Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Friday, Dec. 11, 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 It is no longer being updated.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 Food and Drug Administration on Friday evening authorized Pfizer’s two-shot coronavirus vaccine for emergency use in the United States, The New York Times reported, signaling a huge turning point in a pandemic that has taken more than 290,000 lives throughout the country this year.

With the FDA expected to quickly clear the way for an epic vaccination campaign, Washington state issued detailed guidance yesterday on who should be at the front of the line for 32,000 initial doses that may be split among 17 sites.

Federal advisors endorsed the vaccine yesterday as daily U.S. coronavirus deaths passed a terrible threshold: 3,000 deaths in a day — more than D-Day, more than 9/11.

Meanwhile, positive coronavirus tests are surging in every part of King County in mid-November, reaching all-time highs in many places. FYI Guy looks at the biggest changes.

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.


Navigating the pandemic
(Jennifer Luxton / The Seattle Times)

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A COVID-19 conspiracy theory has reached college sports, including the UW-Oregon rivalry, and that’s a shame

This is the golden age of conspiracy theories, of course. And it’s only natural, in these fraught times, that they’ve filtered down to sports. (And yes, I know the tin-hat brigade has been around forever, but there’s a mean-spiritedness these days that is both new and troubling.)

Case in point: Duke men’s basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski makes the perfectly sensible comment this week that it might not have been wise to launch the season while the COVID-19 pandemic is in full rage, and the blowback is immediate: Coach K is only saying that because his team isn’t as formidable as usual. Alabama coach Nate Oats didn’t even hint at it. He came right out and said it: “Do you think if Coach K hadn’t lost the two nonconference games at home that he’d still be saying that?”

Which brings us to the hectic week in our own backyard, when the Pac-12, in consultation with Washington, made the excruciating decision Thursday to cancel the Huskies’ football showdown with Oregon on Saturday for the Pac-12 North title. The Huskies didn’t have enough scholarship players to compete because of positive cases and the resulting quarantining of players due to contact-tracing protocols.

Almost immediately, Twitter chatter began to be heard that the Huskies had somehow cooked up the COVID-19 cases to get out of playing Oregon. The theory was that because the cancellation gave the Huskies the North Division title through a fluke of bookkeeping, it was in their best interests not to play.

This is so patently absurd on so many levels that it almost doesn’t deserve a response. But I will give one anyway.

Read the full column here.

—Larry Stone
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South Korea reports 950 cases, biggest daily jump

SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea has reported another 950 coronavirus cases, its largest daily increase since the emergence of the pandemic, as fears grow about overwhelmed hospitals in the greater capital area.

The figures released by the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency on Saturday brought the country’s caseload to 41,736, after health officials added more than 8,900 cases in the last 15 days alone. Six COVID-19 patients died in the past 24 hours to bring the death toll to 578.

Nearly 680 of the new cases came from the densely populated Seoul metropolitan area, where health workers have struggled to track transmissions popping up from just about everywhere, including hospitals, long-term care facilities, restaurants, saunas, schools and army units.

Infections were also reported in other major urban centers, including Busan, Gwangju, Daejeon, Ulsan and Daegu, a southeastern city that was the epicenter of the spring outbreak.

The government had eased its social distancing restrictions to the lowest tier in October despite experts warning about a viral surge during colder weather, when people spend longer hours indoors.

—Associated Press

Alaska governor proposes cash payouts, infrastructure plan

JUNEAU, Alaska — Gov. Mike Dunleavy proposed an “extraordinary response” to revive Alaska’s pandemic-stunted economy Friday, including about $5,000 in direct payments to residents from the state’s oil-wealth fund and an infrastructure plan he said is intended to create jobs.

“Alaskans are suffering now. Businesses are suffering now. This is the time for us to act. This is the time for us to act quickly,” he said in rolling out his budget plan for next year.

The state’s economy has been battered by the COVID-19 pandemic, with tourism and hospitality industries hit hard. North Slope oil prices have been below $50 a barrel for much of the year.

Dunleavy, a Republican, said he plans to propose a new dividend formula beyond next year but would seek a public vote asking Alaskans to weigh in.

His administration also plans to propose a bond package with projects intended to create jobs, he said.

—Associated Press

Seattle-based company is changing lives, one roll of toilet paper at a time

Ryan Fritch knew he wanted to do something meaningful with his life, to help others and fill a need.

He just never expected to find his purpose in toilet paper.

But at 31, the University of Washington graduate is one of the founders of Cloud Paper, a Seattle-based company that makes bathroom tissue from fast-growing bamboo — a product that is saving the forests, and filling a crucial human need in the process.

On Friday, Cloud Paper marked the donation of 100,000 rolls of toilet paper to Food Lifeline, which will distribute them to its network of 300 food banks and shelters.

Cloud Paper was started as a business-to-business company — targeting restaurants and hotels — before COVID-19 hit, and it began a household subscription program that has seen a “steady increase” over the year.

Read the full story here.

—Nicole Brodeur
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Mexico approves emergency use of Pfizer coronavirus vaccine

MEXICO CITY — The Mexican government’s medical safety commission approved the emergency use of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine Friday, making Mexico the fourth country to do so.

Assistant Health Secretary Hugo López-Gatell said Mexico’s approval came after Britain, Canada and Bahrain.

Mexico is set to receive 250,000 doses of the vaccine, enough for 125,000 people, because each person requires two shots. López-Gatell has said that front-line health workers will get the shots first.

Vaccinations are expected to begin as soon as next week. López-Gatell said the approval “is of course a reason for hope,” though the initial rounds of shots are not nearly enough for Mexico’s coronavirus cases Friday, for a total of 1,229,379 infections during the pandemic.

Officials also reported 693 more deaths related to COVID-19., bringing the country’s total to 113,019. However, even official estimates place the real death toll at closer to 150,000, due to Mexico’s extremely low level of testing.

—Associated Press

FDA approves Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, clearing the way for millions of doses to be shipped within days

WASHINGTON — The U.S. gave the final go-ahead Friday to the nation’s first COVID-19 vaccine, marking what could be the beginning of the end of an outbreak that has killed nearly 300,000 Americans.

Shots for health workers and nursing home residents are expected to begin in the coming days after the Food and Drug Administration authorized an emergency rollout of what promises to be a strongly protective vaccine from Pfizer Inc. and its German partner BioNTech.

Initial doses are scarce and rationed as the U.S. joins Britain and several other countries in scrambling to vaccinate as many people as possible ahead of a long, grim winter. It will take months of work to tamp down the coronavirus that has surged to catastrophic levels in recent weeks and already claimed 1.5 million lives globally.

While the FDA decision came only after public review of data from a huge ongoing study, it has also been dogged by intense political pressure from the Trump administration, which has accused the agency of being too slow and even threatened to remove FDA chief Stephen Hahn if a ruling did not come Friday.

The U.S. is also considering a second vaccine, made by Moderna Inc., that could roll out in another week. In early January, Johnson & Johnson expects to learn if its vaccine is working in final testing.

—Associated Press

California governor taps new senior staff amid tough stretch

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California Gov. Gavin Newsom is adding seasoned political operatives after recent departures to his inner circle as he enters the second half of his term amid a difficult stretch of the pandemic and as he tries to overcome recent political stumbles.

Newsom on Friday named Dee Dee Myers, a former Warner Bros. executive and White House press secretary, as director of the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development. She joins Jim DeBoo, a California consultant well-versed in the quirks of the state capital and statewide political campaigns, as a senior adviser to the governor. Newsom, a Democrat, has named a number of other top staffers and agency heads in recent weeks.

It’s not unusual for a governor to change up staff several years into his tenure. Add to that a pandemic that has altered Newsom’s governing agenda and an incoming Democratic administration in Washington, and it makes sense to see broad changes, said Susan Kennedy, who served as deputy and chief of staff to former Govs. Gray Davis, a Democrat, and Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, respectively.

—Associated Press
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Europe’s AstraZeneca and Russia’s Sputnik V lab share data to seek coronavirus vaccine advances

MOSCOW — The developers of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine will share science with pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca to explore possible advances against the coronavirus, both sides said Friday, in the first major collaboration of labs that were in the frenzied vaccine hunt.

It also is further sign of the unprecedented pace of vaccine research. Efforts are already underway for improvements and second-generation formulas even before the widespread distribution of the first crop of vaccines from labs in the United States, Europe, China and elsewhere.

The research is aimed testing new vaccines formulas using common cold viruses, said a statement by the Anglo-Swedish AstraZeneca, which could work in tandem with Russia’s Gamaleya Center of Epidemiology and Microbiology, whose Sputnik V used two injections based on vectors of the common cold virus, or adenovirus.

The AstraZeneca vaccine, created with the University of Oxford, uses a cold virus that typically infects chimpanzees. That teaches the human immune system to block the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

—The Washington Post

Coronavirus can travel farther and faster inside restaurants than previously thought, South Korean study suggests

Earlier this year, two diners at a South Korean restaurant were infected with novel coronavirus in a matter of minutes from a third patron who sat at least 15 feet away from them. The third patron was asymptomatic at the time. After dissecting that scene from June, South Korean researchers released a study last month in the Journal of Korean Medical Science that suggests the virus, under certain airflow conditions, travels farther than six feet and can infect others in as little as five minutes.

The study appears to be more bad news for restaurants, which have already been identified in research as a primary source for the spread of the virus. The Korean researchers recommend that public health authorities update safety guidelines based on their study, arguing that six feet of space between tables is not enough to protect diners from being infected.

At present, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that diners wear a mask when “less than 6 feet apart from other people or indoors.”

But as infection rates and hospitalizations spike across the country, local and state jurisdictions have already begun to clamp down on restaurants, including New York City, which will prohibit indoor dining starting Monday in a metropolis where nearly nine out of 10 eateries already could not pay their full rent this summer. The South Korean study would seem to give public health officials more ammunition to shut down indoor dining until the pandemic passes.

—The Washington Post

Governor expects 100K Oregonians to be vaccinated by year end

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Gov. Kate Brown said Friday she expects 100,000 Oregonians to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by the end of 2020.

Healthcare workers, who number about 360,000 people in Oregon, will be the first to be vaccinated, she said in a news conference. An expected 147,000 doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are expected to arrive before January. Brown said there are no other commitments from the federal government, KOIN reported.

Hospitals will be the primary sites of immunizations, she said. Some hospital groups confirmed they expect to see doses arrive as early as this weekend, though it may not be until the middle of next week before they start to be administered.

Read the full story here.

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State DOH confirms 3,141 new COVID-19 cases in Washington, 29 new deaths

The Washington State Department of Health confirmed 3,141 new COVID-19 diagnoses on Friday afternoon, as well as an additional 29 deaths.

The update brings the state’s totals to 195,554 cases and 2,879 deaths, meaning 1.5% of people diagnosed in Washington have died, according to the DOH data dashboard. The data is as of 11:59 p.m. Thursday. 

The DOH also reported that 12,237 people have been hospitalized due to the virus in Washington as cases spike here and around the country.

In King County, state health officials have confirmed a total of 52,398 COVID-19 diagnoses and 912 deaths, 18 more than Thursday’s tally.

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. On Thursday, for instance, the state DOH reduced the running count for deaths in Washington by 166.

—Trevor Lenzmeier

As he rails on election, Trump largely mum on toll of virus

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump has been highlighting lots of really big numbers this week: New highs for the stock market. The 100-plus House members backing a lawsuit challenging his election loss. The nearly 75 million people who voted for him.

All the while, he’s looked past other staggering and more consequential figures: The record numbers of coronavirus deaths, hospitalizations and new cases among the citizens of the nation he leads.

On Friday, Trump’s team blasted out a text with this strong, high-minded presidential message: “We will not bend. We will not break. We will never give in. We will never give up.”

But it was not a rallying cry to help shore up Americans sagging under the toll of a pandemic that on Wednesday alone killed more Americans than on D-Day or 9/11. It was part of a fundraising pitch tied to Senate races in Georgia and to Trump’s unsupported claims that Democrats are trying to “steal” the presidential election he lost.

Of Trump’s tweets over the past week, 82 percent have been focused on the election and just 7 percent on the virus — almost all of those related to forthcoming vaccines — according to Factba.se, a data analytics company. Nearly a third of the president’s tweets on the election were flagged by Twitter for misinformation.

As he talks and tweets at length about the election he is futilely trying to subvert, the president is leaving Americans without a central figure to help them deal with their grief over loved-ones’ deaths and the day-to-day danger of the pandemic that still rages. His strategy is to focus totally on the shiny object coming soon — the prospect of a vaccine.

Read the full story here.

—Nancy Benac / The Associated Press

The vaccines are coming. A divided and distrustful America awaits

Aesha Mahdi, who contracted the coronavirus in April and is eager to take a vaccine, outside her home in Gwinnett Co., Georgia, Dec. 10, 2020. Mahdi, who now works in contact tracing, said she was alarmed at how family members have fallen victim to misinformation campaigns that vaccinations are harmful. (Nicole Craine/The New York Times)

As the Lopez family of Truckee, California, gathered to prepare dinner on a recent evening, one subject dominated the conversation: the coronavirus vaccine that will soon be shipped out across the country, giving Americans the first concrete hope that the pandemic will eventually end.

Enrique Lopez, 46, who runs a snow-removal business, explained how he was trying to persuade his skeptical employees that the vaccine is safe. His wife, Brienne, 41, a middle school teacher, said she was desperate for the vaccine after a September bout with COVID-19 sickened her for weeks. Their two daughters just wanted to know if the vaccine would enable them to return to their pre-pandemic lives.

“I know a lot of people are scared. They don’t know what the side effects are going to be,” said Enrique Lopez, who has seen half his workforce stricken with the virus. “It’s a risk we have to take. It’s going to make us safer and go back to normal.”

After months of anticipation, the vaccine’s arrival is near. It lands in a country that is both devastated by the virus and deeply divided over almost everything concerning it.

The complicated mood on the eve of the vaccine’s arrival comes as health officials seek to ease public doubts about the safety of the injections, emphasizing that large numbers of Americans — perhaps between 60% and 70% — must get vaccinated to produce a decisively sharp decline in transmission rates. So far, there is work to be done.

Stephanie Bennett, a psychiatric nurse in Tulsa, Oklahoma, said she fully understood the importance of the vaccines and expected to be near the front of the line as they are made available. Still, she is torn.

Read the full story here.

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The coronavirus is ravaging the world; but life looks almost normal in much of Africa

NAIROBI, Kenya — The top headline last week on a popular Kenyan news website could barely contain its sarcasm: “America, with 270K deaths, 13M infections, warns citizens not to travel to Kenya over high risk of COVID-19.”

To many here, American fears of catching the coronavirus in Africa seem particularly ludicrous. Almost every one of the continent’s 54 countries, while home to some of the least developed health-care systems in the world, have registered fewer deaths from the virus in the last nine months than the United States now suffers per day.

While testing has been comparatively limited, the continent appears to have bucked the doomsday predictions of global health experts. The telltale signs of severe outbreaks seen elsewhere — crowded hospitals and a spike in deaths — have emerged in only a handful of African countries. Surveys done by the World Health Organization have found negligible excess mortality rates in most African countries, reducing suspicion that many COVID-19 deaths are going uncounted.

Data is scant, as are peer-reviewed studies. But even as more research emerges, public health experts caution that the explanation for why Africa’s caseload has remained low will be complicated.

“It is highly unlikely that there is a single, definitive answer as to why this is the case,” said Ngoy Nsenga, a Congolese epidemiologist and the WHO’s program manager for emergency response in Africa. “Youthful populations, warmer climates, less time indoors, less traveling, less obesity and diabetes, immunities derived from other diseases — even other coronaviruses — are all playing a part, we think. But what distinguishes Africa from other places like Brazil that might share those factors, but were still hard-hit, are our human interventions.”

Read the full story here.

—Max Bearak and Danielle Paquette / The Washington Post

New COVID case reported at Northwest detention center; release of vulnerable detainees sought

Despite drastically reducing the population at the Northwest detention center in Tacoma and avoiding the kind of massive outbreaks afflicting Washington prisons, immigration officials on Thursday reported another detainee there tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the number up to 22.

In response, the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (NWIRP) plans to file a request for a temporary restraining order asking that all vulnerable detainees be released, according to legal director Matt Adams.

The acknowledgement of the newest case came in an ongoing federal lawsuit brought by NWIRP and the ACLU of Washington on behalf of older detainees and those with health conditions, including liver, heart and kidney disease.

This is the first time Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has reported a case in the general population, as opposed to individuals newly transferred to the facility, according to Adams. A 23rd detainee who spent time at the detention center tested positive after being transferred to an Arizona facility, Adams said.

Read the story here.

—Nina Shapiro

Durkan, 15 other mayors ask Biden for quick COVID-19 help once he's in office

Fifteen mayors from Anchorage to Tucson to New York City have joined Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan in signing a letter to President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris asking for specific and immediate help dealing with some of the effects of the COVID-19 crisis.

The letter asks Biden's transition team to work toward passage of a COVID-19 recovery bill in the early days of the new administration, including direct state and local funding and relief for small businesses and workers. The cities are also asking for continued FEMA designation, the elimination of FEMA cost shares and support for distributions of vaccines locally.

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan tours the city’s free COVID-19 testing site on North Aurora on Oct. 23, 2020. (Alan Berner / The Seattle Times)

Cities will be strengthened additionally by a national mask mandate, resources for reopening schools, student loan forgiveness and an extension of the national eviction moratorium among other measures, the letter states.

“Since the beginning of this crisis, mayors have been on the frontline of the pandemic, and we have seen how action – and inaction – from Congress and President Trump have a profound impact on our workers, small businesses, and residents," the letter states. "While Congress will consider different relief and recovery measures in the days and months to come, we know President-Elect Biden can take bold executive actions that can have a profound impact."

Among the mayors signing the letter are Bill de Blasio of New York, Ted Wheeler of Portland and Eric Garcetti of Los Angeles.

Read the letter here.

—Christine Clarridge
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Demoralized health workers struggle as virus numbers surge

FILE – In this  Dec. 8, 2020, file photo, a health care worker wears personal protective equipment as she speaks to a patient at a mobile testing location for COVID-19 in Auburn, Maine. Doctors and nurses around the U.S. are becoming exhausted and demoralized as they struggle to cope with a record-breaking surge of COVID-19 patients that is swamping hospitals and prompting governors to clamp back down to contain the virus. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty, File)

Doctors and nurses around the U.S. are becoming exhausted and demoralized as they struggle to cope with a record-breaking surge of COVID-19 patients that is overwhelming hospitals and prompting governors to clamp back down to contain the virus.

Before the pandemic, an ICU nurse might handle two patients per shift. Ban said she now regularly cares for four or five. The national death toll doesn’t begin to capture what COVID-19 does to each critically ill patient or the medical teams who care for them, she said.

“I wish people could see what I do,” Ban said. “People are terrified and they’re alone. Each one of those numbers is the death of a person who wasn’t ready to go yet.”

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

White House threatens FDA chief’s job over vaccine approval

White House chief of staff Mark Meadows on Friday pressed Food and Drug Administration chief Stephen Hahn to grant an emergency use authorization for Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine by the end of the day or face possible firing, two administration officials said.

The vaccine produced by Pfizer Inc. and its German partner BioNTech won a critical endorsement Thursday from an FDA panel of outside advisers, and signoff from the agency — which was expected this weekend — is the next step needed to get the shots to the public.

FILE – In this Sept. 23, 2020, file photo, Dr. Stephen Hahn, commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, testifies during a Senate Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee Hearing on the federal government response to COVID-19 on Capitol Hill. White House chief of staff Mark Meadows has pressured Hahn to grant an emergency use authorization for Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine by the end of the day on Dec. 11 .(Graeme Jennings/Pool via AP, File)

The FDA is not required to follow the guidance of its advisory committees, but the devastation caused by the virus makes the vaccine’s authorization almost certain.

Meadows spoke to Hahn by telephone Friday, according to a senior administration official who was familiar with the call but was not authorized to discuss private conversations.

The chief of staff also told Hahn his job was in jeopardy if the emergency use authorization was not issued before Saturday, said a second administration official familiar with the conversation.

Hahn signaled that he would tell regulators to allow the vaccine to be issued on an emergency basis, the official said.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

Seattle approves $1.3 million to address food insecurity wrought by pandemic

An additional $1.3 million in the newly approved 2021 Seattle City budget will help put fruit and vegetables on the tables of 3,100 more families, according to the city.

The monthly $40 Fresh Bucks benefit, which will be first granted to those already on the waiting list, can be used at some farmers markets, neighborhood grocery stores and Seattle Safeway stores, according to a statement Friday by the city.

The expansion to one of the programs designed to address financial and food insecurity brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic brings the total Seattle households served by the Fresh Bucks program to 12,100, the city said.

The city also has an emergency grocery voucher program that helps 14,000 households, according to the release.

“Increasing our support for Fresh Bucks will allow families to afford healthy food during these trying times," Mayor Jenny Durkan said in the statement. "Investing in programs like Fresh Bucks supports families with much-needed food resources while also investing in our economy through partnerships with local grocery stores and farmers markets.” 

The next application cycle for Fresh Bucks benefits will start in January 2021 on the Fresh Bucks website . 

—Christine Clarridge
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Calls grow for wider lockdown as German virus cases rise

Calls grew Friday for tougher lockdown measures soon in Germany as the country’s disease control center reported record daily increases in both coronavirus cases and deaths.

A medical worker registers a patient for a coronavirus test at in the entrance of the KitKatClub night club in Berlin, Germany, Wednesday. (Britta Pedersen / The Associated Press)

The Robert Koch Institute said the country’s 16 states reported 29,875 new cases of COVID-19, breaking the previous daily record of 23,679 cases reported the day before.

“We wouldn’t be able to forgive ourselves if this Christmas became above all a festival for the virus,” Health Minister Jens Spahn said.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

Viral spread: Americans paying the price for Thanksgiving

FILE – In this Nov. 25, 2020, file photo, travelers wait to check-in for their flights ahead of Thanksgiving at LaGuardia Airport, in the Queens borough of New York. With some Americans now paying the price for what they did over Thanksgiving, health officials are warning people — begging them, even — not to make the same mistake during the Christmas and New Year’s season. (AP Photo/John Minchillo, File)

With some Americans now paying the price for what they did over Thanksgiving and falling sick with COVID-19, health officials are warning people — begging them, even — not to make the same mistake during the Christmas and New Year’s season.

“It’s a surge above the existing surge,” said Ali Mokdad, a professor of health metrics sciences at the University of Washington in Seattle. “Quite honestly, it’s a warning sign for all of us.”

Across the country, contact tracers and emergency room doctors are hearing repeatedly from new coronavirus patients that they socialized over Thanksgiving with people outside their households, despite emphatic public-health warnings to stay home and keep their distance from others.

The virus was raging across the nation even before Thanksgiving but was showing some signs of flattening out. It has picked up steam since, with new cases per day regularly climbing well over 200,000.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

Cuomo reinstates NYC indoor dining ban to limit virus spread

 Indoor dining restrictions will be reinstated indefinitely in New York City, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Friday as coronavirus cases and hospitalizations continue climbing in the city and throughout the state.

As of Monday, only takeout orders and outdoor dining will be allowed in the city, one of the world’s great cuisine capitals, the governor said at a news conference in Albany.

The Democrat had been hinting at a clampdown on indoor dining for a week, saying he was waiting to see if hospitalization rates stabilized. They have not, and Cuomo said that despite the economic pain to one of the city’s biggest and most vital industries, he needed to act.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press
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Snow leopard at Kentucky zoo tests positive for coronavirus

 A snow leopard at a Kentucky zoo is the first in the U.S. to test positive for the coronavirus, federal officials announced Friday.

Two other snow leopards at the Louisville Zoo are undergoing testing to confirm the virus, the Department of Agriculture’s National Veterinary Services Laboratories said in a statement.

Officials took samples from the three large cats, likely infected by an asymptomatic staff member, after they showed signs of respiratory illness, the statement said.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

Greeks face lockdown Christmas, but with books and tidy hair

Two men wearing face masks to prevent the spread of the coronavirus walk past a giant mural by Greek street artist iNO depicting the eyes of Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, in Athens, Thursday, Dec. 10, 2020. The government said it will maintain core lockdown measures through the Christmas holidays, acknowledging that month long restrictions have not reduced COVID-19 cases to the extent it had hoped for. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

The bulk of Greece’s lockdown measures will remain in place over the Christmas period although bookshops and hairdressers can reopen next week and the quarantine on people entering the country will be relaxed, authorities said Friday.

All other retail stores, entertainment venues, restaurants, bars and cafes will remain shut, and night-time curfews won’t be lifted even for Christmas or New Year.

Government spokesman Stelios Petsas said that despite five weeks of lockdown measures, coronavirus infections remain high, piling pressure on the country’s health system. Intensive care units are at 83% of their capacity nationwide, with the number increasing to 91% in the hard-hit northern city of Thessaloniki, Greece’s second largest urban center.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

California’s health order falling on some deaf ears

In the Southern California oceanside city of Manhattan Beach, one arm of government is urging residents to stay home except for essential needs.

Patrons pick up their food to go orders at Simmzy’s restaurant counter before sitting to consume their meals at a “Public Parklet” outdoors area in Manhattan Beach, Calif., Thursday, Dec. 10, 2020. In the Southern California oceanside city of Manhattan Beach, one arm of government is urging residents to stay home except for essential needs while another is encouraging them to get out and shop and even providing places where they can sit down to relax, eat takeout and watch the sun set on the Pacific.  (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

Another is encouraging them to get out and shop and even providing places where they can sit down to relax, eat takeout and watch the sun set on the Pacific.

It’s one example of confusing messages from governments as most of California is under a broad shutdown order that includes an overnight curfew to try to stem record-breaking coronavirus cases.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press
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Hong Kong secures 15 million vaccine doses

Hong Kong has secured delivery of 15 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines, with the first million to arrive as early as January, the city’s leader said Friday.

A medical worker in a protective suit walks at a coronavirus testing center in Hong Kong, Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2020. Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam says social distancing measures will be tightened as cases of the coronavirus continue to surge, with a ban on nighttime dining and more businesses ordered to close. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam said the city has reached agreements for 7.5 million doses each from Sinovac and Pfizer/BioNTech. As each person needs two doses, the 15 million would be enough to cover the city’s population, she said.

At-risk people, such as the elderly and staff in nursing homes and in healthcare, will be given priority, she said at a news conference.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

GSK, Sanofi say COVID-19 shot won’t be ready until late 2021

Drugmakers GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi said Friday that their potential COVID-19 vaccine won’t be ready until late next year because they need to improve the shot’s effectiveness in older people.

The companies said early trials showed the vaccine produced an “insufficient” immune response in older adults, demonstrating the need to refine the product so it protects people of all ages. London-based GSK and Paris-based Sanofi, now expect the vaccine to be available in the fourth quarter of 2021.

While researchers around the world are racing to develop COVID-19 vaccines, the setback announced by Sanofi and GSK shows the challenges scientists face as they try to condense a process that usually takes years into a matter of months. Researchers in Australia said Friday they were abandoning their own vaccine candidate because it produced false positive results to HIV tests.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

India vaccine maker sees virus as wake-up call

The coronavirus pandemic is a “wake up call” for governments to invest more in health care, says Adar Poonawalla, CEO of the Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest manufacturer of vaccines.

Researchers at the Serum Institute of India in Pune work July 10, 2020, on a coronavirus vaccine developed by Oxford University. The billionaire Bill Gates is working with the W.H.O., drugmakers and nonprofits to eradicate the coronavirus everywhere, including in the world’s poorest nations.  (Atul Loke / The New York Times)

The Serum Institute is largest company licensed to manufacture the Oxford University-AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine. It is increasing its production capacity by the end of 2021 to over 2.5 billion doses a year to cope with future disease outbreaks, Poonawalla said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press.

Poonawalla’s company now has an annual capacity of 1.5 billion doses. That is more than the billion doses that China, home to the most vaccine makers in the world, says it manufactures in a year.

Looking beyond this pandemic, he said he anticipates more diseases jumping from animal to human hosts, driving huge demand for vaccines, so the extra capacity is likely to be useful in coming decades.

Loss of forests and human incursions into wild habitats create more opportunities for such pathogens to make the jump. That was true of COVID-19 and other illnesses such as SARS, MERS and HIV-AIDS.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press
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Australia won’t rush Pfizer after homegrown vaccine canned

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Friday that his government won’t rush approval of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine because he wants people to have confidence in the product

His comments come as Australian researchers said they were abandoning their own potential vaccine because it produced false positive results to HIV tests.

Morrison said Australia was in a different position to Britain, which has given emergency approval to the Pfizer roll out, and the United States, where a government advisory panel has endorsed the Pfizer vaccine.

Australia has 47 active COVID-19 cases, with 36 of those people in hospitals. The pandemic has claimed 908 lives in Australia.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

Military-grade camera shows risks of airborne coronavirus spread

As winter approaches, the United States is grappling with a jaw-dropping surge in the number of novel coronavirus infections. More than 288,000 Americans have been killed by a virus that public health officials now say can be spread through airborne transmission.

The virus spreads most commonly through close contact, scientists say. But under certain conditions, people farther than six feet apart can become infected by exposure to tiny droplets and particles exhaled by an infected person, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in October. Those droplets and particles can linger in the air for minutes to hours.

To visually illustrate the risk of airborne transmission in real time, The Washington Post used a military-grade infrared camera capable of detecting exhaled breath. 

Read the story and see the video here.

—The Washington Post

Catch up on the past 24 hours

Can you catch the coronavirus from holiday food, or a Christmas tree? Our FAQ Friday digs into what you should know about celebrating safely. And here are practical, fun ideas on turning your annual cookie swap into a virtual party.

Another UW rivalry game is gone. Tomorrow's game at Oregon has been canceled because of COVID-19, which reportedly knocked the Huskies "well below" the minimum number of players. Next up is the conference title game on Dec. 18… maybe.

"Don’t act like a bunch of children." New Hampshire’s Republican governor blasted anti-maskers yesterday after the state's new House speaker died of COVID-19. Hundreds of fellow lawmakers, many without masks, attended Rep. Dick Hinch's swearing-in ceremony a week before his death.

"Spreading light by not spreading infection": Hanukkah feels different this year in some places, like the Ohio community that's planning a menorah-lighting via helicopter.

China is telling flight attendants to wear diapers as a coronavirus precaution (and meanwhile, Boeing is working on a gee-whiz sanitizing idea).

—Kris Higginson
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Quarantine Corner


Put on the music: Here's a Grinch's guide to holiday jams by Washington artists.

Find ideas for making merry this weekend, from baking goodies to getting your fix of outdoor art.

If you can walk, you can snowshoe. Here's how to get started and a list of 10 great routes.

—Kris Higginson