Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Tuesday, Feb. 10, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.
In a move that’s intended to help workers affected by the coronavirus pandemic, Gov. Jay Inslee on Monday signed a bill that slashes a scheduled hike in unemployment insurance for businesses and expands jobless benefits.
Meanwhile, experts worry that the vaccines developed to combat the virus might not be as effective against new COVID-19 variants — and the sight of fans, many without masks, celebrating the Super Bowl over the weekend didn’t help concerns of new outbreaks.
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.
Cambodia begins vaccination campaign against COVID-19
PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — Three sons of Cambodian leader Hun Sen were inoculated against COVID-19 on Wednesday as the country began distributing vaccines donated from its closest ally, China.
Hun Manet, the head of the army and Hun Sen’s eldest son, urged all Cambodians to be vaccinated and thanked China for the donation.
“I trust this vaccine and that is why I have been vaccinated with it,” Hun Manet said.
China is donating 1 million doses of the Chinese-made Sinopharm vaccine, enough for half a million people, and the first shipment of 600,000 doses arrived in Cambodia on Sunday.
China is Cambodia’s biggest investor and its closest political partner, while Hun Sen is shunned by some Western nations who consider his government to be repressive. Cambodia in turn backs Beijing’s geopolitical positions in international forums on issues such as China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea.
Variant of coronavirus from UK detected at UW, university says
A student at the University of Washington had the so-called United Kingdom variant of the coronavirus, the university announced in an email to students and employees on Tuesday.
The B.1.1.7 variant was detected in a Seattle student’s test from late January.
“The student is doing well and out of their isolation period,” Dr. Geoffrey Gottlieb, chair of the university’s advisory committee on communicable diseases, wrote in the email.
Gottlieb urged the UW community to continue to social-distance, wear masks when outside the home, wash hands frequently, get tested when necessary and get vaccinated when eligible.
Questions loom with Alaska COVID-19 declaration set to end
JUNEAU, Alaska — A disaster declaration intended to aid Alaska’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic is set to expire this weekend unless action is taken to extend it.
Health and emergency officials warn a failure to extend could restrict the state’s ability to distribute vaccines and set back progress in combating the illness.
Three weeks into the legislative session, the politically divided House has yet to organize, and until it does, it can’t consider or act on bills. Members of the Republican-led Senate have chafed at Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s proposal for an extension through September and say they are looking at whether they can provide the tools Dunleavy needs to respond to the pandemic separate from a declared disaster.
The pushback is fueled, in part, by anger in places like Anchorage, where local officials have imposed restrictions on businesses to curb the spread of COVID-19, though that action is not dictated by the state declaration. Some lawmakers also think Dunleavy, a Republican, overstepped in issuing new declarations without legislative involvement in recent months.
Ex-Wisconsin pharmacist pleads guilty to vaccine tampering
MADISON, Wis. — A former Wisconsin pharmacist pleaded guilty Tuesday in federal court to charges that he tried to spoil dozens of vials of COVID-19 vaccine.
Federal prosecutors charged Steven Brandenburg, 46, of Grafton, in late January with two counts of attempting to tamper with consumer products. He pleaded guilty to both counts during a video conference with U.S. District Judge Brett Ludwig in Milwaukee.
The charges carry a maximum combined sentence of 20 years in prison and $500,000 in fines. Prosecutors agreed to recommend that Ludwig give him at least three years and five months and at most four years and three months for his guilty pleas. The judge scheduled a sentencing hearing for June 8.
His attorney, Jason Baltz, argued that Brandenburg was going through a contentious divorce when he tried to sabotage the vaccine. He’s no longer in a position to tamper with any medication, Baltz said, noting that Advocate Aurora Health fired him in December and state regulators revoked his pharmacist license on Monday.
Could a single vaccine work against all coronaviruses?
The invention of COVID-19 vaccines will be remembered as a milestone in the history of medicine, creating in a matter of months what had before taken up to a decade. But Dr. Kayvon Modjarrad, director of the Emerging Infectious Diseases Branch at Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in Silver Springs, Maryland, isn’t satisfied.
There will be more coronavirus outbreaks in the future. Bats and other mammals are rife with strains and species of this abundant family of viruses. Some of these viruses will inevitably spill over the species barrier and cause new pandemics. It’s only a matter of time.
Modjarrad is one of many scientists who for years have been calling for a different kind of vaccine: one that could work against all coronaviruses. Those calls went largely ignored until COVID-19 demonstrated just how disastrous coronaviruses can be.
Now researchers are starting to develop prototypes of a so-called pancoronavirus vaccine, with some promising, if early, results from experiments on animals. Dr. Eric Topol, a professor of molecular medicine at the Scripps Research Institute in San Diego, thinks scientists should join together in another large-scale vaccine-creation project immediately.
Salesforce won’t force workers to go into office post-COVID
OAKLAND, Calif. — San Francisco-based business software maker Salesforce says it will let most of its employees work remotely even after the pandemic, at least for part of the week. Other major tech companies such as Twitter and Google have made similar announcements.
Salesforce, which is the city’s largest private employer, said Tuesday that it will let most of its employers work from home at least part-time permanently. This means people will be in the office anywhere from one to three days a week. Employees who don’t live near an office or have roles that don’t require an office will work remotely full-time, Salesforce said.
Some workers whose jobs require them to be in a physical office will continue to go in to work.
Salesforce said its work-from-anywhere plan offers the company better ways to broaden its workforce to new geographies and new communities beyond “traditional city centers.”
State reports 935 new coronavirus cases and 107 deaths
The state Department of Health (DOH) reported 935 new coronavirus cases and 107 new deaths Tuesday.
The update brings the state's totals to 324,025 cases and 4,558 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. Monday. 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.
The new cases may include up to 1,100 duplicates, according to DOH, and the higher number of new deaths is "due to a data processing backlog cleared today from February 8, 2021."
In addition, 18,530 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the virus — 50 new hospitalizations. In King County, the state's most populous, state health officials have confirmed a total of 80,594 COVID-19 diagnoses and 1,290 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 do not add up to the new day’s total number of cases.
Facebook steps up vaccine misinfo efforts. Will it work?
As inoculation efforts for the coronavirus ramp up around the world, Facebook says it’s going all in to block the spread of bogus vaccine claims. In practice, that means the social network plans to ban a new bunch of false claims in addition to the manifold false claims about vaccines and COVID-19 that it has already banned.
Among Facebook’s new targets: claims include that vaccines aren’t effective or that they’re toxic, dangerous or cause autism, all of which have been thoroughly debunked for both the coronavirus vaccine and any other vaccine.
The platform had already prohibited users from spreading falsehoods that such as: masks are ineffective; vaccines cause infertility; vaccines contain tracking microchips; and vaccines don’t actually exist. Plus a whole host of other dangerous misinformation that’s been debunked by the World Health Organization or government agencies, per a policy that went into effect in December.
But even with Facebook’s evolving policies, those ideas have lived on and spread from private groups to the pages of Instagram influencers peddling health advice to new mothers. It’s not clear if Facebook’s newly-expanded policy will be more effective than its past attempts to clamp down on COVID and vaccine-related misinformation.
People With Dementia Are Twice as Likely to Get COVID, Huge Study Finds
People with dementia had significantly greater risk of contracting the coronavirus, and they were much more likely to be hospitalized and die from it, than people without dementia, a new study of millions of medical records in the United States has found.
Their risk could not be entirely explained by characteristics common to people with dementia that are known risk factors for COVID-19: old age, living in a nursing home and having conditions like obesity, asthma, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. After researchers adjusted for those factors, Americans with dementia were still twice as likely to have gotten COVID-19 as of late last summer.
“It’s pretty convincing in suggesting that there’s something about dementia that makes you more vulnerable,” said Dr. Kristine Yaffe, a professor of neurology and psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco, who was not involved in the study.
The study was led by researchers at Case Western Reserve University who analyzed electronic health records of 61.9 million people age 18 and older in the United States from Feb. 1 through Aug. 21, 2020. The data, collected by IBM Watson Health Explorys, came from 360 hospitals and 317,000 health care providers across all 50 states and represented one-fifth of the U.S. population, the authors said.
Was it T-cells or prayer? 116-year-old nun survives COVID-19
Whether it was the power of her prayers or her T-cells that did it, 116-year-old French nun Lucile Randon has survived COVID-19.
The nun, whose religious name is Sister André, is the second-oldest known living person in the world, according to the Gerontology Research Group, which validates details of people believed to be aged 110 or older.
French media report that the nun tested positive for the virus in mid-January in the southern French city of Toulon. But just three weeks later she is fit as a fiddle — albeit it in her regular wheelchair.
Sister André, who is blind, did not worry when she heard the news of diagnosis but was very concerned about the other residents, her doctor said. In January, 81 of the 88 residents of the facility tested positive and about 10 died.
Portugal poised to extend lockdown as COVID-19 cases fall
Portugal’s COVID-19 infection rate has dropped sharply after a lockdown aimed at addressing a devastating January pandemic surge, but it is still recording the most daily deaths in the world by size of population, health experts said Tuesday.
Portugal hit a peak of cases on Jan. 29, with a 14-day average of almost 1,700 cases per 100,000 habitants.
Amid a lockdown since Jan. 15, that rate has fallen to around 980 per 100,000 — a marked improvement but still one of the European Union’s highest rates.
The current state of emergency decree, a legal measure which allows authorities to enact limits on movements and gatherings, expires on midnight Sunday. Officials must decide before then whether to prolong the lockdown, perhaps until March.
Vaccinating Florida’s seniors inside Miami’s largest hospital
The tiny glass vaccine vials are delivered to Miami’s largest hospital and immediately whisked to a secret location, where they are placed inside a padlocked freezer with a digital thermometer that reads minus 76 degrees Celsius (minus 105 F). An armed guard watches outside the door.
The pharmacy staff at Jackson Health System often gets short notice on how many doses are coming — sometimes as little as 24 hours. As soon as the doses arrive, the pressure builds to administer them quickly, but the timing is complicated. The staff can thaw out only as much COVID-19 vaccine as the hospital can administer that same day.
The Associated Press was given exclusive access to a recent day of vaccinations at the system’s main hospital, offering a glance inside the hour-to-hour efforts that fuel the largest inoculation campaign in U.S. history. It is an anxious undertaking for both vaccine providers and Americans seeking the shots, and everyone has to watch the clock.
Serbia leader says nation among top in Europe in vaccination
Thanks mostly to the Chinese and Russian vaccines, Serbia expects to take one of the leading positions in Europe when it comes to the rate of vaccination against the new coronavirus, the Serbian president said Tuesday.
Aleksandar Vucic announced the arrival of an additional 500,000 doses of Chinese Sinopharm vaccines, in addition to 100,000 doses of Russian-developed Sputnik V and 88,000 of U.S.-German Pfizer-BioNTech shots.
The initial shipment in mid-January of a million Chinese vaccines gave Serbia a jumpstart in the vaccination rollout in the Balkans and beyond. Neither the Chinese nor Russian vaccines have been approved by the European Medicines Agency.
The populist Serbian leader has been strengthening close political ties with Russia and China while formally seeking entry into the European Union.
Iran starts limited COVID vaccinations with Russian shots
Iran on Tuesday launched a coronavirus inoculation campaign among healthcare professionals with recently delivered Russian Sputnik V vaccines as the country struggles to stem the worst outbreak of the pandemic in the Middle East with its death toll nearing 59,000.
Health Minister Saeed Namaki said the vaccination would be simultaneously carried out in more than 600 medical centers across the country.
In the coming weeks, Iran plans to extend the vaccination to elderly people and those suffering from chronic diseases, the minister added.
Tel Aviv gives foreign nationals, asylum seekers COVID shots
Dozens of asylum seekers and foreign workers in the Israeli city of Tel Aviv lined up to receive their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Tuesday as part of an initiative to inoculate the city’s foreign nationals.
Tel Aviv city hall and the Sourasky Medical Center started administering vaccines free of charge to the city’s foreign nationals, many of whom are undocumented asylum seekers.
On its first day of operation, the vaccination center in southern Tel Aviv, which is home to a large migrant community, dispensed doses to dozens of foreign nationals who lined up outside the building. Posters provided information in English, Tigrinya, Russian and Arabic. Recipients included foreign workers from the Philippines, Moldova, and Nigeria, as well as Sudanese and Eritrean asylum seekers.
Israel has pushed to inoculate most of its population since late December. Last week it made vaccines available to all citizens over the age of 16.
California uses ZIP codes, outreach to boost vaccine equity
Hing Yiu Chung lives in a racially diverse San Francisco neighborhood hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. While vaccines have been difficult to come by, the 69-year-old got one by showing proof she lives where she does.
She had to wait in line for two hours with other seniors, some who were disabled or leaning on canes, for a chance at a couple hundred shots available each day through a local public health clinic in the Bayview neighborhood.
“Fortunately, it wasn’t a cold or rainy day, otherwise it would have been harder,” she said in Chinese.
The experience wasn’t ideal, but targeting vulnerable ZIP codes is one way San Francisco and other U.S. cities and counties are trying to ensure they vaccinate people in largely Black, Latino and working-class communities that have borne the brunt of the pandemic. In Dallas, authorities tried to prioritize such ZIP codes, which tended to be communities of color, but backtracked after the state threatened to reduce the city’s vaccine supply.
Nationwide, states are struggling to distribute vaccines equitably even as officials try to define what equity means. They’re debating what risk factors gets someone to the head of the line: those in poverty, communities of color, their job or if they have a disability. Others simply want to vaccinate as many people as possible, as soon as possible.
China open to ‘vaccine cooperation’ with Eastern Europe
China is ready to consider “vaccine cooperation” with Central and Eastern European countries, President Xi Jinping said Tuesday in a meeting held by video link with European leaders.
Serbia has received 1 million doses of a Chinese-developed coronavirus vaccine and Hungarian and Chinese vaccine developers are cooperating, Xi said, according to the official Xinhua News Agency.
Beijing is trying to nurture relations with Central and Eastern European governments as part of efforts to expand markets for exports and for Chinese construction and other companies to operate abroad.
The focus on Eastern Europe has prompted unease among France, Germany and other Western European governments that Beijing is trying to make political inroads into the European Union.
Skating-crazy Dutch defy pandemic by taking to outdoor ice
A deep winter freeze gripping the Netherlands is reawakening the national obsession with skating on frozen canals.
With subzero temperatures forecast to last more than a week, ice fever swept the nation Tuesday, offering a welcome respite from grim coronavirus news while also creating a challenge for authorities trying to uphold social distancing rules.
People around the country were rummaging through attics and dusting off long-unused skates, while businesses that sharpen skate blades reported boom times.
Ice skating is a national wintertime passion in the Netherlands and people of all ages eagerly await the Arctic conditions that allow them to take to the country’s vast network of canals and waterways.
Marysville nursing home, with history of short staffing, cited for ‘squalid’ conditions in COVID-19 outbreak
Months before she died, Lourdes Yldefonzo Arganda assured her sister she would be safe in her job at a Marysville nursing home.
Even before the pandemic, she had accepted that her work as a certified nursing assistant — with long and late hours, and low pay — was a calling, her sister Irene Yldefonzo Arganda said. If anything bothered her, it was that co-workers sometimes could not help patients quickly enough during busy shifts.
Lourdes, 61, caught the coronavirus in late November amid an outbreak at the Marysville Care Center, a facility with a history of short staffing, where she worked the overnight shift. In one Facebook post, she questioned what she could have done wrong after trying to help as much as she could. She died Dec. 24.
A new state inspection report shows the toll of her concerns about time-strapped staff at Marysville Care Center.
The 339-page review, released by the state Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) in late January, paints an especially bleak portrait of the situation inside the facility in the fall, around the time of a major coronavirus outbreak that killed Yldefonzo Arganda and 17 residents.
It is also one of the first deep looks inside a long-term care center since the pandemic began, when lockdowns left families and the public largely in the dark on how facilities were dealing with the twin crises of short staffing and COVID-19.
Catch up on the past 24 hours
• Imagine being a teacher but instead of a classroom full of faces, you’re looking out at a computer screen full of black boxes. Students have lots of reasons for leaving their cameras off during remote learning, and nobody’s trying to force them, but the lack of visual engagement can make a tough situation even tougher. Brian Murphy, a teacher at Interlake High School in Bellevue who is teaching from his Redmond garage, uses the lure of less homework to get students to show their faces.
• Lourdes Yldefonzo Arganda loved her job as a nursing assistant at Marysville Care Center. “She always wanted to take care of people,” her sister said. Yldefonzo Arganda, 61, died on Christmas Eve, one of 18 victims of a major coronavirus outbreak at the facility. A scathing new state report found “squalid” conditions in a center that was “understaffed and unprepared” to handle the virus. It’s a rare and tragic look inside the types of places that have been particularly hard hit.
• Vaccines vs. variants: Will there be a fourth wave of coronavirus? Disease watchers at Fred Hutch had hoped the answer would be “no,” until scary variants popped up. Here’s what they say needs to happen.
• Gov. Jay Inslee yesterday expanded jobless benefits and rolled back a planned increase in the unemployment taxes paid by businesses.
• There seems to be wide agreement on sending out $1,400 stimulus checks, but who would qualify? That’s still up for debate.
• The coronavirus most likely took hold in humans after being transferred from an animal, scientists investigating its origins in Wuhan, China, said today, dismissing a popular theory that the virus had leaked from a Chinese lab.
• With parts of Europe in a deep freeze, the Dutch are determined to rekindle their love affair with ice skating even with their country in a near lockdown.
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