Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Saturday, Aug. 28, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.
Governments and institutions are trying desperately to find safe ways to remain open and in operation as COVID-19 infections continue to climb to rates not seen since winter.
In New York, a Broadway theater, determined the show must go on, has brought in an expert and hired a COVID safety manager in an attempt to comply with restrictions. And some school districts in Florida are flaunting the governor’s anti-mask position by requiring students to wear them anyway.
Closer to home, an Issaquah School District official grousing about mask and vaccine mandates, opined on social media that perhaps the virus — which has infected more than 550,000 Washington residents and killed more than 6,500 — should be allowed to “run its course.”
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.
An elementary school teacher took off her mask for a read-aloud. Within days, half her class was positive for delta
The Marin County, Calif. elementary school had been conscientious about following COVID-19 protocols. Masks were required indoors, desks were spaced six feet apart, and the students kept socially distant. But the delta variant found an opening anyway.
On May 19, one teacher, who was not vaccinated against the coronavirus, began feeling fatigued and had some nasal congestion. She dismissed it as allergies and powered through. While she was usually masked, she made an exception for story time so she could read to the class.
By the time she learned she was positive for the coronavirus two days later, half her class of 24 had been infected — nearly all of them in the two rows closest to her desk — and the outbreak had spread to other classes, siblings and parents, including some who were fully vaccinated.
“The mask was off only momentarily, not an entire day or hours. We want to make the point that this is not the teacher’s fault — everyone lets their guard down — but the thing is delta takes advantage of slippage from any kind of protective measures,” Tracy Lam-Hine, an epidemiologist for the county, said in an interview.
US Open COVID protocols changed: Fans need vaccination proof
U.S. Open spectators now must show proof of at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine to attend matches, a change made less than 72 hours before the tennis tournament starts.
The U.S. Tennis Association announced Friday that the New York City mayor’s office decided to require proof of vaccination to go into Arthur Ashe Stadium, the main arena at the National Tennis Center.
The USTA then opted to extend that rule to cover all ticket-holders who are 12 and older and enter the grounds during the two-week Grand Slam tournament that begins Monday. The event is returning to 100% capacity after all fans were banned from attending a year ago because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Oregon COVID outbreak began with unvaccinated worker
A COVID-19 outbreak at an Oregon assisted living facility that has infected 64 people and killed five began with an unvaccinated worker, public health officials said.
The outbreak at Gateway Living in Springfield began July 5, The Register-Guard newspaper reported. The facility has 105 employees and 101 residents; only 63% of the staff and 82% of the residents are completely vaccinated.
Lane County Public Health spokesman Jason Davis said the outbreak began with an unvaccinated employee who worked while infectious.
The outbreak arrived as an immense surge of COVID-19 cases hit Oregon, driven by the especially contagious delta variant as well as vaccine obstinacy in some quarters.
COVID-19 hospitalizations have increased 990% in Oregon since July 9, according to health officials. Many hospitals have canceled elective surgeries, and some patients are housed in hallways instead of rooms. More than 90% of the state’s ICU and hospital beds are full, and health officials say the overwhelming majority of people hospitalized are unvaccinated.
Mask debate moves from school boards to courtrooms
The rancorous debate over whether returning students should wear masks in the classroom has moved from school boards to courtrooms.
In at least 14 states, lawsuits have been filed either for or against masks in schools. In some cases, normally rule-enforcing school administrators are finding themselves fighting state leaders.
Legal experts say that while state laws normally trump local control, legal arguments from mask proponents have a good chance of coming out on top. But amid protests and even violence over masks around the United States, the court battle is just beginning.
Mask rules in public schools vary widely. Some states require them; others ban mandates. Many more leave it up to individual districts…
At the heart of the debates are parents, scared or frustrated for their children in an unprecedented time. The early court record is mixed, with victories for mask proponents in Arkansas and Arizona followed by back-to-back decisions in two big states going opposite ways.
Protests in Berlin for and against coronavirus restrictions
Protesters filled the German capital again on Saturday to demonstrate against the government’s coronavirus measures, despite bans against several gatherings.
Like the last round of protests in early August, thousands ignored the bans and turned out to voice their opposition to government measures. With chants of “We are the people!” the protesters made their way through Berlin’s Prenzlauer Berg and Mitte neighborhoods…
Meanwhile, a counter-protest complete with techno music drew a crowd of several thousand as well. Those demonstrators back government restrictions to slow the spread of virus and oppose the Querdenker movement, stressing Berlin’s diversity and advocating for more social cohesion….
The Saturday protests came amid a debate in Germany about whether to impose restrictions on unvaccinated people, a question taking on more urgency as daily infections rise. Germany reported 10,303 new daily infections on Saturday, up more than 2,000 since last week.
Contact tracing takes a back seat during latest COVID surge
Health investigators across the U.S. are finding it nearly impossible to keep up with the deluge of new COVID-19 infections and carry out contact tracing efforts that were once seen as a pillar of the nation’s pandemic response.
States are hiring new staff and seeking out volunteers to bolster the ranks of contact tracers that have been overwhelmed by surging coronavirus cases.
Some states trimmed their contact tracing teams this spring and summer when virus numbers were dropping and are now scrambling to train new investigators. Others have triaged their teams to focus on the most vulnerable, such as cases involving schools or children too young to be vaccinated.
Texas got out of the business entirely, with the new two-year state budget that takes effect Sept. 1 explicitly prohibiting funds being used for contact tracing. That left it up to local health officials, but they can’t keep up at a time when Texas is averaging more than 16,000 new cases a day.
Mississippi has 150 staff working full time to identify people who have had close contact with an infected person, but they are swamped, too.
‘Let the virus’ run its course, a Seattle-area school district official said on Facebook
A top administrator at the Issaquah School District took to Facebook last week to rant against the state mask and vaccine orders, arguing that the virus should be allowed to “become endemic and run its course.”
“What’s the end game with all this? Masks, vaccines and limiting freedoms for how long? My family has been in Washington for seven generations and this is the first time in my life that I despise this state.
“It only took 200 years to get rid of small pox. Let the virus become endemic and run its course, it’s here to stay,” the district’s chief financial officer, Jake Kuper, wrote in response to a public service post about masking from the state health department. “So happy for the strictest Covid-19 mandates in the US. I thought liberals loved freedom…and pro choice…oh wait.”
The comments alarmed a group of Issaquah parents, who said Kuper’s statements made them question how well the district will implement protections against COVID-19. Kuper, who said in another comment on the post that he is fully vaccinated, is involved in labor bargaining on behalf of the school district, including an agreement that covers health and safety conditions for the upcoming school year. Sept. 1 is the first day of school for Issaquah and many other Seattle-area districts.