Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Friday, Feb. 5, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.

Despite falling infections and multiple vaccines in the United States, virus deaths in the country surpassed 450,000 on Thursday, and daily deaths remain stubbornly high at more than 3,000 a day. But in Washington, Gov. Jay Inslee gave some good news: The state has now administered 770,000 vaccine doses for the coronavirus, and is ready to give many more shots once the federal government can deliver more supplies.

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.

(Jennifer Luxton / The Seattle Times)

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Durant can’t start, can’t finish game for virus protocols

NEW YORK — Brooklyn Nets star Kevin Durant couldn’t start a game and then couldn’t finish it, removed in the third quarter because of the NBA’s health and safety protocols.

Durant wasn’t available at the beginning of Friday night’s game against Toronto, eventually being cleared to enter in the first quarter. Once he did, it became his first appearance as a reserve in his 867 NBA games.

Durant helped the Nets rally to take the lead before he was informed in the third quarter that he needed to exit the game. Replays showed coach Steve Nash appearing to give the news to Durant, who walked toward the locker room area and threw a water bottle in frustration. The Nets then announced he was out for the rest of the night.

A message was left seeking comment from the NBA.

Durant had already missed three games this season related to the health and safety protocols. He tested positive for the virus in March while he was recovering from Achilles tendon surgery.

—Associated Press
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First look at Washington’s data on vaccination by race, ethnicity shows wide gaps

Scarce doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have so far gone disproportionately to white Washington residents, new data from the state Department of Health (DOH) shows.

As in other states, Black and Hispanic residents have tested positive for the coronavirus at a higher rate compared to white residents, but vaccination numbers haven’t matched each group’s vulnerability.

The Seattle Times obtained data on the race and ethnicity of vaccine recipients from the state through Jan. 30, and compared it to the case countsdeaths and population demographics. The Times analysis shows Washington has some clear gaps.

While 67% of people who received their initial doses were white, 48% of the state’s cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, have been in white patients.

On the other hand, Black and Hispanic residents have been comparatively under-vaccinated.

Read the full story here.

—Melissa Hellmann and Mike Reicher

Seahawks honor ‘health care heroes’ by sending 4 to the Super Bowl

Boray (Bo) Thach is one of four ‘health care heroes’ the Seattle Seahawks have selected to send to the Super Bowl in Tampa Bay this Sunday. Thach, who is a registered nurse at St. Joe’s, will be joined in the Seattle contingent by Jocelyn Jacoby, a nutrition assistant at Virginia Mason Medical Center; Cheryl Caraan, a critical care nurse at Virginia Mason Medical Center; and Lauren Pier, a critical care change nurse at St. Anthony Hospital.  (Thomas Owen)
Boray (Bo) Thach is one of four ‘health care heroes’ the Seattle Seahawks have selected to send to the Super Bowl in Tampa Bay this Sunday. Thach, who is a registered nurse at St. Joe’s, will be joined in the Seattle contingent by Jocelyn Jacoby, a nutrition assistant at Virginia Mason Medical Center; Cheryl Caraan, a critical care nurse at Virginia Mason Medical Center; and Lauren Pier, a critical care change nurse at St. Anthony Hospital. (Thomas Owen)

Boray “Bo” Thach feared the worst when one of his managers at St. Joseph Medical Center in Tacoma told him one day to give him a call in a half-hour so they could talk about something.

The manager quickly told him not to worry, that “it’s more of a good news thing.’’

At 1:30 p.m. on Jan. 15, Thach found out he was getting a trip to the Super Bowl, selected by the Seahawks as one of four local health care workers to represent the team in an NFL program honoring “health care heroes.’’

Thach, who is a registered nurse at St. Joe’s, will be joined in the Seattle contingent by Jocelyn Jacoby, a nutrition assistant at Virginia Mason Medical Center; Cheryl Caraan, a critical care nurse at Virginia Mason Medical Center; and Lauren Pier, a critical care change nurse at St. Anthony Hospital.

All are employees of Virginia Mason Franciscan Health, the Seahawks’ official health care partner.

Read the full story here.

—Bob Condotta

Seattle Opera lays off 24 people, citing ongoing pandemic challenges

Exterior shot of Seattle Opera’s headquarters, located at 363 Mercer St. in Seattle. (Ellen M. Banner / The Seattle Times)
Exterior shot of Seattle Opera’s headquarters, located at 363 Mercer St. in Seattle. (Ellen M. Banner / The Seattle Times)

Seattle Opera is laying off two dozen people currently on furlough, citing ongoing pandemic challenges and a need to operate on a much leaner budget.

The company had furloughed 46 administrative staffers in June, after the $2.3 million loan it received under the Paycheck Protection Program ran out. In September, it cut six administrative positions, with dozens of employees remaining on furlough.

“We were hopeful that health conditions would improve and it would be safe to return to the theater in the first half of 2021,” Christina Scheppelmann, Seattle Opera’s general director, wrote in a letter to staff, subscribers and arts audiences. “Now, we see this is not the case. Live performances will likely not resume until next season.”

That brings the company’s number of full- and part-time employees to 53, down from 88 prior to the pandemic, according to Seattle Opera spokesperson Gabrielle Nomura Gainor. The layoffs are mainly in the marketing and production departments.

Read the full story here.

—Janet Tu
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Spurred by overcrowding, Washington State Parks creates 3 temporary new Sno-Parks near Seattle

Washington State Parks opened three temporary Sno-Parks along the Interstate 90 corridor this week to better accommodate a surge of visitors to the Cascades this winter as local residents seek outdoor recreation options during the colder months.

The three new, nonmotorized, ungroomed Sno-Parks will be set up for snow play activities like sledding and include access to new or existing trails for snowshoeing and Nordic ski touring.

“These are Plan B, overflow, temporary Sno-Parks due to the demand,” said Jason Goldstein, Washington State Parks winter operations manager. “If Snoqualmie and Stampede Pass are busy, drive an extra 10 to 30 minutes and these options are available to you.”

The move from Washington State Parks to set up additional winter recreation locations comes after Sno-Parks offering groomed trails and snow play areas, like Hyak, Gold Creek and Crystal Springs, reached what officials called a “critical mass” of visitation, leading to dangerous conditions.

Read the full story here.

—Gregory Scruggs

Kroger, owner of QFC and Fred Meyer stores, will pay workers $100 for getting coronavirus vaccine

Kroger, the grocery chain that owns QFC and Fred Meyer, said Friday it will offer employees a one-time $100 payment after they receive the coronavirus vaccine.

Employees who cannot get the vaccine for medical or religious reasons can take an “educational health and safety course” to get the bonus, the company said.

The payment is meant to encourage workers to get vaccinated and “recognize our associates’ contributions,” Kroger executive Tim Massa said in a statement Friday.

The federal government says employers can mandate the vaccine, though for now most local companies say they are not yet planning to require it.

Kroger workers who “receive the full manufacturer-recommended doses of the COVID-19 vaccine” will be eligible for the $100, the company said.

The national union that represents Kroger workers, United Food and Commercial Workers, called the payment a “slap in the face,” however, pointing out that the company announced this week it would close two stores in Southern California in response to a local mandate to raise pay by $4 an hour during the pandemic. Seattle passed a similar $4 requirement.

Read the full story here.

—Heidi Groover

Mutated virus may reinfect people already stricken once with COVID-19, sparking debate and concerns

A trial of an experimental coronavirus vaccine detected the most sobering signal yet that people who have recovered from infections are not completely protected against a variant that originated in South Africa and is spreading rapidly, preliminary data presented this week suggests.

The finding, though far from conclusive, has potential implications for how the pandemic will be brought under control, underscoring the critical role of vaccination, including for people who have already recovered from infections. Reaching herd immunity — the threshold when enough people achieve protection and the virus can’t seed new outbreaks — will depend on a mass vaccination campaign that has been constrained by limited supply.

Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, noted that it appears a vaccine is better than natural infection in protecting people, calling it “a big, strong plug to get vaccinated” and a reality check for people who may have assumed that because they have already been infected, they are immune.

In the vaccine trial’s placebo group, people with prior coronavirus infections appeared just as likely to get sick as people without them, meaning they weren’t fully protected against the B. 1.351 variant that has swiftly become dominant in South Africa. 

—The Washington Post
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South Carolina governor donates plasma for COVID-19 therapy

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster donates plasma to help with COVID-19 treatment, Friday, Feb. 5, 2021, in Columbia, S.C. McMaster contracted COVID-19 in December and said this was his way to help others. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Collins)
South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster donates plasma to help with COVID-19 treatment, Friday, Feb. 5, 2021, in Columbia, S.C. McMaster contracted COVID-19 in December and said this was his way to help others. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Collins)

COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster and his wife donated plasma Friday to help patients who have COVID-19 recover more quickly from the disease.

McMaster and the first lady contracted COVID-19 in December and doctors encourage people who recover from the disease to donate the blood product.

The plasma is then transfused into the bodies of currently hospitalized COVID-19 patients to lessen their symptoms and hopefully help them recover faster.

“We were lucky, I had a light case, I guess,” McMaster said Friday outside the Red Cross Columbia headquarters. “They need plasma, so we’re here.”

McMaster was inside for almost two hours. The 73-year-old Republican governor had to pass a health screening and then spend almost an hour with a needle in his arm.

McMaster’s plasma could help up to four patients. It will join 2,600 units of plasma from COVID-19 patients donated in South Carolina and 140,000 units donated nationally, Red Cross South Carolina CEO Rod Tolbert said.

—Associated Press

Los Angeles limits new vaccinations amid tight supplies

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California is adding mass inoculation sites even as the shortage of coronavirus vaccine has local officials restricting who gets shots, with Los Angeles County saying it will limit new vaccinations to ensure second doses are available to those already in line for them.

Santa Clara County and the San Francisco 49ers said Friday they will open California’s largest vaccination site at Levi’s Stadium early next week. It eventually will be capable of injecting up to 15,000 people a day.

The Pentagon, meanwhile, announced troops will start arriving in a little over a week to run a new site at California State University, Los Angeles opening Feb. 16. Other federal employees will head to a second 6,000-shots-a-day site at Oakland-Alameda Coliseum.

In California, however, the problem isn’t vaccination capacity, it’s limited vaccine supply that is forcing rationing. 

—Associated Press

State health officials confirm 1,557 new coronavirus cases

The state Department of Health (DOH) reported 1,557 new coronavirus cases and 33 new deaths on Friday.

The update brings the state's totals to 319,371 cases and 4,449 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. Thursday.

The new cases may include up to 650 duplicates, according to DOH.

In addition, 18,156 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the virus — 85 new hospitalizations. In King County, the state's most populous, state health officials have confirmed a total of 79,631 COVID-19 diagnoses and 1,277 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
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AP analysis: Federal executions likely a COVID superspreader

WASHINGTON (AP) — As the Trump administration was nearing the end of an unprecedented string of executions, 70% of death row inmates were sick with COVID-19. Guards were ill. Traveling prisons staff on the execution team had the virus. So did media witnesses, who may have unknowingly infected others when they returned home because they were never told about the spreading cases.

Records obtained by The Associated Press show employees at the Indiana prison complex where the 13 executions were carried out over six months had contact with inmates and other people infected with the coronavirus, but were able to refuse testing and declined to participate in contact tracing efforts and were still permitted to return to their work assignments.

Other staff members, including those brought in to help with executions, also spread tips to their colleagues about how they could avoid quarantines and skirt public health guidance from the federal government and Indiana health officials. Read the story here.

—Michael Tarm, Michael Balsamo and Michael R. Sisak, The Associated Press

Administration pledges more support for minority businesses

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Biden administration promised Black business executives on Friday that it planned to make sure that the government’s economic support programs were able to reach minority-owned businesses.

Vice President Kamala Harris and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said that the new administration intended to address problems in delivering aid to minority businesses in the government’s Paycheck Protection Program, which provides loans to small businesses that can be forgiven as long as the businesses retain their employees or hire them back.

Harris and Yellen spoke at a virtual meeting with officials representing some of the 140 chapters of the Black Chambers of Commerce around the country. The appearance was part of the administration’s ongoing effort to win support for President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief program. Read more of the story here.

—Martin Crutsinger, The Associated Press

Biden harnesses Defense Production Act to speed vaccinations, production of protective equipment

WASHINGTON — The Biden administration announced several initiatives Friday aimed at accelerating mass inoculations against the coronavirus and expanding production of rapid coronavirus tests and surgical gloves, among other tools necessary to control the pathogen.

Most immediately, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin approved a request from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to deploy more than 1,000 troops to support vaccination sites. The first contingent of active-duty military personnel will arrive in California within the next 10 days, to begin operations around Feb. 15, said Andy Slavitt, senior adviser to the White House’s coronavirus response team.

“The military’s critical role in supporting sites will help vaccinate thousands of people per day and ensure every American who wants a vaccine will receive one,” Slavitt said during a Friday briefing. Read more of the story here.

— Isaac Stanley-Becker, The Washington Post
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Oregon staffs up, braces for crush when it opens COVID-19 vaccines to the elderly

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Oregon health officials say they are expecting chaos next week, when about 167,000 people who are 80 years or older will become eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine.

In preparation for the drastic increase of eligible people, Gov. Kate Brown announced Friday that 30 additional National Guard members will be deployed to help field calls and texts from seniors signing up and seeking information on vaccinations.

“It’s probably going to be pretty chaotic here,” Director Patrick Allen told The Associated Press Thursday night. “We are probably going to have phone lines that are hard to get through on. We are going to have scheduling systems that are going to be hard to get appointments.” Read the story here.

—Sara Cline, The Associated Press

Reopening debate testing Biden’s ties with teachers unions

The increasingly heated school reopening debate is forcing President Joe Biden to balance two priorities: getting children back into the classroom and preserving the support of powerful labor groups that helped him get elected.

Following weeks of standoff in some cities and states where teachers unions are demanding vaccines as a condition of reopening, the issue came to a head Wednesday when Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said vaccination of teachers “is not a prerequisite for safe reopening of schools.”

But in a juggling of positions, the White House declined to back Walensky, saying she was speaking “in her personal capacity.” Asked Friday about her earlier comments, Walensky punted. Read the story here.

—Collin Binkley, The Associated Press

Coronavirus cases drop at U.S. homes for elderly and infirm

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — Coronavirus cases have dropped at U.S. nursing homes and other long-term care facilities over the past few weeks, offering a glimmer of hope that health officials attribute to the start of vaccinations, an easing of the post-holiday surge and better prevention, among other reasons.

More than 153,000 residents of the country’s nursing homes and assisted living centers have died of COVID-19, accounting for 36% of the U.S. pandemic death toll, according to the COVID Tracking Project. Many of the roughly 2 million people who live at such facilities remain cut off from loved ones because of the risk of infection. The virus still kills thousands of them weekly.

The overall trend for long-term care residents is improving, though, with fewer new cases recorded and fewer facilities reporting outbreaks. Coupled with better figures for the country overall, it’s cause for optimism even if it’s too early to declare victory. Read the story here.

—Jay Reeves, The Associated Press
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COVID-19 variants add more variables to playing in pandemic

Playing college sports during the pandemic has potentially become more problematic as more contagious variants of the coronavirus start to show up across the U.S., including one that prompted the University of Michigan to shut down its athletics department for two weeks.

It was not clear this week how many athletic departments are testing for the mutations, either. The Wolverines put all their programs on pause Jan. 23 after the variant was linked to several people within the athletic department.

“Obviously, Michigan going on pause with the variant is of concern,” Wisconsin basketball coach Greg Gard said. “That’s obviously something that everybody’s watching really closely to see what the impact of that, along with the normal strain, has as we continue to walk forward.”

Cancellations, postponements and millions in lost revenue have hit sports worldwide over the past year and the blow fell particularly hard on U.S. colleges, where some seasons were canceled outright or pushed to winter or spring in hopes the pandemic would ease. More than 100 major college football games were disrupted last fall, but that number pales in comparison to the sheer volume of schedule shuffling for college basketball.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

Bronx Boosters: Yankee Stadium becomes mass vaccination site

 Yankee Stadium was opened as a COVID-19 mass vaccination site Friday by officials trying to boost inoculation rates in surrounding Bronx neighborhoods hard hit by the pandemic.

People line up outside a Covid-19 vaccination hub inside Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York on Feb. 5. Photographer: Angus Mordant/Bloomberg (Bloomberg)
People line up outside a Covid-19 vaccination hub inside Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York on Feb. 5. Photographer: Angus Mordant/Bloomberg (Bloomberg)

The megasite is being restricted to residents of the New York City borough with the highest percentage of positive coronavirus test results. Mayor Bill de Blasio called it “a different kind of opening day” hours after a long line formed outside the stadium on a damp morning.

“This is about protecting people who need the most protection because the Bronx is one of the places that bore the brunt of this crisis of the coronavirus,” he said at a stadium-side news conference. “The Bronx has suffered.”

De Blasio, a Red Sox fan, donned a Yankees cap in gratitude to the team and declared himself a fan of Boston’s archrival “for one day only.”

The site established with help from the city and state has registered about 13,000 of the 15,000 appointments available in its first week, officials said. It will initially be open seven days a week, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

Its borders shut, New Zealand prods local tourists to ‘Do Something New’

FILE — The town of Wanaka on New Zealand’s South Island, Sept. 3, 2013. The country, which has largely stamped out the coronavirus, unfurled a cheeky “Do Something New” video campaign designed to encourage domestic tourism that has gained a lot of attention on social media, and applause for its call to travel more imaginatively. (Andrew Quilty/The New York Times)
FILE — The town of Wanaka on New Zealand’s South Island, Sept. 3, 2013. The country, which has largely stamped out the coronavirus, unfurled a cheeky “Do Something New” video campaign designed to encourage domestic tourism that has gained a lot of attention on social media, and applause for its call to travel more imaginatively. (Andrew Quilty/The New York Times)

In the world envisioned by a recent Tourism New Zealand advertisement, a khaki-clad employee of the fictional Social Observation Squad rescues wayward travelers from the clichés of Kiwi tourism.

The lighthearted ad, intended for a domestic audience, went viral internationally last week for its tongue-in-cheek call to action: Stop posting unimaginative photos on social media, please — enough with the hot-tub shots and images of glossy beachside legs.

But behind the irreverent slogan, “Please don’t travel under the social influence,” is a serious intent. Though the country has seen its pandemic-hit economy come surging back, regions that depend on foreign tourism remain devastated.

About 3.8 million foreign tourists visited New Zealand between 2018 and 2019, with the majority coming from Australia. Despite everyone’s best efforts, the domestic market simply can’t make up the losses. International tourists spend about three times as much per person as their domestic peers.

The New Zealand tourism board is, therefore, asking New Zealanders to do something quite difficult. Its “Do Something New” campaign — the Social Observation Squad video is the latest installment — encourages locals to travel in their homeland as visitor.

Read the story here.

—The New York Times
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New Orleans to shut down bars during Mardi Gras weekend

New Orleans bars will be shut down, even for takeout service, throughout next week’s Mardi Gras weekend — usually among their busiest times of the year — in an attempt to slow the spread of coronavirus, Mayor LaToya Cantrell said Friday.

Many bars already were closed to indoor service. Cantrell’s Friday announcement means they won’t be able to sell drinks to go — a popular option year-round and especially during Mardi Gras. And, she said the city is expanding the closure order to include bars that have “conditional” food permits that allowed them to operate as restaurants during various pandemic shutdowns.

Stepped up crowd control begins this weekend, Cantrell said. The bar shutdown begins next Friday and runs through Mardi Gras — also known as Fat Tuesday — on Feb. 16.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

China granted WHO team full access in Wuhan

A member of the World Health Organization expert team investigating the origins of the coronavirus in Wuhan says the Chinese side granted full access to all sites and personnel they requested — a level of openness that even he hadn’t expected.

A member of a World Health Organization team is seen wearing protective gear during a field visit to the Hubei Animal Disease Control and Prevention Center for another day of field visit in Wuhan in central China’s Hubei province Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2021. The WHO team is investigating the origins of the coronavirus pandemic has visited two disease control centers in the province. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
A member of a World Health Organization team is seen wearing protective gear during a field visit to the Hubei Animal Disease Control and Prevention Center for another day of field visit in Wuhan in central China’s Hubei province Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2021. The WHO team is investigating the origins of the coronavirus pandemic has visited two disease control centers in the province. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

Peter Daszak told The Associated Press on Friday that team members had submitted a deeply considered list of places and people to include in their investigation and that no objections were raised.

“We were asked where we wanted to go. We gave our hosts a list … and you can see from where we’ve been, we’ve been to all the key places,” Daszak said.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

Trudeau tries to reassure Canadians vaccines are coming

 Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tried Friday to reassure Canadians his plan to vaccinate them is working despite mounting criticism his government is not getting vaccines soon enough.

Trudeau said there is “a lot of anxiety and a lot of noise,” but said Canada is still on track to get 6 million doses of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines by the end of March and 20 million in the spring.

“We are very much on track,” Trudeau said.

Canada, like most countries around the world, has been struggling to vaccinate people quickly.

Both Pfizer and Moderna have cut the number of doses Canada expected to get thus far, but Trudeau says he still expects to get 4 million doses from Pfizer and 2 million from Moderna by the end of March.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press
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Pentagon deploys troops to fuel COVID-19 vaccine drive

The Pentagon will deploy more than 1,100 troops to five vaccination centers in what will be the first wave of increased military support for the White House campaign to get more Americans vaccinated against COVID-19.

President Joe Biden has called for setting up 100 mass vaccination centers around the country within a month. Two of the five new military teams will go to vaccination centers opening in California. Coronavirus senior adviser Andy Slavitt said military personnel will arrive at those centers in a little over a week. Three additional centers are expected to be announced soon.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has asked the Pentagon to supply as many as 10,000 service members to staff 100 centers.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

Travelers who refuse to wear masks could face fines of more than $1,000, TSA says

The Transportation Security Administration is beefing up its enforcement of a federal mask mandate, announcing Friday that people who refuse to comply could face fines of more than $1,000.

The agency announced that it is recommending fines ranging from $250 for a first offense and up to $1,500 for repeat offenders. “Aggravating” or “mitigating” factors could result in higher penalties, the TSA said.

President Biden last month signed an executive order requiring that travelers wear face masks when in airports, at bus, ferry and rail stations, and when flying commercially or riding buses and trains. The order went into effect Feb. 2 and will stay in place until May 11.

While the TSA strongly encouraged people to wear masks when going through airport security checkpoints, under the previous administration, the agency had no authority to sanction those who refused. Biden’s executive order changes that, giving the TSA and other agencies more tools to enforce the requirement.

Read the story here.

—Lori Aratani and Michael Laris, The Washington Post

Virus outbreaks stoke tensions in some state capitols

After only their first few weeks of work, tensions already are high among lawmakers meeting in-person at some state capitols — not because of testy debates over taxes, guns or abortion, but because of a disregard for coronavirus precautions.

In Georgia, a Republican lawmaker recently was booted from the House floor for refusing to get tested for the coronavirus. In Missouri, numerous lawmakers and staff scrambled to get vaccinated at a pop-up clinic before legislative leaders warned that the shots weren’t actually meant for them.

House Democratic leader Crystal Quade, who got the shot, blamed the lax policies of the Republican-led Legislature for fostering angst.

“We are essentially a super-spreader just waiting to happen,” she said.

More than 350 state legislators have gotten COVID-19 since the pandemic began, including seven who died after contracting it. Republican lawmakers have had a disproportionate share of the cases, according to the AP’s data.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press
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‘Hug tent’ provides safe embraces at Colorado elderly home

Lynda Hartman, 75, embraces her 77-year-old husband, Len Hartman, who suffers from dementia in a “hug tent” set up outside the Juniper Village assisted living center in Louisville, Colo., Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021. The tent includes a construction-grade plastic barrier with built-in plastic sleeves to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. He has been living at the center for about a year, and the couple had not had any physical contact for at least eight months. (AP Photo/Thomas Peipert)
Lynda Hartman, 75, embraces her 77-year-old husband, Len Hartman, who suffers from dementia in a “hug tent” set up outside the Juniper Village assisted living center in Louisville, Colo., Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021. The tent includes a construction-grade plastic barrier with built-in plastic sleeves to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. He has been living at the center for about a year, and the couple had not had any physical contact for at least eight months. (AP Photo/Thomas Peipert)

LOUISVILLE, Colo. (AP) — Lynda Hartman needed a hug.

It had been at least eight months since she touched her 77-year-old husband, Len, who has dementia and has been at an assisted living center in suburban Denver for the last year.

On Wednesday, she got a small taste of what life was like before the coronavirus pandemic.

Sort of.

Thanks to a “hug tent” set up outside Juniper Village at Louisville, Hartman got to squeeze her husband — albeit while wearing plastic sleeves and separated by a 4-millimeter-thick clear plastic barrier.

“I really needed it. I really needed it,” the 75-year-old said after her brief visit. “It meant a lot to me, and it’s been a long, long time.”

Read the story here.

—Thomas Peipert, The Associated Press

Officer hugged, taunted coworker despite COVID fears

A central Florida police officer has been fired following a coworker’s complaint that he mocked her concerns about the coronavirus, hugged her against her wishes and misled investigators who probed the allegations against him, according to records.

An internal investigation by the Longwood Police Department found Cpl. David Hernandez lied about the July interaction and could have faced battery charges.

The co-worker “told you not to touch her and physically backed away from you and crossed her arms,” police Chief David Dowda wrote in his review. “... however you ignored her comments and moments later embraced her,” the chief wrote.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

Employers can require the coronavirus vaccine, but most major Seattle businesses are holding off for now

At Google and Amazon, it’s “strongly encouraged.” At Trader Joe’s, it will earn employees extra pay. At the downtown Seattle law firm Davis Wright Tremaine, it will be a condition of returning to the office. Aegis senior living facilities will require it once vaccines are widely available.  

Laurae McIntyre is a courtesy clerk at the Fremont PCC who got her vaccine from a recent UFCW 21 vaccine clinic. 
(Alan Berner / The Seattle Times)
Laurae McIntyre is a courtesy clerk at the Fremont PCC who got her vaccine from a recent UFCW 21 vaccine clinic. (Alan Berner / The Seattle Times)

As the coronavirus vaccine gradually becomes more accessible, businesses big and small are weighing whether to require their employees to get the shot.

For office employees and front-line workers, a vaccine requirement could mean safety and peace of mind as the economy starts to return to pre-pandemic levels. But a mandate could also turn off some workers who are skeptical of the vaccine and introduce new headaches as long the vaccine is in short supply.

For a middle ground, some businesses are turning to incentives like extra pay to nudge employees to get vaccinated as soon as they’re able.

In the Seattle area, most big-name employers are so far holding off on a vaccine requirement.

Read the story here.

—Heidi Groover
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Biden to head to Delaware as CDC recommends avoiding travel

President Joe Biden is scheduled to travel to Delaware over the weekend, his first out-of-town trip since taking office. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that Americans forgo travel as the coronavirus pandemic rages.

The White House, which announced Biden’s plans for travel Thursday evening, did not immediately respond to a request for comment about why the president planned to travel.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

Catch up on the past 24 hours

A new vaccination worry is emerging as Washingtonians scramble for their first shot: Will the second one be available in time? Gov. Jay Inslee says the state is ready to give many more shots, "it's just that we've got to have the vaccines." Here's where Washington's vaccine doses are going. (Inslee also found himself on defense yesterday after a trio of Democratic lawmakers blasted his reopening plan as "senseless punishment.")

Signs of hope are emerging in this frustrating vaccine frenzy as local grocery stores schedule appointments. But finding a shot is still no cakewalk. Our FAQ digs into how to make an appointment by phone or online, and the nuances of who qualifies. 

The Senate today took a key step toward fast-tracking President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief plan after an all-night session, with Vice President Kamala Harris casting her first tie-breaking vote.

Museums and movie theaters are reopening, now that the Puget Sound area is in Phase 2. Here are some of the venues that are welcoming people back, and a look at what you can and can't do these days.

The state that tops the nation for vaccinations per capita isn't doing it with mass clinics. Instead, an army of brave medical workers is deploying on sleds, snowmobiles and boats that ply rough seas in the dark. One vaccination site: the inside of a 10-seater plane.

Hundreds of volunteers have found a giant need to fill: helping older people book their shots. For some, it's turned into a full-time job.

—Kris Higginson

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