As coronavirus cases continue to climb throughout the country, restaurants and other local businesses are seeing familiar struggles with returning restrictions and lockdown orders.
In Seattle, dozens of restaurants have shuttered their doors, some temporarily and some permanently. But others are soldiering on — here’s a list of local restaurants that have opened up during the pandemic, many with outdoor dining.
Meanwhile, U.S. colleges that are considering bringing students back after the winter holidays are mulling over new virus protocols for the spring.
European nations weigh desire for holiday normalcy with growing risk from COVID-19
COVID-19 recently became the No. 1 cause of death in the European Union, but that isn’t stopping some European nations from relaxing restrictions on travel and gatherings during the holiday season.
Over the Christmas holiday, Germany is sanctioning private gatherings of up to 10 people, double the size currently allowed. Italy is considering extending its curfew from 10 p.m. to midnight. The U.K. will toss its limits on travel to high-infection areas and allow up to three families to form a “Christmas bubble” within which members can move freely.
Laxer policies over Christmas are necessary, said U.K. Cabinet Minister Michael Gove, to “offer hope for families and friends who have made many sacrifices over this difficult year.”
But not every country in the E.U. is rolling back their COVID-19 precautions, and European scientists and medical professionals are continuing to urge caution.
Steven Van Gucht, a virologist with Belgium’s government health group Sciensano, warned that while Germany’s proposal to allow gatherings of up to 10 people may seem anodyne, “It is about hundreds of thousands, millions of meetings of 10 people. And the impact can be enormous.”
A ban on contact sports in one California county may leave 49ers without a stadium
The San Francisco 49ers and other teams may need to find a temporary new home after Santa Clara County on Saturday banned all contact sports from holding games and practices for the next three weeks. County officials issued the directives in response to rising cases of the coronavirus in the area. Santa Clara County has the highest coronavirus case rate in the Bay Area.
The rules also will affect the San Jose Sharks of the NHL and college teams at Stanford and San Jose State.
“This pandemic is like a high-speed train, and our projections tell us that we are on target to derail by around the third week of December,” said Santa Clara County Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody. “If we don’t apply brakes, right now with all our collective might.”
U.S. coronavirus cases in November shatter previous record high
The total number of coronavirus cases in the United States for November surpassed 4 million Saturday, more than double the record set in October of 1.9 million cases. And the sharp escalation is likely to continue — or grow even steeper.
The milestone came as Americans are traveling by the millions for the long Thanksgiving weekend and amid a Black Friday that saw some store crowding. The country’s overall total, from the start of the pandemic, is more than 13 million infections — by far the world’s largest outbreak.
Timing, access are concerns with COVID-19 drugs from Regeneron, Eli Lilly
Powerful drugs recently authorized by the U.S. that may prevent those at the earliest stages of COVID-19 from suffering severe disease present thorny new challenges, including who will get them and where they’ll be administered.
Antibody treatments, like one from Regeneron Pharmaceuticals that was used to treat President Donald Trump, are often administered to patients at their peak contagiousness. Regeneron’s drug, along with a therapy from Eli Lilly, were authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for use within 10 days following patients’ first symptoms.
Though the U.S. has spent hundreds of millions of dollars to snap up the antibody treatments, they will be rationed due to limited supplies. Officials are working to establish sites to infuse the medications to patients with mild to moderate disease who had until recently been advised to stay home during an unprecedented surge in cases.
The Lilly and Regeneron monoclonal antibodies, cleared by the FDA earlier this month, are the first drugs authorized specifically for non-hospitalized patients, and are targeted at those at risk of severe symptoms because of older age, obesity and other chronic conditions.
While Trump touted Regeneron’s therapy after receiving it in October, infectious-disease doctors note that the evidence supporting the drugs’ use in COVID-19 is not yet definitive. Yet there’s hope they could help the country battle its worst-ever coronavirus surge, as average daily infections soared to almost 170,000 over the last week.
Oregon reports record number of daily COVID-19 cases
The Oregon Health Authority reported 1,669 new confirmed COVID-19 cases Saturday, the state’s largest daily case count since the start of the pandemic.
The total number of coronavirus cases in Oregon has now surpassed 72,000 and the death toll is 896.
The number of COVID-19 related hospitalizations also continues to surge with 529 people hospitalized — a 209% increase since the start of the month.
In an effort to slow down the spread of the virus, Gov. Kate Brown implemented a statewide two-week “freeze” that ends on Dec. 3. Restaurants are limited to takeout only, social gatherings cannot be more than six people, and gyms, among other facilities, are closed.
Substance abuse recovery goes online amid pandemic
Until the coronavirus pandemic, their meetings took place quietly, every day, discreet gatherings in the basements of churches, a spare room at the YMCA, the back of a cafe. But members of Alcoholics Anonymous and other groups of recovering substance abusers found the doors quickly shut this spring, to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
What happened next is one of those creative cascades the virus has indirectly set off. Rehabilitation moved online, almost overnight, with zeal. Not only are thousands of AA meetings taking place on Zoom and other digital hangouts, but other major players in the rehabilitation industry have leapt in, transforming a daily ritual that many credit with saving their lives.
“AA members I speak to are well beyond the initial fascination with the idea that they are looking at a screen of Hollywood Squares,” said Dr. Lynn Hankes, 84, who has been in recovery for 43 years and is a retired physician in Florida with three decades of experience treating addiction. “They thank Zoom for their very survival.”
Although online rehab rose as an emergency stopgap measure, people in the field say it is likely to become a permanent part of the way substance abuse is treated. Being able to find a meeting to log into 24/7 has welcome advantages for people who lack transportation, are ill, juggling parenting or work challenges that make an in-person meeting tough on a given day and may help keep them more seamlessly connected to a support network. Online meetings can also be a good steppingstone for people just starting rehab.
“There are so many positives — people don’t need to travel. It saves time,” said Dr. Andrew Saxon, an addiction expert and professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Washington School of Medicine. “The potential for people who wouldn’t have access to treatment easily to get it is a big bonus.”
Free remote learning support is out there, but some Seattle students still can’t get access
Are you looking for resources to help your school-age children through the academic year? From free tutoring to meals and enrichment programs, they’re out there — if you know where to look.
Across Seattle, agencies that typically serve youth and families have reallocated funds, staff and other resources to offer more support. Community organizations and grassroots groups have also stepped up their efforts to help fulfill needs that might normally have been met in-person while kids were attending school.
The Seattle Parks and Recreation operates seven learning hubs across the region, offering free learning support, enrichment programs and meals to middle and high school students — the age groups not served by the department’s child care and preschool programs.
Seattle Public Schools students, teachers and staff can take advantage of the K-12 Library Link partnership, which gives access to all of the Seattle Public Library’s online resources with school ID information — no library card needed. Seattle Public Library also offers free tutoring through the website Tutor.com, which is run by the college preparation industry giant The Princeton Review.
In some cases, students themselves are taking on the role of tutoring. Logan Spoonemore, 18, is a senior at The Northwest School. Over the spring, she created a tutoring network among her peers, recruiting students from other high schools. Then she developed a website to help match volunteer high school student tutors with elementary and middle school students in need of support.
Virus deaths approach April record amid changing U.S. crisis
On April 15, the United States reached a grim nadir in the pandemic: 2,752 people across the country were reported to have died from COVID-19, more than on any day before or since.
For months, the record stood as a reminder of the pain the coronavirus was inflicting on the nation, and a warning of its deadly potential. But now, after seven desperate months trying to contain the virus, daily deaths are rising sharply and fast approaching that dreadful count again.
How the virus kills in America, meanwhile, has changed in profound ways.
Months of suffering have provided a horrific but valuable education: Doctors and nurses know better how to treat patients who contract the virus and how to prevent severe cases from ending in fatality, and a far smaller proportion of people who catch the virus are dying from it than in the spring, experts say.
Yet the sheer breadth of the current outbreak means that the cost in lives lost every day is still climbing. More than 170,000 Americans are now testing positive for the virus on an average day, straining hospitals across much of the country, including in many states that had seemed to avoid the worst of the pandemic. More than 1.1 million people tested positive in the past week alone.
At the peak of the spring wave in April, about 31,000 new cases were announced each day, though that was a vast undercount because testing capacity was extremely limited. Still, the toll of the virus was an abstraction for many Americans because deaths were concentrated in a handful of states like New York, New Jersey and Louisiana.
Now the deaths are scattered widely across the entire nation, and there is hardly a community that has not been affected. On Wednesday, when 2,300 deaths were reported nationwide, only three counties reported a toll of more than 20.
Little Free Pantries expand across Seattle during COVID-19 pandemic
Some only come by at night, when no one can see them peeking inside, popping the door open and taking what they need.
Molly Harmon takes comfort in that, in seeing what’s missing from the Little Free Pantry outside her home in the morning. It means people are being sustained by their community, and in the simplest of ways: A bag of beans. A can of soup. Pasta.
Harmon — a private chef — had been maintaining a free pantry in front of her Columbia City home for six years. In March, when the pandemic caused a new wave of unemployment and hunger, she applied for and received a small grant from the Awesome Foundation to build six Little Free Pantries, which are similar to the Little Free Libraries that provide free books in neighborhoods.
Eight months later, there are 111 pantries. And there are plans for more, larger pantries to be installed in front of community hubs such as El Centro de la Raza and the Africatown Center for Education & Innovation, as well as in Eastern Washington to help migrant workers and members of the Yakama Nation.
Pandemic leads to coin shortage, accelerates cashless trend
They gather unloved in jars and under cushions, unearthed only when laundry needs doing. They rattle in coat pockets, music to some ears and a nuisance to others. They sink into fountains and lurk in wells, a fortune in wishes but a nightmare to sort and count.
Coins are everywhere until they’re nowhere, and at the moment they’re hard to find. By upending normal habits, the pandemic has dropped them out of circulation and accelerated a trend toward cards, apps and other cashless payments that could eventually make coins obsolete.
China has plans for a digital currency, and the U.S. Federal Reserve is doing “research and experimentation.” Facebook has a currency in the works, and Bitcoin’s evangelists are still preaching. Millions of Americans are skipping right over coins by paying with their phones — or shopping on them.
“There’s a battle for the future of money going on,” said Alex Tapscott, a co-founder of the Blockchain Research Institute, a Canadian firm.
Hungry for takeout or delivery? These Seattle-area restaurants can help
The Seattle Times has been regularly updating a list of Seattle-area restaurants offering takeout, delivery and/or dine-in service during the coronavirus pandemic.
There are now more than 1,300 restaurants on the list. You can search for a restaurant by name or sort by neighborhood.
Gov. Jay Inslee announced new restrictions on Nov. 15 in an effort to slow the spread of the virus, including the closure of indoor dining at restaurants and bars.
Outdoor dining is still permitted, so please call or check the website of an establishment if you’d like to know what they offer. Please be aware that coronavirus cases are spiking in Washington and health officials have warned that in-person gatherings are risky.
U.K. appoints minister to oversee millions of COVID inoculations
The British government appointed a vaccines minister on Saturday as it prepares to inoculate millions of people against the coronavirus, potentially starting within days.
Conservative lawmaker Nadhim Zahawi will oversee the country’s biggest vaccine program in decades, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said.
The U.K. medicines regulator is currently assessing two vaccines — one developed by Pfizer and BioNTech, the other by Oxford University and AstraZeneca — to see if they are safe and effective.
The Guardian newspaper reported that hospitals have been told they could receive the first doses of the Pfizer shot the week of Dec. 7, if it receives approval.
The U.K. says frontline health care workers and nursing home residents will be the first to be vaccinated, followed by older people, starting with those over age 80.
Britain has ordered 40 million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, enough for 20 million people, and 100 million doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine. The country is home to about 67 million people.
As winter arrives, heaters become a survival tool for businesses across U.S.
The must-have accessory for many businesses this winter is basic, but lately it has been hard to find: the humble space heater.
As coronavirus cases surge, and as people shun or are even barred from gathering in indoor spaces, restaurants, hotels and office buildings are installing outdoor heaters on sidewalks and terraces in a bid to retain customers and tenants.
The effort can seem like an existential quest. A rise in demand has left some products back-ordered for months, possibly jeopardizing prospects for some businesses to get through the pandemic intact.
“Surviving this pandemic has become like jungle warfare,” said Mark Barak, chief executive of La Pecora Bianca, a restaurant that has decked out the outside areas of its three New York locations with about 70 heaters.
“I joke with my staff that I have become an outdoor-dining general contractor. That’s how I now spend so much of my time,” Barak said.
Distributors say they are having trouble keeping up with demand.
Gas-Fired Products, a North Carolina manufacturer of heating equipment, is selling three times as many heaters as it did in 2019, said Paul Horne, vice president of the company. Its products include $1,200 versions with enclosed flames that promise to stay lit in 40 mph winds.
Coronavirus cases spike among Puget Sound-area transit workers
As a new wave of coronavirus sweeps Washington state, positive cases are surging at local transit agencies, where workers have continued driving and servicing buses since the start of the pandemic.
At King County Metro, employees have reported 20 positive tests from the start of this month to Nov. 21. That’s up from six in October and about five or fewer per month throughout the summer.
“We have seen a big uptick in the last 30 days,” said Ken Price, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local (ATU) 587, which represents Metro workers. The total count includes workers who are telecommuting, according to Metro. Price said most of the workers testing positive are drivers.
Metro does not have “any reasons to believe this is the result of (one) outbreak,” said Terry White, interim general manager.
“We are a microcosm of the region, if not the country,” White said. “As we have seen positive cases rise within the county, we have seen that rise within our own workforce.”
One pandemic, two different worlds in Georgia’s congressional races
Across the grounds of a south Georgia courthouse, scores of masked and socially distanced voters bowed their heads in prayer for the 260,000-plus Americans who have died from the coronavirus.
Then Democratic Senate hopeful Raphael Warnock took the microphone, promising to push for more economic aid for businesses and people affected by the pandemic and touting Democratic plans to combat long-standing racial and wealth disparities highlighted by the crisis.
A day earlier, Vice President Mike Pence campaigned with Warnock’s opponent, Sen. Kelly Loeffler, and her fellow Republican senator, David Perdue. But in heavily Republican north Georgia, there were only scant mentions of the public health calamity that helped lead to President Donald Trump’s defeat: aid programs that passed Congress months ago and a vaccine that is still weeks — or months — from mass distribution.
“Before the end of this year, we’re going to see 40 million vaccines all across America,” Pence predicted, attributing the possibility to “the leadership of President Donald Trump.” His crowd — distanced only in certain seating sections and many not wearing masks — roared as the vice president added a kicker: “We’re in the miracle business.”
It’s two starkly different worlds on display in Georgia, where the national political spotlight is shining on twin Senate runoffs that will determine which party controls the chamber at the outset of President-elect Joe Biden’s Democratic administration. Republicans need one more seat for a majority; Democrats need a sweep on Jan. 5.
How widespread is mask-wearing in Washington? UW study aims to find out, starting in King County
We’ve all noticed that fellow shopper at the grocery store with a mask snugged over his mouth — but not his nose. Maybe you’ve also got a neighbor who tugs her mask down to talk. Or perhaps you’ve detoured around groups of barefaced teenagers jostling each other in a park.
Mask use may be mandated in Washington, but compliance varies — and no one knows by how much.
With novel coronavirus infections soaring to their highest levels since the pandemic started, researchers at the University of Washington are conducting the first systematic survey of mask usage in the state.
Starting this week in King County, they hope to identify the types of public settings where inconsistent mask-wearing could be contributing to the ongoing explosion of cases. They also want to find out which groups of people, by age and gender, are more or less likely to take the mask mandate seriously.
The goal is to help health officials address problem areas with targeted persuasion and educational campaigns, said Dr. Judith Wasserheit, a leader of the study and chair of the UW Department of Global Health.
“I think we all recognize that COVID-19 infections are exploding, and the data are clear that masks are one of the best prevention tools we have,” she said. “Understanding what’s happening — where people do and don’t use masks — is going to be really important to inform the development of targeted interventions to … help get us out of this pandemic.”
COVID-19 outbreak reported on Oregon mink farm
An Oregon mink farm has reported an outbreak of COVID-19 among animals and staff.
The Statesman Journal reports the farm has been placed under quarantine, meaning no animals or animal products can leave the farm.
Outbreaks in farmed mink have been reported in several states and countries. Earlier this month Denmark announced it would kill all 17 million of the mink raised there after confirmation that 12 people had been infected with a mutated strain of COVID-19 that had spread from mink to humans.
Minks are small mammals with long, thin bodies, short legs, pointed snouts and claws. They are related to ermines, ferrets and weasels, and their fur is highly valued.
Los Angeles orders more “safer at home” restrictions as coronavirus surges
Los Angeles County announced a new stay-home order Friday as coronavirus cases surged out of control in the nation’s most populous county, banning most gatherings but stopping short of a full shutdown on retail stores and other non-essential businesses.
The three-week “safer at home” order takes effect Monday. It came as the county of 10 million residents confirmed 24 new deaths and 4,544 new confirmed cases of COVID-19.
The order advises residents to stay home “as much as possible” and to wear a face covering when they go out. It bans people from gathering with others who aren’t in their households, whether publicly or privately. However, exceptions are made for church services and protests, “which are constitutionally protected rights,” the county Department of Public Health said in a statement.
Indoor retail businesses, which make much of their profits during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday seasons, are allowed to remain open but with just 20% of capacity, including nail salons and other personal care services. Stores considered essential will be allowed 35% capacity.
Fears grow over Eastern Washington’s hospital capacity as COVID-19 cases surge
Health officials in rural communities in Eastern Washington are worried that Thanksgiving gatherings could take the COVID-19 pandemic from bad to worse and, in some places, overwhelm already strained health systems.
The Spokesman-Review reports the small towns surrounding Spokane County have experienced a surge in cases in recent weeks, mirroring trends seen statewide.
In the past two weeks, the Northeast Tri County Health District, which covers Ferry, Stevens and Pend Oreille counties, reported more than 300 new COVID-19 cases, a record number accounting for a third of their total cases confirmed thus far in the pandemic.
Similarly, Lincoln County has seen more than 50 cases in the past few weeks, which account for a third of the total cases recorded in the county.
“What we’re finding is a lot of our cases that we’ve identified here, we can track back to people in Spokane,” said Ed Dzedzy, public health administrator in Lincoln County. “People move from rural to urban to buy goods and go to work.”
With no action by Congress, states race to offer virus aid
Faulting inaction by President Trump and Congress, governors and state lawmakers are racing to get pandemic relief to small business owners, the unemployed, renters and others whose livelihoods have been upended by the widening COVID-19 outbreak.
They want Trump and Congress to extend the Dec. 30 deadline for spending virus relief money already allocated under the CARES Act, which was approved in March, and to provide more federal funding to deal with the consequences of the latest surge.
“It’s just heartbreaking what they’re allowing to happen with no federal government intervention,” said Washington state House Speaker Laurie Jinkins, a Democrat.
Catch up on the past 24 hours
Amazon has embarked on an extraordinary hiring binge, vacuuming up an average of 1,400 new workers a day as online shopping becomes more entrenched in the coronavirus pandemic.
Health officials on Friday evening confirmed an updated total of 158,167 coronavirus cases in Washington state — though they have noted that the number of cases may be temporarily inflated by double-counting.
As COVID-19 cases have spiked across King County, wait times for coronavirus testing have increased. Wait times for public records at the Seattle Police Department and many other state and local agencies also are dragging on, deepening concern about government transparency at a critical time.
As thousands of college and pro football players get tested for COVID-19, some nurses are wondering, “What about us?” A panel of U.S. experts established by the Centers for Disease Control will meet Tuesday to vote on how scarce, initial supplies of a COVID-19 vaccine will be given out once one has been approved.