Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Monday, April 12, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.
Gov. Jay Inslee is expected to announce Monday if any counties have to move backward because of rising COVID-19 cases. Currently, all counties in the state are in Phase 3.
But nearly 70 state business organizations have urged Inslee to delay that decision for three weeks, saying a return to more restrictive coronavirus standards in some counties would hurt businesses.
Moving some counties back to Phase 2 would punish struggling businesses while doing little to stop the spread of COVID, the business groups said in a letter sent Friday night to Inslee.
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.
State reports 791 new coronavirus cases and seven new deaths
The state Department of Health (DOH) reported 791 new coronavirus cases and seven new deaths on Monday.
The update brings the state's totals to 377,952 cases and 5,329 deaths, meaning that 1.4% of people diagnosed in Washington have died, according to the DOH. The data is as of 11:59 p.m. Sunday. Tallies may be higher earlier in the week because new state data isn’t reported on Sundays and COVID-related deaths aren’t reported on the weekends.
In addition, 21,057 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the virus — 96 new hospitalizations. In King County, the state's most populous, state health officials have confirmed a total of 94,775 COVID-19 diagnoses and 1,483 deaths.
On Dec. 16, DOH’s case, hospitalization and death counts started including both confirmed cases and probable cases in its total count. According to DOH, probable cases refer to people who received a positive antigen test result but not a positive molecular test result, while confirmed cases refer to those who have received a positive molecular test result.
The DOH says its daily case reports may also include duplicate test results, results assigned to the wrong county, results that are reported for today but are actually from a previous day, occasional false positive tests and other data discrepancies. Because of this, the previous day’s total number of cases plus the number of new daily cases does not add up to the new day’s total number of cases.
Luke Bryan tests positive for COVID, sidelined from ‘Idol’
Luke Bryan says he’s tested positive for COVID-19, which sidelined him from the season’s first live “American Idol” episode on ABC.
Paula Abdul, an original judge on the talent show when it aired on Fox, was announced as Bryan’s replacement for Monday’s show, joining Lionel Richie and Katy Perry on the panel.
Lin-Manuel Miranda, mayor open new Times Square vaccine site
NEW YORK (AP) — “Hamilton” creator Lin-Manuel Miranda joined New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio on Monday at the grand opening of a Times Square COVID-19 vaccination site intended to jump-start the city’s entertainment industry.
“We want to gather again, and we want to tell stories in the dark,” said Miranda, the author and star of the hit musical about Alexander Hamilton. “We cannot do that if we don’t feel safe and if you don’t feel safe. So the first step in that process is getting our vaccination shots, and the next steps will follow.”
Broadway theaters have been shuttered since the coronavirus pandemic struck in March of last year. De Blasio has said he hopes dedicated vaccination sites will help the industry reopen by September.
The new Times Square vaccine site will be open to workers in theater, film and TV, said the mayor, who stressed the importance of the entertainment industry to the life of the city.
“Yes, it’s part of our economy. Much more importantly it’s part of our identity,” de Blasio said. “It’s part of who we are, it’s part of our hearts. What it means in this city, the theater, the music, the dance, the film and TV, it is our expression of everything that is New York City. It’s our creativity, it’s our heart and soul. We do something here that does not exist anywhere in the world quite like this.”
DeSantis attacks YouTube for yanking his pandemic video
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis attacked YouTube and its parent company Google on Monday, accusing the tech giant of censorship for its decision last week to remove from its platform video of a coronavirus discussion he organized where his panel criticized lockdowns and some mask wearing as ineffective.
DeSantis said YouTube’s contention that video of the March 18 panel violates its ban on the posting of disinformation is an attempt to stifle dissent against the federal government’s pandemic response. That discussion included Dr. Scott Atlas, a radiologist who was a coronavirus adviser to former President Donald Trump, and other physicians who support DeSantis’ decision to open Florida’s economy with few restrictions.
Monday’s attack is part of a bigger war DeSantis and other Republicans are waging against social media giants, including Facebook and Twitter, contending they discriminate against conservatives.
“Google/YouTube has not been throughout this pandemic repositories of truth and scientific inquiry, but have instead acted (as) enforcers of a narrative, a big tech council of censors in service of the ruling elite,” DeSantis said during a Tallahassee press conference with Atlas and other doctors who were on his earlier panel.
Thailand sees record new infections ahead of major festival
Thailand reported 985 new coronavirus cases on Monday, its highest daily increase since the start of the pandemic, and health officials said they were worried the number of new infections could be far higher after this week’s traditional Thai New Year holiday.
Health experts said the third major surge in the country was proving more difficult to control as it was mostly a variant of the virus first found in the U.K. and has mostly affected younger people.
One shot of vaccine may be enough for COVID-19 survivors, studies suggest
For people who have bared their arms for a two-dose COVID-19 vaccine, the message from public health officials has been clear: Get the second shot if you want full protection.
But an emerging body of evidence suggests that there may be an exception to that rule. If you’ve already battled a coronavirus infection, it’s possible that one dose may suffice.
“This has been rumored for a long time, that people with preexisting disease only need a single dose to get really long-lasting immunity,” said Dr. George Rutherford, an infectious disease epidemiologist at UC San Francisco.
Both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines require two doses given a few weeks apart. The first dose essentially primes the immune system to recognize and attack the virus’s telltale spike protein, while the second one prompts the immune system to produce a flood of antibodies.
Sputnik vaccine helping Russia regain LatAm foothold
Russia has been trying to get its coronavirus vaccine Sputnik V into Brazilian arms for months, and been repeatedly frustrated by legal, regulatory and possibly even diplomatic obstacles.
That began to change as the South American nation played catch-up in the global race to snap up shots. Receiving little help from the U.S., which was struggling to get a handle on its own outbreak, Sputnik V seemed as good as any; Brazil’s federal government and a group of nine northeastern states signed two deals with Russia’s sovereign wealth fund, RDIF, for a total 47 million doses. The shot is moving toward regulatory approval.
The vaccine has now been purchased by at least nine Latin American nations, with Brazil its greatest uphill battle.
That growing adoption reflects Russia gaining a greater foothold in the region the U.S. has traditionally viewed as within its sphere of influence — and where the American government had boasted of steering Brazil away from Russian vaccines. It’s similar to China’s success in achieving wide use of its own vaccines in Latin America.
That has caused consternation in U.S. diplomatic circles, although it remains to be seen if Russia’s vaccine outreach will yield deeper partnerships.
Coronavirus vaccine technology is paving the way for a whole new approach to flu shots
The technology used in two of the coronavirus vaccines authorized by the Food and Drug Administration may enable scientists to develop flu shots in record time, but also make inoculations that could be more effective and protect against numerous flu strains for years at a time.
The messenger-RNA technology — used in the Pfizer and Moderna coronavirus vaccines — would be a leap forward for flu shots, some of which still rely on a process developed in the 1950s involving chickens, petri dishes and dead viruses.
Researchers are hopeful that the success of those coronavirus vaccines will grease the wheels for mRNA flu shots and help expedite what is typically a lengthy process involving years of research, clinical trials and regulatory review and approval.
“It’s a very obvious progression given the success of the covid-19 vaccine to move right to flu,” said Andrew Pekosz, a professor of microbiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
As COVID-19 cases rise, Inslee to announce tighter restrictions in some Washington counties
OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee Monday is expected to announce a tightening of COVID-19 restrictions in some of Washington’s counties, as cases of the coronavirus once again begin to rise.
King County, however, was meeting a key public-health metric as of Friday that determines COVID-19 restrictions and could avoid new restrictions, according to county data.
Other places — like Pierce, Yakima and Kittitas counties — could go backward, according to case data collected by The New York Times.
Since March 12, all 39 counties have been in the third phase of the governor’s “Healthy Washington” plan. That has allowed retailers, restaurants, fitness centers and other indoor spaces to operate at up to 50% capacity.
The rollbacks expected Monday aren’t likely to be as far-reaching as they could have been. On Friday, Inslee announced a softening of the criteria for determining which counties would regress.
Counties are evaluated under two key metrics: new cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 people across 14 days, and new hospitalizations per seven days. Larger counties and smaller counties must meet different thresholds for each of those two metrics.
Brazil’s virus outlook darkens amid vaccine supply snags
April is shaping up to be Brazil’s darkest month yet in the pandemic, with hospitals struggling with a crush of patients, deaths on track for record highs and few signs of a reprieve from a troubled vaccination program in Latin America’s largest nation.
The Health Ministry has cut its outlook for vaccine supplies in April three times already, to half their initial level, and the country’s two biggest laboratories are facing supply constraints.
The delays also mean tens of thousands more deaths as the particularly contagious P.1 variant of COVID-19 sweeps Brazil. It has recorded about 350,000 of the 2.9 million virus deaths worldwide, behind only the U.S. toll of over 560,000.
Brazil’s seven-day rolling average has increased to 2,820 deaths per day, compared with the global average of 10,608 per day, according to data through April 8 from Johns Hopkins University.
The death toll is forecast to continue rising in the next two weeks to an average of nearly 3,500 per day before receding, according to the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.
Public health experts blame President Jair Bolsonaro for refusing to enact strict measures to halt infections and for clashing with governors and mayors who did.
Tweaked COVID vaccines in testing aim to fend off variants
Dozens of Americans are rolling up their sleeves for a third dose of COVID-19 vaccine — this time, shots tweaked to guard against a worrisome mutated version of the virus.
Make no mistake: The vaccines currently being rolled out across the U.S. offer strong protection. But new studies of experimental updates to the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines mark a critical first step toward an alternative if the virus eventually outsmarts today’s shots.
“We need to be ahead of the virus,” said Dr. Nadine Rouphael of Emory University, who is helping to lead a study of Moderna’s tweaked candidate. “We know what it’s like when we’re behind.”
It’s not clear if or when protection would wane enough to require an update but, “realistically we want to turn COVID into a sniffle,” she added.
Viruses constantly evolve, and the world is in a race to vaccinate millions and tamp down the coronavirus before even more mutants emerge. More than 119 million Americans have had at least one vaccine dose, and 22% of the population is fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Much of the rest of the world is far behind that pace.
Huge gatherings at India’s Hindu festival as virus surges
Tens of thousands of Hindu devotees gathered by the Ganges River for special prayers Monday, many of them flouting social distancing practices as the coronavirus spreads in India with record speed.
The Kumbh Mela, or pitcher festival, is one of the most sacred pilgrimages in Hinduism. The faithful congregate in the northern city of Haridwar and take a dip in the waters of the Ganges, which they believe will absolve them of their sins and deliver them from the cycle of birth and death.
The Kumbh Mela, which runs through April, comes during India’s worst surge in new infections since the pandemic began, with a seven-day rolling average of more than 130,000 new cases per day. Hospitals are becoming overwhelmed with patients, and experts worry the worst is yet to come.
Critics of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party say the festival has been allowed at a time when infections are skyrocketing because the government isn’t willing to anger Hindus, who are the party’s biggest supporters.
With the surge showing no sign of slowing, India’s confirmed infections since the pandemic began surpassed Brazil’s total on Monday to make it the second-worst hit country in the world.
Czechs start to ease lockdown, youngest kids back to schools
As the coronavirus pandemic eases up in the Czech Republic, one of the European Union’s hardest-hit countries took its first steps on Monday toward easing of its tight lockdown.
As of Monday, Czechs are allowed again to travel to other counties and a night-time curfew has ended. The tight restrictions had taken effect at the beginning of March as the Central European nation was desperate to slow down the spread of a highly contagious virus variant first found in Britain.
Children up to the fifth grade returned Monday to school under strict conditions. All have to wear face masks and be tested twice a week. They are also returning on a rotating basis at first, with in-school attendance one week and distance learning the next.
Tokyo adopts tougher virus rules, starts vaccinating elders
Tokyo adopted tougher measures against the coronavirus Monday as Japanese authorities struggle to curb the spread of a more contagious variant ahead of the Olympics in a country where less than 1% of people have been vaccinated.
Japan started its vaccination drive with medical workers and expanded that Monday to older residents with the first shots being given in about 120 selected places around the country.
The tougher COVID-19 rules, just three weeks after a nonbinding state of emergency ended in the capital, allow Tokyo’s governor to mandate shorter opening hours for bars and restaurants, punish violators and compensate those who comply. The measures are to remain through May 11.
The status was also raised for Kyoto in western Japan and the southern island prefecture of Okinawa and is to last through May 5, the end of Japan’s “Golden Week” holidays, to discourage traveling.
Small but quick: Bhutan vaccinates 93% of adults in 16 days
When plotted on a graph, the curve of Bhutan’s COVID-19 vaccination drive shoots upwards from the very first day, crossing Israel, the United States, Bahrain and other countries known for vaccinating people rapidly.
Those countries took months to reach where they are, painstakingly strengthening their vaccination campaigns in the face of rising coronavirus cases. But the story of Bhutan’s vaccination campaign is nearly finished — just 16 days after it began.
The tiny Himalayan kingdom wedged between India and China has vaccinated nearly 93% of its adult population since March 27. Overall, the country has vaccinated 62% of its 800,000 people.
The rapid rollout of the vaccine puts the tiny nation just behind Seychelles, which has given jabs to 66% of its population of nearly 100,000 people.
Its small population helped Bhutan move fast, but its success has also been attributed to its dedicated citizen volunteers, known as “desuups,” and established cold chain storage used during earlier vaccination drives.
Bhutan received its first 150,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine from neighboring India in January, but the shots were distributed beginning in late March to coincide with auspicious dates in Buddhist astrology.
Danes vaccinate 100,000 people in a day to test system
Denmark’s Health Minister declared Monday “the big vaccine day,” with 100,000 people to be vaccinated in one day as officials test the system ahead of a June rollout where four times as many people as that will be vaccinated each day.
The shots will be given in 68 inoculation centers across the country of nearly 6 million. Minister Magnus Heunicke said Danes will “set a new record,” and urged people to arrive on time and have high spirits.
Chilly weather doesn’t dampen UK joy at lockdown easing
People across Britain flocked to shed shaggy locks and browse for clothes, books and other “non-essential” items as shops, gyms, hairdressers, restaurant patios and beer gardens reopened Monday after months of lockdown.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged people to “behave responsibly” as the country that has had Europe’s deadliest coronavirus outbreak took a big step on its roadmap toward a resumption of normal life.
Monday brought the easing of restrictions that have been in place in England since early January to suppress a surge in infections linked to a more transmissible new virus variant first identified in the southeast of the country.
Long lines formed outside some stores, including a branch of Nike Town on London’s busy Oxford Street, and pubs and restaurants with outdoor space reported a flood of bookings.
Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, said businesses that have endured months of enforced closure were “excited and desperate” to welcome customers back.
US colleges divided over requiring student vaccinations
U.S. colleges hoping for a return to normalcy next fall are weighing how far they should go in urging students to get the COVID-19 vaccine, including whether they should — or legally can — require it.
Universities including Rutgers, Brown, Cornell and Northeastern recently told students they must get vaccinated before returning to campus next fall. They hope to achieve herd immunity on campus, which they say would allow them to loosen spacing restrictions in classrooms and dorms. But some colleges are leaving the decision to students, and others believe they can’t legally require vaccinations.
The question looms large as more colleges plan to shift back from remote to in-person instruction. Many schools have launched vaccination blitzes to get students immunized before they leave for the summer. At some schools, the added requirement is meant to encourage holdouts and to build confidence that students and faculty will be safe on campus.
Catch up on the past 24 hours
Will your county have to go back to Phase 2 of reopening? We'll find out today as Gov. Jay Inslee takes a look at key coronavirus numbers after making a change that's likely to keep many counties in Phase 3. Here's a refresher on what life looks like in each phase.
Vaccinated adults + unvaccinated kids = summer dilemmas. Public health experts are providing a road map by explaining how they plan to vacation with their own families.
In three days, every Washingtonian age 16 and up will be eligible for a vaccine. Seattleites can already register to get notifications of vaccine appointments. Here's our guide to getting yours, and the latest CDC guidelines on what vaccinated people can and can't do safely.
Skin rashes are popping up after vaccines in a small number of people — but that shouldn't deter patients from getting the second shot, doctors say. Instead, it could be a "good thing."
A pandemic silver lining: Your routine flu shot may be taking a big leap forward.
Things we don't need back after the pandemic: There are the obvious ones, like terrible commutes and corporate retreats. But Ron Judd has some quirkier items to throw out, too. His won't-miss list is a fun read.
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