Live: Coronavirus daily news updates, August 19: What to know today about COVID-19 in the Seattle area, Washington state and the world

Table of Contents 9:41 am Americans spent less in July as COVID-19 cases surged4 of

The Biden administration moved on multiple fronts on Wednesday to fight back against the surging delta variant, strongly recommending booster shots for most vaccinated American adults and using federal leverage to force nursing homes to vaccinate their staffs.

In another step aimed at curbing the virus’ spread, the United States is urging the more than 150 countries planning to send representatives to the U.N. General Assembly next month to consider giving a video address instead.

In Washington, as hospitals are straining under a shortage of health care staffers, Gov. Jay Inslee has brought back a statewide mask requirement and ordered all public, private and charter school employees to receive the COVID-19 vaccine as subject to their employment.

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 and the world.

4 of Florida’s 5 largest school districts to require masks

Students arrive to on the firs day to the newly-rebuilt Addison Mizner School in Boca Raton, Tuesday, Aug. 10, 2021. Palm Beach County Schools opened the school year with a masking requirement with an opt-out option. (Joe Cavaretta/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP)

As more large school districts defy Florida’s ban on strict mask mandates, worries that rapidly spreading infections could force them to close classrooms are no longer theoretical: Thousands of schoolchildren are already being sent home, only days after their school year began.

Children — particularly those too young to get vaccinated against COVID-19 — are “really good” at transmitting the coronavirus, said Dr. J. Stacey Klutts, a special assistant to the national director of pathology and lab medicine for the entire Veterans Affairs system.

Klutts said the highly contagious delta variant makes it absolutely necessary to wear masks indoors and avoid large group gatherings, so if unprotected students sit for hours in classrooms every day, it could rapidly spread infection in the community at large.

“It’s terrifying. I’m afraid that we’re going to have a lot of really sick kids in addition to the spread which is going to be a lot of sick adults,” Klutts said.

School boards in Palm Beach, Miami-Dade and Hillsborough counties voted Wednesday to join Broward and Alachua in requiring students to wear facial coverings unless they get a doctor’s note. With Orange County still allowing an easy parental opt-out, four of Florida’s five largest districts are now defying Gov. Ron DeSantis’ ban on strict mask mandates.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

Smaller landlords looking for outs amid federal eviction moratorium extension

Rental property owner Ryan David poses for a photograph in Pittston, Pa., Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2021. Landlords say they have suffered financially due to various state, local and federal moratoriums in place since last year, amid the pandemic. David fears the $2,000 he’s owed in back rent will quickly climb to thousands more as a result of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announcing a new moratorium, lasting until Oct. 3. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Smaller landlords with fewer than four units, who often don’t have the financing of larger property owners, have been hit especially hard by pandemic eviction moratoriums, with as many as 58% having tenants behind on rent, according to the National Association of Realtors.

Landlords, big and small, are angry about the moratoriums, which they consider illegal. Many believe some tenants could have paid rent, if not for the moratorium. And the $47 billion in federal rental assistance that was supposed to make landlords whole has been slow to materialize. By July, only $3 billion of the first tranche of $25 billion had been distributed.

There are now more than 15 million people living in households that owe as much as $20 billion in back rent, according to the Aspen Institute.

The latest moratorium “was the final gut punch,” said Ryan David of New York who bought three rental properties back in 2017. He expected the $1,000-a-month he was pocketing after expenses would be regular sources of income into his retirement years. Now, the 39-year-old plans to sell.

He and other landlords say they have tenants who received paychecks, drove luxury cars, got food deliveries or went on vacation throughout the pandemic but didn’t bother to pay rent or file for rental assistance.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

Hundreds in Tri-Cities protest Washington mandates on masks, COVID vaccines

Hundreds of Tri-Cities residents protested Wednesday outside the Kennewick School District headquarters and the local health department office.

The rallies were initially organized to oppose Washington state’s school mask mandate, then Gov. Jay Inslee announced that school employees must be fully vaccinated by Oct. 18.

What began as about 40 people at a “Freedom of Choice” demonstration outside the Benton Franklin Health District in the afternoon grew to several hundred people waving signs at the school district offices by Wednesday evening.

Read the story here.

—Cameron Probert, Tri-City Herald (Kennewick, Wash.)

Gulf Coast’s beloved ‘Redneck Riviera’ now a virus hotspot

Beachgoers are shown on the coast at Gulf Shores, Ala., on Thursday, Aug. 12, 2021. Alabama’s coastal counties lead the state in new COVID-19 cases, and some events have been canceled in Florida and Louisiana because of the latest surge. Health officials believe the spike is due to a combination of some of the nation’s lowest vaccination rates, unabated tourism, a disregard for basic health precautions and the region’s carefree lifestyle. (Jay Reeves / The Associated Press)

Tourists and servers alike dance atop tables and in the aisles at one restaurant on the “Redneck Riviera,” a beloved stretch of towns along the northern Gulf Coast where beaches, bars and stores are packed. Yet just a few miles away, a hospital is running out of critical care beds, its rooms full of unvaccinated people fighting for their lives.

On maps that show virus “hot spots” in red, this part of the U.S. coast is glowing like a bad sunburn. And a summer of booming tourism that followed the lockdowns and travel restrictions of 2020 is making the turn toward fall with only a few signs of slowing down. The National Shrimp Festival, which draws as many as 250,000 people to the Alabama coast, is set for October despite the COVID-19 explosion.

Health officials believe the spike is due to a combination of some of the nation’s lowest vaccination rates, unabated tourism, a disregard for basic health precautions and the region’s carefree lifestyle, all combining at a time when the mutated virus is more contagious than ever and conservative states are balking at new health restrictions.

Read the story here.

—Jay Reeves, The Associated Press

States banning mask mandates could face civil rights probes

In an escalating battle with Republican governors, President Joe Biden on Wednesday ordered his Education secretary to explore possible legal action against states that have blocked school mask mandates and other public health measures meant to protect students against COVID-19.

In response, the Education Department raised the possibility of using its civil rights arm to fight policies in Florida, Texas, Iowa and other Republican-led states that have barred public schools from requiring masks in the classroom.

Biden directed Education Secretary Miguel Cardona to “assess all available tools” that can be used against states that fail to protect students amid surging coronavirus cases.

It amounts to the sharpest threat yet against states that so far have ignored admonishments from the White House during the surging pandemic.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

WSU football coach Nick Rolovich may be required to receive COVID-19 vaccine because of new mandate

Nick Rolovich has thus far declined to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, but as a result of a new state mandate, the Washington State football coach may be required to get one.

Gov. Jay Inslee announced Wednesday that employees working in various educational roles — from early learning to higher education — must be fully vaccinated by Oct. 18 as a condition of employment. College contractors such as coaches and athletic trainers are not exempt.

Exceptions are limited to “legitimate medical reasons and sincerely held religious beliefs,” according to a news release.

Otherwise, “individuals who refuse to get vaccinated will be subject to dismissal,” per the release.

Rolovich is the only unvaccinated head football coach in the Pac-12.

Read the story here.

—Colton Clark, The Spokesman-Review

Catch up on the past 24 hours

Washington state now has one of the strictest vaccine mandates in the nation, after Gov. Jay Inslee yesterday ordered all public, private and charter school employees to get vaccinated or get fired (with some exceptions). He also brought back a statewide mask requirement. What does all of this mean for you? Here’s a Q&A on the new mask and vaccine rules, including the timing.

WSU football coach Nick Rolovich, who has controversially refused a vaccine, may have no choice now.

Booster shots are on the way for all U.S. adults. Should you get one? Although President Joe Biden strongly urged most vaccinated adults to do it, current guidance from the CDC doesn’t recommend it. But that may change. Here are answers to seven key questions.

Nursing home workers must get vaccinated or their facilities will lose federal funding, Biden also announced yesterday. Hundreds of thousands of those workers are unvaccinated, according to federal data.

Plan ahead if you’re going to a concert, opera or play, because the Seattle area’s major arts groups will require proof of vaccination or a negative test. And it looks like Garth Brooks won’t be playing Seattle next month after all, because of the COVID-19 surge.

When will tenants and landlords get the help they were promised? More than 100,000 renters in the Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue area are behind on payments, according to a census estimate. But King County has distributed less than 5% of its pot of federal money marked for this purpose, falling far behind neighboring counties.

—Kris Higginson