Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Monday, Dec. 7, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.

President Donald Trump said Sunday his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani has tested positive for the coronavirus, making him the latest in Trump’s inner circle to contract the disease that is now surging across the U.S.

The 76-year-old former New York mayor has traveled extensively to battleground states in recent days and weeks in an effort to help Trump subvert his election loss. On numerous occasions he has met with officials for hours at a time without wearing a mask.

That defiance of public health advice came to a head on Sunday when Trump announced on Twitter that Giuliani had contracted the coronavirus. Hours later, legislative staff in Arizona’s Capitol abruptly announced a weeklong closure of the state Senate and House starting on Monday.

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.

Navigating the pandemic
(Jennifer Luxton / The Seattle Times)


Becerra’s big challenge: Vaccinating Americans against virus

WILMINGTON, Del. — In choosing Xavier Becerra to be his health secretary, President-elect Joe Biden tapped a robust defender of the Affordable Care Act who will face questions about whether he possesses the health care and management experience needed to lead the massive effort to vaccinate a nation against a deadly pandemic.

As California’s attorney general, Becerra leads the nation’s largest state justice department, an influential perch from which he’s fought Republican efforts to roll back health coverage. But he has been less involved in the day-to-day work to combat the coronavirus, is not a health care expert and has not overseen an office as sprawling as the Department of Health and Human Services.

With the U.S. expected to begin vaccine distribution in the coming months, few Cabinet posts will have such influence over the nation’s ability to move past the pandemic, an effort that will likely define the Biden presidency. Allies of Becerra, a former congressman who would be the first Latino HHS secretary at a time when the pandemic is taking a disproportionate toll on people of color, say he’s well suited for the role.

If confirmed by the Senate, Becerra would lead a $1 trillion-plus agency with 80,000 employees and a portfolio that includes drugs and vaccines, leading-edge medical research and health insurance programs covering more than 130 million Americans. Becerra, 62, tweeted Monday that in Congress he helped pass the Affordable Care Act and as California’s attorney general he has defended it.

—Associated Press

Hong Kong to tighten measures amid virus surge

HONG KONG — 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.

Lam said at a regular news conference Tuesday that there will be a ban on dine-in services at restaurants after 6 p.m., and venues such as massage parlors, beauty salons and gyms will be closed temporarily. She did not specify when the measures will take effect.

“We all need to be mentally prepared about more measures to be rolled out,” Lam said, adding that there was “no choice” given the current virus situation in the city.

Hong Kong is grappling with the latest surge of coronavirus infections, with nearly 1,200 new cases in the last two weeks after a three-month lull.

Many of the cases in the recent surge have been linked to outbreaks in dance studios across the city, with Hong Kong ordering those who have visited stipulated venues to undergo mandatory testing. Clusters have also been found at a department store, a public housing estate and construction sites in the city.

Hong Kong has reported a total of 6,976 cases, including 112 deaths.

—Associated Press

UK rolling out COVID-19 vaccine to public as world watches

LONDON — U.K. health authorities are rolling out the first doses of a widely tested and independently reviewed COVID-19 vaccine, starting a global immunization program that is expected to gain momentum as more serums win approval.

The first shot will come Tuesday at one of a network of hospital hubs around the country where the initial phase of the U.K. program will be rolled out on what has been dubbed “V-Day.”

Public health officials are asking the public to be patient because only those who are most at risk from COVID-19 will be vaccinated in the early stages. Medical staff will contact patients to arrange appointments, and most will have to wait until next year before there is enough vaccine to expand the program.

“I think there’s every chance that we will look back on … (Tuesday) as marking a decisive turning point in the battle against coronavirus,” said Simon Stevens, the CEO of England’s National Health Service.

The first 800,000 doses are going to people over 80 who are either hospitalized or already have outpatient appointments scheduled, along with nursing home workers. Others will have to wait their turn.

—Associated Press

Hotel use for children in state care grows ever higher amid COVID-19, report says

For a fifth year in a row, the state has relied in ever greater numbers on hotels and offices to house children in its care. So now what?

That’s a central question in a report issued Monday by Patrick Dowd, director of the Office of the Family and Children’s Ombuds.

The Department of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF) sent 220 children to sleep in hotels and offices during a 12-month period ending in August. Roughly nine of them were 4 or younger and, while most children spent only a few nights at such emergency placements, one stayed for 126 nights.

The overall number of affected children actually improved from the previous year, when 280 children spent nights in hotels and offices. But the number of collective nights at these locations rose 23% this year — to 1,863 — a reflection of the challenges created by the coronavirus pandemic, Dowd said.

Many foster homes, including 30% of those in King County, stopped taking children because of concerns about the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Read the full story here.

—Nina Shapiro

Washington health officials report highest count of daily new coronavirus cases; duplicates, backlogged cases included in tally

Washington health officials on Monday evening reported nearly 7,000 more coronavirus cases and 16 new deaths.

While the number reflects the highest daily count of new cases reported by the state Department of Health (DOH), the count includes both a backlog of the weekend's positive test results and about 1,800 duplicates that have "not yet been resolved," according to a statement from the Health Department.

"DOH has caught up with processing most of the backlog in positive COVID-19 test results created by temporary system slowdowns last week," the statement said. "Those slowdowns occurred as a result of upgrading servers. The high number of new cases reported today partially reflects the backlog created by these delays."

The latest update brings the state’s totals to 184,404 infections and 2,941 deaths, meaning 1.6% of people diagnosed in Washington have died, according to DOH. The data is as of 11:59 p.m. Sunday.

Because DOH no longer reports COVID-related deaths on the weekends, tallies for deaths may be higher early in the week.

The Monday data includes 6,957 additional cases, according to The Seattle Times' calculation. DOH reported 6,972 new cases on Monday. The previous record for daily number of new cases was reported on Nov. 22, when DOH confirmed 3,503 additional infections.

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.

On Monday, DOH also reported that 11,696 people had been hospitalized in the state due to the virus.

In King County, the state's most populous, state health officials have confirmed a total of 49,355 COVID-19 diagnoses and 928 deaths. 

—Elise Takahama

Kitsap County to open new drive-thru COVID-19 testing site in Bremerton

Kitsap County health officials are planning to open a new drive-thru COVID-19 testing site in Bremerton this week, the health department announced Monday.

The site, which is operated by the county's emergency operations center and public health district, will be on the second level (the "green" level) of the parking garage at Kitsap Conference Center at Bremerton Harborside, located at Second Street and Washington Avenue.

The site will be open on Tuesdays, beginning Dec. 8, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. to anyone who has COVID-19 symptoms, has been exposed to someone who has tested positive or meets other testing criteria, according to a statement from the Kitsap Public Health District.

“I’m proud to be part of this important partnership and that the City is able to offer a new site for COVID-19 testing in Bremerton,” said Bremerton Mayor Greg Wheeler in the statement. “Residents and workers need to have access to testing to know if they have been exposed and to control the spread of the coronavirus."

Anyone who would like to be tested must book an appointment online or by phone. Click here for more information about this site and other drive-thru testing locations in Kitsap County.

—Elise Takahama

Trump Administration officials passed when Pfizer offered in late summer to sell the US more vaccine doses

Trump administration officials passed when Pfizer offered in late summer to sell the U.S. government additional doses of its COVID-19 vaccine, according to people familiar with the matter. Now Pfizer may not be able to provide more of its vaccine to the United States until next June because of its commitments to other countries, they said.

As the administration scrambles to try to purchase more doses of the vaccine, President Donald Trump plans Tuesday to sign an executive order “to ensure that United States government prioritizes getting the vaccine to American citizens before sending it to other nations,” according to a draft statement and a White House official, though it was not immediately clear what force the president’s executive order would carry.

That included whether it would expand the U.S. supply of doses beyond what is spelled out in existing federal contracts.

The vaccine being produced by Pfizer and its German partner, BioNTech, is a two-dose treatment, meaning that 100 million doses is enough to vaccinate only 50 million Americans. The vaccine is expected to receive authorization for emergency use in the U.S. as soon as this weekend, with another vaccine, developed by Moderna, also likely to be approved for emergency use soon.

—The New York Times

Biden’s health team offers glimpse of his COVID-19 strategy

WASHINGTON — President-elect Joe Biden’s choices for his health care team point to a stronger federal role in the nation’s COVID-19 strategy, restoration of a guiding stress on science and an emphasis on equitable distribution of vaccines and treatments.

With Monday’s announcement of California Attorney General Xavier Becerra as his health secretary and a half dozen other key appointments, Biden aims to leave behind the personality dramas that sometimes flourished under President Donald Trump. He hopes to return the federal response to a more methodical approach, seeking results by applying scientific knowledge in what he says will be a transparent and disciplined manner.

“We are still going to have a federal, state and local partnership,” commented Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the nonprofit American Public Health Association. “I just think there is going to be better guidance from the federal government and they are going to work more collaboratively with the states.”

In a sense, what Biden has is not quite yet a team, but a collection of players drafted for key positions. Some have already been working together as members of Biden’s coronavirus advisory board. Others will have to suit up quickly.

By announcing most of the key positions in one package, Biden is signaling that he expects his appointees to work together, and not as lords of their own bureaucratic fiefdoms.

Read the full story here.

—Associated Press

Coronavirus outbreak in Seattle’s King County Jail sends 16 inmates into medical isolation

Sixteen inmates have tested positive for the coronavirus in an outbreak at the King County Jail in downtown Seattle.  (Greg Gilbert / The Seattle Times)

The King County Jail in downtown Seattle experienced its first coronavirus outbreak believed to have originated inside the facility on Sunday, sending 16 inmates into medical isolation, according to the Department of Adult and Juvenile Detention (DAJD).

An inmate who had tested negative for the coronavirus when first booked into the jail more than a month ago reported having flu-like symptoms on Sunday, says a news release issued Monday by DAJD. That person tested positive for the virus.
Jail staff then tested 69 other inmates held in the same area of the jail, and 15 of them also tested positive, despite being asymptomatic, the news release says. All 16 inmates with positive test results were transferred to the Maleng Regional Justice Center (RJC) in Kent and are in medical isolation, along with four inmates who had previously tested positive, bringing the current total to 20, according to DAJD.

Read the full story.

—Sara Jean Green

Christmas trees — a harder-to-find bit of happiness for Canadians

Customers line up to carry out their freshly cut trees at Drysdale’s Christmas tree farm, where one can cut down their own evergreen, near Barrie, in Ontario, Canada, Dec. 5, 2020. There’s been a run on Christmas trees in the Great White North as Canadians, trapped inside because of the pandemic, try, in record numbers, to shoehorn joy into their lives.  (IAN WILLMS / NYT)

Christmas has come early to Canada, it seems, with parts of the country hunkered down since November. Its biggest city, Toronto, and two of its large suburbs went into lockdown two weeks ago. Since there is little Christmas shopping, few Christmas parties and fewer of the Christmas pageants that are a hallmark of the country’s annual celebration, all that festive energy is being squeezed into private happy-making — centered around the traditional Christmas tree.

Weeks before the first Saturday of December, when Canadians usually start looking for their trees, many cut-your-own Christmas tree farms were already picked clean, sold-out signs put up on Christmas tree lots and nurseries declared they were out of inventory. If toilet paper shortages and bare shelves in the baking aisle of grocery stores were the symbol of the coronavirus’s first crash through Canada, then Christmas trees are quickly becoming the symbol of the virus’s second wave.

“We’ve been trying for four days to find more,” said Steve Watson, who runs a large Christmas tree lot in Toronto’s Beaches neighborhood that was picked dry a week after it opened in November. “Someone offered me three times the price to give them a tree last night. It’s definitely COVID-panic.”

Read the full story.

—Catherin Porter, The New York Times

What seven ICU nurses want you to know about the battle against COVID-19

Kori Albi is a COVID-19 Unit Intensive Care Nurse and Unit Supervisor at Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center in Boise, Idaho. (Photo for The Washington Post by Angie Smith)

They have been at this since February. While politicians argued about masks, superspreader weddings made the news, a presidential election came and went, and 281,000 Americans died, nurses reported for work. The Post asked seven ICU nurses what it’s been like to care for the sickest COVID patients for the past nine months. This is what they want you to know.

Kori Albi, 31, COVID unit intensive care nurse and unit supervisor, Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center, Boise, Idaho: Our staff are getting sick. Our physicians are getting sick. And they’re not getting it from the hospital. They’re getting it from the community. We are almost lucky to care for the COVID patients because we know who they are. Anytime we go into these rooms, we know exactly what we need to do. We have all the PPE we need. And as long as we are diligent and follow all the processes that are in place, we can keep ourselves safe. That’s not what worries me at all. Going out into the community is scarier than coming into work every day. Because you don’t know who has it.

Read the full story.

—The Washington Post

UN health agency’s advice for the holidays: Don’t hug

The World Health Organization has an unwelcome but potentially life-saving message for the holiday season: Don’t hug.

Holiday traditions … trees, decorations, family gatherings. The World Health Organization came out with a blunt warning on Monday, that people should avoid hugging this holiday season. (This photo shows the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree in New York City).  (Mark Lennihan / The Associated Press)

To stop the spread of the coronavirus, WHO’s emergencies chief said Monday that the “shocking” rate of COVID-19 cases and deaths, particularly in the U.S., means that people shouldn’t get too close to their loved ones this year.

“The epidemic in the U.S. is punishing. It’s widespread,” said Dr. Michael Ryan. “It’s quite frankly, shocking, to see one to two persons a minute die in the U.S. — a country with a wonderful, strong health system (and) amazing technological capacities,” he said. At the moment, the U.S. accounts for a third of all COVID-19 cases in the world, Ryan added. According to Johns Hopkins University, the country has recorded more than 280,000 coronavirus deaths to date.

Ryan was responding to a question during a news conference about whether hugs could be considered “close contact” — which the U.N. health agency has generally advised against in areas of high coronavirus transmission.

Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s technical lead on COVID-19, said most transmission happens among people who tend to spend a lot of time together sharing meals and indoor spaces, in workplaces or homes — but it’s sometimes hard to “disentangle” how exactly the virus was spread.

Added Ryan: “It’s a horrible thing to think that we would be here as the World Health Organization saying to people, ‘Don’t hug each other.’ It’s terrible.”

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

Sinovac aims for 600 million dose capacity for COVID vaccine

Chinese vaccine company Sinovac announced Monday that it is planning to complete a new facility to double its annual vaccine production capacity to 600 million doses by the end of the year, while also securing a $500 million investment in a boost to its COVID-19 vaccine development efforts.

The company is currently conducting the last stage of clinical trials for its vaccine candidate in Brazil, Turkey and Indonesia and is among the frontrunners of China’s vaccine efforts. China has at least five COVID-19 vaccine candidates running late stage clinical trials across more than a dozen countries.

Sinovac’s candidate is a two-dose inactivated vaccine, an old-school technology in which a live virus is killed and then purified. It can be stored at normal refrigerator temperatures, unlike some other vaccines candidates that require far lower temperatures.

Sinovac’s experimental vaccine is currently approved for emergency use in China.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

With traditional venues shut, Berlin artists take to streets

With theaters and concert halls shuttered to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, some Berlin artists are taking their performances to the streets of the German capital in an effort to keep their edge during the pandemic and entertain a population craving cultural interaction.

As Guenther Stolarz belts out the operas of Wagner and Mozart on a corner in the Prenzlauer Berg neighborhood, walking around dramatically as if on stage in his tuxedo tails, passersby gather, leaning up against their bicycles and holding their children on their shoulders to listen to the baritone sing.

“It’s very lively to sing openly, and I can really feel how one can infect people with music,” says Stolarz, who is among the many artists performing live but at a distance in the streets.

The concept was set up by a group of independent artists known as Entenfuss Kultur, or Duck’s Foot Culture, which in non-pandemic times seeks to link up performers and organizers.

Entenfuss’s Gerd Norman said his inspiration for the idea came from an installation he’d seen of an artist sleeping in a shop window, and that the concept has resonated with performers and audiences.

Gerd Norman from a group of independent artists known as Entenfuss Kultur, Duck’s Foot Culture, performes at a so-called ‘Show Windows’ at the district Prenzlauer Berg in Berlin, Germany, Sunday, Dec. 6, 2020. With theaters and concert halls shuttered to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, some Berlin artists are taking their performances to the streets of the German capital in an effort to keep their edge during the pandemic and feed a population starved for cultural interaction. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

UK gears up for huge vaccination plan watched by the world

Shipments of the coronavirus vaccine developed by American drugmaker Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech were delivered Sunday in the U.K. in super-cold containers, two days before it goes public in an immunization program that is being closely watched around the world.

Around 800,000 doses of the vaccine were expected to be in place for the start of the immunization program on Tuesday, a day that Health Secretary Matt Hancock has reportedly dubbed as “V-Day,” a nod to triumphs in World War II.

Last week, the U.K. became the first country to authorize the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine for emergency use. In trials, the vaccine was shown to have around 95% efficacy. Vaccinations will be administered starting Tuesday at around 50 hospital hubs in England. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will also begin their vaccination rollouts the same day.

The entrance to Croydon University Hospital which has taken delivery of the first batch of COVID-19 vaccine,  in Croydon, England, Saturday Dec. 5, 2020.  The first batch of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine is delivered to the hospital in preparation for a public coronavirus inoculation program, with each person needing two injections and the vaccine stored at extremely low temperature. (Gareth Fuller/Pool via AP)

Governments and health agencies around the world will be monitoring the British vaccination program, which will take months, to note its successes and failures and adjust their own plans accordingly.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

U.S. sanctions are impeding Iran’s access to coronavirus vaccines, experts say

U.S. economic sanctions on Iran could impede its access to coronavirus vaccines, business and financial analysts say, imperiling efforts to contain the largest outbreak in the Middle East and risking continued spread of the virus throughout the region.

While a spokesman for the Covax global vaccine program said Iran has received a U.S. government exemption to procure vaccines, analysts warn that financial sanctions hamstring Iran’s efforts to participate in the program and to make related medical purchases.

“The Trump administration has deliberately failed to provide the kind of clarity and guidance that would be necessary to allow financial institutions that contain Iranian accounts” to allow Iran “use of its own money for making these purchases,” said Esfandyar Batmanghelidj, founder and publisher of Bourse & Bazaar, a media company supporting business diplomacy between Europe and Iran.

Since the epidemic erupted in February, Iran has failed to gain a grip on the outbreak, which has infected more than 1 million people there and killed about 50,000, according to official reports.

Read the story here.

—The Washington Post

Noem’s travel builds profile as virus surges in South Dakota

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem spent the weekend traveling out of state to appearances in Texas and Georgia, as she continued to build a national profile among Republicans even as her state deals with one of the nation’s worst outbreak of the coronavirus.

The governor, considered a potential presidential candidate, has risen to prominence for opposing lockdowns or mask mandates to slow the spread of coronavirus infections.

Noem welcomed large events like a July fireworks display at Mount Rushmore featuring President Donald Trump and the Sturgis motorcycle rally in August that drew over 400,000 people and is blamed by many pandemic experts for seeding virus outbreaks across the Upper Midwest.

At her most recent news conference Nov. 18, Noem said that mask mandates don’t help slow infections and defended those who choose not to wear masks in public. She has repeatedly emphasized the economic benefits of her hands-off approach.

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem speaks in Sioux Falls in October. Her outspokenness and recent travel are raising her profile as the state struggles with high coronavirus rates. (Erin Bormett/The Argus Leader via AP)

South Dakota leads the nation over the last two weeks in COVID-19 deaths per capita and new cases per capita, according to Johns Hopkins researcher.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

California unveils smartphone tool to trace virus cases

California is rolling out a voluntary smartphone tool to alert people if they spent time near someone who tests positive for the coronavirus as cases and hospitalizations soar throughout the state, California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Monday.

The tool, which will reportedly be ready to use on Thursday, doesn’t track people’s identities or locations but uses Bluetooth wireless signals to detect when two phones are within 6 feet of each other for at least 15 minutes, officials said. Sixteen other states, plus Guam and Washington, D.C., have already made available the system co-created by Apple and Google.

The announcement came as coronavirus cases are exploding in California and more than 80 percent of the state’s residents are under orders not to leave their homes for at least the next three weeks except for essential purposes.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

In Greece, political spat over lockdown turns personal

Holiday goodwill during the coronavirus lockdown? In Greece, it’s been in short supply between the nation’s two leading politicians.

A spat has erupted over competing claims that the prime minister and his main rival broke the spirit of pandemic restrictions that have renewed financial hardship for many voters.

Conservative Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis was photographed last weekend posing with his mountain bike, without a mask, alongside five motocross riders on a hillside trail outside Athens.

Government officials insisted Mitsotakis had not broken the rules, but Syriza, the left-wing main opposition party, urged him to publicly apologize for displaying “arrogance and a lack of empathy” for his fellow Greeks.

The government hit back against Syriza Monday, citing articles in pro-conservative newspapers reporting that Alexis Tsipras, the former prime minister and current opposition leader, spent much of his time in a rented upscale seaside home.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

Millions in U.S. heading into the holidays unemployed and over $5,000 behind on rent

Millions of Americans who lost their jobs during the pandemic have fallen thousands of dollars behind on rent and utility bills, a warning sign that people are running out of money for basic needs.

Nearly 12 million renters will owe an average of $5,850 in back rent and utilities by January, Moody’s Analytics warns. Last month 9 million renters said they were behind on rent, according to a Census Bureau survey.

The numbers were especially high for families with children, with 21% falling behind on rent, and among families of color. About 29% of Black families and 17% of Hispanic renters were behind, the Census Bureau reported. A separate analysis by the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, looking at people who had jobs before the pandemic, found 1.3 million such households are now an average of $5,400 in debt on rent and utilities, after those people had lost jobs and their family’s income plunged.

Read the story here.

—Heather Long, The Washington Post

Coronavirus takes toll on Black, Latino child care providers

When Mary De La Rosa closed her toddler and preschool program in March because of the coronavirus pandemic, she fully expected to serve the 14 children again some day. In the end, though, Creative Explorers closed for good.

It left the families to search for other care options — and the three teachers to file for unemployment benefits.

“We kept trying to find a way,” said De La Rosa, who is of Mexican and Egyptian descent. “But eventually we realized there wasn’t one.”

Mary De La Rosa shows mud-filled pans at her now-closed child care program, Creative Explorers, Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020, in Los Angeles. When De La Rosa closed her toddler and preschool program in March because of the coronavirus pandemic, she fully expected to serve the 14 children again some day. In the end, though, Creative Explorers closed for good. The story of De La Rosa’s program is being repeated across the country as the pandemic’s effects ripple through child care, disproportionately affecting Black and Latino-owned centers in an industry that has long relied on providers of color. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

The story of De La Rosa’s program in the Westchester neighborhood of Los Angeles is being repeated across the country as the pandemic’s effects ripple through child care, disproportionately affecting Black and Latino-owned centers in an industry that has long relied on providers of color.

Policy experts say the U.S. spends a small fraction of federal funds on child care compared to other industrialized nations, an underfunding exacerbated by COVID-19. Soon nearly half of the child care centers in the U.S. may be lost, according to the Center for American Progress.

“Prior to the pandemic, the child care system was fractured.” said Lynette Fraga, CEO of Child Care Aware of America. “Now, it’s shattered.”

Read the story here.

—Christine Fernando, The Associated Press

Indonesia expects halal certificate for experimental vaccine

Indonesia’s highest Muslim clerical body is expected to issue a halal certification for the experimental COVID-19 vaccine developed by China-based Sinovac Biotech, officials said Monday.

The certification would be a significant step in immunization efforts in the world’s most populous Muslim country, should the vaccine be approved for use.

Over one million doses of the experimental COVID-19 vaccine developed by Sinovac arrived in Indonesia on Sunday evening. The government has no exact schedule for distributing the doses.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

Schools confront ‘off the rails’ numbers of failing grades

The first report cards of the school year are arriving with many more Fs than usual in a dismal sign of the struggles students are experiencing with distance learning.

School districts from coast to coast have reported the number of students failing classes has risen by as many as two or three times — with English language learners and disabled and disadvantaged students suffering the most.

“It was completely off the rails from what is normal for us, and that was obviously very alarming,” said Erik Jespersen, principal of Oregon’s McNary High School, where 38% of grades in late October were failing, compared with 8% in normal times.

Educators see a number of factors at play: Students learning from home skip assignments — or school altogether. Internet access is limited or inconsistent, making it difficult to complete and upload assignments. And teachers who don’t see their students in person have fewer ways to pick up on who is falling behind, especially with many keeping their cameras off during Zoom sessions.

The increase in failing grades has been seen in districts of all sizes around the country.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

UK readies for ‘V-Day,’ its 1st shots in war on coronavirus

It’s been dubbed “V-Day” in Britain — recalling the D-Day landings in France that marked the start of the final push in World War II to defeat Nazi Germany.

A week after the U.K. became the first Western country to authorize widespread use of a vaccine against COVID-19, it is preparing to administer its first shots on Tuesday in its war on the virus.

Those 800,000 doses will first go to people over 80 who are either hospitalized or already have outpatient appointments scheduled, along with nursing home workers.

In other words, the National Health Service is saying to the waiting public, in effect: Don’t call us, we’ll call you. Only those who have been contacted by the NHS to arrange an appointment will be getting the jab.

Most people will have to wait until next year before there is enough vaccine on hand to expand the program.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

Restaurant Closings Top 110,000 With Industry in ‘Free Fall’

“Closed Forever” is displayed on Louis’ Restaurant, an 83-year-old diner that recently closed permanently, in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2020. California’s second round of coronavirus-related shutdowns, among the nation’s strictest measures, are already causing pain for the most populous state’s labor market and portend a deterioration in the overall U.S. employment picture for July.

More than 110,000 restaurants have closed permanently or long-term across the country as the industry grapples with the devastating impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. And more pain is ahead, with a potential shutdown of indoor dining in New York City just as the temperatures drop.

The nationwide tally — representing one in six U.S. eateries — is among the findings of a survey released Monday by the National Restaurant Association.

The figure was up from about 100,000 shutdowns in a September survey. The Washington-based trade group shared the latest results with Congressional leaders in an attempt to secure financial support for a sector rocked by rising costs and falling sales.

Read the story here.


Years of research laid groundwork for speedy COVID-19 shots

How could scientists race out COVID-19 vaccines so fast without cutting corners? A head start helped — over a decade of behind-the-scenes research that had new vaccine technology poised for a challenge just as the coronavirus erupted.

“The speed is a reflection of years of work that went before,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top U.S. infectious disease expert, told The Associated Press. “That’s what the public has to understand.”

 In this Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2020 file photo, blood samples from volunteers participating in the last-stage testing of the COVID-19 vaccine by Moderna and the National Institutes wait to be processed in a lab at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine in Miami. Creating vaccines and properly testing them less than a year after the world discovered a never-before-seen disease is incredible. But the two U.S. frontrunners are made in a way that promises speedier development may become the norm — especially if they prove to work long-term as well as they have in early testing. (AP Photo/Taimy Alvarez, File)

Creating vaccines and having results from rigorous studies less than a year after the world discovered a never-before-seen disease is incredible, cutting years off normal development. But the two U.S. frontrunners are made in a way that promises speedier development may become the norm — especially if they prove to work long-term as well as early testing suggests.

Both shots — one made by Pfizer and BioNTech, the other by Moderna and the National Institutes of Health — are so-called messenger RNA, or mRNA, vaccines, a brand-new technology.

Billions in company and government funding certainly sped up vaccine development, but long before COVID-19 was on the radar, some of the groundwork was laid by scientists who had learned a bit about other coronaviruses from prior SARS and MERS outbreaks.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

South Korean health minister warns of virus ‘war zone’

People wearing face masks as a precaution against the coronavirus pass by a poster emphasizing an enhanced social distancing campaign at a bus station in Seoul, South Korea, Monday, Dec. 7, 2020. South Korea’s health minister said Monday that the Seoul metropolitan area is now a “COVID-19 war zone,” as the country reported another 615 new infections and the virus appeared to be spreading faster. The signs read: “We have to stop before COVID-19 stops everything.” (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

South Korea’s health minister said Monday that the Seoul metropolitan area is now a “COVID-19 war zone,” as the country reported another 615 new infections and the virus appeared to be spreading faster.

The president, meanwhile, issued a call to expand testing and contact tracing. The country has recorded more than 5,300 new infections in the past 10 days and Monday was the 30th day in a row of triple-digit daily jumps.

Most cases have come from the densely populated Seoul metropolitan area, where half of South Korea’s 51 million people live. With people increasingly venturing out in public and spending longer hours indoors amid cold temperatures, health workers have struggled to stem transmissions tied to restaurants, saunas, schools, hospitals and long-term care facilities.

“The capital area is now a COVID-19 war zone,” Health Minister Park Neung-hoo said in a virus meeting, asking for citizen vigilance.

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—The Associated Press

Canada to get Pfizer vaccine by end of this year

 Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Monday Canada will get up to 250,000 doses of the vaccine developed by American drugmaker Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech before the end of December.

The vaccine is expected be approved by Health Canada as soon as Thursday. Seniors and workers in long-term care homes are among those expected to get the vaccine first.

Trudeau had come under criticism from opposition parties for saying Canadians won’t be among the first to get a vaccine against COVID-19 because the first doses will likely go to citizens of the countries they are made in. Canada doesn’t have mass vaccine-production facilities.

Read the story here.


Arizona legislature closes after Giuliani spent two days with maskless GOP lawmakers

Former Mayor of New York Rudy Giuliani, a lawyer for President Donald Trump, speaks during a news conference at the Republican National Committee headquarters Nov. 19 in Washington. President Donald Trump says his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani has tested positive for coronavirus.
The president on Sunday confirmed in a tweet that Giuliani had tested positive for the virus. Giuliani has traveled extensively to battleground states in effort to help Trump subvert his election loss. (Jacquelyn Martin / The Associated Press)

For more than 10 hours last Monday, President Donald Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, convened in a Phoenix hotel ballroom with more than a dozen current and future Arizona Republican lawmakers to hear testimony from people who supposedly witnessed election fraud.

Giuliani and other attendees were shown maskless and not social distancing, and the Arizona Republican Party tweeted an image of Giuliani and lawmakers flouting coronavirus guidelines.

That defiance of public health advice came to a head on Sunday when Trump announced on Twitter that Giuliani had contracted the coronavirus. Hours later, legislative staff in Arizona’s Capitol abruptly announced a weeklong closure of the state Senate and House starting on Monday.

An email announcement to members of the Arizona House said the move was “out of an abundance of caution for recent cases and concerns relating to COVID-19″ and noted that “no one will have permission to work or meet in the building.”

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—Jaclyn Peiser, The Washington Post

Coronavirus defiant NYC bar owner struck deputy with his car

The co-owner of a New York City bar that authorities said has been defying coronavirus restrictions was taken into custody early Sunday after running over a deputy with a car, authorities said.

Danny Presti tried to drive away from his bar, Mac’s Public House, as deputies were arresting him for serving patrons in violation of city and state closure orders, Sheriff Joseph Fucito said.

Mac’s Public House co-owner Danny Presti is taken away in handcuffs after being arrested by New York City sheriff’s deputies, Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2020, in the Staten Island borough of New York. Presti, who was providing indoor service in defiance of coronavirus restrictions, was arrested after a sting in which plainclothes officers went inside and ordered food and beverages. (Steve White via AP)

Fucito said Presti got into his car, struck a deputy and kept driving for about 100 yards as the deputy was left hanging onto the hood.

The injured deputy was taken to a hospital for treatment of injuries. The deputy’s condition wasn’t immediately available.

Presti was arraigned Sunday afternoon in Staten Island’s 122nd Precinct on 10 charges including third-degree assault, reckless driving, menacing and resisting arrest.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

Millions of hungry Americans turn to food banks for 1st time

The deadly pandemic that tore through the nation’s heartland struck just as Aaron Crawford was in a moment of crisis. He was looking for work, his wife needed surgery, then the virus began eating away at her work hours and her paycheck.

The Crawfords had no savings, mounting bills and a growing dread: What if they ran out of food? The couple had two boys, 5 and 10, and boxes of macaroni and cheese from the dollar store could go only so far.

A 37-year-old Navy vet, Crawford saw himself as self-reliant. Asking for food made him uncomfortable. “I felt like I was a failure,” he says. “It’s this whole stigma … this mindset that you’re this guy who can’t provide for his family, that you’re a deadbeat.”

Hunger is a harsh reality in the richest country in the world. Even during times of prosperity, schools hand out millions of hot meals a day to children, and desperate elderly Americans are sometimes forced to choose between medicine and food.

Norman Butler unboxes food that he received at a food distribution point, in his apartment, after waiting in line overnight, in New Orleans, Thursday, Nov. 19, 2020. Before the pandemic, Butler, 53, flourished in the tourism-dominated city, working as an airport shuttle and limousine driver, a valet and hotel doorman. Since March when the normally bustling streets turned silent, the only work he’s had has been as an Uber driver. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Now, in the pandemic of 2020, with illness, job loss and business closures, millions more Americans are worried about empty refrigerators and barren cupboards. Food banks are doling out meals at a rapid pace and an Associated Press data analysis found a sharp rise in the amount of food distributed compared with last year. Meanwhile, some folks are skipping meals so their children can eat and others are depending on cheap food that lacks nutrition.

Those fighting hunger say they’ve never seen anything like this in America, even during the Great Recession of 2007-2009.

Read the story here.

—Sharon Cohen, The Associated Press

State sees new budget crunch as fewer Washington drivers take toll routes

On some Puget Sound roads, lighter traffic for drivers is translating to a gloomy financial picture for the state. 

Transportation officials are eyeing toll increases and other financial maneuvers as the coronavirus pandemic keeps some drivers at home, lowering toll revenues once expected to help pay off key road projects.

Traffic is down by about half on the Highway 520 bridge and in the Highway 99 tunnel, after steeper drops earlier in the year. Neither the bridge nor the tunnel is expected to meet pre-pandemic budget projections, and toll increases are likely on both routes next year.

Traffic plummeted across the state this spring as people worked from home or reduced their travel. Although highway traffic has largely rebounded, a lack of congestion in places like downtown Seattle can entice drivers to avoid toll routes like the downtown tunnel. On routes that are tougher to avoid, like the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, more drivers have returned.

A semi truck enters the Highway 99 tunnel at the north entrance. Toll revenues are down because of the drop in traffic during COVID-19 pandemic, putting pressure on project debt repayment budgets. (Steve Ringman / The Seattle Times)

All told, the state expects to collect $72 million less in toll revenue than had been forecast from March through October. That’s a 45% decrease, with losses likely to continue into next year. 

Read the story here.

—Heidi Groover

Quarantine corner: Things to do while cooped up

How to turn your annual cookie swap into a long-distance, virtual party. (Tom McCorkle / For The Washington Post)

• Turn your cookie swap into a virtual party. Here are the key ingredients for a fun, safe swap.

• You could wrap up holiday shopping by checking your neighborhood bookstore for these six recommended paperbacks.

• Actor Catherine Steadman was "just boiling" in full Victorian costume in a desert when she started daydreaming about the sea — and up sparked an idea that led to her debut novel. As Moira's Seattle Times Book Club prepares to discuss Steadman's latest psychological thriller, she tells us about her journey from "Downton Abbey" to bestselling author.

—Kris Higginson

Catch up on the past 24 hours

Workers stack merchandise at City Fresh Market in Brooklyn on April 17, 2020. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will soon decide which group to recommend next for vaccination, and the debate over the trade-offs is growing heated. Ultimately, states will determine whom to include. (Juan Arredondo/The New York Times)

• It's a critical week in the countdown to America’s first coronavirus vaccine. Here's what to watch as the FDA decides on emergency approval. A vaccine could be available by the end of this week, according to a timeline laid out by the Trump administration — but experts are skeptical as that plays out against an increasingly desperate backdrop.

• A sweeping lockdown began last night in most of California. The backlash is growing as some business owners and sheriffs refuse to go along.

• Should pregnant women get a vaccine? Clear guidance is limited because they’ve been excluded from trials. Here is what's known.

Don't expect a cash payment in the next COVID-19 relief bill. With time running out, lawmakers are closing in on a deal that would pad unemployment checks but controversially exclude direct payments to most Americans.

• Seattle's schools chief wants the youngest learners back in classrooms daily. But the district's planned path to reopening is lengthy. In New York City, kids are heading back to classrooms today, weeks after they closed because of rising infections.

As U.S. sports roll on while the pandemic rages, is it worth the risk? The top-ranked Gonzaga men became the latest to pause their season because of COVID-19, less than 90 minutes before tip-off Saturday against Baylor.

—Kris Higginson

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