Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Saturday, Oct. 23, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.
Booster doses for all three coronavirus vaccines are now available in Washington state for eligible individuals, the state Department of Health announced Friday.
Last month, providers began offering booster doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for older adults at higher risk for severe illness. More than 345,000 doses, including third doses for people with moderately or severely compromised immune systems, have been administered in the state, according to DOH.
Following recommendations from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this week, health care providers can begin to offer booster doses of Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines, as well.
Meanwhile, kid-size doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine appear safe and nearly 91% effective at preventing symptomatic infections in 5- to 11-year-olds, according to study details released Friday as the U.S. considers opening vaccinations to that age group. The shots could begin in early November — with the first children in line fully protected by Christmas — if regulators give the go-ahead.
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.
After slamming COVID-19 rules, Tritt sings anthem at NL Championship Series
Country musician Travis Tritt, who canceled shows at venues that required a COVID-19 vaccine or mask-wearing, sang the national anthem before Game 6 of the NL Championship Series on Saturday night in Atlanta.
Tritt has joined other prominent entertainers such as Eric Clapton and Van Morrison in protesting rules designed to curb the spread of the virus.
Truist Park stadium, where the Braves hosted the Los Angeles Dodgers, has allowed full capacity most of the season with no requirements for vaccinations, negative tests or mask-wearing from fans.
Read more here.
—Paul Newberry, Associated Press
Austrian chancellor threatens lockdown for unvaccinated
VIENNA (AP) — Unvaccinated people in Austria could face new lockdown restrictions if coronavirus case numbers continue to rise, Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg said.
The news came after a Friday evening meeting between Schallenberg and state-level leaders to discuss their response to rapidly increasing case numbers.
“The pandemic is not yet in the rearview mirror,” Schallenberg said. “We are about to stumble into a pandemic of the unvaccinated.”
Schallenberg announced that if the number of COVID-19 patients in intensive care units reaches 500, or 25% of the country’s total ICU capacity, entry into businesses such as restaurants and hotels will be limited to those who are vaccinated or recovered from the virus.
If the number reaches 600, or one-third of total ICU capacity, the government plans to impose restrictions on unvaccinated people. In this case, they would only be allowed to leave their homes for specific reasons.
Currently, the number of COVID-19 patients in ICUs stands at 220.
Read the story.
—The Associated Press
Disruptions to schooling fall hardest on vulnerable students
Even as schools have returned in full swing across the country, complications wrought by the pandemic persist, often falling hardest on those least able to weather them: families without transportation, people with limited income or other financial hardship, people who don’t speak English, children with special needs.
Coronavirus outbreaks in school and individual quarantine orders when students get exposed to the virus make it a gamble on whether they can attend classes in person on any given day. Many families don’t know where to turn for information, or sometimes can’t be reached.
And sometimes, because of driver shortages, it’s as simple as the school bus not showing up.
Keiona Morris, who lives without a car in McKeesport, Pennsylvania, outside Pittsburgh, has had no choice but to keep her boys at home on days when the bus didn’t arrive. Her two sons have missed about two weeks’ worth of classes because of such disruptions, she said.
Taking her older son to school on the civic bus system those days would mean not making it home in time to get her youngest to elementary school, she said.
“I feel like they’re leaving my kid behind,” Morris said. “Sometimes, he feels like he’s not important enough to get picked up.”
Read the full story.
—Annie Ma, The Associated Press
Vaccine mandates create conflict with defiant workers
BATH, Maine (AP) — Josh “Chevy” Chevalier is a third-generation shipbuilder who hasn’t missed a day of work during the pandemic in his job as a welder constructing Navy warships on the Maine coast.
But he’s ready to walk away from his job because of an impending mandate from President Joe Biden that federal contractors and all U.S. businesses with 100 or more workers be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
“People are fighting for their constitutional rights — the way they think their life should be,” said Chevalier, one of hundreds of employees at Bath Iron Works threatening to leave.
Chevalier is among a small but significant number of American workers deciding whether to quit their jobs and careers in defiance of what they consider intrusive edicts that affect their freedoms.
The Biden administration, public health officials and many business leaders agree that vaccine requirements are legal, prudent actions necessary to help the world emerge from a pandemic that has killed more than 700,000 Americans and nearly 5 million people worldwide.
The defiant workers make up a small fraction of the overall workforce, with many cities, states and businesses reporting that more than 9 out of 10 of their workers are complying with mandates.
But they have the potential to create disruptions in a tight labor market and have become the latest roadblock in overcoming the vaccine hesitancy that allowed the COVID-19 crisis to take a devastating turn over the summer. In many cases, the reasons for the objections are rooted in misinformation.
The refusers come from all types of occupations — defense industry workers, police officers, firefighters, educators and health care workers. In Seattle, a group of city firefighters turned in their boots at City Hall on Tuesday to protest a vaccination requirement.
Read the full story.
—DAVID SHARP, Stefanie Dazio and MIKE CATALINI, The Associated Press
Florida sees lowest COVID positivity rate and new case count since June
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Florida’s COVID-19 cases and positivity rate plunged this week to their lowest levels since the first week of the summer when the delta wave began its surge through the state.
The number of new cases for the week dropped to 15,314, according to a report released Friday by the Florida Department of Health. The case count is down from 19,519 last week and 25,792 the previous week.
Perhaps more significant, the test positivity rate fell to 3.4%. This is the third week in a row to see a positivity rate below 5%, the benchmark number used by epidemiologists to gauge what public health measures should be in place. At its worst, Florida’s test positivity climbed as high as 20.5% for the week ending Aug 19. Last week the positivity rate was 3.8%.
As the state recovers from the delta wave, it is no longer considered an area with “high” community transmission, and the CDC categorizes it as having “substantial” transmission.
The total number of deaths rose by 944, a new weekly low for the month. Last week the total number of deaths rose by 1,192.
The number of people vaccinated grew by 74,850 but that’s an increase of less than half a percent. The total number to receive at least one dose stood at nearly 13.865 million, about 73% of the eligible population. Counties in the panhandle have the lowest vaccination rates in the state while Miami-Dade and Broward counties have the highest rates.
Read the full story.
—Cindy Krischer Goodman, South Florida Sun-Sentinel
It’s OK to mix and match COVID-19 booster shoots. Which one should I get?
Topping up your protection against severe COVID-19 while avoiding the risk of rare vaccine side effects should not be rocket science.
But just ask the experts who advised federal regulators to authorize additional shots: There’s no simple formula to guide Americans’ decisions about booster shots.
Whether you should get a booster shot and which one you should get depends on who you are, what medical vulnerabilities you have, and what vaccine you got first. The people you live with or the kind of work you do might also influence your choice.
And then there’s the deeply personal matter of how much risk — of COVID-19 or of vaccine side effects — you’re willing to accept.
Even if a vaccine’s protection has slipped with time, many fully vaccinated young people, or those who’ve had an infection before or after being vaccinated, can reasonably decide that their likelihood of becoming very sick remains low.
The experts who advised the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this week made clear they were not recommending boosters for all; they were recommending that millions of people who are fully vaccinated have access to a booster shot if they want one.
A new government study on mixing and matching vaccines has added more options — and thus more complexity — to the issue of boosters.
Read the full story.
—Melissa Healy, Los Angeles Times
Virus surge persists in Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia
BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) — Serbia on Saturday is set to launch partial COVID-19 passes while Croatia and Slovenia reported high daily rates of infections, as countries with low vaccination rates grapple with a persisting virus surge.
Serbia has seen thousands of news cases daily for weeks now and recorded more than 50 deaths each day, in the country of 7 million where about half of adults have been fully jabbed and tens of thousands have received booster doses.
On Saturday, authorities reported an additional 6,748 new infections in the past 24 hours and 60 fatalities from COVID-19. The Balkan nation has confirmed more than 1 million infections since the start of the pandemic and nearly 10,000 deaths.
Experts have harshly criticized the government decision to introduce COVID-19 passes for indoor spaces only from 10 p.m. They said the move was too little too late and that stricter measures are needed to curb the raging virus.
“It’s scandalous and far too late,” retired epidemiologist Zoran Radovanovic told N1 television.
Serbia’s government initially was reluctant to impose any measures, urging people to get vaccinated instead. Face masks have been obligatory indoors in the Balkan country but there have been no limits for gatherings or work at nightclubs, bars or restaurants.
Read the full story.
—JOVANA GEC, The Associated Press
For $61,000, you can take Royal Caribbean’s 274-night cruise around the world
Cruise-lovers yearning to return to the open seas, this news is for you: Royal Caribbean International announced its inaugural 274-day Ultimate World Cruise will set sail in 2023.
The more than 150-destination itinerary aboard the Serenade of the Seas starts in Miami and includes visits to every continent, 65 countries and 11 world wonders. It will cost you $61,000 for an interior state room, all the way up to $112,000 for a junior suite.
The cruise will sail from Dec. 10, 2023, to Sept. 10, 2024. Bookings can be made by phone now.
The journey includes opportunities to see just about every iconic tourist draw on the planet. Mount Fuji, the Taj Mahal, the Great Barrier Reef, Chichen Itza, Machu Picchu, the Blue Lagoon and the Great Wall of China. If you can think of it, it’s probably on the list.
The star of the show are obviously the ports of call, but what about the ship you will be living on for 274 nights? According to Cruise Critic, Serenade of the Seas is a midsize vessel that can carry 2,100-passengers and nearly 900 crew members.
Read the story.
—Natalie B. Compton, The Washington Post
Sri Lanka gives booster shots to front-line workers, seniors
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — Sri Lanka on Saturday announced plans to offer booster shots to front-line workers followed by the elderly as the island nation gears up to further ease COVID-19 restrictions.
Starting Nov. 1, workers in the health, security, airport and tourism sectors will start receiving a third dose of vaccine, said Channa Jayasumana, the state minister of pharmaceutical production, supply and regulation.
The Pfizer booster shots will then include those above 60 years, he said.
So far, 59% of the 22 million population have been vaccinated, and the Health Ministry expects the rate to rise to 70% within three weeks.
The booster rollout comes ahead of the government’s plans to lift monthslong travel restrictions between provinces on Nov. 1. The government has also announced that train service that has been halted for nearly two months would restart next week.
Sri Lanka lifted a six-week lockdown on Oct. 1 and since then, life has begun returning to normal with the reopening of cinemas, restaurants and wedding parties as COVID-19 daily cases fell to below 1,000 with less than 50 deaths.
However, a ban on public gatherings continues along with some restrictions on public transport.
—BHARATHA MALLAWARACHI, The Associated Press
1st big New Orleans parade since pandemic a go: Krewe of Boo
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Parade-loving New Orleans is about to get its groove back.
After over a year where the coronavirus largely put an end to parades, an assortment of witches, goblins and other masked creatures are set to take to the streets Saturday night in the city’s first parade with floats since the pandemic put an end to such frivolity.
The Krewe of Boo is a Halloween-themed parade that stretches from the city’s Marigny neighborhood, through the French Quarter and into the Warehouse District. Riders on the floats dress up in Halloween-themed outfits and throw ghoulish and fun trinkets and beads to crowds that pack the streets. The parade usually features marching bands as well as dancing interspersed between the floats.
But the last time such a parade rolled through the city’s streets was Mardi Gras 2020, which was largely credited with contributing to the city becoming an early hot spot for the coronavirus. As the extent and seriousness of the pandemic became apparent parades as well as music festivals were canceled.
If the city can successfully pull off the Halloween-themed Krewe of Boo parade safely, without a resulting uptick in COVID-19 infections, it will bolster Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s tentative plans toward bringing back the lavish Mardi Gras processions that fill city streets during the annual pre-Lenten celebration.
“This is a step towards the return of Mardi Gras next spring,” Cantrell said in a Twitter post after announcing in September that the Krewe of Boo parade could proceed. “What happens next depends on what we do right now!!”
Read the full story.
—REBECCA SANTANA, The Associated Press
Seattle-area pet owners face long waits, and vet staff are burned out
At the Animal Medical Center of Seattle, dogs (French bulldogs, Malteses, myriad doodles), cats (Siamese, shorthair) and humans (standard) are waiting for an employee to evaluate how long before each animal can get care.
Which of the 20 animals are most at risk? Today, staffers at the clinic can only see Priority 1 pets, those that could die without immediate intervention, and some animals likely to survive if care is given within hours.
Ailments include diabetes, acute kidney failure and seizures, and one canine ate sugar-free gum with xylitol, a toxic ingredient. A dog with a crushed chest is the most critical. Some will have to wait, potentially up to eight hours depending on their case.
“This is kind of tame, this is manageable,” says April Panpipat, the Shoreline animal hospital’s manager.
It may be considered tame now, but the number of calls and patients are an extreme change from before the COVID-19 pandemic, which caused new problems or exacerbated underlying issues facing the veterinary industry. Some days, several animals require one-on-one critical care and monitoring. Three or four patients may be dying at the same time.
The situation is much the same at animal hospitals and vet clinics throughout the region and nationally — long waits for appointments, high staff turnover and burnout, tense environments that required some providers to toughen their policies about owner behavior.
Read the full story.
—Paige Cornwell, Seattle Times staff reporter
Russian COVID spike persists, setting new death record
MOSCOW (AP) — Russia is reporting a record high number of coronavirus infections and COVID-19 deaths as the country approaches a week of nonworking days aimed at stemming the sharp surge in cases.
The national coronavirus task force said Saturday that 1,075 people had died from the virus in the past day and that 37,678 new infections were tallied — the largest single-day numbers of the pandemic.
The daily death toll is about 33% higher than that recorded in late September and infection cases have risen by about 70% in the past month.
Only about one-third of Russia’s 146 million people have been vaccinated, frustrating officials and placing a strain on the country’s health-care system.
Facing widespread resistance to vaccination, President Vladimir Putin has responded to the worsening situation by ordering Russians to stay away from work between Oct. 30 and Nov. 7.
Many regions are imposing additional restrictions, including closing gyms, theaters and sit-down service at restaurants or restricting them to customers who can show QR codes confirming that they are fully vaccinated.
Read the full story.
—Jim Heintz, The Associated Press
Service dogs navigate the challenges of COVID: ‘The dog doesn’t understand social distancing’
The pandemic has complicated life for everyone, but social distancing, mask-wearing and other practices to reduce the spread of coronavirus present particular challenges for people with disabilities who rely on service animals.
Organizations that train dogs – often Labrador and golden retrievers, among other breeds – are just beginning to see what the first classes of pandemic puppies can do after 18 months of diminished socialization and exposure to public places.
Dog-handler teams have had to adapt to virtual training, different commands and new ways to keep their skills sharp in order to avoid uncomfortable and potentially dangerous situations.
This is especially important, trainers and people with disabilities say, as more people return to their pre-pandemic routines of taking public transportation and attending in-person work and school.
Read the full story.
—Jenna Portnoy, The Washington Post
Seattle Times staff & news services