A second surge of COVID-19 cases in the United States seems to be leveling off, but deaths are rising rapidly, scientists say. The country hit another grim milestone this week of 150,000 coronavirus-related deaths.
People unemployed due to the pandemic will lose their $600-a-week federal aid after today unless Congress acts — but negotiations have been tense.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the United States’ top infectious disease expert, is testifying before Congress on Friday morning. Watch here.
Throughout Friday, 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 Thursday can be found here, and all our coronavirus coverage can be found here.
Students return to quieter campuses amid virus surges in some states
The first wave of college students returning to their dorms at North Carolina State University aren’t finding the typical mobs of students and parents.
What they found Friday were strict safety protocols and some heightened anxiety amid a global pandemic where virus infections are growing in dozens of states.
The university staggered the return of its students over 10 days and welcomed the first 900 students to campus, where they were greeted Friday by socially distant volunteers donning masks and face shields.
The rite of passage was a well-organized, but low-key affair, as boxes were unloaded, luggage was wheeled and beds were hauled.
“It’s just odd not seeing anybody. You expect it to be hustle and bustle and all that around, but there was nothing. It was pretty empty,” said Dominick DePaola, an incoming freshman from Charlotte, North Carolina.
Across the country, students are jumping through additional hoops by getting tests, navigating travel quarantines, and abiding by strict rules. But they appear to be ready to accept the risk and move on.
Read the story here.
The latest guidance and research on reopening schools amid COVID-19
As coronavirus infections here have shot up, so has uncertainty about the virus’s trajectory in the fall and winter — and fears that opening school buildings will intensify the pandemic.
After a new public health report suggested schools can’t open until transmission drops significantly, King County districts told parents to gear up for a school year that starts online. As of this week, more than half of Washington’s students are expected to begin the school year remotely.
But what does the latest research tell us about the effectiveness of school closures? And what do federal and local officials say?
The jury is still out on key questions, such as how well children spread the virus, and whether closures contain spread.
Georgia camp with COVID-19 outbreak didn’t require masks
A Georgia overnight camp hit by a coronavirus outbreak took many precautions, but didn’t make campers wear masks or have proper ventilation in buildings, according to a government report released Friday.
The camp followed disinfecting rules and required staff to wear masks, but campers didn’t have to wear face coverings.
Health officials said “relatively large” groups of kids slept in the same cabin where they regularly sang and cheered, likely leading to spread.
Nearly 600 people were at the overnight camp, which was not named in the report by Georgia health officials and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Media outlets reported a large outbreak occurred at the time at a YMCA camp at Lake Burton in Rabun County, near the state’s northern border with North Carolina.
Campers ranged in age from 6 to 19, and many of the staffers were teenagers. Cabins had between 16 and 26 people. The report said this was “relatively large” but doesn’t clearly say if it was too many. Health investigators did fault the camp for not opening enough windows and doors to increase circulation in buildings.
The report said a teenage staff member developed chills on the evening of June 22 and left the camp the next day.
The camp began sending campers home two days later when the staffer got a positive test result for coronavirus. The camp notified state health officials and closed the camp on June 27.
What we know about children and COVID-19
Children typically are “superspreaders” of respiratory germs, which makes the fact that they don’t seem to be major transmitters of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 puzzling.
They’re relatively absent among hospitalized patients, which initially was thought to be because they’re less likely to become seriously ill once infected.
Later studies indicate that those of primary school age, at least, may be less likely to catch the virus in the first place. With schools and universities in the Northern Hemisphere considering reopening in August and September, scientists and public health authorities are trying to determine the role of young people in spreading the pathogen and how best to mitigate that threat.
To learn more about why younger kids are less susceptible to the virus, how sick kids get when they do get it and the answers to other commonly asked questions, read the story here.
1st dog that tested positive for COVID-19 dies in New York
A German shepherd in New York that had the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in a dog in the U.S. has died.
Robert and Allison Mahoney of Staten Island told National Geographic that their 7-year-old shepherd, Buddy, developed breathing problems in mid-April after Robert had been sick with the coronavirus for several weeks. A veterinarian tested Buddy in May and found him positive for the virus.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture reported in June that a German shepherd in New York state was the first dog in the country to test positive for COVID-19, but did not identify the owners.
Buddy’s health declined steadily after he developed breathing problems and thick nasal mucus in April. He was euthanized on July 11 after he started vomiting clotted blood, the Mahoneys told National Geographic.
It’s unknown if the coronavirus played a role in his death. Blood tests indicated Buddy likely had lymphoma, a cancer of the immune system, veterinarians told the family.
Florida pair face charge of violating quarantine after testing positive
State officials said a Florida couple arrested Wednesday for violating a quarantine order learned they were infected with the virus on July 15 but went grocery shopping five days later.
Freire Interian and his wife, Yohana Gonzalez, 26, were required to self-isolate for at least 14 days and advised to wear face masks at the three-bedroom Key West house they share with others.
But the Florida Department of Health determined they were an “immediate danger of harm to others” when it was notified that the couple had gone to the grocery store on July 20 while possible still infected.
A day later, the agency issued a mandatory quarantine order against the couple.
Police said they received video footage Wednesday showing a possible violation of that order and asked a judge to issue arrest warrants. The charge: violating quarantine after testing positive for COVID-19.
As a national debate swirls over masks and self-quarantines, communities are grappling over how aggressively they should enforce myriad rules meant to control the spread of the novel strain of coronavirus, which has now infected more than 460,000 in Florida and killed nearly 6,600 of its residents.
“It’s a national debate up until the health department tells you to quarantine, and then there’s no more debate,” Key West City Manager Greg Veliz said Thursday.
“If the law allows someone to be arrested for violating a quarantine order and they continue to thumb their nose at the law — yeah, they should be arrested,” Veliz said.
Veliz said the Florida couple was arrested Wednesday after police received a complaint and a video showing a possible violation of a quarantine order imposed by state public health officials against the couple.
Doctors try pressurized oxygen chambers in COVID fight
As a New York University medical researcher who works once a week in an emergency room, Dr. David Lee had the luxury of time to think like a scientist while also treating coronavirus patients whose lungs kept giving out. In every case, he saw the same thing: Their blood was starved of oxygen.
One day an idea hit him: Could hyperbaric oxygen therapy, best known for treating divers with “the bends,” help stave off the need for ventilators and perhaps reduce deaths?
Physiologically it made sense to him, but he soon learned it was complicated. The therapy, which involves delivering 100% oxygen straight to patients inside a pressurized chamber, is often met with skepticism by the wider medical community because fringe supporters have long touted it as a virtual cure-all without scientific evidence.
Still, with medical teams worldwide having little success at saving lives despite throwing everything they had at COVID patients — testing old drugs, trying new ones — Lee believed doctors should be more open to exploring different treatments.
Twenty hyperbaric patients, predominantly men age 30 to 79, received up to five 90-minute treatments during the monthlong study. Lee’s colleague, Dr. Scott Gorenstein, said almost all experienced relief of symptoms once sealed inside the clear tube, similar in shape to the old iron lungs once used to treat polio.
Some went from having unresponsive “deer-in-the-headlights” dazes to being alert and engaged, while others reported being able to sleep afterward for the first time in days. Eighteen of those patients recovered and were discharged within days or weeks.
UK puts reopening on hold as virus spread accelerates
Prime Minister Boris Johnson put some planned measures to ease the U.K.’s lockdown on hold Friday, just hours before they were due to take effect, saying the number of new coronavirus cases in the country is on the rise for the first time since May.
Johnson said at a news conference that statistics show the prevalence of COVID-19 in the community is likely increasing, with an estimated 4,900 new infections every day, up from 2,000 a day at the end of June.
“We just can’t afford to ignore this evidence,” he said.
“With those numbers creeping up, our assessment is that we should now squeeze (the) brake pedal in order to keep the virus under control.”
He called off plans to allow venues, including casinos, bowling alleys and skating rinks, to open from Saturday, Aug. 1. Wedding receptions were also put on hold, along with plans to allow limited numbers of fans back into sports stadiums and audiences into theaters.
Johnson said the measures will be reviewed after two weeks.
FAQ Friday: Answers to your most common coronavirus questions
How much does a COVID-19 test cost? What’s it like to get tested? What about an antibody test — should you get one?
We’re answering readers’ questions about these and other coronavirus testing issues, with help from medical experts.
Catch up on the past 24 hours
Millions of Americans lose the $600-a-week federal jobless benefit unless Congress acts today, and so far, last-ditch efforts are going nowhere (watch this story for updates). As Washington state’s economy lurches amid the recent surge in coronavirus cases, workers and employers are facing a possible tipping point.
There’s no end in sight to the pandemic, Dr. Anthony Fauci is telling Congress this morning as he calls on Americans to double down on social distancing and mask-wearing. (This pulls us back to an absorbing read on how Fauci and five other health specialists deal with COVID-19 risks in their daily lives.)
Federal officials are pushing schools to reopen, but the jury is still out on key questions, such as the risks of coronavirus transmission in children. Let’s cut through the noise, and catch up on the latest guidance and research on reopening schools.
Britain today slammed the doors on social life again for 4 million people as the virus surges. “One of the terrible things about this virus,” the health secretary says, “is it thrives on the sort of social contact that makes life worth living.” And Muslims worldwide are marking the start of the traditional Eid al-Adha holiday in a difficult new landscape.
Mayra Ramirez, 28, woke up to learn both her lungs were gone, and she had new ones. The first COVID-19 patient in the U.S. to receive a double lung transplant, she went home from the hospital this week with a powerful sense of purpose.
Free drinks, store credit and more: The pandemic’s coin shortage is rippling through everyday life. Bellevue-based Coinstar, which operates those grocery-store coin kiosks, felt the trend begin.
As coronavirus hammers travel, Seattle-based Expedia reported a whopping 82% drop in revenue. Antsy travelers are starting to lead Vrbo, its vacation-rental unit, on a wobbly climb back uphill.
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