June 11, 2024

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Coronavirus daily news updates, Oct. 16: What to know today about COVID-19 in the Seattle area, Washington state and the world

Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Saturday October 16, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.

Federal and state health officials are laying the groundwork to offer Pfizer vaccines to children ages 5 to 11, within a few weeks.

The massive expansion of public-health efforts could add as many as 28 million kids to the ranks of the vaccinated.

And in another sign of progress, Harborview Medical Center will allow visitors to return Tuesday, if they show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test.

Washington state reported 36 coronavirus-related deaths Friday, bringing the total to 8,234 deaths. Providers are giving an average 18,507 vaccine shots per day.

Major cities, including Seattle, Chicago and Los Angeles, are facing showdowns with large numbers of police who oppose vaccine mandates.

Hundreds of Boeing workers protested the company’s vaccine mandate in Everett on Friday.

Gov. Jay Inslee’s deadline of Monday is fast approaching for state workers to provide proof of vaccinations, or seek religious or medical exemptions.

Over at Washington State Ferries, already short of crew to operate all 10 routes, about 200 workers have yet to supply proof of vaccination, out of 1,900 total employees, spokesperson Ian Sterling said Friday afternoon. It’s unknown how many will be suspended, retire, or seek other work. Service is cut by half on several lines effective Saturday.

We’re updating this page with the latest news about the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects on the Seattle area, the U.S. and the world. Click here to see previous days’ live updates and all our other coronavirus coverage, and here to see how we track the daily spread across Washington.

Deworming drug now at center of COVID lawsuits

Mask rules, vaccination mandates and business shutdowns have all landed in the courts during the COVID-19 outbreak, confronting judges with questions of science and government authority. Now they are increasingly being asked to weigh in on the deworming drug ivermectin.

At least two dozen lawsuits have been filed around the U.S., many in recent weeks, by people seeking to force hospitals to give their COVID-stricken loved ones ivermectin, a drug for parasites that has been promoted by conservative commentators as a treatment despite a lack of conclusive evidence that it helps people with the virus.

Interest in the drug started rising toward the end of last year and the beginning of this one, when studies — some later withdrawn, in other countries — seemed to suggest ivermectin had some potential and it became a hot topic of conversation among conservatives on social media.

Read the full story from the Associated Press here.

Lawsuits demand unproven ivermectin for COVID patients

Mask rules, vaccination mandates and business shutdowns have all landed in the courts during the COVID-19 outbreak, confronting judges with questions of science and government authority. Now they are increasingly being asked to weigh in on the deworming drug ivermectin.

At least two dozen lawsuits have been filed around the U.S., many in recent weeks, by people seeking to force hospitals to give their COVID-stricken loved ones ivermectin, a drug for parasites that has been promoted by conservative commentators as a treatment despite a lack of conclusive evidence that it helps people with the virus.

Interest in the drug started rising toward the end of last year and the beginning of this one, when studies — some later withdrawn, in other countries — seemed to suggest ivermectin had some potential and it became a hot topic of conversation among conservatives on social media.

The lawsuits, several of them filed by the same western New York lawyer, cover similar ground. The families have gotten prescriptions for ivermectin, but hospitals have refused to use it on their loved ones, who are often on ventilators and facing death.

Read the full story here.

—The Associated Press

Why vaccine resisters changed their minds

NEW YORK — In the Bronx, a youth counselor closed his eyes and steeled himself for the shot. In Queens, a nurse calmed herself by humming gospel music. In Manhattan, a graduate student asked one last question about fertility while reviewing the consent form.

With a mixture of nervousness, resentment and, sometimes, relief, hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers finally got a dose of coronavirus vaccine in recent weeks. In some cases, it was because they had a change of heart; perhaps, more commonly, it was to keep their jobs.

The uptick in vaccinations has contributed, experts say, to a flattening of the virus curve in the city, where the numbers of new infections and hospitalizations have been falling — a trend across the United States as well.

Read the full story here, from the New York Times.

What Oregon’s vaccine deadline means for State Police and juvenile corrections

Oregon State Police employees who have not complied with Monday’s vaccine deadline will be placed on administrative leave the following day, the agency said.

As of Friday, 73{cfdf3f5372635aeb15fd3e2aecc7cb5d7150695e02bd72e0a44f1581164ad809} of the agency’s 1,270 employees had been fully vaccinated and 12{cfdf3f5372635aeb15fd3e2aecc7cb5d7150695e02bd72e0a44f1581164ad809} had obtained exceptions to the mandate, with most of the exemptions citing religious grounds.

That leaves 15{cfdf3f5372635aeb15fd3e2aecc7cb5d7150695e02bd72e0a44f1581164ad809} – about 200 workers – who have not taken any steps to comply, according to the Oregon Department of Administrative Services.

State police Capt. Stephanie Bigman said the agency doesn’t anticipate “any impact to public safety” despite the possibility of placing dozens of patrol troopers on leave.

Senior Trooper Joshua Wetzel, president of the union that represents about 750 troopers, sergeants and other workers in the agency, said that’s an unrealistic expectation.

Read the full story here.


Vaccine mandates stoked fears of labor shortages. But hospitals say they’re working.

At Houston Methodist – one of the first American health-care institutions to require workers to get vaccinated against the coronavirus – the backlash was short-lived.

More than 150 employees were fired. There were legal battles and protests. But President and CEO Marc Boom has no regrets: 98{cfdf3f5372635aeb15fd3e2aecc7cb5d7150695e02bd72e0a44f1581164ad809} of staff have been vaccinated, and they and patients are safer as a result, he said.

“I can unequivocally say [it was] the best decision we ever made,” Boom said in an interview.

Houston Methodist is not alone in requiring its employees to be vaccinated. About 41{cfdf3f5372635aeb15fd3e2aecc7cb5d7150695e02bd72e0a44f1581164ad809} of hospitals nationwide – roughly 2,570 facilities – have some sort of vaccine mandate, according to data collected by the American Hospital Association, a trade group. Others are expected to follow after President Biden announced last month that he would require most health-care facilities that accept Medicaid or Medicare funding – many of which also treat immunocompromised people who are at high risk of getting severely ill from covid – to vaccinate their employees.

Most health-care systems that require vaccination have touted widespread compliance. In interviews, administrators at some of the nation’s largest hospital systems said the mandates worked: Officials said that they have very high vaccination rates they attributed to the requirement and that they have seen coronavirus infections – and sick leaves – noticeably drop.

Read the full story here.

—The Washington Post

Russia’s daily COVID-19 deaths top 1,000 for first time

Russia’s daily death toll from COVID-19 has exceeded 1,000 for the first time as the country faces a sustained wave of rising infections.

The national coronavirus task force on Saturday reported 1,002 deaths in the previous day, up from 999 on Friday, along with 33,208 new confirmed COVID-19 cases, more than 1,000 higher than the day before.

Russian authorities have tried to speed up the pace of vaccinations with lotteries, bonuses and other incentives, but widespread vaccine skepticism and conflicting signals from officials stymied the efforts. The government said this week that about 43 million Russians, or about 29{cfdf3f5372635aeb15fd3e2aecc7cb5d7150695e02bd72e0a44f1581164ad809} of the country’s nearly 146 million people, are fully vaccinated.

Despite the mounting toll, the Kremlin has ruled out a new nationwide lockdown like the one early on in the pandemic that badly hurt the economy, eroding President Vladimir Putin’s popularity. Instead, it has delegated the power to enforce coronavirus restrictions to regional authorities.

Read the full story here.

—The Associated Press

Washington physician assistant’s license suspended over COVID actions

The Washington Medical Commission has suspended the license of a pediatric health care provider in southwestern Washington.

The suspension came this week after an investigation into more than a dozen complaints against physician assistant Scott C. Miller, who runs Miller Family Pediatrics in Washougal, The Columbian reported.

The complaints say he interfered with the care of hospitalized COVID-19 patients, engaged in a threatening public campaign against hospitals and doctors, and also prescribed medications without seeing patients.

The commission’s findings say Miller also “began a public campaign touting the use of ivermectin in treating coronavirus disease,” despite no reliable clinical evidence showing the drug is effective in treating COVID-19.

Read the full story here.

—The Associated Press

New Zealand dispenses record number of jabs at ‘Vaxathon’

New Zealand health care workers administered a record number of vaccine jabs Saturday as the nation held a festival aimed at getting more people inoculated against the coronavirus.

Musicians, sports stars and celebrities pitched in for the “Vaxathon” event which was broadcast on television and online for eight hours straight. By late afternoon, more than 120,000 people had gotten shots, eclipsing the daily record of 93,000 set in August. The event stretched into the evening.

A throwback to TV fundraising “telethon” events that were popular from the 1970s through the 1990s, it comes as New Zealand faces its biggest threat since the pandemic began, with an outbreak of the delta variant spreading through the largest city of Auckland and beyond.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who chatted with motorists at a drive-through vaccination center in Wellington, initially set a target of 100,000 jabs for the day but upped that to 150,000 after the first target was met.

She also set a target of 25,000 shots for Indigenous Maori, whose vaccination numbers have been lagging and who have been hit hard by the latest outbreak.

Read the full story here.

—The Associated Press

In New Hampshire, vaccine fights and misinformation roil GOP

Republican Rep. Ken Weyler was known around the New Hampshire Statehouse for dismissing the benefits of COVID-19 vaccines and opposing tens of millions of dollars in federal funds to promote vaccinations.

But when the 79-year-old Weyler, a retired commercial pilot and Massachusetts Institute of Technology graduate who chaired the legislature’s powerful fiscal committee, sent a 52-page report likening vaccines to “organized mass murder,” Republican leaders were compelled to act.

“I don’t know of anyone who agrees with it. It’s absolute craziness,” said Republican House Speaker Sherman Packard, who quickly accepted Weyler’s resignation from his committee post.

The episode was especially piercing in New Hampshire, where the previous House speaker died of COVID-19 last year. It has also exposed Republicans’ persistent struggle to root out the misinformation that has taken hold in its ranks across the country.

A year and a half into the pandemic, surveys show Republicans are less worried about the threat from COVID-19 or its variants, less confident in science, less likely to be vaccinated than Democrats and independents and more opposed to vaccine mandates.

Read the full story here.

—The Associated Press

Workers protest angrily near Boeing’s Everett plant against vaccination mandate

Several hundred anti-vaccination protesters, most of them Boeing blue-collar workers, voiced loud and angry opposition to the company’s newly announced vaccine mandate Friday outside the Machinists union hall in Everett.

Lining Airport Way on both sides and undeterred by pouring rain, the crowd waved signs and U.S. flags while chanting anti-vax and anti-government slogans.

The loud scene was made deafening at times as most cars and trucks driving by showed their support with gestures and honking of horns. Several supersized pickups deliberately spun tires and slid sideways across the roadway, burning rubber and slowing the traffic behind them but delighting the protest crowd.

One big pickup flew a U.S. flag and two “Thin Blue Line” flags from the truck bed. A sprinkling of MAGA hats and Donald Trump signs lent a distinctly political edge to the protest as chants broke out directing an obscenity at President Joe Biden.

Workers interviewed at the protest said they are determined to resist Boeing’s mandate, even ready to lose their jobs.

Read the full story here.

—Dominic Gates

With state’s vaccine mandate looming, will Nick Rolovich still be WSU’s football coach next week?

Will Nick Rolovich be Washington State’s football coach after Monday?  

After weeks of speculation, commentary, debate and Rolovich’s refusal to answer questions about his vaccination status, we should know soon. 

That’s because if Rolovich, the state’s highest paid employee ($3.2 million annual salary), is not in compliance with the state’s COVID-19 vaccination mandate that takes effect Monday, he can no longer work as WSU’s football coach. 

To continue coaching, Rolovich needs three things to happen: have his exemption request decided upon (which is no sure thing); have it approved; and if that happens, have his supervisor, WSU Athletic Director Pat Chun, determine that Rolovich can effectively do his job while keeping the public safe. 

WSU employees were encouraged to make exemption requests by Oct. 4, but there is no guarantee that all requests will be processed by Monday. WSU employees still waiting for their exemption request to be ruled upon when the mandate takes effect will be unable to work until it is decided upon — and approved. 

Read the full story here.

—Scott Hanson

Seattle Schools cuts more than 100 bus routes

Beginning Monday, Seattle Public Schools is suspending 142 school bus routes, a move made necessary because of a national bus driver shortage and because some drivers are declining the state-mandated coronavirus vaccine for public employees, district officials say.

Out of the 18,000 students who are eligible for bus rides, about 6,740 could be affected by the bus route cuts, but the actual number could be lower, district spokesperson Tim Robinson said.

The 142 bus routes that are being cut will not affect students in special education classes, students with Individualized Education Programs, students whose disabilities make them eligible for public transportation services, students experiencing homelessness or foster students. Schools at interim sites or those that serve “high proportions of historically underserved students” won’t be affected either, according to an email to parents sent Friday afternoon.  

Seattle Schools does not know how many students will be affected by route shortages because the number of students who ride the bus fluctuates every day, Robinson said. Of the 18,000 students in the district who are eligible for transportation services, it’s estimated about half ride the bus.

Read the full story here.

—Monica Velez

Washington state trooper who died of COVID hadn’t been vaccinated yet, family says

Washington State Patrol Trooper Eric Gunderson, who died from COVID-19 at age 38 last month, was unvaccinated but likely would have gotten a vaccine this fall, family members said in a statement Friday.

Gunderson was best known for leading the State Patrol’s part of the Amtrak 501 investigation, when a speeding passenger train flew off a curve at DuPont, killing three people and injuring dozens in late 2017. A detective specializing in accident reconstruction, Gunderson mapped the scene using drone footage, and was a pioneer in the use of unmanned aircraft to reduce the length of road closures after crashes, the WSP has said.

He died Sept. 26, and is the 32nd trooper to die in the line of duty, according to Chief John Batiste.

Gunderson contracted the coronavirus while traveling for work, said the family’s statement, which was issued Friday by WSP Communications Director Chris Loftis. Though State Patrol officials earlier had said Gunderson caught the virus that causes COVID-19 while on the job, they did not disclose Gunderson’s vaccination status, which prompted questions from news organizations.

Read the full story here.

—Mike Lindblom

The pandemic pushed some students out of Washington’s schools. New data tells us who left.

When the coronavirus pandemic first emerged in the U.S. in early 2020 and forced shutdowns in schools across the nation, most experts assumed that in-person learning would be paused for only a few weeks. Instead, it took many months before children returned to the classroom — and in the Seattle area, it took more than a year. Teachers and districts scrambled to put together online learning, often with little or no training on what works best.

What happened to children during that year of virtual schooling? Educators still don’t have a good measure of how they fared academically, because standardized testing and even simple screening tools to measure specific skills, like reading comprehension, were put on hold. But evidence suggests that students lagged academic expectations by several months or more, and that there were sharp increases in the number of students who failed courses, especially among students from low-income households and students of color.

Many students, especially those from low-income households, struggled with internet access, making it difficult for them to attend virtual school. Children whose parents had to report to work in person were left with a patchwork of caregiving arrangements. Thousands of homeless children in Washington disappeared from school enrollment counts, even as homelessness grew around the Puget Sound area. The pandemic was especially hard on children with learning disabilities, and some districts — like Seattle — were called out by the state superintendent’s office for doing a poor job of supporting those students.

Click here to read the full story.

—Seattle Times staff

What to know about Monday’s COVID vaccine deadline in Washington state

The deadline for most state government, health care and school workers in Washington to get their COVID-19 vaccination is days away. When Gov. Jay Inslee issued the sweeping order this summer, his announcement was clear: Show proof of vaccination on or before Oct. 18 or lose your job.

Since then, however, labor unions have worked on ironing out conditions of employment, thousands of workers have requested exemptions and the state has granted new extensions for certain employees.

In the past few months, more and more questions have emerged.

We rounded up some of the most pressing ones and answered them. Click here to find out what you need to know.

—Elise Takahama

Harborview to allow visitors again Tuesday

Harborview Medical Center will soon reopen its doors to visitors, with a new requirement that they must show proof of vaccination or a negative coronavirus test to be allowed inside, the Seattle hospital announced Friday.

Most visits were banned during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Visitors are expected to wear a medical-grade mask, or put on a free multi-layer surgical mask available at the entrances. Similar policies are expected eventually at all UW Medicine hospitals and clinics.

Read the full story here.

After months in lockdown, a weary world is ready to dance

Even in the depths of the pandemic — even when the world locked down, leaving billions isolated and desolated — there were those who danced.

“I did not stop dancing for a second,” says Federico Carrizo, who competed in the Tango World Championship in Buenos Aires last month. “In the kitchen, on the street, on the balcony …”

Some danced alone. Some danced alone and yet together, swaying and twirling across the internet. Some danced to be freed of the shackles of the coronavirus, if only for a moment.

“It was very hard to be for a year and a half without being able to go out to the recreation center to dance,” says Joaquin Bruzon. “Sometimes during the quarantine at home we would dance to try to improve our spirits.”

Now, once again, the Failde Orchestra of Matanzas, Cuba, can perform danzóns like “El Naranjero” and “Cuba Libre,” “A La Habana me Voy” and “Nievecita.” And once again, Bruzon and his wife, Milagros Cousett, can glide across the dance floor.

Maybe it’s because of the advent of COVID-19 vaccines. Maybe it is because feet can be repressed for just so long. But it seems that everywhere, dancers are letting loose.

Read the full story here.

—The Associated Press