Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Tuesday, Feb. 17, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan wants the city to be the quickest to vaccinate 70% of adults, she said in her final State of the City address on Monday. But that’s dependent on vaccine doses ramping up on a national level.

Meanwhile, Washington state health officials under Gov. Jay Inslee failed to plan for basic logistics that would have allowed for quick vaccination of those most vulnerable to the disease.

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 state’s ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including school testing programs and returning to in-person learning. 
Watch here:

COVID-19 bill would scale up ability to spot virus mutations

U.S. scientists would gain vastly expanded capabilities to identify potentially deadlier mutations of the coronavirus under COVID-19 relief legislation advancing in Congress.

The U.S. now maps only the genetic makeup of a minuscule fraction of positive virus samples, a situation some experts liken to flying blind. It means the true domestic spread of problematic mutations first identified in the United Kingdom and South Africa remains a matter of guesswork.

Such ignorance could prove costly. One worry is that more transmissible forms such as the UK variant could move faster than the nation’s ability to get the vaccine into Americans’ arms.

“You’ve got a small number of academic and public health labs that have been basically doing the genomic surveillance,” said David O’Connor, an AIDS researcher at the University of Wisconsin. “But there is no national coherence to the strategy.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is trying to shepherd those efforts, aligning with the government’s own advanced detection work, but the COVID-19 legislation would take the hunt to another level.

—Associated Press

Rural governor talks of canceling local Olympic torch relay

TOKYO — A governor in a western Japanese prefecture is talking about canceling torch relay events in his area ahead of the Tokyo Olympics.

The Japanese news agency Kyodo reported Wednesday that Gov. Tatsuya Maruyama of Shimane prefecture is unhappy with COVID-19 prevention measures surrounding the relay.

The relay is to pass through the small prefecture in May.

Kyodo quoted the governor saying he was “dissatisfied with the central and Tokyo metropolitan governments’ measures to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.”

The torch relay is to begin on March 25 in northeastern Japan and will crisscross the country with about 10,000 runners. The relay ends in Tokyo with the opening ceremony of the Olympics on July 23.

Concerns about the relay are reflected in general skepticism in Japan about holding the Olympics. Several polls have shown about 80% of Japanese think the games should be canceled or postponed.

—Associated Press

New York sues Amazon for health standards at warehouses

New York Attorney General Letitia James accused Amazon of “repeatedly and persistently” failing to provide adequate protection to its warehouse workers in the state, suing the e-commerce giant Tuesday.

The company’s “flagrant disregard for health and safety requirements” at facilities in Queens and Staten Island “threatened serious illness and grave harm” to workers, James said in the suit filed in New York Supreme Court. And the threat continues to pose a danger to public health, the filing said.

The suit also says Amazon disregarded crucial workplace safety measures such as social distancing requirements and providing employees time to properly maintain sanitary workstations.

“Amazon has cut corners in complying with the particular requirements that would most jeopardize its sales volume and productivity rates, thereby ensuring outsize profits at an unprecedented rate of growth for the company and its shareholders,” the suit says.

Amazon rebutted James’ assertions, and noted its own legal filing in a New York federal court last week, which said James, a Democrat, lacks the legal authority to regulate workplace safety issues.

—The Washington Post

On social media, vaccine misinformation mixes with extreme faith

In an insular world on the social media app TikTok, young Christians act out biblically inspired scenes in which they are forced to take a vaccine for the coronavirus, only to end up splattered in fake blood and on the brink of death.

The melodramatic videos are an attempt to represent how the introduction of coronavirus vaccines could herald the biblical End Time. Along with hundreds of thousands of other vaccine-questioning posts by social media users all over the world, they’re demonstrating the waysin which health misinformation is targeting Christians, some reaching sizable audiences.

Some churches and Christian ministries with large online followings — as well as Christian influencers on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter and YouTube — are making false claims that vaccines contain fetal tissue or microchips, or are construing associations between vaccine ingredients and the devil. Others talk about how coronavirus vaccines and masks contain or herald the “mark of the beast,” a reference to an apocalyptic passage from the Book of Revelation that suggests that the Antichrist will test Christians by asking them to put a mark on their bodies.

The rapid spread of this material has triggered debate and concern among U.S. Christian leaders and experts who believe the religious movement against vaccines is growing, even as many leaders such as Pope Francis and Southern Baptist Convention policy leader Russell Moore are urging people to get shots. 

—The Washington Post

Australia’s second-largest city comes out of 3rd lockdown

MELBOURNE, Australia — Melbourne, Australia’s second-largest city, will relax its third lockdown on Wednesday after authorities contained the spread of a COVID-19 cluster centered on hotel quarantine.

The Victoria state government has yet to say whether spectators will be allowed to return to the Australian Open tennis tournament under the same conditions as before the five-day lockdown.

Health authorities will soon settle on a final crowd figure for the final days of the tournament, Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews said.

“We’ll finish up with crowds at lots of different places,” Andrews said. “We’ll finish up with people being able to move freely because this short and sharp circuit-breaker has worked.”

The government has also not yet said when flights will resume.

—Associated Press

Japan begins COVID-19 vaccination drive amid supply worry

TOKYO — Japan’s first coronavirus shots were given to health workers Wednesday, beginning a vaccination campaign considered crucial to holding the already delayed Tokyo Olympics.

The progress the campaign might make is uncertain, however, in a country concerned about possible shortages of imported vaccines and where people are often reluctant to take vaccines due to worries of side effects.

The massive drive comes after the government gave its belated first approval Sunday for shots developed and supplied by Pfizer, which have been used in many other countries since December.

Japan fell behind after it asked Pfizer to conduct clinical tests with Japanese people in addition to the company’s earlier tests in six other nations. But officials say it was necessary to address the concerns of many Japanese about safety in a country known for low vaccine confidence.

—Associated Press

Biden optimistic on reopening of elementary schools

MILWAUKEE — President Joe Biden predicted Tuesday that most elementary schools will be open five days a week by the end of his first 100 days in office, but said it will be tougher for high schools to reopen at the same rate because of the risk of infection.

The comments, made during his CNN town hall in Milwaukee, mark his clearest statement yet on school reopenings. While Biden has made it a goal to reopen America’s schools, he’s faced growing questions about how he would define that, with school districts operating under a patchwork of different virtual and in-person learning arrangements nationwide.

“I said open a majority of schools in K through eighth grade, because they’re the easiest to open, the most needed to be open in terms of the impact on children and families having to stay home,” Biden said, clarifying his stance.

Asked when the nation would see kindergarten through eighth grades back to in-person learning five days a week, Biden said, “We’ll be close to that at the end of the first 100 days.” He said he expected many schools would push to stay open through the summer, but suggested reopening would take longer for high schools due to a higher risk of contagion among older students.

Eager to move beyond his predecessor’s impeachment trial, Biden took his case for his $1.9 trillion coronavirus aid package directly to the American people with a prime-time town hall designed in part to put pressure on Republican lawmakers.

—Associated Press

Highlights of COVID-19 relief bill progressing in House

WASHINGTON (AP) — A Democratic-led effort to pass a $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package has passed its latest challenge with House committees advancing measures that will soon be combined into a single bill expected to clear the full House by the end of February.

Democrats beat back hundreds of amendments from Republicans who have raised concerns that the spending is vastly more than necessary and designed to advance policy priorities that go beyond helping Americans get through the pandemic. Democrats and President Joe Biden counter that a robust aid package is necessary to prevent a long and painful recovery from the pandemic.

Their goal is to have COVID-19 relief approved by mid-March, when extra unemployment assistance and other pandemic aid expires.

Here's a look at some highlights of the legislation moving through the House.

—Associated Press

Coronavirus vaccine shipments face ‘widespread delays’ because of winter storm

WASHINGTON — The winter storm battering much of the United States has dealt a blow to the coronavirus vaccination drive, delaying shipments because of poor road conditions and forcing the closure of hundreds of vaccination sites nationwide.

Hazardous weather is slowing deliveries out of a FedEx facility in Memphis, Tenn., and a UPS facility in Louisville, Ky., that are distribution hubs for the Southeast.

“Due to the severe winter weather currently impacting a large swath of the country, the U.S. government is projecting widespread delays in COVID-19 vaccine shipments and deliveries over the next few days,” Kristen Nordlund, a spokeswoman for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, wrote in an email.

She did not detail which states and how many of the 11 million doses scheduled for delivery this week are affected.

Localities announced delays, including canceled vaccination events Tuesday in Alabama, Indiana, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Tennessee, the Chicago area and more. Missouri closed all large-scale vaccination sites through Friday. The grocery chain Publix stopped taking appointments for vaccines in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina, citing shipping delays. Texas said its weekly vaccine allotment would not begin to arrive until Wednesday.

—The Washington Post

State health officials report 579 new coronavirus cases

The state Department of Health (DOH) reported 579 new coronavirus cases and 34 new deaths on Tuesday.

The update brings the state's totals to 329,746 cases and 4,709 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. Monday. 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, 18,764 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the virus — 121 new hospitalizations. In King County, the state's most populous, state health officials have confirmed a total of 82,022 COVID-19 diagnoses and 1,321 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.

—Elise Takahama

Washington state to expand COVID-19 testing program, adding 50 school districts, Inslee says

Washington is expanding COVID-19 testing resources for school districts around the state, Gov. Jay Inslee said Tuesday.

In a news conference, the governor also said the federal government is once again increasing the weekly allocations of COVID-19 doses Washington will receive, though the exact figure isn’t yet known.

In an effort to get more K-12 students back to in-person learning, an additional 50 K-12 school districts have signed up for a voluntary program to boost testing, Inslee said.

Thirteen Washington school districts are currently piloting the coronavirus testing on school grounds. The 50 districts will begin similar testing programs this month.

The districts being added include Renton Schools and Vashon Island in King County, as well as Monroe School District and Lakewood School District #306 in Snohomish County, according to a list provided by the governor’s office. It also includes Olympia School District.

Read the full story here.

—Joseph O'Sullivan and Hannah Furfaro

Spread of South African variant in eastern France triggers calls to suspend AstraZeneca vaccine rollout to health workers

Concern about the spread of coronavirus variants in eastern France has prompted an acceleration of vaccination in that region, as well as calls to suspend the rollout of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine to the health care workers there who had been first in line to get it.

AstraZeneca vaccinations in France only began Feb. 6. But the French government’s top vaccine adviser, Alain Fischer, suggested in a weekend interview with the Journal du Dimanche newspaper that health workers in Moselle — where variants first detected in South Africa and in Brazil are suspected to be particularly widespread — should not receive that particular vaccine, one of three authorized in the European Union.

Instead, Fischer recommended administering either of the two authorized mRNA vaccines, developed by Pfizer-BioNTech and by Moderna, as a “precautionary measure” because they allow individuals to obtain protection more quickly.

Both Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna have claimed their vaccines are effective against more contagious variants of the virus.

Read the story here.

—Rick Noack, The Washington Post

Biden rallies public to pressure Republicans on virus aid

Leaving Donald Trump and his impeachment in the rearview mirror, Joe Biden embarked late Tuesday on his first official trip as president to refocus Congress on coronavirus relief and cement public support for his $1.9 trillion aid package.

With his prime-time moment — a prime-time CNN town hall in Milwaukee — the new president is attempting to build pressure on Republican lawmakers to get behind the massive relief package that White House officials say already has broad public support.

The stepped-up public push comes with the House expected to vote next week.

“The vast majority of the American people like what they see in this package,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said as she previewed Biden’s sales effort. She added that the support in opinion polls “should be noted by members of Congress as they consider whether they’re going to vote for it or not.”

Read the story here.

—Aamer Madhani, The Associated Press

S. Korea spy agency: N. Korea hackers targeted vaccine tech

North Korean hackers attempted to steal information about coronavirus vaccines and treatments, South Korea’s intelligence service said Tuesday, but it denied a lawmaker’s claim that vaccine maker Pfizer Inc. was targeted.

Earlier Tuesday, Ha Tae-keung, a member of parliament’s intelligence committee, told reporters that the National Intelligence Service told him and other lawmakers during a closed-door briefing that North Korea hacked Pfizer to obtain COVID-19 vaccine technology.

After Ha’s comments made headlines, the NIS said it didn’t mention any pharmaceutical company by name when it told lawmakers that North Korean hackers were going after coronavirus vaccine information. In an unusual rebuke, the NIS public affairs office called Ha’s comments “wrong.”

Ha stood by his claim when contacted by The Associated Press, saying the NIS documents he was shown said that “North Korea stole Pfizer (vaccine information) and attempted to steal (technology) from South Korean vaccine and pharmaceutical firms.” He said the lawmakers were required to return the documents at the end of the briefing.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

Muted Mardi Gras: Closed bars, barricaded Bourbon Street

Music blared from the courtyard of a French Quarter restaurant on Mardi Gras morning but nobody was there to hear it until Tom Gibson and Sheila Wheeler of Philadelphia walked out of their hotel’s nearly empty lobby.

“We were expecting a little bit lower key than the normal Mardi Gras,” Wheeler said. But empty Bourbon Street was a shock.

Coronavirus-related restrictions in New Orleans included canceled parades, closed bars and a near shutdown of rowdy Bourbon Street. That, and unusually frigid weather, prevented what New Orleans usually craves at the end of Mardi Gras season: streets and businesses jam-packed with revelers.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

Opera singers help COVID-19 patients learn to breathe again

On a recent afternoon, the singing coach Suzi Zumpe was running through a warmup with a student. First, she straightened her spine and broadened her chest, and embarked on a series of breath exercises, expelling short, sharp bursts of air. Then she brought her voice into action, producing a resonant hum that started high in a near-squeal, before sinking low and cycling up again. Finally, she stuck her tongue out, as if in disgust: a workout for the facial muscles.

The student, Wayne Cameron, repeated everything point by point. “Good, Wayne, good,” Zumpe said approvingly. “But I think you can give me even more tongue in that last bit.”

Although the class was being conducted via Zoom, it resembled those Zumpe usually leads at the Royal Academy of Music, or Garsington Opera, where she trains young singers.

But Cameron, 56, isn’t a singer; he manages warehouse logistics for an office-supplies company. The session had been prescribed by doctors as part of his recovery plan after a pummeling experience with COVID-19 in March.

Called ENO Breathe and developed by the English National Opera in collaboration with a London hospital, the six-week program offers patients customized vocal lessons: clinically proven recovery exercises, but reworked by professional singing tutors and delivered online.

Read the story here.

—Andrew Dickson, The New York Times

No new virus cases raise hopes New Zealand will end lockdown

For a second consecutive day, New Zealand reported no new community cases of the coronavirus on Tuesday, raising hopes that a lockdown in Auckland will be lifted Wednesday.

COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said the final decision by lawmakers on whether to lift the restrictions will depend on any new information or cases that crop up over the next 24 hours.

Read the story here.

—Nick Perry, The Associated Press

30-year-old woman describes a year of living with COVID-19

Kaitlin Denis, on approaching Year 2 of living with COVID-19:

I caught this virus before anyone had even died in Illinois. That was like a century ago, right? Now we’re talking about Year 2, vaccines, new variants, a new administration, but for me it’s still exactly the same. I’m always in this bed. I’m always in this room. I’ve been sick for the last 330 days. I force myself to keep track because otherwise time doesn’t move. I feel like I’m in jail and putting tally marks on the wall.

I used to go to sleep thinking: Tomorrow. Tomorrow I’ll start to feel better. I don’t really do that as much anymore. I’m trying to come to terms with the fact that this virus isn’t something I’m about to get over. This might be it. Maybe this is who I am.

Read the story here.

—Eli Saslow, The Washington Post

FEMA opens mass vaccine sites as bad weather hampers efforts

FEMA opened its first COVID-19 mass vaccination sites Tuesday, setting up in Los Angeles and Oakland as part of an effort by the Biden administration to get shots into arms more quickly.

Snowy and icy weather across much of the U.S., meanwhile, forced the cancellation of some vaccination events and threatened to disrupt vaccine deliveries over the next few days.

The developments came as the vaccination drive ramps up with the U.S. administering an average of 1.67 million doses per day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. So far, nearly 38.3 million Americans, or close to 12% of the U.S. population, have received at least one dose of the vaccine, and 14 million have received both shots, the CDC said.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

Latinos face barriers like fear, language in getting vaccine

Rigoberto Montesinos, a veteran of the Bay of Pigs invasion in Cuba, was so worried about side effects from the COVID-19 vaccine that he initially wasn’t going to get it, relenting only when two friends died from the disease.

But when he finally decided to get the shot, the 82-year-old couldn’t find doses where he lives in Hialeah, a Miami suburb that’s about 95% Latino. After struggling for weeks, Montesinos got his first dose last week.

America’s more than 60 million Latinos — like other people of color — have been disproportionately affected by the virus, and many are struggling with issues like a lack of knowledge about the shots, state vaccine websites that don’t have Spanish instructions, ways to find appointments in their communities and fears they could be targeted for immigration enforcement.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

India’s dramatic fall in virus cases leaves experts stumped

When the coronavirus pandemic took hold in India, there were fears it would sink the fragile health system of the world’s second-most populous country. Infections climbed dramatically for months and at one point India looked like it might overtake the United States as the country with the highest case toll.

But infections began to plummet in September, and now the country is reporting about 11,000 new cases a day, compared to a peak of nearly 100,000, leaving experts perplexed.

They have suggested many possible explanations for the sudden drop — seen in almost every region — including that some areas of the country may have reached herd immunity or that Indians may have some preexisting protection from the virus.

The Indian government has also partly attributed the dip in cases to mandatory public mask-wearing, but experts have noted the situation is more complicated since the decline is uniform even though mask compliance is flagging in some areas.

It’s more than just an intriguing puzzle; determining what’s behind the drop in infections could help authorities control the virus in the country, which has reported nearly 11 million cases and over 155,000 deaths.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

Slovakia sees virus deaths soar, blames U.K. variant

Slovakia has become the nation with most COVID-19 deaths by size of population in the world amid a surge of cases from a highly contagious coronavirus variant.

Despite a tough lockdown, the seven-day rolling average of daily deaths in Slovakia has risen from 1.68 deaths per 100,000 people on Feb. 1 to 1.78 deaths per 100,000 people on Monday, according to Johns Hopkins University figures issued Tuesday.

Portugal, which topped the global table for more than three weeks, dropped to second with 1.48 deaths per 100,000 people.

Earlier this month, the government announced the fast-spreading coronavirus variant first found in Britain had became dominant in Slovakia, after health authorities sequenced all samples that tested positive across the country in one day.

The British variant was detected in 74% of them, which Health Minister Marek Krajci called “an unbelievable high number.”

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

UK police raid packed makeshift club with 150 partygoers

British police have fined dozens of people for breaking coronavirus restrictions after officers found 150 guests packed into an illegal nightclub in England over the weekend.

Officers who forced their way into a building in the city of Birmingham on Saturday night discovered the makeshift club with a bar, VIP area and a dance room with a DJ, West Midlands Police said. About 150 people occupied two floors of the building, the police force said Monday.

A police video taken with drones showed people trying to flee from the rooftop early Sunday. Police said about 50 people managed to get away, but around 70 were issued 200-pound ($278) fines. The DJ could face a 10,000-pound fine ($13,882.)

Wet Midlands Police on Saturday also discovered a garage workshop nearby that had been turned into a mini pub, with a sign on the wall dubbing it “The Covid Arms.” About a dozen drinkers were allowed to leave, but the owner was fined.

Read the whole story here.

—The Associated Press

South Africa’s health care workers eager for first vaccines

Health care workers at the Ndlovu Care Group in rural northeastern South Africa are eagerly awaiting the first jabs of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which will be given out to medical staff starting this week.

That’s despite the fact that the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine — unlike the two-shot Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines — has not been approved for general use anywhere in the world.

No matter, say many South African health workers who are enthusiastic about getting the J&J jab, which comes amid a huge shift in the government’s vaccination strategy.

South Africa, with nearly 1.5 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 including more than 47,000 deaths, has had 41% of Africa’s reported cases.

Last week South Africa controversially decided to drop the AstraZeneca vaccine — which had been already purchased, delivered and approved in the country — from the first phase in which 1.25 million health care workers will be vaccinated.

The last-minute decision was made after a small test showed the AstraZeneca vaccine offered minimal protection against mild to moderate cases of the variant dominant in South Africa. Although preliminary and not peer-reviewed, the results raised serious questions about how effective the AstraZeneca vaccine would be specifically in South Africa, even though the vaccine has been approved in over 50 other countries around the world.

Health officials decided to change to the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which tests show is safe and effective against the variant here. A one-shot vaccine is also easier for many countries to implement.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

Chinese vaccine arrives in Hungary, a first in the EU

A shipment of COVID-19 vaccines produced in China arrived in Hungary on Tuesday, making it the first of the European Union’s 27 nations to receive a Chinese vaccine.

A jet carrying 550,000 vaccine doses developed by the Chinese state-owned company Sinopharm landed at Budapest’s international airport after flying in from Beijing. The shipment is enough to treat 275,000 people with the two-dose jab, Dr. Agnes Galgoczy of the National Public Health Center told a press conference.

Hungarian health authorities were the first in the EU to approve the Sinopharm jab for emergency use on Jan. 29. That came after a government decree streamlined Hungary’s vaccine approval process by allowing any vaccine administered to at least 1 million people worldwide to be used without undergoing review by the country’s medicines regulator.

The country expects to receive 5 million total doses of the Sinopharm vaccine over the next four months, enough to treat 2.5 million people in the country of nearly 10 million.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

As the virus crisis drags on, hard-hit French youth struggle

On a recent evening, Leïla Ideddaim waited to receive a bag of food, along with hundreds of other French young people who are unable to make ends meet. She saw the chitchat that accompanied the handout as a welcome byproduct, given her intense isolation during the pandemic.

The 21-year-old student in hotel and restaurant management has seen her plans turned upside down by the virus crisis. With restaurants and tourist sites shuttered and France under a 6 p.m. curfew, her career prospects are uncertain. Odd jobs that were supposed to keep her going during her studies are hard to come by.

She is not alone. The long lines of young people waiting for food aid that stretch through Paris neighborhoods several times a week are a dramatic symbol of the toll the coronavirus has taken on France’s youth.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

Piecing together the next pandemic

Watching for novel pathogens in Southeast Asia has recently become an important part of the global effort to understand the COVID-19 pandemic and stop the next one before it happens.

In late January, a group of researchers, most at the Pasteur Institute in Cambodia, announced that it had used metagenomic sequencing to discover a coronavirus closely related to SARS-CoV-2 in a bat captured in Cambodia in 2010.

The discovery “suggests that Southeast Asia represents a key area to consider in the ongoing search for the origins of SARS-CoV-2, and in future surveillance for coronaviruses,” the researchers wrote. This is what we were looking for, and we found it,” Dr. Veasna Duong, the leader of the study, told Nature in November. “It was exciting and surprising at the same time.”

That finding has drawn attention from researchers who want to better understand how and when viruses cross between species.

Read the story here.

—Amos Zeeberg, The New York Times

COVID-linked syndrome in children is growing, and cases are more severe

Fifteen-year-old Braden Wilson was frightened of COVID-19. He was careful to wear masks and only left his house, in Simi Valley, California, for things like orthodontist checkups and visits with his grandparents nearby.

But somehow, the virus found Braden. It wreaked ruthless damage in the form of an inflammatory syndrome that, for unknown reasons, strikes some young people, usually several weeks after infection by the coronavirus.

Doctors at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles put the teenager on a ventilator and a heart-lung bypass machine. But they could not stop his major organs from failing. On Jan. 5, “they officially said he was brain-dead,” his mother, Amanda Wilson, recounted, sobbing. “My boy was gone.”

Doctors across the country have been seeing a striking increase in the number of young people with the condition Braden had, which is called Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children or MIS-C. Even more worrisome, they say, is that more patients are now very sick than during the first wave of cases, which alarmed doctors and parents around the world last spring.

Read the story here.

—Pam Belluck, The New York Times

Catch up on the past 24 hours

The race between vaccines and new variants: States are widening their definitions of who can get vaccinated, but supply isn't keeping up as worries rise about fast-spreading variants. Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan last night pitched an ambitious goal of making the city a national leader in vaccinations. How realistic is this?

Fran Goldman finally scored a vaccine appointment, then the snow came. Time to reschedule? Nope. The 90-year-old Seattleite set out to give her new hip a workout on a 6-mile trek through the snow. 

Makers of N95 masks are suddenly drowning in them, so why must ICU nurses keep reusing theirs? Here's what's behind this mess, as well as the latest advice on choosing your masks and doubling them up. 

A new push to bring vaccines to Black and brown communities: Washington state political and community leaders are joining in a campaign that aims to raise $15 million in private donations, then match it with money from the state.

"I swim … between calls." Remote workers are fleeing for long stays in sunnier climates while they await vaccines — and the wealthier ones are packing into $70,000-a-month resorts. Meanwhile, the pandemic is upending the annual migration of Canada’s snowbirds. But instead of staying home, some of them are making Floridians furious.

—Kris Higginson

How is the pandemic affecting you?

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