Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Monday, January 24, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.
Coronavirus, particularly the omicron variant of the virus, is spreading to parts of the world it never has previously — such as the Pacific island nation of Kiribati, which went into lockdown for the first time Saturday. About 90% of the population has received a first dose of a coronavirus vaccine, and 53% has had two shots.
Closer to home, the Washington state superintendent of schools is encouraging parents to vaccinate their kids. School shutdowns have spread across the state recently, but that’s actually more due to a shortage in staffing than outbreaks of coronavirus, the superintendent said.
But more than just skeptical parents are pushing back against vaccinations and even masks in schools: After refusing to wear a mask at Gonzaga basketball games, former Gonzaga and Utah Jazz player John Stockton — one of the university’s most prominent alumni — had his season tickets to Zags games revoked.
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.
S. Korea sets high of 8,000 new virus cases ahead of holiday
South Korea recorded more than 8,000 new coronavirus infections for the first time Tuesday as health authorities reshape the country’s pandemic response to address a surge driven by the highly contagious omicron variant.
The 8,571 new cases reported by the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency followed three straight days exceeding 7,000. With omicron spreading more than twice as fast as the delta strain that cause the last surge, experts say new cases may exceed 10,000 this week and possibly 20,000 after the Lunar New Year’s holiday break that begins this weekend and continues to next Wednesday.
To prevent a sudden explosion of infections from overwhelming hospitals and disrupting workplaces and essential services, South Korea will reduce quarantine periods, expand testing and treat more people at home.
From Wednesday, the quarantine periods for people who test positive after being fully vaccinated will be reduced from the current 10 days to seven days. Fully vaccinated people who comes in close contact with virus carriers won’t be placed under quarantine. Officials are also planning to treat a larger number of mild or moderate cases at home and expand the use of rapid antigen tests to detect more infections sooner.
Crisis standards activated for southern Idaho health systems
Idaho public health officials activated crisis standards of care for much of southern Idaho on Monday, citing major staffing and blood supply shortages.
The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare activated the crisis standards for the southwest, central and south central health districts, which encompass 18 counties including the Boise, Nampa and Twin Falls metro regions. Crisis standards of care allow hospitals to triage health care as needed when they don’t have the capacity to deal with patient influxes.
“The highly contagious Omicron variant has thrown us a curve ball,” said Idaho Department of Health and Welfare Director Dave Jeppesen in a statement. “Once again, the situation in our hospitals and health systems is dire — we don’t have enough resources to adequately treat patients.”
It marked the second time amid the pandemic that Idaho officials have authorized health care rationing. Northern Idaho was the first part of the state to be allowed to do so last September, with the rest of the state following suit 10 days later. The crisis standards were fully deactivated by December.
Former Hungarian Olympic gymnastic champion dies after COVID infection
Former Olympic gymnastics champion Szilveszter Csollany died Monday at the age of 51 after spending weeks hospitalized with COVID-19, Hungarian sports officials said.
The Hungarian Olympic Committee and the country’s gymnastics federation issued a joint statement confirming the death of Csollany, who won a gold medal in the men’s rings competition at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. He also won silver in 1996 in Atlanta and a world championship gold in 2002.
He was a six-time medalist at the European gymnastics championships, and the recipient of Hungary’s “Sportsman of the Year” award in 2000 and 2002.
Csollany had been hospitalized with COVID-19 since early December, and spent several weeks on a ventilator.
RFK Jr. remarks on Anne Frank, vaccines draw condemnation
Anti-vaccine activist Robert F. Kennedy Jr. made “deeply offensive” comments when he suggested things are worse for people today than they were for Anne Frank, the teenager who died in a Nazi concentration camp after hiding with her family in a secret annex in an Amsterdam house for two years, several Jewish advocacy and Holocaust remembrance groups said Monday.
“Making reckless comparisons to the Holocaust, the murder of six million Jews, for a political agenda is outrageous and deeply offensive. Those who carelessly invoke Anne Frank, the star badge, and the Nuremberg Trials exploit history and the consequences of hate,” the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum said Monday in a statement posted to Twitter.
A spokesman said the museum made the statement in response to Kennedy’s speech and other recent incidents of people invoking the Holocaust for political purposes. The museum also pointed out that Anne Frank was one of the 1.5 million children who died during the Holocaust.
Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, wrote on Twitter that Kennedy invoking Anne Frank’s memory and the mass murder of Jews by the Nazis to make a comparison with the U.S. government “working to ensure the health of its citizens is deeply inaccurate, deeply offensive and deeply troubling. This must stop.”
LA County seeing more fatalities from omicron as COVID-19 deaths climb
Deaths from COVID-19 in Los Angeles County have soared over the last week, with officials saying some of the recent fatalities appear to be from the omicron variant.
The spread of the latest coronavirus variant has moved with unprecedented speed since December, although officials have said illnesses related to omicron produce milder symptoms than the earlier delta variant. Even so, officials say it is fatal for some.
Of 102 deaths reported Thursday — the highest single-day tally since March 10, 2021 — 90% involved people who became ill with COVID-19 after Christmas, and 80% were among those who fell ill after New Year’s Day, indicating a high likelihood of omicron infection, Los Angeles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said.
It appears that people who are dying from the omicron variant are deteriorating much quicker than those infected by earlier variants, Ferrer told reporters.
State health officials confirm 52,232 new coronavirus cases over weekend, 53 deaths
The state Department of Health (DOH) reported 18,383 new coronavirus cases on Friday, 17,554 on Saturday and 16,295 cases on Sunday. It also reported 53 more deaths over those days.
The update brings the state's totals to 1,203,311 cases and 10,458 deaths, meaning that .87% 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.
DOH reported on Monday it was experiencing "substantial slowdowns" in data reporting due to the surge in COVID-19 cases, which will delay the agency's reporting of cases, hospitalizations and deaths.
In addition, 51,571 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the virus — 811 new hospitalizations. In King County, the state's most populous, state health officials have confirmed a total of 313,773 COVID-19 diagnoses and 2,252 deaths.
Since vaccinations began in late 2020, the state and health care providers have administered 12,571,857 doses and 63.4% 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 26,295 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.
Omicron’s spread could end ‘emergency phase’ of pandemic, world health official says
The pandemic that has convulsed the world for more than two years is entering a “new phase” globally and the rapid spread of the omicron variant of the coronavirus could help set the stage for a return to normalcy in the months ahead, according to a top health official in Europe.
Dr. Hans Kluge, director for the World Health Organization’s European region, warned that it was too early for nations to drop their guard, with so many people unvaccinated around the world. But, he said, between vaccination and natural immunity through infection, “omicron offers plausible hope for stabilization and normalization.”
The question that remains, however, is what normal looks like — and how long it could last.
Over the past two years, people around the world have become exhaustingly familiar with the wicked way the virus has of evolving and confounding expectations.
FDA expected to sharply restrict use of two monoclonal antibodies
The Food and Drug Administration is poised as soon as Monday to restrict two monoclonal antibodies, saying the COVID-19 treatments should not be employed in any states because they are ineffective against the dominant omicron variant, according to two senior administration health officials.
As a result, the Biden administration will pause distribution of the therapies, manufactured by Regeneron Pharmaceuticals and Eli Lilly, to the states.
“We want to make sure that patients get treatments that are effective, not treatments that don’t work,” said one of the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe internal discussions.
L.A. school district requires students to upgrade from cloth masks
Students in the nation’s second-largest school district will no longer be allowed to wear cloth masks on campus, according to new guidance posted ahead of the school week.
Los Angeles Unified School District students are required to wear “well-fitting, non-cloth masks with a nose wire” while at school, according to guidelines posted Friday on the district website. The site also notes that masks are required at all times – indoors and outdoors – and that all students and employees will be required to wear surgical-type or higher-quality masks.
The updated rules come as the latest wave of the coronavirus pandemic, fueled by the omicron variant, has prompted renewed recommendations from public health experts and federal officials that people should wear more protective face coverings, including N95 or KN95 masks.
Head of US Special Operations Command has COVID-19
The head of the U.S. military’s Special Operations Command has tested positive for COVID-19, the command said Monday.
Gen. Richard D. Clarke has very mild symptoms and is working remotely, said Col. Curt Kellogg, his spokesman. Kellogg said Clarke hasn’t been physically in the presence of any senior Defense Department leaders or other members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff this month.
Berger is fully vaccinated and got the booster shot.
Palin COVID-19 test could delay suit against NY Times
Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin tested positive for COVID-19 on a home test kit, just as she was due in court in New York City for the start of a defamation lawsuit against The New York Times.
The positive test was announced in court by U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff, who said that Palin was being tested again to determine whether the trial goes forward or is delayed.
Palin, a one-time Republican vice presidential nominee, has had COVID-19 before. She’s urged people not to get vaccinated, telling an audience in Arizona last month that “it will be over my dead body that I’ll have to get a shot.”
UK to lift travel test requirements for the vaccinated
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Monday his government will remove coronavirus testing requirements for vaccinated people arriving in England, news hailed by the travel industry as a big step back to normality.
Johnson said that “to show that this country is open for business, open for travelers, you will see changes so that people arriving no longer have to take tests if they have been vaccinated, if they have been double vaccinated.”
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps is due to give details of the rule change later.
High court won’t hear pandemic proxy voting dispute
The Supreme Court has rejected a challenge from House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy to the proxy voting system that Democrats put in place in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
McCarthy had sought a declaration that proxy voting, an absent representative giving authority for someone in attendance to cast his or her vote, was unconstitutional. As is typical, the high court said nothing in rejecting the challenge Monday.
House lawmakers voted by proxy for the first time in May 2020 following a House rules change. The change was intended to strike a balance between working from home during the coronavirus outbreak and honoring the Constitution’s requirement to be “present” and voting.
WHO chief warns against talk of ‘endgame’ in pandemic
The head of the World Health Organization is warning that conditions remain ideal for more coronavirus variants to emerge and says it’s dangerous to assume omicron is the last one or that “we are in the endgame,” while saying the acute phase of the pandemic could still end this year — if some key targets are met.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO’s director-general, laid out Monday an array of achievements and concerns in global health over issues like reducing tobacco use, fighting resistance to anti-microbial treatments, and risks of climate change on human health. But he said “ending the acute phase of the pandemic must remain our collective priority.”
Belgium OKs 4th vaccine shot for immunocompromised people
Belgium’s health ministers have approved a recommendation to use a fourth dose of coronavirus vaccine to better protect people with a weakened immune system against the virus.
Christie Morreale, the minister for public health in the federal government, said Monday that she and her regional counterparts have greenlighted the proposal made by the country’s health council. Morreale did not give a date for the start of the program.
About 77% of Belgium’s nearly 11.5 million people are now fully vaccinated, and some 6.3 million Belgians have received a booster dose, according to the latest figures from health authorities.
Pakistan launches anti-polio drive as COVID-19 cases rise
Pakistani authorities on Monday launched a nationwide anti-polio campaign even as coronavirus infections surge.
About 150,000 health workers are taking part in the five-day, anti-polio drive to inoculate 22.4 million children under age 5, according to a statement issued by Shahzad Beg, the coordinator for polio program. The previous campaign took place weeks ago when Pakistan witnessed decline in COVID-19 cases.
Authorities hope the latest campaign will help making Pakistan a polio-free nation.
France bars unvaccinated from restaurants, sports venues
People who aren’t vaccinated against COVID-19 are no longer allowed in France’s restaurants, bars, tourist sites and sports venues unless they recently recovered from the virus.
The new law came into effect Monday requiring a “vaccine pass” that is central to the government’s anti-virus strategy.
France is registering Europe’s highest-ever daily coronavirus infection numbers, and hospitals are continuing to fill up with virus patients, though the number of people in intensive care units has dropped in recent days.
Seattle-area event cancellations and delays follow omicron coronavirus surge
Virtual plays and concerts, staffing shortages, ever-changing health protocols, burnout — navigating the coronavirus pandemic has forced Seattle-area arts organizations to juggle countless curveballs. Now, with the rapid spread of the coronavirus omicron variant, we’re seeing a familiar cycle of event cancellations and postponements repeat itself once again.
After the Seattle arts and entertainment scene took a hit with last-minute New Year’s Eve event cancellations, many local organizations have now altered, postponed or canceled upcoming events in the new year due to surging coronavirus case counts. The rapid spread of the less-damaging, more-viral omicron variant has led to record-breaking numbers of infections in King County, leading to the decisions to reconsider many in-person events.
Catch up on the past 24 hours
Where can you get a COVID test, now that Washington state has temporarily run out of free ones to ship to residents' homes? Here are your other options.
If you've gotten your hands on a few tests, know how to tell when they expire (it's trickier than it sounds) and how to store them so they last longer.
Omicron infections appear to have peaked in the U.S., although they're still far higher than in any other COVID-19 surge. In states where new cases are falling, the declines have been swift and steep so far. But staying ready for "the worst-case scenario" would be wise, Dr. Anthony Fauci said yesterday. Track COVID trends in Washington state on these interactive graphics.
Gonzaga has suspended John Stockton’s season tickets after the Hall of Famer and most prominent Zag alumnus defied a mask mandate. He's also been making claims that have been debunked.
Nurse Candice Cordero had a fever and a cough, but her hospital told her to get back to work. She's not alone: Stressed hospitals around the country are asking workers with COVID to return, even if they may be infectious.
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