Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Wednesday, April 21, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.
They travel thousands of miles by plane from Latin America to the U.S., in some places taking a shuttle directly from the airport to COVID-19 vaccine sites. Their ranks include politicians, TV personalities, business executives and a soccer team. People of means from Latin America are chartering planes, booking commercial flights, buying bus tickets and renting cars to get the vaccine in the United States due to lack of supply at home.
The global vaccine rollout has been defined by inequity. Across the northern border in Canada, the sight of the United States awash in vaccines and racing ahead to inoculate the population is fueling frustration. By Monday, at President Joe Biden’s request, all U.S. states had expanded vaccine eligibility to everyone 16 and older. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said every Canadian who wants a vaccine will have one by the end of September.
Oregon to allow indoor, full-contact sports despite COVID-19 surge
State officials say despite a fourth surge and rising numbers of patients hospitalized because of COVID-19, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown will ease restrictions by allowing “indoor full-contact sports” to restart by the end of the week.
The Oregonian/OregonLive reports the governor’s office and the Oregon Health Authority said the move is in recognition of “the importance of athletics for the physical and mental health of Oregon’s youth athletes,” although the loosened restrictions also apply to adults.
Low-contact indoor sports already were permitted, but the new rules for the first time since last spring will allow Oregonians of all ages to engage in indoor basketball, cheerleading, wrestling and water polo, among other sports.
Over the past month, new daily cases have increased about 150%, including 55% in the past two weeks.
That’s faster than the national average, with new cases rising in the United States 4% in the past two weeks.
State health officials confirm 1,500 coronavirus cases in Washington
The state Department of Health (DOH) reported 1,500 new coronavirus cases and 15 new deaths on Wednesday.
The update brings the state's totals to 390,214 cases and 5,422 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. Tuesday.
In addition, 21,632 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the virus — 36 new hospitalizations. In King County, the state's most populous, state health officials have confirmed a total of 98,159 COVID-19 diagnoses and 1,503 deaths.
Since vaccinations began in mid-December, the state and health care providers have administered 4,765,270 doses and 25.9% 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 58,830 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.
Europe lines up more shots, hoping to beat back virus surge
Slow out of the gate, the European Union has ramped up its COVID-19 vaccination efforts, with the distribution of the Johnson & Johnson one-shot product this week adding to the momentum amid doggedly high infection rates on the continent.
The EU’s vaccine drive still lags far behind that of Britain or the United States. Only about 1 in 5 of the bloc’s 450 million inhabitants have received their first shot — approximately half the U.S. share. But European officials say they have turned the corner.
“In the first quarter of 2021 only 10% of Germans were able to receive a first vaccination due to the shortage of vaccine,” German Health Minister Jens Spahn said this week. “We achieved the next 10% in just three weeks.”
France celebrated several vaccine milestones recently, including dispensing at least one dose to practically 100% of the country’s 700,000 nursing home residents.
And Italy, the Netherlands and other countries are pressing ahead with plans to begin dispensing the J&J shot, or are already doing so, after the EU’s drug regulatory agency Tuesday gave the green light for its use amid concerns over a rare type of blood clot seen in an extremely small number of recipients in the U.S.
New data reassuring for COVID-19 vaccination in pregnancy
One of the largest reports on COVID-19 vaccination in pregnancy bolsters evidence that it is safe although the authors say more comprehensive research is needed.
The preliminary results are based on reports from over 35,000 U.S. women who received either the Moderna or Pfizer shots while pregnant. Their rates of miscarriage, premature births and other complications were comparable to those observed in published reports on pregnant women before the pandemic.
The new evidence from researchers at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine.
None of the women involved received Johnson & Johnson’s one-shot vaccine, which became available after the study, and is now in limbo as U.S. authorities examine reports of blood clots in a handful of women.
Separately, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine on Tuesday endorsed vaccination in pregnancy, based on evidence it has been evaluating for over a year.
‘’Everyone, including pregnant women and those seeking to become pregnant, should get a COVID-19 vaccine. The vaccines are safe and effective,’’ the society said in a statement.
Due to COVID-19, Seafair 2021 will include a hybrid of virtual and live events
For a second year in a row, the popular Seafair festival will not take place in its traditional form this summer. Instead, smaller Seafair events will occur throughout July and August in both virtual and in-person formats.
“While encouraged by Governor (Jay) Inslee’s Phase 3 guidelines that support small and medium size events to return with limitations, Seafair leadership recognizes the guidelines will not support events the scale of a city-wide festival,” organizers said in a news release.
Seafair events that will take place virtually this summer are the Seafair Summer 4th, Milk Carton Derby, Seattle Fleet Week, The Bowing Air Show and The HomeStreet Bank Cup that features the popular hydroplane races.
The Seafair Triathlon, Torchlight Parade and Seafair Torchlight Run will offer both in-person and other options.
Walk-in vaccinations now available in Rainier Beach and West Seattle for those 60 and older
Starting immediately, anyone 60 years and older who lives or works in King County can walk into Seattle Fire Department Community Vaccination Hubs in Rainier Beach and West Seattle and get a COVID-19 shot without an appointment.
Additionally, anyone of any age can get the vaccine if they bring in another person who's 60 years or older for their shot as part of the newly launched city initiative.
The "Good Neighbor" program aims to get people to reach out to older neighbors, relatives and friends who could be facing mobility, technology and other accessibility issues and help them get to the city's vaccination hubs.
The two hubs that are accepting the walk-ins are in Rainier Beach (Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Atlantic City Boat Ramp at 8702 Seward Park Ave. S.) and in West Seattle (Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. at 2801 SW Thistle St.)
Dutch PM eases lockdown amid infection rise
Dutch caretaker Prime Minister Mark Rutte announced a significant easing in his country’s months-long coronavirus lockdown Tuesday, calling it a delicate balancing act as infections remain stubbornly high.
The decision to cautiously relax restrictions reflects difficult choices being made in many countries as lockdown fatigue grows even as positive cases keep rising.
Earlier in the day, the country’s public health institute said that the number of people who tested positive over the last week rose by 5.3% to nearly 54,000. The institute said that the pressure on hospitals and other medical professionals “remains high,” but Rutte said there are predictions the infection curve is flattening.
Asian Americans wary about school amid virus, violence
As high schools and elementary schools across the country gradually re-open for full-time classes, Asian American families are wrestling with whether to send their children back out into the world at a time when anti-Asian hostility and violence is on the rise.
Some Asian American parents say they’re content to keep their children in virtual classes, especially with the school year winding down and COVID-19 cases rising in places. Others are conceding to adolescents craving normalcy, while still others refuse to shield their youths from bigotry.
Asian American students have the highest rates of remote learning more than a year after the coronavirus pandemic shuttered school buildings and forced districts to pivot to online classes. A federal government survey released earlier this month found just 15% of Asian American fourth graders were attending classes in-person as of February, compared with more than half of white fourth graders.
Another $65M for $1,000 COVID relief grants now available for immigrants, state says
Another $65 million has been added to the fund that helps Washington state residents who have been economically impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic but unable to access unemployment or federal stimulus money due to their immigration status.
Starting Wednesday, applications will be open again for one-time $1,000 grants from the Washington COVID-19 Immigrant Relief Fund, a pool of money created during the coronavirus pandemic to support people who are ineligible for other financial support due to their immigration status.
With the addition of $65 million in recent allocations, the relief fund will be able to provide a total of $127.6 million in federal CARES Act funding, said officials with the state Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS).
Sarah Peterson, chief of the department's Office of Refugee and Immigrant Assistance, said in a statement that 60,000 people have already received a grant.
Applications will be open until May 21, and funds will be distributed to approved applicants between June 1 and June 15.
Applications are open to state residents 18 and older who have been significantly affected by the coronavirus pandemic, are ineligible for other benefits and have an income at or below 250% of the federal poverty level.
COVID vaccine demand softens in some parts of Washington state as variants, cases rise
Washington state is doubling down on its COVID-19 vaccine ambitions as case counts rise and concerning coronavirus variants spread.
“We are setting a new goal for the state of Washington for 90,000 vaccines per day,” said Dr. Umair Shah, the state’s health secretary, in a Wednesday morning briefing. He said the state can handle more appointments if the federal government can provide more supplies.
Next week, the state expects to receive more than 377,000 doses of Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, according to the Department of Health.
Doubling the previous goal of 45,000 vaccines a day could be a challenge as more than a third of Washingtonians have received at least one dose and in some parts of the state, demand is softening.
Parted couple overcome pain of pandemic through glass
Since the coronavirus pandemic struck Spain, a glass pane has separated Xavier Antó and Carmen Panzano for the first prolonged period of the couple’s 65-year marriage.
Antó, age 90, appears three or four times a week at the street-level window that looks into the Barcelona nursing home where his 92-year-old wife lives, which closed to visitors more than a year ago to protect residents from COVID-19.
Employees from the home provide him with a chair and bring Panzano to the other side of the window. Antó shows her photos of their grandchildren on his phone to try to counteract the effects of her Alzheimer’s disease.
Both have vaccines against the coronavirus, but Spain’s nursing homes still are under tight controls after tens of thousands of the country’s oldest adults died in senior care facilities during the early months of the pandemic.
The couple met in 1953 and got married in 1955. Except for a spell early in their marriage when he worked away from home, they always were together.
“We had never been apart,” Antó told The Associated Press.
Now, when he comes to visit, the wife and husband put their hands on the glass and blow each other kisses. Although they cannot hear each other speak, at least they don’t worry about how much time they have to share.
Oxygen supply disruption kills 22 COVID-19 patients in India
Twenty-two COVID-19 patients on ventilators died in a hospital in western India on Wednesday when their oxygen supply was interrupted by a leak in a supply line, officials said.
Fire officer Sanjay Bairagi said the leak was halted by the fire service within 15 minutes, but there was supply disruption in the Zakir Hussain Hospital in Nashik, a city in Maharashtra state that is the worst hit by the latest surge in coronavirus cases in the country. Some of the 140 COVID-19 patients were moved to another hospital.
India has reported a new record 295,041 coronavirus cases, as the daily death toll crossed 2,000 for the first time. Overall, India has reported more than 15.6 million confirmed cases, the second highest behind the United States. The number of deaths stood at 182,553.
Pandemic good Samaritan faces hefty tax bill for his efforts
MANSFIELD, Conn. — A Connecticut middle school teacher who raised $41,000 to help hundreds of his struggling neighbors during the COVID-19 pandemic got an unwelcome surprise for his charitable efforts: a form stating he could owe $16,031 in income taxes.
Louis Goffinet, 27, of Mansfield, began picking up groceries for elderly neighbors afraid to go to the store during the early days of the pandemic, often spending his own money. Given the great need, he organized two fundraisers on Facebook over a year, tracking 140 grocery trips, Friday night dinners to 125 families and rental assistance to five families.
In January, Facebook sent Goffinet a 1099 form that stated he owed taxes on the money he had raised.
His bill is due May 17 and he expects to pay “some sort of tax burden” but isn’t sure exactly how much. Meanwhile, some people in the community are now trying to help him out with the tax bill, sending checks in checks but to a post office box and not through Facebook.
For grieving Queen Elizabeth II, a private and subdued 95th birthday
Queen Elizabeth II thanked the public on Wednesday for their support following the death of Prince Philip, as she turned 95 and marked her birthday without her husband of more than seven decades.
The queen’s birthday comes just four days after the funeral of Philip, whom she hailed as her “strength and stay” throughout her reign and their 73 years of marriage.
Over the weekend, members of the British public expressed concern for the queen, who was forced to sit alone during the funeral ceremony at St. George’s Chapel because of England’s stringent coronavirus restrictions. Many sympathized with her, while others remained in awe at her strength in the face of loss.
FDA inspection found problems at factory making J&J vaccine
The Baltimore factory contracted to make Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine was dirty, didn’t follow proper manufacturing procedures and had poorly trained staff, resulting in contamination of material that was going to be put in the shots, U.S. regulators said Wednesday.
The Food and Drug Administration released a statement and a 13-page report detailing findings from its recent inspection of the now-idle Emergent Biosciences factory.
Agency inspectors said a batch of the bulk drug substance for J&J’s single-shot vaccine was contaminated with material used to make COVID-19 vaccines for another Emergent client, AstraZeneca. That batch, reportedly enough to make about 15 million J&J vaccine doses, had to be thrown out.
Both Emergent and Johnson & Johnson said Wednesday that they are working to fix the problems as quickly as possible. Nothing made at the factory for J&J has been distributed yet.
Japan prepares for 3rd virus emergency in Tokyo, Osaka areas
Japan’s government is preparing to announce a third state of emergency in Tokyo and the western metropolitan area around Osaka following requests from local leaders who say current measures are failing to curb a rapid rise in coronavirus infections.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and key ministers met late Wednesday to discuss details before deciding on a state of emergency for Tokyo, Osaka and neighboring Kyoto and Hyogo expected later this week.
Osaka, the worst-hit area in the latest upsurge beginning in March, reported 1,242 new cases Wednesday, a new high for the prefecture.
China says 200 million citizens have been vaccinated
Around 200 million Chinese, or 14.29% of the population, have been vaccinated for COVID-19 so far, with an emphasis on front-line workers, university students and people living in border areas, a health official said Wednesday.
China is ramping up vaccination efforts after a slow start, prompted in part by the virtual elimination of domestic transmission. Just two local cases were reported on Wednesday, both in the city of Ruili, which borders on Myanmar.
China has approved five domestically produced vaccines and exported millions of dose. The Chinese vaccines have an efficacy range of 50.7% to 79.3%, based on company data, lower than their foreign peers but still effective.
India being overrun by its massive virus surge
India has been overwhelmed by hundreds of thousands of new coronavirus cases daily, bringing pain, fear and agony to many lives as lockdowns have been placed in Delhi and other cities.
India’s Health Ministry reported 295,041 new cases on Wednesday with 2,023 deaths, taking total fatalities to 182,553. India has since the start of the pandemic recorded 15.6 million cases, the second highest behind the United States.
Newly reported cases have exceeded 200,000 each day for a week — with people being infected faster than they can be tested.
Brazil COVID cases still soaring among unprotected majority
Brazil’s slowly unfolding vaccination program appears to have slowed the pace of deaths among the nation’s elderly, according to death certificate data, but COVID-19 is still taking a rising toll as unprotected younger people get sick.
People 80 and over accounted for a quarter of the nation’s COVID-19 deaths in February, but less than a fifth in March, according to data provided to The Associated Press on Tuesday by Arpen-Brasil, an association which represents thousands of the notaries who record death certificates in Brazil.
But relatively few beyond the elderly have been protected: Less than 9 million of Brazil’s 210 million residents have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to Our World in Data, an online research site.
Confirmed new infections from the virus among all age groups jumped about 70 percent between December and March: Reported cases rose from 1.3 million in December to 1.5 million in January, to 1.36 million in February and to 2.25 million in March. But among people aged 20 to 59 the death toll tripled from February to March, hitting 23,366, according to the notaries.
Catch up on the past 24 hours
President Joe Biden is stepping up his push to get vaccines in arms. He'll outline his plan at 10:15 a.m. Pacific time today as the U.S. approaches a big milestone.
Which parts of life are safe to resume after vaccination: Advice from the CDC and seven health experts is wrapped into this post-vaccine guide to living safely, which includes going to gyms, shopping, taking an Uber and more.
Has the pandemic put you out of work for a year or more? We're covering the challenges of long-term unemployment, and we'd like to hear from you.
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