Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Wednesday, Sept. 8, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.
The Seattle Seahawks joined the UW Huskies and Sounders FC in announcing Tuesday that fans will be required to show proof they are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or present a negative test within 72 hours of a home game. All events at Climate Pledge Arena — including Kraken games — will require proof of vaccination for entry and a mask to be worn. The Mariners will require proof of vaccination beginning with any potential postseason games in October.
King County is working to develop a vaccine verification system that could go into effect next month at certain nonessential, high-risk settings, according to county officials. The system, which is in early phases of development, would make it easier for places like clubs, theaters and stadiums to check the vaccination status of their patrons.
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.
Hospitals in crisis in least vaccinated state: Mississippi
As patients stream into Mississippi hospitals one after another, doctors and nurses have become all too accustomed to the rampant denial and misinformation about COVID-19 in the nation’s least vaccinated state.
People in denial about the severity of their own illness or the virus itself, with visitors frequently trying to enter hospitals without masks. The painful look of recognition on patients’ faces when they realize they made a mistake not getting vaccinated. The constant misinformation about the coronavirus that they discuss with medical staff.
“There’s no point in being judgmental in that situation. There’s no point in telling them, ‘You should have gotten the vaccine or you wouldn’t be here,’” said Dr. Risa Moriarity, executive vice chair of the University of Mississippi Medical Center’s emergency department. “We don’t do that. We try not to preach and lecture them. Some of them are so sick they can barely even speak to us.”
Mississippi’s low vaccinated rate, with about 38% of the state’s 3 million people fully inoculated against COVID-19, is driving a surge in cases and hospitalizations that is overwhelming medical workers. The workers are angry and exhausted over both the workload and refusal by residents to embrace the vaccine.
Macy’s Thanksgiving parade returns to New York City streets
The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade will return to New York City’s streets this year with COVID-19 protocols including a vaccination requirement for parade volunteers, Macy’s and city officials announced Wednesday.
The Nov. 25 parade will be broadcast on NBC and will feature the traditional giant balloons, celebrity performers, clowns and marching bands, Macy’s said.
Macy’s presented a curtailed version of the parade last year with balloons and performers confined to an area near the retailer’s flagship Manhattan store.
State health officials confirm 3,518 new coronavirus cases
The state Department of Health (DOH) reported 3,518 new coronavirus cases and 45 new deaths on Wednesday.
The update brings the state's totals to 590,281 cases and 6,791deaths, meaning that 1.2% of people diagnosed in Washington have died, according to the DOH. The data is as of 11:59 p.m. Tuesday.
The new cases may include up to 340 duplicates, according to DOH.
In addition, 33,188 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the virus — 263 new hospitalizations. In King County, the state's most populous, state health officials have confirmed a total of 140,120 COVID-19 diagnoses and 1,772 deaths.
Since vaccinations began in mid-December, the state and health care providers have administered 8,684,327 doses and 55.5% 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 15,245 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.
Indian state battered by COVID now on alert for Nipah virus
The southern Indian state of Kerala is quickly ramping up efforts to stop a potential outbreak of the deadly Nipah virus, even as the state continues to battle the highest number of coronavirus cases in the country.
Kerala is on high alert after a 12-year-old boy died of the rare virus on Sunday, spurring health officials to start contact-tracing and isolating hundreds of people who came into contact with the boy, who died at a hospital in the coastal city of Kozhikode.
Nipah, which was first identified during a late 1990s outbreak in Malaysia, can be spread by fruit bats, pigs and through human-to-human contact. There is no vaccine for the virus, which can cause raging fevers, convulsions and vomiting. The only treatment is supportive care to control complications and keep patients comfortable.
The virus has an estimated fatality rate of between 40% and 75%, according to the WHO, making it far more deadly than the coronavirus.
The COVID endgame: Is the pandemic over already? Or are there years to go?
It’s basically over already. It will end this October. Or maybe it won’t be over till next spring, or late next year, or two or three years down the road.
From the most respected epidemiologists to public health experts who have navigated past disease panics, from polemicists to political partisans, there are no definitive answers to the central question in American life: As a Drudge Report headline put it recently, “is it ever going to end?”
With children returning to classrooms, in many cases for the first time in 18 months, and as the highly contagious delta variant and spotty vaccination uptake send case numbers and deaths shooting upward, many Americans wonder what exactly has to happen before life can return to something that looks and feels like 2019.
The answers come in a kaleidoscopic cavalcade of scenarios, some suggested with utmost humility, others with mathematical confidence: The pandemic will end because deaths finally drop to about the same level we’re accustomed to seeing from the flu each year. Or it will end when most kids are vaccinated. Or it will end because Americans are finally exhausted by all the restrictions on daily life.
Innumerable predictions over the course of the pandemic have come up lame. Some scientists have sworn off soothsaying. But as they learn more about the coronavirus that bestowed COVID-19 on mankind, they build models and make projections and describe the hurdles that remain before people can pull off the masks and go about their lives.
Ida and COVID-19: ‘Twin-demic’ slams Louisiana hospitals
As Ida, one of the most powerful hurricanes in the nation’s history, was barreling into south Louisiana, the staff at Leonard J. Chabert Medical Center in Houma was already weary from a year and a half of caring for patients with COVID-19.
Hospitals facing a Category 4 storm typically either evacuate or discharge as many patients as possible. But this time, amid the community’s fourth, brutal surge of COVID, many of Chabert Medical Center’s patients were too sick to be sent home. And hospitals that lay outside the hurricane’s most destructive path were too full of COVID patients to absorb any more. So here they stayed — nurses, doctors, paramedics — exhausted from battling one catastrophe, watching through the windows as a second one tore into town with 150 mph winds.
Some nurses wept. The staff stood in a hallway, held hands and asked God to protect them.
“The mental stress on our employees is much worse now than it’s ever been,” said Richard Zuschlag, the owner of Acadian Ambulance Service, the state’s largest emergency medical outfit. “COVID set us up for that. And the hurricane is the icing on the cake.”
What is the mu variant of the coronavirus?
What is the mu variant?
It’s a version of the coronavirus that was first identified in Colombia in January and has since caused isolated outbreaks in South America, Europe and the United States.
The World Health Organization last month listed it as a “variant of interest” because of concerns it may make vaccines and treatments less effective, though more evidence is needed.
So far, the mu variant doesn’t seem to be spreading quickly: It accounts for fewer than 1% of COVID-19 cases globally. Most countries remain concerned about the highly contagious delta variant; it is the dominant variant in almost all of the 174 countries where it’s been detected.
A report from England’s public health agency last month suggested the mu variant might be as resistant to vaccines as the worrisome beta variant first seen in South Africa, but said more real-world data was needed.
Judge: Florida can’t enforce ban on school mask mandates
A Florida judge ruled Wednesday that the state cannot enforce a ban on public schools mandating the use of masks to guard against the coronavirus, while an appeals court sorts out whether the ban is ultimately legal.
Leon County Circuit Judge John C. Cooper lifted an automatic stay of his decision last week that Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis and state education officials exceeded their authority by imposing the blanket ban through executive order and tagging defiant pro-mask local school boards with financial penalties.
Cooper said the ovewhelming evidence before him in a lawsuit by parents challenging the DeSantis ban is that wearing masks does provide some protection for children in crowded school settings, particularly those under 12 for whom no vaccine yet exists. The issue came to a head amid a recent surge in cases caused by the more contagious and deadly delta variant of the virus, which health statistics show has begun to wane.
“We’re not in normal times. We are in a pandemic,” Cooper said during a hearing held remotely. “We have a (coronavirus) variant that is more infectious and dangerous to children than the one we had last year.”
State troopers accused of making fake vaccination cards resign after colleagues turn them in
Three Vermont state troopers have resigned after they were accused of being involved in a scheme to create fake coronavirus vaccination cards in the nation’s most vaccinated state, the state police announced Tuesday.
Shawn Sommers and Raymond Witkowski resigned on Aug. 10, a day after a colleague raised concerns about the alleged fraud to supervisors, while David Pfindel’s resignation took effect Friday after an investigation by Vermont’s Department of Public Safety, according to a police statement. Authorities said the three men, who were reported to supervisors by their fellow troopers, “are suspected of having varying roles in the creation of fraudulent COVID-19 vaccination cards, which may be a violation of federal law.”
The FBI is now investigating the matter. It remains unclear why and for whom the troopers allegedly made the fake cards.
More and more counterfeit vaccination cards are popping up across the United States in what has become a “cottage industry,” as some unvaccinated people try to evade restrictions requiring proof of the shot to enter public spaces, schools and concerts.
Officials: Health care rationing could spread across Idaho
Idaho’s move to “crisis standards of care” is allowing some hospitals to ration health care as they struggle with an onslaught of coronavirus patients, and officials are warning the procedures could spread statewide. But the main hospital affected by the designation was already operating under extreme conditions, officials said.
“Unfortunately we haven’t been really at our normal standards for some time,” said Dr. Robert Scoggins, the chief of staff for Kootenai Health, the largest hospital system in the northern half of the state and located in the city of Coeur d’Alene.
The hospital has had to move patients into a conference center, “doing things that were not normal — way outside of normal — at times,” Scoggins said.
State public health officials warn that the rest of the state is teetering on the edge of health care rationing. Newly confimed coronavirus infection cases are surging and Idaho has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the U.S.
COVID-19 surge in the US: The summer of hope ends in gloom
The summer that was supposed to mark America’s independence from COVID-19 is instead drawing to a close with the U.S. more firmly under the tyranny of the virus, with deaths per day back up to where they were in March.
The delta variant is filling hospitals, sickening alarming numbers of children and driving coronavirus deaths in some places to the highest levels of the entire pandemic. School systems that reopened their classrooms are abruptly switching back to remote learning because of outbreaks. Legal disputes, threats and violence have erupted over mask and vaccine requirements.
The U.S. death toll stands at more than 650,000, with one major forecast model projecting it will top 750,000 by Dec. 1.
More than six months into the U.S. vaccination drive, President Joe Biden held a White House party on July Fourth to celebrate the country’s freedom from the virus, and other political leaders had high hopes for a close-to-normal summer.
Then the bottom fell out.
Volunteers help poorest survive Thailand’s worst COVID surge
For two months, carpenter Tun Nye hasn’t been able to send any money home to his parents in Myanmar to help them care for his 11-year-old son, after authorities in Thailand shut down his construction site over coronavirus concerns.
No work has meant no income for him or his wife, who have been confined to one of more than 600 workers’ camps dotted around Bangkok, living in small room in a ramshackle building with boards and blankets to cover missing windows.
In Thailand’s worst virus surge yet, lockdown measures have reduced what little Bangkok’s have-nots had to zero. Volunteer groups are working to ensure they survive.
For Tun Nye, 31, the bag of rice, canned fish and other staples dropped off by Bangkok Community Help volunteers meant not having to go hungry that week.
The government shut down the camps at the end of June after clusters of delta-variant infections spread among the workers living in the close quarters, further escalating a COVID-19 spike in Thailand. Many lost all income, and while employers were supposed to ensure all had enough food and water, many didn’t.
What to do if you can’t pay your loans during the pandemic
As the coronavirus pandemic carries on and the economy recovers, some U.S. workers still face financial uncertainty.
For those struggling to keep up with their debt, there are relief options available from banks, lenders and the federal government. If you can’t pay your loans or soon won’t be able to, there are programs that may be able to help.
Florida doctor says she won’t treat unvaccinated patients in person
As Florida’s summer coronavirus surge takes the state into the fall with one of the nation’s highest rates of infections and hospitalizations, a physician in South Miami has told patients that she can no longer see them in person for their regular care if they are unvaccinated.
Linda Marraccini, a primary care doctor specializing in family medicine, sent a letter to her patients this month informing them that they could not be treated in person if they were not vaccinated by Sept. 15, according to WTVJ. She said she could still treat unvaccinated patients via telemedicine if they refused to get inoculated at a time when the highly transmissible delta variant of the novel coronavirus has ravaged the state.
“We will no longer subject our patients and staff to unnecessary risk,” Marraccini wrote to patients, noting that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is now fully approved by the Food and Drug Administration. “This is a public health emergency – the health of the public takes priority over the rights of any given individual in this situation. It appears that there is a lack of selflessness and concern for the burden on the health and well-being of our society from our encounters.”
Women said the COVID vaccine affected their periods. Now more than $1.6 million will go into researching it
Shana Clauson was in line to get her first dose of the Moderna shot in March when she saw menstruators on social media discussing how their periods had been altered – earlier, heavier and more painful than usual – after they got their coronavirus vaccinations.
Clauson, a 45-year-old who lives in Hudson, Wis., went ahead and got the shot – and, a few days later, also got an earlier and heavier period than she was used to. A few weeks later, in early April, she told The Washington Post that she was frustrated with the lack of research on whether the vaccines impacted menstrual cycles.
“Is this not being discussed, or is it even being looked at or researched because it’s a ‘woman’s issue?’ ” Clauson asked at the time. “I hope that if this is going to be a side effect for women, that it’s being addressed and women know this could happen.”
Last week, she got her wish: The National Institutes of Health has awarded $1.67 million to researchers at five institutions to study potential links between coronavirus vaccinations and menstruation, the agency announced Aug. 30.
Bulgaria, EU’s least vaccinated nation, faces deadly surge
Bulgaria has one of the highest coronavirus death rates in the 27-nation European Union and is facing a new, rapid surge of infections due to the more infectious delta variant. Despite that, people in this Balkan nation are the most hesitant in the bloc to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
Bulgaria has access to all four of the vaccines approved by the EU — Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, and Johnson&Johnson. But only 20% of adults in Bulgaria, which has a population of 7 million, have so far been fully vaccinated. That puts it last in the EU, which has an average of 69 % fully vaccinated. More than 19,000 people in Bulgaria have died of COVID-19, the EU’s third-highest death rate, behind only the Czech Republic and Hungary. In the last week, an average of 41 people have died each day.
Bulgaria’s largely failed inoculation campaign now risks putting the country’s ailing health care system under serious strain. In response, the government imposed tighter restrictions Tuesday.
Catch up on the past 24 hours
Going to a game? You'll need a vaccine or COVID-19 test. Washington’s pro and college teams joined ranks yesterday with new requirements. Here's when they'll go into effect and how the teams will verify your status. The Kraken is taking its requirements further than the other Seattle teams as it heads toward the Oct. 23 home opener. Meanwhile, King County is working on a vaccine verification system that you could see next month at stadiums, clubs and theaters, but there's some concern about turning people into "third-class citizens."
One Southwest Washington county is declaring an emergency so it can bring in a refrigerated trailer to hold bodies as COVID-19 deaths overwhelm the morgue. Statewide, hospitals are canceling non-urgent procedures as they struggle with a big spike in severely ill COVID-19 patients, warning that "a lot of these people are not going to make it."
It took a Washington state "Most Wanted" fugitive to break through the vaccine impasse. But that cost Richard Linderman his life, columnist Danny Westneat writes.
More vaccinated people are calling their own shots as experts debate boosters (actually, they can't even agree over whether to call them that). Amid the constant rethinking of what's safe, here's what is and isn't known about the science and the politics. The timing of third shots came into focus a bit more yesterday as the U.S. hit a vaccination milestone.
A Florida doctor is drawing the line: She won’t treat unvaccinated patients in person, saying, “It’s not fair for people who are unvaccinated to harm other people.”
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