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COVID-19 updates: UW ‘Greek’ cases top 150

Students at the University of Washington in March. (Photo by Karen Ducey/Getty Images)

The DOH says there have been nearly 90,000 coronavirus cases in Washington state, and 2,143 people have died from the virus. Check below for more updates.

Confirmed coronavirus cases across Washington state

Sunday, Oct. 4

6:31pm – Health officials say there have been 89,874 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Washington state. The DOH does not report the number of deaths on weekends. Over 1.9 million tests have been conducted in the state.

2:42pm – The number of coronavirus cases among fraternities and sororities has climbed to 150, according to the UW Daily. The Daily reports the virus has now spread to 12 total Greek Community chapters at the Seattle campus. Not all of the students who’ve tested positive live in chapter houses. The Daily reports this is the second outbreak to reach 150 or more cases, despite reduced capacity.

7:32am – Coronavirus infections in Russia hit a new record on Sunday, with the government reporting  10,499 new cases, bringing the country’s total to over 1.2 million.  Russia currently has the fourth largest caseload in the world at 1.2 million.

Britain on Saturday reported a record 12,872 new coronavirus infections, by far the highest daily total since the outbreak began, though the figure included a backlog of previously unreported cases. Read more from AP.

Saturday, Oct. 3

4:05pm – Health officials say there have been 89,419 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Washington state. The Department of Health does not update death totals on weekends.

2:07pm – The UW Daily reports there are 139 confirmed cases of coronavirus among fraternity and sorority students at the Seattle campus as of Saturday. The cases on Friday spanned across 11 fraternities or sororities, as reported by the university’s environmental health & safety department.

7:37am – The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation has projected 2.3 million deaths worldwide by Jan. 1, 2021, based on current trends. The number increases or decreases based on human activity, such as mask wearing. Universal mask wearing would change the projection to about 1.8 million deaths. Easing restrictions could push that number higher to about 3.2 million deaths.

Friday, Oct. 2

5:56pm – Pierce County’s Clover Park School District has decided to continue teaching almost all students remotely until at least Dec. 4. The board of directors says the county’s coronavirus rates have bumped up into the “high” category and bringing more people into school buildings is too risky.

4:15pm – There are now 88,810 confirmed cases and 2,143 deaths in Washington, as reported by the state Department of Health, which marks 694 new cases and 11 new deaths since Thursday’s update. There have been 1,905,759 total tests conducted.

3:33pm – The Seattle Department of Transportation will adjust parking rates starting Monday, Oct. 5, in some busy neighborhoods to make it easier for customers to find parking spaces, following observations and feedback from neighborhood business districts. Parking rates will go up to $1 per hour at some times of day in parts of First Hill, Chinatown/International District, Denny Triangle, and Belltown. Parking will remain at $0.50 per hour at other times and locations.

All 3-minute and 15-minute loading zones remain free, including more than 600 food and retail pick-up zones. Street parking will remain free on Sundays and some holidays. To view parking rates at different times of day throughout Seattle, check this interactive map.

1:28pm – As the state has seen an increase in reported COVID-19 over the past few weeks, so has King County. Dr. Jeff Duchin, health officer for Public Health — Seattle & King County, said this trend is “unacceptable.” The county had previously seen an decreasing trend, but now is seeing more cases reported each day, a higher positivity rate, and a higher rate of cases per 100,000, which is a metric that schools are paying close attention to when planning a return to in-person learning.

“The trends we’re seeing today should be a wake-up call for all of us,” Duchin said.

Everyone, he added, needs to prepare to face an increasing challenge and potential for larger outbreaks in the coming weeks and months. Luckily, there is a lot that’s in our control and our actions can determine the course of an outbreak, Duchin explained.

As always, it’s important to wear masks any time you are outside of your household or with others, keep your distance, and limit your contacts and activities, as well as the duration of those activities. With fall and winter weather potentially keeping people indoors, compounded with the coming flu season, it’s more important than ever to “up our game,” Duchin said, and keep practicing what we know works to limit the spread of this deadly virus.

Since community transmission is still high in Washington state and in King County, Dr. Duchin advised everyone to “assume COVID is wherever you are.”

“In summary, we are entering a very challenging time both locally and nationally with respect to COVID. I implore people to step back for a minute, remember what works, and to rededicate themselves to doing everything they can do as an individual and we can do as a community to minimize the potential for a great degree of illness this fall and winter,” Duchin said.

“It’s in our power to make it fewer rather than greater [illness, hospitalizations, and deaths] if we only take the steps,” he added.

11:32amA reminder: Fare collection has resumed on King County Metro buses. Using your ORCA card remains the fastest way to pay, although mobile tickets are also available through the Transit Go Ticket app. Cash is also accepted at the fare box.

9:51am – Washington state’s attorney general has sued a Seattle-based virtual box office company, alleging Brown Paper Tickets owes nearly $7 million to artists and ticket buyers.

The state’s lawsuit filed Wednesday says Brown Paper Tickets owes $6 million to event producers and $760,000 in refunds to those who bought tickets to events that were canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s office is asking that the court order restitution payments to all aggrieved parties and to fine Brown Paper Tickets up to $2,000 per infraction of the Consumer Protection Act. Read more

8:05am – To document how the pandemic has changed the city of Seattle, researchers are driving around the city with a 360 camera. Read more

6:44am – A new program is connecting thousands of Washington students to online learning from home for the remainder of the 2020-21 school year.

The Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction has now finalized contracts with three internet service providers, giving access to as many as 60,000 students and their families.

To participate in the K-12 program, eligible families should receive information soon, including a promo or offer code from a provider and their local school district.

5:17am – Both Puyallup and Tacoma schools are delaying the return of more students to in-person learning due to rising COVID case numbers in Pierce County.

Kindergarten and first grade students were supposed to go back next week, and other elementary grades the following week. Tacoma’s public schools were supposed to restart classes in schools this week, but have delayed that as well.

Pierce County’s health district says people under age 20 account for 16% of coronavirus cases in the county over the past two weeks.

Thursday, Oct. 1

10:37pm – President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump have tested positive for the coronavirus, he said Friday. The positive test comes a month until the election and after the president has spent the year largely downplaying the threat of the virus. Read more.

9:03pm – President Donald Trump said Thursday that he and first lady Melania Trump are beginning a “quarantine process” as they await coronavirus test results after a top aide he spent substantial time with this week tested positive for COVID-19.

Hope Hicks, one of the president’s most trusted and longest-serving confidantes, began feeling mild symptoms during the plane ride home from a rally in Minnesota Wednesday evening, according to an administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to disclose private information. She was isolated from other passengers aboard the plane and her diagnosis was confirmed Thursday, the person said. Read more from the Associated Press.

5:56pm – Hope Hicks, one of President Donald Trump’s closest aides, has tested positive for the coronavirus.

Hicks, who serves as counselor to the president and traveled with him to a Wednesday rally, tested positive Thursday, according to an administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private health information. She is the closest aide to Trump to test positive so far. Read more from AP.

5:05pm – There are 88,116 confirmed cases and 2,132 deaths reported statewide, according to the state Department of Health. That’s 594 new cases and six new deaths since Wednesday. There have been a total of 1,884,074 tests conducted.

3:47pm – In a Thursday news conference, Gov. Inslee noted the recent uptick in COVID-19 cases reported statewide, adding that “we cannot let this virus take off” after the great progress we’ve made as a state in knocking it down. The long-term outlook for the virus, he said, remains uncertain as it is unpredictable what people will do when fall and winter weather hits and more time is spent inside.

“As fall comes, we have to up our game,” Inslee said.

While most people are following social distancing and wearing masks in communal spaces, the governor and public health officials have expressed concern about social gatherings moving inside our homes as indoor environments pose a higher risk for the spread of COVID-19 than outdoors.

“I understand people are obviously tired during this pandemic … but we can’t allow that fatigue to endanger us,” Inslee said.

Gov. Inslee added that we all need to adapt to new habits, such as wearing a mask inside your friend’s home when you’re hanging out and are unable to social distance He mentioned that there will be more information to come that helps share ways to safely socialize inside.

3:22pm – The University of Washington Greek community is experiencing an outbreak of COVID-19 cases across multiple fraternity and sorority houses, associated “live-outs,” and individual members. The UW says case counts have increased rapidly over the last several days. Read more.

12:47pm – The state reports that for the week of Sept. 20-26, there are 17,734 initial claims for unemployment benefits. That’s the lowest rate since the start of the coronavirus outbreak. It dropped from 19,574 claims the week prior. However, the same week in 2019 showed 5,266 initial claims.

11:51am – As fare collection resumes on King County Metro buses Thursday, safety measures have been added to mitigate the potential spread of COVID-19. That includes plastic shields in front of drivers, on-board mask dispensers, and more. You can more about the steps Metro has taken here.

9:58am – Washington state businesses got some good news from the Employment Security Department regarding a possible insolvency tax. Read more

8:24am – Doctors say a patient in the Seattle area is confirmed to have been reinfected with COVID-19, in only the third documented case of reinfection in the world. Researchers at Swedish Medical Center in Seattle are studying what the reinfection could tell them about how long immunity lasts, and how effective a vaccine could be. Read more

6:42am – The United States saw a combined 837,000 initial unemployment claims last week, down 36,000 from the previous week. Injured unemployment sat at 11,767,000 for the week prior, a decrease of 980,000.

5:31am – Seattle-King County Public Health announced Wednesday that it is investigating a COVID outbreak associated with Salish Lodge and Spa in Snoqualmie.

Anyone who visited the Salish Lodge and Spa as an overnight guest, or went to its restaurant, spa, or giftshop during the day between Sept. 16 and Sept. 30 should get tested for COVID-19, monitor potential symptoms, and avoid close contact with others.

Wednesday, Sept. 30

6:03pm – King County Metro will resume charging fares on Thursday, Oct. 1, after pausing fare collection for many months to help limit interactions between riders and drivers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Metro has added new safety measures to buses and transit vehicles, but says tapping an ORCA Card is the “fastest and healthiest” way to pay. The touchless payment method will help speed up the boarding process, and further protect both the passenger and the operator. All riders are required to wear a mask or face covering onboard and at transit stops.

3:59pm – Alaska Airlines says it is partnering with Carbon Health that will offer rapid COVID-19 testing for travelers headed from Seattle to Hawaii. The program starts Oct. 12 at pop-up clinics. Hawaii plans to begin allowing out-of-state travelers beginning Oct. 15 without a 14-day quarantine if they test negative for COVID-19 within 72 hours of their final leg of departure to Hawaii.

3:19pm – The state Department of Health is reporting a total of 87,522 confirmed cases and 2,126 deaths. This is an increase of 480 new cases and two new deaths since Tuesday’s update. There have been 1,868,089 total tests conducted statewide.

2:42pm – While some local health departments have been reporting an increase in new coronavirus cases over the past week or two, case counts seem to be trending up statewide as well.

“Our number of new cases statewide is no longer on a downward trend, but has plateaued and with what looks like a slight uptick,” said John Wiesman, the state’s Secretary of Health, during a weekly COVID-19 update with state health officials.

“We can’t let our guard down or this virus will roar back,” he added.

12:31pm – With the added stress of the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, there’s been a cascading effect on many people, specifically involving cracked teeth, jaw pain, and other dental health issues. Read more. 

10:48am – Snohomish County released guidelines Wednesday, detailing advice for parents and children planning to trick-or-treat this Halloween.

The county’s guidance includes a reminder that passing out candy “is considered a high-risk activity for COVID-19 transmission,” and as such, is “discouraged by public health officials.”

9:26am – Scientists say genes that some people have inherited from their Neanderthal ancestors may increase their likelihood of suffering severe forms of COVID-19. Read more from the Associated Press here

7:09am – Ahead of November and December, UW’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation anticipates a “large increase in daily COVID-19 deaths in the US” to close out the year.

While declines in mask use and increases in mobility are generally what lead to increases in daily deaths, this upcoming surge is likely to be the result of seasonality.

“The strong statistical association between COVID-19 transmission rates and pneumonia seasonality patterns forms the basis for our estimate on the magnitude of the seasonal increase expected in late November and December,” the IHME describes.

5:42am – New evidence and data from medical literature indicates that people may suffer from COVID-19 symptoms long-term, including patients who didn’t have a serious case. Read more.

Tuesday, Sept. 29

5:27pm – As more Washington state school districts are considering a return to in-person learning, and a few have already started bringing students back, the American Academy of Pediatrics reported Tuesday that children of all ages now make up 10% of all U.S. cases, up from 2% in April.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Monday that incidence of COVID-19 in school-age children began rising in early September as many youngsters returned to their classrooms. Read more from the Associated Press.

3:15pm – The state Department of Health is reporting a total of 87,042 confirmed cases statewide, with 2,124 deaths. This marks an increase of 404 new cases and 24 more deaths since yesterday’s data update, however, the DOH does not update the death count over the weekends and the number did not change Monday, so the last update to the deaths was on Friday.

2:52pm – The global COVID death toll crossed more than one million this week. Meanwhile, more countries are now grappling with second waves of the pandemic. When countries that were more strict in shutting down than the United States are seeing spikes, what does that mean for us?

Dr. Angela Rasmussen, virologist at Columbia University, told KIRO Radio’s Gee & Ursula Show there will always be virus circulating. Read more.

12:44pm – A recent surge in new COVID-19 cases in Snohomish County has local health officials worried.

“Every time we’ve seen it start to go up, it has taken off — so we may well be on the front end of a third wave here,” Snohomish County Health Office Dr. Chris Spitters told KIRO Radio.

Spitter says recent cases are concentrated in some of the higher population areas along I-5, as well as the south edge of Everett and further east toward Monroe.

11:11am – The impacts of COVID-19 are far-reached, as detailed by the Dr. Ali Mokdad with the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.

“(The IHME) anticipates large-scale indirect impacts of COVID-19,” Dr. Mokdad said Monday. “Domestic violence, women’s health, childhood immunizations, and chronic conditions to name a few.”

He also voiced concerns over long-term effects to education, unemployment, and healthcare, as well as a variety of other inequalities, from gender to race.

9:23am – Puyallup and Issaquah schools are beginning their slow return to in-person learning this week, allowing a handful of special education students to come back to classrooms. Read more

8:02am – New research out of Boston University’s School of Medicine reports that your Vitamin D level can impact your chances of getting COVID-19. Read more from KIRO 7 TV here.

6:39am – Struggling to manage the stress of the ongoing COVID crisis? The Washington Department of Health has a support line known as Washington Listens, available Monday through Friday between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m., and between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. You can reach the Washington Listens line at 1-833-681-0211.

5:13am – As the COVID-19 pandemic rages on, the world reached a grim benchmark this week, with global deaths from the virus now topping 1 million people, according to tallies from Johns Hopkins University.

Monday, Sept. 28

11:00pm – Health officials say there have been 86,638 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Washington state, and 2,100 deaths. That’s zero deaths reported since Friday. The DOH does not update that number over the weekend. The state reports 1,848,463 tests conducted.

3:51pm – President Donald Trump announced Monday that the federal government will begin distributing millions of rapid coronavirus tests to states this week and urged governors to use them to reopen schools for students in kindergarten through 12th grade.

The move to vastly expand U.S. testing comes as confirmed new COVID-19 cases remain elevated at more than 40,000 per day and experts warn of a likely surge in infections during the colder months ahead. It also comes just five weeks before the November election, with Trump facing continued criticism for his handling of the crisis. Read more from AP.

1:17pm – Almost half of all adults in Seattle have switched to teleworking because of the pandemic, according to The Seattle Times. A new Census Bureau survey shows that nearly 1.5 million adults, out of roughly 3 million, are now working from home.

Seattle ranks fourth among the 15 largest metro areas in the U.S. where adults are working from home. The top three cities are demographically similar to Seattle, with high median household incomes and a largely white-collar work force.

11:01am – How long should you stay home if you have a cold, the flu, or COVID-19? The Snohomish County Health District has tips on how to figure that out.

If you have a cold or the flu, it recommends staying home until you’re fever-free without medication for at least 24 hours, with marked improvement in other symptoms as well. With COVID-19, the to-do list is little more stringent. That includes: Staying fever free without medication for at least 24 hours, having marked improvement in other symptoms, and having 10 days elapse since the start of symptoms (or the date of a positive test).

8:23amThe latest data from the UW’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation shows that mask-wearing in Washington state has increased over the last month, after a troubling dip in late-August.

As of Sept. 22, between 50-59% of Washingtonians say they always wear a mask when going out. That number had held strong for the better part of early August, before dipping down to the 40-49% range in the latter half of the month, and then continuing at that level for the first half of September.

The IHME predicts that Washington could see over 3,000 total COVID-19 deaths by Jan. 1, 2021. With 95% of residents wearing masks in public, though, that number dips to just over 2,600.

6:55am – As Washington state moves into the colder fall and winter months, its COVID-19 response will soon arrive at a key juncture, according to the latest report from the state Department of Health. Read more

5:16am – Gov. Jay Inslee has extended a measure allowing public university graduate students to continue receiving a tuition waiver for remote teaching and research functions.

Previously, grad students had to be on campus and in person to receive the waiver, but because “many come from outside the state and country,” traveling to campus amid the ongoing pandemic is much more difficult. Inslee’s proclamation granting the waiver for remote work now runs through Nov. 9.

Read through last week’s COVID-19 updates here.

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