Vaccine providers can resume inoculations with the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine in Washington state.

Gov. Jay Inslee on Saturday said vaccine experts with the Western States Scientific Safety Review work group gave the greenlight to continue using the vaccine, which had been on pause for 12 days in Washington state as regulators examined the association between the vaccine and rare blood clots.

Restarting shots with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine will boost Washington’s overall vaccine supply modestly. Vaccine providers in the state held back 170,000 doses of J&J during the pause.

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.

Some South Koreans prepare for life after the pandemic with a facelift

In the offices of Grand Plastic Surgery in Seoul’s glitzy Gangnam district, Lee Se-hwan has been busy nipping, tucking and keeping up with clients who see the coronavirus health rules the ideal time to tweak their look.

The doctor — and many others in South Korea’s plastic surgery empire — find themselves in one of the more improbable niches of the pandemic: a miniboom even as other looks-conscious businesses such as fashion and salons have taken big hits from lockdowns and the shift to working from home.

Cosmetic surgery and skin clinics in South Korea recorded a 10% jump in sales in the first 10 months of 2020 from the previous year, according to a survey by Hana Institute of Finance in Seoul.

That boost came without the normal medical tourists from overseas who flock to South Korea, a center in Asia for cosmetic surgery and one of the world’s best-known locales for aesthetic procedures.

Read more here.

—The Washington Post

Michigan’s COVID wards are filling up with younger patients

At Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak, in one of America’s worst coronavirus hot spots, entire units are still filled with COVID-19 patients. People weak with the virus still struggle to sit up in bed. And the phone still rings with pleas to transfer patients on the verge of death to units with higher-tech equipment.

But unlike previous surges, it now is younger and middle-aged adults — not their parents and grandparents — who are taking up many of Michigan’s hospital beds. A 37-year-old woman on a ventilator after giving birth. A 41-year-old father. A 55-year-old autoworker who has been sick for weeks.

“We’re getting to the point where we’re just so beat down,” said Alexandra Budnik, an intensive care nurse who works in a unit with lifesaving machines, or circuits, that are in short supply. “Every time we get a call or every time we hear that there’s another 40-year-old that we don’t have a circuit for, it’s just like, you know, we can’t save them all.”

Across Michigan, which is experiencing by far the country’s most dangerous outbreak, more younger people are being admitted to hospitals with the coronavirus than at any other time in the pandemic. Michigan hospitals are now admitting about twice as many coronavirus patients in their 30s and 40s as they were during the fall peak, according to the Michigan Health & Hospital Association.

Read more here.

—The New York Times

Thousands of COVID-19 vaccine slots available in Seattle

More than 18,000 COVID-19 vaccination appointments remained open and available for booking in the coming days, as of 8:30 p.m. Sunday, according to the City of Seattle.

Everyone over the age of 16 is now eligible for vaccination in Washington State, and the city is currently offering vaccinations at Lumen Field, Rainier Beach and West Seattle. Appointments can be booked online.

—Seattle Times Staff

Phuket was poised for tourism comeback. A COVID surge dashed those hopes.

Only a few weeks ago, Phuket Island in Thailand seemed poised for a comeback. After a year of practically no foreign tourists arriving in the country, the national government decided that Phuket would start welcoming vaccinated visitors in July, without requiring them to go through quarantine. The project was called Phuket Sandbox.

But Thailand is now gripped by its worst COVID-19 outbreak since the pandemic began, spread in part by well-heeled Thais who partied in Phuket and Bangkok with no social distancing. The confirmed daily caseload — albeit low by global standards — has increased from 26 on April 1 to more than 2,000 three weeks later in a country that had about 4,000 total cases in early December.

For months, Thailand’s strict quarantines, lockdowns, border vigilance and rigorous use of masks kept the virus at bay, although the economy suffered. But even as the past couple of weeks have brought repeated daily caseload highs, the Thai government is reacting slowly.

Read more here.

—The New York Times

CDC updates summer camp advice

Children going to camp this summer can be within 3 feet of peers in the same-group settings, but they must wear masks at all times, federal health officials say. The only times children should remove their masks is when they are swimming, napping, eating or drinking; they should be spaced far apart for these activities, positioned head to toe for naps and seated at least 6 feet apart for meals, snacks and water breaks.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued the anticipated updated guidance for summer camp operators this weekend, just weeks before many camps resume operations in mid-May. Many parents have been eager to find camps for their children, who had spent months indoors in remote learning classes during the pandemic.

Read more here.

—The New York Times

Biden authorizes vaccine supplies for COVID-ravaged India

Under pressure from vaccine makers in India who say they need supplies to combat a surge in coronavirus cases, the Biden administration said Sunday that it had partially lifted a ban against the export of raw materials needed to make vaccines.

“The United States has identified sources of specific raw material urgently required for Indian manufacture of the Covishield vaccine that will immediately be made available for India,” Emily Horne, a spokesperson for the national security counsel, said in a statement Sunday. Covishield is the India-produced version of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine.

The announcement came after Jake Sullivan, President Joe Biden’s national security adviser, held a call earlier in the day with Ajit Doval, his counterpart in India, and a day after the Indian government reported more than 346,000 new infections, a world record. Government officials in India say they are running desperately low on supplies, including oxygen and protective gear. A new variant, B.1.617, is thought to be at least partly the cause of the catastrophic rise in cases.

Read more here.

—The New York Times

EU to allow vaccinated American visitors this summer

BRUSSELS — American tourists who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 will be able to visit the European Union over the summer, the head of the bloc’s executive body said in an interview with The New York Times on Sunday, more than a year after shutting down nonessential travel from most countries to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

The fast pace of vaccination in the United States, and advanced talks between U.S. authorities and the European Union over how to make vaccine certificates acceptable as proof of immunity for visitors, will enable the European Commission, the executive branch of the European Union, to recommend a switch in policy that could see trans-Atlantic leisure travel restored.

“The Americans, as far as I can see, use European Medicines Agency-approved vaccines,” Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, said Sunday in an interview with the Times in Brussels. “This will enable free movement and the travel to the European Union.”

Read more here.

—The New York Times

Millions are skipping their second doses of COVID vaccines

Millions of Americans are not getting the second doses of their COVID-19 vaccines, and their ranks are growing.

More than 5 million people, or nearly 8% of those who got a first shot of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, have missed their second doses, according to the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That is more than double the rate among people who got inoculated in the first several weeks of the nationwide vaccine campaign.

Even as the country wrestles with the problem of millions of people who are wary about getting vaccinated at all, health authorities are confronting an emerging challenge of ensuring that those who do get inoculated are doing so fully.

Read more here.

—The New York Times

India’s COVID crisis imperils vaccinations in Africa

The rapidly escalating coronavirus crisis in India is not only forcing hospitals to ration oxygen and sending families scrambling to find open beds for infected loved ones. It is also wreaking havoc on the global vaccination effort.

Nowhere is that more evident than in Africa.

Most nations were relying on vaccines produced by the Serum Institute factory in India. But the Indian government’s decision to restrict exports of doses as it deals with its own outbreak means that Africa’s already slow vaccination campaign could soon come to a near standstill.

Read more here.

—The New York Times

Stop vaccine ‘finger wagging,’ says top U.S. health official

The U.S. political divide on whether to get the coronavirus vaccine suggests that “maybe there’s been too much finger wagging,” said the head of the National Institutes of Health.

“I’ve done some of that; I’m going to try to stop and listen, in fact, to what people’s specific questions are,” NIH Director Francis Collins said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

An NBC News poll released Sunday showed that 82% of Democrats had already been vaccinated or plan to be as soon as possible, against 45% of Republicans.

Almost one-quarter of Republicans said they won’t get vaccinated and an additional 10% said they’ll do so only if required. That hesitancy has been seen as a roadblock to the U.S. achieving herd immunity against COVID-19.

“We’re all in this together. And clearly, if we’re going to be able to put COVID-19 behind us, we need to have all Americans take part in getting us to that point,” Collins said.

Read more here.


What do you do when the kids are still unvaccinated?

Many families will soon face a complicated choice about how quickly to resume their pre-pandemic activities.

More than 50% of American adults have already received at least one COVID-19 vaccine shot. At the current pace, virtually all adults who want to get vaccinated will have been able to get a shot by July. Yet relatively few children, especially younger children, will have been vaccinated by then. While the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine may be authorized for children ages 12 to 15 as early as next month, younger children appear to remain months away from being eligible for any vaccine.

What should those families do this summer and next fall, as they consider sending children to day care, seeing relatives, socializing with friends, eating in restaurants or traveling on airplanes?

The answers will not be easy. Families will make different decisions based on their preferences. There will be more than one reasonable approach.

Read more here.

—The New York Times

How COVID upended a century of patterns in U.S. deaths

The U.S. death rate in 2020 was the highest above normal since the early 1900s — even surpassing the calamity of the 1918 flu pandemic.

A surge in deaths from the COVID-19 pandemic created the largest gap between the actual and expected death rate in 2020 — what public health researchers call excess deaths, or deaths above normal.

Aside from fatalities directly attributed to COVID-19, some excess deaths last year were most likely undercounts of the virus or misdiagnoses, or indirectly related to the pandemic otherwise. Preliminary federal data show that overdose deaths have also surged during the pandemic.

A New York Times analysis of U.S. death patterns for the past century shows how much 2020 deviated from the norm.

Since the 1918 pandemic, the country’s death rate has fallen steadily. But last year, the COVID-19 pandemic interrupted that trend, despite a century of improvements in medicine and public health.

In the first half of the 20th century, deaths were mainly dominated by infectious diseases. As medical advancements increased life expectancy, death rates also started to smooth out in the 1950s, and the mortality rate in recent decades — driven largely by chronic diseases — had continued to decline.

In 2020, however, the United States saw the largest single-year surge in the death rate since federal statistics became available. The rate increased 16% from 2019, even more than the 12% jump during the 1918 flu pandemic.

Read more here.

—The New York Times

Spanish man charged with infecting 22 people with COVID-19

A Spanish man with COVID-19 symptoms who coughed on work colleagues and told them “I’m going to give you all the coronavirus” has been charged with intentionally causing injury after allegedly infecting 22 people.

Spanish police said their investigation began after a COVID-19 outbreak at the company where the 40-year-old man worked on the Mediterranean island of Mallorca.

Days before the outbreak, the man showed COVID-19 symptoms but refused his colleagues’ suggestions to go home and self-isolate, police said in a statement.

After work, and showing no improvement, he went for a PCR test before visiting a gym and returning to work the next day. Though his superiors told him to go home after he allegedly had showed a temperature of 40 degrees Celsius, the man refused.

He walked around his workplace, lowering his face mask and coughing on people, saying “I’m going to infect you all with the coronavirus,” according to police.

At the end of the day, his PCR test came back positive. His colleagues were then tested, with five returning positive results. They in turn infected family members, including three infants, police said. At the gym the man visited, three people tested positive and also infected family members.

Read more here.

—The Associated Press

Michigan became coronavirus hot spot due to variants, lack of vigilance

Eric Gala passed up an opportunity to get a coronavirus vaccine when shots became available in Michigan, and he admits not taking the virus seriously enough.

Then he got sick with what he thought was the flu. He thought he would sweat it out and then feel back to normal.

Before long, the 63-year-old Detroit-area retiree was in a hospital hooked up to a machine to help him breathe. He had COVID-19.

“I was having more trouble breathing and they turned the oxygen up higher — that’s when I got scared and thought I wasn’t going to make it,” a visibly weary Gala told The Associated Press on Wednesday from his hospital bed at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, north of Detroit. “I had so many people tell me this was a fake disease.”

Gala’s situation illustrates how Michigan has become the current national hot spot for COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations at a time when more than half the U.S. adult population has been vaccinated and other states have seen the virus diminish substantially.

Doctors, medical professionals and public health officials point to a number of factors that explain how the situation has gotten so bad in Michigan, where coronavirus variants and failed vigilance have taken a toll. 

Read more here.

—The Associated Press

Travel safely in the era of COVID? It can be done

In the U.S., upwards of 3 million people a day are leaving vaccine sites with new immunity and new questions about what to do with it.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that if you’re fully vaccinated, have waited through two weeks of immunity buildup, and are otherwise healthy, you’re all clear to travel. But that may feel easier said than done.

Travel planning today comes with novel anxieties, some of them easier to answer than others. Is it safe to fly? Experts say yes, even though middle seats are no longer being blocked. Is it better to stay in an Airbnb or a hotel? Depends on what type of experience you want. Can I bring my unvaccinated kids? Only if you’re comfortable with their potential viral exposure. (But go ahead, bring the pandemic puppy.)

The considerations worth taking differ from household to household. Being thorough about how you plan can effectively mitigate risk and exposure-and soothe anxiety and eliminate stress before and during a trip. What good is a vacation, after all, if it doesn’t offer mental respite? It can be done.

Read more here.