Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Saturday April 9, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.
BA.2 variant is reportedly the dominant variant in at least 68 countries, including the U.S., and accounts for 94% of reported cases submitted to an international coronavirus database, according to the World Health Organization.
Meanwhile, a panel of vaccine advisers to the Food and Drug Administration is considering how to update COVID-19 shots against new strains and revamp future booster shot campaigns.
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.
DC gala results in at least 67 COVID cases
At 67 attendees of last weekend's Gridiron dinner have tested positive for COVID, including Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, the third member of Biden's cabinet at the dinner who was infected.
The figures released Saturday don't include staff at the Renaissance Hotel in Washington who worked the event, which after a two-year hiatus attracted 630 guests on April 2.
The latest tally means more than 10% of guests in attendance have tested positive in the aftermath of the event. Most of the employees who worked the dinner wore masks, but most of the attendees did not.
Read the full story here from the Washington Post.
Former employees sue over job loss for refusing vaccine
Eighty-four former Confluence Health employees have filed a class-action lawsuit against Confluence Health after resigning or being fired, because of the state's COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
The lawsuit claims Confluence Health did not allow employees to keep their jobs by proving they possessed natural immunity to the virus.
“All or nearly all of the dismissed employees had been working closely with COVID-19 patients … and had provable or presumed natural immunity due to their exposure to the virus” according to the lawsuit filed in Douglas County Superior Court on Friday.
The plaintiffs want their jobs back and/or payment for the damage caused due to their termination, and other general damages.
Read the full story here in the Wenatchee World.
Lockdowns in China block truck shipments and close factories
BEIJING — China’s mounting COVID-19 restrictions are creating further disruptions to global supply chains for consumer electronics, car parts and other goods.
A growing number of Chinese cities are requiring truck drivers to take daily COVID PCR tests before allowing them to cross municipal borders or are quarantining drivers deemed to be at risk of infection. The measures have limited how quickly drivers can move components among factories and goods from plants to ports.
Shanghai and other major Chinese cities have imposed lengthy, stringent lockdowns to try to control COVID outbreaks. Previous interruptions in the supply of goods from Chinese factories to buyers around the world mainly involved the temporary closure of shipping ports.
Beer and popcorn to return to WA ferries
For all the bars and restaurants that have recently reopened their doors, one establishment has remained conspicuously cordoned off by retractable belt barriers: the galleys on Washington’s ferries.
Beer and popcorn lovers of the world rejoice, for service aboard the boats will soon return.
Two years since the once-bustling watering holes for commuters, tourists and pleasure cruisers went quiet, the Sodexo-run cafeterias are set to open this month – possibly as soon as next week. Spokesperson for the ferries, Ian Sterling, said it’s been a long time coming; there are few topics more commonly broached by customers than the timeline for clam chowder’s return, he said.
“For us, this is a sign of progress and hopefully the same to customers,” Sterling said Saturday.
Some caveats are in order. The rollout will be phased, meaning just five boats on four routes will see service: Anacortes, Bainbridge, Bremerton and Edmonds. Just one of the two boats between Seattle and Bainbridge will open its galley, meaning passengers will have a 50% chance of snagging a frozen treat. Food service will open on two out of four boats leaving Anacortes.
Mask, no mask: Biden’s pandemic practices vary as COVID risks grow
Most of the time, President Biden doesn’t wear a mask, but occasionally he’s spotted with one. Sometimes his events are in crowded indoor rooms, other times outdoors.
And through it all over the past two weeks, people close to Biden — if not in “close contact” as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — are contracting COVID as part of a wave washing over parts of official Washington.
The White House approach appears somewhat haphazard, at times taking care to go beyond CDC guidelines and at others walking up to the edge of what’s recommended. And at least once in the last two weeks, he publicly disregarded his public health agency’s advice while visiting Poland.
The president has been spared COVID– so far. He is fully vaccinated and has been boosted twice, but he’s nearly 80 years old, putting him at higher risk for a severe case of the disease. And his sister, Valerie Biden Owens, announced Thursday that she tested positive.
Should Biden contract COVID, there would likely be an immediate economic and political shock. And there could be a political price to pay for the president who staked his campaign on keeping America safe from the pandemic.
6 Chicago teachers who sued school system over vaccine mandate win legal victory
CHICAGO — An Illinois judge issued a temporary restraining order Friday that prevents Chicago Public Schools from taking employment action against six teachers for refusing to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination or undergo weekly testing.
CPS is “the only school district left in the state that’s still enforcing this. None of the rest of the school districts that are in this case are trying to get vaccination or testing compliance out of teachers,” said downstate attorney Tom DeVore, who represents the six CPS teachers. “They should drop it.”
CPS issued a statement late Friday on Sangamon County Circuit Judge Raylene Grischow’s decision: “The district disagrees with the court’s decision and will continue to fight against this lawsuit and the TRO, as we believe our current health and safety protocols are in the best interest of our students, staff and school communities.”
The district said it intends to appeal the decision and will ask for the restraining order to be stayed.
Shanghai fashionistas face COVID lockdown with lipstick, Louis Vuitton
Cissy Zhao, a 41-year-old legal specialist living in Shanghai, refuses to lower her standards just because she is in lockdown.
Before leaving her house for required coronavirus tests in her residential compound, she wakes up early for her beauty routine. First, she washes her face, then carefully applies foundation, eyeliner, eye shadow and mascara before doing her eyebrows and lips. Finally, she chooses her outfit, selecting between brands such as Louis Vuitton or Christopher Bu, a Chinese designer. She has worn a different designer dress for each of the three tests she has done in the past five days.
“It only takes 10 minutes to do a PCR test, but every morning, I spend one hour doing makeup and dressing myself up for those 10 minutes,” Zhao said. “It makes me feel happier.”
For the past week, Zhao – along with Shanghai’s 26 million residents – have been restricted to their homes as authorities continue a strict “zero COVID” policy to combat the more transmissible omicron variant. The variant has spread across 30 regions, prompting China to enact some of the most extreme virus measures since the start of the pandemic – paralyzing manufacturing centers and agricultural regions, as well as financial hubs and port cities such as Shanghai, which reported more than 100,000 local cases since early March.
Trucker convoy protesting COVID restrictions to arrive Sunday for Los Angeles rally
LOS ANGELES — A convoy of truckers opposed to California’s COVID-19 vaccination mandates and restrictions will join hundreds of protesters expected to gather in Grand Park in downtown L.A. on Sunday for a “Defeat the Mandates” rally.
Despite new coronavirus variants, many of California’s health mandates have been lifted due to a decrease in new infections and rising vaccination rates. Still, there are warnings from the scientific community that ending the health emergency prematurely will leave the nation vulnerable.
A group of about 100 truckers dubbed the “People’s Convoy” disembarked in February from the Mojave Desert in San Bernardino on a nationwide tour that took them to Washington, D.C., and back. They will meet other protesters in downtown L.A. on Sunday to rally against what organizers call “an aggressive slate of COVID-19-related bills” being proposed in the state Legislature.
One of those bills, Assembly Bill 1993, would have required employees and independent contractors, in both the public and private sectors, to be vaccinated against COVID-19 as a condition of employment. But the bill was ultimately shelved by Democratic lawmakers, who pointed to the easing of mandates and improved pandemic conditions.
Germany mulls bringing back masks this autumn
BERLIN — Germany’s health minister said Friday that the country may need to brink back a requirement for wearing face masks in public this autumn after lawmakers rejected a proposed coronavirus vaccine mandate.
Karl Lauterbach acknowledged that the Bundestag’s vote Thursday against requiring COVID-19 vaccination of people 60 and over was a personal setback for him. The bill was a watered-down compromise after some government lawmakers refused to back a vaccine mandate for all adults.
The vote was “a clear and bitter defeat for all those who advocate compulsory vaccinations,” said Lauterbach, adding that any wriggle room to further relax the rules “has been completely exhausted.”
Germany recently ended the requirement to wear masks in many indoor settings, though they are still compulsory on public transport.
Parents of boy with autism say he was barred from Alaska Airlines flight to Seattle for not wearing a mask
Achilles McKellar had flown on at least 10 flights without any issues over wearing a facemask ever since turning 2 years old, according to his father, Rand McKellar.
In those instances, flight crews gave Achilles, who has autism, an exception to the federal COVID-19 masking requirement for passengers 2 and older with little to no questions asked, Rand McKellar said.
That was until Wednesday, when an Alaska Airlines flight agent did not let Achilles aboard a flight out of Spokane International Airport to Seattle because of concerns the boy would not keep his mask on during the flight, McKellar alleged.
McKellar, a Spokane resident, said Achilles had flown on at least four other Alaska Airlines flights without a mask, including a recent return trip Tuesday. His wife, Belle, said she and her husband are avid rock climbers who “chase the good weather for sunny sport climbing.”
For this particular flight, however, Rand McKellar said he was told to call a number for possible rebooking and to request an exemption.
What happens when COVID becomes endemic?
For months, some American and European leaders have foretold that the coronavirus pandemic would soon become endemic. COVID-19 would resolve into a disease that we learn to live with. According to several governors, it nearly has.
But we are still in the acute phase of the pandemic, and what endemic COVID-19 might look like remains a mystery. Endemic diseases can take many forms, and we do not know yet where this disease will fall among them.
At its most basic, an endemic disease is one with a constant, predictable or expected presence. It’s a disease that persists. Beyond that, there is no fixed definition.
The elite D.C. social scene sees a rash of COVID cases, but parties on
WASHINGTON – To party or not to party? That is the question.
Washington got a crash course in risk-reward ratios after a spate of boldface names tested positive for the coronavirus this week. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. got it. D.C. Democratic Mayor Muriel Bowser got it. Attorney General Merrick Garland, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo and Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine all announced they got it after attending the exclusive Gridiron Club dinner on April 2.
But none of this has slowed down the juggernaut that is the city’s elite social scene. After two years at home, the power brokers of the nation’s capital are determined to get back to the serious business of having fun. The calculation: The rewards, at least for the vaccinated and boosted, outweigh the possible risk of catching the milder variants of the disease.
Two Oregon congressmen test positive for COVID-19
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Two Oregon congressmen have tested positive for COVID-19.
Rep. Peter DeFazio, 74, tweeted Thursday that he has tested positive for the virus.
“Thanks to being fully vaccinated, I am only experiencing mild cold-like symptoms and fatigue,” the Democrat said on social media. “I will follow CDC guidance and quarantine.”
In addition, KOIN-TV reports that Rep. Earl Blumenauer said on Friday he has tested positive for COVID-19.
“After waking up with sore throat and out of abundance of caution I took a COVID-19 test. That test came back positive,” the 73-year-old Democrat said in a release. “I am feeling well and experiencing only minor cold-like symptoms.”
Renewing faith, or losing it, in the time of COVID-19
The last two years have transformed the stability of our families, our jobs and our collective understanding of science and sacrifice. But, for many of us, COVID-19’s reach also rewired something more elemental: our faith.
A Pew survey conducted early in the pandemic, found that nearly 3 in 10 Americans said their religious faith had become stronger since the coronavirus outbreak.
For others, this time has fundamentally changed their place within their religious traditions or led them to question long-held beliefs altogether — processes of introspection and transfiguration that can be, at once, painful and deeply fruitful.
Shanghai to start easing lockdown after another mass testing
BEIJING (AP) — China’s largest city of Shanghai will soon begin lifting lockdown in communities that report no positive cases within 14 days after another round of COVID-19 testing, authorities said Saturday.
The fresh round of testing comes as the city reported about 23,000 cases on Saturday, most of them asymptomatic. Large swathes of Shanghai, with a population of 26 million, have been under lockdown since March 28, leading to complaints from residents about shortages of food and basic necessities.
Separately, Guangzhou authorities announced that the city northwest of Hong Kong would also begin mass testing its 18 million residents, according to central broadcaster CCTV. The city reported only two confirmed infections on Friday.
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