Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Friday, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.
Gov. Jay Inslee warned Thursday of “strong evidence” of a possible fourth COVID-19 wave in Washington, noting daily case counts have grown to over 1,000, up from 700 per day in February. As coronavirus cases again trend up, Inslee last week ordered three counties — Pierce, Cowlitz and Whitman — to tighten restrictions by moving back to the second phase of his “Healthy Washington” plan. If cases and hospitalizations continue to increase, more counties now in Phase 3 could roll back to the second phase in May.
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. The Associated Press reports that 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 has become 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. But experts told The Associated Press the 100,000 mark is an underestimate by thousands: An analysis of death certificates shows that some COVID-19 cases were not reported or patients were not tested when people died at home, or in psychiatric units or chronic care facilities. France has reported the most confirmed coronavirus infections in Europe, more than 5.2 million.
State reports 2,169 new coronavirus cases and 18 new deaths
The state Department of Health (DOH) reported 2,169 new coronavirus cases and 18 new deaths on Friday.
The update brings the state's totals to 383,894 cases and 5,380 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. Thursday.
The new cases may include up to 420 duplicates, according to DOH. The department also reports that some data remains incomplete Friday because of data processing problems. It expects to export complete data on test results Saturday, April 17.
In addition, 21,368 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the virus — 76 new hospitalizations. In King County, the state's most populous, state health officials have confirmed a total of 96,335 COVID-19 diagnoses and 1,494 deaths.
Since vaccinations began in mid-December, the state and health care providers have administered 4,431,804 doses and 23.91% 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 57,532 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.
Jobless claims surge as many Washingtonians enter their second year of unemployment benefits
In a fresh sign of the pandemic’s lingering economic impacts, thousands of jobless Washingtonians have collected their 52nd week of unemployment benefits and must now refile to keep that assistance coming.
That grim anniversary shows up in a recent surge of new, or “initial,” claims for unemployment benefits filed with the state Employment Security Department (ESD). Last week, the agency reported 17,281 initial claims, up 45.7% from a week earlier. That sharp increase followed a more modest rise of 3.6% two weeks ago, after a month of steady declines.
But much of the state’s increase was technical: Many of the Washingtonians who applied for jobless benefits during the first wave of pandemic-related layoffs last spring have collected benefits for a year and are required under state regulations to reapply, said ESD spokesperson Nick Demerice.
Top Italian doctor distances himself from brewing scandal over coronavirus response, spiked document
The doctor who heads Italy’s national health institute on Friday sought to distance himself from a scandal over a spiked report that revealed the Italian government hadn’t updated its pandemic preparedness plan since 2006. That report was removed from the World Health Organization’s website and never reposted.
Dr. Silvio Brusaferro, the national health institute leader, became part of the scandal after prosecutors in Italy’s Bergamo region revealed text chats between Brusaferro and Dr. Rainieri Guerra, who is under investigation. Guerra was in charge of prevention when the Italian health ministry was supposed to update the pandemic plan.
Some have speculated the WHO spiked the report to spare the Italian government from embarrassment or liability. The WHO says the report was published prematurely.
Guerra had texted Brusaferro about getting the report taken down. Brusaferro in a Friday news conference said he merely acknowledged receipt of the message, that his institute did not interfere and that he had not been part of a cover-up.
Japan expands virus alert in Tokyo area as surge spreads
Japan decided to raise the coronavirus alert level in the capital’s three neighboring prefectures and a fourth area in central Japan on Friday to allow tougher measures as a more contagious coronavirus variant spreads and adds to doubts about whether the Tokyo Olympics can go ahead.
The government approved the alert status for Kanagawa, Saitama and Chiba prefectures in the capital region and Aichi in central Japan. The measure will allow heads of the prefectures to mandate shorter hours for bars and restaurants, along with punishments for violators and compensation for those who comply.
The measures are to begin Monday and continue through May 11 after the end of Japan’s “golden week” holidays.
The move comes only four days after Tokyo was placed on alert amid a surge in new infections. Many of the cases have been linked to nightlife and dining spots, but they have recently spread to offices, elderly care facilities and schools.
The surge has also prompted concern among many Japanese about hosting the Tokyo Olympics, scheduled for July 23-Aug. 8. On Thursday, a top ruling lawmaker said there was a possibility the Games could be canceled though the head of the Tokyo Olympics on Friday was again forced to assure the world that the postponed games will open in just over three months and not be canceled.
Pfizer doubles vaccines to Canada amid third wave
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Friday Pfizer is doubling the amount of vaccines to Canada over the next month and he announced the Red Cross is ready to be deployed in Ontario to help with vaccinations amid a record wave of coronavirus infections fueled by variants.
Trudeau said the pandemic is particularly bad in Canada’s largest city of Toronto, where record-breaking numbers are filling intensive care hospital beds.
Ontario is pleading with other provinces to send nurses and other health workers. In a letter to all provinces and territories, the Ontario government noted it is short thousands of nurses. The deputy minister of health, Helen Angus, also asked whether her counterparts have any resources to spare and said the pandemic has strained hospital capacity, particularly intensive care.
Alaska village requires full vaccine for in-person shopping
A village in Alaska has mandated that only fully vaccinated people will be allowed into the community’s stores and businesses.
Kongiganak had 50% of its eligible residents vaccinated with at least one dose as of April 9, KYUK-AM reported Wednesday, citing the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation.
Kongiganak reported that it had a population of 439 people in the 2010 U.S. Census.
Sheila Phillip, the Kongiganak Traditional Council secretary, said that people who are fully vaccinated can go inside the village’s two stores if they wear masks and follow social distancing guidelines.
People not fully vaccinated “can still make phone orders and their orders are delivered to their home,” Phillip said.
To-go cocktails will keep flowing in Washington state with law extended into 2023
Remember last May? It’s OK, nobody really does — but that’s when the restaurant industry’s struggle to survive the COVID-19 era, combined with patrons thirsty for something to go with their takeout, prompted the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board to temporarily allow the sale of carry-out cocktails.
Now, to-go cocktails aren’t going away anytime soon. On Wednesday, Gov. Jay Inslee signed into law a bill that “codifies, temporarily, liquor license privileges similar to allowances that the Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB) is providing to licensees during the COVID-19 pandemic,” namely, “curbside and takeout service or delivery of alcohol products, the sale by restaurants of premixed cocktails, cocktail kits, and wine drinks, and the sale of growlers.”
This carry-out cocktail codification extends until summer 2023, if not beyond.
New global coronavirus cases nearly double in two months
The number of new coronavirus cases around the globe has almost doubled over the past two months, an alarming increase that the World Health Organization said Friday was nearing the pandemic’s peak infection rate.
Around the world, “COVID-19 cases and deaths are continuing to increase at worrying rates,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a briefing Friday.
“This is approaching the highest rate of infection that we have seen so far during the pandemic,” he said. “Some countries that had previously avoided widespread covid-19 transmission are now seeing steep increases in infections.”
Case numbers have spiked in nearly all regions, with larger outbreaks gripping Brazil, India, Poland, Turkey and some other countries. In the seven days ending April 11, global cases rose by 11 percent compared to the previous week, according to the WHO.
Some of those infections were due to the spread of new variants, while other surges came as pandemic fatigue set in and authorities moved to relax restrictions.
Big Chile study finds Chinese vaccine slashes COVID deaths
A real-world study of millions of Chileans who had received the Chinese-developed CoronaVac vaccine has found it 67% effective against symptoms and 80% against death from COVID-19, the South American country’s Health Ministry said Friday.
Ministry adviser Rafael Araos said the study covered 10.5 million people, including 2.5 million who had received both doses of the vaccine and 1.5 million who had received a single dose between Feb. 2 and April 1. It counted cases starting 14 days after application of the second dose of the vaccine, which in Chile was given 28 days after the first.
Araos said it had reduced hospitalizations by 85%, intensive care visits by 89% and deaths by 80%.
It is one of the broadest studies so far published of any of the vaccines used against the new coronavirus. Most previous studies were based on clinical studies of limited groups of thousands of people given the vaccines to test efficacy and safety prior to general use.
Drug companies are planning for COVID-19 booster shots
Scientists have long said that giving people a single course of a COVID-19 vaccine might not be sufficient in the long term, and that booster shots and even annual vaccinations might prove necessary.
Pfizer said Thursday that a third dose of the company’s COVID-19 vaccine was “likely” to be needed within a year of the initial two-dose inoculation — followed by annual vaccinations. Moderna said this week that it was at work on a booster for its vaccine, and Johnson & Johnson has said that its single-shot vaccine will probably need to be given annually.
Dr. David Kessler, who runs the Biden administration’s vaccine effort, told a House subcommittee on Thursday that the government was also looking ahead. One factor at play is the spread of coronavirus variants and whether further vaccination could better target mutant strains.
A new job is emerging as businesses plan for pandemic’s end: Director of remote work
As remote work evolves from a stopgap measure during the pandemic into an ongoing way of life, a new job is emerging in the corporate ranks: director of remote work.
Tech giants such as GitLab, Facebook, Twitter and Quora are among the first and best-known companies to carve out a new position dedicated to remote work, tapping executives with backgrounds in finance, law, land acquisition and consulting.
But it’s happening informally inside many companies with human resource staffers taking on expanded roles.
They are working with the real estate department to consider downsizing office space, and discussing tax implications of hiring work-from-anywhere employees in multiple states or countries. They’re spending more time with the IT department to ensure workers have the tools they need to work from home. And they continue to serve as the bridge between employees and management.
“We’ve always been viewed as a support function,” Lauseng said. “I think the pandemic has given HR professionals increased job security. They have a more strategic role in how this is going to play out.”
Portugal reaps benefits of a prolonged COVID-19 lockdown
While most of the Europe Union grapples with new surges of COVID-19 cases and brings back curbs on what people can do, Portugal is going in the other direction.
Starting Monday, the Portuguese will be able to go to restaurants, shopping malls and cinemas. Classes will resume at high schools and universities. Schools for younger children are already open, as are café and restaurant esplanades.
After becoming the world’s worst-hit country by size of population in January, Portugal has seen the pandemic ebb significantly during a serious lockdown with flight restrictions that for weeks virtually banned arrivals from other European Union countries and closed the border with neighboring Spain..
Day workers leaving India’s cities as virus dries up jobs
Migrant workers are piling into rail stations in India’s financial capital Mumbai to head back to their home villages now that virus-control measures have dried up work in the hard-hit region.
The government of Maharashtra state, home to Mumbai, imposed lockdown-like curbs on Wednesday for 15 days to check the spread of the virus. It closed most industries, businesses and public places and limited the movement of people, but didn’t stop bus, train and air services.
An exodus ensued, with panicked day laborers hauling backpacks onto overcrowded trains leaving Mumbai. The migration is raising fears of the virus spreading in rural areas.
German’s IDT to make 10M AstraZeneca vaccine doses in 2021
German vaccine-maker IDT Biologika said Friday it plans to bottle this year some 10 million doses of the coronavirus shot developed by AstraZeneca.
IDT Biologika and AstraZeneca previously announced they would expand production capacity for the British-Swedish company’s vaccine at a plant in the German town of Dessau by the end of 2022.
IDT produces vaccines for several pharmaceutical companies. In March, the company announced that for three months it would make the single-dose COVID-19 shot developed by Johnson & Johnson. IDT is also in talks with the developers of Russia’s Sputnik V shot, which has yet to be approved for use in the European Union.
China ramps up vaccination drive with free eggs, other goods
China’s success at controlling the coronavirus outbreak has resulted in a population that has seemed almost reluctant to get vaccinated. So it is accelerating its inoculation campaign by offering incentives — free eggs, store coupons and discounts on groceries and merchandise — to those getting a shot.
After a slow start, China is now giving millions of shots a day. On March 26 alone, it administered 6.1 million shots. A top government doctor, Zhong Nanshan, has announced a June goal of vaccinating 560 million of the country’s 1.4 billion people.
The challenge lies partly in the sheer scale of the effort and the need to convince a population that currently feels safe from infections.
US setting up $1.7B national network to track virus variants
The U.S. is setting up a $1.7 billion national network to identify and track worrisome coronavirus mutations whose spread could trigger another pandemic wave, the Biden administration announced Friday.
White House officials unveiled a strategy that features three components: a major funding boost for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state health departments to ramp up gene-mapping of coronavirus samples; the creation of six “centers of excellence” partnerships with universities to conduct research and develop technologies for gene-based surveillance of pathogens; and building a data system to better share and analyze information on emerging disease threats, so the knowledge can be turned into action.
The new effort, which relies on money approved by Congress as part of President Joe Biden’s coronavirus relief package, aims to break what experts say is a feast-or-famine cycle in which the government scrambles to counter a potential threat, but funding dries up when it recedes.
Germany’s Merkel urges lawmakers to support pandemic bill
German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged parliament Friday to pass a bill that would mandate a nationwide “emergency brake” when the spread of the coronavirus becomes too rapid, saying that it was needed to prevent the health care system from becoming overwhelmed.
“There is no way around it. We need to stop this third wave of the pandemic… and to achieve this we need to better combine the strengths of the federal, state and local governments than we have been," she told lawmakers.
Passing the bill is an uphill battle for Merkel, with state governments reluctant to cede any authority over health care to the federal government.
The speech to parliament came as the country recorded 25,831 new daily cases of COVID-19 and 247 additional deaths.
Senators to Biden: Waive vaccine intellectual property rules
Ten liberal senators are urging President Joe Biden to back India and South Africa’s appeal to the World Trade Organization to temporarily relax intellectual property rules so coronavirus vaccines can be manufactured by nations that are struggling to inoculate their populations.
The lawmakers, in a letter delivered to the White House on Thursday evening, wrote that Biden should “prioritize people over pharmaceutical company profits” and support the temporary waiver of the rules. A waiver could pave the way for generic or other manufacturers to make more vaccines.
The letter was led by independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, along with Democratic Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin and Sherrod Brown of Ohio. Democratic Sens. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Chris Murphy of Connecticut, Edward Markey of Massachusetts, Jeff Merkley of Oregon, Chris Van Hollen of Maryland and Raphael Warnock of Georgia also signed the letter.
“Simply put, we must make vaccines, testing, and treatments accessible everywhere if we are going to crush the virus anywhere,” the lawmakers say in the letter, which was obtained by The Associated Press.
More than 100 nations support a temporary waiver, which could help vaccine manufacturing ramp up in poorer countries that are struggling to acquire vaccine supplies. The Biden administration has said it is studying the issue.
Opponents, including pharmaceutical companies, worry that it would set dangerous precedent in allowing scientists around the globe to copy American and European companies’ research — some of which was funded by the U.S. government — long before patents expire. The Trump administration had opposed calls for the waiver.
Amid hesitancy, Louisiana gets creative in vaccine outreach
Brass bands playing at a 24-hour drive-thru coronavirus vaccine event. Doses delivered to commercial fishermen minutes from the docks. Pop-up immunization clinics at a Buddhist temple, homeless shelters, truck stops and casinos, with shots available at night or on weekends.
And now, door-to-door outreach getting underway in neighborhoods where few people have gotten vaccinated.
Louisiana is making a full-court press to get shots in arms, with aggressive — and sometimes creative — outreach to make it as easy as possible to get vaccinated. The effort comes as vaccine supplies are surging but demand is not.
The state has enlisted health care workers, colleges, community groups and church pastors to help cajole the hesitant and set up vaccination events. Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards has thrown open vaccine access to anyone age 16 or older. The health department has launched a call center to answer vaccine questions and set up appointments for those without internet access or limited tech skills.
Civic organizations and faith-based groups working with the state have started using get-out-the-vote tactics, knocking on doors and making phone calls, to pitch the vaccine.
But even with widespread ease of access, Louisiana officials struggle with a problem almost as vexing as COVID-19 itself: How to persuade those who are iffy about the shot to roll up their sleeves.
Catch up on the past 24 hours
So you have a vaccine appointment scheduled. Now what? Our FAQ breaks down what to know before you go, from medications to side effects and more. And don’t skip that second dose, health officials say. Here’s why not, and what to do if you’re already overdue.
"Strong evidence" indicates a possible fourth COVID-19 wave is building in Washington state, Gov. Jay Inslee said yesterday, warning people not to gather inside as rising cases threaten to force more counties back into the second phase of reopening. The spring wave of the virus is also crashing across 37 other states.
But unused vaccines are piling up across the U.S. As many as 1 in 3 doses are going unclaimed in some states as people balk at getting the shots. That's despite a full-court press, complete with brass bands and home deliveries.
If you got the Pfizer vaccine, you'll probably need a third shot within a year, the company's CEO is predicting. Moderna is also testing booster shots.
The uphill battle to vaccinate Washington's homeless people got even steeper with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine's pause. Seattle-area nonprofits are rethinking how to come at this.
Is it rude to go maskless in public after you’re vaccinated? Here’s a guide to politely navigating this new phase of the pandemic.
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