Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Saturday, April 16, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.
New, highly transmissible forms of omicron may pose the latest COVID-19 threat, according to disease trackers monitoring the spread of new subvariants in New York and in Europe.
While it’s too soon to predict how far they might spread and how sick they might make people, officials say the omicron sublineages in New York are spreading up to 27% more rapidly than the BA.2 omicron variant.
Meanwhile, the push to vaccinate kids is stalling in the U.S. Data shows the cumulative rate of COVID-19 hospitalizations for children under the age of 18 is higher than what is typical for the flu.
The state Board of Health voted unanimously this week to not require COVID-19 vaccinations for Washington students attending K-12 schools this fall. But state health officials say they will continue to monitor metrics and revisit the issue if there is new data on how the vaccine affects school-age kids, or if a new variant emerges that is shown to have more severe impact on children.
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 the rest of our coronavirus coverage and here to see how we track the daily spread across Washington.
Lawsuit seeks to overturn renewed Philadelphia mask mandate
Philadelphia earlier this week became the first major U.S. city to reinstate its indoor mask mandate after reporting a sharp increase in coronavirus infections. It's scheduled to be enforced beginning Monday.
Several businesses and residents filed suit in state court in Pennsylvania Saturday seeking to overturn the emergency order.
A spokesman for the Philadelphia mayor’s office noted that a court had denied an emergency motion by another plaintiff for a preliminary injunction against the mandate.
But the state Supreme Court in December ruled that the governor’s administration had no legal authority to require masks in Pennsylvania’s schools and child care centers. That ruling said state law gives health officials broad authority to protect public health but doesn’t permit the department “to act by whim or fiat in all matters concerning disease.”
Read the full story here.
A tale of many pandemics: In year three, a matter of status and access
At this precarious moment in the pandemic — with cases comparatively low but poised to rise again — people's experience of the pandemic differs widely depending on their job, health, socioeconomic status, housing and access to medical care.
For people who are healthy and have secure housing, medical care and paid time off from work, the pandemic has largely become manageable in its third year. Vaccinations and boosters mean they are at low risk of hospitalization or death.
But for millions of Americans, those who have to work and cannot do it from home or who are immunocompromised or otherwise at higher risk of severe illness, the pandemic remains a ubiquitous threat to their lives and livelihoods.
“It’s been a tale of two pandemics all along. For some people, the pandemic has been an inconvenience, whereas for other people, the pandemic has led to substantial concerns and loss.”
Read the full story here.
A new COVID breath test holds promise, but wide use may still be far off
Coronavirus infections might soon be flagged with a puff of exhaled breath, after the Food and Drug Administration on Thursday authorized the first breath-based COVID-19 test in the United States.
The emergency-use authorization of the InspectIR COVID-19 Breathalyzer is a meaningful milestone in the yearslong quest to develop more breath-based diagnostics, as well as innovative new tests for COVID-19, experts said. And it is likely to be the first of many similar breath-based COVID-19 tests, experts said.
“I think this is a really exciting development for the entire field of breath analysis,” said Cristina Davis, associate vice chancellor of Interdisciplinary Research and Strategic Initiatives at the University of California, Davis, who has been developing her own coronavirus test. “This is a huge step forward.”
India is stalling WHO’s efforts to make global COVID death toll public
An ambitious effort by the World Health Organization to calculate the global death toll from the coronavirus pandemic has found that vastly more people died than previously believed — a total of about 15 million by the end of 2021, more than double the official total of 6 million reported by countries individually.
But the release of the staggering estimate — the result of more than a year of research and analysis by experts around the world and the most comprehensive look at the lethality of the pandemic to date — has been delayed for months because of objections from India, which disputes the calculation of how many of its citizens died and has tried to keep it from becoming public.
‘Too smelly to sleep’: 13 days in a Shanghai isolation facility
After Leona Cheng tested positive for the coronavirus late last month, she was told to pack her bags for a hospital stay. When the ambulance came to her apartment in central Shanghai to pick her up two days later, no one said otherwise.
So Cheng was surprised when the car pulled up not to a hospital but to a sprawling convention center. Inside, empty halls had been divided into living areas with thousands of makeshift beds. And on exhibition stall partitions, purple signs bore numbers demarcating quarantine zones.
Cheng, who stayed at the center for 13 days, was among the first of hundreds of thousands of Shanghai residents to be sent to government quarantine and isolation facilities, as the city deals with a surge in coronavirus cases for the first time in the pandemic. The facilities are a key part of China’s playbook of tracking, tracing and eliminating the virus, one that has been met with unusual public resistance in recent weeks.
“This time I feel it is out of control and it’s not worth controlling the cases because it is not so dangerous or deadly,” she said, referring to the highly contagious omicron variant. “It’s not worth sacrificing so many resources and our freedom.”
LA Latinos used to have a lower death rate than white residents. Not anymore
LOS ANGELES — For years, public health experts have observed how Latinos have overall better mortality rates than white residents, despite being more likely to have lower incomes, chronic health issues and decreased access to health care.
Now, the historic COVID-19 pandemic has upended the so-called Latino paradox in Los Angeles County.
For the first time in the past decade, the mortality rate for Latinos in Los Angeles County became worse than that of white residents, starting in 2020 — the first year of the pandemic — and worsening the next year.
Dr. Don Garcia, medical director of Clínica Romero, said the numbers should be an alarming call to action.
“Let’s have a public hearing on this. Let’s have a task force on this. Let’s have a regrouping of all the leaders and look at this — just like any type of catastrophic emergency,” Garcia said.
The pandemic has made warehouses more valuable than suburban offices, as workers stay home
The old Charming Shoppes headquarters in Bensalem — a township bordering northeast Philadelphia — is now an Amazon warehouse. A former Bank of New York Mellon back office in King of Prussia is making a similar transition. And the building housing Oldies.com, a pop-music shrine viewable from the Blue Route in West Conshohocken, is also being marketed as a warehouse site.
Even as the pandemic eases, Americans’ mass movement toward working and consuming from home has upended demand for business properties, making warehouses more valuable than suburban offices.
“Land for offices used to be worth two to three times properties you could use to support a warehouse. Now it’s flipped,” said Robert Fahey, head of the Philadelphia group that sells commercial real estate to investors in the mid-Atlantic states for CBRE, the largest U.S. business property broker.
Traveling to Haiti or Jamaica? They just changed their COVID-19 testing requirements
Haiti and Jamaica are joining a growing list of countries that are once again revising their COVID-19 travel protocols in hopes of making it easier for visitors, and to boost revenues and vaccination rates.
Effective Saturday, international visitors to Jamaica will no longer be required to present a negative result from a COVID-19 antigen or PCR test taken within 72 hours before landing, the Jamaica Tourism Board announced.
Additionally, as of Friday Jamaica has ended its mandate for masks in enclosed public spaces.
WHO: More than 500 million COVID-19 cases reported since end of 2019
GENEVA — The total number of confirmed coronavirus infections has reached over 500 million, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported.
Globally, as of Thursday evening, there have been 500.19 million confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 6.19 million deaths reported to WHO, the organization said.
Since the emergence of the novel coronavirus at the end of 2019, most infections have been registered in Europe (209.5 million) and the Americas (151.7 million).
California delays COVID school vaccine mandate until 2023
California will delay COVID-19 vaccine requirements for schools until the 2023-2024 school, citing a lag in the full federal approval of the shot for many younger students.
The California Department of Public Health on Thursday announced the state “will not initiate the regulatory process for a COVID-19 vaccine requirement for the 2022-2023 school year and as such, any vaccine requirements would not take effect until after full FDA approval and no sooner than July 1, 2023.”
Tri-Cities students shared hard-learned advice from COVID pandemic. It’s now a book
The assignment to the American Literature classes of Room 111 at Hanford High in Richland last fall was pretty basic.
Write a paragraph or two about their experience during the COVID-19 pandemic. Offer some advice to other teenagers on coping and moving forward, said their teacher Phil Cioppa.
“We’re trying to teach kids how to manage their emotions, yet they have a lot to teach, too,” Cioppa said. “They really gave of themselves.”
What he had was the makings of a book, he thought.
With COVID-19 and now abortion, WA is Idaho’s civilization. Can that hold?
The pandemic fractured America. It exposed, and then accelerated, the widening of some cultural and political chasms between the red areas of the country and the blue.
The hope was that as the disease crisis subsided, these cracks might shrink back to something more resembling “normal.”
But what if a larger seismic event has been triggered that now can’t be, or won’t be, stopped?
Danny Westneat wonders how this will play out in our neighboring red state, Idaho.
WA schools get ready for a return from spring break — and a bump in COVID cases
As students and staff return from spring break next week, Seattle-area schools are bracing for possible spikes in COVID-19 cases.
They’re giving out rapid tests and encouraging masking — an effort to avoid a repeat of sharp increases in cases after school communities return from a break.
But will that be enough?
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