With beautiful weather continuing for another day in the Seattle area and vaccinations available to all Washingtonians 16 and older, it’s possible to glimpse something like normalcy. Area beaches and restaurants saw major crowds Saturday and along with social distancing, once again people had to think about how they appear in public.

But the pandemic rages on, now with more than 3 million dead globally.

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.


Navigating the pandemic
(Jennifer Luxton / The Seattle Times)

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Oxford starts first study to reinfect recovered COVID patients

People who have fought off the Covid-19 virus will be deliberately reinfected in a first-of-its-kind trial at the University of Oxford that may shed light on how to develop more effective vaccines against the pathogen.

Researchers are looking for 64 healthy, previously Covid-infected volunteers from 18 to 30 years old to be studied under controlled, quarantined conditions for at least 17 days, the U.K. university said Monday. Participants will be infected with the original strain from Wuhan, China and followed for a year.

Initial data from the Oxford study should be available within several months, helping vaccine developers look at levels and types of immunity needed to prevent reinfection, and how long protection persists. Challenge trials, involving deliberate, supervised infections, are seen as particularly helpful for answering questions like these, because they allow scientists to scrutinize the details of how the body confronts the virus and vice versa.

While vaccines and previous infections provide some immune protection against the coronavirus, concerns and doubts remain about how long it lasts. A recent study indicated that as much as 10% of previously infected young adults were reinfected, underscoring the need for effective vaccines to prevent spread, and Pfizer Inc.’s chief executive officer has said that booster shots may be needed to maintain the immunity provided by the initial two doses of the company’s shot.

Read the whole story here.

—Todd Gillespie, Bloomberg
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Michigan's COVID surge may be cresting, governor says

Michigan may finally be starting to turn a corner, after enduring more than a month of explosive coronavirus spread, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said Sunday.

“We are starting to see the beginning of what could be a slowdown,” Whitmer said on the NBC program “Meet the Press.”

Michigan is still averaging more than 7,600 new cases a day, according to a New York Times database — more than at almost any time during the holiday surge. But that figure hasn’t increased by more than a few hundred for more than a week, suggesting that the current wave may be cresting. Hospitalizations and deaths, which usually lag behind new cases by several weeks, are still rising.

Whitmer cited the state’s continuing mask mandates, capacity restrictions and her call for a voluntary two-week pause in indoor dining, youth sports and in-person schooling as factors that may have helped combat the surge. She defended her decision to not try to go further, with the kinds of closure and stay-at-home orders imposed early in the pandemic.

“Fifteen months ago, we didn’t know the virus could be contained by the simple act of wearing a mask,” she said Sunday. “We didn’t have the testing or the vaccines. We’re now in a much different position.”

Read the whole story here.

—Melina Delkic, New York Times

To entice tourists, Alaska offers airport vaccines

To some, Alaska’s announcement that it would try to entice travelers by offering COVID-19 vaccinations at its airports might signal the state’s plucky resolve and determination to revive a tourism industry that has been devastated by the pandemic.

To others, it’s a sign of everything that is wrong with the way that the United States is distributing its vaccines, as calls for more doses in surge-stricken Michigan are rebuffed.

“It’s hard for me to believe that we’ve so maldistributed a vaccine as to make this necessary,” said Dr. Larry Brilliant, a public health researcher who was part of the effort to eradicate smallpox in the 1970s. “You don’t want to exchange a bad carbon footprint for a vaccination.”

Starting June 1, any tourist traveling to Alaska will be able to receive a Pfizer or Moderna vaccine at the Anchorage, Fairbanks, Juneau or Ketchikan airports. It’s part of a larger multimillion-dollar marketing campaign, funded by federal stimulus money, to attract tourists back to the state, Gov. Mike Dunleavy of Alaska, a Republican, announced.

Read the whole story here.

—Christina Morales, New York Times

Chicago high schools will reopen Monday for in-person learning

CHICAGO (AP) — Chicago’s public high schools were set to reopen Monday for the first time since the nation’s third-largest school district went fully remote amid the coronavirus pandemic over a year ago.

The Chicago Teachers Union announced Sunday that its members overwhelmingly approved a reopening plan that includes helping students 16 and older and their families get COVID-19 vaccines, with priority given to certain ZIP codes hit hard by the pandemic. Also included in the agreement with Chicago Public Schools is more leeway for educators to work remotely, like if they don’t have in-person students that day

“This agreement secures critical safety standards for returning in-person to high schools, delivers groundbreaking wins for the protection of our students and defends the safety and working conditions of all members in CPS,” CTU President Jesse Sharkey said in a statement.

Read the whole story here.

—Sophia Tareen, Associated Press
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Coronavirus vaccination cards support burgeoning scams

At least 129.5 million Americans have gotten at least one or both doses of a coronavirus vaccine and have received a free proof-of-vaccination card with the logo of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as officials push to inoculate the nation. But that vaccination drive has pitted people selling blank or fake credentials against law enforcement officials rushing to stop them – and warning that the full scope of the problem is impossible to grasp.

Burgeoning scams involving coronavirus vaccination cards could undermine people’s safety, as well as the success of the nation’s largest mass vaccination effort. Individuals might use them to misrepresent their vaccination status at school, work or in various living and travel situations, potentially exposing others to risk, say officials racing to crack down on the scams.

“This is a concern that is national and bipartisan,” said North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein, adding that the spread of fake vaccination cards “will extend the pandemic, resulting in more people sick and more people dead.”

Read the whole story here.

—Dan Diamond, The Washington Post

Israel lifts its outdoor mask mandate

JERUSALEM — Buoyed by its recent success in combating the coronavirus, Israel lifted its outdoor mask mandate Sunday, while schools fully reopened for the first time since September.

The country has been taking rapid steps back to normalcy in the wake of its world-leading vaccination campaign and plummeting infection rates. About 56% of the Israeli population has been fully vaccinated, according to a New York Times database.

“Finally, I can breathe again!” Eli Bliach, 35, an entrepreneur, said while walking mask-free in downtown Jerusalem on Sunday morning.

With the sun out and temperatures rising, some people joked about avoiding mask tan lines.

But other Israelis were hesitant to remove the layer of protection that had felt so alien at first, but that many have since gotten used to.

Read the whole story here.

—Isabel Kershner, New York Times

Half of U.S. adults have received at least one COVID-19 vaccination shot

Half of all adults in the U.S. have received at least one COVID-19 shot, the government announced Sunday, marking another milestone in the nation’s largest-ever vaccination campaign but leaving more work to do to convince skeptical Americans to roll up their sleeves.

Almost 130 million people 18 or older have received at least one dose of a vaccine, or 50.4% of the total adult population, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported. Almost 84 million adults, or about 32.5% of the population, have been fully vaccinated.

The U.S. cleared the 50% mark just a day after the reported global death toll from the coronavirus topped a staggering 3 million, according to totals compiled by Johns Hopkins University, though the actual number is believed to be significantly higher.

The country’s vaccination rate, at 61.6 doses administered per 100 people, currently falls behind Israel, which leads among countries with at least 5 million people with a rate of 119.2. The U.S. also trails the United Arab Emirates, Chile and the United Kingdom, which is vaccinating at a rate of 62 doses per 100 people, according to Our World in Data, an online research site.

Read the whole story here.

—Hope Yen and Jonathan Mattise, The Associated Press
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How the tiny kingdom of Bhutan out-vaccinated most of the world

Perhaps unsurprisingly for a country that prioritizes its citizens' well-being over national prosperity, the Buddhist kingdom of Bhutan has achieved a vaccination rate higher than all but five other countries.

That's despite a population spread among the remote, often inaccessible reaches of the tiny Himalayan country.

Vials of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine arrived last month by helicopter and were distributed by health workers, who walked from village to village through snow and ice. Vaccinations proceeded in the Lunana area’s 13 settlements even after yaks damaged some of the field tents that volunteers had set up for patients.

Read the whole story here.

—Mike Ives and Chencho Dema, The New York Times

Doctors, dentists see pandemic impact of delayed preventive care, stress

With medical visits picking up again among patients vaccinated against covid-19, health providers are starting to see the consequences of a year of pandemic-delayed preventive and emergency care as they find more advanced cancer and rotting and damaged teeth, among other ailments.

Along with exacerbating existing health problems, the pandemic has caused a host of new medical concerns in patients. The American population will be coming out of the pandemic with teeth worn down from grinding, back problems from slouching at makeshift homework stations and mental health problems from a combination of isolation and being too close to family.

A recent American Dental Association survey found that more than 70 percent of member dentists reported an increase in patients grinding or clenching their teeth since the pandemic began. More than 60 percent reported an increase in other stress-related conditions, such as chipped and cracked teeth.

Read the whole story here.

—Bruce Alpert, The Washington Post

Some vehicles, bargains hard to find thanks to pandemic disruptions

Car shoppers may find that bargains are scarce this year. But better prices on trade-ins may help ease the pain.

Last year’s pandemic-induced production delays, combined with a continued shortage of computer chips and other automotive components, have tightened the supply of new models — especially popular sport utility vehicles and pickup trucks.

The inventory of new vehicles at dealerships in March was down more than a third from a year earlier, according to an estimate from the automotive website Edmunds.

That means it may be challenging to find a new ride with the colors and features you want at a price you can afford. “It’s harder to get exactly what you want,” said Ivan Drury, senior manager of insights at Edmunds. “Don’t expect heavy discounts.”

Read the whole story here.

—Ann Carrns, The New York Times
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Months before season, NFL and players clash over pandemic workouts

Five months before the regular season starts, the NFL and its players are facing their first clash over playing in the pandemic, with players for nearly half of the teams vowing to skip voluntary offseason workouts.

Players on 15 of the league’s 32 teams, including the New York Giants, the New York Jets and the Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers, said in statements released by the NFL Players Association that they would not participate in the workouts scheduled to begin Monday because of concerns it would be unsafe to gather.

Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady was among players who spoke out to the news media and on social media.

“We feel very strongly about the game, the short- and long-term health of the players, and there is no game without strong, healthy players,” Brady said in a conference call with The New York Times and the union’s leadership. “People within the league may think, ‘Oh, let’s just get back to business, let’s go back to what we’ve usually done.’ But I think it’s really smart for people and players to think, ‘Is this the best possible way to do things?’ Not, ‘Is this tolerable, but is it the best way to deal with the situation?’”

The NFL declined to comment.

Read the whole story here.

—Emmanuel Morgan, The New York Times

Oregon considers indefinite mask rule, as others end COVID-19 restrictions

As states around the country lift COVID-19 restrictions, Oregon is poised to go the opposite direction — and many residents are fuming about it.

A top health official is considering indefinitely extending rules requiring masks and social distancing in all businesses in the state.

The proposal would keep the rules in place until they are “no longer necessary to address the effects of the pandemic in the workplace.”

Michael Wood, administrator of the state’s department of Occupational Safety and Health, said the move is necessary to address a technicality in state law that requires a “permanent” rule to keep current restrictions from expiring.

“We are not out of the woods yet,” he said.

Read the whole story here.

—Sara Cline, The Associated Press

Ways to deal with anxiety about post-COVID lockdown appearance

People are confronting re-entry into society with weight gain or loss, new wrinkles and "wisdom spots," less hair or fewer teeth and other outward signs of wear-and-tear from the year we've all endured.

In one survey of Americans in January, 43% of women and 26% of men said COVID-19 negatively affected how attractive they felt.

But experts on body image suggest re-framing how we think of ourselves as we look to life after the pandemic: Instead of thinking about your body’s imperfections, why not focus on the fact that your body carried you through a global pandemic, emerging as a survivor on the other side? That’s remarkable and worth celebrating.

Read the whole story for specific strategies to help quiet your inner critic and go boldly back into the world.

— A.C. Shilton, The New York Times
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COVID-19 survivors respond well to vaccines, may only need single dose, studies suggest

Coronavirus vaccines were just rolling out in December when more than 1,000 staffers at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles volunteered for a sweeping study. The goal: pinpoint how immune reactions to the jab might vary.

By last month, a clear pattern in the data “popped out at us,” said research leader Susan Cheng. Those who had recovered from covid-19 responded to their first shot so robustly that the results rivaled never-infected colleagues who had received both shots. The implication was clear. If you’ve had covid, you may only need one of the two doses recommended by Pfizer and Moderna.

“We did not expect that this was going to jump out like a smoking gun,” said Cheng, who co-authored the Nature Medicine write-up. In fact, if you already had the virus, your immune response after one vaccine is likely to be even better than a never-infected person’s after two, according to Italian research just out in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The issue of giving only a single dose to people who have had covid has become all the more urgent since safety concerns have been raised about Johnson & Johnson’s and AstraZeneca’s vaccines. The implications at a time of strained global supply are striking: giving previously infected people just one mRNA vaccine shot could free up more than 110 million doses worldwide, according to a calculation by University of Maryland School of Medicine immunologist Mohammad Sajadi and colleagues.

Read the whole story here.

— Carey Goldberg, Bloomberg

CDC says keeping middle seats empty is safer, but airlines plan to fill them

Keeping middle seats empty on airplanes could sharply reduce passenger exposure to the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, according to study results released Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

But most major U.S. airlines aren’t restricting access to those seats. And the last major holdout, Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines, earlier announced it will open up middle seats on flights starting May 1. A Delta spokesman reiterated Wednesday its plans have not changed.

Using modeling based on earlier lab studies at Kansas State University, the CDC found that aerosol exposures were reduced by 23 percent to 57 percent when middle seats were vacant compared to full flights. The tests used a surrogate virus.

However, because some of the research was based on work done before the pandemic, the results don’t account for the impact of U.S. airline passengers wearing masks, which they are required to do except when eating or drinking. Also, the studies looked at exposure, rather than actual virus transmission.

Read the whole story here.

— Matt Kempner, The New York Times

Evaluating the toll of Oregon's decision to delay vaccines for seniors

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown’s decided to prioritize vaccinations for teachers over seniors, starting Jan 25. That highly controversial decision delayed the rollout for seniors 65 and older living outside long-term care facilities by anywhere from two to five weeks.

Public health officials say it’s impossible to know for sure what the ultimate impact of that decision will be due to a number of complicating factors, from initial vaccine shortages to the difficulty seniors had trying to secure appointments online, not to mention the unknown number who are hesitant to get the shots.

But the decision to delay eligibility for some 700,000 seniors living independently undoubtedly took a toll, experts say. And the number of fatalities could increase, as deaths trail cases and hospitalizations – both of which are on the rise again.

At least 148 individuals 65 and older have died this year who tested positive for COVID-19 after Jan. 25, according to an analysis by The Oregonian/OregonLive of death information disclosed by the state. They tested positive an average of 27 days after the date Brown originally made teachers instead of seniors eligible. More than half of those seniors tested positive after their actual eligibility date for a vaccine – an average of three weeks afterward.

Read the whole story here.

— Ted Sickinger, The Oregonian