Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Wednesday, April 14, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.
Back in its usual April date (after pivoting to July during last year’s pandemic flurry of rescheduling), the Seattle Black Film Festival is once again an all-digital event. Now in its 18th year, the SBFF — formerly called the Langston Hughes African American Film Festival — will run April 16-26. It will include twice as many films as last year, with more than 70 feature-length films and shorts. A quarter of the films are from outside the U.S.; countries represented include Zimbabwe, Eritrea, Canada, French Guiana, Brazil, Ghana and the United Kingdom.
Federal health officials warned doctors and patients Tuesday to watch for symptoms that could indicate an extremely rare but serious form of blood clot in the brain suffered by six women who received Johnson & Johnson’s coronavirus vaccine. The symptoms include headaches, leg pain, abdominal pain and shortness of breath that begin six to 13 days after receipt of the vaccine, officials said. Vaccine recipients with those symptoms that start a week or so after immunization should seek medical attention to determine whether they have a low count of blood-clotting platelets in their blood.
Vaccination rates appear to reflect deep divide between red and blue states
SAVANNAH, Georgia (AP) — With coronavirus shots now in the arms of nearly half of American adults, the parts of the U.S. that are excelling and those that are struggling with vaccinations are starting to look like the nation’s political map: deeply divided between red and blue states.
Out in front is New Hampshire, where 65% of the population age 18 and older has received at least one dose of the vaccine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Following close behind are New Mexico, Connecticut, Maine and Massachusetts at 55% or greater. All have a history of voting Democratic and supported President Joe Biden in the 2020 election.
Meanwhile, at the bottom are five states where fewer than 40% have rolled up their sleeves for a shot. Four of them — Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana and Tennessee — lean Republican and voted for Donald Trump last fall. The fifth is Georgia, which has a Republican governor and supported GOP presidential candidates for nearly three decades before narrowly backing Biden.
The emerging pattern: Americans in blue states that lean Democratic appear to be getting vaccinated at more robust rates, while those in red Republican states seem to be more hesitant.
Denmark abandons AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine after rare blood clots
Danish health authorities on Wednesday decided to permanently suspend the use of the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine amid concerns that it causes blood clots in rare cases.
Denmark became the first European country to abandon the vaccine altogether after temporary suspensions in Europe last month following the discovery of rare and sometimes fatal blood clots among a small number of people who had received it. Most countries have resumed vaccinating with the AstraZeneca shots, many of them with restrictions that it be used only on older people, who appear less at risk for the blood clots.
The Danish move was a signal of the depth of concerns about the shot’s side effects in at least some European countries, given that the virus continues to spread across Europe despite the ongoing vaccination campaign. Any delay in inoculations could lead to more cases and, potentially, more deaths. Danish authorities said the decision to stop using the AstraZeneca vaccine will probably delay their efforts by several weeks.
State health officials confirm 1,371 new coronavirus cases in Washington
The state Department of Health (DOH) reported 1,371 new coronavirus cases and 17 new deaths on Wednesday.
The update brings the state's totals to 380,339 cases and 5,357 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. Tuesday.
In addition, 21,239 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the virus — 55 new hospitalizations. In King County, the state's most populous, state health officials have confirmed a total of 95,347 COVID-19 diagnoses and 1,490 deaths.
Since vaccinations began in mid-December, the state and health care providers have administered 4,299,251 doses and 23.06% of Washingtonians have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to vaccination data, which the state updates on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Providers are currently giving an average of about 62,306 vaccine shots per day.
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. State health officials recommend reviewing the dashboard's epidemiologic curves tab for the most accurate representation of the state's COVID-19 spread.
Bodies pile up at India crematoriums overwhelmed by virus surge
India’s crematoriums and burial grounds are working overtime to cope with the surging number of deaths from the country’s escalating coronavirus outbreak.
India is now the world’s second worst-hit nation, having overtaken Brazil once again Monday with a sharp jump up in daily new infections over the last 10 days for a grand total of nearly 13.7 million cases. On Tuesday the country reported 161,736 new cases and 879 deaths — more than four times the daily average in January.
Local media have been filled with grim reports of melting furnaces at crematoriums running nonstop, bodies piling up and smoke from continuously burning flesh creating another health risk for locals. Workers at six crematoriums across the country confirmed the scenes in phone interviews, saying they’ve seen COVID-19 deaths climbing.
“Earlier 15 to 20 bodies were coming in a day and now around 80 to 100 dead bodies are coming daily,” said Kamlesh Sailor, the president of a trust operating a crematorium in Surat, a city in the industry-heavy western state of Gujarat.
J&J vaccine to remain in limbo while officials seek evidence
Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine will remain in limbo a while longer after U.S. health advisers told the government Wednesday that they need more evidence to decide if a handful of unusual blood clots were linked to the shot — and if so, how big the potential risk really is.
The reports are exceedingly rare — six cases out of more than 7 million U.S. inoculations with the one-dose vaccine. But the government recommended a pause in J&J vaccinations this week, not long after European regulators declared that such clots are a rare but possible risk with the AstraZeneca vaccine, a shot made in a similar way but not yet approved for use in the U.S.
At an emergency meeting, advisers to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention wrestled with the fact that the U.S. has enough vaccine alternatives to do without the J&J vaccine for a time, but other countries anxiously awaiting the one-and-done shot may not.
One committee member, Dr. Grace Lee, was among those who advocated tabling a vote. She echoed concerns about getting more data to better understand the size of the risk and whether it was greater for any particular group of people.
“I continue to feel like we’re in a race against time and the variants, but we need to (move forward) in the safest possible way,” said Lee, of Stanford University.
Europe scrambles as J&J vaccine delay deals another blow
European countries diverged Wednesday on whether they would push ahead with giving their residents Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine after reports of very rare blood clots in a handful of recipients in the United States.
While some European Union members put the vaccine on hold as recommended by the American company, Poland, France and Hungary said they would go ahead and administer the doses that had arrived as the EU’s 27 nations face continuing pressure to speed up their immunization drives.
Of the four vaccines currently approved for use in the EU, J&J’s is the only one that requires a single dose to be fully effective. That makes it ideal for hard-to-reach, vulnerable groups, such as those who are homeless or migrant workers.
But the drugmaker decided Tuesday to delay deliveries to Europe after the Food and Drug Administration recommended a pause in the vaccine’s use in the U.S. while the rare clot cases are examined. The decision was the latest blow to the vaccine rollout in Europe, which already experienced a similar clot scare with the vaccine developed by British-Swedish company AstraZeneca and German firm BioNTech.
South Africans anxious over pause in use of J&J vaccines
South Africa’s decision to suspend the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine due to preliminary reports of rare blood clots has left the country without any shots as it struggles to combat an aggressive coronavirus variant.
South Africa has more than 1.5 million confirmed cases of COVID-19, including at least 53,000 deaths, representing more than 30% of all the confirmed cases in Africa’s 54 countries. So far, it has only inoculated 290,00 health care workers, all with the J&J vaccine.
Some health experts criticized South Africa’s move to follow the U.S. at such a critical juncture.
Mosa Moshabela, professor of public health at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, told The Associated Press, “Johnson & Johnson is our only (vaccine) option currently. I really did not expect that we would need to pause.”
Mumbai imposes strict virus restrictions as infections surge
The teeming metropolis of Mumbai and other parts of Maharashtra, the Indian state worst hit by the pandemic, face stricter restrictions for 15 days starting Wednesday in an effort to stem the surge of coronavirus infections.
Top state officials stressed that the closure of most industries, businesses, public places and limits on the movement of people didn’t constitute a lockdown.
Last year, a sudden, harsh, nationwide lockdown left millions jobless overnight. Stranded in cities with no income or food, thousands of migrant workers walked on highways to get home. Since then, state leaders have repeatedly stressed that another lockdown wasn’t on the cards.
India has detected over 180,000 new infections in the past 24 hours, about a third in Maharashtra state. India has so far confirmed over 13.9 million cases and 172,000 dead in what is l ikely an undercount.
As the music industry peeks beyond COVID-19, Washington’s Gorge Amphitheater is preparing to livestream concerts
A year and change into the pandemic, it seems certain that some of our ‘rona lifestyle adjustments will spill over into the post-vaccinated world. (Get your shots, people!) Beyond the rise of “soft pants,” one lockdown phenomenon that appears here to stay, at least in some form, is livestreamed concerts.
Concert industry juggernaut Live Nation plans to equip dozens of its venues with livestreaming technology, the company announced Tuesday. The Gorge Amphitheater is among the 60-plus American venues slated to get the tech from VEEPS, a livestreaming platform Live Nation acquired this year.
According to a news release, the VEEPS setup will give artists playing these clubs, theaters and amphitheaters “the ability to livestream their event with the flip of a switch to fans across the world.” So far, no Gorge shows have been announced as having livestream options and local Live Nation brass referred questions about the Washington venue’s plans to a corporate spokesperson who did not immediately respond.
For now, a livestream series hosted at the Wiltern in Los Angeles debuts May 7 and will feature concerts from rap stars Young Thug and Freddie Gibbs, alt-pop trio LANY and pop singer JP Saxe.
‘Zoom in a Room’? California’s schools lag in reopening push
Frustrated parents in San Francisco have coined a new phrase for their latest classroom reality: “Zoom in a Room.” In Los Angeles, students can start going back to school in person, but more than half say they will stick with distance learning.
Kira Gaber said she’s been told to send her kindergartner back to his San Francisco classroom with a laptop and headphones — aka Zoom in a Room. His teacher will be working online from home, while an adult monitor watches the kids in class.
“How is this OK? This is completely not in-person learning,” said Gaber, who doesn’t plan to send her son to class with a computer. “I’m going to send him with worksheets and a coloring book.”
More than a year after the coronavirus pandemic forced California’s classrooms to close, some of the largest school districts are welcoming back students this week. But the most populated state is lagging the rest of the country — and in some cases offering options that parents say are unacceptable.
Oregon employers mull requiring COVID-19 vaccines
A large winery in Oregon has notified its workers that they must show proof they’ve received the COVID-19 vaccine by May 20 and other workplaces are weighing similar requirements as pandemic restrictions loosen.
King Estate Winery Chief Operating Officer Brent Stone said employees work closely together on bottling lines and that concerns about workplace safety and preventing a virus outbreak are behind the vaccine requirement.
Stone said. “It’s really intended to be supportive and not punitive by any means.”
Loneliness is rampant. A simple call, or hug, may be a cure
The stranger’s call came when Dianne Green needed it most.
Alone in the home where she’d raised four kids, grieving recently deceased relatives, too fearful of COVID-19 to see her grandkids and great-grandbabies, she had never felt lonelier.
Then, one day last spring, her cell phone lit up.
The cheerful voice on the line was Janine Blezien, a nurse from a Chicago hospital’s “friendly caller” program, created during the pandemic to help lonely seniors cope with isolation. Blezien, 57, lives with her rescue dogs, Gordy and Kasey, in a suburban brick bungalow, just six miles from Green’s two-flat apartment in the city.
“She wasn’t scripted. She seemed like she was genuinely caring,” said Green, 68, a retired dispatcher for the city’s water department. The two women started talking often and became friends without ever setting eyes on each other.
“I called her my angel.”
Rampant loneliness existed long before COVID-19, and experts believe it’s now worse. Evidence suggests it can damage health and shorten lives as much as obesity and smoking. In addition to psychological distress, some studies suggest loneliness may cause physical changes including inflammation and elevated stress hormones that may tighten blood vessels and increase blood pressure.
Seattle Independent Bookstore Day is back this year — with a twist
Seattle Independent Bookstore Day is back — but, like so many things during this transitional time of the pandemic, it’s going to look a little bit different.
For five years pre-pandemic, SIBD (part of a national celebration of independent bookstores that typically takes place on the last Saturday in April) was a delightfully crowded, literary version of “The Amazing Race”: You’d get up early and rush to bookstores all day, 21 of them in total, in order to claim the title of Bookstore Champion and the irresistible prize of a yearlong discount in all the stores.
It’s too soon to encourage crowds, and so the SIBD committee has come up with a new, pandemic-friendly concept: the 10-10-10 Challenge, in which patrons have 10 days (April 24-May 3) to visit 10 of the 21 participating bookstores, either in person or online, and make 10 purchases. Winners will, after submitting receipts, receive a limited-edition 2021 SIBD tote bag.
The following are the local bookstores participating: Ada’s Technical Books, Arundel Books, Book Larder, BookTree (Kirkland), Brick & Mortar Books (Redmond), Eagle Harbor Book Co. (Bainbridge Island), Edmonds Bookshop, Elliott Bay Book Co., Fantagraphics Bookstore, Island Books (Mercer Island), Liberty Bay Books (Poulsbo), Magnolia’s Bookstore, Neverending Bookshop (Edmonds), Open Books: A Poetry Emporium, Paper Boat Booksellers, Page 2 Books (Burien), Phinney Books/Madison Books, Queen Anne Book Co., Secret Garden Books, Third Place Books (Lake Forest Park, Ravenna, Seward Park), University Bookstore.
Dutch govt says it’s too early to start easing the lockdown
The Dutch government on Tuesday presented a roadmap for relaxing coronavirus lockdown measures, but caretaker Prime Minister Mark Rutte stressed that it is still too early to ease restrictions.
In a nationally televised press conference, Rutte said hospitals in the Netherlands are as crowded with COVID-19 patients now as they were during the first wave of the pandemic last year and that it would be irresponsible to relax the country’s months-long lockdown now.
Earlier Tuesday, the Dutch public health institute said the number of new coronavirus infections rose 6% over the past week to 51,240, with the largest increase in positive tests recorded among children aged 13-17 years.
Wisconsin high court: Governor can’t limit business capacity
The Wisconsin Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled that Gov. Tony Evers’ administration does not have the authority to issue capacity limits on bars, restaurants and other businesses without the Legislature’s approval, a ruling that comes two weeks after the conservative-controlled court struck down the state’s mask mandate.
The Supreme Court ruled 4-3 on Wednesday that the order issued by Evers’ Department of Health Services meets the definition of a rule, which by law must go through the Legislature. The court’s four conservative justices ruled against Evers, while three liberals dissented.
Thailand’s daily COVID infections hit record, topping 1,300
Thailand reported more than 1,300 new COVID-19 infections on Wednesday, setting another daily record and adding pressure on the government to speed up a nearly nonexistent vaccination drive and do more to control a surge that comes amid mass travel as the country celebrates its traditional New Year festival.
The 1,335 new infections brings the number of new cases to nearly 7,000 since April 1, when a cluster linked to nightclubs and bars in central Bangkok was found.
Many of the new infections are a more contagious variant of the virus first found in the U.K. and that coupled with widespread travel for the Songkran festival, or Thai New Year, is fueling the surge.
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