Washington state’s death toll from coronavirus reached 1,501 over the weekend, and a July surge in cases has brought the state to a tipping point. Will contagion run rampant, as in Florida, or will Washington’s 39 counties regroup?
Six months after the first person in Washington tested positive, experts say we are poised to see all the charts and curves go the wrong way — but not too late to stop them.
Throughout Monday, on this page, we’ll be posting Seattle Times journalists’ updates on the outbreak and its effects on the Seattle area, the Pacific Northwest and the world. Updates from Sunday can be found here, and all our coronavirus coverage can be found here.
Dog influencers take over Instagram after pandemic puppy boom
Mochi has an eager smile, an enviable wardrobe and some killer dance moves. He hangs out at the pool a lot and sometimes takes trips to local vineyards, all of which he documents for his 8,000 Instagram followers. He is also a dog, one of the many new canine users on the platform.
On the heels of the pandemic puppy boom, Instagram has swelled with a new crop of dogfluencers. Mochi is a good example: His owners had planned to get a puppy in the fall, but sweeping coronavirus restrictions left them with time on their hands and nowhere to go. They brought Mochi home in April and started his Instagram account immediately.
If a pandemic is a good time to get a dog, it’s also a good time to build the dog’s following. Stuck at home, people are spending lots more time online. In one global survey at the end of March, 43% of people said they were browsing social media more because of the pandemic, second only to streaming movies and TV shows.
According to social-monitoring tool CrowdTangle, the number of posts mentioning puppies jumped 38% in the last week of March, compared with the year-to-date weekly average. “Dog” rose a more modest 11%. “Cat,” meanwhile, showed an even smaller increase, slowly and indifferently rising over the next three weeks to a pandemic peak, up 9%.
Some US police resist enforcing coronavirus mask mandates
Lang Holland, the chief of police in tiny Marshall, Arkansas, said he thinks the threat of the coronavirus has been overstated and only wears a face mask if he’s inside a business that requires them. He doesn’t make his officers wear them either.
So the day after Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed an order requiring masks to be worn in public throughout Arkansas, Holland made it clear his department wasn’t going to enforce the mandate in the Ozarks town of about 1,300, calling it an unconstitutional overreach.
“All I’m saying is if you want to wear a mask, you have the freedom to choose that,” said Holland, who said he supports President Donald Trump. “It should not be dictated by the nanny state.”
Holland is among a number of police chiefs and sheriffs in Arkansas and elsewhere who say they won’t enforce statewide mask requirements, even within their departments. Some say they don’t have the staffing to respond to every mask complaint, treating violations of the requirement as they would oft-ignored minor offenses such as jaywalking. Others, including Holland, reject the legal validity of mask requirements.
European tourism faces turbulence only weeks after restart
Europe’s tourism revival is running into turbulence only weeks after countries reopened their borders, with rising infections in Spain and other nations causing increasing concern among health authorities over people bringing the coronavirus home from their summer vacations.
European countries started opening up to each other’s tourists in mid-June, but recent events have shown that the new freedom to travel is subject to setbacks. Over the weekend, Britain imposed a 14-day quarantine on travelers arriving from Spain, Norway ordered a 10-day quarantine for people returning from the entire Iberian peninsula, and France urged its citizens not to visit Spain’s Catalonia region.
In Austria, the lakeside resort town of St. Wolfgang shortened bar opening hours after an outbreak was detected on Friday. By Monday, 53 people had tested positive, including many people working in the tourism industry.
A face mask is part of ‘scamdemic,’ they say. But they’ll be happy to sell you one
AMARILLO, Texas — Don Caple won’t wear a mask.
He doesn’t think they actually stop the spread of the novel coronavirus, and he’s pretty sure mask mandates are a “communistic move” by the government to see how much people are willing to give up their freedom.
But if you’re in the market for a mask, does he have a deal for you. For only $10, he’ll sell you a face mask with a muscly President Donald Trump depicted as a machine-gun-clutching Rambo. Or one with a Trump 2020 campaign slogan. Or one with the coiled rattlesnake from the Gadsden flag and the words “Don’t tread on me” replaced with “Don’t cough on me.”
“They’re a hot-ticket-selling item,” said Caple, who sells masks from a Trump-themed trailer near the famed Cadillac Ranch art installation in Amarillo. “I don’t agree with it. But if they want to buy them, I’m not gonna argue.”
Public health experts say masking is essential for the U.S. to climb out of the COVID-19 pandemic, and mask mandates are in effect in more than half of U.S. states and required in many major retail chains.
So, like it or not, most Americans who want to leave their homes must possess some kind of mask — leading even the biggest cynics to try and make a buck off of them.
On Etsy, online shoppers can choose from scores of homemade cloth facial coverings that say, “This mask is useless!” Sellers on Amazon hawk masks reading, “Wake up, sheeple!” And on eBay, the skeptical masker can purchase one that says “Scamdemic.”
Younger COVID-19 patients who don’t answer phone calls make tracing nearly impossible
Younger people are less likely to be hospitalized or die of COVID-19 than their elders, but they circulate more freely while carrying the disease, and their cases are harder to trace. Together, these facts terrify California hospital officials.
People under 50 make up 73% of those testing positive for the disease in the state since the beginning of June, compared with 52% before April 30. That shift isn’t comforting to Dr. Alan Williamson, chief medical officer of Eisenhower Health in California’s Coachella Valley.
“It honestly worries me more because it means that this is now established in the community,” he said.
As the virus spreads throughout the United States, figuring out how patients were exposed becomes increasingly difficult, which makes it nearly impossible to stop viral transmission.
Younger people with COVID-19 are also less likely to pick up the phone when a contact tracer calls, health officials say.
And hospitals are seeing case numbers rise among staffers, who are getting infected in their communities, not necessarily at work.
People showing up at the Verdugo Hills emergency department with COVID symptoms in June were significantly younger than those who came earlier this year, hospital data shows — and more ER patients say they have “no idea” where they could have contracted the virus, said Patricia Marquez Sung, an epidemiologist with USC Verdugo Hills Hospital, a 158-bed facility in Glendale, in L.A. County.
Pilgrims arrive in Mecca for downsized hajj amid pandemic
Muslim pilgrims have started arriving in Mecca for a drastically scaled-down hajj, as Saudi authorities balance the kingdom’s oversight of one of Islam’s key pillars and the safety of visitors in the face of a global pandemic.
The hajj, which begins Wednesday, normally draws about 2.5 million people for five intense days of worship in one of the world’s largest gatherings of people from around the world.
This year, Saudi Arabia’s Hajj Ministry has said between 1,000 and 10,000 people already residing in the kingdom will be allowed to perform the pilgrimage. Two-thirds of those pilgrims will be from among foreign residents in Saudi Arabia and one-third will be Saudi citizens.
The kingdom has one of the Mideast’s largest outbreaks of the coronavirus, with nearly 269,000 reported infections, including 2,760 deaths.
Amid stressful time for Black community, healers share tips for coping
Sadiqua Iman has been figuring out how to practice healing — from a distance.
Since the first stay-home order was announced in Washington state, Iman and her colleagues at Nile’s Edge, a healing arts center dedicated to supporting Black healing practitioners in Seattle’s Central District, have been figuring out how to transfer their practice to an online platform. It’s hard, after all, to perform reiki and healing circles virtually. And Zoom fails to capture one of Iman’s favorite methods of healing: song and dance. It’s a full-body process, starting at her toes and ending at the tips of her hands. For Iman, healing means singing. Loudly. At the top of her lungs, in her kitchen, shower, at her healing space in Nile’s Edge.
“That sound therapy? It’s real,” said Iman, a Seattle-based energy and body worker who practices several kinds of massage therapy as well as craniosacral therapy and chakra balancing. “And even though Western culture has taken it and broken it down into a scientific form to study, as people we’ve always sang as a healing force. We’ve come up with our own harmony.”
Iman, a co-founder of Nile’s Edge, is among some of Seattle’s Black female therapists and healers who have spent the past few weeks trying to achieve the impossible: caring for a community that’s grieving, losing jobs and loved ones, and largely unable to gather in some of the more traditional ways of support, such as in church or group therapy, while simultaneously finding time to reckon with their own pain and loss, and supporting their families.
2 MLB games postponed as Marlins deal with virus outbreak
Two major league games scheduled for Monday night were postponed as the Miami Marlins deal with a coronavirus outbreak that stranded them in Philadelphia.
The Marlins’ home opener against Baltimore was called off, as was the New York Yankees’ game at Philadelphia. The Yankees would have been in the same clubhouse the Marlins used last weekend.
The Marlins postponed their flight home Sunday night after their series finale against the Phillies.
Major League Baseball announced the cancellation of both games about 7 hours before the scheduled first pitch, saying additional COVID-19 testing was being conducted. “The members of the Marlins’ traveling party are self-quarantining in place while awaiting the outcome of those results,” MLB said in a statement.
Confirmed coronavirus cases surpass 100,000 in Indonesia
Indonesia announced Monday that its confirmed coronavirus cases have surpassed 100,000, the highest amount in Southeast Asia.
Cases continue to rise across the world’s fourth-most populous nation as testing remains sharply limited and businesses continue to reopen. The health ministry announced 1,525 more cases on Monday, bringing the country’s confirmed total to 100,303. The actual number is thought to be considerably higher because of the low testing and other factors.
“Today the Indonesian nation has reached a psychologically significant number, which is 100,000, and this reminds all parties that Indonesia is still in a state of crisis.” National COVID-19 Mitigation Task Force spokesman Wiku Adisasmito said. “We must not be careless in dealing with COVID-19.”
While neighboring countries imposed lockdowns and closed their borders, Indonesia’s leaders attributed an apparent early success with the pandemic to prayer and took few precautions against the virus’ spread across the vast archipelago nation until the first official cases were confirmed in early March.
As the virus began to quickly spread — especially in metropolitan areas — the government instituted a lockdown in six regions of the country, but those restrictions began to be slowly lifted in early June.
80,000 people evacuating Vietnamese city after new virus cases
About 80,000 people, mostly local tourists, are being evacuated from the popular Vietnamese beach city of Da Nang after more than a dozen people there were confirmed to have COVID-19, the government said Monday.
Vietnam, widely seen as a success in dealing with the coronavirus, reimposed a social distancing order in Da Nang following the confirmation of the cases, the first known to be locally transmitted in the country in over three months.
A 57- year-old man was confirmed to be infected by the coronavirus on Saturday, the country’s first local case since April. Three more cases were confirmed over the weekend, followed by 11 more on Monday, the Ministry of Health said.
On Sunday, the government reimposed a social distancing order on the city.
The new outbreak sparked fear among tourists in the city, with many cutting their trips short.
The Civil Aviation Administration said the country’s four airlines have added extra flights and larger planes to transport the people, mostly domestic tourists, out of the city.
The ministry also said the virus is a new strain that has not previously been found in Vietnam. The mutated strain has a faster speed of infection, but its harmfulness compared to the previous strain is not yet known, it said.
About 4,000 federal employees say they contracted the coronavirus at work – and 60 have died
About 4,000 federal employees are seeking disability compensation on grounds that they contracted the novel coronavirus at work, while survivors of 60 deceased federal employees are seeking death benefits for the same reason.
The total number of claims is expected to increase to 6,000 within weeks, according to a report that amounts to one of the first accountings of the pandemic’s impact on the health of the federal workforce.
The report by the Labor Department’s inspector general assessed coronavirus-related trends in workers’ compensation programs including the Federal Employees’ Compensation Act, which covers the 2.1 million employees of executive branch departments and agencies plus the 630,000 employees of the semi-independent U.S. Postal Service.
The report said that soon after the pandemic was declared in March, the FECA program took several steps to prepare for coronavirus-related claims, including to designate occupations such as law enforcement, first responders, and front-line medical and public health personnel as at the highest risk of contracting the virus while at work.
For those occupations, the program “will accept that the exposure to COVID-19 was proximately caused by the nature of the employment and will only require medical evidence that establishes a diagnosis of COVID-19, such as a positive COVID-19 test result,” it said. Those in other types of positions must show that the disease was employment-related, as with any other type of injury or illness claim.
Virus vaccine put to final test with thousands of volunteers
The world’s biggest COVID-19 vaccine study got underway Monday with the first of 30,000 planned volunteers helping to test shots created by the U.S. government — one of several vaccine candidates in the final stretch of the global race.
There’s still no guarantee that the experimental vaccine, developed by the National Institutes of Health and Moderna Inc., will really protect.
The needed proof: Volunteers won’t know if they’re getting the real shot or a dummy version. After two doses, scientists will closely track which group experiences more infections as they go about their daily routines, especially in areas where the virus still is spreading unchecked.
“Unfortunately for the United States of America, we have plenty of infections right now” to get that answer, NIH’s Dr. Anthony Fauci recently told The Associated Press.
Moderna said the vaccination was done in Savannah, Georgia, the first site to get underway among more than seven dozen trial sites scattered around the country.
In Binghamton, New York, nurse Melissa Harting said she volunteered as a way “to do my part to help out.”
Pastor: 40 infected with coronavirus after church event
More than 40 people were infected with the coronavirus after attending a multi-day revival event at a north Alabama Baptist church, according to the congregation’s pastor.
“The whole church has got it, just about,” Pastor Daryl Ross of Warrior Creek Missionary Baptist Church in Strawberry, northeast of Birmingham, told Al.com.
The pastor says the churchgoers, including himself, tested positive after the congregation held a series of religious services featuring a guest pastor over the course of several days last week.
Ross said the services were shut down by Friday after learning that one of the members who attended had tested positive for the virus. The member presented no symptoms, but got tested when several of his coworkers received positive tests, according to the pastor.
Over the weekend, dozens more fell ill, Ross said, adding: “I’ve got church members sick everywhere.”
“We knew what we were getting into,” he said. “We knew the possibilities.”
Quarantine Corner: Things to do while staying home
Need a little moment of joy and inspiration? Pick up the phone and call Seattle Public Library’s Lit Line, where a staffer will read a poem, short story or historic Seattle news item to you.
Chicken salad is just the thing for a hot day. Here’s a recipe that comes with a sweet, spicy kick.
Trump national security adviser Robert O’Brien has coronavirus
President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, Robert O’Brien, has tested positive for COVID-19, according to people familiar with his situation.
O’Brien has been out of the office since late last week and doing most of his work running the National Security Council by phone while isolating at home, according to the people.
O’Brien is the closest official to Trump to develop the novel coronavirus, as the pandemic continues to surge with infections and deaths on the rise in many U.S. states.
Catch up on the past 24 hours
The world’s biggest vaccine study kicks off today with the first of 30,000 volunteers, at seven sites around the U.S., helping to test COVID-19 shots created by the government. Here’s how it will work.
With just days until millions of Americans lose an expiring $600 unemployment benefit, GOP leaders today plan to unveil their gigantic coronavirus relief package. But the looming deadline may force them to consider faster options.
More countries are pulling back their welcome mats and cutting off newly regained travel freedoms as the pandemic strengthens its grip. Travel Troubleshooter unpacks what you need to know about this summer’s travel bans and how to get refunds.
“Stay away.” “Biggest Petri dish in the world.” Columnist Danny Westneat looks at the view from Canada, of us, and it’s not nice.
Two facts that terrify hospital officials: Younger people are circulating more freely while carrying the coronavirus, and their movements are harder to trace, making contract tracing seem all but impossible.
If you have coronavirus antibodies, they’re disappearing. Should you care? Scientists are learning new lessons that highlight the problem with testing for antibodies.
Controversies over masks are mushrooming. Tensions erupted over the weekend when a couple turned up at a Walmart in masks emblazoned with swastikas. Elsewhere, some police departments are loudly refusing to enforce mask mandates. And as you can imagine, masks are posing a unique problem for banks.
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