Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Monday, Feb. 1, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.
Beginning Monday, seven Washington counties — King, Pierce, Snohomish, Thurston, Lewis, Pacific and Grays Harbor — are able to relax some COVID-19 restrictions on businesses, Gov. Jay Inslee announced last week.
That change allows restaurants in those counties to reopen indoor service at restaurants 25% capacity through 11 p.m. Indoor fitness centers and live entertainment venues — including museums, bowling alleys and concert halls — can also reopen to 25% capacity. Bars that don’t serve food, however, must remain closed.
“We certainly like our progress we’ve recently made bringing down COVID activity,” said Inslee. “And so these are some promising signs we’re headed in the right direction.”
But, “If we relax too much, we could be back in the horrific days of this with exponential growth,” the governor added later.
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.
Biden meets Republicans on virus aid, but no quick deal
WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden told Republican senators during a two-hour meeting he’s unwilling to settle on an insufficient coronavirus aid package after they pitched their slimmed down $618 billion proposal that’s a fraction of the $1.9 trillion he is seeking.
No compromise was reached in the lengthy session Monday night, Biden’s first with lawmakers at the White House, and Democrats in Congress pushed ahead with groundwork for approving his COVID relief plan with or without Republican votes. Despite the Republican group’s appeal for bipartisanship, as part of Biden’s efforts to unify the country, the president made it clear he won’t delay aid in hopes of winning GOP support.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said that while there were areas of agreement, “the president also reiterated his view that Congress must respond boldly and urgently, and noted many areas which the Republican senators’ proposal does not address.”
The two sides are far apart, with the Republican group of 10 senators focused primarily on the health care crisis and smaller $1,000 direct aid to Americans, and Biden leading Democrats toward a more sweeping rescue package, three times the size, to shore up households, local governments and a partly shuttered economy.
Long lines, few vaccines as King County is under looser coronavirus pandemic regulations
King County moved to the second phase of the state’s reopening plan Monday and two mass vaccination sites opened, signaling positive steps in the battle against COVID-19 even as problems related to the massive demand for coronavirus vaccines continued.
Demand for the COVID-19 vaccine at the county’s two mass vaccination sites in Auburn at the General Services Administration (GSA) Complex and in Kent at the ShoWare Center is so great that all appointments have been filled through February. The county said it has the supply to provide 500 shots a day at each location.
The 7,000 doses King County is getting from the state this week will be directed to those two sites, said Kate Cole, spokesperson for Public Health – Seattle & King County. In Snohomish County, three of its four mass vaccination sites closed Monday and Tuesday because of lack of supply.
The continued frustration with supply not meeting demand comes as King, Snohomish and Pierce counties — the Puget Sound region — moved into the second phase of the state’s Healthy Washington reopening plan.
Health Department to vaccine providers: We may cut your supply if you allow VIP scheduling
The Washington State Department of Health (DOH) on Monday told hospitals, clinics and other providers not to provide special access to coronavirus vaccines and warned they may risk supply reductions if caught.
“VIP scheduling, reserving doses for inequitable or exclusive access, and similar practices are banned and will not be tolerated,” said a DOH email to all enrolled vaccine providers. “If we find out a provider is giving out vaccine inequitably or is doing behaviors listed above or similar, we may reduce or stop allocations to that provider.”
In stories last week, The Seattle Times revealed that three medical systems in the region — Providence Regional Medical Center, Overlake Medical Center & Clinics and EvergreenHealth — gave special access to major donors or foundation board members, raising concerns about whether the state could equitably administer vaccine doses.
The DOH’s Monday advisory to providers — which said vaccines should be distributed in a “fair and equitable manner” — outlined the banned practices in broad terms. It barred VIP appointment scheduling; offering special or exclusive appointments; holding back doses for donors, members, employees or friends and family; vaccinating people before they are eligible; and other similar practices.
Boeing Classic set to take place in August after one-year COVID hiatus
The final round of the 2019 Boeing Classic was perhaps the most memorable and anticipated day in the history of the tournament at The Club at Snoqualmie Ridge.
That’s because Seattle native Fred Couples had a five-shot lead entering the final round of the PGA Tour Champions event, and people came out like never before, hoping to watch their native son win the 50-and-over event.
Things rarely go as planned in golf, and Couples, who was so brilliant the day before, faltered badly and finished third. Still, the excitement from that final round was a lasting memory.
It has been a long time since any new memories were created at the tournament, which began in 2005. The 2020 event was canceled because of the coronavirus, but tournament director Brian Flajole said the tournament this year, scheduled for Aug. 20-22, is on for now.
“Right now, that’s the plan,” Flajole said. “Obviously, we don’t know what’s going to happen locally and what the world is going to look like at that time, but I think we are all hopeful. Maybe there aren’t 50,000 people out there, but that we do allow fans and we have kind of a normal setup.
“We’re moving forward as if it’s a normal event,” Flajole said.
NBA calls off Detroit-Denver game because of virus issues
DENVER — Detroit’s game at Denver on Monday night was called off by the NBA because of contact tracing issues for the Pistons left the team without enough players available to take the floor.
It was the first postponement announced by the NBA in a week, and the first game that won’t be played since the Chicago at Memphis game that was scheduled to take place Wednesday.
The league got every game on the schedule between Thursday and Sunday played, the longest run without a postponement in nearly a month.
Denver was one of six teams that had avoided postponements; that list is now down to Brooklyn, New York, Toronto, the Los Angeles Clippers and the Los Angeles Lakers.
US won’t make immigration arrests at virus vaccination sites
WASHINGTON — The U.S. government says it won’t be making routine immigration enforcement arrests at COVID-19 vaccination sites.
Vaccination sites will be considered “sensitive locations” and generally off limits for enforcement actions, the Department of Homeland Security said in a statement Monday.
It says arrests would only be carried out under “the most extraordinary of circumstances.”
It was the latest example of a softer tone on illegal immigration under President Joe Biden, whose administration has quickly moved to reverse major immigration policies of his predecessor.
In its statement, DHS said it encourages everyone “regardless of immigration status” to receive the vaccine when they are eligible and that the agency and its federal partners “fully support equal access to the COVID-19 vaccines and vaccine distribution sites for undocumented immigrants.”
Biden and GOP senators offer competing COVID-19 relief plans
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden and a group of 10 Senate Republicans have offered competing proposals to help the United States respond to the coronavirus pandemic and provide economic relief to businesses and families.
The president is meeting with the senators on Monday at the White House in what press secretary Jen Psaki described as “an exchange of ideas” and not a forum for Biden to “make or accept an offer.” Meanwhile, Democratic leaders in Congress are laying the groundwork for taking up Biden’s proposal in the coming weeks.
The topline numbers are this: Biden’s plan calls for an additional $1.9 trillion in federal spending. The 10 GOP senators are calling for about $618 billion in federal spending.
The aid would come on top of the $900 billion coronavirus package that Congress passed in December and the $2.2 trillion package passed in March.
They met in high school. Fifty years later, the pandemic helped them realize they belonged together.
Early in the coronavirus pandemic, Betty Conner, a 71-year-old retiree, was suddenly feeling very young.
She was consumed by a crush on a boy (nay, a man!) who was at once familiar and a bit of a mystery. His name was Peter Nickless and he lived in Baja California, on a sailboat called Expectation.
Betty had known Peter nearly all her life. One of hundreds of people who had passed through it, largely unnoticed. But it took a contagious virus, and half a century, for the realization to arrive: She wanted to be with him.
State reports 851 new coronavirus cases and 33 new deaths
The state Department of Health (DOH) reported 851 new coronavirus cases and 33 new deaths on Monday.
The update brings the state's totals to 313,335 cases and 4,318 deaths, meaning that 1.4% of people diagnosed in Washington have died, according to the DOH. The data is as of 11:59 p.m. Sunday. Tallies may be higher earlier in the week because new state data isn’t reported on Sundays and COVID-related deaths aren’t reported on the weekends.
In addition, 17,812 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the virus — 106 new hospitalizations. In King County, the state's most populous, state health officials have confirmed a total of 78,389 COVID-19 diagnoses and 1,252 deaths.
On Dec. 16, DOH’s case, hospitalization and death counts started including both confirmed cases and probable cases in its total count. According to DOH, probable cases refer to people who received a positive antigen test result but not a positive molecular test result, while confirmed cases refer to those who have received a positive molecular test result.
The DOH says its daily case reports may also 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. Because of this, the previous day’s total number of cases plus the number of new daily cases does not add up to the new day’s total number of cases.
Canada confirms 1st case of South African virus variant
TORONTO — Canada on Monday reported its first case of a coronavirus variant that emerged in South Africa that is believed to be more contagious than the original.
Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, said the case was found in Peel region outside Toronto and the person does not have a known history of travel or any known contact with someone who has travelled.
Viruses constantly mutate but scientists are especially concerned about the emergence of three that researchers believe may spread more easily. One first reported in the United Kingdom was previously confirmed in Canada, and Ontario, the country’s most populous province, has dozens of cases now.
The variant first found in South Africa was detected in October. Since then, it has been found in at least 30 other countries including the U.S.
The discovery comes as the pandemic-weary Ontario government is thinking of reopening schools in Canada’s largest city of Toronto and its suburbs.
Scientists recently reported preliminary signs that some of the recent mutations may modestly curb the effectiveness of two vaccines, although they stressed that the shots still protect against the disease.
The coronavirus has killed roughly 20,000 in Canada.
Had COVID? You may need only one dose of vaccine, study suggests
Shannon Romano, a molecular biologist, came down with COVID late last March, about a week after she and her colleagues shut down their lab at Mount Sinai Hospital. A debilitating headache came first, followed by a fever that kept rising, and then excruciating body aches. “I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t move,” she said. “Every one of my joints just hurt inside.”
It was not an experience she wanted to repeat — ever. So when she became eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine recently, she got the shot.
Two days after her injection, she developed symptoms that felt very familiar. “The way my head hurt and the way my body ached was the same headache and body ache I had when I had COVID,” she said. She recovered quickly, but her body’s intense response to the jab caught her by surprise.
A new study may explain why Romano and many others who have had COVID report these unexpectedly intense reactions to the first shot of a vaccine. In a study posted online Monday, researchers found that people who had previously been infected with the virus reported fatigue, headache, chills, fever, and muscle and joint pain after the first shot more frequently than those who had never been infected. COVID survivors also had far higher antibody levels after both the first and second doses of the vaccine.
Based on these results, the researchers say, people who have had COVID-19 may need only one shot.
“I think one vaccination should be sufficient,” said Florian Krammer, a virus expert at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and an author of the study. “This would also spare individuals from unnecessary pain when getting the second dose and it would free up additional vaccine doses.
UK orders more Valneva vaccine to prepare for repeated jabs
The U.K. has ordered another 40 million doses of the coronavirus vaccine developed by the French company Valneva as the government prepares for the likelihood that repeated vaccinations will be needed to keep the virus in check.
Britain had previously ordered 60 million doses of the vaccine and retains an option for 90 million more. The vaccine, which will be made in Scotland, is still undergoing clinical trials and hasn’t been approved by regulators.
Alaska tribal vaccine eligibility policy causes frustration
Differences in coronavirus vaccine eligibility between Alaska’s state and tribal systems has resulted in frustration among some who are waiting to receive the shots.
Anchorage’s main tribal health provider is vaccinating employees of its affiliated for-profit company and nonprofit organizations without regard to race, age or vulnerability, Alaska Public Media reported Saturday.
Some teachers, people with underlying conditions and others and others awaiting shots from the state government are upset about the discrepancy.
Meanwhile, about 500 people in Anchorage who registered to receive vaccines at the city’s mass vaccination site in the Alaska Airlines Center have been asked to cancel their appointments. State officials said they did not meet age or occupation eligibility.
In facing a vaccine emergency, the EU made an enemy of everyone
As soon as the plan was published, senior officials in Brussels could see that their boss had made a terrible mistake.
They understood the rationale for vaccine restrictions on shots shipped from the European Union, but they could hardly believe that Ursula von der Leyen had missed how the proposals would land in Ireland.
The European Commission president had been among those insisting throughout Brexit negotiations that Irish border checks could jeopardize the island’s peace settlement. Less than a month after the trade deal with the U.K. went into effect, the EU was now the one threatening to put up barriers and unilaterally trigger emergency clauses in its accord with the U.K.
The proposals swiftly united natural enemies across the sectarian divide in Northern Ireland as well as the World Health Organization and the pharmaceutical industry.
The events leading up to the decision to control exports show von der Leyen’s team buckling under the immense pressure to fix its vaccination program. Beginning the week under fire for moving too slowly, they ended up possibly making things much, much worse by moving too fast.
On top of the faltering vaccine program, which is likely to cost thousands of lives and billions in lost output, von der Leyen and her team have done real damage to the EU and its self-image as a champion of open markets and the rule of law.
Pandemic’s deadliest month in US ends with signs of progress
The deadliest month yet of the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S. drew to a close with certain signs of progress: COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are plummeting, while vaccinations are picking up speed.
The question is whether the nation can stay ahead of the fast-spreading mutations of the virus.
The U.S. death toll has climbed past 440,000, with over 95,000 lives lost in January alone. Deaths are running at about 3,150 per day on average, down slightly, by about 200, from their peak in mid-January.
But as the calendar turned to February on Monday, the number of Americans in the hospital with COVID-19 fell below 100,000 for the first time in two months. New cases of infection are averaging about 148,000 day, down from almost a quarter-million in mid-January. And cases are trending downward in all 50 states.
“While the recent decline in cases and hospital admissions are encouraging, they are counterbalanced by the stark reality that in January we recorded the highest number of COVID-19 deaths in any month since the pandemic began,” said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Many US nursing home staff decline first COVID shots
A little more than a third of nursing home workers have been getting COVID-19 vaccines when the shots are first offered, U.S. health officials said Monday.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gave a national accounting of a problem that’s been reported anecdotally — many nursing home workers are not getting the shots.
The CDC looked at more than 11,000 nursing homes and skilled nursing facilities that had at least one vaccination clinic between the middle of December and the middle of January. The researchers found that while 78% of residents got at least one shot, only 37.5% of staff members did.
Data previously showed that people who work in nursing homes and long-term care facilities get flu vaccines at lower rates than other health-care workers. Surveys suggest that long-term care workers are skeptical the shots work and don’t think viruses spread easily from them to the people they care for.
A fast, at-home coronavirus test will be available to Americans this year
The White House announced Monday it is buying 8.5 million rapid coronavirus tests that can be taken at home without a prescription and that yield immediate results.
The $231.8 million contract will allow the Australian company Ellume, which manufactures the tests, to quickly scale up its production and create a manufacturing facility in the United States.
For the past year, many experts have called for the development of cheap, rapid home tests as a way to catch and stop viral transmission. But even as testing technology improved, the cost and availability of such tests lagged and remained prohibitive.
“The purpose of today’s announcement is to move to mass production and scale,” said Andy Slavitt, President Joe Biden’s senior adviser for COVID-19 response, at a Monday news briefing.
Immigration detainee with COVID-19 dies in Georgia hospital
A 57-year-old Mexican man who was being held in federal immigration detention in southwest Georgia has died from complications of COVID-19, federal authorities said.
Felipe Montes died early Saturday from “cardiopulmonary arrest, secondary to complications of coronavirus disease,” according to a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement news release. Montes entered ICE custody on Dec. 28 and had been held at the Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin until Jan. 10, when he was admitted to the hospital.
Montes was the fourth detainee held at the southwest Georgia immigration detention center to die after testing positive for COVID-19, according to ICE’s website.
WHO team in Wuhan visits disease control centers
A World Health Organization team investigating the origins of the coronavirus pandemic visited two disease control centers on Monday that had an early hand in managing the outbreak in the central Chinese city of Wuhan.
The team on Monday visited both the Hubei Provincial Center for Disease Control and its Wuhan city office, amid tight Chinese controls on access to information about the virus.
New diabetes cases linked to COVID-19
Mihail Zilbermint is used to treating diabetes — he heads a special team that cares forpatients with the metabolic disorder at Suburban Hospital in Bethesda, Md. But as the hospital admitted increasing numbers of patients with COVID-19, his caseload ballooned.
“Before, we used to manage maybe 18 patients per day,” he said. Now his team cares for as many as 30 daily.
Many of those patients had no prior history of diabetes. Some who developed elevated blood sugar while they had COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus, returned to normal by the time they left the hospital. Others went home with a diagnosis of full-blown diabetes. “We’ve definitely seen an uptick in patients who are newly diagnosed,” Zilbermint said.
Although COVID-19 often attacks the lungs, it is increasingly associated with a range of problems including blood clots, neurological disorders, and kidney and heart damage. Researchers say new-onset diabetes may soon be added to those complications — both Type 1, in which people cannot make the insulin needed to regulate their blood sugar, and Type 2, in which they make too little insulin or become resistant to their insulin, causing their blood sugar levels to rise. But scientists do not know whether COVID-19 might hasten already developing problems or actually cause them — or both.
3 Snohomish County vaccine sites close due to lack of doses
Health officials say three mass COVID-19 vaccination sites in Snohomish County are closing Monday and Tuesday because of a lack of vaccines.
KOMO reports the Everett, Edmonds, and Monroe locations will be closed because of a lack of the Moderna vaccine. The Snohomish County Health Department says no appointments had been scheduled for those days.
Push to reopen schools could leave out millions of students
President Joe Biden says he wants most schools serving kindergarten through eighth grade to reopen by late April, but even if that happens, it is likely to leave out millions of students, many of them minorities in urban areas.
“We’re going to see kids fall further and further behind, particularly low-income students of color,” said Shavar Jeffries, president of Democrats for Education Reform. “There’s potentially a generational level of harm that students have suffered from being out of school for so long.”
Like some other officials and education advocates, Jeffries said powerful teachers unions are standing in the way of bringing back students. The unions insist they are acting to protect teachers and students and their families.
South Africa to welcome first delivery of COVID-19 vaccines
South Africa is preparing a hero’s welcome Monday for the delivery of its first COVID-19 vaccines — 1 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine produced by the Serum Institute of India.
The AstraZeneca vaccines will be used to inoculate South Africa’s front-line health workers, which will be the start of the country’s vaccination campaign.
The first jabs are expected to be administered in mid-February, after the vaccines are tested and approved by South Africa’s drug regulatory authorities.
Hungarian cafe mulls civil disobedience to avoid bankruptcy
The owners of a family-run cafe in a leafy district of Hungary’s capital had planned to engage in a bold act of civil disobedience on Monday, but reconsidered after the government there issued a decree that would throw the already struggling business into bankruptcy.
Before the arrival of the coronavirus pandemic, the Kucko Coffeehouse in Budapest served fine coffees from its designer Italian espresso machine and a cozy atmosphere offering pastries, sandwiches, ice cream, and breakfasts to mostly local residents.
Like many small businesses, it struggled to stay afloat during Hungary’s pandemic restrictions. But as bankruptcy threatened, the owners, married couple Olga Miskolci and Attila Blaho, decided not to take it sitting down: On Monday, the couple planned to join as many as 200 other businesses across Hungary in opening their doors to dine-in guests in defiance of pandemic rules.
But a government decree issued on Saturday stiffened penalties for restaurants breaking the restrictions, which Blaho said represented “a clear threat” on the part of the government, which his business couldn’t afford to confront.
Read the story here.
Chicago schools reopening uncertain as union talks stall
A plan to reopen Chicago schools remained in doubt Monday as last-minute negotiations over COVID-19 safety measures with the teachers’ union stalled, amplifying the possibility of a strike or lockout if teachers and staff in K-8 do not show up for work.
Roughly 62,000 students and about 10,000 teachers and staff in K-8 were expected to start school for the first time since last March, part of the district’s gradual reopening plans during the pandemic. Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Sunday she still expected all teachers, including those in pre-K and special education who started in-person earlier in January, to show up Monday. But she pushed back students’ arrival until Tuesday over staffing concerns, saying remote learning would be extended a day.
The Chicago Teachers Union has fought returning to classrooms in the nation’s third-largest district, defying orders to come to class ahead of students. The union has said that if the district locks teachers out of email and teaching platforms, which it has done previously, all teachers will picket. Such a move could shut down remote learning district-wide.
German beer sales suffer as virus restrictions bite
Beer sales in Germany were down 5.5% last year, dragged lower by lengthy closures of bars and restaurants in the coronavirus pandemic, official data showed Monday.
German-based breweries and distributors sold 8.7 billion liters (2.3 billion gallons) of beer last year, the Federal Statistical Office said. That figure doesn’t include alcohol-free beer or beer imported from outside the European Union.
German beer sales have been declining for years as a result of health concerns and other factors. They have now fallen 22.3% since 1993.
But last year’s drop was unusually sharp, and a month-by-month breakdown pointed to the impact of coronavirus restrictions. Sales were down 17.3% in April compared with a year earlier, and 14.1% in November.
Watch the White House COVID-19 Response Team's Monday briefing
The White House COVID-19 Response Team is holding a news conference on Monday.
Watch it here:
Catch up on the past 24 hours
• Who's getting vaccines: "Super happy" grocery workers received shots at a pop-up clinic in Seattle yesterday, their modest numbers reflecting the monumental scale of the task ahead. But local residents' stories of extreme frustration are multiplying as they try to find their doses. Here's our updating guide to getting a vaccine.
• When you've gotten your vaccine, what can you safely do, and how should you interact with people who aren't vaccinated? The answers aren't simple, but some common themes are emerging.
• Why are Native Americans more willing than the general population to be vaccinated against the virus, according to a new report, despite their historical reasons to distrust the medical system? It has to do with community cohesiveness and values, according to a Seattle-based institute that says the rest of the nation "should be looking at the Native community."
• Major League Baseball may push spring training back. With just over two weeks until pitchers and catchers are supposed to report, the league is proposing a compressed schedule, but don't expect the players union to embrace this wholeheartedly.
• Should you go to an outdoor Super Bowl party? (Brrr.) The CDC has advice on social-distancing decisions for the big game.
• Remember Britain’s 100-year-old walking hero? Sir Captain Tom Moore became a symbol of hope in a dark time as he raised almost $45 million for U.K. health workers by completing 100 laps around his garden with a walker. Today he's hospitalized and battling COVID-19.
• A single coronavirus case has thrown an entire Australian city into lockdown.
How is the pandemic affecting you?What has changed about your daily life? What kinds of discussions are you having with family members and friends? Are you a health care worker who's on the front lines of the response? Are you a COVID-19 patient or do you know one? Whoever you are, we want to hear from you so our news coverage is as complete, accurate and useful as possible. If you're using a mobile device and can't see the form on this page, click here.
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