Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Monday, April 19, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.
Along with the sunshine and summer temperatures that will stretch into this week, the weekend brought hopeful news of a major milestone in battling the COVID-19 pandemic: More than half of U.S. adults have now received at least one shot of a vaccine.
But in the words of Seattle-born musician Heather Chelan, “the pandemic isn’t over just because you’re over it.” Across the globe, COVID infections have spiked at a dizzying rate, doubling in the last two months. That’s because of new variants in some places, while other infections surged as pandemic fatigue and relaxed restrictions set in.
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.
With universal eligibility, a fifth of U.S. seniors remain unvaccinated
The United States has passed a significant milestone in its vaccine rollout: As of Monday, all adults are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine in every state. More than half of the adult population has received at least one dose of a vaccine.
The country has come a long way since vaccines first arrived at hospitals and long-term care facilities in December. More than 209 million doses have been shot into arms. And universal eligibility comes on the heels of a confusing, patchwork system that may make a person eligible in one state, but not another.
But the next phase of the rollout will bring new challenges. Some scientists and state and local health officials believe that making more people eligible will ultimately get more people vaccinated more swiftly. But others have said they are worried that some of the most vulnerable people, including those 65 and older, may have trouble competing for a shot.
As it stands now, older adults are the most vaccinated age group in America — quite likely because they have been eligible in most states for months. But about one-fifth of those 65 and older, a group that is particularly vulnerable to serious complications and death from the virus, have not received even one shot. Among them are some residents of long-term care facilities, which have represented more than one-third of overall coronavirus deaths in the United States for much of the pandemic.
State reports 428 new coronavirus cases and 14 new deaths
The state Department of Health (DOH) reported 428 new coronavirus cases and 14 new deaths on Monday.
The update brings the state's totals to 386,920 cases and 5,394 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. Sunday. Tallies may be higher earlier in the week because new state data isn’t reported on Sundays and COVID-related deaths aren’t reported on the weekends.
In addition, 21,493 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the virus — 59 new hospitalizations. In King County, the state's most populous, state health officials have confirmed a total of 97,230 COVID-19 diagnoses and 1,498 deaths.
On Dec. 16, DOH’s case, hospitalization and death counts started including both confirmed cases and probable cases in its total count. According to DOH, probable cases refer to people who received a positive antigen test result but not a positive molecular test result, while confirmed cases refer to those who have received a positive molecular test result.
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.
AP source: Guantanamo prisoners now getting COVID-19 vaccine
Prisoners at the Guantanamo Bay detention center can begin getting the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as Monday, a senior defense official told The Associated Press, months after a plan to inoculate them was scuttled over outrage that many Americans weren’t eligible to receive the shots.
The new timing coincides with President Joe Biden’s deadline for states to make the vaccines more widely available across the U.S. Beginning Monday, anyone 16 and older qualifies to sign up and get in a virtual line to be vaccinated.
The defense official said all 40 men held at the Navy base in Cuba will be offered the vaccination to comply with legal requirements regarding the treatment of prisoners and to help prevent COVID-19 from spreading. Strict quarantine procedures had already sharply curtailed activities at the base and halted legal proceedings for prisoners facing war crime trials, including the men charged in the Sept. 11, 2001, attack.
Germany expects vaccine deliveries to ramp up in 2nd quarter
Germany’s health minister on Monday welcomed the announcement by two pharmaeutical companies that they will deliver more coronavirus vaccines during the second quarter than previously predicted.
The Germany company BioNTech, which developed the first widely approved vaccine shot together with U.S. partner Pfizer, will provide Germany with an additional 10 million doses by the end of June. That takes the total expected from the company during the second quarter to 50.3 million jabs.
Rival Moderna is increasing its deliveries to 6.4 million for Germany during that period.
COBRA is free for 6 months under the COVID relief bill. Do you qualify?
Americans who lost a job in the last 18 months are able to stay on or join their former employer’s health care plan for free through Sept. 30. That provision of the American Rescue Plan Act went into effect April 1.
More than 2 million people could benefit, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
The way it works is through the federally administered program known as COBRA. If you work at a company with more than 20 employees and lose your job, you can remain on your employer-sponsored health insurance plan for 18 months through COBRA.
But under normal circumstances, COBRA can be significantly more expensive than employer-sponsored insurance because instead of your employer covering some of the premium, you pick up the tab. COBRA costs include the premium of your plan plus a 2% administrative charge, meaning that this year you could have been looking at monthly outlays of $635 if you’re single or $1,800 for a family, according to Thomas Rice, professor of health policy and management at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health.
But COBRA is now free through the end of September.
To find out if you qualify, read the story here.
UK’s Johnson cancels India trip as its virus cases surge
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has called off a trip to New Delhi amid surging coronavirus cases in India, as the U.K. kept a worried eye on a new variant first identified in the vast Asian nation.
The British and Indian governments said Monday that “in the light of the current coronavirus situation,” Johnson will not be able to travel to India next week as planned. They said Johnson and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi would speak later this month and planned to meet in person later this year.
India reported 273,810 new infections on Monday, its highest daily rise since the start of the pandemic. It has now reported more than 15 million infections, second only to the United States.
Are you hoping to receive a J&J vaccine? A reporter would like to contact you
Washington state has paused the administration of single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccines, which health officials say is an action taken out of extreme caution after six of the 6.8 million people to receive the shot in the U.S. developed rare blood clots. It's unclear when the pause will be rescinded.
Are you waiting to book a vaccine appointment so you can receive the Johnson & Johnson shot? Seattle Times reporter Paige Cornwell would like to speak with you.
COVID once spared the young; Now more are being hospitalized
The pediatrician told Melissa Zajacz of Medina, Ohio, that her 13-year-old son, Spencer, would be back to school in two weeks after he was diagnosed with COVID-19. Then came more trips to the doctor, fevers over 104 degrees and two visits to the Cleveland Clinic emergency room.
Spencer’s case, involving the B.1.1.7. variant, has kept him mostly bedridden and suffering headaches and swollen ankles since March 17. “There is no cure, so they offer support care,” said Melissa Zajacz. “He hasn’t been to school in a month. He’s a healthy, athletic kid, and he’s miserable.”
Throughout previous waves of COVID, children and young adults eluded the pandemic’s gravest consequences, exhibiting mild symptoms or none at all. Now faster-spreading variants are sending more to the hospital. Fatalities remain low, but doctors say the virus is now making the young sicker, some gravely. And the cautionary tales are beginning to multiply.
Did mask hamper Chauvin’s image at murder trial?
The mask that former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin was required to wear during most of his trial in George Floyd ‘s death hid his reaction to testimony, including any signs of sympathy or remorse that legal experts said could make a difference to jurors.
Coronavirus concerns forced Chauvin and other participants to wear masks except when they were addressing the court.
Chauvin elected to not testify in his own defense, so the enduring image of him was his impassive expression from last May captured on video by a teenager who filmed him holding Floyd to the ground for 9 minutes, 29 seconds. The girl called Chauvin’s stare “cold” and “heartless.”
Prosecutors repeatedly displayed the image to the courtroom, and Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo alluded to the white former officer’s facial expression as he explained how he had violated department policy by kneeling on the Black man’s neck for so long.
Legal experts said that image — and the challenge of replacing it in jurors’ minds with Chauvin’s reactions during trial — may have hampered the defense.
“Every trial has a hero and a villain,” said Ryan Pacyga, a defense attorney who followed the trial. “He looks like a villain.”
As the tourism industry returns, 3 million workers wait for a callback
Business is rebounding quickly across the country at hotels, restaurants and airlines, but millions of employees have been left behind as companies seek to lock in pandemic changes to their models and slash labor costs in the future.
For a year, hotels, airlines, casinos and restaurants – at least those that remained in business – have made do with far fewer workers, often well under half of the number they employed before the pandemic. Customers have adjusted, with hotel guests checking themselves in on mobile apps and restaurant patrons content with picking up takeout.
Employment has begun to recover, with 13.8 million people employed in leisure and hospitality jobs this March, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s up from 8.7 million last April after mass layoffs took place.
But that’s still 3 million jobs short of where the industry was before the pandemic, and it remains to be seen how many of the industry’s still out-of-work employees will get a call back with business and international travel to the United States still nearly nonexistent. And some large employers are signaling they plan to make do with fewer employees as they experiment with new business models that allow them to cut labor costs.
A jab on the job: Companies, unions offer COVID-19 vaccines
Marie Watson wanted to be among the first in line when she and other essential workers became eligible for the coronavirus vaccine — and with good reason.
The maintenance parts buyer for a Mission Foods tortilla plant in Pueblo, Colorado, had lost her father to COVID-19 in the fall and was told by a doctor last year that she herself almost certainly had the virus.
So when her union, the United Food Workers and Commercial Workers, secured appointments for the plant’s 200 workers, she jumped in her car and drove to a nearby drive-thru clinic for the first of two doses.
“There was this sense of relief,” Watson said. “This was more confirmation that I’m on my way to being normal.”
A growing number of labor unions and companies are securing shots for their employees as eligibility widens. Some large companies such as Amazon are offering workplace vaccinations through licensed health care providers, while smaller outfits are booking appointments for workers at outside locations.
For employers, the vaccines are a critical step toward restoring normalcy at a time when they expect a spike in demand for their services as more people get inoculated. They are also betting that employees who did not initially trust the vaccine will have a change of heart when they see co-workers receiving it.
Bitter experience helps French ICUs crest latest virus wave
Slowly suffocating in a French intensive care ward, Patrick Aricique feared he would die from his diseased lungs that felt “completely burned from the inside, burned like the cathedral in Paris,” as tired doctors and nurses labored day and night to keep gravely ill COVID-19 patients like him alive.
On his side were French medical professionals who, forged on the bitter experiences of previous infection waves, now fight relentlessly to keep patients awake and off mechanical ventilators, if at all possible. They treated Aricique with nasal tubes and a mask that bathed his heaving lungs in a constant flow of oxygen. That spared him the discomfort of a thick ventilation tube deep down his throat and heavy sedation from which patients often fear — sometimes, rightly so — that they will never awake.
While mechanical ventilation is unavoidable for some patients, it’s a step taken less systematically now than at the start of the pandemic. Dr. Philippe Gouin, who heads the ICU ward where Aricique underwent treatment for severe COVID-19, said, “We know that every tube we insert is going to bring its share of complications, extensions in stay, and sometimes morbidity.”
Will Japanese Olympians be vaccinated ahead of the public?
The vaccine rollout in Japan has been very slow with less than 1% vaccinated, causing concern about the postponed Tokyo Olympics that are scheduled to open in just over three months.
Taro Kono, the minister in charge of the vaccine rollout, said last week that even if the Olympics go on, it’s possible the venues will be empty. This is partly because of the low vaccination rate.
Fans from abroad are already banned from the Olympics, and it’s hard to imagine venues even half-filled with mostly unvaccinated fans. Many non-Japanese entering Japan are expected to be vaccinated.
And while the idea of pushing young, healthy athletes to the front of the vaccination line when almost no one else in Japan is vaccinated is hugely unpopular on social media. However, Kono has said he is ready to deliver vaccines if the government thinks they’re needed.
Remote Alaska villages boast high vaccination rates
John Waghiyi remembers rushing his cousin to the clinic in the Bering Sea city of Savoonga in December, worried he was having a possible heart attack while out butchering a bowhead whale. Waghiyi arrived to see elders waiting in the lobby for a COVID-19 vaccine.
Waghiyi, 66, said he joined them and got a shot before returning to the coast to help finish the whale harvest.
Elders, he said, have set the tone in the Alaska Native community of 735 on the coast of isolated St. Lawrence Island. Vaccination rates for eligible residents 16 or older are among the region’s best, with over 80% having had at least one dose, according to the regional tribal health corporation.
Alaska’s highest vaccination rates have been in some of its remotest, hardest-to-access communities, where the toll of past flu and tuberculosis outbreaks hasn’t been forgotten. Tribal health organizations had flexibility in deciding how best to distribute vaccine allocations they received from the federal Indian Health Service. And they played a significant role in Alaska’s overall vaccine rollout, sharing doses with outside communities and in some cases expanding eligibility faster than the state.
Turkey reports record daily number of COVID-19 deaths
Turkey on Sunday reported its highest daily number of COVID-19 deaths since the start of the pandemic, according to Health Ministry data.
The 318 deaths confirmed in 24 hours took the country’s total pandemic death toll to 35,926. The Health Ministry also reported 55,802 new confirmed cases, pushing Turkey’s total closer to 4.3 million.
Weekly data also released Sunday showed the northwest province of Canakkale with Turkey’s highest infection rate at 962.98 cases per 100,000 people.
Turkey has seen rising numbers of COVID-19 cases and deaths since the government eased virus-control restrictions at the beginning start of March, when daily confirmed cases averaged below 10,000. The government has blamed the rising numbers on coronavirus variants.
India’s capital to lock down amid devastating virus surge
New Delhi imposed a weeklong lockdown Monday night to prevent the collapse of the Indian capital’s health system, which authorities said had been pushed to its limit amid an explosive surge in coronavirus cases.
In scenes familiar from surges elsewhere, ambulances catapulted from one hospital to another, trying to find an empty bed over the weekend, while patients lined up outside of medical facilities waiting to be let in. Ambulances also idled outside of crematoriums, carrying half a dozen dead bodies each.
“People keep arriving, in an almost collapsing situation,” said Dr. Suresh Kumar, who heads Lok Nayak Jai Prakash Narayan Hospital, one of New Delhi’s largest hospitals for treating COVID-19 patients.
Most desperately need oxygen, Kumar said. But the city is facing shortages of oxygen and some medicine, according to Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, who told reporters that the new stringent measures being imposed were required to “prevent a collapse of the health system,” which had “reached its limit.”
Catch up on the past 24 hours
Some Washington health care workers were reluctant to get vaccines, and that surprised hospital officials, who have been working to understand what's holding them back. Nationwide, half of all U.S. adults have gotten at least one shot, though — just like in Washington state — there are clear geographic and political divides.
Vaccination-card scams are threatening to expose people to the virus as businesses start requiring proof of vaccination. One example: a guy who illegally sold more than 100 blank cards in two weeks.
Oregon is considering an indefinite mask rule, and some residents are fuming. More of the widely varied ways the pandemic is playing out in U.S. states: Nevada casinos are returning to full capacity soon, while Alaska airports are wooing travelers with a rather painful perk.
One of the world's first experiments in reopening borders began today with hugs, tears and a live band playing "Never Tear Us Apart." Check out the pure joy.
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