Federal officials said the first doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine should reach some states Monday morning, as a massive logistical campaign to deliver the shots takes shape. Washington state health officials on Thursday said they’re preparing to receive doses midway through next week.

The country faces a herculean task — vaccinating most of the United States’ 330 million residents.

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 previous days’ live updates and all our other coronavirus coverage, and here to see how we track the daily spread across Washington and the world.

Gov. Jay Inslee addressed the media Sunday morning to give an update on the COVID-19 vaccine. Watch the press conference below.


Navigating the pandemic
(Jennifer Luxton / The Seattle Times)

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Trump administration plans $250 million education campaign to encourage COVID-19 vaccination

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration, scrambling to make up for lost time after a halting start, is rushing to roll out a $250 million public education campaign to encourage Americans to take the coronavirus vaccine, which will reach the first patients in the United States this week.

Federal officials acknowledge the effort will be a complicated one. It must compete with public doubt and mistrust of government programs amid deep political divisions created in part by a president who has spent much of the year belittling government scientists, promoting ineffective treatments and dismissing the seriousness of the pandemic — and is now rushing to claim credit for a vaccine that he has made a priority.

“When you have an anti-science element together with a divisiveness in the country, it will be challenging,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease expert, said in an interview Friday, while declining to talk specifically about President Donald Trump. “But you know, we’ve done challenging things before.”

Read the whole story here.

—The New York Times
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Health department reports 2,328 new COVID-19 cases in Washington

The state Department of Health (DOH) reported 2,328 new cases of COVID-19 infection on Sunday.

That brought Washington to 202,063 cases since the pandemic's outset this year, according to DOH data as of 11:59 p.m. Saturday. The DOH cautioned that total could include up to 2,600 duplicates due to incomplete test results from Nov. 21 through today.

The DOH also reported an additional 157 hospitalizations as a result of the virus, bringing the total to at least 12,525.

There have been 2,879 deaths reported in the state, amounting to 1.4% of confirmed cases. The DOH no longer updates death counts on weekends.

In King County, there were 645 new cases reported, bringing the total infections to 53,927.

DOH's method of reporting new cases each day differs from The Times', which was today’s total cases minus the previous day’s total cases. The DOH’s report of new cases each day may 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, etc.

—Jim Brunner

Trump, top officials to be offered vaccine within days

President Donald Trump and other top U.S. officials will be offered the newly approved coronavirus vaccine within days as part of a plan to ensure continuity in government amid the pandemic, people familiar with the effort said.

The vaccinations will be offered to critical personnel in all three branches of government deemed essential, and could start as soon as Monday. The shots will be staggered over the following 10 days to ensure that staffers do not experience possible side effects at the same time.

The measure also comes as health officials seek to build public confidence in the treatment. Offering the vaccine to top government members was recommended by public health officials and career national security staffers, according to the people.

Read the full story here.

—Bloomberg

Fears of a ‘Twindemic’ Recede as Flu Lies Low

Despite the horrifying surge of COVID-19 cases and deaths in the United States right now, one bit of good news is emerging this winter: It looks unlikely that the country will endure a “twindemic” of both flu and the coronavirus at the same time.

That comes as a profound relief to public health officials who predicted as far back as April that thousands of flu victims with pneumonia could pour into hospitals this winter, competing with equally desperate COVID-19 pneumonia victims for scarce ventilators.

“Overall flu activity is low, and lower than we usually see at this time of year,” said Dr. Daniel B. Jernigan, director of the influenza division of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “I don’t think we can definitively say there will be no twindemic; I’ve been working with flu for a long time, and I’ve been burned. But flu is atypically low.”

Since September, the CDC “FluView” — its weekly report on influenza surveillance — has shown all 50 states in shades of green and chartreuse, indicating “minimal” or “low” flu activity. Normally by December, at least some states are painted in oranges and reds for “moderate” and “high.”Of 232,452 swabs from across the country that have been tested for flu, only 496, or 0.2%, have come up positive.

That has buoyed the spirits of flu experts. Read the full story here.

—The New York Times
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Inslee: Pfizer coronavirus vaccine gets western states’ blessing

As the first doses of coronavirus vaccine began to ship across the United States, Gov. Jay Inslee on Sunday announced that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine had won the approval of an independent group of scientists in western states, paving the way for some Washington residents, mostly health care workers, to receive inoculations starting as soon as Tuesday.

Inslee said the 17-member COVID Vaccine Scientific Safety Review Workgroup “gave their unanimous recommendation” to their states’ governors Sunday morning.

“I am extremely confident Washingtonians can begin to use this vaccine in a safe fashion,” Inslee said in a Sunday news conference.

Read the full story here.

—Evan Bush

Germany tightens virus lockdown over holidays

BERLIN (AP) — Most stores shut, tight limits on social contacts, no singing in church and a ban on fireworks sales: Germany is ratcheting up its pandemic restrictions in an effort to cut the stubbornly high rate of coronavirus infections.

Chancellor Angela Merkel said she and the governors of Germany’s 16 states agreed Sunday to step up the country’s lockdown measures beginning Wednesday to Jan. 10 to stop the country’s exponential rise of COVID-19 cases.

“We are forced to act and we’re acting,” Merkel told reporters in Berlin, noting that existing restrictions imposed in November had failed to significantly reduce the number of new infections.

The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Germany has risen over the past two weeks from 21.23 new cases per 100,000 people on Nov. 28 to 26 new cases per 100,000 people on Dec. 12.

Starting Wednesday, schools nationwide will be closed or switch to home schooling; most non-food stores will be shuttered, as will businesses such as hairdressers that have so far been allowed to remain open. Restaurant takeout will still be permitted, but no eating or drinking can take place on site.

Read the full story here.

—The Associated Press

Child care providers in Washington state weigh a strike as they struggle to stay afloat amid pandemic

Washington family child care providers are contemplating a strike, with union participants saying they’re at their wits’ end amid increasing pressure from the pandemic.

It would be the first statewide strike in history among child care providers, union leaders say.

The state says there is help on the way and the providers don’t have the legal right to strike.

Even before the pandemic, Washington’s child care sector was struggling. The cost of care was too high for most families, and providers were paid wages that often left them in poverty.

The system only had the capacity to support 17% of children under age 13 statewide, according to state-commissioned research from late last year. Washington had the sixth highest share of people living in child care deserts in the U.S., the Center for American Progress reported. This means demand for care far outweighs the licensed spots available. Much of Yakima County was considered a child care desert.

Read the full story here.

—Yakima Herald-Republic, Wash.
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Full $908 billion pandemic bill coming Monday, Democrat says

A bipartisan group of lawmakers will unveil a $908 billion coronavirus pandemic relief bill on Monday, although there’s “no guarantee” Congress will pass it, one of the key negotiators said.

“We were on a call all day yesterday, we’ll get on a call again this afternoon to finish things up,” Senator Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat, said on “Fox News Sunday.” “We’ll have a bill produced for the American people tomorrow, $908 billion.”

Democratic and Republican lawmakers engaged in the talks have said they completed detailed proposals on small business help, vaccine-distribution funding and other key areas. The sticking point is how to shield employers from virus-related lawsuits, a top demand of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

A competing, $916 billion relief proposal is also circulating from Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

Read the full story here.

—Bloomberg

Bahrain approves Chinese COVID-19 vaccine for use

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Bahrain said Sunday it approved the use of a Chinese coronavirus vaccine, following its earlier approval of a vaccine made by Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech.

Separately, Kuwait has granted emergency use for the Pfizer vaccine.

Bahrain’s state-run news agency said the Sinopharm vaccine would be available in the island kingdom off the coast of Saudi Arabia in the Persian Gulf.

It offered few details though on study results of the vaccine, in line with the United Arab Emirates, which last week announced the vaccine was 86% effective. The Emirati statement provided few details but marked the first public release of information on the efficacy of the shot.

Read the full story here.

—The Associated Press

A battle-weary Seattle hospital fights the latest COVID-19 surge

As hospitals across the country weather a surge of COVID-19 patients, in Seattle — an early epicenter of the outbreak — nurses, respiratory therapists and physicians are staring down a startling resurgence of the coronavirus that’s expected to test even one of the best-prepared hospitals on the pandemic’s front lines.

After nine months, the staff at Harborview Medical Center, the large public hospital run by the University of Washington, has the benefit of experience.

In March, the Harborview staff was already encountering the realities of COVID-19 that are now familiar to so many communities: patients dying alone, fears of getting infected at work and upheaval inside the hospital.

This forced the hospital to adapt quickly to the pressures of the coronavirus and how to manage a surge, but all these months later it has left staff members exhausted.

“This is a crisis that’s been going on for almost a year — that’s not the way humans are built to work,” said Dr. John Lynch, an associate medical director at Harborview and associate professor of medicine at the University of Washington.

“Our health workers are definitely feeling that strain in a way that we’ve never experienced before,” he said.

Read the full story here.

—Kaiser Health News
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EXPLAINER: How much COVID-19 vaccine will be shipped in US

NEW YORK (AP) — COVID-19 vaccines have begun shipping in the U.S. after getting emergency authorization, setting off the nation’s biggest ever vaccination push. But supplies are expected to be limited for some time.

The first wave of shipments is going to health care workers and nursing home residents. Officials say vaccines should be available to everyone by the middle of next year.

Trucks with Pfizer’s vaccine rolled out Sunday. They will deliver to 145 distribution centers around the country by Monday, said Army Gen. Gustave Perna of Operation Warp Speed, the government effort to develop and distribute COVID-19 vaccines. An additional 425 sites will get shipments Tuesday, and the remaining 66 on Wednesday.

For now, only Pfizer’s vaccine, which the Food and Drug Administration greenlit Friday, is being shipped. Another vaccine by Moderna will be reviewed by an expert panel this week and could get the go-ahead soon afterward. Other vaccines also could follow.

Read the full story here.

—The Associated Press

As coronavirus vaccine begins to roll out, FDA seeks to reassure the public on safety

WASHINGTON – Officials at the Food and Drug Administration, which authorized the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for emergency use Friday night, took steps Saturday to try to reassure the public that the vaccine was safe and that its clearance was not driven by politics.

They also said that, as a precaution, health-care sites administering the shots would be equipped with safety equipment to treat potential severe allergic reactions.

At a news conference, FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn said he would “absolutely” get the vaccine as soon as he is eligible.

Hahn denied, as he did Friday, that the White House had threatened his job if the agency didn’t move quickly on the vaccine. The Washington Post reported Friday that White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows called Hahn on Friday morning to warn him to be ready to submit his resignation if the agency didn’t clear the shots by the end of the day, according to multiple people knowledgeable about the situation and who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they but did not have permission to speak publicly.

Read the full story here.

—The Washington Post

How Washington state hospitals are preparing for ‘unprecedented’ rollout of vaccine

With the Food and Drug Administration’s first emergency approval Friday night of a coronavirus vaccine, the country faces a herculean task — vaccinating most of the United States’ 330 million residents.

“The magnitude is unprecedented,” said Andy Stergachis, professor of pharmacy and public health at the University of Washington.

The federal government shoveled billions of dollars into developing and distributing coronavirus vaccines. Early success hinges on historically underfunded public health agencies in the midst of a 10-month crisis, and also hospitals, whose tired employees are scrambling to head off a surge of disease and death. Now they must immunize themselves so they can protect others against the disease.

Read the full story here.

—Evan Bush and Sandi Doughton
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New smartphone tool to track side effects of the coronavirus vaccine may be vulnerable to manipulation

A new smartphone technology designed to provide real-time warnings of side effects in the first Americans vaccinated against the coronavirus may be vulnerable to manipulation, raising concerns that malicious actors could gain access to the system to undermine confidence in the shots, federal and state health officials say.

The text-messaging system, called v-safe, is intended to provide early indications about possible adverse reactions to the vaccines. Using the messaging program, people who have received the shots can report symptoms and other health effects. Their responses could prompt phone calls from a team of safety professionals.

But the technology is raising red flags for some health and technology experts, who say hackers or anti-vaccine activists may be able to access the software to create false or misleading reports. Officials’ unease is acute because vaccine hesitancy, stoked by a well-funded anti-vaccine movement that makes prolific use of social and other media, is expected to be a central obstacle to the widespread immunization required to end the pandemic.

Not rolling out v-safe early to health care providers and public health workers, who will be asked to promote it, has also raised concerns, because these foot soldiers of the mass vaccination campaign have had little opportunity to see how the system works.

Officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which is overseeing v-safe, say they’re beginning to increase messaging about the software and how to ensure its proper use.

Read the full story here.

—The Washington Post

1 in 4 Seattle residents have used the city’s free coronavirus testing sites

When Philip Hart woke up with a sore throat at about 9 a.m. Thursday, he knew he needed a coronavirus test. So the UPS worker booked an 11:30 a.m. appointment at Seattle’s test site on Aurora Avenue North, which accepts drive-thru and walk-up patients. By 11:45 a.m., he was done.

“That was like snorting a long piece of spaghetti,” the 52-year-old said, blinking teary eyes after a firefighter shoved a 6-inch test swab up his nose. “Honestly, though, this was really quick and really easy.”

Quick and easy is how most people would describe the free coronavirus tests provided at four sites run by the city, which helps explain why the sites welcome so many visitors, and why Seattle may try to adapt them for vaccinations.

As of Friday, the city’s sites had completed more than 463,000 tests since June, with about 1 in 4 Seattle residents visiting the sites at least once, according to data requested from the city by The Seattle Times. The sites can test more than 6,000 people per day.

Read the full story here.

—Daniel Beekman