Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Monday, Feb. 8, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.
While the Tampa Bay Buccaneers routed the Kansas City Chiefs in the Super Bowl, companies served up dueling ads that presented vastly different ideas of what marketing would resonate with consumers in a world reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic and social upheaval.
The more-contagious variant of the coronavirus first found in Britain is spreading rapidly in the United States, doubling roughly every 10 days, a new study found. In South Africa, the government suspended plans to inoculate front-line health care workers with the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine after a small clinical trial called into question its effectiveness in preventing the dominant variant in the country.
And in Washington state, dozens of hospitals are learning that N95 masks they believed were from manufacturer 3M are in fact knockoffs. The Washington State Hospital Association estimates that the counterfeit masks could range from hundreds of thousands to more a million.
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.
Dutch will extend coronavirus curfew until March 3
THE HAGUE, Netherlands — The Dutch government announced Monday it is extending the country’s curfew until March 3, declaring that was necessary to slow the spread of the more infectious coronavirus variant first detected in Britain.
The curfew was to have expired Wednesday.
Justice Minister Ferd Grapperhaus said the decision was made after a team of experts that advises the government “urgently warned” ministers at a meeting Monday about the more infections variant.
The country’s 9 p.m.-to-4:30 a.m. curfew was introduced Jan. 23 and triggered days of riots in towns and cities across the Netherlands. However, the unrest has since subsided and the vast majority of residents adhere to the curfew.
The 7-day rolling average of daily new cases in Netherlands declined over the past two weeks, from 30.68 new cases per 100,000 people on Jan. 24 to 23.05 new cases per 100,000 on Feb. 7.
Oregonians 80 and older begin receiving COVID-19 vaccination
PORTLAND, Ore. — Appointments to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in Oregon were quickly booked Monday, as residents who are 80 years and older became eligible to receive doses of the scarce and highly anticipated vaccine.
Older adults in Oregon have waited weeks to receive the vaccine, after the original eligibility date was delayed and then Gov. Kate Brown decided to prioritize educators ahead of the elderly.
The elderly have been the hardest hit group in state when it comes to the virus — people 60 years and older account for 90% of Oregon’s COVID-19 deaths.
On Monday, adults 80 and older began to receive shots. Eligibility will expand to younger age groups each week: 75 and older starting Feb. 15, 70 and older starting Feb. 22 and 65 and older starting March 1.
Schools plan for potential of remote learning into the fall
Parents of schoolchildren learning from home shouldn’t necessarily count on reclaiming the dining room table any time soon.
After seeing two academic years thrown off course by the pandemic, school leaders around the country are planning for the possibility of more distance learning next fall at the start of yet another school year.
“We have no illusions that COVID will be eradicated by the time the start of the school year comes up,” said William “Chip” Sudderth III, a spokesperson for Durham, North Carolina schools, whose students have been out of school buildings since March.
President Joe Biden has made reopening schools a top priority, but administrators say there is much to consider as new strains of the coronavirus appear and teachers wait their turn for vaccinations.
And while many parents are demanding that schools fully reopen, others say they won’t feel safe sending children back to classrooms until vaccines are available to even young students.
Florida man charged with COVID relief fraud
ORLANDO, Fla. — A Florida man received more than $7.2 million in coronavirus relief funds after concocting hundreds of nonexistent employees on loan applications, federal prosecutors said.
A federal grand jury in Orlando handed down an indictment last week against Don Cisternino, 45, of Chuluota. The central Florida man is charged with two counts of wire fraud, three counts of aggravated identity theft and three counts of illegal monetary transactions. If convicted, he faces more than 70 years in prison.
Last spring, Cisternino falsely claimed on a loan application that his New York business, MagnifiCo, had 441 employees and monthly payroll expenses in 2019 of more than $2.8 million, prosecutors said. The company actually had few, if any, employees other than Cisternino and his girlfriend, and it didn’t report any wages to the IRS in 2019, officials said.
After obtaining the $7.2-million emergency loan, Cisternino purchased a 12,579-square-foot (1,169 square-meter) home in Seminole County, as well as a Lincoln Navigator, a Maserati and a Mercedes-Benz, prosecutors said.
Some court workers, not on priority list, still get vaccine
BOISE, Idaho — A number of state and federal judges and court staffers are getting some of Idaho’s limited doses of coronavirus vaccine even though they are not on the state’s priority list, jumping ahead of older people who are supposed to be at the front of the line.
State officials, health care providers and eager vaccine seekers have interpreted the rules differently in Idaho and nationwide, creating a hodgepodge of rules that leaves some court workers who interact with prisoners and the public protected from the coronavirus while others will have to wait months for a shot.
Workers at a federal court and a county courthouse in Boise, Idaho’s largest city, were offered vaccinations Monday, though state health officials say they aren’t supposed to be eligible until sometime in April.
“Vaccinators sometimes have to make judgment calls about who fits into which priority groups, but we are counting on them to honor the groups as recommended” by Idaho’s vaccine advisory committee and approved by Gov. Brad Little, state Department of Health and Welfare spokeswoman Niki Forbing-Orr said.
The union leader who says she can get teachers back in schools
Randi Weingarten, the nation’s most powerful teachers union president, has a message: She wants to get students back in the nation’s classrooms.
She spends 15 hours per day on the phone, she says — with local labor leaders, mayors, the White House, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — trying to figure out how to reopen the three-quarters of school systems that remain fully or partially shuttered.
But with the pandemic approaching its anniversary, and a new president — a union ally — vowing to reopen elementary and middle schools within his first 100 days, she faces a difficult truth: In the liberal cities and suburbs where schools are most likely to remain closed, teachers unions are the most powerful forces saying no, not yet.
Not before teacher vaccinations, they say, or upgraded school ventilation systems, or accommodations for educators with vulnerable relatives.
Delta Air Lines to leave middle seats empty through April
ATLANTA — Delta Air Lines said Monday it will continue to block some seats on all flights through spring break and Easter to provide a bit more space between passengers.
The Atlanta-based airline announced Monday that it will limit capacity on flights through April 30. Delta said it will block middle seats in most cabins although groups of three or more passengers can choose to sit together.
During the early days of the pandemic, several U.S. airlines blocked middle seats, although United Airlines never did. The others that temporarily limited the number of seats for sale have since dropped the practice, at least in the main cabin, including Southwest, JetBlue, Alaska and American.
A Delta official, Bill Lentsch, said the airline will monitor virus cases and vaccination rates as it reassess its seating policy.
State reports 723 new coronavirus cases; deaths not yet reported
The state Department of Health (DOH) reported 723 new coronavirus cases.
Due to processing issues, new deaths were not reported on Monday.
The update brings the state's totals to 323,214 cases and 4,451 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. Sunday. Tallies may be higher earlier in the week because new state data isn’t reported on Sundays and COVID-related deaths aren’t reported on the weekends.
In addition, 18,480 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the virus — 197 new hospitalizations. In King County, the state's most populous, state health officials have confirmed a total of 80,415 COVID-19 diagnoses and 1,276 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.
Hopes rise in Portugal but COVID-19 still slams hospitals
Hopes are rising in Portugal that the worst of a devastating pandemic surge might be over, as the number of COVID-19 deaths reported Monday was the lowest in three weeks.
The country’s pandemic picture is mixed, however, as hospital admissions rose for the first time in a week. Still, the spread of COVID-19 in the small European Union country has by some metrics been slowing since the end of January.
COVID-19 strain that swept UK circulates most in Florida
The fast-spreading COVID-19 variant first found in the U.K. is gaining a Florida foothold, prompting concerns about fans who flooded the streets of Tampa on Sunday after the Buccaneers beat the Kansas City Chiefs to win Super Bowl LV.
Florida leads the U.S. in confirmed cases of the variant known as B.1.1.7, with 201 infections identified overall, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It’s also the worst state on a population-adjusted basis, followed by Wyoming, Colorado, Connecticut and California. The U.S. has reported 690 cases of B.1.1.7 across 33 states, according to the CDC.
The relatively small numbers can be deceiving. The data are based on sampling of COVID-19 specimens, but the CDC emphasizes that the figures don’t represent a complete picture. The U.S. does relatively little analysis of virus variants.
New research released Sunday on MedRxiv shows the U.S. is on a similar trajectory to other countries where B.1.1.7 has become dominant and propelled new surges. The research estimated that in the last week of January, B.1.1.7 was already 4.5% of Florida cases and 2.1% cases nationally. In the Sunshine State, the number of such cases was doubling every 9.1 days, the research shows.
In the U.S., the data suggest transmissibility as much as 45% higher compared with traditional strains, according to the research.
Late Sunday, maskless celebrants blocked traffic in downtown Tampa in defiance of an outdoor mask order from Mayor Jane Castor. Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has resisted a mask mandate of his own, has issued a separate order that prevents governments from collecting coronavirus fines and penalties.
New cases see steep drop, vaccines gain speed, but maskless fans fuel worries
The drive to vaccinate Americans against the coronavirus is gaining speed and newly recorded cases have fallen to their lowest level in three months, but authorities worry that raucous Super Bowl celebrations could fuel new outbreaks.
More than 4 million more vaccinations were reported over the weekend, a significantly faster clip than in previous days, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Nearly one in 10 Americans have now received at least one shot. But just 2.9% of the U.S. population has been fully vaccinated, a long way from the 70% or more that experts say must be inoculated to conquer the outbreak.
Newly confirmed infections have declined to an average of 117,000 a day, the lowest point since early November. That is a steep drop from the peak of nearly 250,000 a day in early January.
But the sight of fans, many without masks, celebrating the Super Bowl in the streets, in sports bars and at game-watching parties has sparked worries of new outbreaks.
Italy teachers balk at AstraZeneca vaccine plans
Italy’s main teachers’ union is balking at plans for educators under age 55 to receive the AstraZeneca vaccine rather than jabs it believes provide better protection, evidence that lobbying groups are vying to get specific shots as the virus and its variants spread across Europe.
The CISL School union said in a statement Monday that it wanted a meeting with Italy’s government scientific committee. It complained that it hadn’t been consulted about the decision to start up the vaccine drive for teachers ahead of schedule, with some of the first 250,000 AstraZeneca doses that arrived over the weekend.
The Italian government rejiggered its vaccination plans last week after Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna reduced vaccine deliveries and Italy’s pharmaceutical agency gave “preferential use” for AstraZeneca shots for people aged 18 to 55. The government is now directing its Pfizer and Moderna shots to inoculate people over age 80 while designating the AstraZeneca jabs for younger, at-risk workers.
Russia updates statistics on virus-linked deaths in 2020
Russia’s updated statistics on coronavirus-linked deaths show that 162,429 people with COVID-19 had died in the pandemic last year, a number much higher than previously reported by government officials.
The state statistics agency, Rosstat, released figures for December on Monday. December accounted for the highest number of deaths since April — 44,435 — according to Rosstat.
The agency’s count is much higher than the 77,068 deaths that have been reported by the Russian government’s coronavirus task force so far, including deaths that occurred in January and February.
Tampa mayor frustrated by maskless fans after Super Bowl
So much for the mayor’s order requiring masks at Super Bowl parties. Throngs of mostly maskless fans took to the streets and packed sports bars as the clock inside Raymond James Stadium ticked down on a hometown Super Bowl win for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Some 200,000 masks were handed out ahead of the game, and “a majority” of people and businesses followed the rules, she said.
To meet coronavirus protocols, the NFL capped the crowd at under 25,000 in a stadium that normally holds some 66,000 fans, and required masks.
But outside the stadium, crowds of fans who weren’t wearing masks or practicing social distancing could be seen celebrating the Buccaneers’ 31-9 win over the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday night. Folks cheered, crammed into bars and hugged in several hotspots around the city — and swarmed the streets — all without masks.
Inslee to cut unemployment insurance tax, boost jobless benefits amid COVID-19
Gov. Jay Inslee on Monday is set to put his signature on a bill that slashes a scheduled hike in unemployment insurance for businesses and also expands jobless benefits and protections amid the pandemic.
The legislation is one of several bills lawmakers are quickly moving in order to help Washington residents and businesses hurt by the COVID-19 outbreak and ensuing restrictions on commerce and daily life.
The governor is scheduled to sign Senate Bill 5061 at an 11:30 a.m. news conference.
UN: ‘Concerning news’ vaccines may not work against variants
The head of the World Health Organization said Monday the emergence of new COVID-19 variants has raised questions about whether or not existing vaccines will work, calling it “concerning news” that the vaccines developed so far may be less effective against the variant first detected in South Africa.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a media briefing that South Africa’s decision on Sunday to suspend its vaccination campaign using the AstraZeneca vaccine is “a reminder that we need to do everything we can to reduce circulation of the virus with proven public health measures.”
He said it was increasingly clear that vaccine manufacturers would need to tweak their existing shots to address the ongoing genetic evolution of the coronavirus, saying booster shots would most likely be necessary, especially since new variants of the virus are now spreading globally and appear likely to become the predominant strains.
Super Bowl featured a streaker in a neon pink Borat thong
The streaker at Sunday’s Super Bowl wasn’t naked. It was much, much worse.
This being Florida and 2021, the streaker at the 55th Super Bowl was wearing a pink Borat-style swimsuit, shorts and sneakers, obviously. One needs to be able to run.
It’s a choice to wear both the shorts and the full torso thong. Why not commit to the swimwear? As pictures show, the heavily tattooed man attempted to pull the shorts down at one point. A brave streaker would have started without the shorts.
Of course, you didn’t see the streaker on TV because you never see streakers on TV. They don’t want to encourage the behavior.
But it’s unlikely too many people — at least too many people who haven’t been drinking vodka and Red Bull for the last 10 hours — would look to emulate this fellow, who stripped partially naked during a global pandemic and exposed the world to his tattooed and the security staff to possibly COVID.
Unless of course this guy was one of those vaccinated healthcare heroes. In which case, I guess, go for it?
Whoever he is, he definitely got a couple yard.
New variants raise worry about COVID-19 virus reinfections
Evidence is mounting that having COVID-19 may not protect against getting infected again with some of the new variants. People also can get second infections with earlier versions of the coronavirus if they mounted a weak defense the first time, new research suggests.
How long immunity lasts from natural infection is one of the big questions in the pandemic. Scientists still think reinfections are fairly rare and usually less serious than initial ones, but recent developments around the world have raised concerns.
In South Africa, a vaccine study found new infections with a variant in 2% of people who previously had an earlier version of the virus.
In Brazil, several similar cases were documented with a new variant there. Researchers are exploring whether reinfections help explain a recent surge in the city of Manaus, where three-fourths of residents were thought to have been previously infected.
In the United States, a study found that 10% of Marine recruits who had evidence of prior infection and repeatedly tested negative before starting basic training were later infected again. That work was done before the new variants began to spread, said one study leader, Dr. Stuart Sealfon of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York.
“Previous infection does not give you a free pass,” he said. “A substantial risk of reinfection remains.”
Texas GOP Rep. Ron Wright is first member of Congress to die of COVID-19.
U.S. Rep. Ron Wright of Arlington, Texas, died Sunday night after a battle with COVID-19. He was 67.
His family and spokesperson confirmed Wright’s death Monday morning. The congressman, who was reelected in November, had been battling cancer.
Wright is the first member of Congress to die of COVID-19.
According to a statement released by Wright’s office, Wright had been keeping a vigorous work scheduled before contracting the virus. Two weeks ago Wright and his wife, Susan, were admitted to Baylor hospital in Dallas because of COVID-19.
In Dubai’s COVID vaccine scramble, Sikhs serve doses to all
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — In normal times, the crowds of young Southeast Asian workers jostling for a place in line outside the Sikh temple in Dubai would mean one thing: free meals.
A core tenet of the world’s fifth-largest religion with over 50,000 adherents in the United Arab Emirates is “langar,” the practice of serving hot, home-cooked vegetarian food to anyone in need. It can be a lifeline in Dubai, where millions of low-paid workers from Asia, Africa and elsewhere power the service-heavy economy.
But over the past few days, the Sikhs of Dubai have traded their spiced rice and dal for what has become a coveted prize: 5,000 shots of the Chinese-made vaccine offered to people of all ages and backgrounds. As the coronavirus pandemic surges to previously unseen heights in the UAE, residents are scrambling to get vaccines in the world’s second-fastest inoculation drive.
“We found a lot of people who wanted to take the vaccine but faced difficulty,” Surender Singh Kandhari, the temple’s chairman said.
Kandhari said many front-line medical workers who failed to get vaccinated elsewhere due to shortages and new restrictions were lining up for jabs in the temple’s parking garage Monday. “This is the only way we can serve the community,” he said.
Lobster biz braces for Chinese New Year impacted by pandemic
America’s lobster exporters recovered from the Trump-era trade war with China to have a good 2020. But the industry is approaching one of the most critical times of the year with trepidation because of the coronavirus.
Chinese New Year is typically one of the busiest parts of the calendar for America’s lobster shippers, who send millions of dollars worth of the crustaceans to China every year. This year the holiday is Feb. 12, and industry members said the Year of the Ox won’t necessarily be the Year of the Lobster.
Business would normally be booming right now, but has ground to a halt because shipping is complicated this winter by the threat of the virus, said Mike Marceau, vice president of The Lobster Company in Arundel, Maine.
Brazil’s wealthy cause a stir trying to score quick vaccines
Brazilian marketing executive Eduardo Menga is extra cautious when it comes to his health. During the pandemic, he consulted a slew of doctors to ensure he was in good shape and uprooted his family from Rio de Janeiro to a quiet city in the countryside where he works remotely. His wife Bianca Rinaldi, an actress, hasn’t worked since March.
Menga and Rinaldi are among a minority of Brazilians who will pay for a COVID-19 vaccine if an association of private clinics can close a deal to bring 5 million shots to Latin America’s most unequal country. President Jair Bolsonaro, under fire for his government’s handling of the pandemic, has promised not to interfere.
“When I go to a restaurant and I pay for my own food, I’m not taking anyone else’s food,” the 68-year-old Menga said from his home in Jundiai in Sao Paulo state. “I don’t think getting a vaccine from a private clinic will take it from someone else waiting in the public system. It could be an alternative line, and those who have the chance should take it.”
Amid the government’s stumbling vaccine rollout, many moneyed Brazilians want to find a swift path to vaccination, sparking backlash from some public health experts and igniting debate on social media, editorial pages and talk shows
Brazil stands apart because maneuvering isn’t only done in the shadows. Some is out in the open, with the prosperous coordinating efforts that the government endorses, according to Roberto DaMatta, an emeritus anthropology professor at the University of Notre Dame.
Austria warns against travel to Tyrol, eases virus curbs
Austria on Monday issued a warning against travel to its Tyrol province amid concerns over cases of a coronavirus variant first discovered in South Africa, even as the country eased its third lockdown by reopening schools, shops, hairdressing salons, museums and zoos.
Officials have been discussing for days whether extra restrictions are required in Tyrol, a popular skiing destination. Federal authorities say 293 infections with the more contagious variant first discovered in South Africa have been confirmed in Tyrol.
The regional government on Monday drew up a list of measures that included calls for people to avoid nonessential travel, more police checks on mask-wearing and social distancing, and a requirement for negative antigen tests before people can use cable cars and ski lifts.
A little later, the federal government urged Austrians to refrain from nonessential travel to Tyrol, which borders Germany, Italy and Switzerland.
Catch up on the past 24 hours
• Trang Tu sings with her mother, Anna Nguyet Dang, in the Seattle home they share. Tu cares for her mother, who is 90 and has advanced dementia. When she learned that older adults being cared for at home were not high on the state’s COVID-19 vaccine priority list, she organized people to advocate on behalf of immigrant and refugee communities, for whom at-home care of elders is particularly cherished. They’ve made some progress but still face some frustrations. Here’s our updated guide to how to get your vaccine.
• There's lots of talk about equity in distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, but is it just talk? Columnist Naomi Ishisaka wonders whether we're doomed to repeat the early failures of the pandemic, which disproportionately targeted Black, Indigenous and people of color.
• Hospitals around Washington state are scrambling to figure out if some of the N95 masks they bought to protect staffers are actually fakes.
• A handful of Washington school districts are successfully teaching most of their students in-person. They have a secret weapon that’s effective but not cheap.
• With COVID-19 restrictions beginning to ease, Seattle's live music venues could open their doors, so why aren't they? "It's just not really realistic for us," says one owner.
• South Africa is changing its plans after learning that the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine it had planned to give to front-line workers isn’t effective against a virus variant found there.
• Just when many expected travel to pick up again, virus variants are leading to another season of vacations canceled or put on hold.
• If you are going somewhere, particularly abroad, you may need proof of a negative coronavirus test. There’s no single standard, though.
• The coronavirus is putting a huge damper on Chinese New Year again this year, and that will be felt on the coast of Maine as well.
• The heartbreaking scenarios of patients dying behind plexiglass and having only video chats with loved ones have prompted an upsurge in at-home deaths, both from coronavirus and from other causes.
• Chicago and its teachers reached a tentative deal to reopen schools with COVID-19 safety measures.
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