Coronavirus daily news updates, September 11: What to know today about COVID-19 in the Seattle area, Washington state and the world – The Seattle Times

Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from September 11, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.

Peter Marks, the Food and Drug Administration’s vaccine chief, said Friday the agency will rapidly evaluate COVID-19 vaccinations for younger children as soon as it gets the needed data — and won’t cut corners. Marks is “very, very hopeful” that vaccinations for 5- to 11-year-olds will be underway by year’s end. Maybe sooner: One company, Pfizer, is expected to turn over its study results by the end of September, and Marks said the FDA hopefully could analyze them “in a matter of weeks.”

John Hoffman and Janet Tobias’ “Fauci” is the first big-screen documentary of the nation’s top infectious disease expert and ubiquitous face of the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s an intimate portrait of a longtime public servant whose notoriety has risen dramatically — and with that, brought heaps of far-right scorn on the veteran of seven White House administrations. National Geographic opened “Fauci” in theaters on Friday, with a debut on Disney+ planned in October. Taking cues from its subject, “Fauci” is playing only in theaters where proof of vaccination and masks are required for entry.

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.


More on the COVID-19 pandemic

8:45 pm

Vaccine resisters seek religious exemption, but what counts as religious?

When Crisann Holmes’ employer announced last month that it would require all employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by Nov. 1, she knew she had to find a way out.

She signed a petition to ask the company to relax its mandate. She joined an informal protest, skipping work with other dissenting employees at the mental health care system where she has worked for two years. And she attempted a solution that many across the country are now exploring: a religious exemption.

“My freedom and my children’s freedom and children’s children’s freedom are at stake,” said Holmes, who lives in Indiana. In August, she submitted an exemption request she wrote herself, bolstered by her own Bible study and language from sources online. Some vaccines were developed using fetal cell lines from aborted fetuses, she wrote, citing a remote connection to a practice she finds abhorrent. She quoted a passage from the New Testament: “Let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit.”

Major religious traditions, denominations and institutions are essentially unanimous in their support of the vaccines against COVID-19. But as more employers across the country begin requiring COVID vaccinations for workers, they are butting up against the nation’s sizable population of vaccine holdouts who nonetheless see their resistance in religious terms — or at least see an opportunity.

Read the whole story from the New York Times here.

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7:50 pm

Nowhere to go

Alaska’s larger, urban hospitals are so crowded with COVID-19 patients that some smaller, outlying facilities are struggling to transfer seriously ill people or scrambling to care for them in place, the Anchorage Daily News reported.

Surging COVID-19 cases around the state continued this week with no sign of hitting a peak as the highly infectious delta variant continues to drive new cases and hospitalizations. Hospitals, especially in Anchorage and Mat-Su, describe a crisis-level crush of staffing shortages and complicated coronavirus patient cases.

The state Friday reported two more deaths of people with the virus — an Anchorage woman in her 40s and a Dillingham-area man in his 70s — and hit another new record for COVID-19 hospitalizations, according to the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services dashboard. A total of 444 Alaskans have died with the virus, as well as 14 people from out of state.

Hospitals such as those in Kodiak, Nome and Bethel are encountering unprecedented challenges as coronavirus-related capacity problems down the line ripple into a domino effect of stalled transfer requests.

Read the whole story here.

7:08 pm

From COVID to Ida: Louisiana’s marginalized ‘see no way out’

Darkness set in for Natasha Blunt well before Hurricane Ida knocked out power across Louisiana.

Months into the pandemic, she faced eviction from her New Orleans apartment. She lost her job at a banquet hall. She suffered two strokes. And she struggled to help her 5-year-old grandson keep up with schoolwork at home.

Like nearly a fifth of the state’s population — disproportionately represented by Black residents and women — Blunt, 51, lives below the poverty line, and the economic fallout of the pandemic sent her to the brink. With the help of a legal aid group and grassroots donors, she moved to Chalmette, a few miles outside New Orleans, and tried to settle into a two-bedroom apartment. Using a cane and taking a slew of medications since her strokes, she was unable to return to work. But federal benefits kept food in the fridge for the most part.

Then came Hurricane Ida.

Anti-poverty and housing advocates in Louisiana bemoan links between being Black or brown, living in impoverished areas, and being underserved by governmental disaster response. Available aid from anti-poverty programs often fails to meet the heightened needs of storm victims in states of emergency.

And that, the advocates say, is what happened during Ida. In Louisiana, where 17 storms that caused at least $1 billion in damage have hit since 2000, nonprofits see some of the most dire need and the starkest divide along socioeconomics lines.

Read the full story here.

—The Associated Press

6:05 pm

How at-home coronavirus testing is becoming part of Biden’s plan for managing the pandemic

The covid-19 response plan President Joe Biden unveiled Thursday envisions a sweeping expansion of coronavirus testing, aiming to make quick-turnaround test kits cheaper and more accessible than ever as the country tries to quell the wave of infections driven by the delta variant.

Leaning on test manufacturers to ramp up production, the administration wants to send hundreds of millions of rapid and at-home tests to local clinics, schools and other establishments nationwide in hopes of making it easier for people to catch infections and contain outbreaks early. Major retailers have also joined the push, offering at-home tests to consumers at less than two-thirds the normal price for the next three months.

The plan could help make home and point-of-care testing a more routine part of the nation’s strategy for managing the pandemic, which so far has relied largely on lab-based testing to detect cases and steer public health decisions.

Instead of waiting days for results from slower but more accurate PCR tests, more Americans could test themselves before returning to school, going to weddings or attending conferences, and get a reading in minutes. It’s part of a broader shift away from the restrictions that upended life last year and toward individual mitigation measures intended to help people protect themselves against a virus that isn’t going away anytime soon.

Read the full story.

—The Washington Post

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5:01 pm

Schools across Spokane County report dozens of COVID cases while working to keep kids in class

COVID-19 followed more than 160 students and staff back to dozens of schools during the first days of classes this year across Spokane County.

In its first report of the new year issued Friday, Spokane Public Schools recorded 50 positive cases of coronavirus, resulting in the quarantining of 296 students and staff.

None of the cases was the result of in-school contact, Superintendent Adam Swinyard said during a Zoom press conference Friday afternoon.

The overall numbers are “reflective of what we’re seeing around the community,” he said, noting that the district has about 30,000 students and 5,000 staff.

Masking and social distancing are required at schools as teachers, nurses, parents, students and staff work to lessen the spread of disease and keep their schools open and as safe as possible.

Read more here about school safety precautions and a spike in cases at Medical Lake High School.

—The Spokesman-Review

4:03 pm

Amid talk of boosters, global vaccine disparity gets sharper

Several hundred people line up every morning, starting before dawn, on a grassy area outside Nairobi’s largest hospital hoping to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Sometimes the line moves smoothly, while on other days, the staff tells them there’s nothing available, and they should come back tomorrow.

Halfway around the world, at a church in Atlanta, two workers with plenty of vaccine doses waited hours Wednesday for anyone to show up, whiling away the time by listening to music from a laptop. Over a six-hour period, only one person came through the door.

The dramatic contrast highlights the vast disparity around the world. In richer countries, people can often pick and choose from multiple available vaccines, walk into a site near their homes and get a shot in minutes. Pop-up clinics, such as the one in Atlanta, bring vaccines into rural areas and urban neighborhoods, but it is common for them to get very few takers.

In the developing world, supply is limited and uncertain. Just over 3% of people across Africa have been fully vaccinated, and health officials and citizens often have little idea what will be available from one day to the next.

Read the full story here.

—The Associated Press

3:06 pm

Who gets the ultimate say on exemptions to Washington’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate

Protesters who oppose mask and COVID-19 vaccine mandates gather at the Capitol in Olympia on Aug. 18. (Ted S. Warren / The Associated Press)

Gov. Jay Inslee’s sweeping COVID-19 vaccine mandate impacts more than 800,000 workers in Washington state, though it remains unclear how strictly the requirement will be enforced when it comes to exemptions.

When announcing his proclamation last month, Inslee said individuals can seek exemptions for religious or medical reasons, but political or philosophical objections won’t be honored.

But as the Oct. 18 deadline looms for those subject to the mandate to get fully vaccinated, seek exemption or face termination, officials have so far demurred on specifics for how requests will be vetted. And there is no central repository tracking workers’ vaccination status or the number of requested exemptions statewide.

To learn more about religious, medical or disability-related exemptions, read the full story here.

—Amanda Zhou

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2:01 pm

With more doses, Uganda takes vaccination drive to markets

At a taxi stand by a bustling market in Kampala, Uganda’s capital, traders simply cross a road or two, get a shot in the arm and rush back to their work.

Until this week, vaccination centers were based mostly in hospitals in this East African country that faced a brutal COVID-19 surge earlier this year.

Now, more than a dozen tented sites have been set up in busy areas to make it easier to get inoculated in Kampala as health authorities team up with the Red Cross to administer more than 120,000 doses that will expire at the end of September.

“All of this we could have done earlier, but we were not assured of availability of vaccines,” said Dr. Misaki Wayengera, who leads a team of scientists advising authorities on the pandemic response, speaking of vaccination spots in downtown areas. “Right now we are receiving more vaccines and we have to deploy them as much as possible.”

In addition to the 128,000 AstraZeneca doses donated by Norway at the end of August, the United Kingdom last month donated nearly 300,000 doses. China recently donated 300,000 doses of its Sinovac vaccine, and on Monday a batch of 647,000 Moderna doses donated by the United States arrived in Uganda.

Suddenly Uganda must accelerate its vaccination drive.

Read the full story here.

—The Associated Press

1:03 pm

Positive virus tests among gorilla population at Atlanta zoo

Several members of a troop of western lowland gorillas at Zoo Atlanta have tested positive for the coronavirus after handlers noticed many of the great apes were showing signs of mild coughing, runny noses and a small loss of appetite, the zoo said Friday.

Zoo Atlanta’s animal handlers collected fecal samples and nasal and oral swabs from the gorillas and sent the samples to a diagnostic lab at the University of Georgia, which returned presumptive positive results for the virus that causes COVID-19, a Zoo Atlanta statement said.

The zoo added that it was awaiting confirmation of the test results from the National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa, which also received samples.

The statement didn’t say how many of the gorillas appeared to be infected, but the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported 13 gorillas had tested positive for the virus.

Read more about the outbreak here.

—The Associated Press

12:04 pm

Crowded stadiums, pandemic create combustible mix this fall

More than 65,000 fans packed a stadium in Tampa to watch Tom Brady lead the Buccaneers to a win in the NFL’s season opener, just hours after President Joe Biden announced a sweeping new plan to slow the latest COVID-19 surge.

Most people at the open-air stadium Thursday night didn’t wear masks. There was no vaccine requirement for fans, something Biden has urged sports and entertainment venues to impose. Many other football stadiums are taking a similarly lax approach to pandemic measures this fall, and that worries health experts.

This fall’s crowded college and professional football stadiums could create ripe conditions for COVID-19 to spread among unvaccinated fans, experts say.

The risk of catching or passing a virus that has infected more than 40 million people in the United States will depend on where the stadium is and whether the game is outdoors, among other factors.

Find answers to frequently asked questions about game day safety here.

—The Associated Press

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11:19 am

France grants citizenship to 12,000 who risked their lives on the COVID-19 front line

Fouad Kerbage checked online nearly every day to see if he was now a French citizen. When he spotted his name in a list of people whose applications got the green light this summer, it capped a long journey for the 33-year-old oncologist.

“I had worked during the crisis when there was a need for doctors, when there was a lot of fear of COVID,” said the Lebanese doctor. “We didn’t know much about the virus. There was no vaccine. It was a difficult time, but it was our duty to keep doing our jobs.”

With his new passport, “a new page has opened” — in the words of Kerbage, who has lived in France since he studied there as a resident in 2017.

Like him, around 12,000 people have just become French, under a special fast-track program for workers standing on the front line of the battle against COVID-19.

Read more here about the doctors, nurses, cleaning staff, cashiers and others who recently received citizenship.

—The Washington Post

10:27 am

Anti-mask demonstrators return to school despite court order

Protesters returned to the grounds of a Vancouver, Washington high school Friday despite a judge’s attempts to quash demonstrations there.

At Skyview High School protesters including Joey Gibson, founder of the Vancouver-based far-right group Patriot Prayer, were among a crowd of about 40 people, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported.

Demonstrators blared music and talked and some arguments occurred when drivers told protesters to find other ways to fight masking requirements.

Some in the crowd held signs opposing mask mandates in Washington schools meant to slow a current surge of COVID-19 cases. Others, including Gibson, said this protest stemmed from a court order halting protests that disrupt education services in Vancouver.

Clark County Superior Court Judge Suzan Clark ordered the injunction Tuesday in response response to previous vitriolic anti-mask protests near Skyview, including a Sept. 3 protest that included members of the far-right extremist Proud Boys which culminated with administrators placing three campuses into lockdown.

Read the full story.

—The Associated Press

9:36 am

Unions split on vaccine mandates, complicating Biden push

The National Nurses Union applauded President Joe Biden’s proposal to require that companies with more than 100 employees vaccinate their work force. The American Federation of Teachers once said vaccine mandates weren’t necessary, but now embraces them. In Oregon, police and firefighter unions are suing to block a mask mandate for state workers.

The labor movement is torn over vaccine requirements — much like the country as a whole — wanting to both support its political ally in Biden and protect its members against infection but also not wanting to trample their workers’ rights.

“Labor unions are a microcosm of the society we live in,” said Patricia Campos-Medina, executive director of Cornell University’s The Worker Institute. “The same political divide we have right now exists within the rank and file of unions.”

That divide complicates matters for Biden as he tries to get the delta variant under control. Unions are a key part of the Democratic Party, and Biden has embraced them to burnish his blue-collar, middle-class image. Dissent in Biden’s own coalition may make it especially hard for him to implement new vaccination requirements. Some unions representing federal workers already objected to his push for inoculation among the U.S. government workforce, saying such matters involving new workplace requirements and discipline need to be negotiated at the bargaining table.

Read more here.

—The Associated Press

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8:51 am

Biden’s vaccine rules to set off barrage of legal challenges

President Joe Biden walks along the Colonnade towards the Oval Office as he returns to the White House after visiting Brookland Middle School in northeast Washington, Friday, Sept. 10, 2021. Biden has encouraged every school district to promote vaccines, including with on-site clinics, to protect students as they return to school amid a resurgence of the coronavirus. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

President Joe Biden’s sweeping new vaccine requirements have Republican governors threatening lawsuits. His unapologetic response: “Have at it.”

The administration is gearing up for another major clash between federal and state rule. But while many details about the rules remain unknown, Biden appears to be on firm legal ground to issue the directive in the name of protecting employee safety, according to several experts interviewed by The Associated Press.

“My bet is that with respect to that statutory authority, they’re on pretty strong footing given the evidence strongly suggesting … the degree of risk that (unvaccinated individuals) pose, not only to themselves but also unto others,” said University of Connecticut law professor Sachin Pandya.

Republicans swiftly denounced the mandate that could impact 100 million Americans as government overreach and vowed to sue, and private employers who resist the requirements may do so as well. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott called it an “assault on private businesses” while Gov. Henry McMaster promised to “fight them to the gates of hell to protect the liberty and livelihood of every South Carolinian.” The Republican National Committee has also said it will sue the administration “to protect Americans and their liberties.”

Such cases could present another clash between state and federal authority at a time when Biden’s Justice Department is already suing Texas over its new state law that bans most abortions, arguing that it was enacted “in open defiance of the Constitution.”

The White House is gearing up for legal challenges and believes that even if some of the mandates are tossed out, millions of Americans will get a shot because of the new requirements — saving lives and preventing the spread of the virus. Read the full story here.

—The Associated Press

8:11 am

‘Sophie’s choice, over and over’: Death panels are the new phase of the pandemic

Remember “death panels”? Well, they’re back, and this time, they’re real.

“Death panels” was a phrase coined by Sarah Palin, the folksy-talkin’ former Alaska governor and vice presidential candidate. She imagined that Obamacare would cause health bureaucrats to ration out medical care, after first sitting in judgment of who was most deserving to receive it.

This was awarded the “Lie of the Year” in 2009, as it was nowhere in any legislation. It was a right-wing fever dream.

But now a version of it has come true — in Idaho. Hospitals in northern Idaho are so flooded with COVID-19 patients that the state has declared an emergency, called “crisis standards of care.” It means when you show up to the emergency room, you may get treated based preferentially on who is most likely to live.

“If your mother has a heart attack, someone will have to assign her a point score designating how likely she is to survive,” the Idaho Falls Post Register wrote, describing the scheme last winter when it was first being contemplated. “If it isn’t high enough, she might not get an ICU bed, and a COVID patient will get it instead.

“We will ask the nurses and doctors who’ve broken their backs trying to save us to make that Sophie’s choice over, and over, and over.”

—Danny Westneat

8:08 am

COVID cases show up in Washington schools, but it’s too early to say how schools are doing at reducing transmission

Two weeks after Seattle-area kids went back to class, hundreds of area students and school employees have either tested positive for the coronavirus or have been pulled out of school because they had close contact with someone who had the virus.

But it’s “a little too early” to have concrete data on how well Washington state is doing overall at keeping transmission rates low in schools, said Lacy Fehrenbach, the deputy secretary of health for COVID-19 response at the state Department of Health.

Fehrenbach said last year that schools, and students who returned in person, did a good job of following health and safety protocols and responding quickly when cases were detected. 

“I believe that our schools are prepared,” she said. “We are very confident about those layers of mitigation measures,” which now include vaccines for kids ages 12 and older. 

Read the full story here.

—Jenn Smith and Monica Velez

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