As the country heads into Labor Day weekend, public health officials are warning Americans against backyard parties and crowded gatherings, and to not make the same mistakes they did over the Memorial Day and Fourth of July.
On Friday, the head of the World Health Organization said they wouldn’t recommend any COVID-19 vaccine before it’s proved safe and effective, even as Russia and China have started using their experimental vaccines.
Throughout Saturday, on this page, we’ll be posting updates on the outbreak and its effects on the Seattle area, the Pacific Northwest and the world. Updates from Friday can be found here, and all our COVID-19 coverage can be found here.
Coronavirus crisis shatters India’s economic and geopolitical dreams
The hit that India’s dreams have taken from the coronavirus pandemic can be found in the hushed streets of the industrial zone in Surat, a commercial hub city the country’s west coast.
You can see it in textile mills that took generations to build but are now sputtering, eking out about one-tenth of the fabric they used to make. You can see it in the lean faces of the families who used to sew the finishing touches on saris but, with so little business, are now cutting back on vegetables and milk. You can see it in the empty barbershops and mobile phone stores, which shoppers have deserted as their meager savings dwindle to nothing.
Ashish Gujarati, the head of a textile association in Surat, stood in front of a deserted factory with a shellshocked look on his face and pointed up the road.
“You see that smokestack?” he asked. “There used to be smoke coming out of it.”
Not so long ago, India’s future looked entirely different. It boasted a sizzling economy that was lifting millions out of poverty, building modern megacities and amassing serious geopolitical firepower. It aimed to give its people a middle-class lifestyle, update its woefully vintage military and become a regional political and economic superpower that could someday rival China, Asia’s biggest success story.
But the economic devastation in Surat and across the country is imperiling many of India’s aspirations. The Indian economy has shrunk faster than any other major nation. As many as 200 million people could slip back into poverty, according to some estimates. Many of its normally vibrant streets are empty, with people too frightened of the outbreak to venture far.
“The engine has been smashed,” said Arundhati Roy, one of India’s preeminent writers. “The ability to survive has been smashed. And the pieces are all up in the air. You don’t know where they are going to fall or how they are going to fall.”
Overfed and underexercised, some dogs are putting on pandemic pounds
When shutdowns to stem the spread of the coronavirus began last spring, Massachusetts retiree Lisa Allen took her state’s stay-at-home guidance seriously. She holed up in her high-rise Boston condo with her 6-year-old Pomeranian, Desi.
She reduced walks from three to two a day – the better to avoid the elevator and lobby. She bought pee pads for Desi and gave him a treat when he used them.
By late June, Desi was having trouble breathing. A routine visit to the veterinarian revealed that the tiny dog had gained a pound.
“If I only gained a pound, I’d be very happy,” Allen said. “But when you’re 5 pounds, that’s 20% of your weight. It was putting strain on him.”
The problem, the vet said, was one familiar to millions of Americans and a growing number of their pet dogs: a routine upended by the pandemic.
In many cases, housebound humans are giving their dogs more attention and walks, boosting fitness for pets and people alike. But in others, veterinarians and professional dog walkers say, the changes have led to overfed and either underexercised or overwalked dogs – and to new joint problems and obesity.
Banfield Pet Hospital, which has more than 1,000 locations across the United States, surveyed pet owners at the end of May about how they were faring during the pandemic. Many reported pudgier pets.
“It’s too soon to tell if the COVID crisis has resulted in weight gain for the average pet,” said Andrea Sanchez, a Banfield veterinarian and senior manager of operations support. But of 1,000 respondents, she said, “33% said they thought their pet had gained weight – and it was especially dog owners.”
COVID-19 child care crisis is pushing mothers out of the workforce
Research is increasingly pointing to a retreat of working mothers from the U.S. labor force as the COVID-19 pandemic leaves parents with few child care options and the added burden of navigating distance learning.
In the short term, the trend threatens the financial stability of families. In the long-term, the pandemic could stall decades of hard-fought gains by working women who are still far from achieving labor force parity with men.
Thousands of school districts are starting the school year with remote instruction, including most of the largest ones. At least half the country’s child care providers are closed and may not survive the crisis without financial help to cope with implementing safety standards and reduced enrollment. Negotiations for a bailout of the industry have stalled in Congress.
In August, the federal jobs reports showed that women in their prime-earning years — 25 to 54 — were dropping out of the work force more than other age groups. About 77% of women in that age group were working or looking for work in February, compared to 74.9% in August.
The decline is most pronounced among Black women of that age range, whose participation rate is down 5 percentage points since February, compared to 4 percentage points for Hispanic women and 2 percentage points for white women.
Overall, the drop translates into 1.3 million women exiting the labor force since February.
“We think this reflects the growing child care crisis,” BNP Paribas economists Daniel Ahn and Steven Weinberg wrote in recent report. “It is hard to see this abating soon, and if anything could become worse as we move into fall.”
Reminder: Where to get free COVID-19 tests in King County
Looking for a free COVID-19 test in King County?
More than 20 locations provide free testing, regardless of immigration or insurance status, according to Public Health – Seattle & King County. There are testing locations in Auburn, Bellevue, Des Moines, Duvall, Federal Way, Kent, Renton, Seattle, Vashon Island and White Center.
They’re open to anyone who cannot access a COVID-19 test through their regular healthcare provider. The locations have limited hours; contact a location directly for hours or to make an appointment. They’re all listed here.
Language interpretation services are available at the locations, at no cost. For more information, contact King County’s COVID-19 call center at (206) 477-3977.
There’s also a free testing-by-mail option offered by the Greater Seattle Coronavirus Assessment Network, with enrollment here.
How to navigate COVID-19 risks during Labor Day weekend
Backyard cookout or indoor house party? Picnic for two or crowded bar? Kayaking solo or “sailgating?” Seattle area residents savoring the last days of summer have choices to make.
As Labor Day weekend begins, Public Health – Seattle & King County officials addressed concerns about COVID-19 by sharing graphics that show various activities placed along a risk spectrum.
For example, backyard cookouts and small picnics are the entertaining options with the lowest risks for spreading the virus, whereas indoor house parties and crowded bars have the highest risks.
What about kids? Outdoor playdates with only a few children carry lower risks than outdoor playdates with many kids, while indoor playdates are even more risky.
Headed for Lake Washington, Elliott Bay or your local lake? Swimming alone and kayaking alone or with someone from your own household shouldn’t pose problems.
Kayaking or boating with people outside your household is more risky, even assuming that everyone is wearings masks, distancing and sanitizing regularly. Large boat parties and “sailgating” (linking many boats together) are activities that carry the highest risk.
This is how Public Health sums it up. Keep gatherings small; wear masks; maintain six feet of distance between yourself and people you don’t live with; stay outside when you meet up; and keep your travel local.
Colleges are using ‘COVID dorms,’ quarantines to keep virus at bay
With the coronavirus spreading through colleges at alarming rates, universities are scrambling to find quarantine locations in dormitory buildings and off-campus properties to isolate the thousands of students who have caught COVID-19 or been exposed to it.
Sacred Heart University in Connecticut has converted a 34-room guest house at the former headquarters of General Electric to quarantine students. The University of South Carolina ran out of space at a dormitory for quarantined students and began sending them to rooms it rented in hotel-like quarters at a training center for prosecutors. The Air Force Academy sent 400 cadets to hotels to free up space on its Colorado base for quarantines.
The actions again demonstrate how the virus has uprooted traditional campus life amid a pandemic that has killed nearly 200,000 people in the U.S. and proven to be especially problematic for universities since the start of the school year. Many colleges quickly scrapped in-person learning in favor of online after cases began to spike, bars have been shut down in college towns, and students, fraternities and sororities have been repeatedly disciplined for parties and large gatherings.
Health officials such as White House coronavirus task force member Dr. Deborah Birx have been urging colleges to keep students on campus to avoid them infecting members of their family and community.
Summer without fairs leaves farm kids heartbroken
Another tradition mostly wiped away from the 2020 calendar by the coronavirus: Fairs.
About 80% U.S. state and county fairs have been called off or drastically scaled down by eliminating carnival rides, concerts and tractor pulls, according to the International Association of Fairs and Expositions. Some are only allowing youth livestock competitions and auctions or opening for “fair food drive-thrus.”
The financial losses have been monumental — the association estimates the total is nearing $4 billion for fair organizations. That’s not counting the revenue for ride and concession operators and volunteer organizations that raise money by selling milkshakes and corn dogs.
And for those who have spent the past year feeding, cleaning and working with their animals in hopes of winning a blue ribbon and maybe some money for college, there is no replacing the missed experiences of the fair.
“I just love walking the goats in, they’re so happy in the show ring,” said Arrissa Swails, a high school senior in Toledo, Ohio who rises early to water her goats, fancy chickens and three dairy cows before school. “Honestly, it means everything to me. It’s definitely weird this year without it.”
Catch up on the past 24 hours
Welcome back: Chanie Stamford woke her daughters Mkinnley, 6, and Saniyah, 11, at 6 a.m. on Friday and told them to shower, eat breakfast and get dressed. Bright and early, they were up for an extraordinary first day of school: online, and at home. Seattle Public Schools (SPS), the state’s largest school district, kicked off its “soft start” to school Friday. There are no immediate plans to resume learning in-person.
Glitches galore: SPS students spent a few hours Friday getting to know their teachers and classmates over Microsoft Teams, but many families reported difficulty getting on the platform. Some said they were booted out of class calls or couldn’t access certain features such as the chat window or view camera feeds.
Money moves: Small and medium-sized Washington cities and counties that didn’t get coronavirus relief money directly from the federal government were given nearly $190 million this week from the state’s share of the funding. Details here.
We’re No. 5: Thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, more people have been taking daily walks or finding creative ways to work out at home. According to a study by Quote Wizard, outdoorsy Washington ranks fifth nationally on a list of states with the highest percentage of physically active people. The study used Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data.
Biden tested: Joe Biden said Friday that he’d been tested at least once for the virus that causes COVID-19 and promised he will be tested regularly during his general election campaign against President Donald Trump. The Democratic nominee also blasted Trump for downplaying the coronavirus and thus ensuring that it will continue to kill Americans and ravage the economy.
Labor Day spike? Americans headed into the Labor Day weekend amid warnings from public health officials not to make the same mistakes they did over Memorial Day and July Fourth. Some officials fear that backyard parties, crowded bars and other gatherings will cause the coronavirus to come surging back.
Death toll: The global death toll from the coronavirus pandemic could triple by year’s end, with an additional 1.9 million deaths, while a fall wave of infections could drive fatalities in the United States to 410,000, according to a new forecast from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington.
WHO promise: The head of the World Health Organization said the agency will not recommend any coronavirus vaccine before it is proved safe and effective, even as Russia and China have started using their experimental vaccines and other countries have proposed streamlining authorization procedures.
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