Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Tuesday, June 30, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.
Researchers are discovering that a change in the novel coronavirus is starting to appear. Although the work hasn’t been peer-reviewed, at least four laboratory experiments suggest that the mutation makes the virus more infectious.
Meanwhile, Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives on Monday pushed through a package expanding Obamacare coverage. The measure spotlights how the pandemic, and President Donald Trump’s efforts to obliterate that law, have fortified health care’s potency as a 2020 campaign issue.
Throughout Tuesday, on this page, we’ll post updates from Seattle Times journalists and others on the pandemic and its effects on the Seattle area, the Pacific Northwest and the world. Updates from Monday can be found here, and all our COVID-19 coverage can be found here.
13 Everett firefighters quarantined after coronavirus exposure
Thirteen Everett firefighters were quarantined in the past few days after one of their co-workers tested positive for COVID-19, according to a Tuesday statement from the Everett Fire Department.
Ten of the firefighters, who worked a shift with the worker who tested positive, were quarantined over the weekend. Three more were quarantined later due to separate exposures to people with known infections, the statement said.
“There is no cause for alarm to the public,” the statement said. “Since the arrival of the first identified U.S. positive COVID-19 patient was identified in Snohomish County, the Everett Fire Department has proactively taken precautionary measures to protect firefighters from contracting the COVID-19 virus from their interactions with the public and ensuring firefighters are not the cause of spreading the virus to the community members they serve.”
No further information about the firefighters was immediately available.
Nordstrom makes sharp staff cuts as it grapples with pandemic
Nordstrom is laying off thousands of workers, including a large number from its corporate operations in Seattle, as it copes with pandemic-related losses, according to a former employee and reports in a trade journal.
A Nordstrom spokesperson acknowledged Monday that the Seattle-based retailer is “realigning and reducing our workforce to support our market strategy,” without giving any specifics.
But a veteran Nordstrom worker who had just been laid off from a corporate unit in Seattle said Tuesday the retailer had cut 6,000 jobs nationally in June. The worker’s division lost around 30% of its staff, said the employee, who had been with Nordstrom for more than a decade.
The worker’s account follows a report last week in an industry publication, Sourcing Journal, where unnamed sources said Nordstrom was laying off 20% to 25% of its staff nationally “over the near term.”
That would translate into job losses of between 13,600 and 17,000, based on the company’s 2019 workforce.
’50 square feet per person’: What Seattle schools may look like in the fall
When school buildings in Seattle open up this fall, the start of the school day could look something like this:
Each student, arriving at a preset time and day to avoid spreading germs to other kids, will get their temperature taken. They’ll answer a few questions about how they’re feeling, clean their hands and receive a disposable mask if they don’t have one. Then they’ll set off to a classroom with about as many kids that can fit in the room while ensuring that there’s 50 square feet around each person.
They may attend school every day, a few times a week or not at all — depending on their age, and whether they and other kids opted into online schooling 100% of the time until local health officials clear a full return to in-person instruction.
That is the working vision for reopening the state’s largest school district, no matter how far along King County gets in Gov. Jay Inslee’s reopening plan — barring any guidance to pull back from the state or local health officials.
District officials released more details about the plan to School Board members at a meeting on Tuesday, about a week after SPS announced it would start the next school year prepared to teach kids online and in person.
Alaska Airlines plans to give passengers yellow cards for refusing to wear masks as a coronavirus precaution
Alaska Airlines is taking a page out of the soccer refereeing handbook in its bid to enforce in-flight mask-wearing rules amid complaints of passengers refusing to cover up.
Starting in early July, the airline will hand yellow cards to noncompliant passengers, advising them that it is their “final notice” and that a written post-flight report about them will be made. From there, if a passenger continues to refuse, it will be noted in the report and a decision could be made to ban the offending passenger from future flights.
“Overwhelmingly, those who fly with us understand and appreciate the importance of wearing masks and face coverings during this time of COVID-19,” a statement Tuesday on the airline’s blog said. “We also rely heavily on our guests to do the right thing for the greater good of everyone onboard our flights.
“Our flight crews encounter moments when some travelers disregard or disobey our mask requirement. It creates tension and anxiety for many of our passengers who do have their face coverings on. So, a change is needed.”
Snohomish County might move back to Phase 1 if coronavirus cases start rapidly climbing
With COVID-19 cases increasing over the past few weeks, Snohomish County officials are not only hesitant to continue reopening, they’re worried about having to take a step back in the process.
The deciding factor would be if cases in the county start rapidly climbing, as has happened in other parts of the United States, and hospitals begin to fill up with COVID-19 patients, Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers said during a Tuesday news briefing. If that happens, the county might move back to Phase 1 of the state’s four-phase Safe Start reopening plan rather than proceeding to Phase 3, Somers said.
“A week or so ago, I would have thought it was a remote possibility,” Somers said. “I don’t feel that way anymore. I think going back to Phase 1 is clearly one of the options that could be in front of us.”
For four of the past 10 days, the county has recorded more infections per day than it had in six weeks.
Leavenworth’s Oktoberfest canceled due to COVID-19 concerns
Oktoberfest, one of Leavenworth’s biggest events, has been canceled due to concerns about COVID-19.
“Our biggest concern was over our liquor permits being denied by the city and state,” Projekt Bayern, the nonprofit that organizes Oktoberfest, wrote in its announcement, saying the state’s schedule of “phased reopening” from coronavirus closures had been too slow to accommodate the festival.
“With little movement we decided to cancel the event to protect our patrons from losing their deposits for hotels and travel agendas,” the announcement continued. “The safety of our guests and employees was also a huge factor.”
Young adults push King County’s COVID-19 increase
People between the ages of 20 and 39 account for more than half of new COVID-19 cases in King County during the past two weeks.
The increase in people younger than 40 comes as the county is experiencing a sharp increase in cases. The daily average number of cases has gone from 40 a day in the middle of June to 87 daily cases as of June 21, according to numbers compiled by Public Health — Seattle & King County.
The increasing number of cases is concerning, said Dr. Jeff Duchin, health officer for Public Health — Seattle & King County.
“Increasing cases and risk for acquiring COVID-19 in our community threatens the hard-earned progress we made during the stay-at-home order. This virus is as smart as ever and we need to be as well — the risk from COVID-19 remains serious,” Duchin said in a Public Health Insider post.
The sustained increase of cases could hold King County back from advancing to Phase 3 of Gov. Jay Inslee’s four-phase Safe Start reopening plan. One of the state’s targets is for counties to have fewer than 25 cases per 100,000 residents during a two-week span. King County is now at 54 cases per 100,000 residents.
When the county was applied to move from a modified Phase 1 to Phase 2 on June 15, it was at 24.8 per 100,000.
About 40% of the cases in the 20-to-39 age group during the past two weeks are Seattle residents.
Contact tracing investigations are still showing the largest proportion of cases are being transmitted at home.
The large protests in and around Seattle in response to the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer so far haven’t been driving the increase according to case investigations. During a 19-day span in June, less than 5% of 1,008 total positive cases have been attributed to people who attended protests.
Testing in King County has increased but it hasn’t in neighboring Snohomish and Pierce counties, which are also experiencing a rise in cases — suggesting the uptick is connected to increasing transmission across the Puget Sound area.
Inside the body, the coronavirus is even more sinister than scientists had realized
The new coronavirus’s reputation for messing with scientists’ assumptions has taken a truly creepy turn.
Researchers exploring the interaction between the coronavirus and its hosts have discovered that when the SARS-CoV-2 virus infects a human cell, it sets off a ghoulish transformation. Obeying instructions from the virus, the newly infected cell sprouts multi-pronged tentacles studded with viral particles.
These disfigured zombie cells appear to be using those streaming filaments, or filopodia, to reach still-healthy neighboring cells. The protuberances appear to bore into the cells’ bodies and inject their viral venom directly into those cells’ genetic command centers — thus creating another zombie.
The authors of the new study, an international team led by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, say the coronavirus appears to be using these newly sprouted dendrites to boost its efficiency in capturing new cells and establishing infection in its human victims.
Inslee heckled over coronavirus restrictions at Pasco news conference
Demonstrators in Pasco on Tuesday heckled Gov. Jay Inslee during an outdoor news conference, forcing the governor to move to an indoor space as he tried to speak on Washington’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Inslee’s visit to Columbia Basin College comes as Central Washington has become a hot spot for COVID-19. As of Sunday night, Franklin County — where Pasco is located — had reported 1,610 confirmed cases of the virus, according to the state Department of Health.
Nearby Yakima County trails only King County in overall COVID-19 cases in the state, even as it has only a fraction of the population. Benton County has also seen an increase in cases.
At Tuesday’s news conference, demonstrators loudly peppered Inslee — who last week announced a statewide requirement to wear masks in public — with questions and remarks as he spoke at a lectern set up outside a college building.
Health officials confirm 571 new COVID-19 cases
State health officials confirmed 571 new COVID-19 cases in Washington on Tuesday, and 12 additional deaths.
The update brings the state’s totals to 32,824 cases and 1,332 deaths, meaning about 4.1% of people diagnosed in Washington have died, according to the state Department of Health (DOH). The data is as of 11:59 p.m. Monday.
So far, 557,275 tests for the novel coronavirus have been conducted in the state, per DOH. Of those, 5.9% have come back positive.
The state has confirmed 10,177 diagnoses and 610 deaths in King County, the state’s most populous, accounting for a little less than half of the state’s death toll. At 6.1%, King County’s positive test rate is higher than the statewide average.
Seattle doctor charged with fraud in alleged coronavirus-relief scheme
A Seattle doctor was charged Tuesday with wire fraud and bank fraud, accused of fraudulently seeking more than $3 million in coronavirus relief loans, according to a statement from the United States Department of Justice.
Federal prosecutors in the Western District of Washington say Eric R. Shibley, 41, submitted several fake applications for Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans, which help businesses keep their workforce employed during the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the complaint, Shibley applied to several financial institutions in the names of businesses with “no actual operations or by misrepresenting the business’s eligibility.” In the applications, he allegedly misrepresented his number of employees and payroll expenses, hid his own criminal history and submitted fake tax documents, according to a Tuesday statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
The loans, which are administered by the Small Business Administration, became available through the CARES Act, a federal law enacted in March to provide emergency financial assistance to Americans suffering economic hardships because of the pandemic. The CARES Act authorized up to $349 billion in forgivable loans to small businesses, and in April, Congress authorized more than $300 billion in additional PPP funding.
Shibley’s first appearance in court was scheduled for 2 p.m. Tuesday.
The Department of Justice has a complaint form on its website, justice.gov, to collect reports of alleged fraud attempts related to COVID-19. Reports can also be made to the DOJ’s National Center for Disaster Relief Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721.
With no path forward amid coronavirus pandemic, Minor League Baseball cancels 2020 season
With no players to fill rosters, no major television contracts to generate revenue and no way to put fans in seats, Minor League Baseball bowed to the inevitable Tuesday and canceled its 2020 season, which had already been delayed by nearly three months by the novel coronavirus pandemic.
The cancellation, first reported by Baseball America on Tuesday and confirmed by a source familiar with the discussions, came following a meeting of Minor League Baseball’s board of trustees. An official announcement was expected later Tuesday.
The move has been expected for months, since the business model for minor league teams – which lack the same lucrative television contracts as major league teams – isn’t built to withstand the financial pressures created by games played without fans.
In addition, due to the national emergency, Major League Baseball suspended the agreement covering the assignment of players to minor league affiliates, and decided to adopt a “taxi squad” model to supply its teams with extra players – who will train together at one location per team – during this truncated, 60-game season.
Bumbershoot canceled amid COVID-19 concerns, eyes 2021 return
In a move that seemed merely a formality at this point, Bumbershoot organizers announced Tuesday that the long-running festival will not take place this year, due to COVID-19 concerns.
The decision was made after the City of Seattle Special Events Committee voted to not issue any special events permits through Sept. 7, organizers One Reel said in a news release. The annual Labor Day weekend music and arts bash plans to return in 2021 for what would be its 50th anniversary.
Dozens of Greek row students at UW test positive for COVID-19
A testing facility within walking distance of the University of Washington’s Greek houses has been set up after at least 38 students in 10 fraternities tested positive for COVID-19.
The university said it could not give the names of the houses with infected residents due to federal student privacy laws.
The roughly 1,000 students in the 25 Greek houses in the neighborhood north of campus are being asked to quarantine or self-isolate, the university said in a statement released Tuesday.
All of the houses with infected residents belong to fraternities, according to the university. But during the summer, most sorority houses close, and the 25 fraternity houses open their rooms for rent to fraternity and sorority members as well as students who aren’t part of the Greek system
There have been no hospitalizations or reports of severe illness among the infected students, leaders of the houses told the university.
“What is occurring north of campus provides lessons for students as they consider their return to campus this fall. If everyone does their part to keep each other safe, we can continue to engage with one another and with our studies in the University environment by wearing face coverings and remaining physically distant,” said Dr. Geoffrey Gottlieb, chair of the UW Advisory Committee on Communicable Diseases.
“If we don’t, measures such as what are now required on Greek Row will be inevitable. My sense is all students want to return to some sense of normalcy, so I urge all of us to follow public health guidelines so we can do just that.”
Instacart sues Seattle over law that requires coronavirus premium pay for delivery-app drivers
Instacart has sued Seattle over the city’s new law that requires food delivery app companies to provide drivers with at least $2.50 “premium pay” per order during the coronavirus crisis.
The emergency law, passed by the City Council on June 15 and signed by Mayor Jenny Durkan on June 26, applies to grocery app companies like Instacart and to meal app companies like DoorDash and Postmates.
Councilmembers Lisa Herbold and Andrew Lewis worked with the labor-backed advocacy organization Working Washington to advance the law. Like supermarket checkers and postal carriers, food delivery drivers are providing an essential service during the pandemic and are chancing exposure to the virus while making as little as $3 per trip, Herbold and Lewis said.
The lawsuit filed June 26 by Instacart and the Washington Food Industry Association says Seattle’s premium-pay requirement violates an initiative approved by Washington voters in 2018. Initiative 1634 prohibits local governments from imposing taxes or charges on groceries, including the transfer and transportation of groceries.
As colleges consider how to reopen in fall, Cornell says in-person learning is best for public health
As colleges around the country grapple with how to reopen in the fall, Cornell University’s president on Tuesday announced that it will welcome students back to campus — an option she said is best not only for their education, but also public health.
The Ivy League university decided that compared with holding classes only online, residential learning would be safer for students and the wider community because the school can ask students to participate in a screening program to detect and contain any spread of the coronavirus, President Martha Pollack said.
Fauci: U.S. ‘going in wrong direction,’ could reach 100,000 new cases a day
The U.S. is “going in the wrong direction” with the coronavirus surging badly enough that Dr. Anthony Fauci told senators Tuesday some regions are putting the entire country at risk — just as schools and colleges are wrestling with how to safely reopen.
With about 40,000 new cases being reported a day and Americans not following public health recommendations, Fauci, the government’s top infectious-disease expert, said he “would not be surprised if we go up to 100,000 a day if this does not turn around.”
“I am very concerned,” he told a hearing of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee.
Asked to forecast the outcome of recent surges in some states at the Senate hearing on reopening schools and workplaces, Fauci said he can’t make an accurate prediction but believes it will be “very disturbing.”
Fauci said areas seeing recent outbreaks are putting the entire nation at risk, including areas that have made progress in reducing COVID-19 cases. He cited recent video footage of people socializing in crowds, often without masks, and otherwise ignoring safety guidelines.
As virus roars back, so do new layoffs
The reopening of Tucson’s historic Hotel Congress lasted less than a month.
General manager Todd Hanley on June 4 ended a two-month coronavirus lockdown and reopened the 39-room hotel at half-capacity, along with an adjoining restaurant for outdoor dining. Yet with reported COVID-19 cases spiking across Arizona, Hanley made the painful decision last weekend to give up, for now.
“We are closing everything,’’ he said. “We are going to live to fight another day.’’
The move means that once again, most of Hanley’s employees will lose their jobs, at least temporarily.
A resurgence of confirmed cases across the South and West — and the suspension or reversal of re-openings of bars, hotels, restaurants and other businesses — is endangering hopes for an economic rebound in the region and perhaps nationally. At stake are the jobs of millions of people who have clung to hopes that their layoffs from widespread business shutdowns this spring would prove short-lived.
On Thursday, the government is expected to issue another robust monthly jobs report. But it will be outdated and won’t fully capture the impact of the COVID upsurge in the South and West and the desperate steps being pursued to try to control it.
“We’re still in a very deep hole,’’ said Diane Swonk, chief economist at the firm Grant Thornton. “This makes the June employment report backward-looking instead of forward-looking.’’
Eager to jump-start their economies, governors in several states across the Sun Belt had lifted their lockdowns before their states had met reopening guidelines that were set — yet largely shrugged off — by the White House.
Reported infections quickly spiked and some officials changed course again.
“It is the virus, not lockdowns, that dictates the course of the economy,” said Yongseok Shin, an economist at Washington University and a research fellow at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. “We cannot have a full economic recovery without reining in the epidemic.”
Biden hammers Trump over handling of coronavirus pandemic
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden on Tuesday blistered President Donald Trump for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic as he tried to demonstrate to voters how he’d handle the public health and economic crisis if he were in the White House.
Biden accused Trump of “waving the white flag” and refusing to lead the country through a pandemic that has killed 125,000 Americans and led to Depression-level unemployment.
“Despite the administration’s propaganda that their response should be a cause for celebration, despite President Trump’s request that we should slow down testing because he thinks that makes it look bad, COVID-19 is still here,” Biden said. “It didn’t have to be this way.”
Biden said a national system of testing for the virus and tracing the exposure path of those who are diagnosed are necessary to restore enough confidence for businesses to reopen and consumers to re-engage in the economy. And he added that widespread use of masks and social distancing practices must be normal protocol for the “foreseeable future,” warning that COVID-19 “will likely worsen” during the coming flu season.
“We can’t continue half recovering, half getting worse,” Biden said. “We can’t continue half with a plan and half just hoping for the best. We can’t defeat this virus with a piecemeal approach.”
In a separate outline released ahead of his address, Biden’s campaign called it “impossible” to predict the state of the pandemic on Inauguration Day next January, but said Biden “won’t wait to take action,” and promised one of his first actions would be to ask Dr. Anthony Fauci, the federal government’s leading infectious disease expert, to continue serving.
Coronavirus outbreak spreads in California’s San Quentin prison
With about a third of San Quentin State Prison’s inmates now infected with the coronavirus after a transfer of prisoners from a Southern California correctional facility overrun by the illness, Marin County officials revealed Monday that a death row inmate found dead last week in his cell tested positive for COVID-19.
Richard Stitely’s death was the first at San Quentin, California’s oldest and most notorious prison, where 1,059 inmates and 102 correctional and medical staff have tested positive for the virus.
The Marin County prison has surpassed the California Institution for Men in Chino as the most infected prison in the state.
Marin County’s hospitals have been inundated with intensive care patients from the prison. On Monday, 22 inmates were being treated at the county’s hospitals, officials said.
In a letter sent Monday to the state, Marin County Board of Supervisors President Kate Rice requested the “establishment of on-site capacity to manage the care of inmates sickened with COVID-19 and the establishment of an Incident Commander at the facility with outbreak management expertise.”
Gov. Gavin Newsom said the state was coming up with a plan that included using Seton Hospital in Daly City to treat infected inmates.
Stitely had been on death row for nearly three decades since being sentenced for the 1990 rape and murder of Carol Unger, 47, who was last seen leaving a Reseda bar with him.
He was one of 725 death row inmates housed at the Bay Area prison. Of those, nearly 200 have tested positive for the coronavirus.
Former VP Joe Biden to criticize Trump’s handling of coronavirus pandemic
Former Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, will hold a news conference Tuesday in which he is expected to attack President Donald Trump’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak.
As the coronavirus resurges, it is moving into red states that supported Trump in 2016, causing officials to back off or reverse their reopening courses.
Because the pandemic is hitting states with Republican leaders, Trump is not able to cast the public health crisis on Democratic governors or claim it’s a problem confined to the coasts.
Biden is expected on Tuesday to lay out a case that appears to be gaining traction even with some Trump loyalists — that neglect and mismanagement by the White House has allowed the virus to careen out of control in this country even as other nations have successfully contained it, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Watch the news conference, which begins at 10 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time, here:
E.U. reopens its borders to 14 nations but not to U.S. tourists
BRUSSELS — The European Union announced Tuesday that it will reopen its borders to travelers from 14 countries, but most Americans have been refused entry for at least another two weeks due to soaring coronavirus infections in the U.S.
Travelers from other big countries like Russia, Brazil and India will also miss out.
As infections and deaths surge in India, prime minister calls the situation ‘critical’
NEW DELHI — India on Tuesday reported more than 18,000 new coronavirus infections, raising the country’s case count to 566,840, the fourth-highest in the world. The addition of 418 deaths in the past 24 hours raised India’s fatalities to more 16,000, according to the nation’s health ministry. Experts say the true toll of the disease around the world is much higher.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in a live address Tuesday that coronavirus death rate is under control, but that the country is at a “critical juncture.” Modi said “people are becoming careless” about wearing masks, and he urged local administrations to be more stringent about enforcing distancing norms.
Also, Indian company Bharat Biotech said it would start clinical trials of a potential vaccine. Multiple vaccine trials are in a preclinical stage in India, and several other candidates are being tested around the world.
4 ways to celebrate the Fourth of July even if local fireworks shows are canceled
Celebrating Independence Day amid the restrictions of pandemic prevention will require some creativity this year. The large fireworks shows are all canceled. And there won’t be any big barbecues at the park with extended family or big beach parties with friends (at least, there shouldn’t be).
Quarantine Corner: Things to do while staying home
Moira’s Seattle Times Book Club has spoken: The next pick is the first novel in a mystery series. Join the fun.
Celebrate summer with five fun things for kids to do at home, from (safely) creating their own mini fireworks to making giant board games in the driveway.
Grilled peaches with big bursts of flavor: We’ll be trying teen chef Sadie’s divine-sounding recipe. Plus, the delicate apricots at local farmers markets capture sunshine, and so does this jam recipe.
Traveling this summer?
Plus, Travel Troubleshooter lays out guidelines on sticking to your budget.
The much-revered road trip will be the spark that reignites travel, but it’s also an example of unequal access for all — and that deserves a harder look.
Are the protests responsible for driving COVID-19 cases way up?
Health investigators say recent protests don’t appear to be a significant factor in the rise of local infections, although some public health experts offer a different view. We looked at the case numbers before and after the protests began, and dug into what contact tracing tells us.
Find charts, mask how-tos and more to help you understand the pandemic and get through it safely.
Catch up on the past 24 hours
Washington state may need federal loans to cover unemployment claims by year’s end. But “benefits never run out,” the state says.
COVID-19 cases are exploding in California, with L.A. County alone announcing more than 2,800 new cases yesterday. It was the first state to shut down, and one of the most aggressive in fighting the virus. What went so terribly wrong?
Is another pandemic waiting in the wings? Researchers are watching a strain of swine flu that’s infecting humans, with “all of the essential hallmarks” of a pandemic virus.
The first effective coronavirus drug will go to the U.S. first. Remdesivir’s maker and federal officials have announced an unusual agreement that puts price tags on the drug.
A tiny coronavirus mutation has taken over the world, and scientists are racing to understand why.
At least 285 U.S. children have been hit by a serious inflammatory condition linked to the coronavirus. Two new studies provide the fullest report yet on the condition and its symptoms.
Seattle-area home sales: You’d never know we’re in a pandemic, judging by the new home-sales listings in our Coronavirus Economy daily chart.
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