Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Thursday, Sept. 9, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.

In his most forceful pandemic actions and words, President Joe Biden on Thursday announced sweeping new federal vaccine requirements affecting as many as 100 million Americans in an all-out effort to increase COVID-19 vaccinations and curb the surging delta variant.

Meanwhile, state and local health officials say Washingtonians shouldn’t be overly concerned about the mu variant of the coronavirus, first identified in Colombia in January and first detected in Washington in April. A month later, the first mu variant was detected in King County and since then, the state’s most populous county has counted 39 total mu cases, fewer than four cases per week, county public health officer Dr. Jeff Duchin said Wednesday. In August, 3,442 specimens were genetically sequenced from Washington residents, with mu representing about 0.4% of sequenced cases — compared to 98.2% of cases represented by the delta variant.

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.


Gov. Jay Inslee has set a press conference today at 2:30 p.m. to discuss the state’s ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Navigating the pandemic
(Jennifer Luxton / The Seattle Times)

More

In COVID-slammed Idaho, schools risk buckling hospitals

When Idaho public health officials announced this week that northern hospitals were so crowded with coronavirus patients that they would be allowed to ration health care, roughly 11,000 kids in Coeur d’Alene were packing lunches, climbing on buses or grabbing backpacks for their first day of school. Few were wearing masks.

Kootenai Health has 200 beds for medical or surgical patients, but on Thursday — the third day of school — the hospital tallied 109 COVID-19 patients, including 37 requiring critical care. The hospital normally has just 26 intensive care unit beds.

Meanwhile, Idaho’s vaccination rates remain among the lowest in the U.S., and coronavirus cases have grown by 44% in the last two weeks as the highly contagious delta variant burns through the population. It’s basically a math problem that adds up to a potential disaster.

Read the story here.

—Rebecca Boone, The Associated Press
Advertising

State health officials confirm 4,240 new coronavirus cases

The state Department of Health (DOH) reported 4,240 new coronavirus cases and 59 new deaths on Thursday.

The update brings the state's totals to 594,344 cases and 6,850 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. Wednesday.

In addition, 33,440 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the virus — 252 new hospitalizations. In King County, the state's most populous, state health officials have confirmed a total of 140,805 COVID-19 diagnoses and 1,778 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.

Adam Schiff, Elizabeth Warren ask Amazon to curtail COVID misinformation

Two federal lawmakers have requested that Amazon CEO Andy Jassy address concerns about the company’s role in pushing shoppers toward books and products that promote misinformation about the coronavirus.

Nearly 18 months into the pandemic, merchandise touting unproven COVID-19 remedies and anti-vaccine conspiracy theories continues to land near the top of Amazon.com’s search results for terms related to the disease, recent media reports have highlighted.

Amazon “cannot possibly justify the sale of false information that directly endangers your consumers,” wrote Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., in a Wednesday letter to Jassy, citing University of Washington research that found over 10% of vaccine-related search results on Amazon.com contained misinformation about vaccine efficacy and safety. Amazon’s search algorithms prioritize conspiracy theories, the researchers concluded: Books and merchandise promoting vaccine misinformation are among the first results shoppers see when they search for terms like “vaccine.”

And until recently, the first result for the search “COVID cure” on Amazon.com was a book about the drug ivermectin, commonly sold in concentrated form as a horse dewormer. The drug’s misuse to treat COVID-19 has sparked warnings from federal regulators amid a slew of calls to poison control centers from people who have overdosed on the potent formula.

Schiff echoed a call earlier this week from Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., who asked Jassy to “perform an immediate review of Amazon’s algorithms” to determine to what extent they are pushing users toward misinformation. Schiff also sent a letter Wednesday to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg questioning that company’s efforts to fight coronavirus misinformation on its social network.

Read the story here.

—Katherine Anne Long

Los Angeles poised to mandate student COVID vaccinations in nation’s second-largest school district

Officials in Los Angeles are set to consider mandatory coronavirus vaccinations for students ages 12 and up in the city’s public school system, the second-largest district in the country.

It would be by far the largest school district in the country to take this step, with experts and officials across the country worried the surging and highly contagious delta variant could upend yet another school year.

Already, many school districts mandate vaccination for school staffers, and in California the requirement is statewide. Many companies have done the same, and President Joe Biden on Thursday was expected to sign an order requiring all federal employees to be vaccinated.

Some systems are offering coronavirus vaccinations in schools, and some have mandated vaccinations for student-athletes. But a requirement for all students is far more sweeping.

Read the story here.

—Laura Meckler, The Washington Post
Advertising

Were you initially hesitant to get a COVID shot? We would like to hear from you

Seattle Times reporter Paige Cornwell would like to speak with Washington residents who were initially hesitant to get the COVID-19 vaccine but ultimately decided to get vaccinated. She can be reached at pcornwell@seattletimes.com, or you can fill out the form below.

—Paige Cornwell

Sweeping new vaccine mandates for 100 million Americans

President Joe Biden speaks in the State Dining Room at the White House, Thursday, Sept. 9, 2021, in Washington. Biden is announcing sweeping new federal vaccine requirements affecting as many as 100 million Americans in an all-out effort to increase COVID-19 vaccinations and curb the surging delta variant. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

In his most forceful pandemic actions and words, President Joe Biden on Thursday announced sweeping new federal vaccine requirements affecting as many as 100 million Americans in an all-out effort to increase COVID-19 vaccinations and curb the surging delta variant.

Speaking at the White House, Biden sharply criticized the roughly 80 million Americans who are not yet vaccinated, despite months of availability and incentives.

“We’ve been patient. But our patience is wearing thin, and your refusal has cost all of us,” he said, all but biting off his words. The unvaccinated minority “can cause a lot of damage, and they are.”

The expansive rules mandate that all employers with more than 100 workers require them to be vaccinated or test for the virus weekly, affecting about 80 million Americans. And the roughly 17 million workers at health facilities that receive federal Medicare or Medicaid also will have to be fully vaccinated.

Biden is also signing an executive order to require vaccination for employees of the executive branch and contractors who do business with the federal government — with no option to test out. That covers several million more workers.

Read the story here.

—Zeke Miller, The Associated Press

How college students can cut COVID risk on campus, from dorm life to study sessions

College students across the nation are back on campus, bracing for another tumultuous semester amid the spread of the highly contagious delta variant.

And as their universities grapple with mask recommendations, vaccine mandates and distancing rules, students are charged with making serious health-related decisions. Health experts have some risk-reduction advice to make those tough calls a little easier.

One health expert said that while no public health precaution is 100 percent effective, layering them up offers a solid defense against COVID-19.

“I tell folks: ‘Think of the vaccine like a really good raincoat, but if it’s storming outside you still need an umbrella if you want to stay dry,’ ” said Henry Wu, assistant professor and senior physician at the Emory University School of Medicine. “And I think right now, we’re storming in most of the country.”

Read the story here.

—Lindsey Bever and Caroline Anders, The Washington Post
Advertising

Alaska Airlines flight from Seattle diverts after passenger makes threats and group violates mask protocol, officials say

An Alaska Airlines flight heading from Seattle to Anchorage was diverted after a passenger began threatening staff and people near them and their group refused to follow instructions for mask use, officials said.

Multiple people traveling in the same group were earlier removed from Saturday’s flight before takeoff in Seattle for what Alaska Airlines described in a statement as “disruptive behavior.” Others in that party were allowed to stay on the flight, but once the plane was in the air, “at least one passenger who was part of the remaining group began to threaten our crew members and nearby guests,” Alaska Airlines said.

Alaska State Troopers said five passengers “were not following flight attendant instructions related to mask use and were using foul language during the flight.”

Read the story here.

—Tess Williams, Anchorage Daily News

Airlines say rise in COVID-19 cases is hurting ticket sales

Several leading U.S. airlines warned Thursday that the rise in COVID-19 cases due to the delta variant is hurting their bookings and further delaying a recovery for the travel industry.

American Airlines said a slowdown that started in August has continued into September, and the airline further lowered its outlook for third-quarter revenue. United, Delta Air Lines and Southwest Airlines also reported more cancellations and softer bookings.

Shares of all four airlines fell 1% to 2% minutes after regular trading opened on Thursday.

Read the story here.

—David Koenig, The Associated Press

Can kids get ‘long COVID’ after coronavirus infections?

Can kids get “long COVID” after coronavirus infections?

Can kids get ‘long COVID’ after coronavirus infections? (AP Illustration/Peter Hamlin)

Yes, but studies indicate they’re less likely than adults to be affected by symptoms that persist, recur or begin a month or more after infection.

Estimates vary on how often the symptoms known as long COVID-19 occur in kids. A recently published U.K. study found about 4% of young children and teens had symptoms more than a month after getting infected. Fatigue, headaches and loss of smell were among the most common complaints and most were gone by two months.

Coughing, chest pain and brain fog are among other long-term symptoms sometimes found in kids, and can occur even after mild infections or no initial symptoms.

Some studies have found higher rates of persisting symptoms than in the U.K. study, but kids are thought to be less commonly affected than adults. About 30% of adult COVID-19 patients develop long-term symptoms, according to some estimates.

Experts aren’t sure what causes the long-term symptoms. In some cases, it could reflect organ damage caused by the initial infection. Or it could be a result of the virus and inflammation lingering in the body.

Read the story here.

—Lindsey Tanner, The Associated Press
Advertising

Japan extends virus emergency until end of September

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga on Thursday announced an extension of a coronavirus state of emergency in Tokyo and 18 other areas until the end of September, saying healthcare systems remain under severe strain, and that the continuing challenges of fighting the virus had led to his decision not to seek another term.

The state of emergency, which was to end on Sunday, was issued first in Okinawa in May and gradually expanded and extended as the country prepared to host the Olympics.

Despite the prolonged emergency, the largely voluntary measures have grown less effective as exhausted Japanese increasingly ignore them.

Read the story here.

—Mari Yamaguchi, The Associated Press

Don’t tell students if their classmates get COVID, university warns faculty

The University of Delaware is warning its faculty not to tell students if their classmates get a confirmed case of coronavirus.

The change in protocol, sent in an email on Wednesday reviewed by The Washington Post, comes as rising cases on campus resulted in the university’s special accommodations for those who have COVID-19 filling up.

The email said that “if an instructor is notified by a student that the student has COVID-19, the instructor may not tell the class that someone has tested positive for COVID-19.”

Instead, the university said, professors should tell students that “given the current incidence of COVID-19 on campus, we should assume that we may have contact with individuals who are shedding COVID-19, perhaps unknowingly.” Students deemed to have been in close contact with a COVID-positive person would be notified by the school’s health department, the email said.

The situation at the University of Delaware highlights the complicated process that schools and universities across the country face as they welcome students back to classrooms while the delta variant fuels a surge in cases. The United States is averaging more than 149,000 new coronavirus cases each day, largely among unvaccinated people.

Read the story here.

—Bryan Pietsch, The Washington Post

US jobless claims reach a pandemic low as economy recovers

The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits fell last week to 310,000, a pandemic low and a sign that the surge in COVID-19 cases caused by the delta variant has yet to lead to widespread layoffs.

Thursday’s report from the Labor Department showed that jobless claims dropped from a revised total of 345,000 the week before. And at their current pace, weekly applications for benefits are edging toward their pre-pandemic figure of roughly 225,000.

But the spread of the delta variant this summer has put renewed pressure on the economy and the job market. On Wednesday, the Federal Reserve reported that U.S. economic activity “downshifted” in July and August, in part because of a pullback in dining out, travel and tourism related to concerns about the delta variant.

Still, the ongoing drop in applications for unemployment aid — six declines in the past seven weeks — indicates that most companies are holding onto their workers despite the slowdown.

Read the story here.

—Christopher Rugaber, The Associated Press
Advertising

Study finds no increase in miscarriage risk with COVID-19 vaccines

Pregnant women who received COVID-19 vaccines did not experience an increased risk of miscarriage, according to new research on data from Bloomington-based HealthPartners and several large medical centers across the country.

Doctors hope the results will prove reassuring to pregnant women who, as a group in the U.S., have been relatively slow to get vaccinated.

“This is really the first large data analysis of risks of COVID-19 vaccination early in pregnancy,” Dr. Elyse Kharbanda, senior investigator at HealthPartners Institute and lead author on the study, said. “The research we’re presenting is contributing to the evidence out there that the vaccines are safe in pregnancy.”

Concerns have been growing throughout the pandemic over the COVID-19 risks for pregnant women due to emerging data as well as tragic case reports. Yet many have been reluctant to undergo immunization since the original clinical trials of the vaccines excluded pregnant women, meaning there’s been a lack of safety data.

Read the story here.

—Christopher Snowbeck, Star Tribune

WHO says Africa’s already thin vaccine supply to drop by 25%

Africa’s already thin supply of COVID-19 vaccines has taken another significant hit, with the World Health Organization’s Africa director saying Thursday that for various reasons, including the rollout of booster shots, “we will get 25% less doses than we were anticipating by the end of the year.”

Matshidiso Moeti’s comments to reporters came as the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said just over 3% of people across the African continent have been fully vaccinated. That coverage drops to around 1.7% in sub-Saharan Africa, according to the WHO.

African health officials were dismayed by Wednesday’s announcement that the global COVAX effort to distribute vaccines to low-and middle-income countries is again cutting its delivery forecast.

Moeti noted that while COVAX has delivered over 5 million vaccine doses to African countries in the past week, “three times as many doses have been thrown away in the United States alone” since March.

Read the story here.

—Cara Anna, The Associated Press

Resort is first in Hawaii to mandate vaccination for guests, workers

A resort in the famed tourist mecca of Waikiki will be the first in Hawaii to require proof of COVID-19 vaccination for all employees and guests.

Starting Oct. 15, ’Alohilani Resort will require its employees, patrons and guests to show proof they’re fully vaccinated. The requirement will also apply to the six other Waikiki properties owned or operated by Highgate, a real estate investment and hospitality management company.

It’s the right thing to do as Hawaii grapples with a surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations because of the highly contagious delta variant, said Kelly Sanders, senior vice president of operations at Highgate Hawaii.

There were an average of 706 newly confirmed infection cases per day across Hawaii between Aug. 30 and Sept. 5, according to the state Department of Health. Hawaii’s vaccination rate was nearly 76% for those 12 and older.

Read the story here.

—Jennifer Sinco Kelleher, The Associated Press
Advertising

Catch up on the past 24 hours

The virus' mu variant looks "very bad in a test tube," with the potential to sidle past vaccine-based immunity. But what matters is how it behaves outside that tube, and Washingtonians shouldn't be too concerned at this point, local and state health officials say. Here's the breakdown on recent mu cases in Washington, compared with delta cases.

President Joe Biden will amp up pressure on businesses and schools to launch stricter vaccination mandates as he outlines a six-pronged plan today. Check back here for details of his speech at 2 p.m. Seattle time.

How college students can cut COVID risk on campus: As universities and students alike grapple with serious health-related decisions, health experts have advice to make the tough calls easier — from choosing the best mask and partying safely to planning that trip home for Thanksgiving. It's a tricky new era, with one major university warning its faculty not to tell students if their classmates get COVID-19.

Do school fountains spread COVID-19? As some schools supply students with water bottles, the science indicates it's a good idea to be cautious.

Three state troopers accused of making fake vaccine cards resigned after their colleagues turned them in. They could wind up in prison.

—Kris Higginson