Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Friday, April 30, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.
If you had trouble finding a vaccine appointment before, try again: Vaccines continue to become easier and easier to come by in Washington, as supply loosens up and the most eager residents have already been vaccinated.
In one example, through Saturday, 1,000 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. Meanwhile, the state will now distribute vaccines based on providers’ requests rather than by county, hoping to get doses more efficiently to the places where people continue to seek them.
State health officials confirm 1,464 new coronavirus cases, 12 new deaths
The state Department of Health reported 1,464 new coronavirus cases and 12 new deaths on Friday.
The update brings the state's totals to 403,040 cases and 5,499 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. Thursday.
In addition, 22,236 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the virus — 20 new hospitalizations. In King County, the state's most populous, state health officials have confirmed a total of 101,883 COVID-19 diagnoses and 1,515 deaths.
Since vaccinations began in mid-December, state and health care providers have administered 5,394,469 doses and 29.87% 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 58,732 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.
U.S. spring COVID-19 wave receding but Pacific Northwest remains hot spot
Most of the U.S. is seeing the spring wave of coronavirus infections subside, with 42 states reporting lower caseloads over the past two weeks.
Washington and Oregon are among western states that remain an exception.
Oregon is the hottest of the hot spots, and Democratic Gov. Kate Brown declared that the state is moving backward.
Several counties in Washington state — including King County — are slated to roll back to a more restrictive phase because cases climbed rapidly over the past month.
The trend in Washington could be improving. Cases appeared to plateau this week, according to the state’s data dashboard.
Health officer for King County: Prepare to go back to Phase 2
Public Health - Seattle & King County health officer Dr. Jeff Duchin said there’s little hope the county will not move back into Phase 2 under the governor’s COVID-19 reopening rules.
That means bars, restaurants, retail stores and gyms will move from allowing 50% capacity to 25% capacity, among other shifts.
King County is currently in the less-restrictive Phase 3. To stay, large counties are required to average fewer than 200 new COVID-19 cases for every 100,000 residents over 14 days and fewer than 5 hospitalizations for every 100,000 residents over seven days.
King County on Friday reported those figures at 245.5 and 6.1, respectively, according to the county dashboard. State officials will review the data and officially decide next week.
“The dates on which those metrics are calculated are in the past — it’s already happened — it’s a done deal,” Duchin said. “We have to live with the consequences of our actions.”
Public health officials earlier this week warned county leaders this was the likely trajectory. Evaluations take place every three weeks.
Cases of COVID-19 in King County have plateaued after rising steeply over the past month.
And Duchin sounded a hopeful tone as the county makes progress on vaccination.
If people continue to seek shots, “we could be very close to our pre-COVID lifestyle over the summertime,” Duchin said.
TSA extends airplane mask mandate
The Transportation Security Administration announced Friday it will extend a federal mandate that requires people to wear masks in transportation settings, including at airports, on commercial aircraft and on commuter bus and rail systems through September 13.
The initial requirement was set to expire May 11.
Children under the age of 2 and those with certain disabilities are exempt from the face mask requirement, but others could face penalties if they refuse to comply. Under current TSA rules, penalties for noncompliance start at $250 and increase to $1,500 for repeat offenders.
Washington state's challenge: Persuading men to get COVID-19 vaccines
Men in Washington state — who represent 53% of deaths from the coronavirus — are at the same time receiving far less than their share of life-protecting vaccines.
It’s a trend vexing researchers studying COVID-19, physicians treating it and public health officials leading the charge against the disease.
Of those fully vaccinated as of April 19, 57.1% were women. Men, meanwhile, were at 42.2%, with gender going unreported or reported as “other” in the remainder of data shared by the Washington State Department of Health. Washington’s vaccine gender gap mirrors the nationwide trend.
With vaccine demand beginning to soften, identifying what’s holding some men back on vaccination — and what messages resonate for those yet to receive shots — will be crucial to providing more widespread protection to Washingtonians.
Experts say there are many likely reasons why men are lagging behind.
Early on, vaccine eligibility tilted toward women because of demographics and profession.
Observational research studies points at other clues.
In general, men are less likely than women to seek health care, less concerned about the risks and more likely to endorse conspiracy theories involving COVID-19. Politics and identity could also play a role.
Here’s what to do if you get COVID-19 between vaccine doses
It is rare, but not unheard of, for people taking the Pfizer or Moderna coronavirus vaccines to contract COVID-19 mid-vaccination — that is, between doses.
The two-dose mRNA vaccines, which were authorized for emergency use last year by the Food and Drug Administration, were shown in U.S. clinical trials to be about 95 percent effective at preventing infection among those who were fully vaccinated.
But the vaccines are less effective — about 80 percent — between the first and second doses, according to a real-world study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That means about 20 percent of those who are only partially vaccinated could still get infected.
However, health experts say, people in that camp should not skip the second dose.
US to restrict travel from India over COVID starting Tuesday
The U.S. will restrict travel from India starting on May 4, the White House said Friday, citing a devastating rise in COVID-19 cases in the country and the emergence of potentially dangerous variants of the coronavirus.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said President Joe Biden’s administration made the determination on the advice of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“The policy will be implemented in light of extraordinarily high COVID-19 caseloads and multiple variants circulating in the India,” she said.
With 386,452 new cases, India now has reported more than 18.7 million since the pandemic began, second only to the United States. The Health Ministry on Friday also reported 3,498 deaths in the last 24 hours, bringing the total to 208,330. Experts believe both figures are an undercount, but it’s unclear by how much.
The U.S. action comes days after Biden spoke with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi about the growing health crisis in his country and pledged to immediately send assistance. The U.S. has already moved to send therapeutics, rapid virus test and oxygen to India, along with some materials needed for that country to boost its domestic production of COVID-19 vaccines. Additionally, a CDC team of public health experts was expected to soon be on the ground in India to help health officials there move to slow the spread of the virus.
As virus engulfs India, diaspora watches with despair
Bad news, knowing no time zones, arrives in a jarring burst of messages, calls and posts informing millions of members of India’s worldwide diaspora that yet another loved one has been sickened or lost to the coronavirus.
In the U.S., where half of the adult population has gotten at least one COVID-19 shot, the talk has been of reopening, moving forward and healing. But for Indian Americans, the daily crush of dark news from “desh,” the homeland, is a stark reminder that the pandemic is far from over.
“We’re seeing life slowly start to get back to normal in small ways, and you’re feeling like a bit of hope — like with spring. You know that things are improving, it’s been a year,” said Mohini Gadré, 27, from his San Francisco area home. “And meanwhile there’s this tinderbox that’s been ignited in India.”
The more than 4.2 million people like Gadré who make up the Indian diaspora in the U.S., according to census estimates, have watched in horror as the latest coronavirus surge burns through India, killing thousands of people a day and catapulting the death toll to more than 200,000 — the fourth-highest in the world.
Number of Americans fully vaccinated tops 100 million
Disneyland reopened on Friday and cruise lines welcomed the news that they could be sailing again in the U.S. by midsummer, as the number of Americans fully vaccinated against COVID-19 hit another milestone: 100 million.
Visitors cheered and screamed with delight as the Southern California theme park swung open its gates for the first time in 13 months in a powerful symbol of the U.S. rebound, even though the self-proclaimed Happiest Place on Earth is allowing only in-state guests for now and operating at just 25% capacity.
The reopening and similar steps elsewhere around the country reflect increasing optimism as COVID-19 deaths tumble and the ranks of the vaccinated grow — a stark contrast to the worsening disaster in India and Brazil and the scant availability of vaccines in many poor parts of the world.
While the overall number of lives lost to COVID-19 in the U.S. has eclipsed 575,000, deaths have plummeted to an average of about 670 per day from a peak of around 3,400 in mid-January.
Canada to start to get Pfizer vaccines from the US next week
Canada will start getting Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines from the United States next week, a company spokesperson said Friday, in what will be the first time the U.S. has allowed that company’s vaccine exported to Canada.
Despite Canada’s tightly woven commercial ties with the U.S., it has been getting Pfizer’s vaccines from Belgium until now because U.S. authorities had kept supplies made in the U.S. for domestic use.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau repeated Friday that starting next week, Canada will be receiving 2 million doses a week from Pfizer alone.
Trade-dependent Canada lagged on vaccinating its population of 38 million because it lacks the facilities to manufacture the vaccine itself.
China’s Xi offers more help to India in message to Modi
Chinese leader Xi Jinping on Friday offered additional assistance to India in battling the coronavirus outbreak ravaging the country, putting aside a simmering rivalry and tensions along their disputed border.
Chinese media said a first batch of 25,000 oxygen concentrators pledged to India has arrived in the country. The reports said China has already shipped 5,000 ventilators and 21,000 oxygen generators. Along with the ventilators and oxygen concentrators, more than 15,000 sets of monitors and nearly 3,800 tons of medical supplies and medications have been shipped to India.
Brazil backs away from the virus brink, but remains at risk
Brazil has stepped back from the edge and has ceased to be the virus’ global epicenter, as its death toll ebbed and was overtaken by India’s surge. Experts warn, however, that the situation remains precarious, and caution is warranted.
Some 2,400 people died every day over the past week, more than triple the number in the U.S. Brazil surpassed the grim milestone of 400,000 confirmed deaths on Thursday — a number considered by experts to be a significant undercount, in part because many cases were overlooked, especially early in the pandemic.
Brazil’s death toll of 401,186 is the world’s second-highest, with the majority recorded in just the last four months as a more contagious variant swept the nation. In the thick of the Southern Hemisphere’s summer, crowds gathered and people boarded public transport in droves as mayors and governors relaxed the restrictions on activity that Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro fervently opposes.
Shake-up at COVID vaccine manufacturer that tossed millions of doses
Executives of Emergent BioSolutions, the COVID-19 vaccine manufacturer that was forced to discard up to 15 million doses because of possible contamination, reported a shake-up in leadership Thursday and offered the most fulsome defense yet of the company’s performance.
While announcing the high-level personnel changes and taking responsibility for the ruined doses, executives nonetheless forecast record revenues this year of nearly $2 billion.
Robert Kramer, the CEO, speaking on a call with investors, said one senior vice president overseeing manufacturing would depart the company while another executive would go on leave. A third official, Mary Oates, who recently joined Emergent after a long tenure at Pfizer, is now leading the company’s response to a recent federal inspection that found serious flaws at the Baltimore facility that produced the vaccines.
AstraZeneca delivers 68 million COVID shots in 1st quarter
AstraZeneca says it delivered about 68 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine during the first three months of 2021 after the shot became one of the first approved for widespread use.
The Anglo-Swedish drugmaker on Friday reported $275 million in revenue from sales of the vaccine, or the equivalent of $4.04 per dose. AstraZeneca has pledged that it will deliver the vaccine on a non-profit basis as long as the pandemic lasts.
The company said 30 million doses of the vaccine went to the European Union, 26 million to the U.K., 7 million to Gavi, an alliance that secures vaccines for low-income countries, and 5 million to other nations.
Affluent Americans rush to retire in new ‘life-is-short’ mindset
After a year of early morning Zoom calls, the specter of a deadly virus and soaring stock and real estate values, working American baby boomers who can afford it plan to get out while the getting’s good.
About 2.7 million Americans age 55 or older are contemplating retirement years earlier than they’d imagined because of the pandemic, government data show. They’re more likely to be white, a group that typically has a larger amount of accumulated wealth, and many cite robust retirement accounts and COVID-19 fatigue for their early exit, according to interviews with wealth managers and federal surveys.
Much like the U.S. economy’s so-called K-shaped recovery, the pandemic is treating the affluent differently, empowering them to leave corporate life early. Others who lost jobs had to delay retirement, or grew discouraged and retired before they were ready.
Belgium cultural venues to defy indoor ban, reopen illegally
Dozens of cinemas, theaters and other venues in Belgium are defying government orders and reopening their doors Friday to protest the country’s ongoing shutdown of cultural activities.
After more than six months without revenue, venue owners say Belgium’s ongoing ban on indoor cultural events is proof of “an unacceptable inequality of treatment” their industry has experienced during the coronavirus pandemic.
“There is no evidence that culture should take second place to supermarkets, zoos or any other activity that generates social contact,” owners participating in Still Standing For Culture, an activism collective, said. “The cultural spring has finally arrived."
Pfizer, BioNTech seek EU’s OK to use COVID vaccine on kids
Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech have submitted a request to the European drug regulator for the approval of their coronavirus vaccine to be extended to include children 12 to 15 years old, in a move that could offer younger and less at-risk populations in Europe access to the shot for the first time.
In a statement Friday, the two pharmaceuticals said their submission to the European Medicines Agency is based on an advanced study in more than 2,000 adolescents that showed their vaccine to be safe and effective. The children will continue to be monitored for longer-term protection and safety for another two years.
BioNTech and Pfizer have previously requested their emergency use authorization with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration also be extended to children 12 to 15 years old.
Catch up on the past 24 hours
Only 42% of fully vaccinated Washingtonians are men, and the gender divide is clearest in parts of Western Washington, a county-by-county look shows. Several forces are probably at work here, according to public health experts who are scrambling to find a message that resonates with the fence-sitters. And nationwide, researchers are realizing that it often won't help to pelt people with more facts. Instead, a clear set of psychological traits offers a new lens through which to understand the skepticism.
The new federal guidance on masks comes as COVID-19 infections rise in Washington, which might lead you to wonder whether it's wise to ease up. Our state’s health officials break this down in today's FAQ Friday.
One key to preventing the virus' spread: the air students breathe. Are Washington schools doing enough with classroom ventilation?
Is it safe to return to something resembling pre-COVID life after vaccination? Several public health experts are describing the changes they're making in their own lives, and the precautions they're not letting go of yet.
Emergency U.S. aid began arriving in India today, as burial grounds ran out of space and officials told residents to stay away from depleted vaccination centers. The Seattle area's Indian community is mobilizing to help.
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