The Food and Drug Administration on Friday evening authorized Pfizer’s two-shot coronavirus vaccine for emergency use in the United States, signaling a huge turning point in a pandemic that has taken more than 290,000 lives throughout the country this year.
The U.S. is also considering a second vaccine, made by Moderna, that could roll out in another week.
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.
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 6 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. Numerous experts - epidemiologists, virologists and engineers - supported the notion of using exhalation as a conservative proxy to show potential transmission risk in various settings.
"The images are very, very telling," said Rajat Mittal, a professor of mechanical engineering in Johns Hopkins University's medical and engineering schools and an expert on virus transmission. "Getting two people and actually visualizing what's happening between them, that's very invaluable."
State DOH confirms 4,181 new COVID-19 cases in Washington
The state Department of Health (DOH) reported 4,181 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday.
However, DOH said that up to 2,100 cases may be duplicates, because test results data from Nov. 21 through today are incomplete.
The update brings the state’s totals to 199,735 cases, according to the DOH data dashboard. The data is as of 11:59 p.m. Friday but the state does not report new death data on weekends.
The DOH also reported that 131 more people have been hospitalized with COVID-19, since Friday's update. In total, 12,368 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the virus.
In King County, the state’s most populous, 884 new cases were reported, bringing the county's total to 53,282 infections.
Brazil government releases pandemic vaccination plan with holes
RIO DE JANEIRO — Brazil’s government has presented a Supreme Court justice with a coronavirus immunization plan that provides initially for only enough shots for about a quarter of the population and does not indicate a start date.
The document, which was made public Saturday, was submitted by President Jair Bolsonaro’s administration the previous night to judge Ricardo Lewandoswki, who had ordered the report after an opposition political party filed a lawsuit seeking information on the government’s immunization plans for the pandemic.
The plan calls for the government to provide immunization shots for priority groups that amount to about 51 million people, just under 25% of Brazil’s 212 million people. The first of four phases for vaccinating those groups include health workers, people older than 80 and Indigenous peoples.
Signed by the Health Minister Eduardo Pazuello, the document says, however, that “the interruption of the circulation of COVID-19 in the national territory depends on a highly effective vaccine” being administered to more than 70% of the population.
Washington state begins bulk shipments of N95 masks from its huge stockpile
It had been months since the state sent any personal protective equipment.
The residents of Dorothy Schlimme’s long-term care homes, many of whom are frail, as well as staff, have been wearing blue disposable face masks she bought from Costco.
She would’ve liked some of Washington’s huge stockpile of N95 masks, which filter 95% of airborne particles, but hardly any of them made it to providers. By mid-November the stockpile had grown to more than 30 million N95s.
This week, however, 150 of the state’s N95 masks arrived for her three Auburn homes, free of charge.
Washington officials have been distributing millions of N95 masks over the past month to prisons, long-term care providers, county emergency managers and others. The change comes after pleas from advocates and a November Seattle Times report that spotlighted the state’s extensive surplus.
Some providers, the Times report found, were unable to obtain masks because the ordering process was a bureaucratic maze. Others were reluctant to accept the state’s main N95 model because of concerns over its fit.
New COVID-19 testing site to open in Bellevue as cases surge on the Eastside
The Eastside’s first free, high-capacity COVID-19 testing site will open Tuesday in Bellevue, where positive-test rates show that the virus transmission may be accelerating.
The drive-thru testing site will be open Monday through Saturday at Bellevue College and operated by International Community Health Services (ICHS), which also runs a site in Seattle’s Chinatown International District. Anyone who has COVID-19-like symptoms or has been in contact with someone with COVID-19 is encouraged to get tested.
Testing at the Bellevue location will complement existing test sites in South and East King County, expanding efforts to slow the spread of the virus in the area and along the Interstate 90 corridor, Public Health – Seattle & King County said in a news release.
Since the start of the pandemic, 684,615 people in King County have been tested for the virus, as of Saturday, according to the health department.
The Bellevue site, at 2645 145th Ave. S.E., will run from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Registration for an appointment is encouraged, but not required, and can be done on ICHS’ website: ichs.com/free-covid-19-testing/. If you need assistance, call the King County COVID-19 call center: 206-477-3977.
ICHS has a multilingual staff and provides interpretation in more than 50 languages and dialects at its clinics. To request an interpreter, call 206-477-3977 and say in English what language is needed. ICHS will then connect the caller with an interpreter.
Charley Pride, country music’s first Black star, dies at 86
NEW YORK — Charley Pride, country music’s first Black star whose rich baritone on such hits as “Kiss an Angel Good Morning” helped sell millions of records and made him the first Black member of the Country Music Hall of Fame, has died. He was 86.
Pride died Saturday in Dallas of complications from Covid-19, according to Jeremy Westby of the public relations firm 2911 Media.
“I’m so heartbroken that one of my dearest and oldest friends, Charley Pride, has passed away. It’s even worse to know that he passed away from COVID-19. What a horrible, horrible virus. Charley, we will always love you,” Dolly Parton tweeted.
Pride released dozens of albums and sold more than 25 million records during a career that began in the mid-1960s. Hits besides “Kiss an Angel Good Morning” in 1971 included “Is Anybody Goin’ to San Antone,” “Burgers and Fries,” “Mountain of Love,” and “Someone Loves You Honey.”
WSU-Cal football game canceled due to positive COVID test
A California football player tested positive for COVID-19, prompting cancellation of the game against Washington State 90 minutes before kickoff Saturday afternoon.
The positive test result triggered isolation of other football players, leaving the Golden Bears with too few scholarship athletes to play the game at Martin Stadium in Pullman.
It's the latest college football game to be cancelled due to the pandemic. Today's scheduled Washington-Oregon game was cancelled on Thursday.
Read more about the scene in Pullman here.
Initial vaccine doses to reach states Monday morning
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.
Army Gen. Gustave F. Perna of Operation Warp Speed, the Trump administration’s vaccine development program, said at a Saturday news conference that initial shipments of the vaccine are scheduled to leave Pfizer's Kalamazoo, Mich., manufacturing plant Sunday morning, bound for 150 sites across the country. Another 450 sites should receive initial vaccine shipments Tuesday and Wednesday, he said.
Washington state health officials on Thursday said they're preparing to receive doses midway through next week. High-risk healthcare workers at hospitals are first in line to be vaccinated. Some early doses will also be channeled to long-term care facilities in the state.
About 3 million doses are included in the initial batch of shipments, with the same amount held in reserve to give vaccine recipients a second shot of the vaccine.
Read more about plans for distributing the vaccine here.
Despite daily fines, a Pierce County gym stays open
“They can fine me whatever they want,” said Graham Fitness owner Michael Knick of the $77,112 in fines issued by Washington state for remaining open in violation of coronavirus restrictions. “I don’t have it.”
The Washington Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) on Friday accused the gym of eight violations of Gov. Jay Inslee's Safe Start orders meant to slow the spread of the virus, The Tacoma News-Tribune reported. L&I ordered the gym to close temporarily on Dec. 2. The fines stem from operations Nov. 30 through Dec. 7.
Gyms and fitness centers may not operate under current state coronavirus restrictions.
Knick, who is not requiring mask-wearing at the gym, said closing would force him out of business.
L&I is exploring further actions in consultation with the governor's office and the state attorney general, a spokesman said.
Catch up on the last 24 hours
Apart from the big news of the FDA's authorization of Pfizer's coronavirus vaccine, here's a rundown of some local, regional and national pandemic stories from the last 24 hours:
“It’s a surge above the existing surge,” said Ali Mokdad, a professor of health metrics sciences at the University of Washington, of the wave of new cases stemming from Thanksgiving gatherings. Public health officials are begging people not to make the same mistake during the winter holidays.
Deep divisions and widespread mistrust hang over the roll-out of the first coronavirus vaccine in the U.S. Health officials have yet another a major challenge in getting around 60% to 70% of the population vaccinated.
International vaccine collaboration: The Russian developers of the Sputnik V vaccine will share scientific information with AstraZeneca, the European pharmaceutical giant.
Washington state lawmakers are planning a remote session in 2021. The House plan released Friday calls for nearly all of the 105-day legislative session to be conducted remotely.
Larry Stone debunks COVID-19 conspiracy theories surrounding the cancelled Washington-Oregon football game and other college sports events.
In Oregon, Gov. Kate Brown said she expects about 100,000 people to be vaccinated in the state before the end of the year.
Alaskans would get cash payments to ease economic impacts of the pandemic under a proposal from Gov. Mike Dunleavy.
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