Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Monday, January 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 It is no longer being updated.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.

Professors at the University of Washington may choose to conduct their classes remotely through January. Professors who choose to conduct in-person classes must accommodate students participating remotely.

Meanwhile, coronavirus cases continue hamper daily life. In Olympia, Washington state Senate Leader Andy Billig, D-Spokane, and Washington Sen. John Lovick, D-Mill Creek, announced they had tested positive for coronavirus with mild symptoms.

Two weeks after holiday travel was disrupted by both winter weather and staffing shortages, flights have also continued to be canceled with no signs of stopping.

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.

Navigating the pandemic

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Home COVID tests to be covered by insurers starting Saturday

Starting Saturday, private health insurers will be required to cover up to eight home COVID-19 tests per month for people on their plans. The Biden administration announced the change Monday as it looks to lower costs and make testing for the virus more convenient amid rising frustrations.

Under the new policy, first detailed to the AP, Americans will be able to either purchase home testing kits for free under their insurance or submit receipts for the tests for reimbursement, up to the monthly per-person limit. A family of four, for instance, could be reimbursed for up to 32 tests per month. PCR tests and rapid tests ordered or administered by a health provider will continue to be fully covered by insurance with no limit.

President Joe Biden faced criticism over the holiday season for a shortage of at-home rapid tests as Americans traveled to see family amid the surge in cases from the more transmissible omicron variant. Now the administration is working to make COVID-19 home tests more accessible, both by increasing supply and bringing down costs.

Later this month, the federal government will launch a website to begin making 500 million at-home COVID-19 tests available via mail. The administration also is scaling up emergency rapid-testing sites in areas experiencing the greatest surges in cases.

Read the full story here.

—Zeke Miller, The Associated Press
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Washington Legislature begins its second session of the COVID pandemic with 3 more senators testing positive

The administration of state government revolves around detailed statistics and dry budget numbers, and the first day of this year’s legislative session offered its own niche data befitting the era: 10% of Washington’s senators have announced they have COVID-19.

State lawmakers Monday opened the year’s legislative session in a low-key fashion amid the omicron variant, with five of Washington’s 49 senators having tested positive in recent days.

Three of those positive tests in the Senate surfaced Monday. Their numbers were added in quick succession after Democratic Sens. John Lovick and Andy Billig — the senate majority leader — announced positive tests in recent days.

The infected lawmakers underscore the latest pandemic surge as lawmakers gather and attempt to confront a range of issues.

Read the full story here.

—Joseph O'Sullivan

CDC advises against traveling to Canada, citing coronavirus levels

U.S. health officials on Monday advised against travel to Canada, citing “very high” levels of the coronavirus in the country.

Canada joins scores of countries that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has grouped under a Level 4 travel advisory, its most severe, including most of Europe and nations in southern Africa. The agency has also urged unvaccinated people to avoid travel to 54 additional nations, including Mexico – by far the top international destination for U.S. citizens last year, according to federal data. The CDC also issued a Level 4 warning for Curaçao on Monday.

New coronavirus cases have risen sharply in Canada in the past few weeks, according to a Johns Hopkins University tracker, as the omicron variant fuels a new global wave of infections.

“If you must travel to Canada, make sure you are fully vaccinated before travel,” the CDC said in its travel alert for Canada, which indicates high prevalence of the virus. “Because of the current situation in Canada, even fully vaccinated travelers may be at risk for getting and spreading COVID-19 variants.”

Read the full story here.

—Hannah Knowles, The Washington Post

At-home coronavirus tests are inaccessible to blind people

Christy Smith has never been tested for the coronavirus. As a blind person, she can’t drive to testing sites near her home in St. Louis, and they are too far away for her to walk. Alternative options — public transportation, ride share apps or having a friend drive her to a test site — would put others at risk for exposure.

The rapid tests that millions of other people are taking at home, which require precisely plunking liquid drops into tiny spaces and have no Braille guides, are also inaccessible to Smith.

Some blind people manage to take at-home tests with the help of video call apps, like Be My Eyes and Aira. These services pair blind individuals with a sighted person who can describe their surroundings and guide them through a test, step by step.

But these interactions are difficult, and not everyone who is blind owns a smartphone or is able to use a smartphone. What’s more, relying on others can erode a blind person’s privacy and independence.

“It’s your personal health information,” said Martin Wingfield, the head of brand at the Royal National Institute of Blind People in Britain. “You should be the first to know.”

Read the story here.

—Amanda Morris, The New York Times
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US hospitals letting COVID-infected staff stay on the job

Hospitals around the U.S. are increasingly taking the extraordinary step of allowing nurses and other workers infected with the coronavirus to stay on the job if they have mild symptoms or none at all.

The move is a reaction to the severe hospital staffing shortages and crushing caseloads that the omicron variant is causing.

California health authorities announced over the weekend that hospital staff members who test positive but are symptom-free can continue working. Some hospitals in Rhode Island and Arizona have likewise told employees they can stay on the job if they have no symptoms or just mild ones.

The highly contagious omicron variant has sent new cases of COVID-19 exploding to over 700,000 a day in the U.S. on average, obliterating the record set a year ago. The number of Americans in the hospital with the virus is running at about 108,000, just short of the peak of 124,000 last January.

Read the full story here.

—Jennifer McDermott and Adriana Gomez Licon, The Associated Press

State health officials confirm 13,689 new coronavirus cases

The state Department of Health (DOH) reported 13,689 new coronavirus cases and 24 new deaths on Monday.

The update brings the state's totals to 978,680 cases and 10,028 deaths, meaning that 1.0% 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 weekends.

The new cases may include up to 2,500 duplicates, according to DOH.

In addition, 47,807 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the virus — 745 new hospitalizations. In King County, the state's most populous, state health officials have confirmed a total of 247,087 COVID-19 diagnoses and 2,164 deaths.

Since vaccinations began in mid-December, the state and health care providers have administered 12,192,108 doses and 63% 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 20,326 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.

—Amanda Zhou

Sweden orders cafes, eateries to close at 11 p.m.

Sweden’s prime minister, Magdalena Andersson, on Monday ordered cafes, bars and restaurants to close no later than 11 p.m., urged people to work from home when possible and said distance learning was an option in higher education to try to combat rising levels of COVID-19 infection.

Despite millions of people getting the vaccine, “we believe that the situation requires further measures over a period of time, in order to curb the spread of infection and reduce the burden on health care and care,” Andersson said.

Sweden which has previously stood out among European nations for its comparatively hands-off response to the pandemic, is in the midst of “a fourth wave with a high spread of infection and high disease rates,” Social Affairs Minister Lena Hallengren said.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press
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Chile starts fourth vaccine dose as coronavirus cases rise

Chile is implementing a fourth vaccination dose for some citizens as the number of daily coronavirus infections rises.

President Sebastián Piñera was present on Monday when two adults with immunosuppression problems received a fourth vaccination for COVID-19 at a Santiago hospital.

Chile is applying a fourth dose early because the current daily infection rate of 4,000 coronavirus cases could rise to 10,000 or more, Piñera said.

Vaccination with a fourth dose for the immunosuppressed will end on Feb. 7. Then the program will turn to people over 55 years old who had a third dose at least six months ago.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

Stay home or work sick? Omicron poses a conundrum

As the raging omicron variant of COVID-19 infects workers across the nation, millions of those whose jobs don’t provide paid sick days are having to choose between their health and their paycheck.

While many companies instituted more robust sick leave policies at the beginning of the pandemic, some of those have since been scaled back with the rollout of the vaccines, even though omicron has managed to evade the shots. Meanwhile, the current labor shortage is adding to the pressure of workers having to decide whether to show up to their job sick if they can’t afford to stay home.

“It’s a vicious cycle,” said Daniel Schneider, professor of public policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. “As staffing gets depleted because people are out sick, that means that those that are on the job have more to do and are even more reluctant to call in sick when they in turn get sick.”

Low-income hourly workers are especially vulnerable. Only 33% of workers whose wages are at the bottom 10% get paid sick leave, compared with 95% in the top 10%.

Read the story here.

—Dee-Ann Durbin and Anne D'Innocenzio, The Associated Press

Treasury warns of ‘enormous challenges’ this tax filing season that could delay refunds

Treasury Department officials on Monday said that the Internal Revenue Service will face “enormous challenges” during this year’s tax filing season, warning of delays to refunds and other taxpayer services.

In a phone call with reporters, Treasury officials predicted a “frustrating season” for taxpayers and tax preparers as a result of delays caused by the pandemic, years of budget cuts to the IRS, and the federal stimulus measures that have added to the tax agency’s workload.

Typically, IRS officials enter filing season with an unaddressed backlog of roughly 1 million returns. This year, however, the IRS will enter the filing season facing “several times” that, Treasury officials said. The IRS website says that as of Dec. 23, 2021, it still had 6 million unprocessed individual returns, and as of the start of this month it still had more than 2 million unprocessed amended tax returns, a separate category.

The IRS closed last filing season with more than 35 million unprocessed returns — a fourfold increase from the last year before the pandemic. As the backlog increased, the IRS also failed to respond to the enormous increase in calls for assistance. Only 9% of calls were answered by an IRS customer service representative, while only 3% were answered for the 1040 support line for individual income tax returns, according to the National Taxpayer Advocate, a watchdog group.

The pandemic forced the closure of many in-person centers where paper forms are processed, while also affecting the IRS workforce. But even before the pandemic, budget cuts to the IRS forced through by Republicans had led to a roughly 25% decline in the size of its staff. And these challenges were exacerbated by the federal response to COVID, which required the IRS to implement big new programs — from stimulus payments to the expanded child tax credit — for tens of millions of families.

“By definition, no matter how much more efficient you are, you can’t lose 25% of the workforce and assume you can do the same volume of work. It’s a problem across the board — information technology, revenue agents, people answering the phones,” said John Koskinen, who served as commissioner of the IRS under Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump.

Read the story here.

—Jeff Stein, The Washington Post
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Thousands rally in Prague against vaccination mandate

Thousands of people marched through the Czech Republic’s capital on Sunday to protest against compulsory COVID-19 vaccination for certain groups and professions.

The protesters gathered at Wenceslas Square in central Prague to question the effectiveness of the current vaccines and reject the vaccination of children before marching through the capital, chanting “Freedom, freedom.”

Prague’s protest followed similar but smaller demonstrations in several Czech cities on Saturday.

The previous government released an order in early December, making vaccination mandatory for the 60 and over age group, as well as medical personnel, police officers, firefighters and medical students.

The order is due to take effect in March, but it still might end up being overturned.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

India starts booster shots for vulnerable amid omicron surge

Healthcare and front-line workers along with people above age 60 with health problems lined up Monday at vaccination centers across India to receive a third dose as infections linked to the omicron variant surge.

The doses, which India is calling a “precautionary” shot instead of a booster, were given as new confirmed coronavirus infections rocketed to over 179,000 on Monday, nearly an eightfold increase in a week. Hospitalizations, while still relatively low, are also beginning to rise in large, crowded cities such as New Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata.

India is better prepared now than it was last year when the delta variant overwhelmed hospitals. When cases spiked in March last year, not even 1% of its population of nearly 1.4 billion was fully vaccinated. India’s creaky medical infrastructure meant millions likely died.

Read the story here.

—Aniruddha Ghosal, The Associated Press

When the pandemic began, some reconsidered getting pregnant. The result: 60,000 missing births

Kat Athanasiades and her husband had planned to have a second child right around when their daughter turned 2, which meant trying to get pregnant in March or April 2020. But then the world turned upside down.

When the coronavirus pandemic hit, the Washington D.C. couple began to reassess. Both had switched to remote work, their nanny share was suspended, and the social network on which they relied had receded. The prospect of giving birth in a hospital during the pandemic also felt daunting; Athanasiades recalled stories of women “delivering solo with masks or being separated from your baby if you were positive.”

"Putting our daughter to bed one night, I said, ‘I don’t think we can have another right now. … I don’t think I can do it when I’m so uncertain of what our future’s going to look like.’ “

She was not the only one. A recent Brookings Institution study shows 60,000 fewer births than expected between October 2020 and February 2021 in the United States, corresponding with fewer conceptions earlier in 2020. The largest number of missing births was in January 2021, which roughly corresponds to conceptions in April 2020, when many Americans began to process the magnitude of the pandemic.

“Uncertainty is not good for fertility,” said Phillip Levine, a professor of economics at Wellesley College and co-author of the report. “You want to know that when you’re bringing a child into the world, you’re going to be bringing the child into an environment that’s safe and secure, and if you can’t forecast that, that’s when things will be, ‘Maybe now is not the right time.’ “

Read the story here.

—Tara Bahrampour, The Washington Post
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Omicron spikes, Mexican president calls it “a little COVID”

As coronavirus cases spike in Mexico and tests become scarce, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador told Mexicans Monday to just assume they had COVID-19 if they had symptoms.

The number of confirmed cases in Mexico spiked by 186% last week.

López Obrador claimed the Omicron variant is “a little COVID,” noting hospitalizations and deaths had not increased at the same rate. However, experts say those are both lagging indicators that may not show up for weeks after infections spike.

Reading advice posted on Twitter, the president said Mexicans with symptoms should just stay at home, take paracetamol and isolate, rather than going out and trying to find tests.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

T cells triggered by common cold also fend off COVID in study

High levels of protective immune cells that fight some common colds also made people less likely to contract COVID-19 in a study.

Researchers found higher levels of T cells against certain colds in people who didn’t develop COVID while living with someone who had the disease, according to a study released Monday by the U.K.’s Imperial College London. The prior illnesses were caused by other coronaviruses related to SARS-CoV-2.

The findings, published in the journal Nature Communications, provide further evidence of the protective effects of T cells, an arm of the immune system that’s gaining attention as the pandemic stretches into its third year and new variants like omicron erode vaccine protection.

Read the story here.

—John Lauerman and Tim Loh, Bloomberg

Chinese port city reports 41 virus cases, amid mass testing

Authorities in the Chinese city of Tianjin on Monday reported 41 COVID-19 infections out of 3.4 million residents tested since the discovery of two local omicron cases.

Officials say they plan to test all of the 14 million inhabitants of the large port city that lies near the capital of Beijing.

The outbreak, while small, has raised concerns because it is the first one in China linked to omicron and comes as nearby Beijing is set to host the Winter Olympics in less than a month. The port city is also an industrial hub with Volkswagen and Airbus factories.

Tianjin has locked down affected parts of the city, but so far not ordered a total lockdown. The citywide testing was being carried out in two phases on Sunday and Monday.

The measures, in response to a relatively small number of cases compared to other countries, shows how far China is going to shut down outbreaks as it pursues a zero COVID-19 strategy. The restrictions have only tightened ahead of the Olympics, which China and the International Olympic Committee seem determined to pull off despite the spread of the omicron variant globally.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press
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Moderna working on COVID-19 booster that targets omicron variant, says CEO

An omicron-specific booster shot could be ready by the fall, Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel said Monday.

The pharmaceutical company is currently working on a targeted shot for the newest COVID-19 variant, Bancel announced. The booster is about to enter clinical trials.

On CNBC’s “Squawk Box,” Bancel said the shot could in pharmacies and arms as early as the fall.

“We need to be careful to try to stay ahead of a virus and not behind the virus,” she said.

Read the story here.

—Kate Feldman, New York Daily News

Tiny masks are scarce as unboosted kids return to classrooms

The uberinfectious omicron COVID-19 variant has triggered a race among U.S. parents to locate high-quality kid-sized masks, a run on supplies that rivals the pandemic’s frantic early days.

Omicron has swept the U.S. just as children returned to school after winter holidays, with many public-health experts urging them to toss cloth masks in favor of KN95s and KF94s, which better filter the aerosols that transmit the virus. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends masks indoors for all students 2 years and older, with exemptions for those who can’t wear one because of a disability.

It’s hard enough to get kids to keep masks on, thanks to endless, natural impediments like run-of-the-mill runny noses and the sudden need to consume peanut-butter sandwiches. Now, parents have to find gear that fits snugly around chubby cheeks and also meets top safety standards.

Read the story here.

—Henry Ren, Bloomberg

Slovakia eases COVID measures as omicron surge yet to hit

Slovakia is easing coronavirus restrictions after a decline in new infections while the fast-spreading omicron variant is yet to fully hit the country.

The changes include the cancellation Monday of the overnight curfew between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m. The move allows bars and restaurants, stores and others to stay open without restrictions.

Only fully vaccinated people and those who have recovered from COVID-19 are eligible to enter bars, restaurants, hotels, ski resorts, religious services and stores selling nonessential goods.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press
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Pope on COVID vaccines says health care a ‘moral obligation’

Pope Francis suggested Monday that getting vaccinated against the coronavirus was a “moral obligation” and denounced how people had been swayed by “baseless information” to refuse one of the most effective measures to save lives during the pandemic.

Francis used some of his strongest words yet calling for people to get vaccinated in a speech to ambassadors accredited to the Holy See, an annual event in which he sets out the Vatican’s foreign policy goals for the year.

Francis, 85, has generally shied away from speaking about vaccination as a “moral obligation,” though his COVID-19 advisors have referred to it as a “moral responsibility.” Rather, Francis has termed vaccination as “an act of love” and that refusing to get inoculated was “suicidal.”

On Monday he went a step further, saying that individuals had a responsibility to care for themselves “and this translates into respect for the health of those around us. Health care is a moral obligation,” he asserted.

He lamented that, increasingly, ideological divides were discouraging people from getting vaccinated.

Read the story here.

—Nicole Winfield, The Associated Press

COVID test misinformation spikes along with spread of omicron

On Dec. 29, The Gateway Pundit, a far-right website that often spreads conspiracy theories, published an article falsely implying that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had withdrawn authorization of all PCR tests for detecting COVID-19. The article collected 22,000 likes, comments and shares on Facebook and Twitter.

On TikTok and Instagram, videos of at-home COVID-19 tests displaying positive results after being soaked in drinking water and juice have gone viral in recent weeks, and were used to push the false narrative that coronavirus rapid tests do not work. Some household liquids can make a test show a positive result, health experts say, but the tests remain accurate when used as directed. One TikTok video showing a home test that came out positive after being placed under running water was shared at least 140,000 times.

And on YouTube, a video titled “Rapid antigen tests debunked” was posted on Jan. 1 by the Canadian far-right website Rebel News. It generated over 40,000 views, and its comments section was a hotbed of misinformation. “The straight up purpose of this test is to keep the case #’s as high as possible to maintain fear & incentive for more restrictions,” said one comment with more than 200 likes. “And of course Profit.”

Misinformation about COVID-19 tests has spiked across social media in recent weeks, researchers say, as coronavirus cases have surged again worldwide because of the highly infectious omicron variant.

Read the story here.

—Davey Alba, The New York Times

Italy targets the unvaccinated with new virus restrictions

 Italy targeted the unvaccinated with a host of new coronavirus restrictions Monday, with proof of vaccination or recovery from a recent infection required to enter public transport, coffee shops, hotels, gyms and other everyday activities.

The new “super” health pass requirement, which eliminates the ability to show just a negative test to gain access to services, comes as many Italians return to work and school after the Christmas and New Year’s holidays. It came as COVID-19 infections are soaring past 100,000 per day in Italy.

Italians have by and large supported the restrictions, which in recent months have also included outdoor mask mandates and a standard health pass to get into workplaces. Many welcomed the new restrictions, which were being enforced Monday by police fanning out at train stations to check passengers’ vaccine status and make sure they were wearing the more protective Ffp2 face masks, which were required on public transport as of Monday.

Read the story here.

—Nicole Winfield, The Associated Press
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Catch up on the past 24 hours

So you tested positive. Now what? This guide includes the CDC's latest guidance on how long to isolate, plus what others in your home should do and more. But know that those new, shorter isolation guidelines are drawing fire.

Starting this week, some at-risk Americans can get a fourth shot. So will we forever be trying to boost our way out of this pandemic? That's not realistic, scientists say. Some are outlining different strategies to “get us out of this forever-boosting kind of a situation.”

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has COVID-19 after the lawmaker from New York took a vacation that drew criticism.

Others who tested positive include Washington state Senate Majority Leader Andy Billig and Sen. John Lovick.

“My name is Kovid and I’m not a virus.” Some people who share their name with the pandemic have soured on their names, but others are making good-humored lemonade out of the situation. This is what it's like to be a Kovid — and they're not the only ones with names that have been affected by our changing pandemic vocabulary. 

—Kris Higginson