Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Monday, April 4, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.
Many pandemic restrictions in the United States and Canada have been relaxed, but that has not stopped protesters from gathering outside some government officials’ homes. Although vaccination and masking rules have generally eased in the past few months, protests have continued outside officials’ residences in states like Massachusetts, and in Nova Scotia and Alberta in Canada.
In Washington, Coyote Ridge Corrections Center north of the Tri-Cities is in the midst of the biggest COVID-19 outbreak in the state prison system. The state Department of Corrections reported Friday that 186 of the 199 active cases in all of the state’s prisons are currently at the Connell facility.
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.
Democratic, GOP Senate bargainers reach $10B COVID agreement
Senate bargainers have reached agreement on a slimmed-down $10 billion package for countering COVID-19, the top Democratic and Republican negotiators said Monday, but the measure dropped all funding to help nations abroad combat the pandemic.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said the deal would give the government “the tools we need” to continue battling the disease. Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, trumpeted budget savings in the measure that he said meant it “will not cost the American people a single additional dollar.”
At least half the measure would have to be used to research and produce therapeutics to treat the disease, according to fact sheets distributed by Schumer and Romney, the two top bargainers.
The money would also be used to buy vaccines and tests. At least $750 million would be used to research new COVID-19 variants and to expand vaccine production, the descriptions said.
German lawmakers seek elusive compromise on vaccine mandate
German lawmakers who proposed a requirement for all adults to be vaccinated against COVID-19 sought a compromise on Monday after struggling to win a majority in parliament, suggesting a less sweeping mandate that would oblige everyone aged 50 and above to get shots.
There does not appear to be a clear majority for any of a variety of proposals — from the proposed mandate to bills opposing any mandate at all.
The 237 lawmakers who backed a mandate for all adults are now proposing a plan under which people aged 50 and above would be required to prove that they have been vaccinated starting Oct. 1.
Some 76% of Germany’s population of 83 million has received a full first course of vaccination and 58.8% also have received a booster shot. Infection levels are drifting downward from very high levels, and most coronavirus restrictions have recently been relaxed.
WA state’s worst prison COVID outbreak is in Franklin County
The Coyote Ridge Corrections Center north of the Tri-Cities is in the midst of the biggest COVID-19 outbreak in the Washington state prison system.
The state Department of Corrections reported Friday that 186 of the 199 active cases in all of the state’s prisons are currently at the Connell facility.
Also, seven of the 32 cases among Washington prison employees statewide work there.
In the last 30 days, 20% of the Connell prison’s 1,800 inmates have tested positive for COVID, said prison officials. The highest number of infections, however, was a few weeks earlier in mid-January, according to state data.
The Connell site also has had one of the highest number of COVID-related inmate deaths in Washington.
Since the start of the pandemic, 17 prison inmates have died statewide — most of them in Eastern Washington facilities.
State health officials confirm new coronavirus cases, deaths
The state Department of Health (DOH) reported 758 new coronavirus cases on Friday, 551 on Saturday and 621 cases on Sunday. It also reported 5 more deaths over those days.
The update brings the state's totals to 1,458,424 cases and 12,515 deaths, meaning that 0.86% of people diagnosed in Washington have died, according to the DOH. The data is as of 11:59 p.m. Sunday. New state data is reported on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
DOH is still experiencing delays in reporting COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths caused by slowdowns in their data systems during the Omicron surge, according to the health agency.
In addition, 59,333 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the virus — 38 new hospitalizations. In King County, the state's most populous, state health officials have confirmed a total of 375,674 COVID-19 diagnoses and 2,681 deaths.
Since vaccinations began in late 2020, the state and health care providers have administered 13,273,098 doses and 68% 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 3,777 vaccine shots per day.
Sweden to give 4th COVID-19 shot to people over 65
Sweden recommended a fourth COVID-19 vaccine dose to people 65 and over as well as those living in nursing homes or getting home care, authorities said Monday.
The new guideline drops the age from an earlier recommendation for a fourth shot to people 80 and older.
The recommendation also includes fourth shots for those between 18–64 with moderate to severe immune deficiency, Sweden’s Public Health Agency said in a statement.
AP sources: $10B Senate COVID deal, but without global money
Bipartisan Senate bargainers have agreed to a slimmed-down $10 billion package for countering COVID-19, but without any funds to help nations abroad combat the pandemic, Democrats and Republicans familiar with the talks said Monday.
The agreement comes with party leaders hoping to move the legislation through Congress this week, before lawmakers leave for a two-week spring recess. It also comes with BA.2, the new omicron variant, expected to spark a fresh increase in U.S. cases.
The accord represents a deep cut from the $22.5 billion President Joe Biden initially requested, and from a $15 billion version that both parties’ leaders had negotiated last month. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., abandoned that plan after Democratic lawmakers rejected proposed cuts in state pandemic aid to help pay for the package.
The $15 billion plan had included about $5 billion for the global effort to fight COVID-19, which has run rampant in many countries, especially poorer ones.
With students in turmoil, US teachers train in mental health
As Benito Luna-Herrera teaches his 7th grade social studies classes, he is on alert for signs of inner turmoil. And there is so much of it these days.
One of his 12-year-old students felt her world was falling apart. Distance learning had upended her friendships. Things with her boyfriend were verging on violent. Her home life was stressful. “I’m just done with it,” the girl told Luna-Herrera during the pandemic, and shared a detailed plan to kill herself.
Another student was typically a big jokester and full of confidence. But one day she told him she didn’t want to live anymore. She, too, had a plan in place to end her life.
Luna-Herrera is just one teacher, in one Southern California middle school, but stories of students in distress are increasingly common around the country. The silver lining is that special training helped him know what to look for and how to respond when he saw the signs of a mental emergency.
Since the pandemic started, experts have warned of a mental health crisis facing American children. That is now playing out at schools in the form of increased childhood depression, anxiety, panic attacks, eating disorders, fights and thoughts of suicide at alarming levels, according to interviews with teachers, administrators, education officials and mental health experts.
Judge blocks Air Force discipline over vaccine objections
A federal judge has blocked the military from disciplining a dozen U.S. Air Force officers who are asking for religious exemptions to the mandatory COVID-19 vaccine.
The officers, mostly from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio, along with a handful of airmen and reservists, filed a lawsuit in February after their exemption requests were denied.
U.S. District Court Judge Matthew McFarland in Cincinnati granted a preliminary injunction last Thursday that stops the Air Force from acting against the officers, airmen and reservists until their lawsuit is resolved.
The plaintiffs accuse the Air Force of using a double standard when it comes to approving exemption requests, saying it had allowed thousands of medical and administrative exemptions but only a handful for religious reasons.
Last week, a federal judge in Texas barred the Navy from taking action for now against sailors who have objected to being vaccinated on religious grounds.
Medicare enrollees to get free COVID-19 tests at drug stores
Amid worries that the latest coronavirus variant could spark another rise in cases, Medicare announced Monday that millions of enrollees will finally have access to free over-the-counter COVID-19 tests at drug stores.
More than 59 million people with Medicare’s “Part B” outpatient coverage will be able to get up to eight free at-home tests per month, or enough for an individual to test twice a week, as some doctors have recommended.
Medicare has lagged private insurance in following the Biden administration’s directive to cover at-home tests because rules and regulations stood in the way, and officials had to find a work-around. This is the first time the health insurance program for older people and those with disabilities has covered an over-the-counter test at no cost to recipients.
Medicare’s move could turn out to be prescient.
The BA.2 omicron variant now accounts for more than half of U.S. cases, having rapidly overtaken the original strain. That initial omicron wave this winter caused the biggest spike yet in virus cases, straining many hospitals to the limit. Since then, cases nationally have rapidly dropped to the lowest level since before last summer’s delta surge. Coronavirus restrictions have been largely lifted. But some areas where BA.2 took hold early are seeing increasing cases.
Monday’s announcement followed another precautionary move last week, when government health officials authorized a second round of booster shots for people 50 and older as well as those with weakened immune systems.
Easter delays for UK travelers as COVID cancels flights
British travelers going abroad for the Easter holidays faced disruptions Monday as two main carriers, British Airways and easyJet, canceled dozens of flights due to staff shortages related to soaring cases of COVID-19 in the U.K.
Budget carrier easyJet grounded 62 flights scheduled for Monday after canceling at least 222 flights over the weekend, while British Airways said some three dozen out of its 115 flights canceled Monday were due to pandemic-related problems.
An easyJet spokesman said it is “experiencing higher than usual levels of employee sickness” as a result of high rates of COVID-19 infections across Europe.
The airline added that the number of cancellations “represents a small proportion” of the total of more than 1,600 flights planned for Monday.
Several of the British Airways cancellations were made at the last minute due to staff calling in sick, and about 25 others were a result of a decision taken in recent weeks to reduce its overall flight schedule.
COVID, diabetes collide in public health train wreck
After older people and nursing home residents, perhaps no group has been harder hit by the pandemic than people with diabetes. Recent studies suggest that 30-40% of all coronavirus deaths in the United States have occurred among people with diabetes, a sobering figure that has been subsumed by other grim data from a public health disaster that is on track to claim 1 million American lives sometime this month.
People with diabetes are especially vulnerable to severe illness from COVID, partly because diabetes impairs the immune system but also because those with the disease often struggle with high blood pressure, obesity and other underlying medical conditions that can seriously worsen a coronavirus infection.
“It’s hard to overstate just how devastating the pandemic has been for Americans with diabetes,” said Dr. Giuseppina Imperatore, who oversees diabetes prevention and treatment at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Diabetes patients hospitalized with COVID spend more time in the ICU, are more likely to be intubated and are less likely to survive, according to several studies, one of which found that 20% of hospitalized coronavirus patients with diabetes died within a month of admission.
Compounding the concerns, some studies suggest that a coronavirus infection can heighten the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, a disease that is largely preventable through a healthy diet and exercise. More than 90% of all diabetes cases in the United States are type 2.
One study published last month found that patients who recovered from COVID were 40% more likely to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes within 12 months compared with the uninfected, though researchers have yet to determine a connection between the two conditions.
Over the past two years, doctors have also reported a sharp rise in young people being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, an increase that many believe is tied to the drastic spike in childhood obesity during the pandemic.
China sends in military to help with Shanghai virus outbreak
China has sent more than 10,000 health workers from around the country to Shanghai, including 2,000 from the military, as it struggles to stamp out a rapidly spreading outbreak in its largest city under its zero-COVID strategy.
Shanghai was conducting a mass testing of its 25 million residents Monday as what was announced as a two-phase lockdown entered its second week.
The highly contagious omicron BA.2 form of the virus is testing China’s ability to maintain its zero-COVID approach, which aims to stop outbreaks from spreading by isolating everyone who tests positive, whether they have symptoms or not. Shanghai has converted an exhibition hall and other facilities into massive isolation centers where people with mild or no symptoms are housed in a sea of beds separated by temporary partitions.
China on Monday reported more than 13,000 new cases nationwide in the previous 24 hours, of which nearly 12,000 were asymptomatic. About 9,000 of the cases were in Shanghai. The other large outbreak is in northeastern China’s Jilin province, where new cases topped 3,500.
The Shanghai lockdown has sparked numerous complaints, from food shortages to limited staff and facilities at hastily constructed isolation sites.
Man in Germany gets 90 COVID-19 shots for the vaccine cards
A 60-year-old man allegedly had himself vaccinated against COVID-19 dozens of times in Germany in order to sell forged vaccination cards with real vaccine batch numbers to people not wanting to get vaccinated themselves.
The man from the eastern Germany city of Magdeburg, whose name was not released in line with German privacy rules, is said to have received up to 90 shots against COVID-19 at vaccination centers in the eastern state of Saxony for months until criminal police caught him this month, the German news agency dpa reported Sunday.
The suspect was not detained but is under investigation for unauthorized issuance of vaccination cards and document forgery, dpa reported.
He was caught at a vaccination center in Eilenburg in Saxony when he showed up for a COVID-19 shot for the second day in a row. Police confiscated several blank vaccination cards from him and initiated criminal proceedings.
It was not immediately clear what impact the approximately 90 shots of COVID-19 vaccines, which were from different brands, had on the man’s personal health.
How long COVID is accelerating a revolution in medical research
The experiences of patients with long COVID are advancing a revolution in research not just for COVID but also many other conditions. Patients, who have typically been only subjects in the research process, are becoming partners in it. They are documenting their symptoms online in real time, as well as helping to come up with questions and strategies for surveys and, eventually, to disseminate results.
“We bring experiential knowledge and have enough of an outsider’s perspective to see inefficiencies that people enmeshed in the system can’t see,” said Diana Zicklin Berrent, founder of Survivor Corps, a patient advocacy group that has been collaborating with researchers at Yale and other medical centers.
It is the latest step in the growing understanding that partnering with patients is not only the just and equitable thing to do but also that it can improve research. In the late 1980s, as the HIV/AIDS epidemic gained momentum, ACT UP and other groups successfully pushed to move drugs more quickly through the development pipeline. In 2010, the Affordable Care Act injected funding into patient-centered research.
All the while, advances in technology have mobilized patients to share emotional support, as well as real-time data about their symptoms online. Those forces have coalesced around long COVID, prompting studies at major medical centers such as the University of South Carolina and Yale University that involve patients in every stage of research.
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