Coronavirus daily news updates, October 15: What to know today about COVID-19 in the Seattle area, Washington state and the world

While case counts are decreasing across the state, all large events in Washington will soon require proof of vaccination or a negative test. Gov. Jay Inslee announced the new policy Thursday, which applies to indoor events with more than 1,000 people and outdoor events with more than 10,000.

Meanwhile, U.S. health advisers said Thursday that some Americans who received Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine at least six months ago should get a half-dose booster to rev up protection against the coronavirus.

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.

Russia breaks record again for COVID-19 deaths, infections

Russia’s daily tolls of coronavirus infections and deaths surged to another record on Friday, a quickly mounting figure that has put a severe strain on the country’s health care system.

The government’s coronavirus task force reported 32,196 new confirmed coronavirus cases and 999 deaths in the past 24 hours.

The record for daily COVID-19 deaths in Russia has been broken repeatedly over the past few weeks, as fatalities steadily approach 1,000 in a single day. It comes amid increasing infections and a reluctance by authorities to toughen restrictions that would further cripple the economy.

The government said this week that about 43 million Russians, or just about 29% of the country’s nearly 146 million people, are fully vaccinated. Authorities have tried to speed up the pace of vaccination with lotteries, bonuses and other incentives, but widespread vaccine skepticism and conflicting signals from officials stymied the efforts.

Despite the mounting toll, the Kremlin has also ruled out a new nationwide lockdown like the one early on in the pandemic that badly hurt the economy, eroding President Vladimir Putin’s popularity.

Read the story here.

—Vladimir Isachenkov, The Associated Press


Newly discovered bat viruses give hints to COVID’s origins

An undated photo provided by Kevin K. Caldwell, shows a least horseshoe bat, Rhinolophus pusillus, one of three species of horseshoe bat observed in a recent study. Coronaviruses discovered in Laotian bats are surprisingly adept at infecting human cells, showing that such deadly features can indeed evolve outside of a lab. (Kevin K. Caldwell via The New York Times) — NO SALES; FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY WITH NYT STORY SCI-VIRUS-BATS BY CARL ZIMMER FOR OCT. 14, 2021. ALL OTHER USE PROHIBITED. — XNYT XNYT

In the summer of 2020, half a year into the coronavirus pandemic, scientists traveled into the forests of northern Laos to catch bats that might harbor close cousins of the pathogen.

The fecal samples the collected turned out to contain coronaviruses, which the scientists studied in high-security biosafety labs, known as BSL-3, using specialized protective gear and air filters.

Three of the Laos coronaviruses were unusual: They carried a molecular hook on their surface that was very similar to the hook on the virus that causes COVID-19, called SARS-CoV-2. Like SARS-CoV-2, their hook allowed them to latch onto human cells.

“It is even better than early strains of SARS-CoV-2,” said Marc Eloit, a virus expert at the Pasteur Institute in Paris who led the study, referring to how well the hook on the Laos coronaviruses binds to human cells.

The findings have significant implications for the charged debate over COVID’s origins, experts say. Some people have speculated that SARS-CoV-2’s impressive ability to infect human cells could not have evolved through a natural spillover from an animal. But the new findings seem to suggest otherwise.

Read the story here.

—Carl Zimmer, The New York Times

Wyoming district where student arrested extends mask mandate

High School junior Grace Smith, 16, and her father Andy Smith poses in the Laramie Boomerang newsroom in Laramie Wyo., Thursday, Oct. 7, 2021. Police had arrested Grace Smith earlier that day when she violated a school mask mandate and allegedly refused to leave Laramie High School. The school district voted Wednesday Oct. 13, 2021, to extend the mask mandate another month. (Greg Johnson/Laramie Boomerang via AP)

A mask-wearing mandate will continue for at least another month in a Wyoming school district where a student who wouldn’t wear a mask got arrested for allegedly refusing to leave her high school.

Grace Smith, 16, might not be involved in future confrontations at Laramie High School, however. The junior said she was withdrawing after being “bullied, discriminated against and worst of all, legitimately threatened.”

Albany County School District No. 1 trustees voted 6-1 later in the meeting to extend the district’s mask mandate for everybody inside district buildings until Nov. 12. The mask requirement had been set to expire this Friday.

Wyoming has had one of the lowest vaccination rates and highest COVID-19 rates in the U.S. but the district is among just a few in Wyoming to require masks this fall. Smith’s anti-mask stance is widespread in this conservative state, where Republican Gov. Mark Gordon has vowed not to return to mask mandates since imposing an unpopular one last winter.

Laramie — home to the University of Wyoming, which has been requiring masks in most of its buildings this fall — has been somewhat more receptive to masks than many Wyoming communities which also have had heated debates over masks this fall.

Police arrested Smith at her high school Oct. 7 after she served two consecutive, two-day suspensions for not wearing a mask.

Read the story here.

—Mead Gruver, The Associated Press

Catch up on the past 24 hours

—Kris Higginson

Article Source: The Seattle Times