Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Wednesday, April 7, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.
Seattle and its partners will administer 30,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines this week — a number equal to the number of doses the city was able to offer in the previous two weeks combined, according to Mayor Jenny Durkan’s office. This week’s plan calls for 8,000 doses to be administered Wednesday at the Lumen Field Event Center in Sodo and for 15,500 doses to be administered at community hubs in Rainier Beach, West Seattle and North Seattle (click here to preregister and receive email notifications for available appointments if you’re eligible to receive a vaccine or call 206-684-2489 for sign-up assistance). Pop-up clinics will also be held at El Centro de la Raza, the Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle and Idris Mosque. More information about the vaccination sites and the process is available at seattle.gov/vaccine.
Douglas Emhoff, husband of Vice President Kamala Harris, on Tuesday visited the Yakama Nation and the mass vaccination site at the Yakima Valley SunDome at State Fair Park on behalf of the Biden administration to promote vaccination. During his visit, Emhoff — who called efforts by Yakima County and the Yakama Nation to vaccinate people “an example for equity” — also said the administration is making $68 million available for local efforts to promote vaccination.
A possibly worrisome variant of the coronavirus first identified in India — so new that it has no official name — has been found in California by scientists at Stanford University, the Los Angeles Times reports. Nicknamed the “double mutant” variant by the BBC and others, the variant is sparking concern among some scientists because it contains not just one, but two worrisome mutations in its genetic composition that have been identified among other variants of concern being tracked by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The existence of the newly discovered variant was first disclosed by India’s government on March 24 and a day later, the Stanford lab identified the same variant in a coronavirus sample taken from a patient in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Washington state getting fewer vaccine doses next week than expected due to manufacturing mistake with J&J vaccine
The federal government has revised vaccine-supply expectations downward for Washington, state health officials said during a Wednesday media briefing.
The decreased supply comes as state health officials prepare to open vaccine eligibility next week, on April 15, to everyone age 16 and over.
Health officials had expected the state to receive at least 600,000 doses of vaccine through state and federal programs for each week in April, but estimates from the federal government were premature.
The reduction in expected supply apparently stems from problems at a manufacturing facility producing Johnson & Johnson vaccine. About 15 million doses were ruined after employees for a contract manufacturer to J&J mixed ingredients incorrectly.
The problem was discovered before any bad doses were shipped out and widely reported in new outlets last week.
In total, Washington state expects deliveries of at least 500,000 doses next week.
State health officials confirm 1,582 new coronavirus cases and 7 new deaths
The state Department of Health (DOH) reported 1,582 new coronavirus cases and 7 more deaths on Wednesday. The DOH also noted that today's case count and testing data are incomplete due to data processing issues.
The update brings the state's totals to 372,170 cases and 5,306 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. Tuesday.
In addition, 20,885 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the virus — 66 new hospitalizations. In King County, the state's most populous, state health officials have confirmed a total of 93,002 COVID-19 diagnoses and 1,478 deaths.
Since vaccinations began in mid-December, the state and health care providers have administered 3,798,746 doses and 19.98% 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 59,592 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.
Coroner: Florida man’s death after vaccine was through natural cause
A South Florida doctor who died about two weeks after he got Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine died in a manner that has been categorized as natural, an official with the medical examiner’s office said Wednesday.
Dr. Gregory Michael died from a condition that can cause internal bleeding and there is no medical certainty that the shot caused the disorder, according to an email from Darren Caprara, director of operations for the Miami-Dade County Medical Examiner Department.
Michael’s death in January was investigated by the Florida Department of Health and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Samples from an autopsy were sent to the CDC.
Likely legal, ‘vaccine passports’ emerge as the next coronavirus divide
Cathay Pacific Airways, convinced that digital proof of coronavirus vaccination will bring about the return of safe international travel, asked its pilots and crew to try out a new mobile app that showed their vaccination status on a recent flight from Hong Kong to Los Angeles.
New York has rolled out “Excelsior Pass,” billed by the state as “a free, fast and secure way to present digital proof of COVID-19 vaccination” in case reopening sports and entertainment venues require proof of attendees’ status.
And Walmart, the nation’s largest private employer, is offering electronic verification apps to patients vaccinated in its stores so they “can easily access their vaccine status as needed,” the company says.
Around the country, businesses, schools and politicians are considering “vaccine passports” — digital proof of vaccination against the coronavirus — as a path to reviving the economy and getting Americans back to work and play. Businesses especially fear that too many customers will stay away unless they can be assured that the other patrons have been inoculated.
But the idea is raising charged legal and ethical questions: Can businesses require employees or customers to provide proof — digital or otherwise — that they have been vaccinated when the coronavirus vaccine is ostensibly voluntary?
Can schools require that students prove they have been injected with what is still officially an experimental prophylaxis the same way they require long-approved vaccines for measles and polio? And finally, can governments mandate vaccinations — or stand in the way of businesses or educational institutions that demand proof?
Summoning seniors: White House pushing to vaccinate elderly
The first hurdle was getting on the bus. Seventy-four year old Linda Busby hesitated outside a community center where older people were loading up to go get the coronavirus vaccine.
“I was scared, I’m not afraid to say that,” she said Wednesday after getting her shot of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine after encouragement from a staff member and her brother. “I thought I wasn’t going to get it at first. Nobody likes getting shots.”
Busby’s hesitance is just what the Biden administration and its allies in the states are combating, one person at a time, as the White House steps up appeals to seniors to get inoculated. The vaccination rate for this top-priority group is reaching a plateau even as supplies have expanded.
About 76% of Americans aged 65 and older have received at least one shot of the COVID-19 vaccines since authorization in December, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But the rate of new vaccinations among the group most vulnerable to adverse virus outcomes has dramatically slowed.
It’s a growing source of concern, not only because of the potential for preventable deaths and serious illness among seniors in coming months but also for what it could portend for America’s broader population.
A look at the pandemic’s impact on London and what the future might hold.
On the surface, London’s financial district appears to be a shell of its former self. No one is rushing to meetings. Chairs are flipped upside down on tables inside closed cafes and pubs. The roads are ghostly quiet on a bright spring morning.
When the coronavirus struck, nearly 540,000 workers vanished almost overnight from the business hub, known as the City of London, or simply “the City.” A year on, most haven’t returned.
The return of workers will be crucial for the survival of many shops, restaurants, theaters and museums. Although offices and city centers all over the world have emptied out during the pandemic, the report said London was hit particularly hard by the shift to remote working because it has many fewer people living in the core of the city, compared with New York or Paris.
Alabama governor lifts mask rules, urges common sense
Gov. Kay Ivey said Wednesday that Alabama is shifting to personal responsibility in the fight against COVID-19, keeping her promise to let a statewide face mask order expire Friday.
Ivey said she’s issuing a “greatly slimmed down” health order that has few restrictions. It encourages people to keep taking precautions such as voluntarily wearing masks, but no longer includes a statewide mask order.
Alabama opened vaccine eligibility to anyone 16 and older two days ago, and state health officials said virus hospitalizations, percentage of positive tests and daily case numbers are hitting some of the lowest numbers in a year.
‘A moment of peril’: Biden’s coronavirus response collides with case spikes
For the first two months, all the coronavirus numbers broke in the Biden administration’s favor.
More than 100 million Americans have gotten at least one shot of vaccine and more than 200 million doses have been sent to states, a dramatic acceleration of the bumpy vaccine operation it inherited. Virus-related cases and deaths, which peaked in January, have fallen by about two-thirds since President Joe Biden’s inauguration.
But the Biden White House is now seeing new infections climb on its own watch — a potential crisis that could erase many of the hard-won gains of the president’s first 75 days, should the numbers keep rising. And after railing for a year about the last administration’s response and vowing a more muscular strategy, Biden is encountering the limits of his own authority. The president can help secure and distribute supplies and medicines, issue guidance and urge caution — but like Donald Trump before him, he has few tools when governors decide to lift coronavirus protections at the wrong moment, manufacturers botch vaccine production, or Americans refuse to wear masks or get vaccinated.
As Indonesia is shorted on doses, its president slams richer nations for vaccine nationalism
In an interview Wednesday, Indonesian President Joko Widodo slammed richer nations for vaccine nationalism that’s hampering the world’s supply of coronavirus vaccines and prolonging the global pandemic.
While nearly 700 million doses have been administered worldwide, the vast majority of them went to people in richer countries and vaccine-producing nations. The European Union has sought to block shipments, while countries like the U.S. and the U.K. secured orders for more doses than their entire population needs.
Vaccine producers like India also have sought to safeguard domestic supply.
Discarded masks litter beaches worldwide, threaten sea life
To the usual list of foul trash left behind or washed up on beaches around the world, add these: masks and gloves used by people to avoid the coronavirus and then discarded on the sand.
In the past year, volunteers picking up trash on beaches from the Jersey Shore to California, the United Kingdom and Hong Kong have been finding discarded personal protective equipment.
Volunteers removed 1,113 masks and other pieces of virus-related protective gear from New Jersey beaches last fall.
“Used correctly PPE saves lives; disposed of incorrectly it kills marine life,” said Cindy Zipf, the group’s executive director. “PPE litter is a gross result of the pandemic, and 100% avoidable. Use PPE properly, then dispose of it properly in a trash can. It’s not hard and it’s the least we can do for this marvel of a planet we all live on, not to mention ourselves.”
Those 16 and older can sign up now for COVID-19 vaccine in Seattle
The City of Seattle has now opened preregistration for COVID-19 vaccine appointments for anyone aged 16 and over.
Preregistration for the city’s vaccine openings is available to anyone who is 16 years old and older, has not yet received a COVID-19 vaccination and lives or works in King County who would like to be vaccinated at one of the four city-affiliated vaccination clinics.
Gov. Jay Inslee last week announced that everyone 16 years and older can get a vaccine starting April 15.
The city’s vaccination clinics are at:
- Lumen Field Event Center, 330 South Royal Brougham Way, Seattle, 98134
- North Seattle College Community Vaccination Hub, 9600 College Way North, Seattle, 98103
- Rainier Beach Community Vaccination Hub, 8702 Seward Park Avenue South, Seattle, 98118
- West Seattle Community Vaccination Hub, 2801 S.W. Thistle Street, Seattle, 98126
Pop-up clinics will also be held at El Centro de la Raza, the Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle and Idris Mosque. More information about the vaccination sites and the process is available at seattle.gov/vaccine.
North Korea tells WHO it is still virus free
North Korea has continued to claim a perfect record in keeping out the coronavirus in its latest report to the World Health Organization.
At the beginning of the pandemic, North Korea described its efforts to keep out the virus as a “matter of national existence.”
It shut its borders, banned tourists and jetted out diplomats. The country still severely limits cross-border traffic and has quarantined tens of thousands of people who have shown symptoms.
But it still says it has found no case of COVID-19, a widely doubted claim. In an email to The Associated Press on Wednesday, Edwin Salvador, WHO’s representative to North Korea, said the North has reported it tested 23,121 people for the coronavirus from the beginning of the pandemic to April 1 and that all results were negative.
India sees another record rise in virus cases
India reported a record daily surge in new coronavirus cases for the second time in four days on Wednesday, while New Delhi, Mumbai and dozens of other cities announced they are imposing curfews to try to slow the soaring infections.
The rise of 115,736 coronavirus cases reported in the past 24 hours tops the 103,844 infections reported Sunday. Fatalities rose by 630, the highest daily amount since November, driving the confirmed death toll in the country above 166,000.
The federal government has so far refused to impose a nationwide lockdown to contain the latest surge but has asked states to decide on imposing local restrictions.
“The pandemic isn’t over and there is no scope for complacency,” Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said on Twitter. He urged people to get vaccinated.
India has reported 12.8 million virus cases since the pandemic began, the highest after the United States and Brazil.
Osaka issues virus spike warning, wants torch relay rerouted
Japan’s Osaka prefecture issued a special warning Wednesday that a rapid surge in coronavirus cases is placing medical systems in the region at the verge of collapse and requested the cancellation of the Olympic torch relay along all public roads in the prefecture.
Gov. Hirofumi Yoshimura declared a “medial emergency” in the western Japanese prefecture, where daily cases have reached new highs, and asked hospitals to urgently prepare additional beds.
Yoshimura, who previously asked for a cancellation of the torch relay only in Osaka city, said all segments on public roads should be canceled.
The Tokyo Olympics are to start in just over three months with Japan’s vaccination drive still in its initial stages. Experts say more contagious new variants of the virus are becoming more common and are urging health officials to respond quickly to prevent an explosive increase with only a fraction of the people inoculated.
More than a half million Americans gain coverage under Biden
More than a half million Americans have taken advantage of the Biden administration’s special health insurance sign-up window keyed to the COVID-19 pandemic, the government announced Wednesday in anticipation that even more consumers will gain coverage in the coming months.
The reason officials expect sign-ups to keep growing is that millions of people became eligible effective Apr. 1 for pumped-up subsidies toward their premiums under President Joe Biden’s coronavirus relief legislation. The special sign-up opportunity for Affordable Care Act plans will be available until Aug. 15.
Biden campaigned on a strategy of building on the Obama-era health law to push the United States toward coverage for all. As president, he’s wasted no time. First he reopened the law’s heath insurance markets during the pandemic. Then, the virus aid package essentially delivered a health insurance price cut by making taxpayer subsidies more generous, while also allowing more people to qualify for financial assistance. Those sweeteners are available the rest of this year and through the end of 2022.
Thailand confirms first local cases of coronavirus variant
Thailand has confirmed its first local cases of the coronavirus variant first detected in the U.K., raising the likelihood that it is facing a new wave of the pandemic, a senior doctor said Wednesday.
The variant was found in blood samples from 24 people in a new cluster of cases involving customers of nightlife venues in the capital, Bangkok, said Dr. Yong Pooworavan, a virologist from the Faculty of Medicine at Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University.
Speaking at a Health Ministry news conference, Yong described the variant as 1.7 times more contagious than the original coronavirus, still more common in Thailand. The variant was found in Thailand for the first time in January in four members of a family arriving from Britain who had been quarantined.
The new cluster from nightspots, along with another at a prison in the southern province of Narathiwat, had already caused major concern.
EU life expectancy drops across bloc amid virus pandemic
Life expectancy across much of the European Union has dropped last year, as the 27-nation bloc struggled with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
The EU statistical agency Eurostat said Wednesday that “following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic last year, life expectancy at birth fell in the vast majority of the EU member states.” It said the biggest drop was in Spain, with a loss of 1.6 years compared with 2019.
Bulgaria followed with a loss of 1.5 years, followed by Lithuania, Poland and Romania, which all saw a drop of -1.4 years. Denmark and Finland were the only nations to see a rise in life expectancy, with 0.1 years.
Agency: Possible link between AstraZeneca shot, rare clots
The EU’s drug regulator says it has found a “possible link” between the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine and a rare clotting disorder but said that the benefits of the shot still outweigh risks.
In a statement released Wednesday, the European Medicines Agency placed no new restrictions on using the vaccine in people 18 and over.
US Treasury: 156 million coronavirus relief payments issued
The Treasury Department said Wednesday it has issued more than 156 million payments as part of President Joe Biden’s coronavirus relief plan, including 25 million payments that were primarily to Social Security beneficiaries who hadn’t filed 2019 or 2020 tax returns.
The direct payments of as much as $1,400 per person were the cornerstone promise of Biden’s $1.9 trillion package to contain the pandemic and revive the U.S. economy. Roughly $372 billion has been paid out since March 12, a sum that likely boosted hiring last month as Americans had more money to spend.
White House officials had previously estimated that 158.5 million households would receive the payments. Wednesday’s batch of payments showed how the administration is going beyond IRS filings to get out the money. It included 19 million payments to Social Security recipients who had not submitted tax returns for the past two years and didn’t use a tool last year for non-filers to receive the two previous rounds of direct payments.
Merkel backs ‘short, uniform lockdown’ across Germany
German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday threw her weight behind a “short, uniform lockdown” as the country grapples with a high level of coronavirus cases fueled by the spread of a more contagious variant first detected in Britain.
German state governors, who are responsible for imposing and lifting virus restrictions, have taken differing approaches lately. Some have continued to back limited reopening steps while others advocate a stricter shutdown.
Armin Laschet, a governor who also leads Merkel’s conservative party, called this week for a vaguely defined 2-3 week “bridge lockdown” to control infections while Germany steps up a so-far slow vaccination campaign.
Karaoke party, gatherings blamed for COVID spike in Cowlitz County
A karaoke party and other social gatherings are being blamed for driving most of Cowlitz County’s rising COVID-19 cases, public health officials say.
The county is expected to be downgraded into a more restrictive phase of the governor’s reopening plan next week due to the number of new cases and hospitalizations.
Although most of the state has reported a recent increase in cases, Dr. Steve Krager, Cowlitz County’s deputy health officer, said the county has recorded more disease activity than surrounding areas.
Cowlitz County reported 29 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday, bringing the total to 4,792.
Cowlitz County recorded about 203 new cases per 100,000 people from March 12-25, according to the state’s data dashboard.
The county is among seven of the state’s 39 counties with a case rate over 200 per 100,000, along with Pierce, Yakima, Chelan, Kittitas, Whitman and Douglas counties, according to the dashboard.
The entire state entered Phase 3 on March 22, but to stay there the county must have a new case rate of less than 200 new cases per 100,000 people and fewer than five new hospitalizations per 100,000 people over the past seven days. Each county will be evaluated Monday, and any changes in phase would take effect that Friday.
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