Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Thursday, April 8, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.
The average daily number of passengers at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport screened by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) for the week of March 21 was 26,000 — up 278% from the same time last year, according to SEA Airport Statistics. And yet, this year’s number was still 59% lower than the same time in 2019, before the pandemic hit and people were traveling for Easter and Spring Break. On Monday, the day after Easter, SeaTac passengers faced long lines for the first time in over a year and the uptick is expected to continue: This week, Tacoma, Kent, Auburn and Everett school districts are off and next week the Seattle and Bellevue school districts will be on Spring Break.
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, The New York Times reports. 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? Legal experts say the answer is generally yes, although in a society so divided, politicians are already girding for a fight.
Gov. Jay Inslee has set a press conference today at 2:30 p.m. to discuss the state’s ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
State reports 1,143 new coronavirus cases and 10 new deaths
The state Department of Health (DOH) reported 1,143 new coronavirus cases and 10 new deaths on Thursday.
The update brings the state's totals to 373,212 cases and 5,316 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, 20,933 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the virus — 48 new hospitalizations. In King County, the state's most populous, state health officials have confirmed a total of 93,324 COVID-19 diagnoses and 1,481 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.
We tested the first state ‘vaccine passport’ at Yankee Stadium. It’s not quite a home run.
Want to go to a Yankees game? Watch a Justin Bieber concert? Let’s see your app.
New York just became the first state to offer a digital “vaccine passport” — a free app and website you can use to prove you’ve been vaccinated against the coronavirus or gotten a recent negative coronavirus test result. With the new technology, called the Excelsior Pass, New Yorkers can show a screen or a printout with a special code that businesses scan with an app made by the state. A green check mark means you’re allowed inside.
Regardless of where you live, vaccine passports on the horizon promise to fast-track our safe return to public spaces. But only if people are able to access and trust them. And that’s a big if.
With the help of New Yorkers across a range of ages, I’ve been testing Excelsior Pass to see whether digital vaccine passports create more problems than they solve. Using Excelsior Pass is entirely voluntary, but it requires learning about the state’s system and mastering a few different websites and apps. It took me 20 minutes over Zoom to help an octogenarian set up his pass, though it was certainly simpler than mastering vaccine-appointment websites. Even when we thought we understood the system, Excelsior Pass didn’t always work: My tech-reporter colleague tried to use it to enter Yankee Stadium, but the system didn’t update with his clearance until after the game was over.
The good news: For the digitally savvy people who figure it out, using Excelsior Pass doesn’t appear to pose major privacy risks. The system, designed for the state by IBM, cannot be easily used by the state to track you. And it’s more discreet than the alternative of showing your medical records to a bouncer.
Dutch police detain man in plot to attack vaccination center
Police in the Netherlands have arrested a 37-year-old man on suspicion of plotting a crime with “terrorist intent” for allegedly planning to set off what they described as a “firework bomb” at a coronavirus vaccination center, prosecutors said Thursday.
The suspect “sought to sabotage a crucial government process, the nationally coordinated vaccination program, in an extremely violent manner,” the prosecution statement said. “This also affects public health: The fewer people can be vaccinated, the more victims the virus will claim.”
The Netherlands remains in a months-long lockdown amid stubbornly high coronavirus infection numbers. Restaurants, bars, museums and other public places remain closed, although the government is experimenting with relaxing some restrictions for people who can prove they have been vaccinated or have tested negative for COVID-19.
NHL grapples with vaccine inequity between U.S. and Canada
His smile covered by a light blue surgical mask, Jacob Trouba’s eyes shined as the needle went into his left arm.
The New York Rangers gave players, coaches and staff a day off this week so they could get vaccinated against COVID-19.
“We’re very fortunate to be able to get that vaccine,” Trouba said.
As vaccinations ramp up past a pace of 3 million a day in the U.S, the NHL is in a tougher spot than the other three major North American professional sports leagues because seven of its 31 teams are based on Canada. While the NFL, NBA and Major League Baseball are relaxing virus protocols when a certain percentage of each team is fully vaccinated, the top hockey league in the world is facing a severe outbreak with the Vancouver Canucks and grappling with vaccine inequity on opposite sides of the border.
“It all comes down to the government guidelines, and it’s out of our control,” U.S.-born Winnipeg Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck said. “You definitely see the States getting out the vaccinations well and it’s very good, very nice, and it’d be nice to see that in Canada, but I don’t know the logistics of it all.”
Canada has lagged in vaccinations because, like many other countries, it lacks the ability to manufacture vaccines and has had to rely on the global supply chain. While hope is on the way with 45 million doses expected to be available by July for the nation of 38 million people, cases in Canada are surging, and the NHL is not immune.
In Peru, authorities allowed secret burials of virus victims
When Adriana Wong reached the field in the Amazon forest, she was confused. There were dozens of crosses planted in the red soil, but nothing to distinguish her father’s grave.
“Are you sure my dad is there?” the 9-year-old asked her mother.
Glendy Hernández had no answers.
Almost a year ago, her husband and dozens of others who died of COVID-19 were secretly buried in this field in Iquitos, a city in Loreto state in the heart of the Peruvian Amazon. Local authorities approved the burials but never told the families, who believed their loved ones were in a local cemetery — and only months later discovered the truth.
In Peru, and in Latin America, it is the first known case of authorities concealing the fate of dozens of COVID-19 victims, and nobody is able to explain why the clandestine burials were held. The local government didn’t reply to several requests for comment from The Associated Press.
Family members told AP that at least 403 people were buried in that field.
The pandemic hit Peru hard in April 2020, and Iquitos was struggling — to date, the country has seen more 52,000 deaths.
Countries worldwide hit new records for virus cases, deaths
Nations around the world set new records Thursday for COVID-19 deaths and new coronavirus infections, and the disease surged even in some countries that have kept the virus in check. In the United States, Michigan has averaged more than 7,000 new cases a day.
Brazil this week became just the third country, after the U.S. and Peru, to report a 24-hour tally of COVID-19 deaths that exceeded 4,000. India hit a peak of almost 127,000 new cases in 24 hours, and Iran set a new coronavirus infection record for the third straight day, reporting nearly 22,600 new cases. South Korea reported 700 more cases, the highest daily jump since Jan. 5.
A city wrestled down an addiction crisis. Then came COVID-19
As the COVID-19 pandemic killed more than a half-million Americans, it also quietly inflamed what was before it one of the country’s greatest public health crises: addiction.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that more than 88,000 people died of drug overdoses in the 12 months ending in August 2020 — the latest figures available. That is the highest number of overdose deaths ever recorded in a year.
The devastation is an indictment of the public health infrastructure, which failed to fight the dueling crises of COVID-19 and addiction, said Dr. Michael Kilkenny, who runs the health department in Cabell County.
The pandemic drove those already in the shadows further into isolation, economic fragility and fear while at the same time upending the treatment and support systems that might save them, Kilkenny said.
Huntington, West Virginia, was once ground zero for the addiction epidemic, and several years ago the Quick Response Team that saw the county’s overdose rate plummet was formed.
Then the pandemic arrived and it undid much of the effort.
US jobless claims up to 744K as virus still forces layoffs
The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits rose last week to 744,000, signaling that many employers are still cutting jobs even as more people are vaccinated against COVID-19, consumers gain confidence and the government distributes aid throughout the economy.
The Labor Department said Thursday that applications increased by 16,000 from 728,000 a week earlier. Jobless claims have declined sharply since the virus slammed into the economy in March of last year. But they remain stubbornly high by historical standards: Before the pandemic erupted, weekly applications typically remained below 220,000 a week.
Online scammers have a new offer for you: vaccine cards
On Etsy, eBay, Facebook and Twitter, little rectangular slips of paper started showing up for sale in late January. Printed on card stock, they measured 3-by-4 inches and featured crisp black lettering. Sellers listed them for $20 to $60 each, with a discount on bundles of three or more. Laminated ones cost extra.
All were forgeries or falsified copies of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention vaccination cards, which are given to people who have been inoculated against COVID-19 in the United States.
“We found hundreds of online stores selling the cards. Potentially thousands were sold,” said Saoud Khalifah, the founder of FakeSpot, which offers tools to detect fake listings and reviews online.
The coronavirus has made opportunists out of many people, like those who hoarded bottles of hand sanitizer at the start of the pandemic or those who cheated recipients out of their stimulus checks. Now online scammers have latched onto the latest profit-making initiative: the little white cards that provide proof of shots.
Doctors in Hungary question reopening amid spike in deaths
Doctors in Hungary are questioning the government’s decision to lift some lockdown restrictions amid peaking COVID-19 infections and deaths, saying that could lead to an even more dire situation in the Central European nation.
Shops and services were allowed to reopen Wednesday after 2.5 million people received a first dose of a coronavirus vaccine, a benchmark the government set for when a gradual reopening could take place. Hungarian officials say the number of administered vaccines, rather than trends in infections and deaths, will determine the country’s strategy for lifting its lockdown.
Yet some in Hungary’s medical community have criticized the reopening as premature and based on arbitrary criteria when new infections and virus deaths are soaring.
“They shouldn’t measure the severity of the situation with (vaccination) numbers but with how overwhelmed the hospitals and intensive care wards are,” Dr. Zsombor Kunetz told The Associated Press. “The government has now come up with its own metric that is not in line with the severity of the pandemic at the moment.”
COVID-19 patient receives lung transplant from living donors
Doctors in Japan announced Thursday they have successfully performed the world’s first transplant of lung tissue from living donors to a patient with severe lung damage from COVID-19.
The recipient, identified only as a woman from Japan’s western region of Kansai, is recovering after the nearly 11-hour operation on Wednesday, Kyoto University Hospital said in a statement. It said her husband and son, who donated parts of their lungs, are also in stable condition.
The university said it was the world’s first transplant of lung tissue from living donors to a person with COVID-19 lung damage.
Dr. Hiroshi Date, a thoracic surgeon at the hospital who led the operation, said at a news conference. “I think this is a treatment that gives hope for patients” with severe lung damage from COVID-19, he said.
Struggling Bosnia sees infection surge in migrants, refugees
Bosnia is seeing a rise in coronavirus infections among migrants and refugees living in its camps, as it struggles to cope with one of the Balkans’ highest COVID-19 death and infection rates among the general population.
While sporadic cases of coronavirus infections among 6,000 migrants and refugees have been reported since the start of the pandemic, the current outbreak in Bosnia’s camps is the biggest so far, and several facilities have been quarantined.
Over the past two weeks, 147 infections have been recorded in just one camp — more than half the total 265 infections recorded among migrants since the outbreak of the pandemic.
Germany mulls possible order of Russian COVID-19 vaccine
Germany’s health minister said Thursday that the European Union doesn’t plan to order Russia’s Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine but his country will hold talks with Russia on whether an individual order makes sense.
The EU’s executive Commission said Wednesday it won’t place orders for Sputnik V on member countries’ behalf, as it did with other manufacturers, Health Minister Jens Spahn told WDR public radio.
Spahn said he told his fellow EU health ministers that Germany, which has strongly backed joint EU orders, “will talk bilaterally to Russia, first of all about when it could come and in what quantities.” He said “to really make a difference in our current situation, the deliveries would have to come in the next two to four or five months already.”
Otherwise, he said, Germany would have “more than enough vaccine” already.
Amid a slow start to the vaccine rollout in Germany and across the EU, there have been calls from some German politicians — particularly at state level — to order Sputnik V.
Australia halts AstraZeneca vaccine for most people under 50
Australia on Thursday become the latest country to restrict use of the AstraZeneca vaccine by recommending that it not be given to people under age 50.
The announcement came after Australian drug regulators held a series of urgent meetings earlier in the day. The recommendation came after the European Medicines Agency said it had found a “possible link” between the shot and the rare blood clots, though regulators in the United Kingdom and the European Union emphasized that the benefits of receiving the vaccine continue to outweigh the risks for most people.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the recommendations were made with an abundance of caution due to the rare but serious side effects, which have mostly been associated with younger people.
Iran sets coronavirus infection record for 3rd straight day
Iran hit a new coronavirus infection record on Thursday for the third straight day, reporting 22,586 new cases as the country grapples with a severe spike following the Persian New Year holiday.
The new case count pushes Iran’s total during the pandemic over 2 million, including 63,884 deaths after health authorities reported 185 new daily fatalities due to COVID-19. The single-day infection toll exceeded the previous record set Wednesday by over 1,600.
Iran, which has battled the worst coronavirus outbreak in the Middle East for over a year, is in the midst of a major surge after millions defied government guidance to gather and travel during Nowruz, the country’s biggest holiday.
UK infections drop about 60% amid vaccinations, lockdown
The U.K.’s COVID-19 vaccination program is beginning to break the link between infection and serious illness or death, according to the latest results from an ongoing study of the pandemic in England.
Researchers at Imperial College London found that COVID-19 infections dropped about 60% in March as national lockdown measures slowed the spread of the virus. People 65 and older were the least likely to be infected as they benefited most from the vaccination program, which initially focused on older people.
The study also found that the relationship between infections and deaths is diverging, “suggesting that infections may have resulted in fewer hospitalizations and deaths since the start of widespread vaccination.”
Catch up on the past 24 hours
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