Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Monday, February 7, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is planning to update its guidance for some people with weakened immune systems Monday by advising them to receive a booster dose of the coronavirus vaccine three months after completing their initial series of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, rather than after five months.
Meanwhile, The Washington State Hospital Association and the University of Washington are suing a Texas company for allegedly selling them millions of dollars worth of counterfeit N95 masks early in the coronavirus pandemic.
The CDC published new data on the risks of hospitalization and death from COVID-19 among people who are vaccinated and unvaccinated, with the figures confirming that booster doses are most beneficial to older adults.
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 the rest of our coronavirus coverage and here to see how we track the daily spread across Washington.
New Zealand convoy protesters clog streets near Parliament
Hundreds of people protesting vaccine and mask mandates drove in convoy to New Zealand’s capital on Tuesday and converged outside Parliament as lawmakers reconvened after a summer break.
The mostly unmasked protesters had driven from around the country, and their vehicles clogged the central Wellington streets for hours as they got out to meet and speak on Parliament’s forecourt.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern elected not to meet with them as she delivered a speech to lawmakers outlining her priorities for the year.
Among the protesters’ grievances is the requirement in New Zealand that certain workers get vaccinated against the coronavirus, including teachers, doctors, nurses, police and military personnel.
Home COVID test kits say they’re not for kids under 2. So how do I test my toddler?
Navigating the COVID-19 pandemic as the parent of a toddler hasn’t been easy: They are too young to be vaccinated and can’t keep on a mask, but at the same time turn into drool and snot zombies in the winter, with a mission to contaminate anyone who comes in their wobbly path.
The rules about social distancing, masking, and quarantining after exposure change so often it seems many people have given up trying to keep up, which makes things even more complicated for parents trying to protect unvaccinated children from getting sick.
Add to the list: If your infant or toddler is exposed to someone with COVID-19, or you’re just worried that those sniffles are more than the ever-present toddler cold, getting them tested isn’t so straightforward.
A negative COVID-19 test is a requirement for many young children to return to day care after an exposure in the classroom, yet rapid at-home antigen tests — the most easily accessible option for busy families — specify they’re not to be used among infants and toddlers.
Oregon to lift indoor mask requirement by end of March
Oregon’s statewide mask requirement for indoor public places will be lifted no later than the end of March, health officials announced Monday.
In addition, mask requirements for schools will be lifted on March 31.
Education and health officials will meet in coming weeks to revise guidance to “ensure schools can continue operating safely and keep students in class” after mask rule is lifted, said Dr. Dean Sidelinger, the state medical officer and epidemiologist.
“This will give (school officials) time to look at their community condition — vaccination rates and spread in their community — and decide if they want to implement a local mandate or requirement for schools,” Sidelinger said.
The end of March deadline for lifting statewide mask rules was selected using predictions by local health scientists that COVID-19 related hospitalizations will decrease to 400 or fewer by that time — a level that Oregon experienced before the omicron variant surge.
Is the coronavirus in your backyard?
In late 2020, the coronavirus silently stalked Iowa’s white-tailed deer. The virus infected large bucks and leggy yearlings. It infiltrated a game preserve in the southeastern corner of the state and popped up in free-ranging deer from Sioux City to Dubuque.
When scientists sifted through bits of frozen lymph node tissue — harvested from unlucky deer killed by hunters or cars — they found that more than 60% of the deer sampled in December 2020 were infected.
“It was stunning,” said Vivek Kapur, a microbiologist and infectious disease expert at Penn State, who led the research.
Kapur and his colleagues have now analyzed samples from more than 4,000 dead Iowa deer, diligently marking the location of each infected animal on a map of the state. “It’s completely mad,” he said. “It looks like it’s everywhere.”
California votes to require paid sick leave for virus cases
When Crystal Orozco got sick with the coronavirus last month, she missed nearly two weeks’ worth of her salary as a shift leader at a fast food restaurant and had to ask family members for a loan to help pay her rent.
“My check was literally $86,” she said. “I was like, ‘Oh my god.’”
Now, Orozco is likely to get that money back. The California Legislature passed a bill Monday requiring many companies to give workers up to two weeks of paid time off if they get sick from the coronavirus. The bill is retroactive to Jan. 1, so Orozco could be eligible for backpay for the days she missed when she was sick.
At the start of the pandemic, state and federal laws required most employers to give workers paid time off for the coronavirus. But many of those laws expired as more people got vaccinated and case numbers declined. California’s law expired in September.
State health officials confirm new coronavirus cases, deaths
The state Department of Health (DOH) reported 9,706 new coronavirus cases on Friday, 5,006 on Saturday and 3,300 cases on Sunday. It also reported 133 more deaths over those days.
The update brings the state's totals to 1,382,782 cases and 11,099 deaths, meaning that 0.8% of people diagnosed in Washington have died, according to the DOH. The data is as of 11:59 p.m. Sunday. New state data is reported on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
In addition, 55,913 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the virus — 594 new hospitalizations. In King County, the state's most populous, state health officials have confirmed a total of 355,892 COVID-19 diagnoses and 2,376 deaths.
Since vaccinations began in late 2020, the state and health care providers have administered 12,824,238 doses and 66.1% of Washingtonians have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to vaccination data, which the state updates on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Providers are currently giving an average of about 18,089 vaccine shots per day.
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. State health officials recommend reviewing the dashboard's epidemiologic curves tab for the most accurate representation of the state's COVID-19 spread.
Canada pushes back against GOP support for COVID protests
Canada’s public safety minister said Monday that U.S. officials should stay out of his country’s domestic affairs, joining other Canadian leaders in pushing back against prominent Republicans who offered support for the protests of COVID-19 restrictions that have besieged downtown Ottawa for more than a week.
A day after the city declared a state of emergency, the mayor pleaded for almost 2,000 extra police officers to help quell the raucous nightly demonstrations staged by the so-called Freedom Truck Convoy, which has used hundreds of parked trucks to paralyze the Canadian capital’s business district. The protests have also infuriated people who live around downtown, including neighborhoods near Parliament Hill, the seat of the federal government.
Embattled Ottawa Police Chief Peter Sloly called the demonstration an “unprecedented protest never seen in Canada” and acknowledged that authorities failed to plan for it to last more than three days.
Many members of the GOP have made comments supporting the demonstrations, including former President Donald Trump, who called Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau a “far left lunatic” who has “destroyed Canada with insane COVID mandates.”
Strong jobs report shows resilient economy despite COVID wave
A record-setting spike in coronavirus cases kept millions of workers at home in January and disrupted businesses from coast to coast. But it couldn’t knock the U.S. job-market recovery off course.
Employers added 467,000 jobs in January, seasonally adjusted, the Labor Department said Friday. The report smashed the projections of economists, who had been expecting the wave of coronavirus cases associated with the omicron variant to lead to anemic gains, if not an outright decline in jobs. Instead, employers kept on hiring.
“Clearly something is different about this surge,” said Julia Pollak, chief economist for the career site ZipRecruiter. Companies that struggled all fall to recruit workers weren’t about to reverse course just because cases shot up for a few weeks, she said. Even restaurants and hotels, which slashed jobs during earlier pandemic waves, hired workers last month.
“Employers who have been engaged in this dogfight for talent, they’re not standing down,” Pollak said. “They are sticking around because they think the surge will be over soon.”
At the White House on Friday, President Joe Biden hailed the economy’s “historic” progress. “America’s job machine is going stronger than ever,” he said.
Republicans, wooing Trump voters, make Fauci their boogeyman
When Jane Timken kicked off an eight-week advertising campaign on the Fox News Channel in her bid for the Republican nomination for Senate, she did not focus on immigration, health care or the economy. Her first ad was titled “Fire Fauci.”
Its subject — Dr. Anthony Fauci, President Joe Biden’s top medical adviser for the coronavirus — is also under attack in Pennsylvania, where Mehmet Oz, a television doctor who has entered the Republican Senate primary there, calls him a “petty tyrant.” In Nebraska, an ad shows Jim Pillen, a Republican running for governor, dressed in hunting gear and cocking his gun after saying, “And Fauci? Don’t get me started.”
Republican attacks on Fauci are not new; former President Donald Trump, irked that the doctor publicly corrected his falsehoods about the virus, called him “a disaster” and repeatedly threatened to fire him. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., has grilled Fauci in nationally televised hearings, and Fauci — true to his fighter-from-Brooklyn roots — has punched back.
But as the 2022 midterm elections approach, the attacks have spread across the nation, intensifying as Fauci draws outsize attention in some of the most important state and local races on the ballot in November.
Governor ending New Jersey’s school mask mandate
New Jersey’s governor announced plans Monday to lift the statewide COVID-19 mask requirement in schools a month from now because of the rapid easing of the omicron surge, calling the move “a huge step back to normalcy for our kids.”
Individual school districts will be free to continue requiring masks once the state mandate ends March 7, Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy said.
New Jersey is one of a dozen states with mask mandates in schools, according to the nonpartisan National Academy for State Health Policy. New Jersey’s has been in place since classes resumed in person in September 2020.
Murphy cited the “dramatic decline in our COVID numbers” in announcing the rollback. The omicron variant fueled a spike in infections over the holidays, but cases in the state are down 50% and hospitalizations dropped off by one-third since last week, he said.
Alaska truckers form convoy to support Canadian protests
Alaska truck drivers have rallied in support of their counterparts in Canada who oppose COVID-19 vaccine mandates with a convoy.
More than 100 truck drivers on Sunday drove the 10 miles from Anchorage to Eagle River to support truckers in Canada who have been protesting vaccine mandates in Ottawa, the Anchorage Daily News reported.
Truck drivers and other service providers since Jan. 15 can only enter Canada if they are fully vaccinated. A week later, the U.S. required vaccinations from essential non-resident travelers.
“We have to have the shot stamps on our medical cards in order to go out of state, and we don’t want them,” said Jeremy Speldrich, a truck driver with GMG General, Inc. of Anchorage. “Mandates should be our choice, whether you want the shots or not.”
Another protest convoy took trucks from Eagle River north to the Wasilla area. Similar events were held Sunday in Fairbanks and late last month in Juneau.
Germany eyes easing COVID rules; pharmacies to offer shots
The German government is working on plans to relax coronavirus restrictions after the peak in new cases has passed, likely by the end of February.
Unlike some of its European neighbors, Germany still has many pandemic restrictions in place that exclude unvaccinated people from restaurants, public venues and some stores.
“Perspectives for opening are being developed,” government spokeswoman Christiane Hoffmann told reporters Monday in Berlin. She said the measures would be discussed at a meeting of federal and state officials on Feb. 16, but would only take effect when authorities can be sure that Germany’s health system won’t be overwhelmed.
“According to experts, that could be by mid-to-end February,” she said.
Germany has seen a sharp spike in newly confirmed cases in recent weeks due to the omicron variant.
WA tenants could get 6 months’ notice of big rent hikes
When Patricia Zachary moved into her four-bedroom Olympia home in 2019, the $2,185 rent seemed fair, despite some needed cleaning and upgrades.
Then, last year, Zachary says her landlord began texting about increasing the rent. When a written notice finally arrived in late October, she learned the rent would jump to $2,600 in January.
“I was devastated,” Zachary told state lawmakers in a recent hearing.
Under a new proposal in the state Legislature, Zachary would have received six months’ notice of that rent hike. And in certain scenarios, tenants in her situation could break their leases and move out.
With that extra time, “I could have probably gotten stuff packed up and put some stuff in storage” to find a smaller, more affordable rental, Zachary said in an interview. Instead, she said she is now borrowing money, putting off other expenses and planning to take on a second job.
“This bill needs to be passed to help many people on a fixed income who cannot afford to go up on rent,” Zachary said.
More Americans are done with COVID, though it’s not done with us
Andrew Markert respects the coronavirus. It has messed with his livelihood, a D.C. pub called Beuchert’s Saloon, forcing him to close, move outdoors and adjust in countless other ways.
But the time has arrived for him to move forward and stick to his plans, come what may in the next round of the pandemic. And he’s betting there are a lot of people like him.
So Markert plans to open not one, but two new restaurants in the next couple of months — Fight Club, a few doors down from Beuchert’s, in February and the upscale Newland around the corner in April.
“I’m cautiously optimistic that we’re at the end of it,” he said as workers scraped and primed Fight Club’s interior last week. “I’m mentally over it, but physically still cautious.”
Fatigued, frustrated and frazzled by five surges over two years, some parts of the U.S. population have decided to simply live with the coronavirus and move on. And with a triple-shot of vaccine on board — or protection acquired from prior infection — alongside case numbers falling precipitously, polls show their numbers are increasing.
“People are striving for more normal life,” Hutchinson told reporters.
Of course, we’ve been here before. Several times. And we now know predictions of the virus’s demise have been wrong every time and we just one variant away from going through it all over again.
Hard-hit Iran reports more than 100 new deaths from COVID-19
Hard-hit Iran on Monday registered more than 100 new deaths from COVID-19 over a 24-hour period as the aggressive omicron variant spreads in the country, state TV reported.
The report said 104 patients died from the disease since Sunday, when the Islamic Republic announced 85 new deaths over a day’s time. Monday’s new tally more than doubled that of Feb. 1, when the death toll was 50.
With 132,934 total deaths by Iran’s official count, the country has the highest national toll in the Middle East. Iran says it has has vaccinated some 80% of its population above age 18 with two vaccine shots. It has only vaccinated 27% of that group with three shots.
Authorities say the aggressive omicron variant is now dominant in the country and have urged hospitals to prepare for a new wave of hospitalizations.
“Every day we see a 10 to 15 percent increase in cases,” said Nader Tavakkoli a health official in Tehran province, the semiofficial ISNA news agency reported on Monday.
Papua New Guinea PM tests positive for COVID-19 in Beijing
Papua New Guinea’s prime minister tested positive for COVID-19 when he arrived in Beijing last week to attend the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympic Games and had to cut short his stay.
Prime Minister James Marape was immediately given medical treatment, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said Monday.
Marape missed Friday’s opening ceremony and returned home Sunday night, canceling a planned trip to France. However, he held a meeting with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang via video link while in Beijing, Zhao said at a regular briefing.
Marape’s present condition is unknown.
Across Asia, spike in virus cases follows Lunar New Year
Many Asian countries are facing a spike in COVID-19 infections after the widely-celebrated Lunar New Year holidays, as health officials grapple with the highly-transmissible omicron variant and expectations that numbers will continue to rise in coming weeks.
The Lunar New Year, which is China’s biggest holiday, was celebrated across Asia on Feb. 1 even as pandemic restrictions in many countries kept crowds and family outings to a minimum.
Hong Kong’s authorities are confronting record cases that are straining its so-called “zero-COVID” policy. On Monday, the city reported a new high of 614 local infections.
Catch up on the past 24 hours
The 1918 flu didn’t end in 1918. Its third year can teach us a few things about how this chapter of history might draw to a close. (Here’s how that pandemic unfolded in Seattle, where 1,513 people died.) Fast-forward to today, when more and more Americans are "done" with the pandemic — even as the U.S. death total tops 900,000.
Frozen out of GoFundMe, the Canadian "freedom truck convoy" has raked in millions of dollars through a Christian website as its members rally against COVID-19 vaccine mandates. That raises a big issue: where the money is coming from. Ottawa's mayor yesterday declared a state of emergency as thousands of protesters descended on the nation's capital.
At-home COVID-19 test kits say they’re not for kids under age 2. You can still test a young child, it turns out. But it's no small feat. Here are tips for testing a small, squirmy child.
Australia is reopening to international travelers this month, the prime minister announced today after one of the world's longest COVID border closures. Tourists will have to follow new rules.
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