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)

More

Alaska villages are reaching herd immunity — without a single case of COVID-19

For years, residents of the Southeast Alaska fishing town of Pelican decried cuts to state ferry service that left them increasingly isolated.

Then came news of a deadly pandemic spread around the world by travelers.

“Everybody claims that it’s so hard to get in and out of here. I say, that’s perfect,” said Walt Weller, Pelican’s mayor. “There is no better time to be stranded in the middle of nowhere.”

A year into the pandemic, Pelican — reachable only by bush plane or boat — has zero recorded cases of COVID-19 and has vaccinated more than half its adults.

More on this story here.

—Nathaniel Herz, Anchorage Daily News
Advertising

Younger military personnel reject coronavirus vaccine, in warning for commanders and the nation

WASHINGTON — Americans who go into the military understand the loss of personal liberty. Many of their daily activities are prescribed, as are their hairstyles, attire and personal conduct.

So when it comes to taking a coronavirus vaccine, many troops — especially younger enlisted personnel as opposed to their officers — see a rare opportunity to exercise free will.

“The Army tells me what, how and when to do almost everything,” said Sgt. Tracey Carroll, who is based at Fort Sill, an Army post in Oklahoma. “They finally asked me to do something and I actually have a choice, so I said no.”

Carroll, 24, represents a broad swath of members of the military — a largely young, healthy set of Americans from every corner of the nation — who are declining to get the shot, which for now is optional among personnel. They cite an array of political and health-related concerns.

But this reluctance among younger troops is a warning to civilian health officials about the potential hole in the broad-scale immunity that medical professionals say is needed for Americans to reclaim their collective lives.

More on this story here.

—Jennifer Steinhauer, The New York Times

Why vaccine selfies are drawing backlash

Given a shot at a coronavirus vaccine, many Americans say they would roll up their sleeves. But the decision to post a photo of the moment isn’t as black and white.

People are divided over “vaccine selfie” etiquette. As more people have become immunized – 47.2 million people in the United States have received one or both doses as of Saturday – the debate is unfolding online and in print: “Cool it with the vaccine selfies for a while,” read a Boston Globe editorial headline. “Go ahead, share your vaccine selfie,” the Atlantic’s Brit Trogen wrote.

Some people despise the smiley selfies, as the virus that has killed more than 2.5 million people worldwide continues to take its toll. And most Americans are still unable to get a dose.

Yet, public health experts hope photos of people getting vaccinated safely will encourage their vaccine-hesitant social media followers to do the same. About 1 in 3 Americans said they definitely would not or probably would not get the coronavirus vaccine, according to a recent AP/NORC poll.

More on this story here.

—Meryl Kornfield, The Washington Post

Washington health officials report 967 new coronavirus cases


The state Department of Health (DOH) reported 967 new coronavirus cases on Saturday.

The update brings the state's totals to 339,773 cases and 4,956 deaths, meaning that 1.46% of people diagnosed in Washington have died, according to the DOH. The data is as of 11:59 p.m. Friday, though the state does not report new death data on weekends or update its data dashboard on Sundays. 

The new cases may include up to 200 duplicates, according to DOH.

In addition, 19,319 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the virus — 10 new hospitalizations. In King County, the state's most populous, state health officials have confirmed a total of 82,061 COVID-19 diagnoses and 1,394 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.

The original version of this post misstated the percentage of COVID-19 deaths out of overall cases.

—Seattle Times
Advertising

NY mandates dance ‘zones,’ distancing when weddings resume

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — New York’s new coronavirus-era dance rules aren’t exactly “Footloose” strict, but don’t plan on cutting loose and kicking off the Sunday shoes with just anybody.

The state says that when wedding receptions resume next month, guests will be allowed to hit the dance floor only with members of their immediate party, household or family seated at the same table.

Even then, the rules say, dancers must wear face masks and stay within their own “dancing areas or zones” — spaces that should be at least 36 square feet (3.3 square meters) in size and positioned at least 6 feet (2 meters) apart from other dance zones and tables.

There’s no switching dance zones, either.

More on this story here.

—The Associated Press

Pop-up clinic administers 500 vaccine doses to patients in Kent

As part of an effort to bring more vaccine doses to communities hit hardest by COVID-19, Public Health - Seattle & King County allocated 500 COVID-19 vaccine doses to a pop-up event at UW Medicine's Kent-Des Moines clinic. The effort was a collaboration among Public Health, UW Medicine and the city of Seattle.

Seattle Times staff photojournalist Bettina Hansen was there to capture the moment.

—Seattle Times

A pandemic-era rise in clamming and an effective new harvesting tool have hammered California shellfish stocks

A pandemic-era crush of new interest in clamming on the California coast and widespread adoption of simple hydraulic pumps that allow people to harvest the shellfish faster and in greater numbers has put abundant clam stocks in newfound jeopardy, prompting state regulators to step in with emergency prohibitions.

The state Fish and Game Commission this month temporarily banned use of the hand-operated, water-squirting pumps that have become the dominant tool of clammers since their introduction about five years ago. The pumps have allowed more shellfish prospectors to haul in their limit of clams, day after day, and helped fuel illegal harvesting of noncommercial species that are winding up on the black market, officials say.

Use of the hydraulic pumps was growing so quickly that regulators feared they might be too late if they allowed the busiest season of the year to come and go before they took action on the devices. A 2019 survey of clams taken in Tomales Bay, one of the state’s hottest clamming areas, showed 85% were obtained with the use of the new tool, which earlier surveys showed coincided with more frequent bag limits.

More on this story here.

—Mary Callahan,The (Santa Rosa) Press Democrat
Advertising

FDA approves third COVID-19 vaccine

This Dec. 2, 2020 photo provided by Johnson & Johnson shows vials of the COVID-19 vaccine in the United States. (Johnson & Johnson via AP)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. is getting a third vaccine to prevent COVID-19, as the Food and Drug Administration on Saturday cleared a Johnson & Johnson shot that works with just one dose instead of two.

Health experts are anxiously awaiting a one-and-done option to help speed vaccinations, as they race against a virus that already has killed more than 510,000 people in the U.S. and is mutating in increasingly worrisome ways.

The FDA said J&J’s vaccine offers strong protection against what matters most: serious illness, hospitalizations and death. One dose was 85% protective against the most severe COVID-19 illness, in a massive study that spanned three continents — protection that remained strong even in countries such as South Africa, where the variants of most concern are spreading.

“The more vaccines that have high efficacy that we can get into play, the better,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top U.S. infectious disease expert, said ahead of the FDA’s ruling.

More on this story here.

—Lauran Neergaard and Matthew Perrone, The Associated Press

Clark County providers to get thousands of COVID-19 vaccine doses to make up for disparities

After weeks of smaller COVID-19 vaccine allocations from the state, thousands of vaccine doses are on their way to Clark County to make up for disparities in the state’s initial rollout.

A data analysis provided to The (Vancouver) Columbian on Tuesday night made the disparity public.

State Sen. Annette Cleveland, D-Vancouver, told The Columbian on Friday that Washington Secretary of Health Dr. Umair Shah told her Thursday night that Clark County would begin receiving “thousands” of doses next week to make up for the disparity, and Clark County Public Health Officer Dr. Alan Melnick confirmed that.

While it’s not known exactly how many doses will be received for all providers, Vancouver Clinic Spokeswoman Chastell Ely said that Vancouver Clinic is expecting 3,500 first doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for next week. The previous allocation Vancouver Clinic received was zero doses of that vaccine.

More on this story here.

—Wyatt Stayner, The Columbian

COVID-19 pandemic leaves Chinook Nation, other tribes without US recognition at higher risk

Rachel Lynne Cushman is used to getting calls from Chinook Nation members worried about losing housing or having their power shut off. Since COVID-19 hit, they come in daily.

Cushman is secretary-treasurer for the group of tribes whose rural, ancestral lands are based in one of Washington state’s poorest counties. While they mostly have been spared from the health effects of the coronavirus, the pandemic has taken a significant economic toll.

“We’re doing the best we can,” Cushman said. “But the reality is we don’t have the resources to help.”

Unlike federally recognized tribes, the Chinook Nation doesn’t have a political relationship with the United States, which would make it eligible for federal coronavirus relief funding for state, local and tribal governments. Hundreds of tribes lack the designation, which they say leaves them struggling to help their members and less equipped to combat a pandemic that’s disproportionately affected Native Americans and other people of color.

More on this story here.

—Christine Fernando, The Associated Press
Advertising

Scientists get serious about mixing and matching COVID-19 vaccines

A lot of us have engaged in some bold mixing-and-matching during the pandemic — office attire on top, pajama pants on bottom, for instance — and been none the worse for it.

Imagine doing the same with COVID-19 vaccines, perhaps pairing a first dose of the AstraZeneca product with a second dose supplied by Novavax. Will the consequences of such mixing be any graver?

It’s hardly an idle question. Either by accident or design, some mismatched dosing is inevitable, experts say.

Two vaccines are currently being rolled out across the United States, with a third expected to join them next week and two more likely to come over the next several months. All but one were designed to be delivered as two-dose regimens.

More on this story here.

—Melissa Healy, Los Angeles Times

Portland-area residents tried 400,000 times to book 3,400 COVID vaccine appointments, prompting change to despised system

The electronic system for booking COVID-19 vaccinations in the Portland area reached its boiling point this week — not only for many thousands of embittered seniors who tried unsuccessfully for hours to schedule appointments on a slow-moving and glitchy website, but for state leaders who finally took notice.

Friday, a day after area residents made 400,000 attempts to book just 3,800 appointments, Oregon Health Authority Director Patrick Allen announced a big change.

More on this story here.

—Aimee Green, oregonlive.com

Plunging demand for COVID-19 tests may leave US exposed

WASHINGTON (AP) — Just five weeks ago, Los Angeles County was conducting more than 350,000 weekly coronavirus tests, including at a massive drive-thru site at Dodger Stadium, as health workers raced to contain the worst COVID-19 hotspot in the U.S.

Now, county officials say testing has nearly collapsed. More than 180 government-supported sites are operating at only a third of their capacity.

“It’s shocking how quickly we’ve gone from moving at 100 miles an hour to about 25,” said Dr. Clemens Hong, who leads the county’s testing operation.

More on this story here.

—Matthew Perrone, The Associated Press
Advertising

After a year of the coronavirus, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan has no regrets, but a few things she wishes she’d known

Everybody has their moment. That day, event or instant when this weird virus they’d been reading about turned concrete, started to seem different, bigger.

A year ago Sunday, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan was the grand marshal in a downtown Girl Scouts parade to promote their new Lemon-Ups cookie. “They’re absolutely delicious,” she told a man dressed in a lemon costume.

A few hours later, she got a call. A man in Kirkland had died of COVID-19, at the time the first confirmed death in the country. And there were more positive tests around the county.

“It will be seared in my memory forever,” Durkan said last week. “That was my first big ‘oh no’ moment.” More on this story here.

—David Gutman

Has the COVID-19 pandemic forever altered human behavior?

Will we ever shake hands again? What about hugging grandma? Kissing on a first date (or even going on one)? Will we always have to wear masks and count the days till vaccine appointments? 

It feels like the pandemic is changing everything, but as vaccine rollout progresses and we squint at what appears to be a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel, the question to ask now is whether any real changes we’ve had to adopt during a year of pandemic life will stick around in the years to come. 

Predicting the future is hard. Just ask the people who do it for a living: speculative fiction writers like Seattle’s Seanan McGuire. More on this story here.

—Chris Talbott

House Passes $1.9 Trillion Stimulus as Democrats Work to Salvage Wage Increase

WASHINGTON — The House passed President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus plan early Saturday in a nearly party-line vote, advancing a sweeping pandemic aid package that would provide billions of dollars for unemployed Americans, struggling families and businesses, schools and the distribution of coronavirus vaccines.

The vote was 219-212, with Democrats pushing the measure over unanimous Republican opposition. After hours of debate that stretched past midnight, two Democrats — Reps. Jared Golden of Maine and Kurt Schrader of Oregon — broke with their party and voted against the bill.

The plan would provide $1,400 direct payments to individuals earning up to $75,000 a year and to couples earning up to $150,000. It would also expand a weekly federal unemployment benefit that is set to lapse in mid-March, increasing the payments to $400 a week from $300 and extending them through the end of August. It would increase the child tax credit; provide more than $50 billion for vaccine distribution, testing and tracing; and allocate nearly $200 billion to primary and secondary schools and $350 billion to state, local and tribal governments. More on this story here.

—Jim Tankersley and Emily Cochrane, The New York Times
Advertising

How is the pandemic affecting you?

What has changed about your daily life? What kinds of discussions are you having with family members and friends? Are you a health care worker who's on the front lines of the response? Are you a COVID-19 patient or do you know one? Whoever you are, we want to hear from you so our news coverage is as complete, accurate and useful as possible. If you're using a mobile device and can't see the form on this page, click here.