Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Tuesday, April 27, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.
Amazon hosted its first COVID-19 vaccination clinic for its warehouse and delivery workers in Washington state Monday, setting up in a conference room off the company’s warehouse floor in Kent. By the end of the clinic Saturday, the company aims to have given thousands of its Washington warehouse and delivery workers, contractors and their families the first shot of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. A second vaccination clinic will open Tuesday at a Spokane warehouse, followed by additional vaccination opportunities at other Amazon facilities in the state, company spokesperson Karen Riley Sawyer said.
With new variants of COVID-19 still arriving and a third wave raging across parts of Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau finds himself squeezed between two groups: On one side are critics including doctors and the premiers of Ontario and Quebec, who say loopholes in its travel rules and weak controls at airports have made the situation worse. On the other are businesses calling for the prime minister to loosen restrictions, or at least outline a plan for doing so. In a country that sends more than 70% of its exports to the U.S., the border matters a lot. Trucks and trains continue to move goods despite the pandemic, but Canada’s tourism and travel-related businesses lost an estimated $15.6 billions in revenue last year from the plunge in international visitors.
King County likely to move back to phase 2 of COVID reopening plan
King County should plan on being moved back to the second phase of Washington’s three-phase COVID-19 reopening plan, forcing restaurants, churches, gyms, museums and theaters to trim their capacity, the county’s director of public health said Tuesday.
The possible backslide comes as case numbers and hospitalizations continue to rise in King County and statewide, amid what Gov. Jay Inslee last week called the state’s fourth wave of the pandemic.
Under Inslee’s newest reopening plan, announced in January and amended in March, counties are assessed every three weeks to make sure they’re meeting virus benchmarks.
Counties are due for their next assessment on Monday.
University of Portland, Willamette University to require COVID-19 vaccinations
University of Portland officials announced on Tuesday that the school will require proof of COVID-19 vaccinations for all students, faculty and staff when the fall semester starts.
The Catholic university said in a news release that employees must provide proof of vaccination by Aug. 1 and students must provide proof by Sept. 1.
Willamette University in Salem is requiring all students, faculty, and staff to be vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to attend or be employed by Willamette beginning this fall, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported.
Lewis & Clark College officials said last week that school would require vaccinations for students and urged faculty and staff to get vaccinated.
How mask guidelines have evolved in a pandemic year
A lot has changed since early 2020, when countries around the world first realized the potential threat of a highly contagious, and still mysterious, flu-like virus.
In the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, no one knew for sure how the virus spread. Masks quickly emerged as a point of confusion, as public health officials at first discouraged people from wearing them, citing shortages, and then endorsed them. Mask mandates became a flashpoint in the culture wars as states, counties and cities across the country adopted a patchwork of policies.
On Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that it was no longer necessary for fully vaccinated people to wear masks in small groups outdoors, bringing the public guidance in line with a growing body of research indicating that the risk of spreading the coronavirus is much greater indoors.
Here is how the public health guidance on masking in the United States has shifted since the start of the pandemic.
State reports 1,091 new coronavirus cases and 12 new deaths
The state Department of Health reported 1,091 new coronavirus cases and 12 new deaths on Tuesday.
The update brings the state's totals to 398,509 cases and 5,462 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. Monday. Tallies may be higher earlier in the week because new state data isn’t reported on Sundays and COVID-19-related deaths aren’t reported on the weekends.
In addition, 22,033 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the virus — 83 new hospitalizations. In King County, the state's most populous, state health officials have confirmed a total of 100,477 COVID-19 diagnoses and 1,507 deaths.
Since vaccinations began in mid-December, the state and health care providers have administered 5,157,791 doses and 28.34% 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 59,856 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.
Brazil regulator rejects Sputnik vaccine; Russia cries foul
Brazil’s health regulator cited safety concerns while rejecting several states’ requests to import almost 30 million doses of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine, prompting criticism from the Russian government.
The five-person board of the Brazilian Health Regulatory Agency unanimously decided late Monday that consistent and trustworthy data required was lacking for approval of the requests from 10 states, according to a statement. Another four states and two cities have also sought authorization to import the vaccine.
The agency, known as Anvisa, said there were faults in all clinical studies of the vaccine’s development, as well as absent or insufficient data.
The agency statement said that analysis indicated that the adenovirus on which the vaccine is based has the capacity to replicate, which could cause sickness or death, particularly among those with low immunity or respiratory problems.
Kremlin’s spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters that more data will be provided to regulators.
Seattle has started scheduling COVID-19 vaccine second-dose appointments
The city of Seattle is now scheduling COVID-19 vaccine second-dose appointments for people who live and/or work in King County, Mayor Jenny Durkan's office announced Tuesday.
The appointments are at city-managed vaccination sites at the Lumen Field Event Center and in Rainier Beach and West Seattle. You can sign up even if you received your first dose from a provider other than the city, as long as you have proof of your initial shot, Durkan's office said.
Seattle's sites are administering the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines. You can schedule a second-dose appointment online here or call 206-684-2489.
There also are still many first-dose appointments available at the city's sites. You can visit seattle.gov/vaccine to schedule one.
Florida official orders workers to vaccinate or risk firing
A Florida tax collector has ordered her employees to get the coronavirus vaccine or risk being fired.
Palm Beach County Tax Collector Anne Gannon told her 315 employees last week of her decision after doing research and concluding she could legally do it, she told the Palm Beach Post.
She said her employees have contact with the public and two workers tested positive last week. Many others tested positive earlier and one died.
The collector’s office is semi-autonomous and its revenue comes from a percentage of the taxes it collects for other agencies and from fees it charges for services such as issuing vehicle registrations.
“For every person who gets COVID, it costs our business money and it gives us an inability to meet our customer needs,” said Gannon, who was first elected in 2006. “I have a responsibility to protect my employees and the public.”
Gannon doesn’t know the exact number, but said most of her employees have received at least one dose of the vaccine. Some, however, have been hesitant, pointing to false claims that the vaccine can cause infertility, she said.
REAL ID compliance deadline for domestic travel has been extended to May 2023 because of the pandemic
As vaccines roll out, mask requirements are lifted and warmer weather begins to peek through the spring clouds, you might be thinking about planning some travel this summer or fall.
Well, good news. You won’t have to worry about the deadline for REAL ID compliance this year. Because many driver’s licensing agencies are still operating at limited capacity due to the pandemic, the deadline for REAL ID compliance has been extended until May 3, 2023, the Department of Homeland Security announced Tuesday.
By the new May 2023 deadline, adults 18 and older will have to ensure their driver’s license is REAL ID-compliant, or acquire another accepted form of identification — like a passport — in order to fly within the United States.
Last year, the original October 2020 deadline was extended until October 2021 to encourage social distancing in response to the pandemic.
‘Go get the shot’: Biden highlights path back to normal
President Joe Biden spent his first 100 days in office encouraging Americans to mask up and stay home to slow the spread of the coronavirus. His task for the next 100 days will be to lay out the path back to normal.
Ending the coronavirus pandemic, the central challenge of his presidency, will require not only putting shots into arms — a task now growing more difficult as demand sags — but also a robust plan to help the nation emerge from a year of isolation, disruption and confusion.
Biden, who has sought to model the most cautious behavior for the public, provided an example of how the new guidance is liberating during remarks at the White House on Tuesday.
He walked outside the White House alone wearing a black face mask before his remarks on the North Lawn. He removed it for his remarks and didn’t replace it after leaving the lectern, saying he wanted Americans to watch “me take it off and not put it back on until I walk back inside.”
Portugal poised to lift more restrictions as pandemic ebbs
Six weeks after starting to gradually ease an extended pandemic lockdown, Portugal has kept a lid on the spread of COVID-19 and is on track to further loosen restrictions next week as planned.
That means the southern European country is likely from next Monday to lift limits on the opening hours of restaurants and cafes, allow major indoor and outdoor events though with limits on capacity, and increase the number of people who can attend weddings and baptisms. Rules on social distancing and the wearing of face masks are to remain in place.
Burning Man cancels 2021 festival in northern Nevada desert
Burning Man organizers announced Tuesday they are canceling this summer’s annual counter-culture festival in the Nevada desert for the second year in a row due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The San Francisco-based group posted a video on its web site that said there are too many uncertainties to resolve in time to hold the event as scheduled Aug. 26-Sept. 3 in the Black Rock Desert 100 miles (160 kilometers) north of Reno.
Burning Man CEO Marian Goodell said the “difficult decision” is “based on the best information available to us.”
“We know the need for community has never been stronger. And building community is what Burners do best. We also recognize the pandemic is not over,” she said. “We have decided to focus our energy on building Black Rock City 2022
Harry and Meghan to lead ‘Vax Live’ fundraising concert
Prince Harry and Meghan will serve as the campaign chairs of Global Citizen’s effort to deliver COVID-19 vaccines to medical workers in the world’s poorest countries.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex will appear at “Vax Live: The Concert to Reunite the World,” to be taped Sunday at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles and air on ABC, CBS, FOX, YouTube and iHeartMedia broadcast radio stations on May 8, Global Citizen, the anti-poverty nonprofit, announced Tuesday.
Harry and Meghan are also leading an effort to raise money for the vaccine-sharing program COVAX, which hopes to produce $19 billion to pay for the vaccines for medical workers.
US consumer confidence returns to pre-pandemic levels
Consumer confidence rose sharply for a second straight month, hitting the highest level since the pandemic began, as the rapid rollout of vaccines and another round of U.S. financial support for Americans boosts optimism.
The Conference Board reported Tuesday that its consumer confidence index advanced to a better-than-expected 121.7 in April, up from 109.0 in March. It was the strongest reading since the index stood at 132.6 in February 2020, right before the COVID-19 pandemic struck in the United States.
The present situation index, based on consumers assessment of current business and labor market conditions sored from 110.1 to 139.5. The expectations index, based consumers’ views of what conditions will be like over the next six months, posted a more moderate gain, rising from 108.3 last month to 109.8 in April.
Economists believe that the rising consumer confidence will bolster overall economic growth as consumers, who account for 70% of economic activity, step up their spending as lockdown restrictions are eased.
Loads of vaccines available in Seattle, says fire department
Lots of vaccine slots are open at the city of Seattle's four vaccination sites, according to the Seattle Fire Department.
The sites are at Lumen Field in downtown Seattle, Rainier Beach, West Seattle and North Seattle.
Medical students in India feel betrayed
Since the beginning of the week, Dr. Siddharth Tara, a postgraduate medical student at New Delhi’s government-run Hindu Rao Hospital, has had a fever and persistent headache. He took a COVID-19 test, but the results have been delayed as the country’s health system implodes.
His hospital, overburdened and understaffed, wants him to keep working until the testing laboratory confirms he has COVID-19.
On Tuesday, India reported 323,144 new infections for a total of more than 17.6 million cases, behind only the United States. India’s Health Ministry also reported another 2,771 deaths in the past 24 hours, with 115 Indians succumbing to the disease every hour. Experts say those figures are likely an undercount.
“I am not able to breathe. In fact, I’m more symptomatic than my patients. So how can they make me work?” asked Tara.
The challenges facing India today, as cases rise faster than anywhere else in the world, are being compounded by the fragility of its health system and its doctors.
Brazil Senate starts potentially damaging probe of president
Brazil’s Senate on Tuesday began an inquiry into the government’s management of the COVID-19 pandemic, a probe that analysts say could potentially jeopardize the reelection of President Jair Bolsonaro.
Bolsonaro has been one of the world’s most prominent opponents of restrictions aimed at curbing the disease, whose effects he has often downplayed. He has also encouraged use of medications that scientists say are worthless, and critics say his policies, along with a bungled vaccine campaign, have contributed to the world’s second highest COVID-19 death toll.
While the investigation isn’t formally aimed at criminal allegations, it potentially could lead to charges. It’s also likely to provide a months-long drumbeat of embarrassing accusations ahead of the October 2022 presidential election.
Bolsonaro has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing and instead blames governors and mayors, saying their restrictions on activity have caused more problems than the virus itself.
CDC says many Americans can now go outside without a mask
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention eased its guidelines Tuesday on the wearing of masks outdoors, saying fully vaccinated Americans don’t need to cover their faces anymore unless they are in a big crowd of strangers.
And those who are unvaccinated can go outside without masks in some cases, too.
The new guidance represents another carefully calibrated step on the road back to normal from the coronavirus outbreak that has killed over 570,000 people in U.S.
Full COVID-19 lockdown adds to financial strain in Turkey
As cases and deaths soar, Turkey’s president has instructed people to stay home for nearly three weeks and shut down many businesses as part of the country’s strictest COVID-19 measures yet.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan did not announce a stimulus package to offset the economic impact of the new restrictions. With Turkey’s double digit inflation, sinking national currency and businesses in trouble, many Turks already have been struggling financially.
Gozde Aslan, a newspaper seller in Istanbul, said the lockdown would be difficult to weather.
“We have to bring food to our homes, and we live in a period where everything is very expensive,” she said. “May God help us.”
Erdogan announced Monday that a “full lockdown” would begin Thursday and last until May 17. Residents will be required to stay home except for grocery shopping and other essential needs, while intercity travel only will be allowed with permission. Restaurants are allowed to deliver food.
France, Germany plan billions in pandemic recovery spending
France and Germany together laid out plans for billions in spending from the European Union’s pandemic recovery fund aimed at fighting climate change and boosting the use of digital technology across the economy.
The finance ministers of the EU’s two biggest economies on Tuesday underlined their joint determination to use the spending to transform Europe’s economy and get the continent growing again as it lags behind the U.S. and China in rebounding from the pandemic recession.
Under the fund’s formula, France should get around 40 billion euros ($48 billion) while German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz said his country planned about 30 billion euros ($36 billion) in spending. Scholz said that half the money would go to environmentally friendly projects and a quarter to spreading the use of digital technology. He said the fund would build on domestic relief and stimulus measures already passed by the German government
He called the fund “a groundbreaking step for Europe.”
India records 320K cases as foreign help arrives
India recorded more than 320,000 new cases of coronavirus infection Tuesday as a grim surge of illness and death weighed on the country and its sinking health system started getting much-needed support from foreign nations.
Tuesday’s 323,144 new infections raised India’s total past 17.6 million, behind only the United States. It ended a five-day streak of recording the largest single-day increases in any country throughout the pandemic, but the decline likely reflects lower weekend testing rather than reduced spread of the virus.
The health ministry also reported another 2,771 deaths in the past 24 hours, with roughly 115 Indians succumbing to the disease every hour. The latest fatalities pushed India’s deaths to 197,894, behind the U.S., Brazil and Mexico. Experts say even these figures are probably an undercount.
In Africa, vaccine hesitancy adds to slow rollout of doses
Some Africans are hesitating to get COVID-19 vaccines amid concerns about their safety, alarming public health officials as some countries start to destroy thousands of doses that expired before use.
Malawi and South Sudan in recent days have said they will destroy some of their doses, a concerning development on a continent where health officials have been outspoken about the need for vaccine equity as the world’s rich nations hold the bulk of shots.
The continent, which has confirmed more than 4.5 million COVID-19 cases, including 120,000 deaths, a tiny fraction of the global fatalities and caseload, has received less than 2% of the COVID-19 vaccine doses administered around the world, according to the World Health 0rganization.
Australian Olympians to be given COVID-19 vaccine priority
Australian athletes and support staff preparing for the Tokyo Olympics will be given priority for vaccines.
The Australian government on Tuesday said members of the Olympic team would be vaccinated under a priority group which includes health-care workers, Indigenous people aged over 55 and people older than 70.
The vaccination program for athletes and support staff will include about 2,000 people, including an estimated 450- 480 Olympic athletes.
Can you have alcohol after the COVID vaccine?
After a long year and a lot of anticipation, getting the COVID-19 vaccine can be cause for celebration, which for some might mean pouring a drink and toasting to their new immunity. But can alcohol interfere with your immune response?
The short answer is that it depends on how much you drink.
There is no evidence that having a drink or two can render any of the current COVID vaccines less effective. Some studies have even found that over the longer term, small or moderate amounts of alcohol might actually benefit the immune system by reducing inflammation.
Heavy alcohol consumption, on the other hand, particularly over the long term, can suppress the immune system and potentially interfere with your vaccine response, experts say. Since it can take weeks after a COVID shot for the body to generate protective levels of antibodies against the novel coronavirus, anything that interferes with the immune response would be cause for concern.
Catch up on the past 24 hours
An important change in mask guidelines is coming. President Joe Biden will talk today about whether vaccinated people still need to wear a mask outside. The question of risk around this is not a simple one. Check back here when Biden talks at 10:15 a.m. Pacific time.
Younger Washingtonians are getting sicker from COVID-19. Hospital leaders say that's likely because of spreading variants and "COVID fatigue."
Mass vaccinations start today at the Tacoma Dome. Here's how to sign up.
The U.S. will share its entire stock of AstraZeneca vaccines with the world after the shots clear federal safety reviews. As many as 60 million doses may be exported in coming months.
One swanky Miami school has a message for vaccinated teachers: You're not welcome here. The private school's decision is setting off alarm bells about the effects of misinformation.
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