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.

India giving COVID-19 vaccines to more people as cases rise

NEW DELHI (AP) — India is expanding its COVID-19 vaccination drive beyond health care and front-line workers, offering the shots to older people and those with medical conditions that put them at risk. Among the first to be inoculated on Monday was Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Modi, who is 70, got the shot at New Delhi’s All India Institute of Medical Science. He appealed for all to get vaccinated, tweeting afterward, “together, let us make India COVID-19 free!”

The country of nearly 1.4 billion people started one of the world’s largest vaccination drives in January, but the rollout has been sluggish.

Read more here.

—The Associated Press

King County has the second-lowest COVID rate among large U.S. counties, Public Health analysis says

On the one-year anniversary of what was at the time thought to be the first U.S. death of COVID-19 — a patient at EvergreenHealth in Kirkland, making the Seattle area the first American epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic — a new analysis from Public Health finds that King County has the second-lowest COVID rate among the 100 most-populated counties in the U.S.

The analysis, which relies on data from The New York Times, found that the only county with fewer cases per capita than King County is Honolulu, Hawaii. While Hawaii is also the state with the fewest COVID cases per capita so far, Washington is fifth (unless you count the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, which have fewer cases than Washington), according to data from the CDC.

"That is a remarkable feat and a testament to everyone in @KingCountyWA's hard work and sacrifice for a year now," county executive Dow Constantine tweeted Sunday. "Our community listened to experts, which saved lives and kept people healthy."

Snohomish and Pierce counties to the north and south also popped up in the top 10: Snohomish at number 3, and Pierce at number 6.

The analysis also looked at which counties had the fewest deaths per capita, and by that analysis King County also appeared in the top 10, at number 7, this time right behind Pierce County at number 6. By that analysis, Honolulu, too, had the fewest deaths per capita in the country.

—Scott Greenstone

COVID and squalor threaten tribal members living in once-abundant Indian fishing sites along Columbia River

For Indians living in ramshackle trailers and makeshift shacks in 31 sites up and down both sides of the Columbia River, living near the river is part of a way of life that's persisted for more than 10,000 years.

These sites were designed primarily for day-use fishing and some temporary camping. But out of a need for housing and a desire to be closer to the Columbia, where their cultural heritage lies, many tribal members now use the sites as permanent residences. The encampments are overcrowded, unsafe and unsanitary, with entire communities relying on a single water source, and people living in makeshift shacks and broken-down trailers replete with fire, structural and health risks.

The death from COVID last year of a beloved elder at one of the camps shows how real the risk is to nearly 200 people who live in these camps year-round, including children — a number that soars to more than 400 during the height of the salmon fishing seasons.

“It keeps me up at night,” says Bryan Mercier, a Grand Ronde tribal member and Northwest regional director for the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the federal agency charged with serving area tribes.

Read the story here.

—Lynda V. Mapes

How Johnson & Johnson’s Vaccine Differs From Pfizer’s and Moderna’s

A third effective weapon was added to America’s arsenal against the coronavirus Saturday when the Food and Drug Administration granted emergency use authorization for a vaccine developed by Johnson & Johnson.

The company said it would start shipping millions of doses early this week and would provide the United States with 100 million doses by the end of June. Together with 600 million doses of the nation’s first two authorized vaccines, made by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, that are due to be delivered over the next four months, that ought to be enough to cover every American adult who wants to be vaccinated.

The new vaccine differs markedly from the two already in use in the United States. Read the full story to find out how they compare.

—The New York Times

Johnson & Johnson’s Planned Vaccine Trials to Include Infants

Johnson & Johnson plans to test its coronavirus vaccine in infants and even in newborns, as well as in pregnant women and in people who have compromised immune systems.

The bold plan for expanded clinical trials met with the approval of Dr. Ofer Levy, director of the Precision Vaccines Program at Harvard’s Boston Children’s Hospital and a member of the Food and Drug Administration advisory committee that reviewed the company’s vaccine data.

When Levy saw the outlines of the planned trials, “they turned my head,” he said. They were reported as part of the company’s application to the FDA for emergency use approval and discussed at the FDA meeting.

Read the full story here.

—The New York Times

Purim celebrations threaten fresh virus outbreak in Israel

JERUSALEM (AP) — Mass gatherings took place in Jerusalem on Sunday as Israelis celebrated the Jewish holiday of Purim in violation of coronavirus restrictions.

Authorities had been concerned about a repeat of last year, when Purim celebrations helped fuel an initial wave of the coronavirus in the earliest days of the global pandemic. The government urged people to celebrate at home this year, and police attempted to block traffic from entering Jerusalem and declared strict limits on public gatherings.

But the restrictions were not able to prevent street parties as well as mass prayer celebrations in ultra-Orthodox areas, which have repeatedly flouted safety rules. With traffic clogged at the entrance of Jerusalem, Israeli TV stations showed videos of ultra-Orthodox families walking along the side of the highway into the city.

Purim marks the victory of Jews over a tyrant in ancient Persia and is celebrated with costumes, drinking and parties.

Read the full story here.

—The Associated Press

Los Angeles County private schools sought early vaccines

LOS ANGELES — At least three private schools in Los Angeles County offered their teachers and other staff a way to get COVID-19 vaccinations during a time of limited supplies — one school urging them to use restricted access codes and two others certifying that their staff were responsible for health care-related duties.

The actions of the three schools — Alverno Heights Academy in Sierra Madre, Westmark School in Encino and Mirman School in Brentwood — are laid out in school emails, meeting minutes and letters provided to the Los Angeles Times by multiple staff members at the schools.

The administrators’ actions to quickly secure staff vaccinations during a time of severely limited doses — a critical issue for all public and private campuses — show how some private schools have been willing to boldly interpret rules in their quest to bring students safely back to school and protect employees.

It also offers another example of the tough choices playing out as essential workers, people 65 and older and educators vie for vaccines available in California.

Read the full story here.

—Los Angeles Times

Israel approves plan to vaccinate West Bank laborers

Israel on Sunday announced plans to vaccinate tens of thousands of Palestinians who work inside Israel and its West Bank settlements, at a time of vast disparities in access to vaccines between the Israeli and Palestinian populations.

Israel has launched one of the world’s most successful vaccination programs, inoculating over half of its population in just two months. But it has come under international criticism for not sharing its vaccine stockpile with the Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, even as it plans to share surplus vaccines with far-flung allies in Africa, Europe and Latin America.

The Israeli government approved the program for Palestinian workers to “maintain public health and the functioning of the economy,” said COGAT, the Israeli defense body responsible for Palestinian civilian affairs. It said the program is expected to begin in the coming days.

Read the full story here.

—The Associated Press

Turkish vaccine teams target isolated villages

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Traveling across roads covered with ice and snow, vaccination teams have been going to Turkey’s isolated mountain villages as the government seeks to inoculate 60% of the country’s people against coronavirus over the next three months.

After much effort, medical workers arrived Friday to vaccinate older villagers in Gumuslu, a small settlement of 350 in the central province of Sivas that lies 140 miles (230 kilometers) from the provincial capital.

“It’s a difficult challenge to come here,” said Dr Rustem Hasbek, head of Sivas Health Services. “The geography is tough, the climate is tough, as you can see.”

Read the full story here.

—The Associated Press

Experts concerned about pope trip to Iraq

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Infectious disease experts are expressing concern about Pope Francis’ upcoming trip to Iraq, given a sharp rise in coronavirus infections there, a fragile health care system and the unavoidable likelihood that Iraqis will crowd to see him.

No one wants to tell Francis to call it off, and the Iraqi government has every interest in showing off its relative stability by welcoming the first pope to the birthplace of Abraham. The March 5-8 trip is expected to provide a sorely-needed spiritual boost to Iraq’s beleaguered Christians while furthering the Vatican’s bridge-building efforts with the Muslim world.

But from a purely epidemiological standpoint, as well as the public health message it sends, a papal trip to Iraq amid a global pandemic is not advisable, health experts say.

Read the full story here.

—The Associated Press

Fraud overwhelms pandemic-related unemployment programs

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — With the floodgates set to open on another round of unemployment aid, states are being hammered with a new wave of fraud as they scramble to update security systems and block scammers who already have siphoned billions of dollars from pandemic-related jobless programs.

The fraud is fleecing taxpayers, delaying legitimate payments and turning thousands of Americans into unwitting identity theft victims. Many states have failed to adequately safeguard their systems, and a review by The Associated Press finds that some will not even publicly acknowledge the extent of the problem.

The massive sham springs from prior identity theft from banks, credit rating agencies, health care systems and retailers. Fraud perpetrators, sometimes in China, Nigeria or Russia, buy stolen personal identifying information on the dark web and use it to flood state unemployment systems with bogus claims.

The U.S. Justice Department is investigating unemployment fraud by “transnational criminal organizations, sophisticated domestic actors, and individuals across the United States,” said Joshua Stueve, a spokesman for the department’s criminal division.

Read the full story here.

—The Associated Press

Germany limits travel from French region over virus variant

BERLIN (AP) — Germany announced Sunday that travelers from France’s northeastern Moselle region will face additional restrictions because of the high rate of variant coronavirus cases there.

Germany’s disease control agency, the Robert Koch Institute, said it would add Moselle to the list of “variant of concern” areas that already includes countries such as the Czech Republic, Portugal and the United Kingdom.

Travelers from those areas must produce a recent negative coronavirus test before entering Germany.

Read the full story here.

—The Associated Press

Some GOP state lawmakers help spread COVID-19 misinformation

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Many Republican lawmakers have criticized governors’ emergency restrictions since the start of the coronavirus outbreak. Now that most legislatures are back in session, a new type of pushback is taking root: misinformation.

In their own comments or by inviting skeptics to testify at legislative hearings, some GOP state lawmakers are using their platform to promote false information about the virus, the steps needed to limit its spread and the vaccines that will pull the nation out of the pandemic.

In some cases, the misstatements have faced swift backlash, even getting censored online. That’s raised tough questions about how aggressively to combat potentially dangerous misinformation from elected officials or during legislative hearings while protecting free speech and people’s access to government.

Read the full story here.

—The Associated Press

Philippines receives COVID-19 vaccine after delays

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — The Philippines received its first batch of COVID-19 vaccine Sunday, among the last in Southeast Asia to secure the critical doses despite having the second-highest number of coronavirus infections and deaths in the hard-hit region.

A Chinese military transport aircraft carrying 600,000 doses of vaccine donated by China arrived in an air base in the capital. President Rodrigo Duterte and top Cabinet officials expressed relief and thanked Beijing for the the vaccine from China-based Sinovac Biotech Ltd. in a televised ceremony.

“COVID-19 vaccines should be treated as a global public good and made available to all, rich and poor alike,” Duterte said, warning that “no one is safe until everyone is safe.”

Read the full story here.

—The Associated Press

Seattle company launches screening to detect prior coronavirus infections

Adaptive Biotechnologies launched a test that uses machine-learning technology from Microsoft to detect prior coronavirus infections, aiming to fill an important gap left by standard antibody screening.

The screening, called T-Detect COVID, searches for T-cell responses against the disease, rather than the immune proteins detected by conventional tests. Seattle-based Adaptive says its product may help people who believe they’ve been infected but haven’t tested positive with currently available analyses. That includes long-haulers — patients who suffer lingering COVID symptoms, often for months.

“Some of these people were never diagnosed,” Lance Baldo, Adaptive’s chief medical officer, said in an interview. “Sometimes their physicians are wondering, and — frankly, this is where it gets ugly — sometimes their insurers are wondering.”

Read the full story here.


The wave of COVID-19 bankruptcies has begun

A New Albany, Ohio, music school offering piano, guitar and violin lessons racked up under nearly $1 million in loans and $35,000 in credit card debt. A fine dining restaurant in Providence, Rhode Island, received more than $450,000 in federal small-business funds to help pay workers but still had to close its doors.

A nonprofit overseeing the Kit Carson Home and Museum in Taos, New Mexico, welcomes visitors to learn about the famous frontiersman but listed just $17,000 in assets even after every bone-handled knife, buffalo hide apron and flintlock musket had been tallied.

Nearly a year since coronavirus-related shutdowns began affecting large swaths of the American economy, more businesses are filing for bankruptcy as Chapter 11 filings were up nearly 20% in 2020 compared with the previous year, court records show.

Read the full story here.

—The Washington Post

Catch up on the past 24 hours

Grim milestone approaches: Washington state is expected to surpass 5,000 deaths from the coronavirus, about a year since the first confirmed death in the state. Health officials reported another 967 coronavirus cases on Saturday. Deaths are not reported on weekends.

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. Here's everything we know about the timing, dosage and more of the new vaccine and what it could mean for Washington.

Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders have been hit disproportionately hard by the pandemic, but vaccinations aren't reaching them in similar numbers. Here's how a community association jumped into action.

After a year of the coronavirus, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan has no regrets, but a few things she wishes she’d known. Read more from our interview with the mayor.

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