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.
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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