The number of reported COVID-19 cases across the globe has dropped for a second consecutive week as deaths continue to decline, according to the World Health Organization’s weekly report.

Meanwhile, a California naturopathic doctor pleaded guilty to selling fake COVID-19 treatments and fraudulent vaccination cards, according to federal prosecutors.

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.

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European Central Bank head says she’s positive for COVID-19

European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde tweeted Thursday that she tested positive for COVID-19 and has mild symptoms but will continue working from home.

“I am vaccinated and boosted, and my symptoms are thankfully reasonably mild,” Lagarde, 66, wrote on Twitter.

Lagarde’s tweet comes as numerous European countries have dropped nearly all their COVID-19 restrictions and are battling a surge of the virus fueled by the highly infectious omicron subvariant BA.2.

Another tweet from Lagarde shows her speaking unmasked with European finance ministers at a meeting Monday.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press
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Oregon sues COVID test company, millions of dollars pocketed

The state of Oregon sued an Illinois-based COVID-19 testing company on Thursday, saying its owners took millions of dollars in federal funds and insurance money for themselves and boasted about buying a mansion and expensive sports cars.

Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum sued the Center for Covid Control, or CCC, and its testing partner, Doctors Clinical Laboratory, for deceptively marketing testing services and for violating Oregon’s Unlawful Trade Practices Act.

The lawsuit says Aleya Siyaj and Akbar Ali Syed, the married couple who own CCC, had no prior experience in the medical field or medical testing and had run an axe throwing lounge and a photography studio.

This raises questions about how they managed to become the recipients of federal funds for testing. The lawsuit noted they’re also being investigated by the FBI and Illinois public health authorities. FBI agents searched the company’s headquarters near Chicago in January, according to local news reports.

Read the full story here.

— Andrew Selsky, The Associated Press

Experts say US suspension of COVID aid will prolong pandemic

In the latest Senate package targeted at stopping the coronavirus, U.S. lawmakers dropped nearly all funding for curbing the virus beyond American borders, a move many health experts slammed as dangerously short-sighted.

They warn the suspension of COVID-19 aid for poorer countries could ultimately allow the kind of unchecked transmission needed for the next worrisome variant to emerge and unravel much of the progress achieved so far.

The U.S. has been the biggest contributor to the global pandemic response, delivering more than 500 million vaccines, and the lack of funding will be a major setback. The money has paid for numerous interventions, including a mass vaccination campaign in the Cameroonian capital that saw hundreds of thousands of people get their first dose, as well as the construction of a COVID-19 care facility in South Africa and the donation of 1,000 ventilators to that country.

Other U.S.-funded vaccination campaigns in dozens of countries, including Uganda, Zambia, Ivory Coast and Mali, could also come to a grinding halt.

Read the story here.

—Maria Cheng and Chris Megerian, The Associated Press

Up to 65% of Africans have had COVID, far more than thought

The World Health Organization said that up to 65% of people in Africa have been infected with the coronavirus and estimates the number of actual cases may have been nearly 100 times more than those reported.

In a new analysis released Thursday, the U.N. health agency reviewed 151 studies of COVID-19 in Africa based on blood samples taken from people on the continent between January 2020 and December 2021. WHO said that by last September, about 65% of people tested had some exposure to COVID-19, translating into about 800 million infections. In contrast, only about 8 million cases had been officially reported to WHO during that time period.

“This undercounting is occurring worldwide and it’s no surprise that the numbers are particularly large in Africa where there are so many cases with no symptoms,” WHO’s Africa director Matshidiso Moeti said in a statement. WHO’s analysis found that a large proportion of people with COVID-19 — 67% — showed no symptoms when infected with the disease, a higher percentage than other world regions.

Despite repeated warnings from WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreysus that the coronavirus would devastate Africa, the continent has been among the least affected by the pandemic. In its new analysis, WHO said the milder COVID-19 cases seen in Africa were attributable in part to the continent’s much smaller proportion of people with underlying risk factors like high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease.

“Africa’s youthful population is also a protective factor,” the U.N. health agency said. Some studies have also suggested that previous infection with diseases including malaria, may offer people some protection against the coronavirus, although those hypotheses have yet to be confirmed.

To date, Africa has reported 11.5 million COVID-19 cases including more than 250,000 deaths. WHO said the virus has been trending downwards since January, although there have been some variations in some countries and some, including South Africa, have been hit particularly hard during successive waves of disease. Last week, WHO said the number of COVID deaths fell by about 30% on the continent.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press
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German lawmakers reject mandatory COVID shots for over 60s

German lawmakers on Thursday rejected a bill requiring all people 60 and over in the country to be vaccinated against coronavirus — a compromise solution the government had hoped would get a parliamentary majority.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz and his health minister originally called for a vaccine mandate to apply to all adults in Germany, but some government lawmakers and most of the opposition had balked at the idea.

The vote prompted joy from anti-vaccine activists, who staged a march through Berlin’s government district banging drums, blowing horns and carrying banners with slogans such as “We are the red line” or simply “No.”

The bill was put forward by a cross-party group after months of haggling. It envisaged requiring older people to get the shot, but for there to be compulsory counseling for all adults to help them weigh the advantages and risks of vaccination against COVID-19.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

Pelosi positive for COVID-19, was at White House with Biden

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has tested positive for COVID-19, a day after appearing unmasked at a White House event with President Joe Biden.

Pelosi received a positive test result for COVID-19 and is currently asymptomatic, her spokesman Drew Hammill said Thursday in a tweet. He said she had tested negative earlier in the week.

The White House said Biden and Pelosi had only “brief interactions over the course of the last two days” and that the president was not considered a close contact of the speaker by CDC guidance — sustained unmasked contact within 6 feet for more than 15 minutes over a 24-hour period.

The 82-year-old Democratic leader’s announcement came ahead of her weekly press appearance on Capitol Hill, which was abruptly called off. The House is set to start a two week spring recess.

Read the story here.

US jobless claims stay at historically low levels last week

Fewer Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week as layoffs remain at historically low levels.

Jobless claims fell by 5,000 to 166,000 for the week ending April 2, the Labor Department reported Thursday. The previous week’s number was revised down a whopping 31,000 claims.

Last week’s claims match the figure from two weeks ago, which is the lowest since November of 1968 when 162,000 people filed for unemployment benefits, according to historical government data. First-time applications for jobless aid generally represent the pace of layoffs.

The four-week average for claims, which compensates for weekly volatility, fell by 8,000 to 170,000 from the previous week’s 178,000, which was revised down by 30,500.

Read the story here.

—Matt Ott, The Associated Press
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Shanghai wrestles with food shortages under virus shutdown

Residents of Shanghai are struggling to get meat, rice and other food supplies under anti-coronavirus controls that confine most of its 25 million people in their homes, fueling frustration as the government tries to contain a spreading outbreak.

People in China’s business capital complain online grocers often are sold out. Some received government food packages of meat and vegetables for a few days. But with no word on when they will be allowed out, anxiety is rising.

The situation highlights the soaring human and economic cost of China’s “zero-COVID” strategy that aims to isolate every infected person.

On Thursday, the government reported 23,107 new cases nationwide, all but 1,323 of which had no symptoms. That included 19,989 in Shanghai, where only 329 had symptoms.

Complaints about food shortages began after Shanghai closed segments of the city on March 28.

Plans called for four-day closures of districts while residents were tested. That changed to an indefinite citywide shutdown after case numbers soared.

Read the story here.

—Joe McDonald, The Associated Press

Invisible party crasher has the other Washington on edge

On Wednesday, two Biden administration officials who attended the annual black-tie Gridiron Club dinner, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo and Attorney General Merrick B. Garland, said they had tested positive for the virus. Neither was determined to be in close contact with President Joe Biden, defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as someone less than 6 feet away for more than 15 minutes over a 24-hour period.

The positive tests are a reminder that, even as officials seek to pivot away from strict restrictions and encourage Americans to learn to live with the coronavirus, the pandemic is not over, driven by the emergence of a new, highly contagious subvariant whose spread is alarming experts.

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—Katie Rogers, The New York Times

As ‘stomach flu’ rises again, here are 5 things to know about noroviruses

While COVID-19 cases continue to drop in the U.S., outbreaks of another virus — the stomach flu — are ramping up, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports.

This comes amid easing virus restrictions nationwide.

A total of 448 norovirus outbreaks were reported in the U.S. from Aug. 1, 2021, to March 5, 2022, according to the agency. In comparison, that’s 370 more outbreaks than reported from Aug. 1, 2020, to March 5, 2021, when 78 stomach virus outbreaks were seen.

With people returning to offices and schools — two of the most common spots for norovirus outbreaks — cases of the stomach flu are getting closer to the numbers reported before the pandemic, according to NBC News.

Read the full story.

—Don Sweeney and Julia Marnin, The Charlotte Observer
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Colds and flu roaring back after vanishing during COVID

Cold and flu germs, which nearly vanished for two years, are roaring back, according to doctors and federal disease-trackers.

As we do less masking and more hugging and handshaking, “there is greater transmission of viruses,” said Dr. Jorge Salinas, hospital epidemiologist for Stanford Health Care. To be sure, COVID-19 is still spreading. But other long-lost ailments are catching up. At schools, “it’s not COVID,” said Salinas. “Everybody has a cough and one thing or another.”

For a long time, masks and social distancing did a bang-up job of protecting us. But now we’ve gotten casual. And we’re all heading back to our regular haunts, rediscovering the kind of liberation that comes with a fully-booked vaccine card.

“People are moving around more,” sharing their germs with others, said UC San Francisco infectious disease expert Dr. Peter Chin-Hong.

Read the full story.

—Lisa M. Krieger, The Mercury News