Most people in the United States are still highly susceptible to catching the new coronavirus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says. As the virus silently spreads, scientists are scrambling to study its prevalence, broadcast the latest guidance, develop a vaccine and invent new ways to test people for antibodies.
In Washington state, most registered voters said in a new poll that they wear masks regularly and believe reopening should be at least paused for the time being.
Throughout Wednesday, on this page, we’ll be posting updates on the pandemic and its effects on the Seattle area, the Pacific Northwest and the world. Updates from Tuesday can be found here, and all our coronavirus coverage can be found here.
D.C. mayor to order mandatory masks as infections rise again
With coronavirus cases rising in Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser said Wednesday she will issue an executive order making face masks mandatory outside homes — an unprecedented step in the nation’s capital.
Bowser said the order would include “enforcement language” detailing possible fines for violations.
After saying they had successfully blunted the infection curve in the city earlier this summer, health officials say the infection numbers have slowly crept upward, reaching triple digits on Wednesday for the first time in weeks.
Limited exceptions to the order, according to material distributed by Bowser’s office, include children under age 3, people “actively eating or drinking” and people “vigorously exercising outdoors” while not close to anyone else.
“In most cases, if you’re outside your home. you should have a mask on,” Bowser said.
Health Department director Dr. LaQuandra Nesbitt says her office is particularly concerned with data that show most new infections aren’t coming from people in quarantine or on the contact trace list of an infected person. That, she said, indicates a high level of community spread. Nesbit also said the percentage of people hospitalized who are under age 40 has nearly doubled in the month of July.
Bellevue School District will be online this fall
Bellevue School District will hold classes online in the fall, after similar announcements from other Seattle-area districts such as Kent and Northshore.
In an email sent to staff members on Wednesday, Bellevue superintendent Ivan Duran said he made the call after meeting with county health officials.
Last week, a report from the Bellevue-based Institute for Disease Modeling warned against reopening schools in King County unless transmission rates decrease.
Dr. Jeffrey Duchin, King County health officer, called the report “sobering.”
Seattle Public Schools haven’t made an announcement regarding its plans, but the district is facing pressure to start the school year remotely from its teachers union.
Gov. Inslee quotes ‘Mean Girls’ to try to make masks happen
Gov. Jay Inslee’s effort to use catchphrases from the 2004 teen comedy, “Mean Girls,” to make masks popular is meeting mixed reviews from the Twitterverse.
On Wednesday, Inslee posted a picture of himself behind a pink mask on Twitter with the words: “Stop trying to make ‘fetch’ happen. Make masks happen. #OnWednesdaysWeWearPink“
The lines about “fetch” and wearing pink on Wednesday are uttered by Regina George, the super popular mean girl leader of the Plastics clique in Tina Fey’s movie about social acceptance.
In the movie, George informs newcomer Cady Heron about the group’s color dress code and tells her insecure friend, Gretchen Wieners, that it’s pointless to keep using “fetch” as a synonym for “cool.”
“Gretchen, stop trying to make fetch happen!” George says unkindly.
Some Twitter users liked the campaign:
“I mean you already had my vote. But hot damn quoting Mean Girls now you have it even more!” said another.
But those who were unimpressed with either the photo shopping or the message were out as well: “Just stop,” said Beth from Bellingham.
“Hey Mr. Dad-Boomer, the sentiment is well appreciated, but the reference-joke is embarrassing,” said Dizzy Hughes of Seattle.
Marc Treyens In the Year 2020 replied, “Masks don’t pay the rent or prevent eviction. Get creative with it or get out. “
World virus cases top 15M; U.S. labs buckle amid testing surge
Laboratories across the U.S. are buckling under a surge of coronavirus tests, creating long processing delays that experts say are actually undercutting the pandemic response.
With the U.S. tally of infections at 3.9 million Wednesday and new cases surging, the bottlenecks are creating problems for workers kept off the job while awaiting results, nursing homes struggling to keep the virus out and for the labs themselves, dealing with a crushing workload.
Some labs are taking weeks to return COVID-19 results, exacerbating fears that asymptomatic people could be spreading the virus if they don’t isolate while they wait.
“There’s been this obsession with how many tests are we doing per day” said Dr. Tom Frieden, a former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “The question is how many tests are being done with results coming back within a day, where the individual tested is promptly isolated and their contacts are promptly warned.”
Frieden and other public health experts have called on states to publicly report testing turnaround times, calling it an essential metric to measure progress against the virus.
The testing lags in the U.S. come as the number of people confirmed to be infected globally passed a staggering 15 million on Wednesday, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
The U.S. leads the world in cases as well as deaths, which stand at more than 142,000 nationwide. New York, once by far the U.S. leader in infections, has been surpassed by California, though that is partly due to robust testing in a state with more than twice the population of New York.
Migrant kids held in U.S. hotels by caretakers with unclear credentials then expelled
The Trump administration is detaining immigrant children as young as 1 in hotels, sometimes for weeks, before deporting them to their home countries under policies that have effectively shut down the nation’s asylum system during the coronavirus pandemic, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press.
At least 2,000 unaccompanied children have been expelled since March, when the Trump administration announced it would broadly refuse entry to people seeking protection in the U.S.
The administration has cited the threat of the coronavirus in saying it doesn’t have the resources to allow migrants to stay.
MVM Inc, a private contractor for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, is taking children to three Hampton Inn & Suites hotels in Arizona and at the Texas-Mexico border, where they are typically detained for several days, the records show. The hotels have been used nearly 200 times, while more than 10,000 beds for children sit empty at government shelters.
Federal anti-trafficking laws and a two-decade-old court settlement that governs the treatment of migrant children require that most kids be sent to the shelters for eventual placement with family sponsors. But President Donald Trump’s administration is immediately expelling people seeking asylum in the U.S., relying on a public health declaration to set aside those rules.
Lawyers and advocates say housing unaccompanied migrant children in hotels exposes them to the risk of trauma as they’re detained in places not designed to hold them and cared for by contractors with unclear credentials. They are challenging the use of hotels as detention spaces under the Flores court settlement.
Before March, Central American children who crossed into the U.S. alone were generally sent to facilities overseen by the Department of Health and Human Services. HHS facilities have bedrooms and schooling, and children are given access to lawyers and generally placed with family sponsors. The facilities also are licensed by the states where they’re located. Federal anti-trafficking law requires the government to promptly refer most children to HHS.
Missouri governor clarifies comments on school kids getting virus
Missouri Gov. Mike Parson is clarifying comments he made saying that children returning to school will come down with the coronavirus but will “get over it.”
The Republican governor made the comments that drew criticism from several Democrats as well as the head of a state teachers’ union during an interview on “The Marc Cox Morning Show” on 97.1 FM in St. Louis.
“They’re at the lowest risk possible,” Parson said of children. “And if they do get COVID-19, which they will — and they will when they go to school — they’re not going to the hospitals. They’re not going to have to sit in doctor’s offices. They’re going to go home, and they’re going to get over it.”
In the KMOX interview, Parson said the point he was trying to make was, “We need to do everything we can to make it safe when they go back to school, and that we are ready when the day comes and somebody comes in and they test positive.”
Democratic State Auditor Nicole Galloway, Parson’s likely opponent in the November general election, said on Twitter that the governor showed “stunning ignorance” about how COVID-19 affects children.
Parson sought to clarify his comments in a subsequent radio interview, saying he “didn’t do a good job of explaining” his point, but added that anyone implying that he doesn’t care about children is a “sick individual.”
Outbreak at Iowa pork plant was larger than state reported
The first confirmed coronavirus outbreak at an Iowa meatpacking plant was far more severe than previously known, with more than twice as many workers becoming infected than the state Department of Public Health told the public, newly released records show.
The department announced at a May 5 news conference that 221 employees at the Tyson Foods pork processing plant in Columbus Junction had tested positive for COVID-19.
But days earlier, Tyson officials told Iowa workplace safety regulators during an inspection that 522 plant employees had been infected to their knowledge, documents obtained through the open records law show.
The discrepancy adds to mounting questions that the state health department faces about its handling of public information during the pandemic.
Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds took a pro-industry approach to managing outbreaks in Iowa, the top pork-producing state, and worked with executives to continue production even as workers became infected.
Australian official says sick not isolating
Australia’s hard-hit Victoria state reported a record 484 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday and health authorities warned that numbers could continue to rise.
With Australia’s second-largest city, Melbourne, in lockdown for two weeks, authorities had hoped the infection rate would begin to plateau.
Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews said nine out of 10 people did not self-isolate between having symptoms and being tested. More than half did not self-isolate between when they were tested and when they got the results.
Australian deputy chief medical Officer Michael Kidd said the nation’s tally of 502 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday was its largest ever. The fact that Australia recorded only two new cases on June 9 demonstrated how quickly outbreaks can spread, he said.
‘Stay calm’: Walmart trains staff how to deal with the maskless
Walmart has some advice for employees with the unenviable task of reminding shoppers to wear masks: Stay calm, listen intently and show understanding. But if customers insist on walking in without one, get out of the way.
That’s the message from a short training video for Walmart’s new “Health Ambassador” role. The two-minute guide teaches employees how to deal with customers who are not wearing masks — an issue that has divided the nation as the coronavirus pandemic continues to spread.
The animated video explains to Health Ambassadors that not all customers can wear a mask due to age, health conditions or religious reasons.
“If a customer tells you they can’t for one of these reasons, listen and tell them you understand,” says the video. “And thank them for shopping at Walmart.”
Due to those exceptions, customers will see some people in stores not wearing a face covering, a Walmart spokesman said Tuesday when asked about the training video. “We believe our requirement will result in many more people wearing masks in our stores and clubs than before and that’s ultimately what we are aiming for,” he said.
But not everyone has a valid exception. When a customer who won’t wear a mask or provide a reason for not donning one tries to enter a store — portrayed in the video as a man with narrowed eyebrows and hands angrily on his hips — Health Ambassadors should simply allow the maskless customer inside and alert a member of management.
California surpasses New York state in confirmed virus cases
California’s confirmed coronavirus cases have topped 409,000, surpassing New York for most in the nation.
John’s Hopkins University data showed Wednesday that California now has about 1,200 more cases than New York.
However, New York’s 72,302 deaths are by far the highest total in the country and nine times more than California’s tally, and its rate of confirmed infections of about 2,100 per 100,000 people is twice California’s rate.
California is the most populous U.S. state, at nearly 40 million people, while New York has about 19.5 million.
U.S. government data published Tuesday indicated that reported and confirmed coronavirus cases vastly underestimate the true number of infections, echoing results from a smaller study last month. The United States also has had consistent testing failures that experts say contribute to an undercount.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study says true COVID-19 rates were more than 10 times higher than reported cases in most U.S. regions from late March to early May. It is based on COVID-19 antibody tests performed on routine blood samples in 16,000 people in 10 U.S. regions.
Quarantine Corner: Things to do while keeping your distance
Hankering for a beach picnic? Neighborhood Eats went in search of takeout and found crave-worthy options in Seattle’s Sunset Hill neighborhood.
Books are the best diversions, especially these six new Paperback Picks.
Our top streaming choices are radioactive this week. Dive into the worlds of Marie Curie, Michael Jordan and more.
Catch up on the past 24 hours
Where has the virus been, and how many people have had it? Nobody knows, but a new antibody study aims to get a clearer picture by scrutinizing Washingtonians’ blood. It stands to inform officials’ decisions on how we reopen. Nationally, new CDC data shows, infections are up to 13 times higher than reported — but that still leaves most Americans without antibodies, and highly susceptible to catching the virus. Scientists are astonished by its silent spread through people with no symptoms.
The U.S. government will pay Pfizer nearly $2 billion for 100 million doses of a vaccine the company is aiming to produce this year. The plan is to make it free for Americans if it’s approved.
Residents of Washington and 30 other states must quarantine for 14 days when arriving in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, under new requirements issued as COVID-19 cases rise in dozens of states.
Push a button, get a blood sample: A Seattle company’s relatively painless device, which can be used at home and mailed to a lab, landed a big boost. It could help keep people from a risky doctor’s-office visit during the pandemic.
The virus will probably “get worse before it gets better,” President Donald Trump said yesterday in a sharp reversal as he encouraged people to wear masks.
How long should you isolate if you test positive? The CDC has revised its guidance downward.
The pandemic isn’t sickening the home-sales market. Homes are flying off the market faster than sellers can list more, our Coronavirus Economy daily chart shows.
Washington state high schools won’t play football until spring. Officials yesterday also decided to turn the normal three seasons into four … but as the virus surges, nobody is using permanent ink on that decision. Here’s how it would work.
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