Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Wednesday, Jan. 13, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.

The Trump administration on Tuesday asked governors nationwide to scrap much of the work they had spent on carefully laying out plans for the next stages of coronavirus vaccination, pushing state leaders to rapidly expand eligibility to receive doses. The move surprised governors, including Gov. Jay Inslee, whose office said the sudden changes were “unacceptable.”

In Seattle, the Fire Department announced they’ll start going door to door this week, vaccinating residents of adult family homes not served by a federal partnership with CVS and Walgreens.

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.

(Jennifer Luxton / The Seattle Times)

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Vaccines and masks: Biden plan aims to break pandemic cycle

WILMINGTON, Del. — A coronavirus action plan being unveiled by President-elect Joe Biden centers on a mass vaccination campaign and closer coordination among all levels of government.

The Biden plan comes as a divided nation remains caught in the grip of the pandemic’s most dangerous wave yet. So far, more than 380,000 Americans have died.

Biden hopes his multidimensional strategy, expected to be detailed in a Thursday evening speech, will put the country on the path to recovery by the end of his first 100 days. “It’s going to be hard,” Biden said Monday after he got his second vaccine shot. “It’s not going to be easy. But we can get it done.”

A more disciplined focus on vaccination is the new and widely anticipated game-changing element, but that’s far from the whole story. Biden is asking Americans to override their sense of pandemic fatigue and recommit to wearing masks, practicing social distancing, and avoiding indoor gatherings, particularly larger ones.

—Associated Press
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California counties beg for vaccine as eligibility expands

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California counties begged for more coronavirus vaccine as the state added a potential 4 to 6 million people to those eligible for the sought-after doses.

State public health officials followed federal guidance Wednesday by announcing that people 65 and older could get the two-dose vaccine.

But Los Angeles County, the nation’s most populous with 10 million residents and an epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak, said it couldn’t immediately provide them because it hasn’t yet inoculated health care workers, who have first crack at the vaccine.

Only about a quarter of some 800,000 had been inoculated, Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said.

“We’re not done with our health care workers and we actually don’t have enough vaccine right now to be able to get done more quickly,” Ferrer said. “We haven’t heard back from the state about vaccine availability and how it would be distributed.”

—Associated Press

WHO team arrives in Wuhan to search for pandemic origins

WUHAN, China — A global team of researchers arrived Thursday in the Chinese city where the coronavirus pandemic was first detected to conduct a politically sensitive investigation into its origins amid uncertainty about whether Beijing might try to prevent embarrassing discoveries.

The 10-member team sent to Wuhan by the World Health Organization was approved by President Xi Jinping’s government after months of diplomatic wrangling that prompted an unusual public complaint by the head of the WHO. They arrived Thursday, state media CGTN reported on Thursday.

Scientists suspect the virus that has killed 1.9 million people since late 2019 jumped to humans from bats or other animals, most likely in China’s southwest. The ruling Communist Party, stung by complaints it allowed the disease to spread, says the virus came from abroad, possibly on imported seafood, but scientists reject that.

The WHO team includes virus and other experts from the United States, Australia, Germany, Japan, Britain, Russia, the Netherlands, Qatar and Vietnam.

A government spokesman said this week they will “exchange views” with Chinese scientists but gave no indication whether they would be allowed to gather evidence.

—Associated Press

Indonesian health workers receive COVID-19 vaccination

JAKARTA, Indonesia — Indonesia started vaccinating health workers and public servants for COVID-19 on Thursday, a day after President Joko Widodo received the first shot of China’s Sinovac Biotech vaccine.

The Health Ministry is planning to vaccinate more than 1.3 million health workers and 17.4 million public officials in the first stage.

Indonesia, the world’s fourth most populous country, plans to vaccinate two-thirds of its population of about 270 million people — or just over 180 million people.

“The pandemic is still going on and health care workers are the front-liners in caring for COVID-19 patients,” Deputy Health Minister Dante Saksono said.

The first 25 health workers to get the jab were employees of Jakarta’s Cipto Mangunkusumo Hospital.

—Associated Press
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Calls to reopen classrooms grow as teachers get vaccinated

State leaders around the U.S. are increasingly pushing for schools to reopen this winter — pressuring them, even — as teachers begin to gain access to the vaccine against the raging pandemic.

Ohio’s governor offered to give vaccinations to teachers at the start of February, provided their school districts agree to resume at least some in-person instruction by March 1. In Arizona, where teachers began receiving shots this week, the governor warned schools that he expects students back in the classroom despite objections from top education officials and the highest COVID-19 diagnosis rate in the nation over the past week.

Leaders of Arizona’s major hospitals disagreed with the governor’s position, noting at a news conference Wednesday that the state is teetering on the brink of having to ration life-saving care.

President-elect Joe Biden initially pledged to reopen a majority of the nation’s schools in his first 100 days but recently revised the goal to most of the country’s K-8 schools. He has said teachers should be eligible for vaccinations as soon as possible after those who are at highest risk.

Some states aren’t waiting, but the process can be scattershot.

—Associated Press

Seattle schools’ special education services during COVID-19 subject of U.S. Department of Education investigation

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights is investigating Seattle Public Schools after hearing “disturbing reports” about how the district handled special education during the pandemic.

In a letter sent Tuesday to Superintendent Denise Juneau, department officials cite concerns that some students with disabilities went without specialized instruction — and some teachers weren’t allowed to provide it.

“According to one local news report last spring, the District told its special education teachers ‘not to deliver specially designed instruction,’ and disallowed them from ‘adapt[ing] lessons to each child’s needs,’” wrote Kimberly M. Richey, the Education Department’s acting assistant secretary for civil rights. “OCR [Office of Civil Rights] is concerned that the District has failed to provide a ‘free appropriate public education’ to each qualified student with a disability as required by federal law and denied students with disabilities equal access to education.”

Richey’s letter says the department will contact the district within one week to begin requesting access to data and interviews with school employees.

Initiating an investigation is not an indication that the district is at fault, district officials and the OCR letter said. 

Read the full story here.

—Hannah Furfaro and Dahlia Bazzaz

Washington state to broaden vaccine access in the ‘coming days,’ health officials say

The Washington state Department of Health will move into its next phase of coronavirus vaccination sooner than expected, moving up the timeline to begin inoculating people aged 70 years and older, among others.

Health secretary Dr. Umair Shah also acknowledged the state’s rollout had been uneven, that the public expected more and that the department needed to hasten the pace of vaccination.

“While we are making progress every single day … I recognize it has not been enough,” Shah said in a news briefing Wednesday, adding that he had directed changes at the department. “One of those changes is an accelerated timeline to move to our next grouping — Phase 1B — which we expect to do in the next coming days.”

Shah did not give an exact date for when the state would move to Phase B1, which includes people 70 years and older and people 50 years and older in multi-generational households.

Read the full story here.

—Evan Bush
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China’s cases spike ahead of WHO research visit

BEIJING — China is seeing a new surge in coronavirus cases in its frozen northeast as a World Health Organization team was due to arrive to probe the origins of the pandemic.

China on Thursday also reported its first new death attributed to COVID-19 in months, raising the toll to 4,635 among 87,844 cases. China’s relatively low case figures are a testimony to the effectiveness of strict containment, tracing and quarantine measures, but have also raised questions about the tight hold the government maintains on all information related to the outbreak.

The National Health Commission said Heilongjiang province in the region traditionally known as Manchuria recorded 43 new cases, most of them centered on the city of Suihua outside the provincial capital of Harbin.

The northern province of Hebei just outside Beijing, which has seen China’s most serious recent outbreak, recorded another 81 cases, marking the second straight day China’s total number of local infections has risen into triple digits. Another 14 cases were brought from outside the country.

—Associated Press

Tribal elders are dying from the pandemic, causing a cultural crisis for American Indians

STANDING ROCK RESERVATION, N.D. — The virus took Grandma Delores first, silencing an 86-year-old voice that rang with Lakota songs and stories. Then it came for Uncle Ralph, a stoic Vietnam veteran. And just after Christmas, two more elders of the Taken Alive family were buried on the frozen North Dakota prairie: Jesse and Cheryl, husband and wife, who died a month apart.

“It takes your breath away,” said Ira Taken Alive, the couple’s oldest son. “The amount of knowledge they held, and connection to our past.”

One by one, those connections are being severed as the coronavirus tears through ranks of Native American elders, inflicting an incalculable toll on bonds of language and tradition that flow from older generations to the young.

“It’s like we’re having a cultural book-burning,” said Jason Salsman, a spokesperson for the Muscogee (Creek) Nation in eastern Oklahoma, whose grandparents contracted the virus but survived. “We’re losing a historical record, encyclopedias. One day soon, there won’t be anybody to pass this knowledge down.”

The loss of tribal elders has swelled into a cultural crisis as the pandemic has killed American Indians and Alaska Natives at nearly twice the rate of white people, deepening what critics call the deadly toll of a tattered health system and generations of harm and broken promises by the U.S. government.

—The New York Times

Why testing negative is not a guarantee that you’re safe

Rampant community transmission of the coronavirus and a crippled vaccine rollout have boxed people into a corner: Many are relying on negative test results, inherently limited in usefulness, as a certificate of clearance to see family and friends.

While testing is critical to containing the outbreak, a negative test result is not a free pass to forgo social distancing, mask-wearing and large gatherings. Here are a few reminders about what a negative coronavirus test means and doesn’t mean.

Read the full story.

—Marisa Iati, The Washington Post
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State reports 2,892 new coronavirus cases and 49 deaths

The state Department of Health (DOH) reported 2,892 new coronavirus cases and 49 new deaths on Tuesday.

The update brings the state's totals to 281,202 cases and 3,838 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. Tuesday.

The agency says new cases may include up to 520 duplicates, and that negative results are incomplete from Nov. 21-30, 2020 and Dec. 29 through today. Data on hospitalizations are also incomplete today due to "an interruption in the data reporting processes." DOH expects to make a full update tomorrow. At least 16,080 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the virus so far.

In King County, the state's most populous, state health officials have confirmed a total of 71,106 COVID-19 diagnoses and 1,135 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.

—Megan Burbank

Virus outbreak officially over at Union Gap Costco; 177 workers infected

The Costco COVID outbreak is over, according to the Yakima Health District.

The outbreak affected 177 employees at the Union Gap store, all of whom tested positive between Dec. 11 and Jan. 2, according to the health district.

“Costco was advised to conduct site-wide testing until the testing positivity rate was below 5%,” the district said in a Tuesday news release. “This has now been observed since January 2, 2021. There is no current indication of ongoing transmission among employees and this outbreak is considered to have concluded.”

The outbreak’s source was never determined by the district’s investigation, but Dr. Larry Jecha, the district’s interim health officer said it mimicked the disease activity that occurs after a large event.

“This outbreak is a stark reminder of how rapidly COVID-19 can spread throughout our community,” he said in the news release. “We must all remain vigilant and continue to take steps to minimize the spread of the virus. This includes wearing masks, practicing physical distancing, and avoiding large social gatherings.”

—Pat Muir, Yakima Herald-Republic

EXPLAINER: Vaccine push gains steam but many still face wait

More Americans are now eligible to get a COVID-19 vaccine but they may still face a wait for their first shot even as supplies increase.

Drugstore pharmacists are now doling out the shots in many states, and sports arenas and fairgrounds are planning big clinics. This latest push is focused for now on people deemed most vulnerable to the coronavirus.

But people still have a lot of questions, including: when will it be my turn, where will I get the vaccine, how much will it cost and will I have to wait in line.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press
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Coronavirus cases among lawmakers show that one vaccine dose does not immediately protect against infection

Three members of Congress contracted the novel coronavirus after sheltering in a crowded room as a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol, testing positive despite having been vaccinated against the virus.

Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., seen in July, was forced to go into lockdown during last week’s violent protest. She has tested positive for COVID-19 and has criticized Republican members of Congress who declined to wear a mask when it was offered to them. (Graeme Jennings/Pool via AP)
Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., seen in July, was forced to go into lockdown during last week’s violent protest. She has tested positive for COVID-19 and has criticized Republican members of Congress who declined to wear a mask when it was offered to them. (Graeme Jennings/Pool via AP)

Those positive tests do not mean the vaccines were faulty, experts said, noting that immune protection takes more than a week to kick in. The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines that are available to Americans require two doses for full protection; a single dose is not as effective as two.

“Early protection against COVID-19 may occur from about 12 days after dose one,” said Naor Bar-Zeev, an infectious diseases physician and epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. People “should not really consider themselves protected really until after a week or two following Dose 2.”

Even though the vaccines may protect people from showing symptoms, those vaccinated could remain susceptible to infection, he said, which is why officials are urging those who have been recently vaccinated to continue to wear masks and maintain social distance.

Read the story here.

—Ben Guarino, The Washington Post

Not only goalies wear masks: NHL coaches must cover faces

Florida Panthers head coach Joel Quenneville skates during the first practice of training camp in preparation for the 2020-21 NHL season at the BB&T Center on Monday, Jan.  4, 2021 in Sunrise. (David Santiago/Miami Herald via AP)
Florida Panthers head coach Joel Quenneville skates during the first practice of training camp in preparation for the 2020-21 NHL season at the BB&T Center on Monday, Jan. 4, 2021 in Sunrise. (David Santiago/Miami Herald via AP)

Winnipeg coach Paul Maurice struggled to blow a whistle while wearing a mask. Barry Trotz couldn’t see if one of his New York Islanders players was skating toward him because his mask had helped fog up his glasses.

“It was ugly there for a while,” Maurice said. “There’s some challenges to it.”

One of the new challenges for NHL coaches this season is the requirement to wear a mask behind the bench during games and on the ice for practices. Now that goaltenders won’t be the only masked men around the rink, coaches will learn and adjust on the fly like those in other sports have had to in recent months.

“Just being around the rink all day wearing one is an adjustment, but we’ll work it out,” Joel Quenneville of the Florida Panthers said. “Sometimes when you really want to get your point across, you might have to pull your mask down to make yourself clear. But I’ve never changed lines with a face mask on.”

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

Housing advocates call on Biden to extend eviction ban

Tenants’ rights advocates demonstrate in front of the Edward W. Brooke Courthouse on Jan. 13 in Boston. The protest was part of a national day of action calling on the incoming Biden administration to extend the eviction moratorium initiated in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer, file)
Tenants’ rights advocates demonstrate in front of the Edward W. Brooke Courthouse on Jan. 13 in Boston. The protest was part of a national day of action calling on the incoming Biden administration to extend the eviction moratorium initiated in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer, file)

Housing advocates around the country staked out courthouses and held rallies Wednesday, calling on the incoming Biden administration to extend and strengthen the current federal ban on evictions.

President Donald Trump’s directive, implemented in September by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, was extended until the end of January.

Given the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, advocates argue tenants should have protections for the next several months and that the ban should be expanded.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press
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German government defends slow vaccination campaign

Germany’s health minister on Wednesday defended the government’s decision to procure and approve coronavirus vaccines with the rest of European Union amid criticism vaccination in the country has been too slow.

While large countries like France and Germany could have gone it alone, smaller nations would have struggled to compete for the doses they need, sparking acrimony among the bloc’s 27 members, said Jens Spahn.

Germany has ordered 140 million doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, 56 million doses from AstraZeneca and more than 100 million from manufacturers whose vaccines have yet to be approved in the EU.

The EU required the vaccines to get regular clearance rather than emergency use permission, a decision Spahn said would help boost acceptance for the shots. But this delayed the start of the vaccination campaign compared to other countries.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

Spain: Judge orders incapacitated woman to get virus vaccine

A judge in northwest Spain has overruled a family’s objections and decided to allow health authorities to administer a coronavirus vaccine to an incapacitated woman in a nursing home.

The case appears to be the first known instance of a court in Europe requiring someone to get a COVID-19 vaccine. The Spanish government repeatedly has stressed that shots would be voluntary, as have authorities in other European countries.

Judge Javier Fraga Mandián said the “existence of tens of thousands of deaths” from the virus in Spain provided what he saw as irrefutable evidence that not taking the vaccine was riskier than any possible side effects.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

Delay in vaccinating most Washington K-12 teachers, staff alarms legislators, union

A bipartisan group of Washington lawmakers and the state’s teachers union are pushing Gov. Jay Inslee and state health officials to bump up teachers and other school staff on the priority list for the coronavirus vaccine. 

Right now, more than half of the state’s educators would have to wait until nearly the end of the school year to get their first dose of vaccine. Meanwhile, teachers in New York could start making vaccine appointments as of Monday; some California teachers are expected to be eligible for appointments as soon as Friday.

The push in Washington comes amid an abrupt change in the federal government’s vaccine guidance. On Tuesday, federal officials shifted into overdrive, calling on states to speed up vaccine distribution and expand eligibility to those aged 65 and older and people who are more prone to complications from the virus.

The federal move could spur a faster vaccine rollout in Washington, and officials in Inslee’s office say they’re considering the federal changes on eligibility. But it’s not yet clear how any change would affect where teachers fall in the vaccine line: Under the state’s existing distribution timeline, roughly 60% of the state’s K-12 workforce wouldn’t qualify until April. 

Read the story here.

—Hannah Furfaro
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'This isn’t their first show': Older adults isolated but resilient in pandemic

Residents Ken Fishman, 81, left, and Esther Wallach, 82, right, hold hands as they wait in line Jan. 12, 2021, for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at the The Palace assisted living facility in Coral Gables, Fla. An ongoing study suggests that older American adults are showing resilience and perseverance despite struggles with loneliness and isolation during the pandemic. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky, File)
Residents Ken Fishman, 81, left, and Esther Wallach, 82, right, hold hands as they wait in line Jan. 12, 2021, for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at the The Palace assisted living facility in Coral Gables, Fla. An ongoing study suggests that older American adults are showing resilience and perseverance despite struggles with loneliness and isolation during the pandemic. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky, File)

Since the pandemic’s descent, they have generally been viewed as among those at higher risk — older Americans, some of them medically vulnerable, figuring out how to navigate life in a COVID-saturated, increasingly isolated world.

That’s one type of health — physical. When it comes to mental and emotional health, older adults in the United States are showing resilience and persevering despite struggles with loneliness and isolation, the latest self-reported results in an ongoing study suggest.

The latest data from the National Social Life, Health and Aging Project, conducted by the social research organization NORC at the University of Chicago, is part of a longer-term study designed to track the physical and emotional well-being of older Americans over time.

Only 9% of older adults reported having “fair or poor overall mental health” during the pandemic, similar to their previous answers and an indication of what the study calls “some signs of resilience.” Nevertheless, the study found that general happiness has declined. About half as many older adults now report they are very happy or extremely happy, and an increasing number report occasional feelings of depression or isolation.

“It should sensitize everyone to the reality of isolation’s impact but also the reality that people are resilient — and maybe even more so older adults than younger adults,” said Louise Hawkley, principal research scientist at NORC and the lead researcher on the study.

“This isn’t their first show. They’ve been through things already. They know how to handle stress,” Hawkley said. “This is something we can learn from them — that there is survival.”

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

Portugal goes into lockdown amid record-breaking virus surge

Portugal’s government ordered the country into a coronavirus lockdown Wednesday, but with exceptions so a presidential election can go ahead on Jan. 24.

Portugal has witnessed a record-breaking surge in confirmed COVID-19 cases since it eased restrictions for the Christmas holiday.

LISBON, PORTUGAL – NOVEMBER 23: A tram drives past the fully lit Christmas tree in the almost deserted Praça do Comercio, normally teeming with tourists and locals, during the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic on November 23, 2020 in Lisbon, Portugal. The Portuguese Parliament approved on November 20 the renewal of a state of emergency that will last until December 9 including extensive weekend curfews as a way to fight the pandemic that has registered so far 264,802 infections and caused 3,971 deaths in the country. (Horacio Villalobos / Getty Images Europe)
LISBON, PORTUGAL – NOVEMBER 23: A tram drives past the fully lit Christmas tree in the almost deserted Praça do Comercio, normally teeming with tourists and locals, during the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic on November 23, 2020 in Lisbon, Portugal. The Portuguese Parliament approved on November 20 the renewal of a state of emergency that will last until December 9 including extensive weekend curfews as a way to fight the pandemic that has registered so far 264,802 infections and caused 3,971 deaths in the country. (Horacio Villalobos / Getty Images Europe)

Prime Minister António Costa said the pandemic is “at its most dangerous point.” The lockdown starting Friday will last at least a month, he said.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

China pledges to help Indonesia in fight against coronavirus

In this photo released by Indonesian Foreign Ministry, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, left, talks to the media as his Indonesian counterpart Retno Marsudi listens during a virtual press conference following their meeting in Jakarta, Indonesia, Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021. Wang pledged that China will help Indonesia defeat the coronavirus, including providing vaccines and the strengthen economic cooperation with Indonesia in addition to strengthening cooperation in the health sector in overcoming the COVID-19 pandemic. (Indonesian Foreign Ministry via AP)
In this photo released by Indonesian Foreign Ministry, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, left, talks to the media as his Indonesian counterpart Retno Marsudi listens during a virtual press conference following their meeting in Jakarta, Indonesia, Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021. Wang pledged that China will help Indonesia defeat the coronavirus, including providing vaccines and the strengthen economic cooperation with Indonesia in addition to strengthening cooperation in the health sector in overcoming the COVID-19 pandemic. (Indonesian Foreign Ministry via AP)

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi pledged Wednesday that China will help Indonesia fight the coronavirus by sharing its experiences, providing vaccines and supporting the Southeast Asian country as it begins to produce them domestically.

“Despite the sharp increase in the demand for vaccines, we still overcame difficulties and did not hesitate in response to Indonesia’s need to provide vaccines to our friends in Indonesia,” Wang told reporters after meeting in Jakarta with Foreign Affairs Minister Retno Marsudi.

Indonesia has received 3 million doses of the Chinese-made Sinovac vaccine and raw materials for 15 million doses that are to be produced in Indonesia.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press
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Belgian high schoolers demand to get back in-person learning

Students and relatives stand at the main entrance of the school Athenee Leonie de Waha in Liege, Belgium, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021. Fed up with the COVID-19 restrictions keeping them at home most of the time, students in the last two years of high school in the city of Liege launched an online petition asking for more in-person class time. The students’ efforts paid off Tuesday following an online meeting with Mayor Willy Demeyer and education officials in the city. The officials pledged to revisit the current COVID-19 protocol in a bid to get the 16 to 18-year-olds in-person instruction at least half-time starting Monday. (AP Photo/Valentin Bianchi)
Students and relatives stand at the main entrance of the school Athenee Leonie de Waha in Liege, Belgium, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021. Fed up with the COVID-19 restrictions keeping them at home most of the time, students in the last two years of high school in the city of Liege launched an online petition asking for more in-person class time. The students’ efforts paid off Tuesday following an online meeting with Mayor Willy Demeyer and education officials in the city. The officials pledged to revisit the current COVID-19 protocol in a bid to get the 16 to 18-year-olds in-person instruction at least half-time starting Monday. (AP Photo/Valentin Bianchi)

A late-stage side effect of the coronavirus pandemic has turned up in Belgium, where a group of teenagers is begging to go back to school.

Fed up with the COVID-19 restrictions keeping them at home most of the time, students in the last two years of a high school in the city of Liege launched an online petition asking for more in-person class time.

“It’s been six months now that we have been going to class only once a week,” the students enrolled at the Athénée Léonie de Waha wrote last week. “Get ready, and open your ears: We want to go to school more often. Yes, yes, you heard it right!”

Officials pledged to revisit the current COVID-19 protocol in a bid to get the 16 to 18-year-olds in-person instruction at least half-time starting Monday.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

Turkey approves China-based Sinovac vaccine’s emergency use

Turkish authorities gave the go-ahead for the emergency use of the COVID-19 vaccine produced by China’s Sinovac Biotch Ltd. on Wednesday, paving the way for the rollout for Turkey’s vaccination program starting with health care workers and other high-risk groups.

The country’s health minister and members of the country’s scientific advisory council received the first shots live on television.

The shots will carry a QR code assigned to a person’s name in accordance with Ankara’s vaccination program and an online appointment system.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

UK pledges 24-7 vaccine operation as hospitals discuss moving patients to hotels

Britain’s coronavirus vaccine program will operate around the clock seven days a week “as soon as we can,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson pledged Wednesday as the U.K. accelerates efforts to inoculate millions of its most vulnerable people against coronavirus.

Johnson said “at the moment, the limit is on supply” of the vaccines rather than on the ability of the country’s health service to deliver jabs quickly. The push to inoculate millions quickly comes as a more contagious variant of COVID-19 is sweeping across Britain and driving hospitals to their breaking points.

The government is desperately trying to protect people with vaccines before hospitals are overwhelmed with cases of the new, more infections virus variant. Britain already has Europe’s deadliest coronavirus outbreak, with over 83,000 deaths and health care systems are discussing moving some patients into hotels to ease the pressure on hospitals struggling to handle rising COVID-19 admissions.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press
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China pandemic control goes rural ahead of Lunar New Year

China is concentrating its pandemic prevention efforts in the rural areas as officials urge people to not travel home for the Lunar New Year festival while the country combats its most serious latest outbreak of COVID-19.

In this photo released by Xinhua News Agency, a medical staff in a protective suit prepares to take a swab from a child near a residential area in Shijiazhuang in north China’s Hebei province on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021. China is concentrating its pandemic prevention efforts in the rural areas as officials urge people to not travel home for the annual Lunar New Year festival, as the country combats its most serious latest outbreak of COVID-19 since the pandemic originally broke out in Wuhan a year ago.  (Mu Yu/Xinhua via AP)
In this photo released by Xinhua News Agency, a medical staff in a protective suit prepares to take a swab from a child near a residential area in Shijiazhuang in north China’s Hebei province on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021. China is concentrating its pandemic prevention efforts in the rural areas as officials urge people to not travel home for the annual Lunar New Year festival, as the country combats its most serious latest outbreak of COVID-19 since the pandemic originally broke out in Wuhan a year ago. (Mu Yu/Xinhua via AP)

Authorities said Wednesday local clinics and hospitals in villages need to strengthen their vigilance for any new COVID-19 cases, and local governments must take responsibility at every level — from county to town to village.

The government is bracing for the world’s largest annual migration in which hundreds of millions travel home for Lunar New Year break in February, many of them workers from cities going back to their home villages.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

Metro League aiming for Feb. 22 to return to play for football

The Metro League announced Tuesday that it is hoping for athletics to return starting Feb. 22.

Eastside Catholic’s J.T. Tuimoloau gets called for the foul as he attempts to turnover O’Dea’s Jermaine Davis (22) in a Metro League basketball game last season. (Dean Rutz / The Seattle Times)
Eastside Catholic’s J.T. Tuimoloau gets called for the foul as he attempts to turnover O’Dea’s Jermaine Davis (22) in a Metro League basketball game last season. (Dean Rutz / The Seattle Times)

Returning to play is contingent on the Puget Sound Region making it to Phase 2 of the state’s “Healthy Washington” plan.

The Metro League has divided up its athletic calendar into two seasons for this academic year only. The first, which will contain football along with girls soccer, volleyball, gymnastics, girls swimming and diving, slowpitch softball, bowling and coed sports cross country and golf, will begin practice Feb. 22 and run until April 17.

The second season, which will have boys and girls basketball, boys soccer, boys swimming and diving, baseball and fastpitch softball and the coed sports of track and field, wrestling and tennis, will run from April 19 to June 12.

The Washington Interscholastic Activities Association redesigned its sports calendar last week, aiming for a Feb. 1 start for the football season (and other sports).

Read the story here.

—Nathan Joyce

Quarantine corner: Diversions to get you through the day


Head for Bellevue’s Crossroads area and you’ll find a spectacular burrito, “10-second noodles” and these other wonders.

Or curl up on the couch: Here are our top streams of the week.

The Plot Thickens: Five recommended crime books will transport you to other times and places.

—Kris Higginson
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US COVID-19 deaths hit another one-day high at over 4,300

FILE – In this Monday, Dec. 7, 2020, file photo, a critical care nurse with North Memorial Health Hospital leans down to speak to a COVID-19 patient under their care in Robbinsdale, Minn. Virtually every state is reporting surges in cases and deaths. (Aaron Lavinsky/Star Tribune via AP)
FILE – In this Monday, Dec. 7, 2020, file photo, a critical care nurse with North Memorial Health Hospital leans down to speak to a COVID-19 patient under their care in Robbinsdale, Minn. Virtually every state is reporting surges in cases and deaths. (Aaron Lavinsky/Star Tribune via AP)

Coronavirus deaths in the U.S. hit another one-day high at over 4,300 with the country’s attention focused largely on the fallout from the deadly uprising at the Capitol.

The nation’s overall death toll from COVID-19 has eclipsed 380,000, according to Johns Hopkins University, and is closing in fast on the number of Americans killed in World War II, or about 407,000. Confirmed infections have topped 22.8 million.

With the country simultaneously facing a political crisis and on edge over threats of more violence from far-right extremists, the U.S. recorded 4,327 deaths on Tuesday by Johns Hopkins’ count. Arizona and California have been among the hardest-hit states.

The daily figure is subject to revision, but deaths have been rising sharply over the past 2 1/2 months, and the country is now in the most lethal phase of the outbreak yet, even as the vaccine is being rolled out. New cases are running at nearly a quarter-million per day on average.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

Japan widens virus emergency to 7 more areas as cases surge

Japan expanded a coronavirus state of emergency to seven more prefectures Wednesday, affecting more than half the population amid a surge in infections across the country.

Prime Minister Yoshide Suga also said Japan will suspend fast-track entry exceptions for business visitors or others with residency permits, fully banning foreign visitors while the state of emergency is in place.

Suga’s announcement comes less than a week after he declared a state of emergency for Tokyo and three nearby prefectures.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

Vaccine skepticism helped put them in power. Can they inoculate Italy?

Over a decade ago, an activist in Italy’s Five Star Movement wrote to the nascent party’s leaders to tell them that his law firm, after years of seeking “damages from vaccination,” had convinced a judge that a vaccine was a potential source of autism.

Today that lawyer, Alfonso Bonafede, is the Italian justice minister, and his populist Five Star Movement leads the government.

The Five Star’s long history of sowing doubt about vaccines may have made its job that much harder as it seeks to convince Italians that a mass inoculation program is necessary to beat back a pandemic that has killed nearly 2 million people worldwide and shuttered entire economies.

The irony is not lost on Italians, who are not even Europe’s most skeptical population when it comes to the benefit of vaccines. While 62% of Italians have said they would get an available vaccine, according to figures by Ipsos, a polling firm, in France only 40% said they would be.

But it is Italy where a party that explicitly trafficked in anti-vaccine skepticism currently holds power. With Five Star’s rise, anti-vaccine campaigns are no longer merely an easy tool wielded by the political fringe to tear down established parties and gain power. They are a key factor that could determine the health and vitality of the nation at a critical juncture in the pandemic.

Read the story here.

—Jason Horowitz, The New York Times
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Gym doors inch open, but maybe not for long

The Bothell 24 Hour Fitness gym reopened this week after an eight-week mandated closure as part of Washington state’s measures to curb the spread of COVID-19. (Greg Gilbert / The Seattle Times)
The Bothell 24 Hour Fitness gym reopened this week after an eight-week mandated closure as part of Washington state’s measures to curb the spread of COVID-19. (Greg Gilbert / The Seattle Times)

The Bothell 24 Hour Fitness is among gyms that reopened this week after an eight-week closure, but many gym owners say the state's rules for the first phase of reopening will plunge them deeper into debt or force them to close for good. Here's what you can and can't do under the new rules, from gym workouts to gatherings and more.

—Kris Higginson

Catch up on the past 24 hours

An abrupt federal shift would make nearly a third of Americans eligible for vaccines right now, catching Washington state by surprise after officials spent months planning around different priorities. The push to change who's eligible comes with new challenges.

Who's at the door? It's your vaccine! Seattle firefighters tomorrow will start going door-to-door with vaccines for residents of adult family homes, and the city is looking at turning school facilities into vaccination sites.

Anyone flying into the U.S. will soon need to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test. Here's how the new order will work.

A glimmer of hope: A new study looks ahead to the day when the coronavirus becomes just an annoyance, no more threatening than the common cold. And it lays out what will have to happen to get there.

—Kris Higginson