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 It is no longer being updated.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

Health officials are bracing for a spike in people testing positive for the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. They’re concerned about transmission during Labor Day festivities.

Hundreds of worshipers — including many without masks — crowded the streets of Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood on Monday to sing, pray and protest after the city of Seattle shuttered Gas Works Park, where organizers had originally called for people to gather.

Throughout Tuesday, 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 Monday are here, and all our coronavirus coverage can be found here.

The state Department of Health has changed how it reports testing totals, and testing data for the past few weeks is incomplete. Also: As of Aug. 28, the DOH is no longer publishing COVID-19 death counts on weekends. Instead, weekend deaths are added to death tallies reported on Mondays and Tuesdays.
The state Department of Health has changed how it reports testing totals, and testing data for the past few weeks is incomplete. Also: As of Aug. 28, the DOH is no longer publishing COVID-19 death counts on weekends. Instead, weekend deaths are added to death tallies reported on Mondays and Tuesdays.
(Jennifer Luxton / The Seattle Times)

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India adds another 89,000 cases, to reopen schools

NEW DELHI — India added another 89,706 coronavirus cases to the second-highest tally in the world, and the government said schools would reopen later this month for senior students after more than five months closed.

India’s famed white marble Taj Mahal in the northern city of Agra will also reopen Sept. 21 with access restricted to 5,000 tourists daily to prevent overcrowding.

According to the Health Ministry, India’s total caseload on Wednesday reached 4.37 million. The ministry also reported 1,115 deaths in the past 24 hours, taking total fatalities up to 73,890. India has the second-most cases in the world and the third-most deaths behind the United States and Brazil.

More than 1 million people have tested positive for the coronavirus in India in less than two weeks. Testing has been ramped up to more than 1 million daily, with cumulative testing exceeding 50 million.

In the Indian capital, authorities said COVID-19 testing centers can take walk-ins without a doctor’s prescription. This follows a rise in the daily tally of coronavirus cases to 2,411 from less than 1,000 last month.

—Associated Press
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FedEx plans to add 70K workers in anticipation of record holiday shipping

FedEx plans to hire about 70,000 seasonal workers to handle the holiday surge of packages, up 27% from last year’s peak, in what is expected to be an unprecedented level of delivery demand.

The courier has already added thousands of workers to keep up with a jump in deliveries as consumers order more online because of coronavirus concerns. FedEx’s U.S. ground deliveries rose 20% in the quarter through May from a year earlier. The company will likely match or exceed that for its fiscal first quarter, which ended in August.

To keep up with demand, FedEx also will expand the availability of Sunday delivery service to 95% of the U.S. population by mid-September. It has built more automated sorting centers, as well, and added capacity to handle oversize packages.

—Bloomberg

With some schools moving outdoors, retailers follow

With a number of U.S. schools opting for outdoor education over the potentially germier confines of their traditional indoor spaces, demand for outdoor apparel and waterproof supplies has gone through the roof.

According to the chief executive of Oaki, a company based near Salt Lake City that makes outdoor apparel for children, demand “has been overwhelming."

It is a sentiment echoed by other outdoor-oriented companies, some of which are launching new product lines or repurposing existing ones to capitalize on how the pandemic has changed the education experience.

Oaki CEO Sam Taylor said demand for Oaki products has increased 60% this year, a challenge because the company is experiencing pandemic-related delays with its manufacturers in India and Mexico.

As a result, Taylor has “prioritized individual schools or parents” over warehouse and retail orders. He has also rushed to market a line of fleece and wool socks that don’t need to be washed every day, in response to a request from a Vermont school.

“There’s been a ton of research that’s shown how productive being outside is,” Taylor said. “There’s no reason a little moisture or rain should stop that. If anything, that should be a positive if you’ve got the right gear.”

—The New York Times

AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine study paused after one illness

Late-stage studies of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine candidate are on temporary hold while the company investigates whether a recipient’s “potentially unexplained” illness is a side effect of the shot.

In a statement issued Tuesday evening, the company said its “standard review process triggered a pause to vaccination to allow review of safety data.”

AstraZeneca didn’t reveal any information about the possible side effect except to call it “a potentially unexplained illness.” The health news site STAT first reported the pause in testing, saying the possible side effect occurred in the United Kingdom.

An AstraZeneca spokesperson confirmed the pause in vaccinations covers studies in the U.S. and other countries. Late last month, AstraZeneca began recruiting 30,000 people in the U.S. for its largest study of the vaccine. It also is testing the vaccine, developed by Oxford University, in thousands of people in Britain, and in smaller studies in Brazil and South Africa.

—Associated Press
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King County Council approves $8 million to launch Seattle tourism marketing campaign, hoping to attract visitors back to the area

The King County Council last week approved $8 million in CARES funding to launch a county-wide tourism initiative, inviting visitors back to the area after the COVID-19 pandemic torpedoed the local hospitality industry, according to a Tuesday statement from a Seattle marketing organization. 

Visit Seattle, based in downtown Seattle, is planning to use the funds to implement a marketing campaign in early October to drive more business and foot traffic to the county through the end of the year, the statement said. 

“We are celebrating this incredible step forward, while acknowledging that this is just the beginning of what will be an extensive recovery process for the tourism and hospitality industries in King County,” said Tom Norwalk, Visit Seattle president and CEO, in the statement.

The marketing campaign will likely be centered around an invitation to safely return to King County, especially targeting visitors who live within a “reasonable drive,” the statement said, adding that the campaign would be consistent with health and safety recommendations from the Washington State Department of Health.

While the full economic impact of COVID-19 to Seattle and King County is not yet available, the statement said, Visit Seattle said regional hotel occupancies are down compared to prior years, the 2020 cruise season was canceled entirely and the Washington State Convention Center lost $333.1 million due to 45 future events that were nixed.

“At Visit Seattle, we are tirelessly preparing to actively invite visitors back to our incredible region as we reopen responsibly,” said the organization’s senior vice president, Ali Daniels, in the statement. “In the meantime, we will continue to respect the guidelines Governor Inslee has instituted and focus on those within a reasonable driving distance of our beautiful destination.”

—Elise Takahama

A new theory asks: Could a mask be a crude ‘vaccine’?

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen removes her protective mask before speaking at EU headquarters in Brussels, on Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2020. (Aris Oikonomou / The Associated Press)
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen removes her protective mask before speaking at EU headquarters in Brussels, on Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2020. (Aris Oikonomou / The Associated Press)

As the world awaits the arrival of a safe and effective coronavirus vaccine, a team of researchers has come forward with a provocative new theory: that masks might help to crudely immunize some people against the virus.

The unproven idea, described in a commentary published Tuesday in the New England Journal of Medicine, is inspired by the age-old concept of variolation, the deliberate exposure to a pathogen to generate a protective immune response.

The thinking is that masks reduce the wearer's chances of getting sick by cutting down on the number of viruses that encounter a person's airway, but if a small number of pathogens still slip through, these might prompt the body to produce immune cells.

That does not mean people should don a mask to intentionally inoculate themselves with the virus. “This is not the recommendation at all,” said Dr. Monica Gandhi, an infectious disease physician at the University of California, San Francisco, and one of the commentary’s authors. “Neither are pox parties,” she added, referring to social gatherings that mingle the healthy and the sick.

The theory cannot be directly proven without clinical trials that compare the outcomes of people who are masked in the presence of the coronavirus with those who are unmasked — an unethical experimental setup. And while outside experts were intrigued by the theory, they were reluctant to embrace it without more data, and advised careful interpretation.

The coronavirus variolation theory hinges on two assumptions that are difficult to prove: that lower doses of the virus lead to less severe disease, and that mild or asymptomatic infections can spur long-term protection against subsequent bouts of sickness. Although other pathogens offer some precedent for both concepts, the evidence for the coronavirus remains sparse, in part because scientists have only had the opportunity to study the virus for a few months.

Read the full story here.

—The New York Times

Bergamo, Italy, is examining COVID-19 survivors. About half say they they’re not fully well.

BERGAMO, Italy — The first wave is over, thousands have been buried, and in a city that was once the world’s coronavirus epicenter, the hospital is calling back the survivors. It is drawing their blood, examining their hearts, scanning their lungs, asking them about their lives.

Twenty people per day, it is measuring what the coronavirus has left in its wake.

Six months ago, Bergamo was a startling warning sign of the virus’s fury, a city where sirens rang through the night and military trucks lined up outside the public hospital to ferry away the dead. Bergamo has dramatically curtailed the virus’s spread, but it is now offering another kind of warning, this one about the long aftermath, where recoveries are proving incomplete and sometimes excruciating.

Those who survived the peak of the outbreak in March and April are now negative. The virus is officially gone from their systems.

“But we are asking: Are you feeling cured? Almost half the patients say no,” said Serena Venturelli, an infectious-disease specialist at the hospital.

—The Washington Post
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Washington state won't update COVID-19 data today

The Washington state Department of Health (DOH) won't report updated COVID-19 numbers this afternoon, as it usually does each day.

The DOH says severe windstorm damage brought down its website, including its COVID-19 dashboard, as well as its phone lines.

"We are working to resolve this and have services back online ASAP," the agency wrote in a news release about the outage.

The state's main COVID-19 resource page, coronavirus.wa.gov, remains active, as does its COVID-19 information line (1-800-525-0127 or text 211-211) and its Washington Listens live stress-support line (1-833-681-0211).

—Gina Cole

England bans gatherings of more than 6 as virus cases spike

LONDON — Britain’s government is banning gatherings of more than six people in England, as officials try to keep a lid on daily new coronavirus infections after a sharp spike across the U.K. that has been largely blamed on party-going young adults disregarding social distancing rules.

Downing Street said urgent action was needed after the number of daily laboratory-confirmed positive cases hit nearly 3,000 on Sunday. The figure dipped Tuesday to 2,460.

Officials said that starting Monday, the legal limit on all social gatherings in England will be reduced from the current 30 people to six. The new law applies both indoors and outdoors, including private homes, restaurants and parks. Failure to comply could result in a 100-pound ($130) fine.

Weddings, school, funerals and organized team sports are exempt, and larger gatherings will also be allowed if the household or “support bubble” is larger than six.

—Associated Press

Battered by the virus, tribes race to boost census count

LODGE GRASS, Mont. — When Lauri Dawn Kindness was growing up, her hometown on the Crow Indian Reservation had an arcade, movie theater, gas stations and family cafe along streets shaded by towering cottonwood trees near a bend in the Little Bighorn River. Today, there’s only a small grocer and a propane dealer among the deserted lots scattered through downtown Lodge Grass.

Kindness is back here after more than a dozen years in the U.S. Army, including four combat tours, and she wants to help her people. One essential step, she said, is an accurate count on the once-a-decade U.S. census, which will determine how much federal money flows in for housing, schools, health care and other dire needs.

Reaching a full count on most reservations now looks nearly impossible. Less than a month before the Sept. 30 deadline, just a fraction of people have been counted on Crow land, where the coronavirus pandemic has taken a toll.

The Trump administration has pushed the Census Bureau to speed up the timeline for the count, and the Republican-controlled Senate failed to pass an extension allowing it to continue into next year. That has exacerbated concerns by civil rights groups and others of hard-to-count communities getting missed, especially people of color like Native Americans.

—Associated Press
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Democrat McGrath assails McConnell’s leadership on virus

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Democratic candidate Amy McGrath laid the mounting toll of coronavirus cases in the U.S. at the feet of Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday while declaring that the country needs people in power who “take responsibility again.”

During a campaign event in Georgetown, Kentucky, the retired Marine pilot who is trying to block a seventh term for McConnell zeroed in on the senator’s response to the ongoing health crisis, calling it a “dereliction of duty.” McGrath said an improved federal response is needed in testing and contact tracing to combat the virus.

“We still don’t have a plan to tackle it,” McGrath said. “And he is the leader … that drove the train off the tracks. And he’s got to go.”

McGrath called out McConnell by name but made no mention of Republican President Donald Trump in her stinging critique. Trump remains popular in Kentucky, and McGrath will have to win over some Trump supporters to have a chance of defeating McConnell.

Despite trailing McConnell in the polls, McGrath’s blistering campaign fundraising pace continued in August, when she raised $8.7 million, her campaign said Tuesday. It was the most she has raised in any single month of the campaign.

—Associated Press

Snohomish testing sites closed due to poor air quality

Due to the poor air quality caused by wildfires in the region, the Snohomish Health District has closed its drive-thru testing operations at two sites until Thursday.

The sites are located at the Lynnwood Food Bank and 3900 Broadway.

Staff is notifying all individuals with appointments to reschedule for later this week, and to contact their healthcare provider if symptoms worsen.

The Health District hopes to reopen Thursday and Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., but will continue to monitor air quality over the next 24 to 36 hours.

The District recommends that people monitor the website at www.snohd.org/testing or the Health District’s social media channels for any further changes to the testing schedule.

—Nicole Brodeur

For many, COVID-19 lingers for months, taxing mind as well as body

Forty hours after treating her first coronavirus patient, on March 30, Angela Aston came home to her family with a cough. “Gosh, your throat is scratchy,” her husband told her. Right away she knew she had likely been infected with COVID-19. As a nurse practitioner, Aston, 50, was confident she knew how to handle her symptoms, and disappeared to her bedroom to quarantine and rest.

By day 50 of her illness, that confidence had disappeared. In late May, she was still experiencing daily fevers and fatigue. She went to bed each evening worried that her breathing would deteriorate overnight. Particularly frustrating was the difficulty she felt explaining to her colleagues, friends and family that after eight weeks she was still sick.

“I felt this stigma like, ‘I’ve got this thing nobody wants to be around,’” Aston said. “It makes you depressed, anxious that it’s never going to go away. People would say to my husband, ‘She’s not better yet?’ They start to think you’re making it up.”

Read the full story here.

—The New York Times
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Flurry of tests as COVID hits Greece’s biggest migrant camp

ATHENS, Greece — A major testing and contact-tracing operation at Greece’s largest migrant camp on the eastern island of Lesbos has so far detected 35 confirmed cases of COVID-19 among the overcrowded facility’s 12,500 residents, authorities said Tuesday.

Health and migration ministry officials said medical teams have carried out 1,900 tests for the coronavirus on migrants at the Moria facility, which was initially designed to hold 2,800 people. Another 100 staff members have been tested, and none were found to have COVID-19.

Gkikas Magiorkinis, a member of a scientific committee advising the government, told a media briefing Tuesday that some optimism was allowed by the fact that most of the 35 migrants were relatively young and didn’t belong to high-risk groups.

“Although this doesn’t mean we should pay less attention and strive less to fight the epidemic” in Moria, he said. Out of the 35 cases, 18 were recorded Tuesday.

The camp has been quarantined until Sept. 15, with a police cordon to enforce the entry and exit ban.

Read the full story here.

—The Associated Press

McConnell: Senate to vote on ‘targeted’ virus aid

WASHINGTON — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, under pressure from GOP senators in tough reelection races, said Tuesday the Senate would vote on a trimmed-down Republican coronavirus relief package, though it has a slim chance of passage in the face of Democrats’ insistence for more sweeping aid.

“The Senate Republican majority is introducing a new targeted proposal, focused on some of the very most urgent healthcare, education, and economic issues,” McConnell, R-Ky., said in a statement.

The GOP leader acknowledged the package he will be putting forward “does not contain every idea our party likes.” And he said it was far less than what Democrats are seeking.

“Yet Republicans believe the many serious differences between our two parties should not stand in the way of agreeing where we can agree,” he said.

The move comes as lawmakers straggle back to Washington for an abbreviated pre-election session, as hopes are dimming for another coronavirus relief bill — or much else.

Read the full story here.

—The Associated Press

Doctors studying why obesity may be tied to serious COVID-19

NEW YORK — In the early days of the pandemic, doctors noticed something about the people severely ill from COVID-19: Many were obese.

The link became more apparent as coronavirus swept across the globe and data mounted, and researchers are still trying to figure out why.

Excess weight increases the chances of developing a number of health problems, including heart disease and diabetes. And those are among the conditions that can make COVID-19 patients more likely to get very sick.

But there’s some evidence that obesity itself can increase the likelihood of serious complications from a coronavirus infection. One study of more than 5,200 infected people, including 35% who were obese, found that the chances of hospitalization rose for people with higher BMIs, even when taking into account other conditions that could put them at risk.

Scientists are still studying the factors that might be at play — the way obesity affects the immune system may be one — but say it’s another example of the pandemic illuminating existing public health challenges.

Read the full story here.

—The Associated Press
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Coronavirus shutdown threatens Mexico’s storied dance halls

MEXICO CITY — The Salon Los Angeles had been crowded every weekend since 1937 with couples twirling to mambo, cha-cha-cha, salsa and danzon. Everyone from slum-dwellers to movie stars and millionaires have danced at the fabled hall that boasts, “Anybody who hasn’t been to the Salon Los Angeles doesn’t know Mexico.”

But the Mexico City dance hall, like other bars and nightclubs, has been fully or partially shuttered for more than five months due to the coronavirus pandemic and its owners say they are in debt and may have to close and demolish it.

Patrons, some of whom show up in the zoot suits of the 1940s, say the loss to the city’s social and cultural life would be irreparable. This past weekend, the dance hall was reduced to holding bake sales and a craft fair and asking for sponsors to save the venue where Cuban musicians like Pérez Prado and Beny Moré helped popularize mambo. Its owners say they understand the need for social distancing but feel they have received scant help from officials.

“We are last in line in priority, in terms of strategic businesses” the government helps, said Miguel Nieto, the third generation of his family to run the business started by his grandfather. “But I have to call attention to the fact that we are a priority in terms of mental health.” The dance hall is a way, he says, to reduce the stress, isolation and domestic violence the lockdown has engendered.

Read the full story here.

—The Associated Press

Companies testing coronavirus vaccines pledge safety, high standards

The top executives of nine drugmakers likely to produce the first vaccines against the new coronavirus signed an unprecedented pledge meant to boost public confidence in any approved vaccines.

The companies said Tuesday that they will stick to the highest ethical and scientific standards in testing and manufacturing and will make the well-being of those getting vaccinated their top priority.

The announcement comes amid worries that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration will be under political pressure to approve a vaccine before tests to prove it is safe and effective are finished.

Read the full story here.

—The Associated Press

Activities you can do while keeping your distance

Denny Creek is a kid-friendly, easily extendable hike through old-growth forest.  (Megan Burbank / The Seattle Times)
Denny Creek is a kid-friendly, easily extendable hike through old-growth forest. (Megan Burbank / The Seattle Times)

A kid-friendly hike with a natural waterslide isn't far away. Denny Creek is a Northwest childhood classic.

Riverbend Golf Complex in Kent offers a solid course that can be enjoyed by players of all levels, particularly if you're accompanied by a footlong rubber snake named Arnold.

Pillowy cinnamon rolls are the way to start this school year, teen chef Sadie says.

—Kris Higginson
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Catch up on the past 24 hours

Six months after getting COVID-19, Chimére Smith struggles to put sentences together and can't return to her teaching job. She's among many "long-haulers" for whom the virus is taking a toll on the mind, along with the body.

"People have relaxed too much." Sharp coronavirus spikes in the U.K., Spain and France are stoking concerns about what will happen this winter, and some defiant parents are rising up against a return to school buildings.

How to fix common mask problems: Your glasses fog up. The mask keeps slipping, but you don't want to touch it constantly. Here are easy ways to solve these and other annoyances.

—Kris Higginson

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