It’s Super Bowl Sunday, and like everything else in the pandemic, watching the game 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.

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.

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.

Chicago Teachers Tentatively Agree to Return to Classrooms

The Chicago Teachers Union has reached a tentative deal with Mayor Lori Lightfoot to partially reopen the city’s schools for in-person classes starting this week, the mayor announced Sunday, according to The New York Times.

If it is finalized, the agreement would avert a strike that had threatened to disrupt instruction for students in the nation’s third-largest school system. It would also allow students in prekindergarten through eighth grade, plus some high school students with severe disabilities, to return to classrooms, albeit on a slower schedule than the mayor had originally wanted.

Almost all of the city’s 340,000 public school students have been studying remotely since March. Read the full story here.

—Kate Taylor, The New York Times

Bruce Springsteen and Babies Star in Pandemic-Year Super Bowl Ads

The ads that were served up during a Super Bowl broadcast that was expected to draw 100 million viewers presented vastly different ideas of what type of marketing messages would work in the middle of a long pandemic and after a year of social strife and political upheaval, The New York Times reported.

Jeep persuaded Bruce Springsteen to appear in his first commercial ever, a two-minute call for national unity that was scheduled to run in the fourth quarter.

Some companies dealt directly with the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, focusing on unemployment and the sense of isolation that goes with the shutdowns of so many workplaces, stores and entertainment venues.

Read the full story here.

—Tiffany Hsu, The New York Times

South Africa suspends AstraZeneca vaccine drive

JOHANNESBURG — South Africa has suspended plans to inoculate its front-line health care workers with the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine after a small clinical trial suggested that it isn’t effective in preventing mild to moderate illness from the variant dominant in the country.

South Africa received its first 1 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine last week and was expected to begin giving jabs to health care workers in mid-February. The disappointing early results indicate that an inoculation drive using the AstraZeneca vaccine may not be useful.

Preliminary data from a small study suggested that the AstraZeneca vaccine offers only “minimal protection against mild-moderate disease” caused by the variant in South Africa. The variant appears more infectious and is driving a deadly resurgence of the disease in the country, currently accounting for more than 90% of the COVID-19 cases, health minister Zweli Mkhize said Sunday night.

“The AstraZeneca vaccine appeared effective against the original strain, but not against the variant,” Mkhize said. “We have decided to put a temporary hold on the rollout of the vaccine … more work needs to be done.” Read the full story.

—The Associated Press

Washington’s hospitals send N95 masks to 3M for testing and discover many are knockoffs

Dozens of Washington hospitals have learned that N95 respirator masks believed to be purchased from 3M are knockoffs and were not manufactured by the company.

After receiving notice from 3M about the possibility that some masks were counterfeit, the Washington State Hospital Association (WSHA) on Friday alerted the state’s hospitals and asked them to pull potentially affected masks from their supplies. 

Several hospitals sent masks to 3M for testing. Yesterday, the company confirmed that some were counterfeit. 

Read the full story here.

—Hannah Furfaro

Virus variant first found in Britain now spreading rapidly in U.S.

A more contagious variant of the coronavirus first found in Britain is spreading rapidly in the United States, doubling roughly every 10 days, according to a new study.

Analyzing a half-million coronavirus tests and hundreds of genomes, a team of researchers predicted that in a month this variant could become predominant in the United States, potentially bringing a surge of new cases and increased risk of death.

The new research offers the first nationwide look at the history of the variant, known as B117, since it arrived in the United States in late 2020. Last month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned that B117 could become predominant by March if it behaved the way it did in Britain. The new study confirms that projected path.

“Nothing in this paper is surprising, but people need to see it,” said Kristian Andersen, a co-author of the study and a virus expert at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California. “We should probably prepare for this being the predominant lineage in most places in the United States by March.”

Andersen’s team estimated that the transmission rate of B117 in the United States is 30% to 40% higher than that of more common variants, although those figures may rise as more data comes in, he said. The variant has already been implicated in surges in other countries, including Ireland, Portugal and Jordan.

Read the full story here.

—The New York Times

Inside Biden’s decision to go it alone with Democrats on coronavirus relief

Partway through a two-hour Oval Office meeting with President Joe Biden about his coronavirus relief package, several Republican senators thought they might have finally reached a breakthrough.

Biden’s plan provides $400 in additional weekly unemployment benefits until the end of September, while the alternative offered by a group of 10 Republican senators calls for $300 until the end of June – and the president seemed open to a compromise.

“Well, this is probably something we could talk about,” Biden said, according to Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., one of the attendees.

But minutes later, Capito said that Biden – who showed up wearing socks with little blue dogs all over them – seemed to have lost his interest in a deal, telling the group that when it came to unemployment insurance, “I’m definitely sticking with September.”

In the fight over covid relief legislation at the dawn of his administration, Biden’s historical bipartisan impulses clashed with his current sense of urgency in real time. He is a Senate veteran of 36 years, frequently in search of compromise and always in the market for a bargain. He is also a self-described wartime president facing down a deadly pandemic who believes that bold action is needed to address a crisis that will define his presidency.

By the end of the week, Biden signaled he had made his decision.

Read the full story here.

—The Washington Post

More than 100K people in Alaska have gotten 1st vaccine dose

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — More than 100,000 people in Alaska have received the first dose of the coronavirus vaccine as of Friday.

That figure includes over 41,000 people who have been vaccinated in Anchorage, which represents about 15% of the city’s population, Dr. Janet Johnston, an epidemiologist with the Anchorage Health Department, told KTUU-TV.

More than 15,000 Anchorage residents have received a second vaccine dose, Johnston said. Read the full story here.

—The Associated Press

Boat with 422 migrants, some with COVID-19, heads to Sicily

ROME — A rescue ship with 422 migrants aboard, a small number of whom tested positive for COVID-19, was headed to a port in Sicily on Sunday.

SOS Mediterranee, the humanitarian group which operates the rescue ship Ocean Viking, told The Associated Press that Italy had granted the vessel permission to enter the port of Augusta, where it was expected to arrive Sunday evening, just as as rain and strong winds were forecast.

The migrants were rescued in separate operations in the central Mediterranean Sea on Thursday and Friday, including 121 who were crowded into a rubber dinghy. Some of the passengers fell into the sea during that rescue operation but were brought to safety, SOS Mediterranee said in a statement by Luisa Albera, search and rescue coordinator aboard the Ocean Viking.

Read the full story here.

—The Associated Press

AstraZeneca vaccine being tweaked to fight S. Africa variant

LONDON — Developers of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine expect to have a modified jab to cope with the South Africa coronavirus variant by autumn, the vaccine’s lead researcher said Sunday.

Health officials in Britain are trying to contain the spread of the variant first identified in South Africa amid concerns that it is more contagious or resistant to existing vaccines. More than 100 cases of the South African variant have been found in the U.K.

Sarah Gilbert, lead researcher for the Oxford team, told the BBC on Sunday that “we have a version with the South African spike sequence in the works.”

“It looks very likely that we can have a new version ready to use in the autumn,” she added.

Her comments came as Oxford University said that early data from a small study suggested that the AstraZeneca vaccine offers only “minimal protection” against mild disease caused by the South Africa variant.

Read the full story.

—The Associated Press

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