Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Tuesday, April 26, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.

The White House’s new COVID-19 coordinator said that even as the U.S. remains watchful for new coronavirus variants and faces an increase in reported cases, the administration is not looking to prevent every infection.

Dr. Ashish Jha added that though the 300 average of daily COVID-19 deaths is “still too high,” the rate of COVID-19 deaths against reported infections is a promising change.

Meanwhile, Britain’s Health Security Agency analyzed eight studies and reported that six of the studies found that receiving the COVID-19 vaccine could reduce the risk of long COVID. However, the other two studies found that the vaccine did not conclusively reduce the risk of long COVID.

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 the rest of our coronavirus coverage and here to see how we track the daily spread across Washington.

More

Red Sox manager Cora recovered from COVID, rejoins team

Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora rejoined the team in Toronto on Wednesday after missing the past six games because of COVID-19.

The Red Sox have gone 1-5 under bench coach Will Venable since Cora tested positive before last Thursday’s home loss to Toronto. Boston is 7-11 overall.

Cora said he was glad he caught the infection before the Red Sox flew to Florida last Thursday night for a weekend series against the Tampa Bay Rays.

“I didn’t want to be the guy that hopped on a plane feeling bad and putting the whole team in a bad spot,” Cora said. “You have to be smart about it, you have to be responsible.”

Read the full story here.

—Ian Harrison, The Associated Press
Advertising

Shanghai seeks ‘societal zero COVID’ with rounds of testing

Shanghai city authorities said Wednesday they will start rounds of COVID-19 testing over the next few days to determine which neighborhoods can safely be allowed a limited amount of freedom of movement, as residents in Beijing watch carefully on word for whether the capital city will lock down.

On Wednesday, China reported 14,222 new cases, the vast majority of which were asymptomatic. The country is battling its largest outbreak since the pandemic was first reported in Wuhan in late December 2019.

Shanghai’s vice head of its health committee, Zhao Dandan, announced Wednesday that the city would begin another round of testing for city residents over the next few days to determine which districts were lower risk. Areas that have been declared to have achieved “societal zero COVID” could see some measure of limited freedom.

The phrase, used by Chinese health authorities, refers to when new positive cases are only discovered in people who are already under surveillance, such as in centralized quarantine or those considered to be close contacts. At this point, they are considered to have broken off chains of transmission at the community level.

Read the story here.

—Huizhong Wu, The Associated Press

Pfizer asks FDA to clear COVID booster shot for kids 5-11

Pfizer Inc. asked U.S. regulators for emergency-use authorization of a booster shot of its COVID-19 vaccine in children ages 5 to 11, setting in motion an effort to provide extra protection to kids.

Pfizer and partner BioNTech SE submitted data to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration from a late-stage study that showed a third-dose booster shot, given about 6 months after the second dose, provided a strong immune response.

The companies also plan to submit data to the European Medicines Agency and other regulators around the world, according to a statement Tuesday. No new safety concerns were identified, they said.

The U.S. campaign to immunize children has tapered off, with 28% of children ages 5 to 11 fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Fewer than a quarter of adolescents ages 12 to 17, who are already eligible for boosters, have received one. That bodes poorly for a booster campaign among the youngest children.

Read the story here.

—Riley Griffin, Bloomberg News

This Ramadan, many U.S. Muslims finally gathering in person again

It was 20 minutes until sunset and Imran Shah still had 70 chicken wings to fry, watermelon to slice and a cast-iron skillet of macaroni and cheese to get on the table.

His wife, Rohma Sahibzada, arranged chicken-stuffed puff pastries next to a garlicky herb cheese baked into a pie crust. Then she plated rows of her signature appetizer, buffalo chicken wontons.

“Ramadan is a very special time of the year,” Shah said. “We often say that we spend half the year waiting for it and then the other half of the year sad that it’s gone.” That’s even more true this year, as some families and friends gather in person for the first time since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

Shah and Sahibzada, both 31, were feeling that joy. Even the stresses of hosting a big event — four trips to the grocery store, an emergency cookie run — couldn’t damper their excitement. Finally, after two years of fractured and inconsistent celebration, they were spending Ramadan as it should be: in community.

Read the full story here.

— Abigail Higgins, The Washington Post
Advertising

COVID boosts U.S. hospitals’ labor costs, even after cases decline

Hospitals are starting to emerge from the worst of COVID-19, but one consequence has persisted: They still have to pay workers more.

HCA Healthcare Inc. and Universal Health Services Inc., two of the largest U.S. for-profit hospital chains, each warned this month that the price of labor could continue to eat into their profits.

The pandemic upset the U.S. economy in many ways, but health care was subject to some of the biggest shocks. Nurses, doctors and other staff were exposed to COVID on a daily basis before vaccines were available, and often lacked proper protective gear. In the first year of the pandemic more than 3,600 health care workers died of COVID, according to Kaiser Health News. High labor needs, burnout and illness have left many hospitals short-staffed, and large numbers of nurses took better-paying travel jobs, working on contract for a few weeks or months in surge locations.

And even though supply chain shortages and a tight labor market have pushed up the cost of goods across many industries, health care wages have increased faster than other sectors. From January 2020 to January 2022, private wages at hospitals rose 13.1%, compared with 11% across all sectors, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Read the story here.

—Lauren Coleman-Lochner and Emma Court, Bloomberg

Before Washington’s ‘nerd prom,’ lots of risk-benefit calculation

Vice President Kamala Harris’ coronavirus infection is raising questions that some in the nation’s capital wish would remain unspoken: Is it safe for President Joe Biden to attend the so-called nerd prom, otherwise known as the White House Correspondents’ Dinner? Should the dinner even be held?

The flashy event, where journalists, politicians and policy wonks mingle with celebrities, is returning in person Saturday after a two-year absence because of the pandemic. It will be the first time a president has attended since 2016. Expected attendance: 2,600.

As the nation lurches out of the acute phase of the pandemic and into what some are calling the new normal, the dinner — like so much of American life — is prompting a good deal of risk-benefit calculation. Dr. Anthony Fauci, Biden’s top medical adviser for the coronavirus, said Tuesday that he had decided not to attend “because of my individual assessment of my personal risk.”

But Biden, who at 79 is two years younger than Fauci, will be there, as will his wife, Jill Biden. White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Tuesday that Harris’ diagnosis had not changed the president’s thinking about the dinner, which she described as an opportunity to “talk about the importance of journalism in the world.”

Read the full story here.

— Sheryl Gay Stolberg, The New York Times

Quarantine lottery breached rights, New Zealand court rules

During the height of pandemic restrictions, thousands of New Zealanders desperate to return home essentially had to roll the dice month after month as they tried to secure a coveted bed in a quarantine hotel run by the military.

On Wednesday, a New Zealand court ruled that the government had breached the rights of its own citizens by imposing the lottery-style system on them.

A group called Grounded Kiwis had used crowdsourcing to help fund their case against the government.

But while they were celebrating their victory, the case may have little impact going forward as New Zealand has since abandoned its zero-tolerance approach to the virus and largely dismantled its contentious quarantine system.

Central to the case was New Zealand’s Bill of Rights Act, which guarantees every citizen the right to return home.

High Court Justice Jillian Mallon ruled that forcing people to stay in quarantine hotels for two weeks initially, and later for one week, was reasonable given the circumstances of the pandemic.

Read the story here.

—Nick Perry, The Associated Press
Advertising

New White House COVID czar: Avoiding all virus infections isn’t goal of U.S. pandemic policy

Dr. Ashish Jha, the White House’s new COVID-19 coordinator, said Tuesday that as the United States sees an increase in known coronavirus cases and keeps a watchful eye for new variants, the administration was not seeking to stop every infection.

Making his first appearance at a White House news briefing since he assumed the role earlier this month, Jha cited the relatively low number of new deaths — though around 300 a day were “still too high,” he added — and hospitalizations at their lowest point in the pandemic. Those tallies, set against the rising number of cases around the country, amounted to a promising “inflection,” he said.

Asked what Americans should make of high-profile people such as Vice President Kamala Harris testing positive for the virus, Jha said that with such a contagious virus spreading, it would be “hard to ensure that no one gets COVID in America.”

“That’s not even a policy goal,” he said. “The goal of our policy should be: obviously minimize infections whenever possible but to make sure people don’t get seriously ill.”

The average number of confirmed new cases a day in the United States — more than 49,000 daily as of Monday, according to a New York Times database — is comparable to levels last seen in late July, even as cases have risen by more than 50% over the past two weeks, a trend infectious disease experts have attributed to new omicron subvariants.

Read the story here.

—Noah Weiland, The New York Times

Do vaccines protect against long COVID?

As the pandemic enters its third year, long COVID has emerged as an increasingly important concern. And many people are wondering whether getting a COVID shot can reduce their chances of developing long-term symptoms.

The jury is still out, but a growing number of studies suggest that getting a COVID vaccine can reduce — though not eliminate — the risk of longer-term symptoms.

Britain’s Health Security Agency conducted an analysis of eight studies that had been published on the topic before mid-January. It reported that six of the studies found that vaccinated people who became infected with the coronavirus were less likely than unvaccinated patients to develop symptoms of long COVID. The remaining two studies found that vaccination did not appear to conclusively reduce the chances of developing long COVID.

Read the full story here.

— Pam Belluck, The New York Times

Court says UK’s nursing home COVID-19 policy was illegal

A British court ruled Wednesday that the government’s decision to discharge hospital patients into nursing homes without testing them for COVID-19, which led to thousands of deaths early in the pandemic, was illegal.

Two High Court judges said the policy from March and April 2020 was unlawful because it failed to take into account the infection risk that non-symptomatic carriers of the virus posed to older or vulnerable people.

The judges said officials did not consider other options, including keeping such patients separate from other nursing home residents for a time as much as practically possible.

“This was not a binary question – a choice between on the one hand doing nothing at all, and on the other hand requiring all newly admitted residents to be quarantined,” the judges said.

The ruling came in response to a lawsuit by two women whose fathers died when the virus swept through the homes where they lived. Their lawyers said the decisions that allowed COVID-19 to spread among the elderly and vulnerable was “one of the most egregious and devastating policy failures in the modern era.”

Read the story here.

—Jill Lawless, The Associated Press
Advertising

Seattle police ignored orders to mask up, exposing ‘serious cultural issue,’ report says

Some Seattle police officers routinely — and illegally — ignored state and city mask mandates during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and refused to obey direct orders from the chief to comply, exposing what accountability officials called a “serious cultural issue” within the department, according to a recently released review by the Office of Inspector General.

The report states that the department was fined $17,500 last year after receiving two notices of “serious violations” of the Washington Administrative Code over officers’ refusal to comply with the mandates after inspections by the state Department of Labor and Industries. The report noted that it was difficult for command staff to demand officers comply with the regulations because some captains and assistant chiefs didn’t mask up, either.

L&I concluded the police department “did not provide a workplace free from recognized hazards that are causing, or likely to cause, serious injury or death.”

The department’s OIG, one of three civilian-run police oversight agencies, said the police chief gave officers “clear direction” and “explicit orders” about mask-wearing as early as March 2020 — followed by a string of increasingly stern reminders.

Interim Chief Adrian Diaz then issued a direct order in January 2021 that all officers comply with the city’s mask policy, saying any violation would be referred to internal affairs. But even then, officers continued to refuse.

“The emails demonstrate that command staff and supervisors struggled to gain widespread compliance with orders pertaining to masking,” the OIG report found.

Read the story here.

—Mike Carter

Another rare virus puzzle: They got sick, got treated, got COVID again

Shortly after he served on a jury in March, Gregg Crumley developed a sore throat and congestion. The retired molecular biologist took a rapid test on a Saturday and saw a dark, thick line materialize — “wildly positive” for the coronavirus.

Crumley, 71, contacted his doctor two days later. By the afternoon, friends had dropped off a course of Paxlovid, a five-day regimen of antiviral pills that aims to keep people from becoming seriously ill.

The day he took his last dose, his symptoms were abating. He tested each of the next three days: all negative.

Then, in the middle of a community Zoom meeting, he started feeling sick again. Crumley, who is vaccinated and boosted, thought it might be residual effects of his immune response to the virus. But the chills were more prolonged and unpleasant. He tested. Positive. Again.

Crumley, like other patients who have experienced relapses after taking Paxlovid, is puzzled — and concerned. On Twitter, physicians and patients alike are engaged in a real-time group brainstorm about what might be happening, with scant evidence to work with.

It is the latest twist — and newest riddle — in the pandemic, a reminder that two years in, the world is still on a learning curve with the coronavirus.

Read the story here.

—Carolyn Y. Johnson, The Washington Post

United States is ‘out of the pandemic phase,’ Fauci says

The United States is finally “out of the pandemic phase,” the country’s top infectious-disease expert said in a television interview Tuesday, as cases and hospitalizations are notably down, and mask mandates are all but gone.

“We are certainly right now in this country out of the pandemic phase,” Anthony Fauci, President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser, said Tuesday on PBS’s “NewsHour,” when asked by anchor Judy Woodruff if the country was near the end of the pandemic.

Fauci expanded on, and clarified, his views in an interview Wednesday morning with The Washington Post, saying the global pandemic is ongoing but the United States is transitioning to a period in which the virus is no longer causing the level of hospitalization and death seen during the omicron wave of infection this past winter.

“The world is still in a pandemic. There’s no doubt about that. Don’t anybody get any misinterpretation of that. We are still experiencing a pandemic,” Fauci said.

He said the United States was in the “full-blown pandemic phase” in the winter, then entered a period he refers to as the “deceleration” phase. The country is transitioning, he said, to the control phase.

Read the story here.

—Joel Achenbach and Bryan Pietsch, The Washington Post