Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Thursday, Feb. 11, 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 It is no longer being updated.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 Washington closes in on 1 million COVID-19 shots administered, the federal government is finally forecasting vaccine allocations more than one week in advance, eliminating what has been a vexing, weekly scramble to match supply and demand.

As Washingtonians prepare for this week’s winter weather, however, some vaccine and testing sites in the Pacific Northwest are preparing to close temporarily.

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.

Gov. Jay Inslee will hold a press conference at 2:30 p.m. today to discuss the 2021 legislative session and the state’s ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including rental and business assistance, and vaccine distribution.
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Navigating the pandemic
(Jennifer Luxton / The Seattle Times)

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A look inside a modern COVID-19 ‘field hospital’

CRANSTON, R.I. — Nicholas DiPompo was finally going home.

Clutching his cane, the 78-year-old former property manager, who had spent weeks battling COVID-19 in a Rhode Island field hospital, eased into a wheelchair and hollered across the hall.

“You got my number,” DiPompo shouted to fellow patient Art Singleton, whom he’d grown close to after three weeks together. “Give me a call when you get out.” He said they’d go to his favorite restaurant for baked stuffed lobster.

Then DiPompo left, wheeled out of a field hospital built in an old Citizens Bank call center, in a two-story office building on a busy commercial street.

The non-profit Care New England health network opened the Kent Field Hospital on Nov. 30, just before Rhode Island’s infection rate became the highest in the world. Kent Hospital was using all its beds for its sickest COVID-19 patients, and needed somewhere for the overflow. Now, other hospitals also occasionally send patients to the field hospital.

Read the full story here.

—Associated Press
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Expedia suffers steep drop in revenue for quarter

Expedia Group reported another steep drop in revenue in the fourth quarter, missing analysts’ estimates amid a surge in Covid-19 cases and new pandemic-related restrictions that weighed on travel in the last few months of 2020.

Revenue fell 67% to $920 million, marking the fourth consecutive year-over-year decline. Analysts had projected sales of $1.1 billion, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Gross bookings were $7.6 billion, also down 67% compared with a year earlier, the Seattle-based online travel giant said in a statement Thursday, barely an improvement from the previous quarter’s 68% decline.

Before 2020, Expedia, which provides everything from airline tickets to hotel rooms, rental cars and cruises, had gone eight years without a revenue decline. But the travel industry was one of the worst hit as a result of the coronavirus and the global lockdowns, forcing Expedia and its peers to endure steep losses and eliminate thousands of jobs.

While the summer months seemed to offer a brief respite and saw people beginning to take tentative steps back into travel, the fall and winter saw a resurgence of infections, prompting a new wave of lockdowns and travel restrictions.

—Associated Press

Virus outbreak cancels whooping crane count in Texas

FILE – In this Jan 19, 2012, file photo, three endangered whooping cranes, two immature birds, second and third from left and a mature, all white, right, walk among a flock of sandhill cranes at the Wheeler Wildlife Refuge near Decatur, Ala. Whooping cranes are back at a national wildlife refuge in Alabama. The International Crane Foundation said Friday, Nov. 15, 2019,  that, for the second year in a row, wild-hatched chick W7-17 was the first to arrive at the Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge in Decatur. The two-year-old arrived Nov. 9. (Dave Dieter/The Huntsville Times via AP, File)

NEW ORLEANS — The coronavirus pandemic has canceled this year’s flights to count the only natural flock of whooping cranes — the first time in 71 years that crews in Texas couldn’t make an aerial survey of the world’s rarest cranes.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has records of such surveys for every year starting in 1950, Wade Harrell, whooping crane recovery coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said in an email Wednesday. 

The flock breeds in Canada and winters on and around Aransas National Wildlife Refuge in Texas, where the survey is made.

Current protocols call for about six flights, each with a pilot and at least two observers — all of whom often come from different parts of the country — in the close quarters of a small plane, Harrell said.

“We decided to forgo the aerial survey this winter with COVID-19 cases currently spiking,” he said in a news release last week.

—Associated Press

Pandemic fever got you down? Smash up stuff at the rage room

WESTLAKE VILLAGE, Calif. — After nearly a year of being trapped in pandemic isolation, some people just want to pick up a sledgehammer and smash something to smithereens

“That felt good,” sweating insurance executive Josh Elohim said after reducing a computer printer and other stuff to piles of rubble. It reminded him of the workout he used to get chopping wood when he lived in Upstate New York.

Since last winter, Elohim and his wife, Michelle, have been isolated at home with four kids ranging in age from 4 to 17. They needed an outlet, and so they headed to the office of marriage and family therapist Yashica Budde, who outfitted them with protective gloves, full body suits and face coverings that resemble fencing masks. 

Then she let them pick their “destructive devices” and turned them loose in one of two “rage rooms” plastered with inspirational signs proclaiming “Why Stress When You Can Smash” and “Never Give Up.” 

Before the coronavirus, rage rooms where patrons pay to obliterate objects were a lark, a place to go with friends or to let off steam after a breakup. But Budde, a licensed therapist for 13 years, sees her rooms as valuable therapy during the pandemic.

—Associated Press
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Amid COVID shutdowns, GOP’s McCarthy attended son’s wedding

MORRO BAY, Calif. — At a time when California residents were being urged to avoid social gatherings because of the risk of spreading coronavirus, U.S. House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy attended his son’s wedding in December with a small group of family members.

Video of the Dec. 5 event in coastal San Luis Obispo County posted online by the congressman shows 13 guests at the outdoor ceremony, none appearing masked. At the time, outdoor wedding ceremonies were allowed in the county, but receptions were banned and government rules said guests should wear masks, the Los Angeles Times reported.

One video posted online includes a shot of an invitation that says a celebration would follow the wedding ceremony.

The county health agency did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

—Associated Press

PCC, union agree on pandemic pay hike for grocery workers beyond Seattle

PCC operates 15 stores in the Puget Sound region, eight of which are outside Seattle. Shown is the PCC store in Bothell in 2016. (Ellen M. Banner / The Seattle Times)

PCC Community Markets and United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 21 said they have reached an agreement on a temporary pay boost of $4 an hour for the grocer’s union-represented staff at stores outside Seattle and Burien. 

The move toward an equitable approach to hazard pay follows the city of Seattle’s recent mandate for large grocery stores within the city to raise pay by $4 for front-line employees during the pandemic. The Burien City Council subsequently passed a similar mandate for a pay hike of $5 that takes effect Feb. 17.

PCC’s hazard pay increase is retroactive to Feb. 3 — when Seattle’s law took effect — and will run through June 5. PCC employs almost 1,500 union-represented workers, including about 700 at stores outside Seattle. The Seattle-based co-op grocery chain operates 15 stores in the Puget Sound region, eight of which are outside Seattle.

The grocery industry has boomed in the past year, but in most cases, its workers haven’t received sustained pay increases.

Read the full story here.

—Seattle Times business staff

White House says it will defer to CDC on reopening schools

Facing criticism that President Joe Biden has not acted aggressively enough on reopening schools, the White House on Thursday said it’s aiming for a full reopening but will defer to science experts on how to achieve it in the middle of a pandemic.

The White House drew criticism this week when it said schools would be considered opened if they teach in-person at least one day a week. Asked about it Thursday, press secretary Jen Psaki said Biden hopes to get students in the classroom five days a week as soon as it’s safe.

Psaki did not detail a timeline for that milestone, however, saying the administration will act on new school guidance that’s expected to be released Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“I can assure any parent listening that his objective, his commitment, is to ensuring schools are open five days a week,” Psaki said at a press briefing. “That’s what he wants to achieve, and we are going to lead with science and the advice they are giving us.”

The task of helping schools reopen will fall to the CDC, Psaki said, and to Biden’s pick for education secretary, Miguel Cardona, whose nomination was approved Thursday by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

—Associated Press
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Trump was sicker with COVID-19 than acknowledged

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump was sicker with COVID-19 in October than publicly acknowledged at the time, with extremely depressed blood oxygen levels at one point and a lung problem associated with pneumonia caused by the coronavirus, according to four people familiar with his condition.

His prognosis became so worrisome before he was taken to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center that officials believed he would need to be put on a ventilator, two of the people familiar with his condition said.

The people familiar with Trump’s health said he was found to have lung infiltrates, which occur when the lungs are inflamed and contain substances such as fluid or bacteria. Their presence, especially when a patient is exhibiting other symptoms, can be a sign of an acute case of the disease. They can be easily spotted on an X-ray or scan, when parts of the lungs appear opaque, or white.

It has been previously reported that Trump had trouble breathing and a fever on Oct. 2, the day he was taken to the hospital, and the types of treatment he received indicated that his condition was serious. But the new details about his condition and about the effort inside the White House to get him special access to an unapproved drug to fight the virus help to flesh out one of the most dire episodes of Trump’s presidency.

—The New York Times

Washington state school districts have 17 days to submit school reopening plans

Chris Reykdal, Washington state schools superintendent, in July.  Reykdal is telling school districts that if they want their new federal COVID-19 relief money, they need to update and submit their reopening plans by March 1. (Ellen M. Banner / The Seattle Times)

Hours after a new state law passed on Wednesday, Washington superintendent of public instruction Chris Reykdal told school districts that if they want their new federal COVID-19 relief money, they need to update and submit their reopening plans by March 1.

Their “academic and student well-being recovery plans,” meant to help students recoup the school-based instruction they missed, will be due June 1. According to guidance Reykdal sent district leaders, these plans must at least “address learning loss among students.”

Gov. Jay Inslee hasn’t yet signed House Bill 1368, which is mostly funded by federal aid from relief packages approved by Congress and about $440 million from state budget reserves. A spokesperson from his office said early Wednesday that the Legislature hadn’t yet formally sent it his way, but that he does plan to sign it next week. 

Some officials are said to be considering allocating additional state funds to help school districts bolster students’ academics after a year when they had less time with their teachers. 

Read the full story here.

—Joy Resmovits

AP: Over 9,000 virus patients sent into NY nursing homes

FILE – In this Sunday, Oct. 18, 2020 file photo, families of COVID-19 victims who passed away in New York nursing homes gather in front of the Cobble Hill Heath Center in the Brooklyn borough of New York, to demand New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s apologize for his response to clusters in nursing homes during the pandemic. More than 9,000 recovering coronavirus patients in New York state were released from hospitals into nursing homes at the height of the pandemic under a controversial order that was scrapped amid criticisms it accelerated outbreaks, according to new records obtained by The Associated Press. (AP Photo/Yuki Iwamura)

NEW YORK — More than 9,000 recovering coronavirus patients in New York state were released from hospitals into nursing homes early in the pandemic under a controversial directive that was scrapped amid criticism it accelerated outbreaks, according to new records obtained by The Associated Press.

The new number of 9,056 recovering patients sent to hundreds of nursing homes is more than 40% higher than what the state health department previously released. And it raises new questions as to whether a March 25 directive from Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration helped spread sickness and death among residents, a charge the state disputes.

“The lack of transparency and the meting out of bits of important data has undermined our ability to both recognize the scope and severity of what’s going on” and address it, said Richard Mollot, the executive director of the Long Term Care Community Coalition, a residents advocacy group.

The new figures come as the Cuomo administration has been forced in recent weeks to acknowledge i t has been underreporting the overall number of COVID-19 deaths among long-term care residents. It is now nearly 15,000 up from the 8,500 previously disclosed.

The Cuomo administration’s March 25 directive barred nursing homes from refusing people just because they had COVID-19. It was intended to free up space in hospitals swamped in the early days of the pandemic. It came under criticism from advocates for nursing home residents and their relatives, who said it had the potential to spread the virus in a state that at the time already had the nation’s highest nursing home death toll.

In its reply to an AP Freedom of Information request from May, the state health department this week released two figures: a previously disclosed count of 6,327 admissions of patients directly from hospitals and a new count of 2,729 “readmissions” of patients sent back from a hospital to the nursing home where they had lived before.

Read the full story here.

—Jennifer Peltz and Bernard Condon, The Associated Press
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‘Overwhelm the problem’: Inside Biden’s war on COVID-19

President Joe Biden greets Kizzmekia Corbett, an immunologist with the Vaccine Research Center at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) during a visit at the Viral Pathogenesis Laboratory at the NIH Thursday, Feb. 11, 2021, in Bethesda, Md. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

WASHINGTON — The meetings begin each day not long after dawn. Dozens of aides report in, coffee in hand, joining by Zoom from agency headquarters, their homes or even adjacent offices.

The sessions start with the latest sobering statistics meant to focus the work and offer a reminder of what’s at stake: new coronavirus cases, people in hospitals, deaths. But they also include the latest signs of progress: COVID-19 tests administered, vaccine doses shipped, shots injected.

Where the last administration addressed the pandemic with the vernacular of a natural disaster — using the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s mantra of a “federally supported, state managed and locally executed” response — President Joe Biden’s team is borrowing from the Pentagon and the doctrine of overwhelming force.

“We’re at war with this virus,” COVID-19 coordinator Jeff Zients said in an interview with The Associated Press between Sunday morning meetings on the response. “We’re taking every resource and tool the federal government has to battle on every front.”

It’s a strategy facing urgent tests after Biden inherited an inconsistent vaccine distribution plan and with the emerging threats from new virus variants.

The goal, Biden aides say, is as simple as it is ambitious: After a year of being on defense, they want to take the fight to the virus — to “overwhelm the problem,” a kind of mantra for the team.

Read the full story here.

—Zeke Miller, The Associated Press

State reports 1,490 new coronavirus cases and 30 new deaths

The state Department of Health (DOH) reported 1,490 new coronavirus cases and 30 new deaths on Thursday.

The update brings the state's totals to 326,159 cases and 4,633 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. Wednesday.

In addition, 18,531 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the virus — 15 new hospitalizations. In King County, the state's most populous, state health officials have confirmed a total of 81,082 COVID-19 diagnoses and 1,305 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.

—Nicole Brodeur

Gov. Inslee: most of Washington state will advance in reopening plan, allowing more restaurants to add indoor dining amid COVID-19

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee on Thursday announced more regions  of the state would advance to the next phase of his COVID-19 reopening plan. (Ted S. Warren / The Associated Press)

All but six of Washington’s 39 counties will now be able to loosen COVID-19 restrictions and bring back indoor dining, Gov. Jay Inslee announced Thursday.

In a news conference, Inslee said that five of the eight regions in his latest reopening plan for Washington would advance to the second and less-restrictive phase.

Those regions announced to move forward are East, North, North Central, Northwest and Southwest.

Meanwhile the West and Puget Sound regions — which include King, Pierce, Snohomish, Thurston and three other counties — have already advanced to the second phase. Those regions will remain in the second phase.

With Thursday’s announcement, only the South Central region — which includes Benton, Franklin, Columbia, Kittitas, Walla Walla and Yakima counties — will remain in the first and more restrictive phase.

For counties in the second phase, restaurants can bring back indoor service at restaurants to 25% capacity through 11 p.m. Indoor fitness centers and live entertainment venues — such as bowling alleys, museums, and concert halls — can also open up at 25% capacity. Establishments that only serve alcohol and no food, however, are to remain closed.

Read the full story here.

—Joseph O'Sullivan
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Albertsons, Safeway and Haggen to deliver vaccines at in-store pharmacies

The Centers for Disease Control (CSC) is partnering with the Albertsons Companies -- including Safeway, Albertsons and Haggen -- to deliver vaccines to Washington state communities, starting Thursday, Feb. 11.

In-store pharmacies -- there are 177 in the state -- will begin delivering vaccinations by appointment for those who are eligible under the state’s tiered approach. Community members who are eligible can make an appointment at their neighborhood Safeway, Albertsons and Haggen by visiting https://mhealthappointments.com/covidappt.

Appointments are available online and cannot be made over the phone. They will be scheduled at staggered times in order to avoid lines and extended wait times.

Once an appointment is booked, the vaccine and the second dose are guaranteed.

“We recognize the importance of this program and the responsibility that has been entrusted to us,” David Green, the director of Pharmacy Operations at Safeway, said in a statement. “Our approach as a company is to serve every neighborhood, so that healthy food and pharmacy services are available to all.

"For the vaccine rollout, we will continue to trust our community-based approach and make sure our in-store pharmacies are able to serve all of their neighbors.”  

—Nicole Brodeur

Race to vaccinate older Americans advances in many states

FILE – In this Feb. 3, 2021, file photo, a senior receives a COVID-19 vaccine from a healthcare worker after arriving on a bus to a vaccination site at Anquan Boldin Stadium in Pahokee, Fla. About three-quarters of all first-dose shots in Florida have gone to those 65 years or older. (Greg Lovett/The Palm Beach Post via AP, File)

Two months after the first COVID-19 shots were administered, the race to vaccinate older Americans is gaining traction, with more than a third of people 65 and up having received their first dose in states that have provided data.

The finding comes from an Associated Press analysis of information from 27 states where data is available. Those states account for just over half of all first doses administered nationwide.

“This is very good news. This is a sign we’re doing it right,” said Ali Mokdad, professor of health metrics sciences at the University of Washington in Seattle. Vaccine hesitancy is dropping quickly as older Americans talk to their friends who have been vaccinated, he said. “They’re watching people they know get the vaccine and seeing it’s safe.”

The effort is uneven, with many other states still lagging behind on vaccinations of the higher-risk population.

Mokdad added: “We can do better. I can’t wait for the day when all those who want the vaccine can get the vaccine. The system we have in place is working. We have to keep pushing for more vaccine.”

Read the the full story here.

—Carla K. Johnson, Andrew Dalton and Bryan Anderson, The Associated Press

Biden says US is securing 600 million vaccine doses by July

BETHESDA, Md. — President Joe Biden said Thursday that the U.S. will have enough supply of the COVID-19 vaccine by the end of the summer to inoculate 300 million Americans.

Biden made the announcement at the sprawling National Institutes of Health complex just outside Washington as he visited some of the nation’s leading scientists on the frontlines of the fight against the disease. He toured the Viral Pathogenesis Laboratory that created the COVID-19 vaccine now manufactured by Moderna and being rolled out in the U.S. and other countries.

The U.S. is on pace to exceed Biden’s goal of administering 100 million vaccine doses in his first 100 days in office, with more than 26 million shots delivered in his first three weeks.

“That’s just the floor,” Biden said. “Our end goal is beating COVID-19.”

Biden announced on Thursday that the U.S. had secured contractual commitments from Moderna and Pfizer to deliver the 600 million doses of vaccine by the end of July — more than a month earlier than initially anticipated.

“We’re now on track to have enough supply for 300 million Americans by the end of July,” he announced.

Read the full story here.

—Jonathan Lemire and Zeke Miller, The Associated Press
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She was shamed for still having Christmas lights up. Neighbors are now putting theirs back up in solidarity.

The Pascucci family of Long Island received an anonymous letter scolding them for still having Christmas lights up. Sara Pascucci said her family was not ready to remove the decorations after losing both her father and aunt to COVID-19 in January. (Sara Pascucci)

A neighborhood on Long Island is covered in Christmas decorations — and not because people neglected to take them down.

Although the holiday season is long past, twinkly lights and festive ornaments recently reappeared on the streets of Bethpage, in a show of support for a grieving neighbor.

It started when Sara Pascucci received a letter in the mail on Feb. 3 scolding her for still having Christmas decorations up.

The anonymous, typed letter read: “Take your Christmas lights down! Its Valentines Day!!!!!!”

While the letter would have upset her in normal circumstances, Pascucci said, it hit especially hard now. She lost both her father and her aunt to COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, in January, less than one week apart.

Her father, who lived with her, put up the Christmas decorations immediately after Thanksgiving — as he did every year. In the weeks following his death on Jan. 15, Pascucci couldn’t bring herself to take the decorations down. Receiving the harsh letter, she said, was “a major blow to the heart.”

Read the full story here.

—Sydney Page, The Washington Post

Germany to reinstate border controls over virus variant

A demonstrator holds up a poster that reads: ‘Zero COVID’ in front of the chancellery in Berlin, Wednesday, Germany, Feb. 10, 2021, as he attends a protest demanding a strategy for a harder lockdown to eliminate the coronavirus and the lifting of patents on COVID-19 vaccines. The German government decided Thursday to temporarily reinstate border controls along its southeastern frontier after designating the Czech Republic and parts of Austria as “mutation areas” due to their high number of variant coronavirus cases. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

The German government decided Thursday to temporarily reinstate border controls along its southeastern frontier after designating the Czech Republic and parts of Austria as “mutation areas” due to their high number of variant coronavirus cases, German news agency dpa reported.

The temporary border controls and certain entry restrictions will start Sunday at midnight, dpa reported. It was not clear for how long the border controls would last.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

Portuguese firefighters get jabs as virus deaths stay high

Portugal started inoculating the country’s firefighters against COVID-19 on Thursday, as a January surge of cases ebbed amid a lockdown but deaths and pressure on hospitals remained high.

Portuguese firefighters, who number about 15,000, commonly operate ambulances, and they are to be vaccinated over a two-week period. Authorities are due to begin inoculating more than 40,000 police officers in coming days.

The seven-day average of daily deaths in Portugal is the highest in the world, but it's fallen from a peak of 122.37 new cases per 100,000 people on Jan. 27 to 47.56 per 100,000 people this week.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press
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Fear of COVID-19 vaccine grows in Brazil’s remote Amazon

FILE – In this May 14, 2020 file photo, SOS Funeral workers transport by boat the coffin containing the body of a suspected COVID-19 victim that died in a river-side community near Manaus, Brazil. Navigating complex waterways to reach remote communities in Brazil’s Amazon is only the first challenge for health workers vaccinating Indigenous and riverine people against COVID-19. Upon arrival, they face something they never anticipated: people refusing to take the shot. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana, File)

Navigating complex waterways to reach remote communities in Brazil’s Amazon is only the first challenge for Waldir Bittencourt, a nurse vaccinating Indigenous and riverine people against COVID-19. Once there, he has faced something he didn’t anticipate: a fear of the vaccine.

“It’s a recent phenomenon among Indigenous peoples, stemming from the polarization surrounding the vaccine,” said Bittencourt, 32, who during his eight-year career has been involved in campaigns against tuberculosis, diphtheria and tetanus.

Health care workers, experts and anthropologists say rejection or fear of the vaccine is partly driven by the doubts sown repeatedly by President Jair Bolsonaro about its efficacy. Bolsonaro, who was infected with COVID-19 himself last year, has said he doesn’t plan to get vaccinated and insists others shouldn’t unless they want to.

Brazil has had almost 235,000 deaths, second only to the U.S., according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University. In a survey last month by pollster Datafolha, 17% of respondents said they don’t intend to get either of the vaccines approved in Brazil.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

Seven more cases of highly contagious U.K. variant detected in Washington

This 2020 electron microscope image provided by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases – Rocky Mountain Laboratories shows SARS-CoV-2 virus particles which cause COVID-19, isolated from a patient in the U.S., emerging from the surface of cells cultured in a lab. Viruses are constantly mutating, with coronavirus variants circulating around the globe. (NIAID-RML via AP)

A more infectious coronavirus variant that swept through the United Kingdom has been detected in seven additional cases from Washington.


The discovery brings the total number of infections caused by the variant in Washington to at least a dozen. That includes a case reported this week in a student at the University of Washington.


Five of the additional cases were from people tested on Jan. 18, said Lea Starita, whose lab at the Brotman Baty Institute sequenced the genomes and reported the findings to the Washington Department of Health Feb. 9.

The other two were from specimens tested at the Washington Department of Health lab in Shoreline, which did not specify where in the state the infections occurred.

The UK variant, also called B117, is estimated to be about 50 percent more infectious than the unmutated strain of the novel coronavirus.

Scientists say they expect it to become dominant in the U.S. by March.

—Sandi Doughton

Seattle’s Paramount Theatre, anticipating reopening later this year, sets dates for ‘Hamilton,’ other Broadway shows

“Hamilton,” shown here with Elijah Malcomb, Joseph Morales, Kyle Scatliffe, Fergie L. Philippe and company, was originally scheduled for a return run in Seattle’s Paramount Theatre in 2021. It has been rescheduled to 2022. (Joan Marcus)

It’s been nearly a year since the Paramount Theatre went dark, but is that a lightbulb flickering to life on the marquee? Seattle Theatre Group (which operates the Paramount) and Broadway at the Paramount have announced new dates for the 2021-2022 season, including six weeks of musical juggernaut “Hamilton.”

The season is scheduled to kick off Oct. 19 with “Jesus Christ Superstar,” and largely replicates the lineup originally envisioned for the 2020-2021 season. “Hamilton,” originally scheduled to start a May run this year, has been rescheduled to start in August 2022.

Read the story here.

—Dusty Somers, Special to The Seattle Times
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AstraZeneca expects updated COVID-19 vaccine by autumn

 AstraZeneca said Thursday it expects to have a new version of its COVID-19 vaccine ready for use by this autumn as drugmakers respond to concerns about emerging variants of the disease that may be more transmissible or resistant to existing vaccines.

The Anglo-Swedish company, which makes a vaccine developed by the University of Oxford, said it is working with the university’s scientists to adapt the shot to combat new variants. Researchers began this work months ago when the variants were first detected, said Mene Pangalos, head of biopharmaceuticals research for AstraZeneca.

The comments came as CEO Pascal Soriot defended the company’s efforts to develop and ramp up production of the shot amid criticism from the European Union and a preliminary study that raised concerns about the vaccine’s ability to combat a variant of COVID-19 first discovered in South Africa.

African countries without the coronavirus variant dominant in South Africa are being told to go ahead and use the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday. The World Health Organization suggested the vaccine even for countries with the variant circulating widely.

Read the story here.

—Danica Kirka, The Associated Press

Fauci predicts ‘open season’ for vaccinations by April

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s highest-ranking infectious-disease expert, struck a hopeful tone about vaccine availability in the coming months, predicting Thursday that there could be an “open season” on doses by April.

“As we get into March and April, the number of available doses will allow for much more of a mass vaccination approach, which is really much more accelerated than what you’re seeing now,” he said Thursday on NBC’s “Today Show.”

“By the time we get to April, that will be what I would call, for better wording, ‘open season,’ namely virtually everybody and anybody in any category could start to get vaccinated,” he said.

The remarks echoed his sentiment from days earlier that he expects the pace of vaccinations to improve in the months ahead. He pointed to pharmacies, community vaccine centers and mobile vaccine units as locations where the pace of vaccinations will accelerate.

Read the story here.

—Erin Cunningham and Paulina Firozi, The Washington Post

RFK Jr. kicked off Instagram for vaccine misinformation

FILE – In this Dec. 12, 2019 file photo, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. attends the 2019 Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Ripple of Hope Awards at the New York Hilton Midtown in New York.  Instagram has banned Robert F. Kennedy Jr. for repeatedly sharing misinformation about vaccine safety and COVID-19, Thursday, Feb. 11, 2021.  Kennedy, the son of Robert F. Kennedy, is a leading source of debunked claims about the safety of vaccines and has amassed a huge following on social media. Kennedy remains on Instagram’s owner, Facebook, despite that platform’s moves to restrict vaccine misinformation.  (Photo by Greg Allen/Invision/AP, File) NYBZ304 NYBZ304

Instagram on Wednesday banned Robert F. Kennedy Jr., son of former presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy, from repeatedly posting misinformation about vaccine safety and COVID-19.

Kennedy Jr. has amassed a huge following on social media, where he frequently posts debunked or unproven claims about vaccines. He also uses his social media pages to post about large pharmaceutical firms and environmental health concerns.

“We removed this account for repeatedly sharing debunked claims about the coronavirus or vaccines,” a spokesperson for Facebook, which owns Instagram, said Thursday.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press
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Nursing home protections limit families who want to sue

In this Nov. 28, 2019, photo provided by the Burrough family, Bessie Burden, center, poses with her daughters Theresa Burrough, left, and Lashieka Mitchell outside the Westbury Conyers nursing home in Conyers, Ga. Burden died Oct. 22, 2020, after becoming infected with the coronavirus during an outbreak at the nursing home. Burden’s daughters blame the home for their mother’s death, saying administrators kept the family in the dark about Burden being exposed to the virus and quarantined as a presumptive case. But the state has essentially blocked them from going to court. (Leah Burrough via AP)

In her room at a Georgia nursing home, Bessie Burden was so concerned about the coronavirus that she wore a mask — sometimes two — even when she slept.

With the home closed to visitors because of the pandemic, Burden’s daughters worried about their spunky 77-year-old mother, who decades earlier had survived a stroke and had persevered despite heart disease, diabetes and a leg amputation. When Burden told them by phone that she felt ill and was being treated with supplemental oxygen — and her roommate had been taken away by ambulance days earlier — they became alarmed. A call with a nurse who sounded confused about Burden’s care increased their sense of urgency.

The daughters called an ambulance to take their mother to a hospital. Once admitted, Burden tested positive for COVID-19. She died 10 days later, one of at least two residents of the Westbury Conyers nursing home to perish in an outbreak.

Burden’s daughters blame the Conyers, Georgia, nursing home for their mother’s death. But Georgia is one of at least 34 states that have shielded nursing homes from lawsuits over coronavirus deaths and infections during the pandemic.

Read the story here.

—Russ Bynum, The Associated Press

WHO, EU launch vaccine rollout program in 6 ex-Soviet states

FILE – In this file photo dated Sunday, June 28, 2020, Ukrainian activists, some of them wearing face masks in Belarus’ national colors to protect against coronavirus, wave Ukrainian and Belarusian flags during a rally in Independence Square in Kyiv, Ukraine. The World Health Organization and the European Union announced Thursday Feb. 11, 2021, the launch of a 40-million euro (dollars 48.5 million) program to help deploy COVID-19 vaccines in six former Soviet republics including Ukraine and Belarus. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

The World Health Organization and the European Union are launching a $48.5 million program to help get COVID-19 vaccines into six former Soviet republics, WHO’s regional director for Europe said Thursday while highlighting a 4-week decline in confirmed coronavirus cases.

The program will involve Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova, and complements the work of an existing EU program and the WHO-backed COVAX Facility that aims to deploy vaccines for people in all countries in need whether rich or poor, Dr. Hans Kluge said.

“Unfair access to vaccines can backfire. The longer the virus lingers, the greater the risk of dangerous mutations,” he said.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

In UK, roving teams bring COVID-19 vaccine shots to homeless

A rough sleeper seeks shelter close to a wall in London, Monday, Feb. 8, 2021. In the battle against COVID-19, the homeless are not listed among the British government’s highest priority groups for the vaccine rollout — currently people over 70 years old, care home residents, frontline health and social care workers, as well as the clinically vulnerable. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)

In a pandemic, homeless people face being more forgotten than they already are. But not by doctors like Dr. Anil Mehta, who is on a mission to bring the coronavirus vaccine to those hardest to reach and often most at risk of getting sick in east London.

Mehta, a general practitioner, and his small team of doctors and nurses have been showing up at homeless centers in his local area, a COVID-19 hot spot, offering a free jab to dozens who might otherwise get left behind in Britain’s mass vaccination drive.

“They will get missed if we don’t find them proactively,” Mehta said. “They really don’t have anything going for them, in terms of medical care. Finding them is absolutely essential to what we need to achieve in our boroughs.”

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press
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Miami man pleads guilty to using COVID loan for Lamborghini

A South Florida man has pleaded guilty to fraudulently obtaining $3.9 million in federal coronavirus loans and using some of the money to buy a Lamborghini Huracan.

David Hines, of Miami, pleaded guilty to federal charges including bank fraud at a hearing Wednesday held via videoconference because of COVID-19 restrictions. He will be sentenced in April.

As part of the plea, Hines acknowledged receiving $3.9 million in federal government loans on behalf of different companies he managed, fraudulently claiming they would be used to pay employees impacted by the pandemic.

Instead, he used the proceeds to go on a spending spree that included shelling out $318,000 on a Lamborghini sportscar as well as running up bills at a jewelry store and a luxury Miami Beach hotel.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

How are experts tracking variants of the coronavirus?

How are experts tracking variants of the coronavirus?

How are experts tracking variants of the coronavirus? (AP Illustration/Peter Hamlin)

Scientists are scanning virus samples taken from infected people to look for mutations, through a process called genome sequencing. It’s the same method researchers have been using for years to study bacteria, plants, animals and humans.

Around the world, researchers have sequenced more than 500,000 genomes of the COVID-19 virus to date.

Viruses can mutate as they make copies of themselves after infecting a person. By sequencing virus samples over time, scientists can look for recurring changes in the genome.

Most mutations are meaningless, but others can make a virus more contagious, deadly or resistant to vaccines and treatment. Health experts are primarily concerned about three variants first detected in the United Kingdom, South Africa and Brazil. They seem to spread more easily and research is underway to see if they cause more serious disease.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

Catch up on the past 24 hours

Things are looking up: As Washington closes in on 1 million COVID-19 shots administered, the state is finally able to plan vaccinations more than one week in advance. Here’s why. And if you’re trying to get vaccinated, check our updating guide.

If you can’t get a mask to fit properly, you should consider wearing two masks, the CDC urges. Federal health officials say double masking can protect against more contagious coronavirus variants. Here’s why it’s important.

Seven destinations that are allowing in (some) travelers with proof of vaccination.

Sex during a pandemic: Be clean, be quick and keep those faces far apart, experts say.

Dating was difficult enough before the pandemic came crashing in with guidelines against human contact and gathering. We’ve got some stories from those in the trenches. Our “pitch your friend” online dating event is tomorrow night: Want to watch the fun?

—Julie Hanson
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