Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Thursday, April 15, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.

A year removed from Washington’s first drive-thru coronavirus testing sites, the crush of people seeking tests is gone, replaced by a rush to schedule vaccinations. But testing is an essential tool in the fight to suppress the coronavirus and to identify variants. Since the public’s attention turned to vaccines in December, the number of people seeking diagnostic testing has steadily fallen. Meanwhile, confirmed cases of COVID-19 are increasing across the state, with the biggest rise among people ages 10 to 49. Today, everyone 16 and older will have the option of being vaccinated.

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. 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, The Associated Press reports.

Cities in India are once again locking down to fight COVID-19 — and workers are once again pouring out and heading back home to rural areas, which health experts fear could accelerate the spread of the virus and devastate poorly equipped villages, as it did last year, according to The New York Times. Thousands are fleeing hot spots in cities as India hits another record, with more than 184,000 daily new infections reported Wednesday. Bus stations are packed. Crowds are growing at railway stations. And in at least some of their destinations, according to local officials and migrants who have already made the journey, they are arriving in places hardly ready to test arrivals and quarantine the sick.

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.

Gov. Jay Inslee has set a press conference today at 2:30 p.m. to discuss the state’s ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Watch here:

'Strong evidence' of a possible fourth wave of COVID infections in Washington

OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee Thursday warned of “strong evidence” of a possible fourth COVID-19 wave in Washington, just as residents 16 years and older become eligible to get vaccinated.

Speaking outside the governor’s residence — at his first in-person news conference in Olympia in more than a year — Inslee noted that daily case counts have grown to over 1,000 daily. That’s up, he said, from 700 per day in February.

“Unfortunately there is a strong evidence of a fourth wave potentially developing in the state of Washington,” said Inslee, who like others gathered Thursday wore a mask. “We cannot and we will not wait until that wave engulfs us.”

Read the story here.

—Joseph O'Sullivan

State reports 1,432 new coronavirus cases and five new deaths

The state Department of Health (DOH) reported 1,432 new coronavirus cases and five new deaths on Thursday.

The update brings the state's totals to 381,725 cases and 5,362 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. Wednesday.

In addition, 21,292 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the virus — 53 new hospitalizations. In King County, the state's most populous, state health officials have confirmed a total of 95,782 COVID-19 diagnoses and 1,491 deaths.

Since vaccinations began in mid-December, the state and health care providers have administered 4,299,351 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.

—Nicole Brodeur

France hits unwanted milestone: Over 100,000 virus deaths

PARIS — France on Thursday became the third country in Europe after the U.K. and Italy to reach the unwanted milestone of 100,000 COVID-19-related deaths as new infections and deaths surged due to virus variants.

The country of 67 million is the eighth nation in the world to reach the mark after a year of overwhelmed hospitals, on-and-off coronavirus lockdowns and enormous personal losses that have left families nationwide grieving the pandemic’s impact.

The moment prompted a message of solidarity from French President Emmanuel Macron.

“Since the start of the pandemic, 100,000 French women and men have succumbed to the virus. We all have a thought for their families, their loved ones, for the children who have lost a parent or a grandparent, the bereaved siblings, the broken friendships,” Macron said on Twitter. “We will not forget a face, a name,” he added.

France added 300 new deaths Thursday to the previous day’s tally of 99,777, bringing the total to 100,077 deaths.

Read the full story here.

—Sylvie Corbet and Angela Charlton, The Associated Press

US opens more distance in worldwide race against coronavirus

The United States opened more distance between itself and much of the rest of the world on Thursday, nearing the 200 millionth vaccine administered in a months-long race to protect the population against COVID-19, even as other countries, rich and poor, struggle with stubbornly high infection rates and deaths.

Nearly half of American adults have gotten at least one dose of the vaccine, and about 30% of adults in the U.S. have been fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But the picture is still relentlessly grim in parts of Europe, Latin America, Africa and Asia as variants of the virus fuel an increase in new cases and the worldwide death toll closes in on 3 million.

France on Thursday passed 100,000 virus deaths, becoming only the the eighth country to do so.

India’s two largest cities, New Delhi and Mumbai, imposed business shutdowns and stringent restrictions on movement as new infections shot past 200,000. Some hotels and banquet halls were ordered to convert their space into wards for treating virus patients, and the surge forced India — a major vaccine producer — to delay exports of doses to other countries.

Read the full story here.

—Russ Bynum, The Associated Press

Pfizer CEO says third COVID-19 booster shot ‘likely’ needed within a year of getting vaccinated

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla predicted Thursday that people who have received the company’s COVID-19 vaccine will “likely” need a third booster shot within a year to maintain protection against the virus.

“It is extremely important to suppress the pool of people that can be susceptible to the virus,” Bourla told CNBC.

The pharmaceutical chief said it’s also possible that people will need to get inoculated every year against coronavirus.

Pfizer had said as early as February that it was testing booster shots in case it was determined they would be needed.

Moderna, the competitor whose vaccine uses a similar so-called messenger RNA platform as Pfizer’s, has also said it is testing booster shots.

—Dave Goldiner, New York Daily News

State reaching out to J&J vaccine recipients in Washington

The Washington State Department of Health on Wednesday began reaching out to residents who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine between March 23 and April 14, the day administration of the vaccine was paused as the FDA and CDC investigate a possible link between the vaccine and serious, but very rare, blood clots in younger women.

The messages, sent by text, email and automated calls in English and Spanish, let recipients know they should contact their health care provider if they experience leg pain, abdominal pain, a bad headache or shortness breath up to three weeks after their vaccination, said Department of Health (DOH) spokesperson Kristen Maki.

According to DOH, about 160,000 shots of the single-dose vaccine have been administered to state residents.

Public Health - Seattle & King County is similarly reaching out.

Anyone who has concerns about this message can contact the state COVID-19 information hotline at 1-800-525-0127.

Read more about the decision to pause use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine here.

—Christine Clarridge

Spring wave of coronavirus crashes across 38 states as hospitalizations increase

The coronavirus pandemic in America has turned into a patchwork of regional hot spots, with some states hammered by a surge of infections and hospitalizations even as others have seen the crisis begin to ease. The spring wave of the pandemic has driven hospitalizations above 47,000, the highest since March 4.

Thirty-eight states have reported an increase during the past week in the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus, according to a Washington Post analysis of data provided by the Department of Health and Human Services.

But the national statistics fail to capture the intensity of the coronavirus emergency in the hot spots. Michigan reported more than 10,000 new infections on Tuesday alone. The state on Wednesday reported an average of 46 deaths a day, up from 16 a month earlier.

Read the story here.

—Joel Achenbach and Jacqueline Dupree, The Washington Post

US opens more distance in worldwide race against coronavirus

The United States opened more distance between itself and much of the rest of the world on Thursday, nearing the 200 millionth vaccine administered in a months-long race to protect the population against COVID-19, even as other countries, rich and poor, struggle with stubbornly high infection rates and deaths.

Nearly half of American adults have gotten at least one dose of the vaccine, and about 30% of adults in the U.S. have been fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

But the picture is still relentlessly grim in parts of Europe, Latin America, Africa and Asia as variants of the virus fuel an increase in new cases and the worldwide death toll closes in on 3 million.

Read the story here.

—Ross Bynum, The Associated Press

Africa CDC urges India to lift COVID vaccine export limits

Africa’s top health official said Thursday he wants to believe that India will lift export restrictions on COVID-19 vaccines as soon as possible, warning that “India is not an island” while some African nations still have seen no shots at all.

John Nkengasong, director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, spoke as the African continent of 1.3 billion people doesn’t know when second doses of key vaccines will arrive and India sees a devastating resurgence in infections. India is a major vaccine producer and a key supplier to the United Nations-backed COVAX initiative aiming to bring shots to some of the world’s poorest countries.

“If you finish vaccinating your people before Africa or other parts of the world, you have not done yourself any justice because variants will emerge and undermine your own vaccination efforts,“ Nkengasong said in a weekly press briefing.

He said the uncertainty around the arrival of second doses puts the African continent in a “very dicey situation.” Some countries have already exhausted their initial vaccine doses, including Ghana and Rwanda, he said.

Read the story here.

—Cara Anna, The Associated Press

Why you shouldn’t skip your second dose of coronavirus vaccine

More than 100 million people in the United States have taken one of the coronavirus vaccines authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, on track to more than meet President Biden’s goal of 200 million inoculations during his first 100 days in office.

But some people have not shown up for the second shot of the messenger-RNA vaccines, which require two doses to achieve the strongest and longest-lasting immunity.

It is not yet known how long the antibodies from a single dose will last because that data was not included in the Pfizer and Moderna clinical trials. But health experts say it is clear that people who get a single shot and stop there will not get the full protective benefit of the vaccine.

“Most of the covid cases we’ve seen in vaccinated people that have landed in the hospital have been people who haven’t yet gotten the second dose," said Kristen Marks, an infectious-disease expert at Weill Cornell Medicine and New York-Presbyterian. "I think that’s telling us something.”

Read the story here.

—Lindsey Bever, The Washington Post

Unused COVID vaccines are piling up across U.S. as some regions resist

Many U.S. states and cities have a growing surplus of coronavirus vaccines, a sign that in some places demand is slowing before a large percentage of the population has been inoculated, according to an analysis by Bloomberg News.

The data indicates that as many as 1 in 3 doses is unused in some states. Appointments for shots often go untaken, with few people signing up.

Bloomberg analyzed state and U.S. data from Monday, providing a snapshot of vaccine use before Johnson & Johnson shelved millions of shots pending federal health officials’ investigation into extremely rare cases of blood clots. That pause probably will cause the number of unused shots to fluctuate, but will not change much in the comparisons of states.

Taken together, the worst-performing quartile of states holds 14.1 million unused doses, meaning that 31% of doses delivered in those states are yet to be marked as used. In the best-performing quartile of states, 11% of doses were unused.

Read the story here.

—Anna Edney and Drew Armstrong, Bloomberg

Study finds that blocking seats on planes reduces virus risk

A new study says leaving middle seats open could give airline passengers more protection from the virus that causes COVID-19.

Researchers said the risk of passengers being exposed to the virus from an infected person on the plane could be reduced by 23% to 57% if middle seats are empty, compared with a full flight.

The study released Wednesday supports the response of airlines that limited seating early in the pandemic. However, all U.S. airlines except Delta now sell every seat they can, and Delta will stop blocking middle seats on May 1.

The airlines argue that filters and air-flow systems on most planes make them safe when passengers wear face masks, as they are now required to do by federal regulation.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

Iran to purchase 60 million COVID-19 vaccines from Russia

Iran has finalized a deal with Russia to purchase 60 million doses of Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine, the state-run IRNA news agency reported Thursday.

The report quotes Iran’s ambassador to Russia, Kazem Jalali, as saying the contract has been “signed and finalized” for enough vaccinations to inoculate 30 million people. Jalali said Iran will receive the vaccines by the end of the year.

On Saturday, Iran began a 10-day lockdown amid a fourth wave of coronavirus infections. The capital Tehran and 250 other cities and towns across the country have been declared red zones. They have the highest virus positivity rates and the most severe restrictions in place. Over 85% of the country now has either a red or orange – slightly lower – infection status, authorities said.

The severe surge in infections follows a two-week public holiday for Nowruz, the Persian New Year. Millions traveled to the Caspian coast and other popular vacation spots, packed markets to shop for new clothes and toys and congregated in homes for parties in defiance of government health guidelines.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

US jobless claims plunge to 576,000, lowest since pandemic

The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits tumbled last week to 576,000, a post-COVID low and a hopeful sign that layoffs are easing as the economy recovers from the pandemic recession.

The Labor Department said Thursday that applications plummeted by 193,000 from a revised 769,000 a week earlier. Jobless claims are now down sharply from a peak of 900,000 in early January and well below the 700,000-plus level they had been stuck at for months.

The decline in unemployment claims coincides with other evidence that the economy is strengthening as vaccinations accelerate, pandemic business restrictions are lifted in many states and Americans appear increasingly willing to travel, shop, eat out and otherwise spend again. In March, employers added a healthy 916,000 jobs, the most since August, and the unemployment rate fell to 6%, less than half the pandemic peak of 14.8%.

Read the story here.

—Christopher Rugaber, The Associated Press

Vaccine etiquette: A guide to politely navigating this new phase of the pandemic

For the past year, the coronavirus pandemic has defined our daily life, determining how we learn, work, eat, travel and socialize. But those parameters are changing, as millions of vaccinated Americans mingle with the millions waiting for their turn and the millions who remain reluctant to get the shots. That means the rules of etiquette are changing, as well.

Six months ago, when the pandemic had transformed from novelty to new reality and it seemed time to codify how to trudge through life in a mannerly fashion, The Washington Post turned to several personal advice and etiquette experts for guidance on issues of the time: how to greet people, respond to invitations, tip delivery drivers, etc. Now the vaccines have brought a whole new set of sticky situations to negotiate (politely) until the time when we hopefully reach herd immunity.

“We’re really talking about how we can all help each other to move forward,” says Steven Petrow, a journalist and contributing columnist to The Post who has written five books on etiquette. “It’s about we and not me, which is fundamentally what etiquette is about.”

Read the story here.

—Allyson Chiu and Teddy Amenabar, The Washington Post

WHO: Europe has surpassed 1 million COVID-19 deaths

A top official from the World Health Organization says Europe has surpassed 1 million deaths from COVID-19 and the situation remains “serious,” with about 1.6 million new cases reported each week in the region.

Dr. Hans Kluge pointed, though, to “early signs that transmission may be slowing across several countries” in WHO’s 53-country European region and said the proportion of COVID-19 deaths among people over 80, who have been prioritized for vaccines, had dropped to nearly 30% — the lowest level in the pandemic.

Overall, a tally by Johns Hopkins University shows nearly 3 million deaths have been linked to COVID-19 worldwide — with the Americas hardest hit, followed by Europe. The United States, Brazil and Mexico have reported the highest number of deaths, collectively at more than 1.1 million.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

Catch up on the past 24 hours

Welcome to Vax Day! Side effects may include joy, relief and tears. Now that all Washingtonians are eligible for vaccines, here are some useful resources: our guide to getting your vaccine, advice on handling minor side effects, a comparison of the available shots, and the newest CDC guidance on how to resume life safely after vaccination. 

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine will stay in timeout for a while, government health advisers said yesterday as they scramble to understand the possible risk of blood clots. A CDC adviser from UW offers perspective on this.

The U.S. could have 300 million extra vaccine doses by the end of July, depending on a few key factors. This raises a concern: hoarding. And as parts of the world face a yearslong wait for shots, some U.S. states are far ahead of others on vaccinations. The political divide is clear.

Loneliness was so rampant worldwide, even before the pandemic, that one nation created a parliament job called the minister of loneliness. Some doctors write prescriptions for it. But it turns out the cures may be simple things we can all help with.

Russell Wilson and Ciara will host a star-studded TV special with a message on vaccines.

—Kris Higginson