While much of the world was dreading celebrating COVID-19 Christmas — yet another pandemic holiday — Santas in Seattle are equipped with face shields and webcams, still hoping to bring holiday cheer to families.

Meanwhile, the fate of $900 billion in pandemic aid will remain in limbo over the Christmas break after House Democrats tried and failed Thursday to more than triple the size of relief checks. They’ll try again on Monday, when they return from adjournment.

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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Dec. 26 state COVID-19 data: No new deaths in last 2 days

The Washington State Department of Health said this afternoon that no new deaths have been reported since Dec. 23 The count stands at 3,184. The percent of deaths to total cases is 1.3%.

The total number of confirmed and probable cases stands at 236,719. On Dec. 23 that figure was at 233,093.

The counties with the highest rates of confirmed cases as King, Snohomish, Pierce, Yakima, Spokane and Clark.

A mother stumbles on her son's playlists — and a pandemic connection

Connecting with family has been a challenge for most everyone during the pandemic.

Sometimes technology can help us out, and in ways we're not expecting.

Cathy Free, whose iTunes account is linked to her son's, stumbled upon his playlists on her own phone.

Free describes how hearing his music helped her feel a connection, despite missed hugs, dinners and concert dates.

—The Washington Post
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Global inequality could rise as vaccinations begin

Wealthy countries have secured most of early supply of vaccine, which could exacerbate global economic inequalities as countries begin to recover from the pandemic's impacts.

Many poor countries could wait until 2024 to fully vaccinate their populations, experts say. This could constrain their economies at a time that rich countries are expected to grow their economies and prosper.

A number of factors are working against poorer countries. International aid promises have disappointed, debt burdens limit some countries' ability to pay for vaccines and wealthy countries have blocked changes to intellectual property protections, which would allow more affordable vaccines.

Read more about how vaccines will increase global economic disparities.

—The New York Times

Christmas at the hospital

Spending time in the hospital during the holidays is no fun, and with COVID-19 forcing hospitals to restrict visits from loved ones, 2020 can feel even more isolating for patients.

At French Hospital Medical Center in San Luis Obispo, Calif., health care workers are trying to fill in with an extra dose of cheer.

Staffers decorate their workplaces, wander the floors giving out gifts and wear Santa hats or red attire.

“It’s been difficult for family members to connect with, you know, the patients that are hospitalized,” said Dr. Piyal Patel. “And so I think the staff, the nursing staff, the physicians — they all play an important role in kind of bridging that gap.”

Read more about the measures health workers take to boost patients' spirits.

—The Tribune / Associated Press

Boston doctor has severe allergic reaction to vaccine

A Boston physician developed a severe allergic reaction moments after receiving Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine Thursday.

The case was the first of its kind reported to be linked to Moderna’s vaccine, during the first week of the nationwide rollout for the company's shots.

So far federal agencies are investigating at least six cases involving people who suffered anaphylaxis during the first few weeks of distribution of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which contains similar ingredients.

A few health care workers in Britain had also experienced anaphylaxis after receiving the Pfizer vaccine this month.

The incident Thursday involved Dr. Hossein Sadrzadeh, a geriatric oncologist at Boston Medical Center, who has a severe shellfish allergy. Sadrzadeh said he experienced a severe reaction almost immediately after he was inoculated. He described feeling dizzy, and his heart racing.

In a statement, David Kibbe, a spokesperson for Boston Medical Center, confirmed that Sadrzadeh had received Moderna’s vaccine Thursday. The statement said that Sadrzadeh “felt he was developing an allergic reaction and was allowed to self-administer his personal EpiPen. He was taken to the Emergency Department, evaluated, treated, observed and discharged. He is doing well today.”

Read the full story here, from the New York Times.

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Pelosi sets up showdown on Trump’s $2,000 checks after GOP balks

A surprise scuffle over pandemic relief is set to run up against a crucial federal funding deadline next week as Democrats side with President Donald Trump in his demand for $2,000 payments to most Americans and Republicans take up his criticism of government spending.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., is planning a full floor vote Monday on pandemic aid that includes the $2,000 payments that Trump says he wants, replacing the $600 in the original legislation. Republicans blocked Majority Leader Steny Hoyer’s attempt to make that switch Thursday.

“House and Senate Democrats have repeatedly fought for bigger checks for the American people, which House and Senate Republicans have repeatedly rejected – first, during our negotiations when they said that they would not go above $600 and now, with this act of callousness on the Floor,” Pelosi said in a statement Thursday.

The standoff over stimulus payments comes after months of intense negotiations yielded a compromise to inject $900 billion into the U.S. economy – including forgivable loans for small businesses, supplemental unemployment benefits, support for renters facing eviction and funds for vaccine distribution. Those measures were combined with $1.4 trillion in annual government spending, and now the entire package is in limbo.

Read the full story here.

—Bloomberg

No cafes, no tourists: Virus empties streets of old Athens

 It’s been a while since visitors to Greece sought out souvenirs in Athens’ oldest neighborhood.

The winding streets of Plaka, laid out long before the city imported a grid system, are lined with closed stores behind aluminum shutters. The coronavirus pandemic has kept tourists away from the historic city center that forms a semi-circle around the Acropolis, and the area remained unusually devoid of pedestrians and motorists before Christmas.

In their absence, ancient monuments are a little easier to make out from a distance, fewer horns are sounding in traffic and homeless cats parked in front of cafes are a little less aloof.

Read the full story and check out the haunting photos here.

—The Associated Press

Coronavirus magnifies the solitude for the elderly at Christmas

Rosa Otero prepares her dinner for another nightly meal in solitude.

This pandemic Christmas Eve has turned what should be a preciously scarce moment to spend time with her family into yet another daily installment of her life as a widow who lives alone.

Otero, 83, normally travels across Spain from her small, tidy apartment in Barcelona to northwest Galicia, to spend the winter holidays with her family.

But the restrictions on travel and urgings from health authorities that infections are on the rise have convinced Otero’s family to cancel their holiday plans for this year.

Read more about the solitude many elderly people are experiencing this Christmas.

—Associated Press
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US to require negative COVID-19 test from UK travelers

ATLANTA (AP) — The United States will require airline passengers from Britain to get a negative COVID-19 test before their flight, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced late Thursday.

The U.S. is the latest country to announce new travel restrictions because of a new variant of the coronavirus that is spreading in Britain and elsewhere.

Airline passengers from the United Kingdom will need to get negative COVID-19 tests within three days of their trip and provide the results to the airline, the CDC said in a statement. The agency said the order will be signed Friday and go into effect on Monday.

“If a passenger chooses not to take a test, the airline must deny boarding to the passenger,” the CDC said in its statement.

The agency said because of travel restrictions in place since March, air travel to the U.S. from the U.K. is already down by 90%.

Read the full story here.

—The Associated Press

How will people know when to get the coronavirus vaccine — and should pregnant women get it?

Federal approval of the second coronavirus vaccine means more doses are coming to Washington and with them a growing interest about the distribution of vaccines.

This week, Washington was set to receive 130,000 doses of Moderna’s vaccine, which was approved by the Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup on Sunday after having been awarded emergency approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Friday.

This week for FAQ Friday, we answer questions about how people will know when it is their turn to be vaccinated and whether pregnant women should be vaccinated for the virus.

Get your questions answered here.

—Ryan Blethen

Catch up on the past 24 hours

How will you know when it's your turn for a vaccine? Should pregnant women get it? We're answering those questions and more in our FAQ Friday.

Dr. Anthony Fauci has raised his estimate of how many Americans will need immunity to stop the virus from spreading.

The U.S. will require a negative COVID-19 test for all passengers arriving from Britain, because of a virus mutation there. This comes the day after a flight into Sea-Tac Airport turned into the first test of our state's new travel order.

The Salvation Army’s ubiquitous red donation kettles have largely vanished from grocery stores because of COVID-19. That means donations are lagging, but the nonprofit is finding new ways to help people in crisis as demand rises: “We’re serving people we’ve never served before.” It’s one of the organizations that benefit from The Seattle Times Fund For The Needy. Here’s how to donate.

How to keep spirits bright in isolation: UW psychological scientist Jonathan Kanter has been leading studies on how people are coping with quarantines, and now he's talking about the best things you can do for yourself and others each day.

—Kris Higginson
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How is the pandemic affecting you?

What has changed about your daily life? What kinds of discussions are you having with family members and friends? Are you a health care worker who's on the front lines of the response? Are you a COVID-19 patient or do you know one? Whoever you are, we want to hear from you so our news coverage is as complete, accurate and useful as possible. If you're using a mobile device and can't see the form on this page, click here.