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COVID cases confirmed in LWSD – local and national COVID update for September 3, 2021

Pierce County adds an outdoor mask mandate, as new COVID cases rise again.

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Knowledge is the best tool to fight against fear. A wise person chooses to be informed so they can make sound decisions. To join the fight against COVID misinformation, you can share this update through your social media platform of choice.

[KING COUNTY, Wash.] – (MTN) Two Lake Washington School District schools reported COVID cases today, as the CDC released a study on the impact the Delta variant is having among pediatric patients. New COVID cases continue at a very elevated rate, and data continues to hint the plateau in new cases is crumbling.

Pierce County joins King County in an outdoor mask mandate for large events, and members of Patriot Prayer and the Proud Boys forced three Vancouver, Washington schools into lockdown due to an antimask protest. Someone is running around Pullman pretending to be a mask enforcer, including taking pictures of driver’s licenses. For big breakfast and cholesterol fans, sad news from Seattle with Beth’s Cafe announcing they are closing again.

Nationally, this felt like awful humans doing awful things day. A high school principal in Tuscon was threatened by a group of anti-maskers leading to one arrest. We learned that a doctor in Arkansas did not get medical consent to give prisoners Ivermectin.

In good news, Florida has hit peak COVID, but hospitalizations and deaths are trailing indicators. Some models indicate that Oregon will hit its peak next week as the state teeters on running out of resources.

Finally, if you have tickets to Dave Matthews, two band members have been exposed to COVID, but the show will go on.

This update uses the latest data from the Washington State Department of Health released on September 3, 2021.


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Washington State Update for September 3, 2021

Washington state COVID update

Through August 22, Washington’s statewide 14-day rolling average increased again to 521.7 COVID cases per 100K. Asotin (1,033.6 per 100K), Columbia (1,290.3 per 100K) Franklin (1,218.5 per 100K), and Okanogan (1,082.8 per 100K) reported an extreme number of new cases. Benton, Chelan, Clallam, Cowlitz, Douglas, Garfield, Grant, Lewis, Lincoln, Stevens, and Yakima counties are not far behind, with rates between 800.0 and 999.9 per 100K.

King County is at 324.9 cases per 100K.

The Washington Department of Health will not be updating data Saturday through Monday due to the Labor Day holiday. We do not expect to have a clear view of the situation for COVID cases until the middle of next week.

The Washington State Department of Health reports a data backlog for test positivity, with the published number 14 days old. According to Johns Hopkins University Medicine, the positivity rate for the last 30 days is 14.34%, and over the previous 7 days, 12.90%. Hospitalizations were up in all age groups except 12 to 19 years old. New cases for people over 80 years old were down slightly in the latest data.

Age Group7-Day Case Rate7-Day Hospitalization Rate
Ages 0-1128.2 (up)0.2 (up)
Ages 12-1923.0 (up)0.2
Ages 20-3466.41.6 (up)
Ages 35-4953.1 (up)2.8 (up)
Ages 50-6437.1 (up)4.4 (up significantly)
Ages 65-7918.5 (up)3.8 (up significantly)
Ages 80+4.8 (down)1.5 (up)
7-day case rate and 7-day hospitalization rate is per 100K within the age group – the target for 7-day case rate is <25.0, but there are other factors such as vaccination rates within the age groups, how many total tests within the 7-day period, and the positivity rate within each age group

The USA Today COVID Tracker reported 32 COVID-related deaths on Thursday. Another concerning trend, the data from USA Today, indicates that the plateau has broken, with Washington reporting over 4,300 new cases on Thursday, the second day in a row over 4,000.

Pierce County enacts outdoor mask mandate for large events

One day after King County enacted an outdoor mask mandate for large events, Dr. Anthony L-T Chen, Director of Health for Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department, issued a countywide health order requiring the same. Everyone 5 years and older in Pierce County must wear a face covering at any outdoor event with 500 or more people in attendance regardless of vaccination status beginning Tuesday, Sept. 7, 2021.

The county also recommends wearing a mask in any crowded outdoor setting where physical distancing is not possible. This order, along with the statewide mask order, requires masks to be worn in indoor public settings like grocery stores, malls, and community centers.

“We are taking this step to ensure the most vulnerable people in our community do not become infected or spread COVID-19,” Dr. Chen said. “The highly contagious Delta variant is causing a rapid increase of positive COVID-19 cases and leading to increased hospitalizations and deaths.

“Wearing masks in crowds of 500 or more will reduce community transmission and protect children under the age of 12, people who are immunocompromised and unvaccinated adults.”

Yesterday, Pierce County Health released a video featuring Zac Duris, an ICU Nurse at St. Joseph Medical Center in Tacoma.

ICU Nurse Zac duris from st. joseph medical center talks about his experiences treating covid patients

Duris tells heartbreaking stories. From young, seemingly healthy people dying to families who can’t see their loved ones. 

“What sticks with me is the really ill patients who have families at home who are really concerned about them,” Duris said. “I can take care of critically ill patients with or without COVID. But what COVID has done has made families have to suffer more because they can’t be at their bedsides with their loved ones.” 

Right Wing extremists force three Vancouver schools into lockdown, harass students and staff

Patriot Prayer, headed by Joey Gibson, spread misinformation on the Internet that a student at Skyview High School was refusing to wear a mask and would be arrested on school grounds on Friday. Members of Patriot Prayer, the Proud Boys, and other anti-mask and anti-vaccination protesters gathered at the school chanting “USA.”

Three schools, Skyview High School, Alki Middle School, and Chinook Elementary School, went into lockdown. Students reported that teachers guarded classroom doors, and people trying to enter Skyview High School were met by security.

“All the learning gets disrupted. We have to sit down quietly, not make noise, and we were hunkered down in our classrooms for around an hour to an hour-and-a-half,” said Lucas, a 16-year-old high school student at Skyview. OPB is withholding Lucas’ last name to protect his identity.

He compared the lockdown to similar drills performed to prepare students for school shooters. Lucas said some students were harassed by the anti-mask demonstrators outside the school building.

“They’ve gotten pretty wild out here recently. It’s kind of crazy,” Lucas said.

Equal opportunity reporting – someone is trying to enforce mask wear at Washington State University – Pullman

Washington State University in Pullman sent out an alert to students warning them about a person claiming to be part of “mask enforcement.” The university, university police, and the city of Pullman all stated they were not doing any enforcement activity, and the person doing this is not an employee.

More alarming, the person took pictures of driver’s licenses and claimed that students would get a ticket in the mail. The person is described as a male driving a 2000s Toyota (which we realize doesn’t say much).

Northwest Washington Fair linked to 108 COVID cases

The Whatcom County Health Department is aware of 108 COVID-19 cases associated with the 10-day 2021 Northwest Washington Fair in Lynden.

“This includes both people who were contagious while they were at the fair and people who may have been exposed while they were at the fair,” health department spokesperson Jennifer Moon told The Bellingham Herald in an emailed statement Friday, Sept. 2. “We don’t have a more specific breakdown. This number may continue to increase as we continue to investigate cases.”

Officials refused to release attendance numbers for the fair.

Fake COVID vaccination cards intercepted in Seattle

Homeland Security Investigations in Seattle, which is a part of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said agents recently intercepted some fake COVID vaccination cards that were shipped to the United States through Seattle, with a final destination of Idaho.

No arrests have been made, and no information was shared on who the intended recipient in Idaho was.

Seattle icon Beth’s Cafe closing again due to COVID

During the height of the winter peak, Beth’s Cafe closed its doors because delivery only wasn’t fitting their business model. The cafe was sold to new owners, who reopened operating under limited hours. A combination of construction on Aurora Avenue eliminating parking, COVID, and a reduction in the nightlife, which fueled their business, is forcing Beth’s to close again.

The webpage indicates the closure will be for 3 to 6 months, or until things with COVID get under control. The 24-hour restaurant opened in 1954 and is famous for its 12-egg omelets, quirky clientele, and amazing milkshakes.

Expect long ferry waits this weekend

Washington State Ferries are expected to have significant delays this weekend due to many staffers out with COVID. Ironically, there were rumors of a “sick out” this weekend over looming vaccine mandates. Officials report that a sickout hasn’t materialized beyond the employees they already knew were sick so far.

“We just don’t have enough people to help run the boats,” said Ian Sterling with the Washington State Ferries. “Add COVID onto that, and unfortunately, we just lose out on the ferry fleet.”

According to Sterling, they’re dealing with major staffing shortages because of the pandemic, and there were rumors of a potential “sick out” this weekend because of the state vaccine mandate for state workers.

“Thankfully,” Sterling said, “we’re not seeing any evidence of that at this point in time.”

Dave Matthews Band changing weekend shows at The Gorge to an “alternate format”

The bassist and drummer of the Dave Matthew’s Band have had a COVID exposure and won’t be available for a planned show at The Gorge in George, Washington this weekend (yes, national readers, there is a George, Washington). The site says they are moving to an “alternate format” and that things will sound different from previous shows.

Organizers require proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test in the last 48 hours. We request you wear a mask.

Thank you

Thank you to our new subscribers and those of you who have made one-time contributions. On behalf of the entire team, thank you for helping us keep the lights on!

In August, King County Health Officer Dr. Jeff Duchin mentioned the N95 Project as a trusted source for N95 masks. A check on the website showed that a 50 count box of United States manufactured N95 masks are available for $40.00. We recommend wearing N95 masks indoors as they provide the best protection against COVID when properly fitted.

No promotional consideration has been given, or requested from the n95 project or any manufacturer of masks

Vaccination

King County Health released a new dashboard showing the effectiveness of vaccines in preventing new cases, hospitalizations, and death.

King County Health COVID-19 Outcomes by Vaccination Status Dashboard

Looking at data from the last 30 days, a person who is not fully vaccinated is 7 times more likely to test positive for COVID, 49 times more likely to be hospitalized, and 32 times more likely to die of COVID related illness. The data is age-adjusted to account for factors such as older people being more likely to have comorbidities while younger people are less likely to be vaccinated.

When looking at the data, be mindful that each statistic should be seen as a gate. You are 7 times more like to test positive for COVID if you’re unvaccinated. Among the people who tested positive, you’re 49 times more likely to end up in the hospital. If you’re unvaccinated and in the hospital, you’re 32 times more likely to die. So each number is a slice of a smaller and smaller group of people.

To booster shot, or not to booster shot, that is the question

Yesterday we wrote a lengthy piece about natural immunity versus immunity from vaccination and data out of Israel on the impact of booster shots. Our stressed-out editorial team (seriously, we need more copy editors desperately) struck the closing line of, “Confused? To some degree, we are too, but the evidence available supports that natural immunity wanes faster than vaccination-based immunity and booster shots are effective.”

Ehem – we should have left in.

A story in the New York Times reported Dr. Janet Woodcock, acting commissioner of the FDA, and Dr. Rochelle Walensky, head of the CDC, urged caution and advised that their agencies needed more time before approving any further action regarding booster shots. The issue isn’t around the existing recommendation for immunocompromised and the elderly to get booster shots. There is significant data to support they are needed and effective.

Yesterday, we reported a growing number of voices joining the World Health Organization, recommending putting the brakes on booster shots. The two critical issues are large swaths of the world population is currently unvaccinated and don’t have access to a first dose, let alone a third. Secondly, although the data is supportive of booster shots, the data also shows that a vast majority of people who get breakthrough cases only have mild symptoms, especially those under 65.

The whole question of booster or not might be moot, as Moderna is reporting that they will not meet a September 20, 2021 deadline for booster shot approval. The Biden Administration is faced with the choice of offering a booster shot for Pfizer only or delaying the program.

Widespread data isn’t available yet for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and the need for a booster shot, but early tests show a significant boost in the immune response. Unlike Pfizer and Moderna, which are mRNA vaccines, Johnson & Johnson uses a neutralized adenovirus as a messenger to the immune system.

Misleading headlines on the number of Americans with COVID anitbodies in their blood

Some digital ink has been spilled today after a study was published in JAMA declared 83% of blood donations have detectable COVID antibodies in them. This has led to a series of misleading headlines leaping to the conclusion that between natural exposure and immunization efforts, 83% of Americans now have some form of immunity against COVID.

No. Because the study includes this critical text.

“Based on a sample of blood donations in the US from July 2020 through May 2021, vaccine- and infection-induced SARS-CoV-2 seroprevalence increased over time and varied by age, race and ethnicity, and geographic region. Despite weighting to adjust for demographic differences, these findings from a national sample of blood donors may not be representative of the entire US population.”

Here is the problem of leaping to conclude that 83% of Americans have some form of immunity. The data only represents people who donate blood, which is roughly 6.8 million Americans. People under 17 (16 in some states), who are under 110 pounds, have high or low blood pressure, diabetes, certain cancer and cancer history, HIV/AIDs, a history of Hepatitis or potential exposure, persons who are pregnant, or recently had a tattoo or STD can’t donate blood.

Because the pool (no pun intended) of people who can donate blood is already limited, there is no way to adjust this data to account for all the exceptions. It is a safer assumption that people who donate blood are more likely than the national average to have been vaccinated as a group.

When it comes to accepting donated blood, there is a movement among hardcore anti-vaccination adherents to refuse blood transfusions and blood-based agents because it can’t be proven the source is from an unvaccinated individual. We don’t recommend going too deep down that rabbit hole. The language used aligns with white nationalist ideals and the concept of “purity of blood.”

King County, Washington is reporting over 83% of age eligible residents are vaccinated with at least one dose. The highest rates of positivity are in areas with low vaccination rates statewide. The FDA has provided full approval of the Pfizer vaccine for anyone 16 and over.

COVID vaccines are free for anyone over 12 years old, and no appointment is necessary at most locations. Lyft and Hopelink provide free transportation, and KinderCare, the Learning Care Group, and the YMCA offer free childcare during vaccination appointments or recuperation.

For information on getting a vaccination in King County, you can visit the King County Department of Public Health website.

Malcontent News

Hospital Status

According to the DoH COVID Dashboard, 21.6% of all acute care patients hospitalized in Washington have COVID, another new record. A hospital system caring for this many COVID-positive patients in acute care is considered to be under “severe stress.” ICUs are at 88.5% of capacity statewide, with 34.2% of ICU patients fighting COVID, virtually unchanged from yesterday.

The new hospital admission rate for COVID patients is 189 per day, an increase from yesterday. On September 2, there were 1,533 patients hospitalized with COVID and 233 on ventilators. This is the first day since August 20, when a new record was not set. There were 31 fewer patients in acute care and 8 fewer patients on ventilators.

Data for pediatric patients receiving acute care or in a PICU due to COVID is not available.

EvergreenHealth released information on the number of patients currently under care in Kirkland and their vaccination status. On Monday, they reported 44 patients being treated for COVID. On Thursday, the number had dropped to 35. 72% of all COVID patients and 91% of ICU patients are unvaccinated. These numbers align with data released from King County today.

EvergreenHealth patient information at the Kirkland hospital for September 2, 2021

Back to School

School DistrictStatusQuarantinesClosures
BellevueGREENNoneNone
Lake WashingtonYELLOW– Kamiakin Middle School (28)
– Juanita High School (8)
None
NorthshoreGREENNoneNone
Local School Districts Scorecard

The first day of school brought COVID exposures to two Lake Washington School District schools. Parents at Kamiakin Middle School were notified about a confirmed COVID-positive case involving 28 people in close contact with the infected person.

Close contact is defined as anyone who has been within 6 feet of a person with COVID for a combined total of 15 minutes or more within a 24-hour period, or a person who lives in the same household as a person with a positive e COVID test, including caregivers. The standard does not mention any difference between licensed caregivers such as daycares or after-school programs or non-licensed caregivers such as a neighbor providing babysitting.

Unvaccinated close contacts are advised to quarantine for 14 days. Vaccinated contacts are advised to get a PCR COVID test (not a rapid test) 3 to 5 days after exposure.

Juanita High School also notified parents about a COVID-positive confirmed case involving 8 people in close contact. In both incidents, the district indicated they are deep cleaning the impacted areas. The Lake Washington School District COVID Safety Plan was last updated on August 18 and is available online.

The next board meeting for the Lake Washington School District is September 13, 2021, at 7:00 PM and will be remote only.

Kirkland-Bellevue-Woodinville

Bellevue-based Peter Pan Seafoods, with locations in Washington and Alaska, is mandating vaccination for all employees. The company is rolling out the mandate in phases, with office personnel part of the first wave.

National Round-Up

Johns Hopkins University Cumulitaive Case Tracker 153,143 new cases and 1,588 COVID-related deaths on Thursday. With the holiday weekend upon us, we don’t expect to have another set of accurate numbers until the end of next week.

CDC release long awaited study on hospitalizations associated with COVID among children

Dr. Katelyn Jetelina provided an excellent analysis of an early release study from the CDC, Hospitalizations Associated with COVID-19 Among Children and Adolescents — COVID-NET, 14 States, March 1, 2020–August 14, 2021.

  • Infection rates were highest among children birth to 4-years old at 69.2 cases per 100K
  • This was closely followed by adolescents age 12 to 17 years old at 63.7 cases per 100K
  • Rates were lowest among children ages 5 to 11 years old at 24.0 cases per 100K
  • Among all age groups, 26.5% of children admitted to the hospital required PICU care, 6.1% went on ventilators, and the mortality rate was 0.7%
  • Pediatric hospitalizations rates increased fivefold in August compared to June
  • Hospitalization rates among infants and toddlers from birth to 4 years old increased tenfold
  • The hospitalization rate among unvaccinated adolescents from 12 to 17 years old was 10 times higher than among the vaccinated

We will deviate from one point Dr. Jetelina made in her analysis. We agree that there wasn’t a significant change in ICU admissions, children requiring ventilators, and fatalities when comparing Delta to the original strain and Alpha variants circulating in June. It is important to note that fewer children required ICU care, but the number of children who required ventilators increased, and the mortality rate went from 0.7% to 1.8%.

The challenge parents are facing isn’t that the Delta variant is more aggressive with children. The problem is there is widespread community transmission, particularly among the unvaccinated.

“Pediatric hospitalizations have dramatically increased in the past month,” Dr. Jetelina said. “Yes, the media is accurately portraying the situation on the ground. And, hospitalizations have increased the most for 0-4-year-olds. Importantly, this isn’t because Delta is more severe, it’s because we are transmitting Delta in the community, and our kids aren’t protected. Your decision not to get a vaccine or implement public health measures in schools or the community is directly impacting the health of kids.”

Etcetera

Boxer Oscar De La Hoya has tested positive for COVID and is hospitalized. De La Hoya, 48, who had a planned return to boxing this weekend after a 13-year break, is on hold. He tweeted from a hospital bed that is he is fully vaccinated. In the video, he isn’t on oxygen but appears exhausted and talks in a raspy voice.

We try to steer away from partisan sources and paywalls. We had a hard time finding a piece of local news or neutral source for this. Former President Donald Trump told the Wall Street Journal that he likely wouldn’t get a COVID booster shot, sort of.

“I feel like I’m in good shape from that standpoint—I probably won’t,” Trump said in an interview with the publication. “I’ll look at stuff later on. I’m not against it, but it’s probably not for me.”

We only toss in the “sort of” because in two sentences, he said probably twice, and given the last six years, OK, we’ll stop.

Alabama

Governor Kay Ivey on Friday reallocated $12.3 million of the Coronavirus Relief Fund to secure qualified, out-of-state travel nurses to work in Alabama hospitals in a temporary capacity.

“I’m pleased to see more folks getting vaccinated, but we are still in the thick of COVID-19, and our hospitals are overwhelmed,” Governor Ivey said. “In consideration of the current surge of the virus and the strain on our dedicated healthcare professionals, I have directed the $12.3 million of CARES Act funding be reallocated to recruit more trained staff to our nursing corps. Until our vaccination rates rise and our COVID-19 hospitalization rates fall, we will need the extra support these nurses provide.”

COVID cases in Alabama continue to surge, setting a new record of 4,705 new cases per day this week. Total hospitalizations declined—however, the number of patients in the ICU and on ventilators both set records.

The number of new COVID cases among school students more than doubled, with over 9,100 new cases reported in the last week, impacting 51 school districts.

Arizona

Kelly Walker, the owner of Viva Coffee House in Tuscon, Arizona, is no stranger to controversy. Rishi Rambaran is a 40-year-old parent of a student who attends Mesquite Elementary School in Tuscon. His child was told they would have to quarantine because of a COVID exposure and would not attend a school field trip.

Walker posted on his business’s Facebook page, “Apparently, Mesquite Elementary thinks they can break the law and act like the covid Gestapo. We will be headed over there shortly to disagree. Come join us because we won’t have this in OUR community!

Facebook post from Kelly Walker’s business Viva Coffee, highlighting another post from Rishi Rambaran

Walker, Rambaran, his child, and a third unidentified adult entered the school, confronted principal Diane Vargo in her office, and threatened her with a citizen’s arrest. Walker was allegedly equipped with black “military-style” zip-tie handcuffs and streamed the whole incident on his Instagram account. Vargo asked them to leave, and when they refused, called the police.

Vargo was forced to leave the school grounds for her own safety, and the men left before police arrived. Officials credit Vargo for using her active shooter training to deescalate the situation. Rambaran has been arrested and is facing a criminal charge of trespass. School officials and the Pinal County Sheriff say they are working on charges for the other men. There was no indication if Child Protective Services have become involved because a juvenile witnessed the interaction.

Vargo did nothing illegal and followed the guidelines established by the Republican-run Arizona state legislature and quarantining the child.

Editorial Opinion: Individuals such as Kelly Walker are a danger to the United States. He represents a small subset of very vocal individuals who actively foment the idea of violent action against the government and anyone that opposes his worldview. People like him, who have never served in a war zone, never been shot at, never watched their comrade’s in arms die, have a dangerous lust for the violence they’ve never experienced. His words and actions have motivated others into dangerous actions. We fully support the rights of the First Amendment to speak of your grievances and seek redress from the government. Continued calls for violence at a local, state, or federal level that lead people to action, are akin to screaming fire in a crowded movie theater. To quote the late Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart, “I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description, and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it.”

(yes, Justice Stewart was addressing hardcore pornography, it’s an analogy)

We would also be remiss if we did not point out, the only person arrested to date is a member of the BIPOC community. The events that happened yesterday directly result from disinformation campaigns and the radicalization of a subset of Americans with continued calls for violence.

Arkansas

We reported last week about Dr. Rob Karas, who was prescribing Ivermectin to inmates at the Washington County Jail with the approval of Sheriff Tim Helder. A couple of days later, we reported that Dr. Karas was under investigation by the state of Arkansas Medical Board.

According to a report in the Associated Press, multiple prisoners have come forward stating they were never told they were receiving Ivermectin. Some were told they were receiving vitamins or steroids.

Edrick Floreal-Wooten, an inmate, said he was given ivermectin at the jail after testing positive on Aug. 21.

“I asked what are they, and they’d just tell me vitamins,” Floreal-Wooten said. “With me being sick and all of us being sick, we thought that they were there to help us. I never thought they would do something shady.”

After seeing a news article about ivermectin being prescribed to inmates, Floreal-Wooten said he refused to take the drug last week.

Asked whether he would have taken the drug had they told him at the outset it was ivermectin, he responded: “Never. I’m not livestock. I’m a human.”

The ACLU said it has also heard from several inmates who say they were told the drug was vitamins or steroids.

Anti-vaccination disinformation recently latched on to the Nuremberg Code, and in some cases, has threatened people with citizens arrest, violence, and execution.

In 2017, JAMA had this to say. “The story of the Nuremberg Code is not one of the ethical norms taking on the force of law. Rather, its legacy shows the fundamental importance of a robust, organized medical profession that protects its independence from political interests and its ability to chart its own moral course, yet is at the same time open to the essential role of nations and government agencies that respect broadly defined and agreed-upon rules to protect the rights and well-being of human research participants.”

California

Like Missouri and maybe Florida (read further), California appears to be moving past a peak in COVID cases. That doesn’t mean the 3rd largest state geographically and with the largest population isn’t seeing hot spots in rural areas. The Central Valley, northern California along the I-5 corridor, and hospitals in Sacramento are still dealing with a massive surge of patients as Delta tears through the unvaccinated.

The high caseload is impacting schools, with several districts being forced to close their doors. The situation is further complicated by regional wildfires creating dangerous conditions at times.

Colorado

If you see a pattern of COVID plus schools equal problems in schools, you would be correct. The number of COVID cases in Colorado schools tripled this past week, impacting 43 learning institutions. Positive infections among students grew to 410 this week, which indirectly impacts exposed students and educations who then must quarantine.

A doctor in Denver found a seller of fake vaccination cards on a gun-selling website, and the state attorney general’s office is now investigating.

Florida

Yesterday’s spike in COVID cases was likely an outlier, as the trend of falling new cases and hospitalizations continue in Florida. We feel confident in saying Florida has hit its peak. “While the total number of hospitalizations remain high and workforce challenges remain, it is encouraging that fewer hospitals are expecting critical staffing and oxygen shortages. As Floridians continue to get vaccinated and with expanded availability of monoclonal antibody treatments for those who test positive, it looks like the worst of this surge may finally be behind us.”

Over 40,000 Floridians have received monoclonal antibody treatments, reducing hospitalizations by 10%.

As tens of thousands of students are now in quarantine due to COVID exposure, more school districts are considering mask mandates in open rebellion of governor Ron DeSantis. Since DeSantis’ order, more than a dozen Florida counties have rebelled and voted to require masks to protect students and teachers as the Delta variant sweeps across the state.

Earlier this week, populous Brevard County along Florida’s east coast, which went for Trump over President Joe Biden by more than 16 percentage points in November, narrowly voted to approve a 30-day school mask mandate.

A day later, Hernando County, which supported Trump over Biden by almost 30 points, also passed a mandate, but one that allows parents to opt-out.

Georgia

Georgia hit a grim milestone, logging its 20,000 confirmed COVID death since February 2020. After setting a record for hospitalizations yesterday, the numbers declined slightly on Friday. However, the state reported 106 deaths yesterday, which could account for the drop in hospitalizations.

Hawaii

A city council meeting in Honolulu led by Mayor Rick Blagiardi devolved into a shouting match and a platform for misinformation as more than 250 people spoke virtually.

Many of those who spoke repeated misinformation about the shots that are circulating on the internet.

Outside Honolulu Hale, demonstrators stood in protest. Inside the city building, they listened to the virtual council hearing without wearing masks.

The mayor addressed the overwhelming takeaway of the testimony, telling councilmembers, “The kinds of things you’re hearing today, ‘It’s my right to get sick, and when I get sick, you have to take care of me’ has a breaking point.”

The issue of out-of-state travelers came up, but Dr. Julius Pham of Queen’s Medical Center pushed back.

“Mostly, it’s travel among our own residents who have gone out of state and have come back.”

The medical experts also underscored the gravity of the situation, saying that hospitals are overflowing with COVID patients and quickly running low on supplies.

Councilmember Tommy Waters called the testimony “sobering.”

Iowa

New data out of Iowa echoes data across the United States – most patients in the ICU with COVID are unvaccinated. The state moved from reporting data once a week to three times a week and rolled out new dashboards today.

As of Friday, the Iowa Department of Public Health reports that 88.7% of COVID-19 patients in intensive care are not fully vaccinated.

Individuals not fully vaccinated make up for 82% of patients hospitalized because of COVID-19.

The Iowa DPH reports 527 COVID-19 patients in Iowa hospitals, with 100 admitted in the past 24-hours. One hundred and forty-two patients are in intensive care.

Kentucky

The situation in Kentucky has gone from bad to very bad in the last 24 hours. Kentucky Children’s Hospital in Lexington has reached full capacity, with COVID patients and children infected with RSV. The hospital has 199 total beds, including 16 PICU and PCICU beds, 12 progressive care unit beds, and 43 acute care beds. The hospital is also a Level 1 pediatric trauma hospital. State officials reported 5,111 new cases today, 30% of them among children 18-years old and younger.

Almost 90% of all ICU beds in Kentucky are occupied, with 661 people fighting COVID. A stunning 69% of people in ICU are on ventilators. The mortality rate for people infected with the Delta variant and on a ventilator for 7 or more days is close to 70%.

Like Idaho, FEMA strike teams have been deployed to the state to shore up exhausted and demoralized medical staff.

Gov. Beshear said three FEMA Emergency Medical Services (EMS) strike teams are on site in Kentucky tasked with transfers and transporting COVID-19 patients. The EMS strike teams are being managed by the Kentucky Board of Emergency Management Services (KBEMS) through American Medical Response.

Each team is comprised of five advanced life support ambulances, and each ambulance is staffed with one paramedic and one emergency medical technician (EMT). Each strike team is positioned regionally in Somerset, Prestonsburg, and Louisville. They are centrally dispatched and can respond to any area in the state.

Nevada

The Clark County School Board of Trustees authorized mandating the COVID-19 vaccine for employees during a marathon meeting that stretched into early Thursday morning, but the plan itself remains subject to negotiations with employee bargaining groups.

The 5-1 vote came after five hours of public testimony — the overwhelming majority of which was in opposition — and more than two hours of discussion. Trustee Danielle Ford cast the lone dissident vote, outlining a myriad of concerns ranging from operational challenges to medical accommodations being upheld. 

Trustee Katie Williams, who has unabashedly argued for personal choice regarding vaccines, participated at the beginning of the meeting by phone but was not present for the vote. Last week, she included a hashtag known to be affiliated with the QAnon conspiracy theory in a tweet about the potential vaccine mandate. The tweet was later deleted.

Before the public weighed in, Clark County Superintendent Jesus Jara laid out his pitch for approving the resolution, which merely gives staff the green light to develop a plan for mandating the vaccine. 

“The best medically available mitigation strategy we currently have is the vaccine,” he said. “The authority that I am requesting is to allow me as the superintendent to develop a plan and processes necessary to implement the full vaccination of our staff. I am not — let me be clear — I am not asking for authority for student vaccinations. Planning takes time. Development of the processes takes time. COVID-19 is not waiting.”

Clark County includes the city of Las Vegas, where a significant majority of all Nevada residents live.

Oklahoma

An Oklahoma judge blocked a state law banning public school mask mandates but added a requirement that parents and students could opt out if they wanted to.

Judge Natalie Mai said she would issue a temporary injunction that will go into effect next week when she issues a written order detailing her ruling. Mai said she is blocking the law because it applies only to public, not private, schools and that schools adopting a mask mandate must provide an option for parents or students to opt-out of the requirement.

The ruling drew praise from Gov. Kevin Stitt, who signed the law and opposes mask mandates without exemptions, and Dr. Mary Clarke, president of the Oklahoma State Medical Association, which joined the lawsuit brought by four parents who oppose the law.

Oregon

More hospitals in Oregon have requested mobile morgues as fatalities continue to rise. Providence Portland and Providence St. Vincent hospitals are bringing in temporary morgues, and Salem Health has signed a contract for a temporary morgue if needed.

“We’ve never seen anything like this,” said Salem Health CEO Cheryl Nester Wolf in testimony to the Salem Chamber of Commerce on Thursday. “We didn’t see this at the beginning of the pandemic. The delta variant is a horse of a different color than where we started.”

Models predict that Oregon will hit its peak next week.

An Oregon State Trooper from Bend is on paid leave after post a video on social media in uniform from his issued vehicle. However, he does not directly identify himself as a member of the Oregon State Patrol.

“I have personal and religious reasons as to why I will not take the vaccine, but also the freedom not to,” said the trooper, which Portland attorney Dan Thenell confirmed to NewsChannel 21 is Zachary Kowing, 29, an eight-year OSP trooper assigned to the Bend office.

Kowing posted the 2-minute, 35-second video about a week ago on his Instagram account, thinblueline_patriot, where he refers to himself as “pro-choice-life” and “pro-freedom,” with a ‘SAVE OREGON!’ logo over the U.S. flag.

He calls mask requirements illegal (they mostly aren’t depending on the language) while saying he didn’t oppose vaccination in general but would rather rely “on his body’s ability to fight the virus.”

South Carolina

Pediatric cases are exploding in South Carolina, which now has the highest infection rate in the United States for all ages. Dr. Jonathan Knoche, DHEC medical consultant, said that, since Aug. 21, the 11 to 20 age group had recorded the highest number of new cases in the state. The second highest group are those 0 to 10 age group.

South Dakota

Hospitalizations in South Dakota are now at the highest level since January, as new COVID cases have increased 685% since the first day of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally on August 6. The surge in new cases, total cases, and hospitalizations far exceed the surge in cases the state saw in 2020 after the famous motorcycle rally.

Texas

Small town Texas is reeling from the closure of 45 school districts, impacting 42,000 students. From August 23 to 29, 27,353 students tested positive for COVID in the Lonestar state.

“By far, this is worse in terms of planning than last year,” said Tim Savoy, spokesperson for Hays Consolidated Independent School District, which closed some classrooms. “There’s no question about it. Last year we had a lot of tools at our disposal: We could require masks, and we could provide a virtual option that was funded. The delta variant really kind of appeared and just exploded on us.”

State data about the number of coronavirus cases in districts that have closed at least once during the school year thus far is incomplete — 19 have not reported any cases in students or staff to the state, while the state has suppressed case totals in 22 districts due to privacy policies. The list of public school closures in Texas is also incomplete, according to TEA. The agency is tracking closures informally based on media and district reports since districts are not required to report closures to TEA, said Frank Ward, an agency spokesperson.

The closures have been particularly hard in Deep East Texas, with districts closed in Brackett, Groveton, Hemphill, Livingston, Lumberton, Onalaska, and Trinity.

While Governor Greg Abbott was on CNBC tonight saying things were going well in Texas, the Texas Department of State Health Services removed an FAQ page on the practice referring to it as “the oldest, most utilized, and most important tool public health uses to manage infectious diseases.”

The new state budget, which took effect September 1, prohibits the use of state funds “for the purpose of contact tracing of COVID-19.”

Misinformation

Taking the day off

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