviser, that the U.S. is nearing herd immunity and therefore could soon reopen businesses and schools safely without precautions.
Now we know who really matters: The rapid daily testing that's saving the UW Huskies' football season sure would be a game-changer for regular students, too, columnist Danny Westneat writes. But the emphasis is on how coach Jimmy Lake will fare in his first big test, getting his players through the 2020 roller coaster.
The Tennessee Titans have the NFL’s first COVID-19 outbreak. So far, their next game is still on.
Disney is laying off a quarter of its U.S. theme-park workers. Disneyland in California hasn't been allowed to reopen, much to the company's frustration, and attendance at Disney World in Florida is weak.
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