Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Thursday, April 29, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.
Washington State University will require proof that students and staff are vaccinated against COVID-19 before they return to live or work on campus, the university announced Wednesday. WSU is Washington’s first public university to announce vaccine requirements. It joins Seattle University and Pacific Lutheran University, two private universities that mandated vaccines for students earlier this month. The University of Washington, Western Washington University, The Evergreen State College and Central Washington University haven’t announced mandates but are strongly urging staff and students to get vaccinated.
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown is putting 15 counties that encompass the state’s biggest cities into the state’s extreme risk category starting Friday, imposing restrictions that include banning indoor restaurant dining. As Brown issued her order on Tuesday, she said rising COVID-19 hospitalizations threaten to overwhelm doctors. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee is expected to order new restrictions next week for several counties, likely including the state’s largest, that would force businesses and churches to reduce their indoor gathering capacity from 50% to 25%. Inslee will decide which counties need to be rolled back to Phase 2 of his reopening plan after an evaluation of public health safety benchmark numbers.
Brazil tops 400,000 virus deaths amid fears of renewed surge
Brazil on Thursday became the second country to officially top 400,000 COVID-19 deaths, losing another 100,000 lives in just one month, as some health experts warn there may be gruesome days ahead when the Southern Hemisphere enters winter.
April was Brazil’s deadliest month of the pandemic, with thousands of people losing their lives daily at crowded hospitals.
The country’s Health Ministry registered more than 4,000 deaths on two days early in the month, and its seven-day average topped out at above 3,100. That figure has tilted downward in the last two weeks, to less than 2,400 deaths per day, though on Thursday the Health Ministry announced another 3,001 deaths, bringing Brazil’s total to 401,186.
Local health experts have celebrated the recent decline of cases and deaths, plus the eased pressure on the Brazilian health care system — but only modestly. They are apprehensive of another wave of the disease, like those seen in some European nations, due to a premature resumption of activity in states and cities combined with slow vaccination rollout.
Without travel, Americans are spending money on 'durable goods'
There have been a lot of strange economic numbers over the past 14 months as the world has been whipsawed by the pandemic. But one particular line of the first-quarter GDP numbers released Thursday stands out even so.
Americans’ spending on durable goods — cars, furniture and other goods meant to last a long time — rose at a stunning 41.4% annual rate in the first three months of the year.
Spending on cars and trucks is 15.1% higher than it would have been on the 2019 trajectory, spending on furnishings and durable household equipment is 16.6% higher, and spending on recreational goods is a whopping 26% higher.
Altogether, durable-goods spending is running $348.5 billion higher annually than it would have been in that alternate universe, as Americans have spent their stimulus checks and unused travel money on physical items.
Greece: All adults can receive COVID-19 vaccines before July
Greece’s health minister says any adult who wants to be vaccinated against COVID-19 will be able to do so by the end of June as the country ramps up its vaccination drive.
Vassilis Kikilias, speaking on Greece’s Skai radio on Thursday, said the country was going to be carrying out 100,000 vaccinations per day as of May 5, and that “any adult who wishes to” will be able to receive a vaccine by June 30.
Greece, a country of about 11 million people, has so far administered just over 3 million COVID-19 vaccine jabs. More than 2 million of those are first doses, while just over 910,000 people have been fully vaccinated with both doses, with the vaccination drive roughly in line with the European Union average.
But the country has been experiencing a surge in infections, hospitalizations and deaths in recent weeks that has strained the health system despite lockdown-type restrictions being in place since November. More than 800 people are intubated in hospitals, while a total of 10,242 people have died of COVID-19 in Greece since the start of the pandemic. Total confirmed cases stand at nearly 340,500.
Watch soccer, get a vaccination and a free hot dog
The Seattle Sounders announced Thursday that the team is partnering with Virginia Mason and the city of Seattle to offer COVID-19 vaccinations to all eligible fans at Lumen Field home games, beginning this Sunday with a match against the LA Galaxy.
The organization also announced that all of its first team players and support staff are now fully vaccinated.
"It’s also critical to mention that as a community it’s essential for as many people as possible get vaccinated, while remaining socially distant and using masks," Garth Lagerwey, Sounders general manager, said in a statement. "We hope that our players and staff being 100% bought into the overall vaccination effort inspires others to do the same."
Vaccinations are being provided at the game on a walk-up basis, at two locations: One in the West Field Plaza outside of section 140, and the second in the East Main Concourse outside of section 104. Like all COVID-19 vaccinations, these vaccines are free of charge. You can choose between the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine and a first dose of the Moderna vaccine.
Vaccinations will be available from when gates open to the end of the match. Fans being vaccinated on Sunday will also receive a voucher for a free hot dog at Lumen Field concession stands.
Lumen Field has been operating as one of the city's mass vaccination hubs, so if you aren't a soccer fan, you can still make an appointment for another day.
Some Californians can’t get vaccine despite surge in supply
Hearing of excess vaccine and unfilled appointments frustrates Dr. Aaron Roland, a family physician who has been lobbying for doses to inoculate his patients, many of whom are low-income, immigrants or elderly.
The San Francisco Bay Area doctor has more than 200 patients who have inquired when he will offer inoculations against the coronavirus. One patient, who is 67, said he walked into a Safeway supermarket because signs said doses were available.
“But they said, ‘Oh no, they’re not really available. You just have to go online, just sign up online.’ It’s not something he does very easily,” said Dr. Roland, whose practice is in Burlingame, south of San Francisco.
California, swimming in vaccine, is in far better shape than just weeks ago when scoring an appointment was cause for celebration. But that doesn’t mean everyone in California who wants a vaccine can get one — as some of Dr. Roland’s patients can attest.
State health officials confirm 1,720 new coronavirus cases, 13 new deaths in Washington
The state Department of Health (DOH) reported 1,720 new coronavirus cases and 13 new deaths on Wednesday.
The update brings the state's totals to 401,718 cases and 5,487 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. Wednesday.
In addition, 22,194 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 101,481 COVID-19 diagnoses and 1,513 deaths.
Since vaccinations began in mid-December, the state and health care providers have administered 5,248,061 doses and 28.86% 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 61,001 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.
Turks leave cities, fill shops in preparation for lockdown
People in Turkey stocked up on groceries, filled markets and left cities for their hometowns or the southern coast Thursday as the country prepared to enter its strictest lockdown of the pandemic.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan imposed a “full lockdown” from Thursday evening until May 17 amid soaring COVID-19 cases and deaths. It is the first nationwide lockdown lasting nearly three weeks. The Turkish government had previously opted for partial lockdowns or weekend curfews in a bid reduce the economic impact.
Many people left large cities such as Istanbul and Ankara to spend the shutdown – which spans the holy Muslim month of Ramadan, as well as the three-day Eid holiday – at vacation homes on the coast. Bus terminals and airports were packed with travelers, while vehicles backed up in severe traffic at the entrance of the Aegean coastal resort of Bodrum, broadcaster Haberturk and other media reported.
State health officials changing how they send vaccine doses
Washington state will no longer direct doses of COVID-19 vaccines proportionally to each county’s population.
Instead, the agency will make allocation decisions based on individual vaccine providers’ requests, the Washington State Department of Health said in a news release.
The move comes as demand for vaccines slows in some counties. It should help the state vaccinate direct doses more efficiently to the places where people continue to seek them.
Vaccination rates vary widely by county, according to the state’s vaccination data dashboard. Just over 20% of people in Stevens County, in the northeastern corner of Washington, have gotten at least one shot. Meanwhile, in Jefferson County, a county on the Olympic Peninsula, that figure is at 59%.
Washington’s most populous county — King — reports nearly 50% of its residents have gotten a first vaccination.
Vaccine appointments now are abundant compared to previous months.
Thousands of free, walk-in vaccines available in Kent and Auburn
A thousand vaccine shots will be available on a walk-in, no-appointment-needed basis daily at two of King County's largest vaccination sites, the ShoWare Center in Kent and the mall in Auburn.
The walk-in shots are available at both sites Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. They are free and open to anyone 16 and older, according to Public Health -Seattle & King County. Both sites are ADA accessible and have language interpreters, the health department said Thursday.
Pfizer and Moderna vaccines will be offered at the Kent accesso ShoWare Center site at 625 W. James St.
At the Auburn outlet mall, 1101 Supermall Way, people will be able to choose either Pfizer, Moderna or the Johnson & Johnson vaccines.
For people ages 16 and 17, Pfizer is the only authorized vaccine at this time. Minors will need a parent present to provide consent.
Additionally, the Auburn site will be open from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on May 2 and from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on May 5.
Thousands of additional shots are available with appointments.
Landlords with 5 or more struggling tenants can apply for county aid
Landlords in King County with five or more tenants behind in rent can now submit their properties to receive rental assistance.
The new King County Eviction Prevention and Rental Assistance Program has more than $125 million available to help landlords and residents in danger of eviction.
Applications for assistance are first being solicited from landlords who have five or more tenants who need assistance.
Information on property sign-up is available on the landlord page.
Tenant applications will open May 17.
The 2020 eviction prevention program provided rent assistance to 9,073 households countywide.
Cruising could resume from 6 Florida ports in mid-July, CDC says
Cruising could resume from U.S. ports by mid-July aboard ships with at least 98% of crew members and 95% of passengers fully vaccinated, the nation’s top health protection agency announced.
A key official of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention delivered a set of revised guidelines Wednesday that could clear the way for cruising more than a year after the COVID-19 pandemic shut it down.
The guidelines follow a high-profile campaign by top industry officials, and a lawsuit by Florida’s attorney general, demanding that the CDC allow the industry — crucial to Florida’s tourism economy — to resume operations from Florida’s six cruise ports this summer.
Still unknown is how Gov. Ron DeSantis will respond to the CDC’s statement that cruise lines can speed up their resumptions if nearly all crew and passengers are vaccinated.
Terraces of France’s cafes, restaurants, to open next month
President Emmanuel Macron said Thursday that the outdoor terraces of France’s cafes and restaurants will be allowed to reopen on May 19 along with museums, cinemas, theaters and concert halls under certain conditions.
In an interview with regional newspapers, Macron outlined a four-step plan to reopen the country and revive its economy. The French government is slowly starting to lift partial lockdowns, despite still high numbers of coronavirus cases and hospitalized COVID-19 patients.
Reopening nurseries and primary schools this week was a priority, the president said.
Dutch government pauses coronavirus app over data leak fears
The Dutch government has temporarily disabled its coronavirus warning app amid data privacy concerns for people who have the app installed on phones using the Android operating system.
Health Minister Hugo de Jonge announced late Wednesday the government is checking if users’ data is secure. The Dutch app uses “exposure notification” technology developed by Google and Apple that generates random codes that can be exchanged by phones whose users are close to one another for long enough to possibly transmit the virus.
The Dutch health ministry says that it is possible for other apps on Android phones to access data about whether its user’s had been infected and its contacts with other phones.
Long-term caregiving is crushing women’s finances. These states could chart a new path.
After Angelena Taylor’s father survived a stroke in late 2015, she snapped into crisis mode.
A month into a master’s program for educational psychology, Taylor, now 33, took unpaid leave from her job. She didn’t want to send her dad to a facility, and his private health insurance didn’t cover home-care services, like help with bathing and meals, she said. So Taylor took on the primary responsibility for his care herself, managing everything from appointments to medication, spelled for half-day breaks by a professional home-care worker for up to $400 a week out of pocket.
Now, in the pandemic, that outside assistance has no longer been feasible.
Amid a devastating pandemic, and at an inflection point on systemic racism, caregiving in the United States is emerging as a quiet but massive driver of inequity for women — and for women of color like Taylor in particular. Women of color are more likely to be underpaid professional caregivers and unpaid family ones. And women also receive the the majority of care in the United States. With pandemic death tolls in nursing and assisted-living facilities laying bare significant deficiencies in the country’s long-term care infrastructure, some experts believe the current model is unsustainable.
Is it safe to go to big sporting events during the pandemic?
Is it safe to go to big sporting events during the pandemic?
Not yet, but there are ways to make it safer if you go.
“Yelling, chanting, hugging and generally pouring out our sports enthusiasm is still not the safest activity,” noted Jennifer Dowd, associate professor of population health at University of Oxford and chief scientific officer of Dear Pandemic, a website that offers expert opinions.
If you do decide to go to a game, outdoor stadiums are safer than indoor arenas, which won’t be as well ventilated. Venues that limit attendance and require masks are safer as well. Some teams are requiring proof of vaccination or a negative test for the coronavirus.
Once at the stadium, avoid indoor bars, restaurants and box seating, Dowd said. “Spaces that are indoors with lots of people eating and drinking without masks are still among the riskiest,” she said.
US recovery from pandemic recession is showing momentum
Powered by consumers and fueled by government aid, the U.S. economy is achieving a remarkably fast recovery from the recession that ripped through the nation last year on the heels of the coronavirus and cost tens of millions of Americans their jobs and businesses.
The economy grew last quarter at a vigorous 6.4% annual rate, the government said Thursday, and expectations are that the current quarter will be even better. The number of people seeking unemployment aid — a rough reflection of layoffs — last week reached its lowest point since the pandemic struck. And the National Association of Realtors said Thursday that more Americans signed contracts to buy homes in March, reflecting a strong housing market as summer approaches.
Economists say that widespread vaccinations and declining viral cases, the reopening of more businesses, a huge infusion of federal spending and healthy job gains should help sustain steady growth. For 2021 as a whole, they expect the economy to expand close to 7%, which would mark the fastest calendar-year growth since 1984.
Free rides, beer and savings bonds: Vaccinators get creative
Free beer, pot and doughnuts. Savings bonds. A chance to win an all-terrain vehicle. Places around the U.S. are offering incentives to try to energize the nation’s slowing vaccination drive and get Americans to roll up their sleeves.
These relatively small corporate promotion efforts have been accompanied by more serious and far-reaching attempts by officials in cities such as Detroit, where they’re offering $50 to people who give others a ride to vaccination sites.
Public health officials say the efforts are crucial to reach people who haven’t been vaccinated yet, whether because they are hesitant or because they have had trouble making an appointment or getting to a vaccination site.
Washington Legislature approves $340M for COVID-19 Immigrant Relief Fund, making it one of the country’s largest
Washington’s Immigrant Relief Fund got an enormous boost this week when the Legislature approved $340 million in additional funding.
That brings the total allocated so far, first by Gov. Jay Inslee and then by the Legislature, to $467 million — believed to make this the second-largest fund of its kind in the country, behind New York’s.
The fund provides payments to immigrants shut out of other forms of pandemic relief, like federal stimulus checks and unemployment insurance, because they are not in the country legally. California and Oregon offer similar assistance.
“I think we should be very proud of our state,” said Paúl Quiñonez Figueroa, political director of Working Washington, a labor-aligned organization that with the advocacy group OneAmerica co-led a large coalition pressing for funding.
Washington was quick to act, he said. Last August, as COVID-19 was spreading through immigrant communities at especially high rates, often infecting agricultural and other essential workers, Inslee announced the formation of the then $40 million fund. Seattle launched its own immigrant fund in October.
In contrast, Quiñonez Figueroa said, it took New York a year to approve its $2.1 billion fund earlier this month April, and only after protests that sometimes shut down bridges.
Is it finally safe to get back to normal, pre-COVID-19 life? Here’s what experts say
In many ways, this week is a turning point in the battle against COVID-19.
Disneyland will reopen on Friday after being closed for more than a year.
Coronavirus cases in Los Angeles County are so low the area is on the cusp of moving to the yellow tier — the most lenient of California’s four-category color-coded reopening system — which would trigger dramatic reopenings.
And people who are fully vaccinated for COVID-19 can safely stop wearing masks in many outdoor settings, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday.
But there are still reasons to be cautious. As the situations in Oregon and India show, the coronavirus remains a threat.
Anti-mask politician compares herself to civil-rights icon Rosa Parks, sparking anger and support
A Temecula, California, City Council member who compared her fight against face mask mandates to Rosa Parks’ bus demonstration for civil rights has touched off a weeks-long controversy in the majority-white Riverside County city where residents are sharply divided over the comments and Black community members have expressed anger over the remarks.
The council member, Jessica Alexander, a staunch anti-mask Republican, has not addressed the issue since an April 13 council meeting when she brought up the civil-rights icon while expressing opposition to masks at in-person council meetings.
“Look at Rosa Parks. She was accommodated to the back of the bus, but she finally took a stand and moved to the front because she knew that that wasn’t lawful. It wasn’t truth. So she took a stand. At what point in time do we?” Alexander said. “I’m getting to the point where I’m getting accommodated in my office. I feel like I’m getting pushed to the back of the bus.”
The controversy, which festered for weeks and was used as fodder on “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” Tuesday night, intensified after the latest council meeting.
During Tuesday’s meeting, additional time was dedicated to reading public comments on the issue, which was first reported in the Press-Enterprise. The comments ranged from calls for her resignation to support for her rejection of mask use.
Jobless claims drop 13,000 to 553,000 as economy heals
The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits dropped by 13,000 last week to 553,000, the lowest level since the pandemic hit last March and another sign the economy is recovering from the coronavirus recession.
The Labor Department reported Thursday that jobless claims were down from 566,000 a week earlier. They have fallen sharply over the past year but remain well above the 230,000 weekly figure typical before the pandemic struck the economy in March 2020.
The four-week moving average, which smooths out weekly gyrations, fell 44,000 to 611,750.
“Layoffs are elevated but are gradually easing, consistent with an economy that is reopening,” said Rubeela Farooqi, chief U.S. economist at Hgh Frequency Economics. “We expect further declines in filings as businesses move closer towards normal capacity which will boost job growth over coming months.”
Indians turn to black market, unproven drugs as virus surges
India set another global record in new virus cases Thursday with more than 379,000 new infections, putting even more pressure on the country’s overwhelmed hospitals. The country of nearly 1.4 billion people has now recorded over 18 million cases, behind only the U.S., and over 200,000 deaths — though the true number is believed to be higher.
As the country faces the devastating surge of infections overwhelming its health care system, people are taking desperate measures to try to keep loved ones alive. In some cases they are turning to unproven medical treatments, in others to the black market for life-saving medications that are in short supply.
The few medicines known to help treat COVID-19, such as remdesivir and steroids in hospitalized patients, are scarce. The most basic treatment —oxygen therapy — is also in short supply, leading to unnecessary deaths. Even hospital beds are scarce. There were just 14 free intensive care beds available in New Delhi, a city of 29 million people, on Thursday morning.
Fake COVID-19 testing sites appear in Edmonds
Two fraudulent COVID-19 testing sites appeared in downtown Edmonds Tuesday, and police are warning people to be alert.
Edmonds police Sgt. Josh McClure said one phony testing site was in front of a Starbucks and the other was near the ferry terminal, The Daily (Everett) Herald reported.
The sites have since been removed. McClure said police had not cited or arrested anyone as of Wednesday afternoon and are continuing to investigate.
The fake sites were set up with a folding table and medical-appearing paraphernalia and fraudulent health care workers instructed people to provide their names, birthdays, and other personal information, McClure said.
Be nice to your mom, or any mother in your life. These 10 scrumptious takeout options could give her a nice nice break from cooking on Mother's Day.
This spring and summer abound with exciting new books for young adult readers. Two teen writers reviewed several for us.
It’s National Shrimp Scampi Day. But it’s also a Thursday, and who needs the fuss? Perhaps better for a weeknight: this recipe for spiced ginger shrimp with burst tomatoes.
Catch up on the past 24 hours
COVID-19 hospitalizations are on the rise in our state among all age groups but for those over 60. Among people who are 65 and older, the unvaccinated are being hospitalized at a rate nearly 10 times higher than their vaccinated counterparts.
A sparse crowd lines up for the COVID-19 vaccine at Lumen Field Event Center in Seattle Wednesday. There are still several thousand first- and second-dose appointments available across the four city-affiliated vaccine sites this week. With all Washington adults eligible and 40% of residents having received at least a first dose, vaccine appointments are now seemingly abundant. Looking for a shot for yourself or a loved one? Here’s our updated guide.
As the pandemic ravages India, the large Indian-American community in the Puget Sound area is fighting feelings of desperation and helplessness -- and finding creative ways to help.
Colleges are hoping for a return to a more traditional, in-person experience in the fall. On at least three campuses in our state, that means vaccination will be mandatory.
When most of the U.S. went into lockdown over a year ago, some predicted a baby boom would result. Well, the numbers are in -- and they’re surprising.
Gyms and fitness studios have been a no-no for much of the pandemic. With more and more people vaccinated, is it safe to go back?
Germany is getting serious in its crackdown on a QAnon-type group that has become increasingly aggressive in its coronavirus denial activities.
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