Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Tuesday, Dec. 8, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.
While the United States is expected to begin coronavirus vaccine distribution in the coming months, U.K. health authorities are rolling out their first doses of a widely tested and independently reviewed vaccine on Tuesday.
Other countries are also right on the cusp of distributing their versions of the vaccine. Chinese vaccine company Sinovac is currently conducting the last stage of clinical trials for its candidate in Brazil, Turkey and Indonesia. And in Canada, the vaccine is expected to be approved as soon as Thursday and distributed before the end of December.
And on Tuesday morning, U.S. regulators posted a positive review of Pfizer vaccine data, offering the world’s first detailed look at the evidence behind the shots.
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.
The White House hosted an Operation Warp Speed vaccine summit today.
Anxious pet owners face delays getting veterinarian appointments
The American Veterinary Medical Association says a combination of factors, including the COVID-19 pandemic, is making it harder for some pet owners to book timely veterinary appointments at the practices they know and trust.
For starters, there’s the continuing puppy-buying craze, which means a lot more new clients than usual are trying to sign up for appointments to receive basic checkups and shots.
Then there are all the existing pet owners who, out of fear for their own health, put off routine visits earlier this year, when the new coronavirus first emerged. The AVMA says that during March and April, when the pandemic first took off, visits among existing clients dropped by about 25 percent. A lot of those people’s pets are running out of time for booster shots and the like, and now need to get in to their veterinarians.
Plus, there also are countless more people working from home, which means they’re spending more time with their pets and noticing potential problems that they want veterinarians to check out. On top of all that, veterinary visits themselves are taking longer because of new protocols to keep everyone safe from the coronavirus.
“I think it’s a little bit regional,” says Douglas Kratt, president of the AVMA and owner of Central Animal Hospital in Onalaska, Wis. “As I talked to some of my colleagues across the country, some of them are seeing that we are having longer wait times."
Cruise cut short as passenger tests positive for COVID-19
SINGAPORE — A passenger on board a Royal Caribbean “cruise to nowhere” has been diagnosed with the coronavirus, prompting the vessel to return early to Singapore on Wednesday.
Royal Caribbean said in a statement that a guest on the Quantum of the Seas ship “tested positive for coronavirus after checking in with our medical team.”
“We identified and isolated all guests and crew who had close contact with this guest, and each of those individuals have subsequently tested negative for the virus,” it said.
The ship returned to port in accordance with government protocols, and will allow guests to leave after a review of contact tracing is completed, it said.
Singapore recently began a “safe cruising” pilot program allowing cruise ships to make round trips to Singapore with no port of call in between. Strict safety measures were imposed, including reducing capacity by half and pre-boarding testing for passengers. Royal Caribbean is one of two operators licensed to run such trips.
South Korea sees 686 new cases in second biggest spike
SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea has reported 686 new cases of the coronavirus, tying its second-highest daily jump since the emergence of the pandemic, as a resurgence driven by the greater capital area threatens to erase hard-won gains against the virus.
The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said Wednesday that 536 of the new cases were reported in the Seoul metropolitan area, where new clusters of infections have been popping up from seemingly everywhere, including restaurants, markets, saunas, hospitals, long-term care facilities and army units.
The country’s caseload is now at 39,432, including 556 deaths. The agency said 149 among 8,699 active patients were in serious or critical condition, a group that is being closely monitored amid concerns about a possible shortage in intensive-care beds.
South Korea also reported 686 cases on March 2 during a major outbreak in its southeastern region, which health workers managed to contain by April with an aggressive test-and-quarantine campaign.
While South Korea had been seen as a success story against COVID-19 since, critics said the country let its guard down by easing social distancing restrictions to the lowest tier in October, even as experts warned of a surge during cold weather months when people spend longer hours indoors.
Food retailers saw ‘eye-popping profits’ during pandemic while they trimmed workers’ ‘hero pay’
Profits soared an average of 39% in the first half of the year at big, publicly traded supermarket chains and other food retailers thanks to the pandemic, although front-line workers reaped little or no benefit, a new report shows.
At Cincinnati-based The Kroger Company, profits for the first two quarters were up a staggering 90%, according to the report from the Brookings Institution, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank.
“We find that while top retail companies’ profits have soared during the pandemic, pay for their front-line workers — in most cases — has not,” the report said.
The report, released Nov. 20, revealed inequalities between retail workers’ pay and company profits during the pandemic. Profits earned at top retailers were described as “eye-popping,” even as most quickly ended so-called “hero pay” that was offered at the beginning of the pandemic in the form of bonuses or temporary bumps in pay for workers.
Kroger, which owns QFC and Fred Meyer stores in the Pacific Northwest, was one of the retailers cited in the report — the supermarket company saw its net earnings for the first two quarters jump to more than $2.031 billion compared to $1.069 billion in the same period of 2019.
Idaho health board meeting halted after ‘intense protests’
BOISE, Idaho — Idaho public health officials abruptly ended a meeting Tuesday after the Boise mayor and chief of police said intense protests outside the health department building — as well as outside some health officials’ homes — were threatening public safety.
The request from Boise Mayor Lauren McLean and the Boise Police Department came just a few minutes after one health board member, Ada County Commissioner Diana Lachiondo, tearfully interrupted the online meeting to say she had to rush home from work to be with her son. “My 12-year-old son is home alone right now and there are protesters banging outside the door,” Lachiondo said.
The board had been expected to vote on a four-county mask mandate in Idaho’s most populated region.
The protest at the health building was organized, at least in part, by a loose multi-state group called People’s Rights. The group was created by Ammon Bundy, an outspoken opponent of mask mandates during the coronavirus pandemic who gained national attention and stoked the so-called “patriot movement” after leading armed standoffs at his father’s Nevada ranch in 2014 and at a wildlife refuge in eastern Oregon in 2016. Members of an anti-vaccination group called Health Freedom Idaho also attended the protest.
After the health board meeting, McLean issued a statement condemning what she said was a group of disruptive outsiders seeking to divide the Boise community.
Pope makes surprise early morning prayer visit in rainy Rome
ROME — Pope Francis on Tuesday made a surprise early morning visit to the Spanish Steps in Rome to pray for people worldwide struggling in the pandemic.
The Vatican last week said that due to social distancing concerns Francis was canceling the traditional Dec. 8 afternoon visit to the square that draws big crowds.
Instead, with rain falling and dawn breaking, Francis popped up in the square at the foot of the Spanish Steps at 7 a.m. (0600 GMT), two hours after the end of Italy’s overnight curfew.
Francis left a basket of white roses at the base of a towering column which is topped by a statue of the Virgin Mary, prayed, and less than 15 minutes later, left.
Except possibly for some dog-walkers and other early risers, few people were out and about in downtown Rome at that hour, since Dec. 8, a day devoted to Mary, is an official holiday in Italy, as well as at the Vatican.
Francis “turned to her (Mary) in prayer, so that she may keep watch with love over Rome and its inhabitants, entrusting to her all those in this city and the world who are afflicted by the (COVID-19) illness and are discouraged,” Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said in a statement.
Kim’s sister slams Seoul over questioning zero-virus claim
SEOUL, South Korea — The influential sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un lambasted South Korea’s foreign minister for questioning the North’s claim to be coronavirus free, warning Wednesday of potential consequences for the comments.
South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha said over the weekend that it’s hard to believe North Korea’s claim that there has been no virus outbreak on its soil. She added that the North has been unresponsive to South Korea’s offer for cooperation to jointly tackle the pandemic.
The North Korean leader’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, responded in a statement carried by state media.
“It can be seen from the reckless remarks made by her without any consideration of the consequences that she is too eager to further chill the frozen relations between North and South Korea,” she said.
“Her real intention is very clear. We will never forget her words and she might have to pay dearly for it,” Kim said.
The remarks show how sensitive North Korea is to what it considers any outside attempt to tarnish its image as its guards against the pandemic and the economic fallout.
Pandemic prompts cancelation of Alaskan holiday tradition
JUNEAU, Alaska — The traditional holiday open house at the governor’s mansion in Juneau won’t be held this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, a spokesperson for Gov. Mike Dunleavy said Tuesday.
Spokesperson Jeff Turner, by email, said the pandemic “has fundamentally changed how Alaskans will observe the holidays. To help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and protect the community of Juneau, the decision has been made to cancel this year’s holiday open house.”
The mansion in years past has opened to the public for the event, with the governor, and often the lieutenant governor, and their spouses greeting people as they file through the decorated house en route to a room filled with cookies and other treats.
The holiday-season tradition began in 1913 and was held every year except for two years during World War II, the governor’s office has said.
NFL union sees no current need for bubble to slow COVID-19
The NFL players believe the season can be completed on time without the league moving into a version of a postseason bubble like other sports have as long as everyone follows the rules already in place meant to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
NFLPA President JC Tretter and Executive Director DeMaurice Smith held a virtual news conference on Tuesday to discuss the challenges the players have felt this season while playing during a global pandemic and address how things will change in the future.
Both Tretter and Smith said that the rules in place requiring players and staff to be tested daily, wear masks, socially distance and have tracers for contact tracing have helped prevent the spread of the virus.
They believe if everyone adheres to those rules over the next two months there would be no need for teams to sequester in hotels to avoid contact with the public.
“When we all follow the protocols, they work and they work well,” Tretter said. “The contact tracing, getting everyone who potentially are exposed out of the building, works to stop the spread of the virus. It will all come down to how well we follow those protocols and we will continue to evolve those protocols as needed. We know they work and we need to make sure we have 100% compliance to finish the season.”
Switzerland-Italy train travel to be suspended amid pandemic
GENEVA — The Swiss national rail operator says nearly all train travel between Italy and Switzerland will be suspended indefinitely starting Thursday because of COVID-19 control measures that have been required by Italian authorities.
An Italian government decree requires that train operators carry out temperature checks on passengers, who also must show they’ve tested negative for the coronavirus and carry a document from their employers authorizing travel, Swiss federal railway service spokeswoman Ottavia Masserini said.
“We don’t have the resources to apply these requests,” Masserini said by phone. She said the measures amounted to “almost entirely a halt” to train travel between the two countries, though some regional trains on a single line linking Brig, Switzerland, and Domodossola, Italy, that are run by a different operator would continue their traffic.
The railway standstill could affect many cross-border workers, particularly in the health care sector, who travel from Italy to southern Switzerland every day.
Execution staff have COVID-19 after inmate put to death
WASHINGTON — As the U.S. government rushes to put inmates to death in a pandemic before President Donald Trump leaves office, the Justice Department disclosed that eight staff members who took part in an execution last month tested positive for the coronavirus and five of those staffers will take part in executions scheduled for this week.
The disclosure that the execution team members had tested positive for the virus, in addition to the spiritual adviser of the inmate put to death, is furthering criticism from advocates and lawyers for inmates who say the Bureau of Prisons isn’t doing enough to stop the spread of coronavirus cases behind bars. The prison where the executions are carried out, in Terre Haute, Indiana, is in the midst of a massive COVID-19 outbreak.
“The fact that at least 20 percent of the BOP’s execution team has contacted COVID-19 following Orlando Hall’s execution speaks volumes — particularly given the fact that we don’t know how many team members opted in to be tested,” said Cassandra Stubbs, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Capital Punishment Project.
In court filings, the Bureau of Prisons said eight members of the specialized execution team – a group of about 40 employees who are brought into the Indiana prison for executions – had tested positive for the virus shortly after the execution of Hall a few weeks ago.
Only six members of the team opted to be tested for the virus before they left Terre Haute – and all tested negative, the agency said. But six others tested positive within a week and two more members of the team also tested positive a short time later.
California’s hospitals filling up as virus cases skyrocket
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Some California hospitals are close to reaching their breaking point, prompting Gov. Gavin Newsom to bring in hundreds of hospital staff from outside the state and to prepare to re-start emergency hospitals that were created but barely used when the coronavirus surged last spring.
California officials paint a dire picture of overwhelmed hospitals and exhausted health workers as the state records an average of 22,000 new cases a day. After nine months of the pandemic, they recognize about 12% of people who test positive will end up in the hospital two to three weeks later. At the current rate, that means 2,640 hospitalizations from each day’s new case total.
“We know that we can expect in the upcoming weeks alarming increases in hospitalizations and deaths,” said Barbara Ferrer, health director for Los Angeles County, the state’s largest with 10 million residents.
For some, “the respiratory infection becomes unbearable — they have difficulty breathing and it’s very frightening,” said California Hospital Association president and CEO Carmela Coyle. What starts with a spike in emergency room visits can cascade into jammed hospital beds and ultimately intensive care units.
California’s hospitalizations already are at record levels, and the state has seen a roughly 70% increase in ICU admissions in just two weeks, leaving just 1,700 of the state’s 7,800 ICU beds available.
‘We messed up’: Ex-state senator warns of virus before death
MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Before his death from COVID-19 former Alabama state senator Larry Dixon spoke to his wife of 53 years from his hospital bed and asked her to relay a warning.
“Sweetheart, we messed up. We just dropped our guard,” Dr. David Thrasher, a pulmonologist and friend of Dixon’s, recalled him saying.
Dixon, 78, died Friday from complications of COVID-19. Thrasher said his longtime friend had been mostly careful, but may have contracted the virus after gathering with friends.
“Larry has been conscientious with masks, doing everything right, social distancing since March … He made one slip up,” Thrasher said. Dixon met with friends at a local restaurant to catch up and smoke cigars, a social gathering the friends referred to as “prayer meeting.” Three people at the gathering became ill, Thrasher said.
“The last thing he told her was, ’Gaynell, I love you. We’ve got to tell people this is real,” Thrasher said.
Virus outbreak in Texas army base alarms New Mexico leaders
SANTA FE, N.M. — The New Mexico congressional delegation is raising questions about a coronavirus outbreak among a group of Oregon Army National Guard soldiers who returned to their home base in El Paso, Texas, after being deployed to Kosovo earlier this year.
In a letter to the Pentagon, the state’s senators and congressional members said 70 infantry soldiers had tested positive for the coronavirus as of Tuesday, a jump from just 10 on Friday.
“We have also learned that dozens more are showing symptoms consistent with coronavirus and remain concerned about self-isolation and quarantine conditions the Army has put into place while monitoring and treating these service members,” the delegation wrote in the letter to U.S. Army Secretary Ryan D. McCarthy.
The letter asks for details about how the Army will continue testing and contact tracing among soldiers in the 41st Infantry Brigade Combat Team stationed at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas. It also asks if contact tracing has detected spread from members of the unit to people outside of it.
624 Seattle restaurants and bars have closed during the COVID-19 pandemic, survey finds
Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, 1,023 restaurants and bars in King County have permanently shut down — 43% of all 2,369 closures within the food service industry across Washington state, the Washington Hospitality Association (WHA) reported on Tuesday, citing a survey they conducted earlier this year.
The hospitality group, which lobbies on behalf of the restaurant and hotel industry, concluded that Seattle was the hardest-hit city in Washington state, with 624 bars and bistros that have permanently shut down. Bellevue, with 54 closures, was the hardest-hit city on the Eastside, the survey found. Since the start of the pandemic, Pierce County has seen 224 restaurant closures, while 258 restaurants have closed in Snohomish County.
WHA said its findings were based on phone calls made to the 15,000 restaurants across Washington in August and September. The responses were based on those owners who responded to the survey. It’s unclear how many participated.
Qatar Airways will start flying Seattle-Doha route in March
Though international air travel remains depressed by the global pandemic, Qatar Airways said Tuesday it will launch four weekly flights between Seattle and Doha on March 15, 2021.
The big Persian Gulf carrier also announced a frequent flyer partnership with Alaska Airlines that will begin next Tuesday, Dec. 15.
That will allow Alaska’s West Coast fliers to earn miles on Qatar flights beginning on that date, when it introduces service between Doha and San Francisco. Qatar already has service between Doha and Los Angeles.
Qatar said it will rebuild its network post-pandemic, providing travelers from Seattle with alternative flights to destinations in India, Africa and the Asia-Pacific region.
‘New start:’ Medics juggle surgery backlogs and virus fight
PARIS — Chatting before they go under the knife, the two women picture their lives after surgery. Caroline Erganian hopes to be rid of her pain. Lolita Andela imagines being able to be active with her kids.
After multiple false dawns, they scarcely dare believe that their Paris hospital, no longer monopolized by COVID-19 patients, is once again able to perform their stomach surgeries to treat obesity. When the pandemic was burning through France’s health system, the women’s operations were repeatedly pushed back. But after months of waiting, their turn has now come.
Many thousands of others in France and other European countries hardest-hit by the pandemic are still waiting for medical procedures that could change their lives and improve their health, but which were deemed nonessential when the virus ripped through hospitals.
To prevent the collapse of public health systems, their decks were cleared. People who had been scheduled for joint replacements to free them from pain, for cataract removals to defog their sight, for cancer checks, and myriad other life-improving and even potentially life-saving procedures, were told to stay home as staving off COVID-19 took priority.
But doctors are now better able to treat virus patients and better equipped for the double challenge of fighting COVID-19 while also doing other medicine.
JCPenney survives going bankrupt; now comes the hard part
The JCPenney department store chain is back — smaller but more solvent — just in time for the holiday sales extravaganza and the worst of the coronavirus pandemic.
The chain completed its previously announced sale of the retail operations to Simon Property Group Inc. and Brookfield Asset Management Inc., according to a Monday statement. It’s the first step in a process that splits JCPenney into two parts, an operating company led by its mall landlords and a property company owned by its lenders.
The operating company has been freed from Chapter 11 bankruptcy court supervision. The property group will need until sometime in next year’s first half to finish getting organized, JCPenney said.
“We have always been firm believers in JCPenney, and are very pleased to help preserve this iconic institution and save tens of thousands of jobs,” David Simon, chief executive officer of the self-named property company, said in today’s statement.
‘Full warning’: Older basketball coaches at work in pandemic
Tennessee coach Rick Barnes thought he was in the clear early in his bout with COVID-19, even after his texts with Tom Izzo, his Michigan State counterpart who also went through it. About a week into his quarantine, Barnes lost his appetite and started feeling lethargic.
“He gave me full warning,” said Barnes, who is 66 and has been a head coach the past 33 years. “He texted me almost every day — just don’t be surprised when this stuff happens. And I would tell you, it probably took me 12 days to where I felt really good.”
Barnes, Izzo and Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim are among the coaches 65 and up who have contracted COVID-19, which can be a greater threat the older one is. While many elderly people are isolating at home, college basketball coaches are required to travel, work indoors and be around crowds — all among the most risky behaviors amid a pandemic.
Lon Kruger knows he is taking a chance. Oklahoma’s 68-year-old coach has been spared so far, even with his Sooners having to briefly shut down because of cases within the program.
Dr. George Monks, president of the Oklahoma State Medical Association, said fans wearing masks, washing and sanitizing their hands, and keeping their distance from others when they are away from the arenas will play a key role in protecting coaches — even with attendance at games limited or barred altogether.
CDC call for data on vaccine recipients raises alarm over privacy
WASHINGTON — The Trump administration is requiring states to submit personal information of people vaccinated against COVID-19 — including names, birth dates, ethnicities and addresses — raising alarms among state officials who fear that a federal vaccine registry could be misused.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is instructing states to sign so-called data use agreements that commit them for the first time to sharing personal information in existing registries with the federal government. Some states, such as New York, are pushing back, either refusing to sign or signing while refusing to share the information.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York warned that the collection of personal data could dissuade immigrants without legal status from participating in the vaccination program. He called it “another example of them trying to extort the state of New York to get information that they can use at the Department of Homeland Security and ICE that they’ll use to deport people.”
Administration officials say that the information will not be shared with other federal agencies and that it is “critically necessary” for several reasons: to ensure that people who move across state lines receive their follow-up doses; to track adverse reactions and address safety issues; and to assess the effectiveness of the vaccine among different demographic groups.
Man named William Shakespeare gets Pfizer vaccine, sets off pun cascade
LONDON — To be or not to be vaccinated, that is the question.
After an 81-year-old named William Shakespeare became the second person in the West to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine in England outside clinical trials Tuesday, social media erupted with joy, puns and many quotes from the great English playwright.
“They really are prioritising the elderly: this guy is 456,” wrote one user, while the term “Two Gentlemen of Corona,” a play on “The Two Gentlemen of Verona,” swiftly became a top trend in the United Kingdom.
Others quipped that the first batch of inoculations, part of the first mass coronavirus immunization campaign in the West, marked the “Taming of the Flu.”
The man, also known as Bill, told “Good Morning Britain” that the moment was “groundbreaking,” adding, ‘It could make a difference to our lives from now on, couldn’t it. It will be a precaution.”
“Is this a needle which I see before me?” one Twitter user wrote, recalling the symbolic words spoken by the character of Macbeth — or as some joked “Vacbeth” in one of Shakespeare’s bloodiest tragedies.
Nikki Haley says her sister-in-law died of COVID-19
COLUMBIA, S.C. — Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley says her sister-in-law has died after contracting the coronavirus.
Haley tweeted Tuesday evening that Rhonda Lee Nelson, sister of her husband Michael, “passed the day before Thanksgiving of Covid.”
According to an online obituary, Nelson, 53, lived in West Milton, Ohio, and died Nov. 25. She was remembered as a singer and piano musician who “ministered to many inside and outside of the church.”
According to Nelson’s obituary, Tuesday’s memorial service was held at the Shepherd’s Field Christian Church in Potsdam, Ohio.
Haley — the governor of South Carolina in late 2016 when President Donald Trump selected her as ambassador to the United Nations – provided no further details on Nelson’s death, which came as coronavirus numbers rise across the country and in states including Ohio. According to an Associated Press analysis of data provided by The COVID Tracking Project, the seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Ohio has risen over the past two weeks from 7,618 on Nov. 22 to 8,656 on Dec. 6.
No safety net: In two U.S. agricultural towns, small farmers, ranchers cope with pandemic
Moorefield, W.Va., is an Appalachian town of about 2,500 people, changed forever by Pilgrim’s Pride’s three poultry plants clustered at the South Branch of the Potomac River. Nearly 3,000 miles west, Salinas, in Monterey County, Calif., made famous by Nobel laureate John Steinbeck, is an agricultural city of 155,000 that produces a significant portion of the nation’s leaf and head lettuces, celery, broccoli and strawberries.
In these two American breadbasket communities, small farmers and ranchers have been left to improvise as their markets swivel and contract. In its early months considered an urban problem, the coronavirus has been especially brutal in rural agricultural communities, where farmworkers were slow to get personal protective equipment and effective safety protocols.
In both Salinas and Moorefield, the coronavirus has contributed layers of complexity to an already backbreaking professional path. Several years of historically poor planting conditions and retaliatory tariffs under the Trump administration have cut off potential for agricultural exports and left farmers with few reserves before the pandemic began to hopscotch across the country.
For Mary Jo Keller, 90, Moorefield has always been home, where she and her family make a dwindling living from dairy cows. Not far away, Rick Woodworth raises cattle on Flying W Farms — he owns them from birth to slaughter, growing all his own feed, a refutation of modern industrial agricultural models epitomized by Pilgrim’s.
“We have not participated with Pilgrim’s Pride or been involved with them in any way, shape or form,” he says. “I’m a Type A personality clear off the chart: I want to be in control of my destiny, not be on a contract to produce for Pilgrim’s. We’ve chosen to go our own way and take our own risks.”
State confirms 2,923 new COVID-19 cases -- 833 in King County -- and 26 new deaths
The state Department of Health (DOH) reported 2,923 new COVID-19 cases as of Monday, and 26 new deaths.
In King County, the state’s most populous, 833 new cases were reported, along with 1 new death.
The update brings the state’s totals to 187,327 cases and 2,967 deaths, meaning that 1.6% of people diagnosed in Washington have died, according to the DOH. The data is as of 11:59 p.m. Monday.
The DOH also reported that 11,841 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the virus-- 145 new hospitalizations as of Monday.
In King County, state health officials have confirmed a total of 50,188 COVID-19 diagnoses and 929 deaths.
Because DOH no longer reports COVID-related deaths on the weekends, tallies for deaths may be higher early in the week.
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.
COVID-19 survivors may develop some immunity, but still should get the vaccine. Here’s why
It has been more than 11 months since we learned that a new and deadly virus was attacking the people of Wuhan, China.
Since then, more than 63 million people have been infected worldwide, and nearly 1.5 million have died.
Yet there are still a surprising number of unanswered questions about whether millions of COVID-19 survivors have found at least one silver lining: immunity.
President Trump famously declared that he was immune after his bout with the disease. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who tested positive for the virus in March, last month said authorities should tell survivors, “to throw away their masks, go to restaurants, live again, because these people are now immune.”
This is very much NOT how experts on immunity say you should behave after you’ve tested positive, but there is new evidence that important markers of immunity remain strong months after infection.
As infections rise, European Central Bank prepares stimulus
The European Central Bank is expected to unleash another blast of stimulus on Thursday to help businesses bridge the gap until the economy recovers from the pandemic – and to support governments that are ramping up spending to cushion the blow as the winter wave of the virus worsens.
The bank could add a half-trillion euros or more to its existing bond purchases. That means the central bank will vacuum up much of the new debt being issued by hard-pressed governments, lowering the risk of a new eurozone debt crisis.
If the pandemic purchases are expanded as expected, and combined with a previous bond purchase program amounting to 20 billion euros ($24 billion) per month, the ECB “will continue to absorb a very large part of gross debt issuance from euro area states,” wrote Frederik Ducrozet and Nadia Gharbi at Pictet Wealth Management.
Bond purchases drive down borrowing costs in the bond market, where governments get their financing, and thus takes some of the financial pressure off governments that otherwise might restrict their spending at the worst possible time.
German states tighten virus rules as pandemic battle falters
Two German states moved closer to a “hard lockdown” Tuesday as officials warned that continued high coronavirus infections could overwhelm hospitals and that too many people were ignoring existing pandemic restrictions.
The governor of Saxony, Michael Kretschmer, announced that schools and most stores will close from Monday until Jan. 10, as the eastern state recorded the Germany’s worst infection rates.
Figures published by Germany’s disease control center showed the number of newly confirmed cases per 100,000 inhabitants reaching almost 320 in a week in Saxony — more than twice the national average of about 147.
In the neighboring state of Bavaria to the south, governor Markus Soeder urged regional lawmakers to back his government’s decision to declare a state of emergency.
“The numbers are simply not going down,” Soeder told parliament in Munich and warned: ”The second wave is worse than the first.”
White House pushes Senate GOP to include $600 stimulus payment in relief package
White House officials are asking Senate Republican leadership to include stimulus checks worth $600 in the emergency economic relief package currently being debated in Congress, according to two people granted anonymity to share details of private deliberations.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., did not include a second round of stimulus payments in the relief proposal he released last week. Senior Republican leadership in Congress are listening to White House officials push for the inclusion of the stimulus checks, the two people said, a provision also broadly supported by congressional Democrats.
President Donald Trump has privately indicated a willingness to send another round of stimulus checks of as much as $2,000, according to one person in direct communication with the president. Congress in March approved a round of $1,200 stimulus checks that the Treasury Department disbursed to more than 100 million American families in a matter of weeks.
Salem nurse who mocked COVID-19 rules to stop practicing
A nurse at Salem Health who on social media flouted Oregon’s COVID-19 restrictions last month has agreed to stop working for the healthcare provider.
KOIN-TV reported Tuesday that Ashley Grames received an Interim Consent Order, which is not considered discipline, for her departure effective Dec. 8, according to state records.
On Nov. 27, Grames posted a video on TikTok and Facebook saying she still travels often, rarely wears a mask and lets her kids have play dates. Salem Health subsequently placed Grames on administrative leave during an investigation.
As virus slams rural California, many still pan restrictions
Brenda Luntey is openly violating California’s order to close her restaurant to indoor dining. But she wants her customers and critics to know she isn’t typically a rule-breaker and she's not a virus skeptic. It’s a matter of survival.
“This is my first episode of civil disobedience in my entire life. My whole family is in law enforcement. I’m a follow-the-rules kind of person,” said Luntey, owner of San Francisco Deli, a popular sandwich shop in Redding, more than 200 miles (320 kilometers) north of the restaurant’s namesake city.
It’s in northern Shasta County, one of several rural California counties that appeared to dodge the virus in the spring but are now seeing some of the most alarming spikes in COVID-19 infections statewide. In an effort to avoid overwhelming hospitals, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a strict new shutdown order that has taken effect in southern and central California and will likely soon affect Shasta County.
But outside California’s big cities, especially in conservative areas, the backlash against tough new restrictions is growing, and some sheriffs say they won’t enforce health orders.
11 minutes a day of exercise may help counter the effects of sitting
Walking for at least 11 minutes a day could reduce the undesirable health consequences of sitting for hours and hours, according to a helpful new study of the ways in which both inactivity and exercise influence how long we live.
The study, which relied on objective data from tens of thousands of people about how they spent their days, found that those who were the most sedentary faced a high risk of dying young, but if people got up and moved, they slashed that threat substantially, even if they did not move much.
For most of us, sitting for prolonged periods of time is common, especially now, as we face the dual challenges of COVID-related restrictions and the shortening, chilly days of winter. Recent surveys of people’s behavior since the start of the pandemic indicate that a majority of us are exercising less and sitting more than we were a year ago.
Though more exercise appears better, people who exercised moderately for about 11 minutes a day, were significantly less likely to have died prematurely than people who moved less, even if they also were in the group that sat the most.
Biden’s health team offers glimpse of his COVID-19 strategy
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 the current administration.
He hopes to return the federal response to a more methodical approach, he said, seeking results by applying scientific knowledge in a transparent and disciplined manner.
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.
“These are not turf-conscious people,” said Drew Altman, CEO of the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation, a clearinghouse for health care information and analysis. But “it’s up to the (Biden) administration to make it an effective team.”
BREAKING: Washington state COVID-19 restrictions extended
Washington’s latest round of sweeping COVID-19 restrictions will stay in place through Christmas and into the new year.
Speaking at a news conference Tuesday, Gov. Jay Inslee announced the wide-ranging restrictions he ordered on Nov. 15 — shutting down indoor dining, gyms and limiting social gatherings — will be extended to Jan. 4.
Inslee also pledged $50 million in additional state aid that would be made available for businesses, as well as economic safeguards for workers impacted by the pandemic.
In addition to shutting down indoor service at restaurants and bars, Inslee’s order limits outdoor seating to parties of five or fewer. Gyms, fitness centers, bowling alleys and museums must remain closed.
Indoor gatherings with people outside of a person’s household are prohibited unless participants have quarantined for at least a week and tested negative for the virus.
Portlanders can apply for $500 virus relief cards
People in Portland who struggling financially during the COVID-19 pandemic will be able to try again for a prepaid $500 VISA debit card to cover household expenses.
Oregon Public Broadcasting reports the application period will open Thursday, Dec. 10, from 3 to 6 p.m. on the city’s PDX Assist website.
Winners from among the applications submitted in the three-hour window will be chosen by lottery.
Los Angeles County deputies break up huge underground party
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Nearly 160 people were arrested during the weekend at an illegal party in Los Angeles County, where coronavirus cases are surging, authorities said.
The Saturday night raid on a location in the high desert city of Palmdale came after Sheriff Alex Villanueva vowed to crack down on “super-spreader events.”
Villanueva planned to discuss details of the law enforcement action at a press conference Tuesday.
A statement from the sheriff’s office said 158 people were arrested.
“These types of parties typically involve drugs, alcohol, weapons, minors, and prostitution,” the statement said. “Additionally, this criminal behavior is occurring during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
‘Quite frankly shocking’: U.S. virus deaths hit record levels
Deaths from COVID-19 in the U.S. have soared to more than 2,200 a day on average, matching the frightening peak reached last April, and cases per day have eclipsed 200,000 on average for the first time on record, with the crisis all but certain to get worse because of the fallout from Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s.
Virtually every state is reporting surges just as a vaccine appears days away from getting the go-ahead in the U.S.
“The epidemic in the U.S. is punishing. It’s widespread. 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, amazing technological capacities,” said Dr. Michael Ryan, the World Health Organization’s chief of emergencies.
The virus is blamed for more than 280,000 deaths and almost 15 million confirmed infections in the United States.
Mexico to launch COVID-19 vaccinations this month
Mexico plans to being vaccinating its people against COVID-19 at the end of the third week of December, starting with health workers, the government announced Tuesday.
President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said the vaccines will be “universal and free” — and also voluntary — and he hopes the full population will be vaccinated by the end of 2021.
Officials said that starting in February, those over 60 will receive vaccinations, followed by those over 50 in April and over 40 in May. They urged people with risk factors to get vaccinated first. The 67-year-old president himself said he would get vaccinated in February, along with his age group.
The government already has contracted for 34.4 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and 250,000 of those are expected to arrive by Dec. 17. The armed forces will distribute them to vaccination sites, initially in Mexico City and the northern border state of Coahuila.
Uber, hard-hit by pandemic, sells its robot-vehicle division
Uber is selling off its autonomous vehicles development arm as the ride-hailing company slims down after its revenues were pummeled when the coronavirus pandemic cut into demand for shared rides.
Self-driving vehicle technology company Aurora will acquire the employees and technology behind Uber’s Advanced Technologies Group in an stock transaction, the companies said Monday. After the transaction, Aurora will be worth $10 billion and Uber will hold 26% stake in the company, Aurora CEO Chris Urmson said.
Though the path to profitability for San Francisco-based Uber has often been linked with its plans to deploy autonomous vehicles and reduce the high cost of paying drivers, the company’s efforts around self-driving technology was marred in March 2018 when one of its automated test vehicles hit and killed a woman, the first death involving the technology.
Studies suggest AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine safe, 70% effective
New results on a possible COVID-19 vaccine from Oxford University and AstraZeneca suggest it is safe and about 70% effective, but questions remain about how well it may help protect those over 55 — a key concern for a vaccine that health officials hope to rely on around the world because of its low cost, availability and ease of use.
Still, experts say the vaccine seems likely to be approved, despite some confusion in the results and lower levels of protection than what other vaccine candidates have shown.
Researchers claim the vaccine protected against disease in 62% of those given two full doses and in 90% of those initially given the half dose. However, independent experts have said the second group was too small — 2,741 people — to judge the possible value of that approach and that more testing is needed.
Chicago 7-year-old raises money for hospital’s pandemic gear
Hayley Orlinsky has made so many bracelets, looping colorful rubber bands over her thumb and index finger again and again, that she no longer must watch her hands.
The spunky 7-year-old from Chicago has spent most of the coronavirus pandemic crafting the creations as a fundraiser to buy personal protective equipment for a children’s hospital.
So far, the endeavor has generated nearly $20,000 for Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital, prompting praise and purchases from Chicago politicians, a Broadway actor and her beloved White Sox.
Hayley’s initial goal was $200, which she quickly surpassed, charging $3 a bracelet or $5 for an added charm.
It’s hard for the second grader to grasp how much more $20,000 is by comparison — but she figures it’s a lot.
“It’s more than the tooth fairy gives,” she said.
Tone deaf? Prince William’s tour criticized amid pandemic
A national train tour by Prince William and his wife Kate has received a frosty welcome from leaders in Wales and Scotland, with one Welsh official saying he would rather “no one was having unnecessary visits” during the coronavirus pandemic.
William and Kate arrived in the Welsh capital of Cardiff on Tuesday for the final day of their three-day royal train tour, meant to spread Christmas cheer and thank medical staff and other frontline employees for their hard, dangerous work during the pandemic.
Wales was the only part of the U.K. where infections were not falling at the end of November, and warned that further restrictions may be needed.
Asked if it was the right moment for the royal couple to visit, Welsh Health Minister Vaughan Gething said Tuesday: “I’d rather that no one was having unnecessary visits. And people always have divisive views about the monarchy, but their visit isn’t an excuse for people to say that they are confused about what they are being asked to do.”
EXPLAINER: Final steps in US review of COVID-19 vaccine
Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine is entering the final phase of review before the U.S. government decides whether to allow millions to get the shots.
The Food and Drug Administration posted a positive review of the Pfizer vaccine on Tuesday and will hold a public hearing on Thursday. Next week, it will do the same thing for Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine candidate.
For the FDA Review teams of scientists scrutinize tens of thousands of pages of technical data provided by the companies, focusing on vaccine effectiveness, safety, side effects and the manufacturing process needed to ensure the quality and consistency of the doses
It is a key step — not just for the U.S. — but for countries around the world weighing whether to begin using a vaccine.
The next steps are the Vaccine Expert Meeting and the FDA Decision.
India says it may approve vaccine in weeks, outlines plan
India’s health ministry announced Tuesday that some COVID-19 vaccines are likely to receive licenses in the next few weeks and outlined an initial plan to immunize 300 million people.
India says its initial immunization plan revolves around three priority groups: 10 million healthcare workers, 20 million front-line workers such as the police and military, and 270 million other people either above age 50 or who have diseases that make them more vulnerable to COVID-19’s effects.
Three vaccine companies have applied for early approval for emergency use in India: Serum Institute of India, which has been licensed to manufacture the AstraZeneca vaccine, Pfizer Inc., and Indian manufacturer Bharat Biotech.
American Airlines will offer coronavirus testing kits you can do at home
American Airlines is expanding its coronavirus testing program to offer at-home testing kits to customers traveling to any U.S. city that has travel restrictions in place.
Beginning Wednesday, American Airlines customers can order test kits that will enable them to collect their own samples and send them to a lab.
The kits will cost $129 and will provide results within 48 hours after the sample is received. The results can be used for flights on or after Dec. 12.
Read the story here.
Morocco to use Chinese vaccine to kick off mass vaccinations
Morocco is gearing up for an ambitious COVID-19 vaccination program, aiming to vaccinate 80% of its adults in an operation starting this month that’s relying initially on a Chinese vaccine that has not yet completed advanced trials to prove it is safe and effective.
The first injections could come within days, a Health Ministry official told The Associated Press.
While Britain began its vaccination program Tuesday with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and the U.S. and European Union are racing to approve a series of Western-made vaccines, other governments are looking to use vaccines from China and Russia.
Dutch report ‘worrying rise’ in infections
The Dutch public health institute on Tuesday reported a “worrying rise” in the number of coronavirus infections in the last week, as the government prepared to announce whether it will allow any relaxations over the Christmas holidays of its partial lockdown.
The health institute said the number of new confirmed COVID-19 cases rose by more than 9,000 to 43,103 in a week.
What will it take to keep Washington’s ski areas open through this pandemic winter?
At Northwest ski areas amid a global pandemic, tailgating has become the new après-ski. After a day skiing at Mount Baker, Jessica Henson found herself in a parking lot surrounded by skiers and snowboarders grabbing lunch at their cars, some more elaborately than others. “[L]ots of people have insanely creative car setups,” she said. “From whole camping stoves and tables to simple PB&Js on the tailgate.”
Before the pandemic, skiers could pick up lunch or a hot beverage in base-area dining rooms. But with new restrictions in place at ski areas across Washington state, skiers and snowboarders are adapting; some are taking to heart resort guidance like the Summit at Snoqualmie’s recommendation to “use your vehicle as base camp.”
It’s just one of many changes ski areas have undergone in the past year, in an effort to reopen without becoming vectors for a virus that has killed over 273,000 Americans and more than 2,800 in Washington state. But is it really possible to ski safely in a pandemic?
Catch up on the past 24 hours
• The FDA this morning posted a positive review of Pfizer's vaccine, offering the world’s first detailed look at the evidence behind the shots. It turns out that Pfizer offered to sell the U.S. more vaccine doses beyond the first shipments, but the Trump administration said no, and now America is scrambling. Here's a Q&A on how vaccines will roll out in the U.S. And yes, you should get one even if you've survived COVID-19. Scientists explain why.
• Washington state last night reported its highest count ever with nearly 7,000 more cases, but there are caveats. It's best to look at the big picture in these graphics and know how to interpret what you see.
• Brits started getting vaccines today. The first shot in the U.K.'s mass vaccination program was given to Margaret Keenan, who turns 91 next week. The second went to William Shakespeare.
• Millions of Americans are heading into the holidays unemployed and over $5,000 behind on rent, with eviction bans set to expire soon. Many are turning for the first time to food banks, which say they’ve never seen anything like this. Here are emergency resources for food and other help in the Seattle area.
• Do you still need to wipe the groceries down? Experts say it's not necessary for most people, but do keep that cleaning spray handy and take a few other precautions.
• "Like a spiderweb": One Thanksgiving-weekend gathering led to an entire school district shutting down.
Do you have questions about the coronavirus that causes COVID-19?Ask in the form below and we'll dig for answers. If you're using a mobile device and can't see the form on this page, ask your question here. If you have specific medical questions, please contact your doctor.
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