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Here’s what we know so far regarding the COVID-19 outbreak for Clallam and Jefferson counties, plus regionally, nationally and internationally:
Wednesday, Sept. 23
• “I did the best I could,” President Donald Trump said.
Huddled with aides in the West Wing last week, his eyes fixed on Fox News, Trump wasn’t talking about how he had led the nation through the deadliest pandemic in a century. In a conversation overheard by an Associated Press reporter, Trump was describing how he’d just publicly rebuked one of his top scientists — Dr. Robert Redfield, a virologist and head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Redfield had angered the president by asserting that a COVID-19 vaccine wouldn’t be widely available until late 2021. So hours later, with no supporting evidence, Trump called a news conference to say Redfield was “confused.” A vaccine, Trump insisted, could be ready before November’s election.
Mission accomplished: Fox was headlining Trump’s latest foray in his administration’s ongoing war against its own scientists.
It is a war that continues unabated, even as the nation’s COVID-19 death toll has reached 200,000 — nearly half the number of Americans killed in World War II, a once unfathomable number that the nation’s top doctors just months ago said was avoidable.
The study starting Wednesday will be one of the world’s largest coronavirus vaccine studies so far, testing the shot in 60,000 volunteers in the U.S., South Africa, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru.
A handful of other vaccines in the U.S. — including shots made by Moderna Inc. and Pfizer Inc. — and others in other countries are already in final-stage testing. Hopes are high that answers about at least one candidate being tested in the U.S. could come by year’s end, maybe sooner.
U.S. health officials insist the race for a vaccine isn’t cutting corners.
• The subject: coronavirus. The status: urgent. The solutions: as diverse as the nations they lead.
With the 75th annual U.N. General Assembly reduced to recorded speeches because of the pandemic, leaders are using this week as an opportunity to depict the pandemic from the vantage points of their nations and themselves — and present their visions of efforts to fight the virus and advocate what they believe must be done.
• A $1 billion fund Congress gave the Pentagon in March to build up the country’s supplies of medical equipment has instead been mostly funneled to defense contractors and used to make things such as jet engine parts, body armor and dress uniforms.
The change illustrates how one taxpayer-backed effort to battle the novel coronavirus, which has killed more than 200,000 people in the United States, was instead diverted toward patching up long-standing perceived gaps in military supplies.
The Cares Act, which Congress passed this year, gave the Pentagon money to “prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus.” But a few weeks later, the Defense Department began reshaping how it would award the money in a way that represented a major departure from Congress’ intent.
The payments were made even though U.S. health officials think major funding gaps in pandemic response still remain. Many U.S. hospitals still face a severe shortage of N95 masks.
But the spending shows how the blizzard of bailout cash was — in some cases — redirected to firms that weren’t originally targeted for assistance. It also shows how difficult it has been for officials to track how money is spent and — in the case of Congress — intervene when changes are made.
Defense department officials contend they sought to strike a balance between boosting U.S. medical production and supporting the defense industry, the health of which they consider critical to national security.
• It would have been a dangerous assertion in the middle of a deadly pandemic no matter where it came from: that wearing masks has “little to no medical value” and could do more “harm” than wearing no mask at all.
But it was especially remarkable given the source. Published on the right-wing website RedState, it turned out to have been written under a pseudonym by William B. Crews, a public affairs officer at the National Institutes of Health, promoting the same type of discredited information about dealing with the virus that his employer was working aggressively to beat back.
Crews abruptly retired from the NIH as The Daily Beast prepared to expose his clandestine role as purveyor of misinformation. But by that point, writing for RedState under the name Streiff, Crews had published a slew of incorrect claims about this virus this year, some even directly attacking his boss, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
• Finland is set to launch a coronavirus-sniffing-dog pilot program at Helsinki Airport on Wednesday, hoping that dogs could come to play a key role in screening for COVID-19.
The voluntary canine tests will deliver results within 10 seconds, and require less than a minute of travelers’ time, said Anna Hielm-Björkman, a researcher at the University of Helsinki who is using the trial to gather data.
Researchers in other countries, including the United States and the United Arab Emirates, are studying canine coronavirus tests. But the Finnish trial is among the largest in scale and furthest along.
In Dubai, health officials this summer began using dogs to analyze sweat samples from randomly selected air travelers, with more than 90% accuracy, according to initial results.
• Washington state has unveiled a new interactive data tool to examine the depth of COVID-19’s impact on our struggling economy, which has pushed Washingtonians to file unemployment claims at historically high levels for months, the state Department of Commerce announced Monday.
The tool — an economic recovery dashboard developed with federal funding from the CARES Act — will visualize data from public and private organizations, and track the state’s recovery efforts across different industries and demographics, according to a statement from the Department of Commerce. The data will be updated monthly.
“The economic impact of COVID-19 on individuals, families and businesses is like nothing we’ve ever seen before,” Lisa Brown, Department of Commerce director, said in the statement. “The depth and complexity of the challenge we’re dealing with demands that we use data in new ways to help every family, every community and every industry get back on their feet, stronger and more resilient than before.”
• Via The Associated Press: What you need to know today about the virus outbreak.
For more local coronavirus stories, click here.
The count of cases and deaths is a moving target, with jurisdictions reporting sometimes-contradictory numbers. Ours might not match what other media are reporting.
• As of 3:30 p.m. Sept. 20, Washington state has 82,848 confirmed cases (meaning the person has the virus) and 2,055 deaths, according to the state Department of Health.
• 1,154 cases in Kitsap County. 12 deaths.
• 71 cases in Jefferson County. 0 deaths.
• 236 cases in Clallam County. 1 death.
For other county numbers, visit www.doh.wa.gov/Emergencies/Coronavirus.
Washington 211 COVID-19 Call Center. Do you need information or answers to your questions and concerns about the novel coronavirus (COVID-19)? You can call 1-800-525-0127 or text 211-211 for help. You can also text the word “Coronavirus” to 211-211 to receive information and updates on your phone wherever you are. You will receive links to the latest information on COVID-19, including county-level updates, and resources for families, businesses, students and more.
Do you need support due to stress from COVID-19? Call Washington Listens, a line that provides nonclinical support to people experiencing elevated stress due to COVID-19. People who call Washington Listens will speak to a support specialist and receive information and connection to community resources in their area. The program is anonymous and no identifying information is maintained. People who staff Washington Listens will receive basic training needed to provide support to individuals during the COVID-19 pandemic. To reach Washington Listens, call 1-833-681-0211 between the hours of 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. weekdays and from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Read the Washington Listens fact sheet.
COVID-19 information & best practices
What is the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)?
Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2, known as SARS-CoV-2, is the virus strain identified in January that causes COVID-19, coronavirus disease, and is spreading from person to person.
While the virus has the potential to cause severe illness and pneumonia in some people, about 80 percent of cases are relatively mild.
• Key symptoms of COVID-19: shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fever, cough, chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, new loss of taste or smell.
• In mid-May, the CDC quietly added congestion, runny nose, nausea or vomiting and diarrhea as sign of COVID-19.
• Symptoms may appear two to 14 days after exposure.
• Here are the symptoms of the virus compared with the common flu.
• COVID-19 is thought to spread mainly through close contact from person-to-person. Some people without symptoms may be able to spread the virus. We are still learning about how the virus spreads and the severity of illness it causes.
The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person.
- Between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet).
- Through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks.
- These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.
- COVID-19 may be spread by people who are not showing symptoms.
It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes. This is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads, but we are still learning more about how this virus spreads.
What to do if you’re sick
• If you suspect you have COVID-19, isolate at home during illness. Restrict activities outside of the home except for getting medical care. Call ahead unless you are in crisis.
• Call 360-417-2430, a hotline that provides local information on the infection.
There is currently no vaccine to prevent COVID-19. The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus.
As a reminder, according to the CDC, here are recommended everyday preventive actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory diseases:
• Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
• Stay home when you are sick.
• Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
• Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
• The CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies), especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.
CDC also advises the use of simple cloth face coverings to slow the spread of the virus and help people who may have the virus and do not know it from transmitting it to others. Cloth face coverings fashioned from household items or made at home from common materials at low cost can be used as an additional, voluntary public health measure.
For more information on using cloth face coverings and how to make your own, click here.
• Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
• If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.
• Once home from work, school, running errands, etc., immediately wash your hands.
• Consider purchasing the following supplies: extra fluids and hydrating drinks (Gatorade and Pedialyte); food for when you’re sick (soups, broths, crackers, honey, nonperishable items); pain and fever medications (acetaminophen or ibuprofen); cough drops and cough medications; prescription medications; tissues; household cleaners (bleach, alcohol, soap, disinfecting wipes).
• You should wash your phone, too. Here’s how.