Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Wednesday, Dec. 9, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.

As a coronavirus vaccine appears days away from getting the go-ahead in the United States, American deaths from COVID-19 have soared to more than 2,200 a day on average, and cases per day have eclipsed 200,000 on average for the first time on record.

In Washington, which is also seeing a spike in cases, Gov. Jay Inslee announced Tuesday the state’s latest round of sweeping COVID-19 restrictions will stay in place through the holiday season and into the new year. The three-week extension of the wide-ranging limits he ordered Nov. 15 include shutting down indoor dining and gyms and limiting social gatherings.

We’re updating this page with the latest news about the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects on the Seattle area, the U.S. and the world.

Click here to see previous days’ live updates and all our other coronavirus coverage, and here to see how we track the daily spread across Washington and the world.


(Jennifer Luxton / The Seattle Times)

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Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine faces last hurdle before US decision

WASHINGTON — Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine faces one final hurdle as it races to become the first shot greenlighted in the U.S.: a panel of experts who will scrutinize the company’s data for any red flags.

Thursday’s meeting of the Food and Drug Administration’s vaccine advisory panel is likely the last step before a U.S. decision to begin shipping millions of doses of the shot, which has shown strong protection against the coronavirus.

The FDA panel functions like a science court that will pick apart the data and debate — in public and live-streamed — whether the shot is safe and effective enough to be cleared for emergency use. The non-government experts specialize in vaccine development, infectious diseases and medical statistics. The FDA is expected to follow the committee’s advice, although it is not required to do so.

The FDA’s decision comes as the coronavirus continues surging across much of the world, claiming more than 1.5 million lives, including more than 289,000 in the U.S.

—Associated Press
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India’s pandemic recovery plan could cost air quality goals

NEW DELHI — India is facing two public health emergencies simultaneously: critically polluted air and the pandemic. And Surinder Singh, a bus driver in the capital New Delhi, is trapped between them both.

In previous years, the government encouraged more people to use buses that run on cleaner fuels, like the one he drives, as an emergency air quality measure. But this year there are limits on passengers to maintain social distance. The air stings Singh’s eyes and he worries about contracting the virus every time a person gets on board.

Still reeling from India’s harsh lockdown that dried up his $9 daily income for two months, the 47-year-old father of two says he has no choice but to work. Masked and armed with a bottle of hand sanitizer, he starts his journey near a private hospital that is overwhelmed by virus patients. He travels through roads packed with traffic to the city’s largest and most frenetic railway station.

The virus, meanwhile continues to spread with over 9.7 million cases, and more than 140,000 deaths. And India’s underfunded hospitals, already strained by the virus, are also filling up with patients in respiratory distress from air pollution.

—Associated Press

Gates Foundation boosts funding to get coronavirus vaccines to the world’s poorest people

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is significantly boosting its commitment to the fight against COVID-19 and renewing calls for the U.S. and other governments to chip in to ensure vaccines and treatments reach the world’s poorest people.

The giant Seattle philanthropy announced late Wednesday that it will spend an additional $250 million — its single largest contribution so far — to accelerate development and delivery of diagnostics, drugs and vaccines.

“Thanks to the ingenuity of the global scientific community, we are achieving the exciting medical breakthroughs needed to end the pandemic,” billionaire philanthropist and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates said in a statement. “We have new drugs and more potential vaccines than we could have expected at the start of the year. But these innovations will only save lives if they get out into the world.”

The latest donation brings the foundation’s total pandemic-related grants to $1 billion. The foundation has also earmarked $750 million for forgivable loans and other financing mechanisms through an investment fund that reinvests returns in charitable causes.

Read the full story here.

—Sandi Doughton

Fewer Black kids getting flu shots, worrying CDC officials

NEW YORK — More Americans have been getting flu shots this year, apparently heeding the advice of health officials fearful of a flu and coronavirus double pandemic, public health officials said Wednesday.

But the flu vaccination rate for Black children is down, fueling worries that Black Americans may be turning away from shots.

“It’s certainly a point of concern,” said Dr. Ram Koppaka of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which posted new flu vaccination data Wednesday. “We’ll monitor this over the coming weeks very closely.”

So far there’s been little flu going around, CDC officials say.

But a push for vaccinations is considered especially important this year. The coronavirus is filling hospital beds in some parts of the country, and officials want to reduce any additional patient traffic that would further stress the health care system.

A survey conducted in early November found that 49% of U.S. adults had been vaccinated, up from 44% who had gotten flu shots by the same point in 2019, the CDC said. But the same survey suggested more than a third of adults do not intend to get a flu shot this season.

—Associated Press
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How pandemic aid attracted hordes of gleeful and gutsy scammers

Chris Hurn wasn’t surprised scammers were trying to get government money. An enormous relief effort like the $523 billion Paycheck Protection Program is bound to attract grifters.

As thousands of applications for government-backed loans flooded into his firm, Fountainhead Commercial Capital, it reported at least 500 suspicious cases to federal officials, Hurn said. But what shocked him was the brazen glee of the scammers who got money anyway.

At least a dozen times, “someone tried to defraud us, got turned down and then followed up to taunt us that they got their loan,” said Hurn, Fountainhead’s chief executive.

Four months after the federal government’s signature coronavirus relief program for small businesses expired, investigators and lawmakers have only scratched the surface of schemes that illicitly tapped its forgivable loans. The program’s hastily drafted and frequently revised rules, its removal of normal lending guardrails and governmental pressure to swiftly approve applications created the ideal conditions for thievery to thrive.

“We couldn’t believe how many people were trying to take advantage and game the system,” said Hurn, whose firm made more than 8,000 loans. “A lot of my employees, including me, were a little frustrated with humanity.”

So far, the Justice Department has brought criminal charges against more than 80 people accused of stealing at least $127 million from the relief program, but there’s far more to uncover. The House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis said it had identified more than $4 billion in potentially improper loans, and some bankers believe the total will be much higher.

Read the full story here.

—The New York Times

Pennsylvania governor says he’s tested positive for COVID-19

HARRISBURG, Pa. — Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf said Wednesday he has contracted COVID-19 and is isolating at home, revealing the diagnosis after several members of his security detail recently tested positive for the coronavirus.

The second-term Democrat said a routine test on Tuesday detected the virus.

“I have no symptoms and am feeling well,” Wolf said in a statement. “I am following CDC and Department of Health guidelines.”

Wolf’s spouse, Frances Wolf, has been tested but has not received the result, Wolf said. She is quarantining with him at their home in Mount Wolf, near York.

Wolf is one of several governors who have tested positive for the virus that causes COVID-19, including the governors of Oklahoma, Missouri, Virginia, Nevada and Colorado. President Donald Trump also contracted the virus.

Wolf, who is 72, said he continues to work remotely.

—Associated Press

EU drug regulator hacked, data on COVID-19 vaccine accessed

BERLIN — German pharmaceutical company BioNTech and its U.S. partner Pfizer say data on their coronavirus vaccine were “unlawfully accessed” during a cyberattack on the servers of the European Medicines Agency.

The Amsterdam-based agency, which is considering requests for conditional marketing authorization for several coronavirus vaccines to be used in the 27-nation European Union, said earlier Wednesday that it had been the target of a cyberattack.

The EMA declined to provide more details of the attack while the investigation was continuing, but the two companies later released a statement saying that “some documents relating to the regulatory submission for Pfizer and BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine candidate, BNT162b2, which has been stored on an EMA server, had been unlawfully accessed.”

They added that no BioNTech or Pfizer systems had been breached in connection with the incident and that they weren’t aware that any study participants had been identified as a result of the data being accessed.

—Associated Press
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Independent experts to review Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine Thursday

A group of independent experts will review data on the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine Thursday in a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) meeting that could pave the way for the emergency rollout of the first doses of vaccine in the United States. 

For those working in public health, the advisory committee meeting is as close to must-watch webcasting as bureaucracy can provide and it offers a moment that could mark a turning point in the pandemic’s trajectory. 

FDA regulators found the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine for the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 “highly effective” and identified “no specific safety concerns,” according to a briefing document released ahead of the public discussion. The Moderna vaccine will receive a similar public review next week.  

In a brief conversation with The Seattle Times on Wednesday, FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn sought to bolster trust in the FDA process, saying the meetings fulfill the FDA’s “commitment to the American people” and ensure transparency and scientific rigor in the emergency authorization process. 

“No steps were missed, no scientific evidence needed was excluded,” Hahn said. “I will be first in line, when it’s appropriate, to receive that vaccine.” 

Read the full story here.

—Evan Bush

Hawaii furloughs state workers amid pandemic budget crunch

HONOLULU — Hawaii Gov. David Ige on Wednesday announced plans to furlough more than 10,000 state workers two days a month to balance the state’s budget as tax revenues decline due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The furloughs will cut worker pay by 9.2%, Ige said. The governor said he and members of his Cabinet would take the same percentage salary cut. The furloughs will take effect Jan. 1.

Nurses, firefighters, prison guards and others whose jobs involve around-the-clock operations won’t be required to furlough. Employees at at airports and harbors whose pay is covered by federal funds will also not be furloughed. About 4,600 employees fall into this exempt category and are not counted in the total number of employees to be furloughed.

—Associated Press

U.S. sets single-day death record; Britain issues vaccine allergy warning

The United States set a single day record on Wednesday of more than 3,000 deaths linked to the virus, according to a Washington Post analysis. Texas, Colorado, Illinois and Pennsylvania led the way, with each state reporting more than 200 dead.

The grim milestone came as British regulators on Wednesday directed hospitals not to administer the new coronavirus vaccine to people with a history of “significant” allergic reactions after two people who got the shot had problems.

The Food and Drug Administration is moving ahead with its process to determine whether to approve the same vaccine rolled out in Britain, which is made by the pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech, after a review confirmed that it meets the standard for emergency use.

The federal government has ordered 100 million doses of the two-dose vaccine, delivery of which can start as soon as regulators give the go-ahead.

The pandemic continues to rage, with more than 213,000 new cases reported in the United States on Wednesday. 

—The Washington Post
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State confirms 189,863 total COVID-19 cases and 3,016 deaths

The state Department of Health (DOH) reported 2,536 new COVID-19 cases as of Tuesday, and 49 new deaths.

In King County, the state’s most populous, 653 new cases were reported, along with 15 new deaths.

The update brings the state’s totals to 189,863 cases and 3,016 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. Tuesday. 

The DOH also reported that 11,996 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the virus — 155 new hospitalizations as of Tuesday.

In King County, state health officials have confirmed a total of 50,841 COVID-19 diagnoses and 944 deaths.

The DOH's method of reporting new cases each day differs from that of The Times, which is today’s total reported cases minus the previous day’s total. (According to the DOH’s cumulative cases count, yesterday saw 2,772 new cases, as opposed to the 2,563 The Times has calculated.)

The DOH says its daily case reports 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 and other data discrepancies.

—Brendan Kiley

Tensions rise over masks as virus grips smaller U.S. cities

In this Dec. 8, 2020, file photo, anti-masker demonstrators converge on Central District Health offices in Boise, Idaho, to the protest a meeting deciding on more mandates to combat the spread of COVID-19. Arguments over mask requirements and other restrictions have turned ugly in recent days as the deadly coronavirus surge engulfs small and medium-size cities that once seemed a safe remove from the outbreak. (Darin Oswald/Idaho Statesman via AP, File)

Arguments over mask requirements and other restrictions have turned ugly in recent days as the deadly coronavirus surge across the U.S. engulfs small and medium-size cities that once seemed safely removed from the outbreak.

In Boise, Idaho, public health officials about to vote on a four-county mask mandate abruptly ended a meeting Tuesday evening because of fears for their safety amid anti-mask protests outside the building and at some of their homes.

One health board member tearfully announced she had to rush home to be with her child because of the protesters, who were seen on video banging on buckets, blaring air horns and sirens, and blasting a sound clip of gunfire from the violence-drenched movie “Scarface” outside her front door.

“I am sad. I am tired. I fear that, in my choosing to hold public office, my family has too often paid the price,” said the board member, Ada County Commissioner Diana Lachiondo. “I increasingly don’t recognize this place. There is an ugliness and cruelty in our national rhetoric that is reaching a fevered pitch here at home, and that should worry us all.”

Boise police said three arrest warrants were issued in connection with the demonstrations at board members’ homes.

In South Dakota, the mayor of Rapid City said City Council members were harassed and threatened over a proposed citywide mask mandate that failed this week even as intensive care units across the state filled with COVID-19 patients.

Read the story here.

—Heather Hollingsworth and Ryan Foley, Associated Press

Hospital ICUs full in Silicon Valley, Central Valley as California braces for more

Test specialist Elijah Sanchez disinfects a testing booth at a COVID-19 testing site in Los Angeles on Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2020. Most of California entered a new lockdown this week in an effort to curb spiraling coronavirus infections and hospitalizations. (Jae C. Hong / The Associated Press)

From Silicon Valley to Fresno, hospital intensive care units began reaching capacity Tuesday as California continued to set new records for coronavirus cases that officials fear will get worse in the coming days.

The high transmission rates come after weeks of warnings that hospitals could be overwhelmed as serious coronavirus cases spike to unprecedented levels. Officials warn the ICUs that filled up could be just the beginning.

The situation elsewhere in the state was somewhat better but still critical. Capacity remained at about 10% in Southern California, 24% in the Bay Area, 19% in the Sacramento region but less than 6% in the Central Valley.

Meanwhile, the state hit grim new milestones. California surpassed 20,000 deaths and Los Angeles County surpassed 8,000 deaths. California reported 35,400 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday, according to a Times county-by-county tally, and more than 219 deaths — both records for a single day. The latest tally means an average of 135 Californians have died each day over the past week — a number not seen since August — and nearly 25,000 people tested positive for the virus daily, a figure more than twice as bad as the peak of the summer surge.

About 1 in 8 of those testing positive are expected to need hospital care in the coming weeks as the virus further replicates in their bodies, causing illnesses like pneumonia and shortness of breath, and in severe situations, respiratory failure and failure of multiple organs.

Officials expect cases and hospitalizations to keep rising as more people who got sick during Thanksgiving show symptoms. They urged residents to follow new stay-at-home rules in effect for 84% of California’s residents, which officials said marked the best hope for bending the curve.

Read the story here.

—Faith E. Pinho, Los Angeles Times
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Military health personnel, senior officials will be first in line to get Defense Department’s initial vaccine doses

The Defense Department expects to administer nearly 44,000 doses of a coronavirus vaccine within 48 hours of approval by scientists advising the U.S. government, directing the initial doses to military health care workers and a small set of top defense leaders.

Officials on Wednesday unveiled plans for the pilot phase of distribution of the vaccine from Pfizer, which will take place at 16 military sites in the United States and overseas, based on an allotment from the Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Eventually, the Pentagon plans to offer a vaccine to all 11 million individuals designated as part of the Defense Department community, including troops, their families, retirees, civilian employees and some contractors.

“We will monitor the uptake and make adjustments to our plans going forward as necessary,” Thomas McCaffery, assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, told reporters at the Pentagon.

Officials said that as soon as the Food and Drug Administration issues its “emergency use authorization” for the vaccine developed by Pfizer and the German company BioNTech, the Pentagon will ensure that the doses are at the initial sites, comprising U.S. bases with major medical facilities and three overseas locations, in Germany, Japan and South Korea...

About 8 or 9% of military health personnel and first responders are expected to be covered when the first doses are administered. When more vaccine is available, the next set of troops will be drawn from what Pentagon officials refer to as “critical national capabilities,” a group that includes forces that operate the country’s nuclear arsenal, cyber forces and certain Special Operations troops.

Read the story here.

—Missy Ryan, The Washington Post

Dismissing health concerns, State Department hosts 200 guests for tours, holiday drinks and leftover ‘Be Best’ swag

The State Department hosted roughly 200 guests Tuesday night at the presidential guesthouse despite concerns of public health experts and a new positive coronavirus case on the premises since last week, according to two U.S. officials.

The party included a tour of the White House’s vaunted holiday décor followed by a self-guided tour across the street at Blair House, where foreign diplomats, their families, U.S. staffers and friends and acquaintances of the State Department’s chief of protocol convened.

A State Department spokesman said the “Holiday Cheer” reception that typically follows the tour was canceled this year because of concerns about spreading the novel coronavirus, but two bars were set up in the guesthouse as the face-shield-wearing catering staff poured drinks into holiday-themed paper cups. Guests unmasked to consume the beverages, causing people to congregate and create occasional choke points, the two officials told The Washington Post, speaking on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

About 200 guests attended, among them the ambassadors of Afghanistan, Egypt, South Korea and Guatemala, officials said.

The tour is one of several holiday functions the State Department is hosting this week and next even as the Trump administration’s own health experts implore Americans to limit travel and avoid large gatherings amid a pandemic that has killed at least 285,000 people and infected 15 million across the United States.

Read the story here.

—John Hudson, The Washington Post

Wyoming official quits after calling COVID-19 communist plot

A Wyoming Department of Health official who falsely described the coronavirus and development of vaccines against it as a communist plot has resigned, a department spokeswoman said Wednesday.

Igor Shepherd, who was the agency’s readiness and countermeasures manager, submitted his resignation on Tuesday and it was accepted the same day, said department spokeswoman Kim Deti, declining further comment.

Speaking at a Nov. 10 event in Loveland, Colorado, hosted by group opposed to public health measures to limit spread of the coronavirus, Shepherd said the “so-called pandemic” and efforts to develop a vaccine are plots by Russia and China to spread communism.

The baseless claims went against the department’s aggressive public education efforts to promote social distancing, mask-wearing and other measures to counter COVID-19.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press
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A rural S.D. community ignored the virus. Then people started dyingg

A cold wind whipped through the prairie as they laid Buck Timmins to rest.

Timmins, a longtime coach and referee, was not the first person in Mitchell, S.D., population 15,600, to die of the coronavirus. He was not even the first that week.

As the funeral director tucked blankets over the knees of Timmins’ widow, Nanci, Pastor Rhonda Wellsandt-Zell told the small group of masked mourners that just as there had been seasons in the coach’s life — basketball season, football season, volleyball season — Mitchell was now enduring a phase of its own.

Pandemic season.

The Mitchell Corn Palace, the city’s civic center and auditorium, in Mitchell, S.D.. (photo for The Washington Post by KC McGinnis)

In a state where the Republican governor, Kristi Noem, has defied calls for a statewide mask mandate even as cases hit record levels, many in this rural community an hour west of Sioux Falls ignored the virus for months, not bothering with masks or social distancing. Restaurants were packed. Big weddings and funerals went on as planned.

Then people started dying. The wife of the former bank president. A state legislator. The guy whose family has owned the bike shop since 1959. Then Timmins, a mild-spoken 72-year-old who had worked with hundreds of local kids during six decades as a Little League and high school coach and referee.

His death shook Mitchell just as its leaders were contemplating something previously denounced and dismissed: a requirement that its staunchly conservative residents wear masks.

Read the story here.

—Annie Gowen, The Washington Post

Pentagon set to begin COVID-19 vaccinations on small scale

The Pentagon’s initial allotment of coronavirus vaccine will be administered at 16 defense sites in the United States and abroad, with health care workers, emergency service personnel and residents of military retirement homes getting top priority, officials said Wednesday.

Next in line, once follow-on supplies of vaccine becomes available, will be military personnel who provide “critical national capabilities,” such as nuclear weapons crews and cybersecurity forces, as well as certain military units getting ready to deploy.

The vaccinations will be voluntary because the Pfizer vaccine initially is to be made available on an emergency use basis. The shots could become mandatory later if vaccines are fully licensed by the Food and Drug Administration, the officials said.

FILE – This May 4, 2020, file photo provided by the University of Maryland School of Medicine, shows the first patient enrolled in Pfizer’s COVID-19 coronavirus vaccine clinical trial at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore. Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine is entering the final phase of review by U.S. government regulators. The Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday, Dec. 8 released a positive review of the vaccine. (Courtesy of University of Maryland School of Medicine via AP, File)

A few dozen of the Pentagon’s leaders, including the acting defense secretary, Christopher Miller, and Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, are to be among those receiving early vaccinations, said Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman. Some of those leaders will get their shots in public in order to demonstrate the Pentagon’s confidence in the vaccine’s safety, he said.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

AP-NORC poll: Only half in U.S. want shots as vaccine nears

 As states frantically prepare to begin months of vaccinations that could end the pandemic, a new poll finds only about half of Americans are ready to roll up their sleeves when their turn comes.

The survey from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research shows about a quarter of U.S. adults aren’t sure if they want to get vaccinated against the coronavirus. Roughly another quarter say they won’t.

Many on the fence have safety concerns and want to watch how the initial rollout fares — skepticism that could hinder the campaign against the scourge that has killed nearly 290,000 Americans. Experts estimate at least 70% of the U.S. population needs to be vaccinated to achieve herd immunity, or the point at which enough people are protected that the virus can be held in check.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press
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UAE says Chinese vaccine 86% effective, offers few details

FILE – In this April 2, 2020, file photo taken through a tinted car window, a technician takes a nasal swab for a coronavirus detection test at a drive-thru testing facility in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. The United Arab Emirates said Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2020, that a Chinese coronavirus vaccine by Sinopharm tested in the federation of sheikhdoms is 86% effective, though it released few details. (Jon Gambrell / The Associated Press)

The United Arab Emirates said Wednesday a Chinese coronavirus vaccine tested in the federation of sheikhdoms is 86% effective, in a statement that provided few details but marked the first public release of information on the efficacy of the shot.

The announcement brought yet another shot into the worldwide race for a vaccine to end the pandemic, a scientific effort that has seen China and Russia compete with Western firms for an effective inoculation. While questions remain about the Sinopharm shot, already at least one country outside China plans to roll it out in a mass-vaccination campaign.

The UAE, home to Dubai and Abu Dhabi, conducted a trial beginning in September of the vaccine by Chinese state-owned pharmaceutical giant Sinopharm involving 31,000 volunteers from 125 nations. Volunteers between 18 and 60 years old received two doses of the vaccine over 28 days.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

Canada health regulator approves Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine

Canada’s health regulator on Wednesday approved Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine.

Health Canada posted on it is website that the vaccine made by U.S. drugmaker Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech is authorized.

“Canadians can feel confident that the review process was rigorous and that we have strong monitoring systems in place. Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada will closely monitor the safety of the vaccine once it is on the market and will not hesitate to take action if any safety concerns are identified,” Health Canada said in a statement.

Canada is set to receive up to 249,000 doses this month and 4 million doses of the vaccine by March.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

UW football pauses team activities due to increase in positive COVID-19 cases

The Huskies come out for their game with Stanford on Dec. 5, 2020 at Husky Stadium in Seattle. (Dean Rutz / The Seattle Times)

UW football has paused all team-related activities due to an increase in positive COVID-19 cases within its program, a university release stated Wednesday morning. The status of Saturday’s game at Oregon remains unclear.

The Huskies will not practice Wednesday and will undergo additional PCR testing.

This is the first time this season that Washington (3-1) — which has had games against California and Washington State canceled due to COVID-19 issues with its opponent — has had to pause team activities.

Read the story here.

—Mike Vorel
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Families find alternative ways to visit with Santa this year

The only photo Delilah Lopez’s parents have of her with Santa is from her first Christmas, when she was a 9-month-old baby. Since then, she’s become mobile and wised up to stranger danger.

“We have pictures of her running away from the real Santa,” said mom Christy Astle-Lopez. “She’s never asked the real one for anything.”

On a recent Saturday morning, the Lopez family, of Bothell, went to visit their Santa at Molbak’s Garden + Home in Woodinville. Only this year, “Santa” is a cardboard cutout and somewhat less scary. Delilah, now 3, hugged her stuffie and flashed a smile for a few snaps, then she was done.

Cousins Kenley King, left, 11, and Lily Friesen, 7, have matching dresses with a cutout of Santa John Harmeling, a Molbak’s employee who’s been the store’s Santa for more than 15 years. (Alan Berner / The Seattle Times)

This year no one’s sitting on a strange man’s lap. The risk of spreading the novel coronavirus means some parents are now scrambling to come up with alternatives.

Read the story here.

—JiaYing Grygiel, Special to The Seattle Times

With many schools online, child maltreatment reports in Washington plummet

New data offers a sobering look at how school closures during the pandemic have affected child welfare reporting.

After school buildings closed last school year, the Washington state agency that investigates child abuse and neglect received 87% fewer calls from concerned teachers, counselors and other mandatory school reporters on average per week through June. This school year, reports are down 59%.

The new data from the Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF) confirms what many educators, families and officials feared: Fewer eyes on children during the pandemic has resulted in fewer reported instances of neglect and abuse. This fits with nationwide trends, which suggests all child maltreatment reporting is down 40-60%.

The numbers hint that maltreatment is going undetected by educators, and officials and experts warn that children are likely experiencing more harm during the pandemic, not less.

“There may even be an increase in underlying severe abuse that we will see as families become more visible to reporters,” said Vickie Ybarra, director of the Office of Innovation, Alignment, and Accountability at DCYF. “The economic pieces of this is what’s going to drive the most severe outcomes for children and families.” 

Read the story here.

—Hannah Furfaro

A Canadian woman has been sick with COVID-19 long-term effects for nearly 9 months: ‘I’m definitely worried it will be permanent’

When Ashley Antonio contracted COVID-19 in late March, the Canadian criminal attorney fought against the common symptoms that come with most cases: fever, body aches, fatigue, headaches.

She’d manage her symptoms at home and eventually overcome them, she assured herself. After all, she was a healthy 35-year-old with no underlying conditions who boxed and did strength training four times a week.

Except the symptoms never really went away — they intensified.

Now, 259 days later, Antonio is still suffering the repercussions of a virus that has upended almost every aspect of her life.

An electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.  (National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases / The New York Times)

She has been in and out of the hospital four times in almost nine months. Her doctors have diagnosed Antonio with arthritis and a condition that causes her heartbeat to dramatically increase when she stands up. Both are long-term effects of the virus, they told her. They also don’t know if, and when, those symptoms will go away.

“Everyone is just told you either recover or you die,” Antonio told The Washington Post on Tuesday. “There’s never talk of all the people that are trapped somewhere in the middle with all of these long-term effects. We’re not recovered. We’re just not COVID positive anymore.”

Read the story here.

—Andrea Salcedo, The Washington Post
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Catch up on the last 24 hours

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee speaks during a news conference Monday in Olympia. On Tuesday, he announced the extension of coronavirus-related restrictions into the new year, based on growing numbers of cases. (Ted S. Warren / The Associated Press)

• With coronavirus cases, and hospitalizations, continuing to surge in Washington, Gov. Jay Inslee yesterday extended a ban on indoor dining and gatherings through the holidays. Here’s a reminder of what we can and can’t do.

More than 1,000 restaurants and bars in King County have permanently closed since the pandemic began. Here’s our updating list of places that have pivoted to takeout and/or delivery.

• Excitement over the launch of a vaccination program in the UK was tempered a bit by concern over reports of allergic reactions.

• Talks on a new stimulus package are heating up, and a cash benefit -- although smaller than what we got last spring -- appears to be back on the table.

• In Boise on Tuesday, protests against coronavirus-related restrictions got so intense at a health board meeting -- and at some members’ homes -- that the session was abruptly called off.

• Taking a sick or injured pet to the vet was already stressful, and many pet owners are finding it even more so during the pandemic.

• So much for “safe cruising” (yes, that was happening). A roundtrip voyage out of Singapore was cut short after a passenger tested positive for coronavirus.

• Just try not to smile when you read about this young girl’s project.

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