Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Saturday, Feb. 6, 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 It is no longer being updated.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 pandemic continues to hit communities of color the hardest, the Biden administration promised Black business executives on Friday that it planned to make sure economic support programs were able to reach businesses owned by people of color. In Washington, new data shows Black and Hispanic residents have been comparatively under-vaccinated.
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.
Pandemic pivot: NFL guides small businesses in tough times
TAMPA, Fla. — Lennise Germany’s personal and professional lives were twisted, tangled and turned upside down in a matter of minutes last year.
Germany was sitting in a hospital room with her husband and their 12-year-old son when she got an email that forced her small catering company to temporarily close its doors because of the coronavirus pandemic. What should have been gut-wrenching news barely caused Germany to flinch because doctors had just diagnosed her son with cancer.
No pivot on the planet could make her situation seem anything but dire.
“All of us would be lying if we said we didn’t have some level of fear,” she said.
The months-long hiatus ended up being a blessing for Germany because it gave her the freedom to focus on her son’s health and be on hand for countless rounds of chemotherapy, often every day of the week.
Now, Germany gets to give back to some of those same healthcare workers. Her company, Livy O’s Catering, was awarded a contract to provide food for a pregame tailgate for 7,500 vaccinated healthcare workers invited to attend the Super Bowl on Sunday.
Read the full story here.
FEMA grants Washington state $275 million for vaccine distribution
The Federal Emergency Management Agency will provide Washington state at least $275 million for vaccine distribution, the agency announced Friday.
The state Department of Health (DOH) said it plans to use the grant for vaccine distribution sites across the state, as well as costs from storing, transporting and administering the vaccine. The state provided ballpark figures in its application to FEMA and said it hoped to support around 58 vaccine sites, with at least one in each county, according to the Washington Emergency Management Division.
However, as vaccine supply remains the primary factor limiting the rollout, the new funding will not speed up vaccinations. Instead, the funds will allow DOH to "continue putting resources in place" for when it starts to receive more doses.
More funding could be on the way. The $275 million is about half of what FEMA expects to provide the state in the next three months, according to the agency.
The Biden administration directed FEMA to ramp up support for vaccine distribution. The agency had provided more than $1.98 billion to states, tribes and territories for this effort as of Thursday.
Washington has previously received support from FEMA during the pandemic. Unlike some previous FEMA funding, the federal government will not require the state to pay a share of the costs.
The grants can be used to cover a range of vaccine-related expenses, including staffing, personal protective equipment, storage equipment like freezers and communication efforts.
The Biden administration also granted FEMA the authority to reimburse states for use of their National Guard to respond to the pandemic through September.
‘Hateful, racist’ emails prompted Oregon to close coronavirus vaccine equity group meetings to public
Two members of an Oregon group charged with deciding who gets coronavirus vaccines next received racist, hateful and upsetting messages, prompting state officials to close public access to the group’s last two meetings, state officials revealed Friday.
The Vaccine Advisory Committee’s explicit focus has been to bring equity to the vaccine equation, speaking for underserved communities and helping combat the racism ingrained in Oregon’s health care system.
But the group appeared to be the victim of some of what it was fighting, with one member receiving “multiple hateful, racist emails” and another getting “upsetting communications,” a spokesman for the Oregon Health Authority said.
The 27-member committee made its final recommendations Jan. 28 as part of its eighth meeting open to the public. State officials said they learned about the emails the following day, prompting them to close access to meetings Tuesday and Thursday in the interests of the members’ comfort and safety, and because the formal recommendations had already been finalized.
But the lack of transparency prevented the public from hearing members’ concerns about the process, including the little time they had to come up with recommendations and what one member said was a desire for some form of oversight of how vaccines are allocated locally.
Read the full story here.
State confirms 491 new coronavirus cases, although count incomplete
The state Department of Health (DOH) reported 491 new coronavirus cases on Saturday, although its case counts are incomplete.
The update brings the state's totals to 320,146 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. Friday, though the state does not report new death data on weekends or update its data dashboard on Sundays.
The case count is incomplete because of a data-processing interruption Friday. The new cases may also include up to 1,000 duplicates, and negative results since late November are incomplete, according to DOH.
In addition, 18,283 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the virus — 127 new hospitalizations. In King County, the state's most populous, state health officials have confirmed a total of 79,699 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.
Registration for mass vaccination sites in Eastern and southern Washington will open
Four mass vaccination sites in Eastern and southern Washington run by the state have administered about 25,400 shots since they opened about two weeks ago.
The sites — in Spokane, Wenatchee, Kennewick and Ridgefield, Clark County — are run by the state Department of Health, in conjunction with the Washington National Guard and local health departments.
Registration is, or will soon be, open for the sites' third week. Residents must confirm they are eligible using the state's Phase Finder tool before making appointments online.
More information about registering for each site can be found here.
Hundreds of Oregon's large senior care facilities yet to receive coronavirus vaccine
Contrary to Gov. Kate Brown’s recent assertion that all senior care residents have been able to get a shot of the coronavirus vaccine, more than 1,200 care homes aren’t even in line.
“We have gone through and vaccinated every senior who’s wanted a vaccine that lives in assisted living, that lives in congregate care and in skilled nursing,” Brown said in an interview with KGW Jan. 29. “They’re going to go back and do their second doses over the next couple of weeks.”
Brown meant to refer only to nursing homes, her office later said, adding that she made an “incorrect reference.”
State officials confirmed that residents in each of the state’s approximately 130 nursing homes have been offered the vaccine. But as many as 307 of the state’s 558 assisted living homes statewide have not been offered a first round of vaccines. Assisted living facilities provide less medically intensive care than nursing homes.
Brown’s statements also did not take into account small homes for seniors that aren’t enrolled in the federal program to get the vaccine to people in congregate care.
Read the full story here.
Remembering those we've lost to COVID-19
This many cases. That many deaths. More and more each day. If you don't know someone who's been sickened or killed by COVID-19, it can be easy to grow numb to these figures.
But whole families and communities are grieving, and if we are to truly understand the toll this coronavirus has taken — and is taking — their stories need to be front and center. Each data point you hear about represents a human life whose loss is felt by countless other people.
Coronavirus testing in the U.S. is declining. Experts aren't sure why
The number of coronavirus tests administered daily in the United States has been trending downward for more than two weeks. Though experts say the trend is too fresh to set off major alarm bells, the decline raises the possibility that testing has reached a ceiling at a time when scientists say the nation should be conducting millions more tests per day to help stop the spread of the virus.
This dip coincides with a downturn in another important coronavirus metric: the seven-day average of new reported coronavirus cases, which was down 57 percent Thursday compared with its peak on Jan. 8.
When the number of tests performed and cases reported go down at the same time, public health experts want to know if the dip in new cases is tied to the fact that fewer tests are being performed — the theory being that “If you don’t test, you don’t find cases,” as Dr. Jodie Guest, an epidemiologist at Emory University, put it recently.
Dr. Emily Martin, an associate professor of epidemiology at the University of Michigan, said that the recent dip in testing should come with “lots of caveats on what exactly it is we can take away” from the trend. It may be, she said, that testing spiked in January, possibly caused by people returning to jobs and schools after holiday breaks and being subjected to mandatory testing.
But Dr. Martin and other experts say that the numbers could also reflect a complacency about testing, as vaccine distribution is ramping up.
Experts say that widespread testing must continue to be part of the fight against the pandemic, because scientists don’t know exactly how effective most of the vaccines are at slowing the spread of the virus. Vaccine trials, in the interest of speed, were intended primarily to study how effective the inoculations are against stopping the onset of severe Covid-19 disease and not whether they would prevent the transmission of the virus.
Read the full story here.
Justices: California can’t enforce indoor church service ban
The Supreme Court is telling California that it can’t bar indoor church services because of the coronavirus pandemic, but it can keep for now a ban on singing and chanting indoors.
The high court issued orders late Friday in two cases where churches had sued over coronavirus-related restrictions in the state. The high court said that for now, California can’t ban indoor worship as it had in almost all of the state because virus cases are high.
The justices said the state can cap indoor services at 25% of a building’s capacity. The justices also declined to stop California from enforcing a ban put in place last summer on indoor singing and chanting. California had put the restrictions in place because the virus is more easily transmitted indoors and singing releases tiny droplets that can carry the disease.
The court’s three liberal justices dissented, saying they would have upheld California’s restrictions.
The court’s action follows a decision in a case from New York late last year in which the justices split 5-4 in barring the state from enforcing certain limits on attendance at churches and synagogues. Shortly after, the justices told a federal court to reexamine California’s restrictions in light of the ruling.
Read the full story here.
Top officials make case to military families that the coronavirus vaccine is safe
Senior U.S. officials took their case for the need to receive the coronavirus vaccine directly to military families this week, describing the pandemic as an issue of national security.
The pitch came as the Navy announced that a sailor died Thursday of complications from COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus. It also occurred as the Pentagon on Thursday released strict new requirements to wear masks on military installations, including in shared outdoor spaces.
U.S. troops are required to receive many other vaccines but have not been required to receive the coronavirus one because it is being administered under an emergency authorization.
Air Force Brig. Gen. Paul Friedrichs said last week that the Defense Department has now vaccinated “almost everyone who requested vaccines in our first group” of personnel, which included service members working on the front lines of the pandemic, military police, emergency responders, and those caring for people with the coronavirus.
The second group of Defense Department personnel to be vaccinated includes those over 75 years old, personnel who are preparing to deploy outside the United States, those in strategic positions, and teachers and others working with children.
Read the full story here.
Far more women seem to be reporting ‘long-haul’ COVID-19 symptoms
Much is unknown about COVID-19 "long-haulers," patients whose symptoms persist or recur beyond the disease’s initial onset. But reports of the condition seem especially prevalent among women.
Though symptoms vary widely – which is part of the problem – many cite exhaustion, shortness of breath, coughing, muscle or joint pain, chest pain, headaches, fast or pounding heartbeats, a loss or change in taste or smell, insomnia, or problems with memory or concentration. Some report hair loss, rashes, blood clots or organ damage in the heart, lungs or brain.
The body of knowledge around long-haulers is still forming and often fragmented. Still, some doctors said, they see a clear gender disparity in patients being treated for post-COVID conditions, an observation in line with women facing higher rates of chronic conditions overall.
Ryan Hurt, an internist who leads post-covid syndrome research at the Mayo Clinic, said that of the approximately 20,000 patients there who have tested positive for the coronavirus, roughly 10% are considered long-haulers, and 60% to 80% of those are women.
Doctors aren’t sure why there may be a difference in how the virus plays out in the long run between men and women. One possibility is fundamental differences in the immune system, Hurt said. Aside from biology, deep sociological or cultural underpinnings may account for the split.
Read the full story here.
Biden’s dilemma in virus aid fight: Go big or go bipartisan
President Joe Biden’s push for a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill is forcing an internal reckoning that pits his instincts to work toward a bipartisan deal against the demands of an urgent crisis and his desire to deliver for those who helped elect him.
His bipartisan bona fides have been a defining feature of his political career, first as a Senate deal-maker, later as he led legislative negotiations for the Obama administration when vice president and finally during his successful 2020 campaign.
But the scope of the multiple crises confronting the nation now, along with the lessons Democrats learned from four years of Republican obstructionism during Barack Obama presidency, seem to be pushing Biden toward quick action on the coronavirus aid bill, even if Republicans get left behind.
Read the full story here.
How to get the COVID-19 vaccine in Washington state
The demand for the coronavirus vaccine was immense from the day doses were first shipped. Now that vaccinations have been extended to some beyond health care workers and others in the first phase and mass-vaccination sites have opened across the state, the frenzy to secure an appointment has turned desperate.
Until vaccine supply increases from the federal government, the widespread frustration emanating from those trying to make appointments for themselves or loved ones will continue.
To help you navigate the process, The Seattle Times has an updating guide on how to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Our reporters have also answered frequently asked questions, including how people can schedule an appointment and what's considered a multigenerational household.
Have more questions for Seattle Times reporters? You can submit them here.
Unwilling to wait, less wealthy countries seek their own vaccines
With coronavirus cases still climbing, Honduras got tired of waiting to get vaccines through a United Nations program, so the small Central American country struck out on its own, securing the shots through a private deal.
Other nations are getting impatient too. Unlike past disease outbreaks, where less wealthy countries have generally waited for vaccines to be delivered by the U.N. and other organizations, many are now taking matters into their own hands. Experts are increasingly concerned that these go-it-alone efforts could undermine a U.N.-backed program to get COVID-19 shots to the neediest people worldwide.
Countries including Serbia, Bangladesh and Mexico recently began vaccinating citizens through donations or commercial deals — an approach that could leave even fewer vaccines for the program known as COVAX, since rich countries have already snapped up the majority of this year’s supply.
Read the full story here.
What to expect from Super Bowl Sunday in a pandemic
Like everything else in the pandemic, watching the Super Bowl will look different this year.
Health officials including Dr. Anthony Fauci have urged fans to avoid gathering. Being indoors with people from outside your household is especially risky, and officials are warning that watch parties could lead to outbreaks.
“I’m worried about Super Bowl Sunday, quite honestly. People gather, they watch games together. We’ve seen outbreaks already from football parties,” said Rochelle Walensky, head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). “So I really do think that we need to watch this and be careful.”
The CDC recommends that fans try hosting a virtual watch party, enjoy the game with people in their household or text with family and friends in a group chat. If you do gather, being outside is safer than being inside, and people should sit at least 6 feet apart from those they don't live with.
Even if you’re watching the game with just your household, you can still snack on great food. Consider supporting local restaurants by ordering takeout. Here are some recommendations for Seattle-area spots that make great, classic football-watching food that you can add to your spread.
If your favorite part of the Super Bowl is watching commercials, you can expect to see ads focused on comfort and escapism this year. Here's a preview.
And if you're a DirecTV subscriber, here's what you need to know about how to watch the game this year.
Rainier Valley community bands together to launch pop-up COVID-19 vaccine site
Groups of seniors left their homes at The Brighton Apartments on Rainier Avenue South, walked next door to a parking lot and got something that has been hard to come by this winter: A coveted COVID-19 vaccine.
Volunteers registered and welcomed the elders and found them socially distanced seats. A retired pharmacist prepared doses for volunteer nurses. Brighton Apartment community leaders interpreted a plethora of languages: Amharic, Tigrinya, Oromiffa and Somali.
In all, about 100 seniors were given their first of two doses of the Moderna vaccine through this pop-up clinic Wednesday, organized by The Othello Station Pharmacy, the Somali Health Board and The Brighton Apartments, in an effort to address racial and technological disparities that have plagued the vaccine rollout.
When the Othello Station Pharmacy received its first vaccine allotment from the state Department of Health (DOH) on Monday, owner Ahmed Ali worked quickly to focus on residents 65 and older at The Brighton, most who are people of color and many who are immigrants and refugees.
“This is community-led, in partnership with the Department of Health,” said Ali, who is also the executive director of the Somali Health Board. “COVID has significantly impacted communities of color. We want to make it easier for them to access the vaccine. We also wanted to bring in people that they could relate to — pharmacists, nurses and community advocates that look like them.”
Read the full story and see more photos here.
Calendar quirk means virus deaths won’t be seen in census
A calendar coincidence means the human loss from the coronavirus will not be reflected in the 2020 census, and that could save a congressional seat for New York but cost Alabama one.
Because the start of the pandemic in the U.S. and the April 1 reference date used for the census fell so close to each other last year, the deaths that began in mid-March will not show up in the state population figures that determine political representation in Congress.
The timing will paper over the losses from the virus, which has killed around 44,000 people in New York state, including concentrations in some New York City neighborhoods in Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx. Alabama has reported around 8,000 virus-related deaths.
The once-a-decade headcount of every U.S. resident determines the number of congressional seats, and Electoral College votes, each state gets. The division of congressional seats is sometimes decided by relatively small numbers — just thousands or even hundreds of people.
Read the full story here.
Catch up on the past 24 hours
Employers can require the coronavirus vaccine, but most major Seattle businesses are holding off for now. At Google and Amazon, it’s “strongly encouraged.” Aegis senior living facilities will require it once vaccines are widely available. Kroger will pay employees $100 if they get a shot.
Coronavirus variants may reinfect people who have already had COVID-19, a trial of an experimental vaccine suggests. The finding, though far from conclusive, would underscore the critical role of vaccination to control the spread of the virus.
The COVID-19 vaccine has gone disproportionately to white Washington residents, new data from the state Department of Health shows. As in other states, Black and Hispanic residents have tested positive for the coronavirus at a higher rate compared to white residents.
Travelers who refuse to wear a mask at the airport could face fines. The Transportation Security Administration announced Friday that people who refuse to comply with a federal mask mandate could be fined more than $1,000.
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 as residents seek outdoor recreation options during the colder months.
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.
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