Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Tuesday, Feb. 2, 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 It is no longer being updated.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 the deadliest month yet of the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S. drew to a close with certain signs of progress, President Joe Biden told Republican senators Monday he’s unwilling to settle on an insufficient aid package after they pitched their slimmed down proposal.

Meanwhile, several counties in Washington, including King County, moved to the second phase of the state’s reopening plan Monday and two mass-vaccination sites opened. But while the state has made some positive steps, problems related to the massive demand for vaccines continue.

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.

Navigating the pandemic
(Jennifer Luxton / The Seattle Times)


Study: Pandemic’s cleaner air added heat to warming planet

Earth spiked a bit of a fever in 2020, partly because of cleaner air from the pandemic lockdown, a new study found.

For a short time, temperatures in some places in the eastern United States, Russia and China were as much as half to two-thirds of a degree (.3 to .37 degrees Celsius) warmer. That’s due to less soot and sulfate particles from car exhaust and burning coal, which normally cool the atmosphere temporarily by reflecting the sun’s heat, Tuesday’s study in the journal Geophysical Research Letters reported.

Overall, the planet was about .05 degrees (.03 degrees Celsius) warmer for the year because the air had fewer cooling aerosols, which unlike carbon dioxide is pollution you can see, the study found.

“Cleaning up the air can actually warm the planet because that (soot and sulfate) pollution results in cooling” which climate scientists have long known, said study lead author Andrew Gettelman, an atmospheric scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research.

His calculations come from comparing 2020 weather to computer models that simulated a 2020 without the pollution reductions from pandemic lockdowns.

—Associated Press

30 people infected in county jail COVID-19 outbreak

GRANTS PASS, Ore. — More than two dozen people have been infected with COVID-19 at the Josephine County jail in southern Oregon, authorities said.

Josephine County Undersheriff Travis Snyder said Tuesday in a news release the outbreak at the jail in Grants Pass was discovered last week after some inmates reported flu-like symptoms.

The individuals were separated from the general population and tested for COVID-19 with six positive cases as of last Friday, he said.

The county Public Health Department was notified and a plan was formulated to test the entire jail population and staff with rapid tests. The jail was then notified of 19 additional positive results, according to the sheriff’s office.

On Tuesday, all adults in custody and staff present were tested again using rapid tests, which returned five additional positive results.

—Associated Press

Trader Joe’s responds to Seattle pay hike mandate by raising pay, temporarily, nationwide

Trader Joe’s has responded to the Seattle City Council’s recently passed mandate for large grocery stores within the city to raise pay by $4 for their front-line employees.

The grocer known for its quirky culture and unique offerings is raising pay for all its employees nationwide, albeit only temporarily.

“Effective February 1, 2021, the ‘thank you’ premium for all hourly, nonmanagement Crew Members, was increased by two dollars, for a total of $4 an hour,” Trader Joe’s wrote in an update on its website.

The post doesn’t mention Seattle, or the city’s new mandate requiring $4-an-hour hazard pay for the duration of the coronavirus pandemic, but a message to employees made clear that that’s the reason for the pay hike.

The raise at, least partially, undercuts arguments from business leaders and the grocery industry that Seattle’s legislation was untenable in a business with slim profit margins.

Seattle, along with several cities in California including Long Beach and Berkeley, passed legislation mandating the temporary raises last month. Seattle’s law, which applies to large grocery stores with more than 500 employees worldwide, passed last week, less than a week after it was first introduced.

Read the full story here.

—David Gutman

Biden, Yellen say GOP virus aid too small, Democrats push on

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden panned a Republican alternative to his $1.9 trillion COVID rescue plan as insufficient as Senate Democrats pushed ahead, voting to launch a process that could approve his sweeping rescue package on their own, if Republicans refuse to support it.

Biden and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen joined the Democratic senators for a private virtual meeting Tuesday, both declaring the Republicans’ $618 billion offer was too small. They urged big fast action to stem the pandemic crisis and economic fallout.

As the White House reaches for a bipartisan bill, Democrats marshaled their ever-slim Senate majority, voting 50-49, to start a lengthy process for approving Biden’s bill with or without GOP support. The goal is to have COVID-19 relief approved by March, when extra unemployment assistance and other pandemic aid expires.

“President Biden spoke about the need for Congress to respond boldly and quickly,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said after the lunch meeting.

“If we did a package that small, we’d be mired in the COVID crisis for years.”

—Associated Press

Nordstrom to move out of one downtown Seattle office tower

After a year that saw the Seattle-born retailer lay off workers and close stores, Nordstrom said Tuesday it will leave its offices on Seventh Avenue near Olive Way downtown, where it occupies a large part of a 24-story tower.

In a statement, the company framed the move as a chance to rethink office work post-pandemic.

“As we think about returning to our corporate offices later this year, we find ourselves with the rare opportunity to reimagine how these teams will work and collaborate in the future,” the company said.

The 1700 Seventh Ave. office tower has nearly 500,000 square feet of space. Nordstrom said it occupied 360,000 square feet on 15 floors of the building.

Last year, Nordstrom said it would close 16 stores, laid off thousands of workers and had a 22% drop in holiday sales. As the pandemic slashed sales more dramatically than analysts expected, the company insisted it was flexible and planned to expand discounted offerings like Nordstrom Rack.

Read the full story here.

—Heidi Groover

Amazon posts record sales and profit, with no slowing expected

Despite some headwinds from the pandemic, Amazon charted record sales and profit in 2020 and doesn’t expect a slowdown in the coming months — though the results were overshadowed by news that founder Jeff Bezos would step aside as CEO by the third quarter of this year.

Amazon spent $11.5 billion on hiring, expansion and other costs related to COVID-19 last year — but the pandemic-driven surge in online shopping, as well as continued strength from its cloud-computing division, more than made up for those outlays, the company said Tuesday. Its 2020 sales surged 38% to $386.1 billion from a year earlier while profit roughly doubled to $21.3 billion, or $41.83 a share.

Amazon sees its pandemic-related outlays declining in the early months of this year, Chief Financial Officer Brian Olsavsky told analysts on a call. The company expects to spend $2 billion between January and March addressing the impact of the coronavirus on its core business, according to Amazon’s earnings release — substantially less than its COVID-19 spending in the previous three-month period.

Amazon in 2020 plowed much of its profits into meeting pandemic-juiced demand, spending $4 billion on COVID-19 measures in the fourth quarter alone, including to hire 170,000 new employees to work during the frenetic holiday shopping season.

Read the full story here.

—Katherine K. Long

Worrisome coronavirus mutation appears in U.K. variant

A coronavirus mutation that appears to limit the protection of vaccines against infection has appeared in the United Kingdom, which is already struggling with a highly transmissible and apparently more lethal virus variant.

The worrisome mutation, at a site on the virus RNA called E484K, has drawn close scrutiny from infectious-disease experts, who have given it the nickname “Eeek.”

In addition to its appearance in the U.K. variant, it has been seen in variants that spread rapidly in South Africa and Brazil. It has also been identified in recent days in a handful of cases in the United States.

The mutation alters the structure of the virus’s spike protein — the target for vaccines and many naturally produced antibodies. The mutation may help the virus to elude detection and make neutralization by the human immune system less efficient. In effect, it makes the virus stealthier, a great concern to vaccine developers, who seek to train antibodies to zero in on recognizable invaders and destroy them.

The appearance of the E484K mutation in some infections caused by the U.K. variant is “a worrying development, though not entirely unexpected,” said Julian Tang, a clinical virologist at University of Leicester.

—The Washington Post

WHO team visits Wuhan research lab at center of speculation

WUHAN, China — World Health Organization investigators on Wednesday visited a research center in the Chinese city of Wuhan that has been the subject of speculation about the origins of the coronavirus.

The WHO team’s visit to the Wuhan Institute of Virology is a highlight of their mission to gather data and search for clues as to where the virus originated and how it spread.

One of China’s top virus research labs, the institute built an archive of genetic information about bat coronaviruses after the 2003 outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome. That has led to unproven allegations that it may have a link to the original outbreak of COVID-19 in Wuhan in late 2019.

China has strongly denied that possibility and has promoted theories that the virus may have originated elsewhere or even been brought into the country from overseas with imports of frozen seafood tainted with the virus, a notion roundly rejected by international scientists and agencies.

—Associated Press

Slow COVID-19 vaccine rollout expected in war- ravaged Syria

DAMASCUS, Syria — The success of the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines in war-ravaged Syria depends on their availability and distribution and may initially cover only 3% of the population, a World Health Organization official said Tuesday.

Akjemal Magtymova, WHO’s representative in Syria, said the country is eligible to receive vaccines for free through the global COVAX effort aimed at helping lower-income countries obtain the shots.

But Magtymova couldn’t say when the first shipment would arrive, how many vaccines were expected, or how they would be rolled out in a divided country still at war. The COVAX rollout is expected to begin in April.

Magtymova spoke to The Associated Press in the capital Damascus amid concerns over the equitable distribution of coronavirus vaccines across the country, where the health care sector has been devastated by a decade of war and remains divided into three rival parts.

—Associated Press

Biden, drug companies work to speed coronavirus delivery

WASHINGTON — As President Joe Biden winds up his second week in office, a flurry of developments in vaccine production and distribution could mean a bigger boost to coronavirus vaccine supplies than was expected even just days ago.

Moderna, one of two developers of federally authorized coronavirus vaccines, is asking U.S. regulators to approve what it says could be a remarkably simple proposal to speed up the immunization of Americans against the coronavirus: Fill empty space in its vials with as many as 50% more doses.

Moderna produces about half of the nation’s vaccine stock. If the change is approved — which could happen in weeks — it could ultimately add tens of millions of more doses to vaccine supplies.

At the same time, the White House announced Tuesday that it was enlisting more retail pharmacies as a channel to distribute vaccines.

—The New York Times

State confirms 1,236 new COVID-19 cases

The state Department of Health (DOH) reported 1,236 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday. The state did not report new deaths today due to processing issues. A full report is expected tomorrow.

The update brings the state's totals to 314,692, including 4,316 deaths, meaning that so far 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.

The new cases may include up to 270 duplicates. Due to data interruption, positive test results and case counts from Monday are incomplete.

In addition, 17,892 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the virus — 80 new hospitalizations. In King County, the state's most populous, state health officials have confirmed a total of 77,188 COVID-19 diagnoses and 1,250 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.

—Megan Burbank

Even in poorer neighborhoods, the wealthy are lining up for vaccines

People who received a COVID-19 vaccine wait the required fifteen minutes to monitor for adverse reactions after getting their shot at the Dallas County mass vaccination site at Fair Park on Jan. 20, 2021, in Dallas. According to the latest county data, white people, who make up 28.5% of Dallas’ population, have gotten 62.6% of its vaccine doses. The county had hoped to target underserved communities with vaccines, but the state stopped the plans. (LM Otero / The Associated Press)

As soon as Washington, D.C. began offering COVID vaccines to residents 65 and older, George Jones, whose nonprofit agency runs a medical clinic, noticed something striking.

“Suddenly our clinic was full of white people,” said Jones, the head of Bread for the City, which provides services to the poor. “We’d never had that before. We serve people who are disproportionately African American.”

Similar scenarios are unfolding around the country as states expand eligibility for the shots. Although low-income communities of color have been hit hardest by COVID-19, health officials in many cities say that people from wealthier, largely white neighborhoods have been flooding vaccination appointment systems and taking an outsized share of the limited supply.

Early vaccination data is incomplete, but it points to the divide. In the first weeks of the rollout, 12% of people inoculated in Philadelphia have been Black, in a city whose population is 44% Black. In Miami-Dade County, just about 7% of the vaccine recipients have been Black, even though Black residents make up nearly 17% of the population and are dying from COVID-19 at a rate that is more than 60% higher than that of white people. In data released last weekend for New York City, white people had received nearly half of the doses, while Black and Latino residents were starkly underrepresented based on their share of the population.

Read the story here.

—Abby Goodnough and Jan Hoffman, The New York Times

Dutch virus infections fall 20% but variants gain strongly

New coronavirus infections in the Netherlands fell 20% over the last week but more transmissible variants now account for two-thirds of Dutch infections, the public health institute said Tuesday hours before a government press conference on the country’s tough lockdown.

The institute said new infections fell to 28,628 but urged “the greatest possible caution” in any relaxation of the lockdown.

The first easing of the lockdown this year came Sunday, when the government announced that elementary schools and daycare centers will reopen next Monday.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

African countries scramble to bury virus dead, get vaccines

Shipping containers have become overflow mortuaries for the dead from COVID-19 in South Africa.

South Africa is working to launch its vaccination campaign in mid-February after its first delivery of vaccines on Monday. The country will use the first doses to inoculate its frontline healthcare workers and aims to vaccinate 67% of its 60 million people by the end of the year.

Driven by the more infectious variant, 501Y.V2, now dominant in the country, South Africa had a resurgence of COVID-19 that saw confirmed cases, hospitalizations and deaths reach nearly double the numbers of the first surge last year.

As mortuaries reached capacity, the country’s largest firm of undertakers, AVBOB, distributed 22 refrigerated shipping containers to its funeral homes.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

Trudeau says Canada will have coronavirus vaccine production

 Canada will eventually be able to manufacture COVID-19 vaccines, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday, as his government faces concerns about getting doses from Europe.

Trudeau said two companies – Precision NanoSystems and Novavax – will eventually manufacture vaccines in Canada.

He said they have signed a memorandum of understanding with Maryland-based Novavax and pending Health Canada approval, tens of millions of Novavax COVID-19 doses will be made in Canada.

Canada does not have domestic production but Trudeau expects to use doses made in Europe to vaccinate all Canadians who want to be vaccinated by September. Trudeau reiterated Tuesday the European Union reassured him that it will respect Canada’s contracts with Pfizer and Moderna. The EU has talked about tightening rules on exports of vaccines.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

Fauci says COVID-19 vaccine boosters will tackle one mutation at a time

Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said COVID-19 vaccine boosters will tackle one coronavirus variant at a time, with the ultimate goal of a universal vaccine that could protect against all types of mutations, He’s shown at a January press conference at the White House. (Al Drago/Pool/Abaca Press/TNS, file)

COVID-19 vaccine boosters will tackle one coronavirus variant at a time, focusing first on a mutation recently identified in South Africa that is alarming scientists, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, told McClatchy in an interview.

The “ultimate solution” to the coronavirus pandemic may be a vaccine that protects against all mutations — but work on that project is just beginning, Fauci said.

The chief medical adviser on COVID-19 to President Joe Biden and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said that vaccine manufacturers could develop the boosters quickly, and expressed confidence that they could pass regulatory hurdles and reach the public within “months.”

But a longer-term goal — one that could end the cycle of variants, and the pandemic, once and for all — is a universal vaccine that could protect against all types of mutations, Fauci said in an interview Monday evening.

Read the story here.

—Michael Wilner, McClatchy Washington Bureau

Pressure builds on schools to reopen during pandemic

Pressure is building on school systems around the U.S. to reopen classrooms to students who have been learning online for nearly a year, pitting politicians against teachers who have yet to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

Pre-kindergarten students listen as their teacher reads a story at Dawes Elementary in Chicago, Monday, Jan. 11, 2021. Chicago Public Schools students began their return to the classroom Monday as school doors opened to thousands of pre-kindergarten and some special education students after going remote last March due to the coronavirus pandemic. (Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Chicago Sun-Times via AP)

In Chicago, the rancor is so great that teachers are on the brink of striking. In California, a frustrated Gov. Gavin Newsom implored schools to find a way to reopen. In Cincinnati, some students returned to classrooms Tuesday after a judge threw out a teachers union lawsuit over safety concerns.

While some communities maintain that online classes remain the safest option for everyone, some parents, with backing from politicians and administrators, have complained that their children’s education is suffering from sitting at home in front of their computers and that the isolation is damaging them emotionally.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

Mexico nears approval of Russia’s COVID-19 vaccine

Family members attend the burial service of a relative who died of complication related to COVID-19, at the San Isidro cemetery in the Iztapalapa borough of Mexico City, Saturday, Jan. 30, 2021. Due to the high number of recent deaths, many due to the new coronavirus pandemic, Mexico City’s cemeteries are filled to capacity. (Christian Palma / The Associated Press)

Mexico was on the verge of approving the Russian COVID-19 vaccine Sputnik V following the publication of early results of an advanced study, Mexican officials said Tuesday.

Assistant Health Secretary Hugo López-Gatell, the government’s pandemic spokesman, said that the health ministry signed a contract Monday for 400,000 doses of Sputnik V that will arrive this month. He said regulatory approval was expected within hours.

Once approved, the Russian vaccine would become the third to receive emergency approval in Mexico following Pfizer and AstraZeneca.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

Tokyo Olympic organizers reiterate ‘we will hold the games’

FILE – In this March 30, 2020, file photo, a man jogs past the Olympic rings in Tokyo. The president of the Tokyo Olympic organizing committee said Tuesday the games will held no matter what the COVID-19 situation.. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

The president of the Tokyo Olympic organizing committee had a simple message Tuesday for fellow members of Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

The games will happen.

“No matter what situation would be with the coronavirus, we will hold the games,” said Yoshiro Mori, who is also a former Japanese prime minister.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

Deadliest virus month piles strain on Portugal’s government

The pressure appears to be getting to Portugal’s government after almost two weeks at the top of the world rankings of daily new COVID-19 cases and deaths by size of population.

A florist prepares wreathes at a funeral agency in Amadora, outside Lisbon, Monday, Feb. 1, 2021. Portugal continues to top the global charts with the worst 7-day rolling average of new daily COVID-19 infections and fatalities per 100,000 residents, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (AP Photo/Armando Franca)

Recent flubs include mixed government messages on mask types and online teaching, regular pandemic news conferences discontinued without explanation, scant official information on what foreign help is coming and scandals over queue-jumping for vaccines. Then there’s the recent disarray in parliament over which lawmakers will get the jab early, as well as a health chief’s sharp retort that finding fault with government pandemic planning is “criminal.”

In January, Portugal recorded more than 5,000 death — close to half of its official pandemic total so far. Hopes rose, though, Tuesday that the surge’s peak may have passed, as the number of new daily cases fell for a fourth straight day. 

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

Vaccinations resume after not-quite-historic Northeast storm

Coronavirus vaccination sites across the Northeast ramped back up Tuesday after a two-day snowstorm that also shut down public transport, closed schools and canceled flights.

Some officials said that since vaccine supplies were thin to begin with, they didn’t anticipate having big problems getting caught up on distribution after a day or two of cancelled appointments.

Bands of snow were still moving through parts of Maine and Pennsylvania in the morning, but the worst was over, with more than 30 inches in parts of New Jersey and just a few inches in Boston.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

Washington House allocates $2.2 billion in COVID funding; package heads to the Senate

The Washington state House late Monday passed a bill that would allocate $2.2 billion in federal COVID-19 relief funding.

The bill, which advanced from the House by a 61-36 vote, now moves to the Senate.

Over $668 million goes to K-12 schools using a funding formula tied to how many low-income families are in a district. Another big chunk, $618 million, goes into a COVID-19 Public Health Response Account, for efforts such as testing and contact tracing — $68 million of which is earmarked specifically for planning for, preparing and deploying the COVID-19 vaccine.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

Biden moves to provide COVID vaccine to pharmacies

The Biden administration will begin providing COVID-19 vaccines to U.S. pharmacies, part of its plan to ramp up vaccinations as new and potentially more serious virus strains are starting to appear.

The plan was announced Tuesday during the White House COVID-19 Response Team daily briefing.

Initially the government will be shipping limited quantities of vaccine to drug stores around the country, but that’s expected to accelerate as drugmakers increase production. Drug stores have become a mainstay for flu shots and shingles vaccines, and the industry is capable of vaccinating tens of millions of people monthly.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

Capt. Tom Moore, UK veteran who walked for NHS, dies at 100

Capt. Tom Moore, the World War II veteran who walked into the hearts of a nation in lockdown as he shuffled up and down his garden to raise money for healthcare workers has died after testing positive for COVID-19. He was 100.

His family announced his death on Twitter, posting a picture of him behind his walker in a happy moment, ready for an adventure.

“The last year of our father’s life was nothing short of remarkable. He was rejuvenated and experienced things he’d only ever dreamed of,’’ the family’s statement said. “Whilst he’d been in so many hearts for just a short time, he was an incredible father and grandfather, and he will stay alive in our hearts forever.’’

Captain Tom, as he became known in newspaper headlines and TV interviews, set out to raise 1,000 pounds for Britain’s National Health Service by walking 100 laps of his backyard. But his quest went viral and caught the imagination of millions stuck at home during the first wave of the pandemic.

“Please always remember, tomorrow will be a good day,” Moore said in an interview during his walk, uttering the words that became his trademark.

Read the story here.

—Danica Kirka, The Associated Press

Palestinians give first vaccines after Israel shares supply

The Palestinian Authority administered its first known coronavirus vaccinations on Tuesday after receiving thousands of doses from Israel, which launched its own vaccination campaign in December and is on track to vaccinate its entire adult population by the end of March.

A Palestinian official confirmed that a first dose was given to a small number of medical workers. Israel began transferring 5,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine to the Palestinians this week.

It could take several months to vaccinate enough of the more than 4.5 million Palestinians living in Israeli-occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip to bring the outbreak under control .

The WHO has expressed concern about the inequity between Israel, which is leading one of the world’s most successful vaccination campaigns, and the Palestinian territories.

Rights groups say Israel has the obligation as an occupying power to vaccinate Palestinians. Israel says its priority is its own citizens, including Arab citizens and Palestinians living in annexed east Jerusalem.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

WHO team visits animal disease center in Wuhan, China

A World Health Organization team of international experts visited an animal disease center in the Chinese city of Wuhan on Tuesday as part of their investigation into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic.

Further details of the visit were not announced. Intense negotiations preceded the WHO visit to Wuhan, where the first COVID-19 cases were detected in late 2019. China has maintained strict controls on access to information about the virus, possibly to avoid blame for alleged missteps in its early response to the outbreak.

Team member Peter Daszak, a zoologist with the EcoHealth Alliance, tweeted they met with livestock health staff in Hubei province, toured laboratories and had in-depth discussion. Wuhan is the capital of Hubei.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

UK tests house-to-house in hunt for new COVID-19 variant

A man wearing a mask against coronavirus walks past an NHS advertisement about COVID-19 in London, Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2021. British health authorities plan to test tens of thousands of people in a handful of areas of England in an attempt to stop a new variant of the coronavirus first identified in South Africa spreading in the community. The Department of Health says a small number of people in England who had not travelled abroad have tested positive for the strain. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)

England has begun house-by-house COVID-19 testing in some communities as authorities try to snuff out a new variant of the virus before it spreads widely and undermines a nationwide vaccination program.

Authorities want to reach the 80,000 residents of eight areas where 11 cases of the South African variant have been detected among people who haven’t traveled abroad.

Home testing kits and mobile testing units are being dispatched in an effort to reach every resident of those communities.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

Study: Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine appears safe, effective

Russian scientists say the country’s Sputnik V vaccine appears safe and effective against COVID-19, according to early results of an advanced study published in a British medical journal.

The news is a boost for the shot that is increasingly being purchased by nations around the world who are desperate to stop the devastation caused by the pandemic.

Dr. Estefania Zevrnja gets a shot of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine for COVID-19 at Dr. Pedro Fiorito Hospital in Avellaneda, Argentina, Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2020. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)

Researchers say, based on their trial that involved about 20,000 people in Russia last fall, the vaccine is about 91% effective and appears to prevent people from becoming severely ill with COVID-19. The study was published online Tuesday in the journal The Lancet.

Scientists not linked to the research acknowledged that the speed at which the Russia vaccine was made and rolled out was criticized for “unseemly haste, corner cutting and an absence of transparency.”

“But the outcome reported here is clear,” British scientists Ian Jones and Polly Roy wrote in an accompanying commentary. “Another vaccine can now join the fight to reduce the incidence of COVID-19.”

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

China arrests suspects in fake COVID-19 vaccine ring

People wearing a face masks and a face shields to help curb the spread of the coronavirus walk out from the railway station in Beijing, Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021. (Andy Wong / The Associated Press)

Chinese police have arrested more than 80 suspected members of a criminal group that was manufacturing and selling fake COVID-19 vaccines, including to other countries.

Police in Beijing and in Jiangsu and Shandong provinces broke up the group led by a suspect surnamed Kong that was producing the fake vaccines, which consisted of a simple saline solution, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

The vaccines were sold in China and to other countries, although it was unclear which ones. The group had been active since last September, according to state media.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

Alaska’s Pacific Islanders least likely to get vaccinations

Pacific Islanders and Native Hawaiians have been the groups hit hardest by the coronavirus pandemic in Alaska, but state data show they are also the least likely to be vaccinated.

The state’s online vaccination tracker showed just 143 Alaska residents who identify as Pacific Islanders or Native Hawaiians were vaccinated out of 84,000 Alaska residents as of last Wednesday, Alaska Public Media reported.

The figure indicates those in the islander population are about 10 times less likely to be vaccinated than the general population, while the most recent state data on mortality show Pacific Islanders and Native Hawaiians are 10 times more likely to die of COVID-19.

Health officials said they are working to correct the inequity, but the issue is complex and includes factors such as language.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

Catch up on the past 24 hours

Some Puget Sound-area vaccination sites had to close because of short supply, and others are booked through February. This comes as the region's move into the second phase of reopening requires people to stay vigilant and then some, health officials say. Here's our updated guide to getting a vaccine. And local medical systems' special vaccine access for VIPs may be a thing of the past, after a threat from the state.

• "Groundhog Day" for Seattle-area restaurants: Gov. Jay Inslee's phased plan allowed restaurants to reopen sit-down dining yesterday at 25% capacity. But the doors are not flying open all over town. While one restaurant owner says it made "total sense" to reopen, another pointed out, "We’re all still not safe." How will you make your decisions about dining out? We'd like to hear.

Does wearing two masks provide more protection? That depends on how you do it, infectious-disease experts say.

A fast, at-home coronavirus test will be available over the counter this year in the U.S.

COVID-19 may leave a lasting effect: diabetes in patients with no previous history of it. And researchers are racing to figure out whether the virus is spawning an entirely new type of diabetes that might act differently.

The pandemic's deadliest U.S. month ended with signs of hope: Cases and hospitalizations are plummeting, while vaccinations are picking up speed. The question now is whether the nation can stay ahead of the fast-spreading mutations. Track the pandemic in these graphics.

—Kris Higginson

How is the pandemic affecting you?

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