Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Thursday, Jan. 21, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.

On President Joe Biden’s first day in the Oval Office, one of his first tasks was to address one of the commitments he made during his campaign — handling the coronavirus pandemic. Now, virus precautions are required in the White House and on federal property, the federal eviction freeze has been extended and a new federal office has been created to coordinate a national response to the virus.

The push to vaccinate Americans against the virus is hitting a roadblock, however, as several states, including New York and Florida, are reporting they are running out of vaccine. In Washington, more than 10,000 people have appointments at the University of Washington Medicine’s vaccine clinics as the state starts Phase 1B of the vaccine rollout. 

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.

Gov. Jay Inslee will holds a press conference at 2:30 p.m. today to give an update on the 2021 legislative session and the state’s response to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Watch here:


Navigating the pandemic
(Jennifer Luxton / The Seattle Times)

More

Postponed Tokyo Olympics to open in just 6 months

TOKYO — The postponed Tokyo Olympics are due to open in just six months. Local organizers and the International Olympic Committee say they will go ahead on July 23. But it’s still unclear how this will happen with virus cases surging in Tokyo and elsewhere around the globe.

Venues around Tokyo are mostly shuttered and quiet, and may remain that way for a few months until local organizers give more explicit details about exactly how they will pull off the games during a pandemic. More details are expected early in the spring when the torch relay begins from northern Japan. That event is set for March 25 and involves 10,000 runners headed to Tokyo over four months. It’s hard to imagine the torch relay starting if the Olympics were not to follow.

The Olympics are enormous, the numbers staggering. They involve 11,000 athletes, and the Paralympics add another 4,400. The athletes represent 206 nations or territories. In addition, tens of thousands of others are involved, including coaches, judges, administrators, media and broadcasters.

It’s still unclear if fans will be allowed in venues, and increasingly doubtful that fans from abroad will be allowed to enter Japan.

Recent polls show about 80% of the Japanese public think the Olympics should be canceled, or postponed again. The International Olympic Committee has said they will not be postponed again and will be canceled if they cannot be held.

—Associated Press
Advertising

New Chinese film praises Wuhan ahead of lockdown anniversary

WUHAN, China — China is rolling out a state-backed film praising Wuhan ahead of the anniversary of the 76-day lockdown in the central city where the coronavirus was first detected.

The documentary “Days and Nights in Wuhan” features contributions from 30 filmmakers portraying the suffering and sacrifices made by the city’s 11 million residents, medical staff and front-line workers as they battled the virus that began racing through the city in December 2019.

The film is one of at least three documentaries released about the Wuhan lockdown, including “Coronation” by activist artist Ai Weiwei, who now lives abroad following a campaign of harassment by China’s ruling Communist Party.

While “Days and Nights in Wuhan” may benefit from strong state support, Ai’s “Coronation” has been rejected by festivals, theaters and streaming services. He attributes the phenomenon to fears over offending the ruling party, which controls both what movies can be shown in China and what Chinese films can be displayed abroad.

—Associated Press

Testing wristbands, masks signs of a new boss at White House

WASHINGTON — Testing wristbands are in. Mask-wearing is mandatory. Desks are socially distanced.

The clearest sign that there’s a new boss at the White House is the deference being paid to coronavirus public health guidlines.

It’s a striking contrast to Donald Trump’s White House, which was the epicenter of no less than three separate outbreaks of COVID-19, their true scale not fully known because aides refused to discuss cases publicly.

While the Trump administration was known for flouting safety recommendations, the Biden team has made a point of abiding by the same strict guidelines they’re urging Americans to follow to stem the spread of the virus.

It’s part of an overall effort from President Joe Biden to lead by example on the coronavirus pandemic, an ethos carried over from his campaign and transition.

“One of the great tragedies of the Trump administration was a refusal to recognize that many Americans model the behavior of our leadership,” said Ben LaBolt, a former press secretary to President Barack Obama who worked on the Biden transition.

—Associated Press

Shanghai outbreak prompts 2 hospital lockdowns

BEIJING — Shanghai has imposed lockdowns on two of China’s best-known hospitals after they were linked to new coronavirus cases.

Outpatient services have been suspended and Fudan University Shanghai Cancer Center and Renji Hospital affiliated with Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine, have been cordoned off, along with some surrounding residential communities.

After months of quelling small clusters with mass testing, isolation and social distancing, China has seen outbreaks grow this winter, mainly in its frigid north. The National Health Commission on Friday announced 103 new cases had been detected over the past 24 hours.

Lockdowns have also been imposed in parts of Beijing and other cities following outbreaks, schools are letting out early and citizens have been told to stay home for next month’s Lunar New Year holiday. China hopes to vaccinate 50 million people against the virus by the middle of February.

—Associated Press
Advertising

First round of COVID-19 vaccines completed in Washington’s nursing homes

Pharmacies in Washington have finished administering the first round of COVID-19 vaccines for residents of the state’s nursing homes, marking a major milestone in protecting those among the most vulnerable from the deadly virus.

The initial doses, provided largely through a federal partnership with CVS and Walgreens, were completed Thursday, the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) said. Both pharmacies had previously said they expected to finish the first vaccinations by Jan. 25. Some nursing homes received vaccines through other, smaller providers.

“Shout-out to the many pharmacies helping us protect the most vulnerable Washingtonians,” DOH said Thursday evening in a tweet.

The two pharmacy giants began administering vaccines in nursing homes on Dec. 28 and a week later in other long-term care sites, including assisted living facilities and adult family homes.

Long-term care facilities account for about 5% of total cases but more than half the state’s COVID-19 4,065 deaths. Nursing homes have fared the worst, as 95% of the facilities have reported at least one outbreak since the start of the pandemic.

Read the full story here.

—Paige Cornwell

Texas doctor accused of taking damaged vial of COVID-19 vaccine

HOUSTON — A Houston area health department doctor accused by prosecutors of stealing nine doses of coronavirus vaccine from a damaged vial and administering them to family and friends insists he did nothing wrong and was only trying to ensure the vaccine was not wasted, his attorney said Thursday.

Authorities allege that Hasan Gokal, who worked for Harris County Public Health, stole a vial of the Moderna coronavirus vaccine while working at a vaccination site at a suburban Houston park on Dec. 29.

Gokal told a health department employee earlier this month that “he had taken a punctured vial of the Moderna vaccine … at the end of operations and that he took the vial offsite and vaccinated his friends and family,” according to a probable cause complaint.

Prosecutors determined Gokal, 48, had given the vaccine to nine individuals, including his wife, according to the complaint.

“He abused his position to place his friends and family in line in front of people who had gone through the lawful process to be there,” said Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg. “What he did was illegal and he’ll be held accountable under the law.”

Paul Doyle, an attorney for Gokal, called his client a “dedicated public servant who ensured that COVID-19 vaccine dosages that would have otherwise expired went into the arms of people who met the criteria for receiving it.

—Associated Press

Amazon, Virginia Mason team up on COVID-19 vaccine pop-up clinic

Amazon is partnering with Virginia Mason on a pop-up COVID-19 vaccine clinic Sunday in Amazon’s Seventh Avenue meeting center in Seattle, the company announced Thursday at a news conference with Gov. Jay Inslee.

Sunday’s event — the first of many, Amazon says — has a goal of administering 2,000 vaccines to people who are on Virginia Mason’s waitlist for the vaccine. Eligible Washingtonians can join the waitlist at virginiamason.org. The state allows people aged 65 or older and people aged 50 or older in multigenerational households to receive the vaccine now.

As of Thursday afternoon, there were still fewer than 2,000 people on the waitlist, said Virginia Mason CEO Gary Kaplan. The hospital will notify by email those who made the cutoff to get vaccinated at Sunday’s clinic.

Inslee has previously said the state should be administering 45,000 vaccines daily; now, about 16,000 Washingtonians are vaccinated every day, though that rate is rising quickly, Inslee said Thursday.

Read the full story here.

—Katherine K. Long
Advertising

Fauci unleashed: Doc takes ‘liberating’ turn at center stage

WASHINGTON — Dr. Anthony Fauci is back.

In truth, the nation’s leading infectious-diseases expert never really went away. But after enduring nearly a year of darts and undermining comments from former President Donald Trump, Fauci now speaks with the authority of the White House again.

He called it “liberating” Thursday to be backed by a science-friendly administration that has embraced his recommendations to battle COVID-19.

“One of the new things in this administration is, If you don’t know the answer, don’t guess,” Fauci said in one pointed observation during a White House briefing. “Just say you don’t know the answer.”

Fauci’s highly visible schedule on Thursday, the first full day of President Joe Biden’s term, underscored the new administration’s confidence in the doctor but also the urgency of the moment.

His day began with a 4 a.m. virtual meeting with officials of the World Health Organization, which is based in Switzerland, and stretched past a 4 p.m. appearance at the lectern in the White House briefing room.

The breakneck pace showcased the urgent need to combat a pandemic that has killed more than 400,000 Americans and reached its deadliest phase just as the new president comes to office.

Read the full story here.

—Jonathan Lemire, The Associated Press

State reports 2,223 new coronavirus cases and 125 new deaths

The state Department of Health (DOH) reported 2,223 new coronavirus cases and 125 new deaths on Wednesday.

The update brings the state's totals to 296,087 cases and 4.065 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. Wednesday.

In addition, 16,939 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the virus -- 91 more than reported on Tuesday.

In King County, the state's most populous, state health officials have confirmed a total of 74,500 COVID-19 diagnoses and 1,191 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.

—Nicole Brodeur

Health experts blame rapid expansion for vaccine shortages

Mary Jenkins, left, received the COVID-19 vaccine in Paterson, N.J., Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021. The first people arrived around 2:30 a.m. for the chance to be vaccinated at one of the few sites that does not require an appointment. Smaller-than-expected vaccine deliveries from the federal government have caused frustration and confusion and limited states’ ability to attack the outbreak that has killed over 400,000 Americans. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Public health experts Thursday blamed COVID-19 vaccine shortages around the U.S. in part on the Trump administration’s push to get states to vastly expand their vaccination drives to reach the nation’s estimated 54 million people age 65 and over.

The push that began over a week ago has not been accompanied by enough doses to meet demand, according to state and local officials, leading to frustration and confusion and limiting states’ ability to attack the outbreak that has killed over 400,000 Americans.

Over the past few days, authorities in California, Ohio, West Virginia, Florida and Hawaii warned that their supplies were running out. New York City began canceling or postponing shots or stopped making new appointments because of the shortages, which President Joe Biden has vowed to turn around.

The vaccine rollout so far has been “a major disappointment,” said Dr. Eric Topol, head of the Scripps Research Translational Institute.

Read the full story here.

—Karen Matthews, Carla K. Johnson and Brian Melley, The Associated Press
Advertising

Dutch lawmakers back coronavirus curfew despite criticism

FILE: Equipment sits abandoned in a closed fitness club in Amsterdam, Netherlands,. A majority of Dutch lawmakers backed the government’s planned curfew Thursday, despite fierce criticism from some opposition legislators.
(Peter Dejong / The Associated Press)

A majority of Dutch lawmakers backed the government’s planned curfew Thursday, despite fierce criticism from some opposition legislators.

The four parties that make up the ruling coalition and several opposition parties backed a curfew from 9 p.m. to 4:30 a.m. — shifting the start a half hour later than originally planned. The measure likely will come into force Saturday.

The government on Thursday also announced an extension of financial support measures to business, pumping an extra $9.2 billion into efforts to prop up ailing businesses and protect jobs amid the crippling economic downturn caused by the pandemic and lockdown.

Read the story here.

—Mike Corder, The Associated Press

5 killed in blaze at Indian producer of COVID-19 vaccine

Smoke rises from the Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest vaccine maker that is manufacturing the AstraZeneca/Oxford University vaccine for the coronavirus, in Pune, India, Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021. (Rafiq Maqbool / The Associated Press)

At least five people were killed in a fire that broke out Thursday at a building under construction at Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer, officials said. The company said the blaze would not affect production of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Murlidhar Mohol, mayor of Pune city in southern Maharashtra state, said five bodies were found in the rubble after the flames were extinguished by firefighters.

Mahol said the victims were probably construction workers. He said the cause of the fire had not been determined and the extent of damage was not immediately clear.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

Virus scuttles Glastonbury Festival for second straight year

Britain’s Glastonbury music festival has fallen victim to the coronavirus pandemic for the second year in a row.

In this Sunday, June 30, 2019 file photo, revellers react to Kylie Minogue as she performs at the Glastonbury Festival, Somerset, England. One of Britain’s biggest summer music events, the Glastonbury Festival has fallen victim to the coronavirus pandemic for the second year in a row, organizers Michael Eavis and Emily Eavis said Thursday Jan. 21, 2021. (Grant Pollard/Invision/AP)

Organizers Michael Eavis and Emily Eavis said Thursday that “In spite of our efforts to move heaven & earth, it has become clear that we simply will not be able to make the Festival happen this year.”

“We are so sorry to let you all down,” they said in a statement.

They said everyone who had put down a deposit on tickets for the 2020 festival, which also was canceled, would be able to attend in 2022.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press
Advertising

Organists offer soundtrack to jabs at medieval UK cathedral

David Halls isn’t a doctor, nurse or ambulance driver, but he wanted to contribute in the fight against COVID-19. So he did what he does best: He sat down on the bench beside at Salisbury Cathedral’s historic organ and began to play.

Halls is one of the many people who have turned the 800-year-old cathedral in southwestern England into a mass vaccination center as the U.K. races to inoculate 50 million people. His contribution to the effort is offering a bit of Bach, Handel and even a little Rodgers & Hammerstein to the public as they shuffle through the nave to get their shots.

“At times of crisis, people come together and want to listen to music; at moments of joy, people want to listen to music,’’ Halls, the cathedral’s music director, told The Associated Press. “And so I don’t think it’s any surprise the effect of soothing music on people who probably are feeling quite stressed for various reasons.”

Salisbury Cathedral, home to one of the best preserved copies of the Magna Carta and England’s tallest church spire, has been enlisted as a vaccination center as the government expands its shot program to football stadiums, convention centers and hundreds of local doctors offices to speed delivery.

Hundreds of elderly residents have rolled up their sleeves and got their shots in the great nave, which is big enough to gather people together while also keeping them safely apart.

It’s in stark contrast to 1627, when church leaders locked the cathedral gates to keep townspeople out as plague swept through Salisbury. Canon Nicholas Papadopulos, dean of the cathedral, says he reflected on that episode with “visceral discomfort” last year when he celebrated the building’s 800th anniversary.

Now, it’s time for a new chapter.

Read the story here.

—Danica Kirka and Jo Kearney, The Associated Press

Gov. Inslee notes anniversary of COVID's appearance in Washington

—Seattle Times staff

Trident Seafoods to close Alaska plant for three weeks after COVID-19 outbreak

Pollock, a staple of McDonald’s fish fillet sandwiches, sustain North America’s biggest single species fish harvest.  (Courtesy of NOAA Fisheries)

Seattle-based Trident Seafoods is shutting down its’s largest Alaska seafood plant for three weeks after a COVID-19 outbreak, a difficult decision that points to a renewed assault by the coronavirus on the ranks of workers in a key part of the nation’s food-processing industry.

Trident is suspending operation at its Akutan facility just at the start of major winter harvests for pollock — North America’s biggest single-species seafood harvest — as well as cod and crab. At Akutan, some 700 employees have stopped working amid a new round of testing, and a fleet of boats that would normally be delivering their catch are now tied to docks.

Earlier this month, Unisea, another major processor based on the island of Unalaska, shut down due to an outbreak and is conducting mass testing of its workforce. The Seattle-based Ocean Peace, a factory trawler that harvests cod and other-bottom dwelling fish, also has an outbreak that has forced the vessel to leave the Unalaska port of Dutch Harbor and head to south-central Alaska to quarantine.

The outbreaks come at a time when North Pacific seafood industry officials — and their medical consultants — have been urging state public health officials to make vaccines available to processing workers as well as fishing crews. They say they have made extensive efforts through quarantines, masking and social distancing to curb the virus. But there is an urgent need to provide the vaccine protection for these workers, many of whom are minorities, may live shoreside in multi-generational families and are put at high-risk if they should become sick with the virus on ships or remote plants.

Read the story here.

—Hal Bernton
Advertising

Ousted Thai politician defends vaccine procurement criticism

FILE – In this Jan. 21, 2020, file photo, Thailand’s Future Forward Party leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit gestures as he talks to media during a press conference at the party’s headquarters in Bangkok, Thailand. Thai officials on Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021, filed criminal charges against Thanathorn, accusing him of defaming the monarchy by broadcasting his criticisms of the government’s efforts to secure supplies of coronavirus vaccine. (Sakchai Lalit /The Associated Press)

A popular ousted politician charged with defaming Thailand’s monarchy for questioning the government’s COVID-19 vaccine procurement stood by his comments Thursday and said the nation deserves more transparency.

The government filed charges on Wednesday accusing Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit of lese majeste, or insulting the monarchy, for alleging that the procurement was late and inadequate. Thanathorn also said there was possible favoritism in the awarding of the main contract.

The criticisms relate to the monarchy because most of the vaccines that Thailand has ordered are to be produced by Siam Bioscience, a private Thai company owned by King Maha Vajiralongkorn.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

California is running critically low on COVID-19 vaccines as people vie for shots

People wait in their vehicles to monitor for adverse reactions after being vaccinated at a mass COVID-19 vaccination site in Inglewood, Calif., Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021. (Damian Dovarganes / The Associated Press)

As California increases COVID-19 vaccinations, supply issues are becoming a critical problem, and some counties say they are rapidly running out.

County officials say they have most of the resources — large vaccine centers and personnel to run them — but lack the doses they need.

“Our ability to protect even more L.A. County residents in the coming weeks and months is entirely dependent and constrained by the amount of vaccine we receive each week, and often, we do not know from one week to the next how many doses will be allocated to L.A. County,” Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said in a news conference Wednesday.

Those 65 and over are vying for appointments and have endured long lines to get their shots. But officials warn that a shortage in supplies could delay how quickly the state is able to vaccinate older Californians before moving onto other groups not currently prioritized.

Read the story here.

—Los Angeles Times

EU to hold video summit to assess new virus restrictions

Worried that the new coronavirus variants could result in another surge of deaths across the European Union and push hospitals to the verge of collapse, the 27-nation bloc’s leaders will hold a video summit Thursday to assess such measures as further border restrictions, better tracking of mutations and improving coordination of lockdowns.

The highly contagious nature of the variants is a major source of concern and has already led some EU countries to strengthen restrictions by imposing stricter curfews and more stringent mask requirements on public transport and in shops.

In a bid to avoid another wave of panic similar to the one that saw unilateral border closures threaten the flow of goods across the bloc when the coronavirus first hit the continent last spring, the European Commission issued this week a series of recommendations “for a united front to beat COVID-19.”

The EU’s executive arm believes that the health situation is at a critical point and urged member states to step up the pace of vaccination, to ensure that at least 80% of those over age 80 are vaccinated by March, and that 70% of the adult population across the bloc is protected by the end of the summer.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press
Advertising

Biden to sign virus measures that mandate masks for travel

Deep in the deadliest coronavirus wave and facing worrisome new mutations, President Joe Biden will kick off his national COVID-19 strategy to ramp up vaccinations and testing, reopen schools and businesses and increase the use of masks — including a requirement that Americans mask up for travel.

U.S. President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden bow their heads during a virtual presidential inaugural prayer service in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021. President Biden in his first full day in office plans to issue a sweeping set of executive orders to tackle the raging Covid-19 pandemic that will rapidly reverse or refashion many of his predecessor’s most heavily criticized policies. (Bloomberg)

Biden also will address inequities in hard-hit minority communities as he signs 10 pandemic-related executive orders on Thursday. Those orders are a first step, and specific details of many administration actions are still being spelled out.

The new president has vowed to take far more aggressive measures to contain the virus than his predecessor, starting with stringent adherence to public health guidance. He faces steep obstacles, with the virus actively spreading in most states, slow progress on the vaccine rollout and political uncertainty over whether congressional Republicans will help him pass a $1.9 trillion economic relief and COVID response package.

“We need to ask average Americans to do their part,” said Jeff Zients, the White House official directing the national response. “Defeating the virus requires a coordinated nationwide effort.”

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

Celebrating our comfy companions on International Sweatpants Day

If there was ever a commemoration that meant less during the time of COVID-19 than before, it could be Thursday’s: International Sweatpants Day.

Are we not all basically wearing some version of sweatpants every day all day anyway as many of us are spending far more time at home during the pandemic?

The day is aimed at celebrating the comfy joy of days when “the thought of getting all dressed up in a suit and tie or high heels makes you want to crawl back into your warm bed,” according to Days of the Year.

“So if you know how it feels to just want to spend the day lounging around comfortably in your sweatpants, this is a day you should be celebrating! … Life is too short to be wearing tight clothing all the time.”

But at this time? Maybe we just don’t need a memorial or reminders the way we did in the past.

Read the story here.

—Christine Clarridge

Germany’s Merkel points to variant risk as infections drop

Germany is seeing a promising decline in new coronavirus infections, but must take “very seriously” the risk posed by a more contagious variant and will have to be cautious whenever it starts easing its lockdown, Chancellor Angela Merkel said Thursday.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, center, arrives for a news conference about the current situation of the coronavirus pandemic and the nation’s measures to avoid the further spread of the COVID-19 disease, in Berlin, German, Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021. (Markus Schreiber / The Associated Press)

Merkel and Germany’s 16 state governors on Tuesday decided to extend the country’s lockdown by two weeks until Feb. 14 and tighten some measures, for example requiring surgical masks — rather than just fabric face coverings — in shops and on public transportation.

On Thursday, Germany’s disease control center said that 20,398 new cases were reported over the past 24 hours, nearly 5,000 fewer than a week ago. The number of new cases per 100,000 residents over seven days stood at 119, the lowest since the beginning of November, and 1,013 more deaths, bringing Germany’s total so far to 49,783.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press
Advertising

Lebanon extends lockdown into February as virus numbers rise

Police officers speak to a driver at a checkpoint while inspecting cars for violating a lockdown to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus, in Beirut Lebanon, Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021. Authorities on Thursday extended a nationwide lockdown by a week to Feb. 8 amid a steep rise in coronavirus deaths and infections that has overwhelmed the health care system. (Bilal Hussein / The Associated Press)

Authorities in Lebanon on Thursday extended a nationwide lockdown by a week, to Feb. 8, amid a steep rise in coronavirus deaths and infections that has overwhelmed the health care system.

Despite increasing the number of hospital beds in the country of nearly 6 million, intensive care unit bed occupancy has been rising, hitting 91% late Wednesday, according to the World Health Organization.

Registered daily infections have hovered around 5,000 since the holiday season, up from nearly 1,000 in November.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

Mobile labs take vaccine studies to diverse neighborhoods

Lani Muller doesn’t have to visit a doctor’s office to help test an experimental COVID-19 vaccine — she just climbs into a bloodmobile-like van that parks on a busy street near her New York City neighborhood.

Nurse Brianne Stockman, left, injects study participant Lani Muller with either a COVID-19 vaccine or a placebo in a mobile medical unit parked in the Queens borough of New York, Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2021. With more vaccines in the pipeline, scientists worry whether enough volunteers will join and stick with the testing needed to prove if they, too, really work. To help, researchers in more than a dozen spots around the country are rolling out mobile health clinics to better reach minority participants and people in rural areas who might not otherwise volunteer. (Seth Wenig / The Associated Press)

The U.S. is focused on the chaotic rollout of the first two authorized vaccines to fight the pandemic. But with more vaccines in the pipeline — critical to boosting global supplies — scientists worry whether enough volunteers will join and stick with the testing needed to prove if they, too, really work.

Those studies, like earlier ones, must include communities of color that have been hard-hit by the pandemic, communities that also voice concern about the vaccination drive in part because of a long history of racial health care disparities and even research abuses.

To help, researchers in more than a dozen spots around the country are rolling out mobile health clinics to better reach minority participants and people in rural areas who might not otherwise volunteer.

Using vans to reach at-risk communities has long been a staple of fighting HIV, another illness that has disproportionately struck Black Americans. And as more doses of the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines arrive, mobile clinics are expected to help expand COVID-19 vaccination access, especially in rural areas.

But the NIH program has a different focus, offering RV-sized mobile clinics from Matrix Medical Network to help improve the diversity of ongoing vaccine studies.

Muller, who is Black, said her family was worried about the vaccine research so she didn’t mention she’d signed up to test AstraZeneca’s shot.

“The legacy of African Americans in science in these sort of trials hasn’t been great and we haven’t forgotten,” said Muller, 49, a Columbia University employee whose participation in some prior research projects made her willing to get a test injection earlier this month.

Muller knows more than 20 people who have gotten or died from COVID-19. “I’m much more afraid of the disease than the vaccine trial,” she said.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

Patients fend for themselves to access highly touted COVID-19 antibody treatments

Months after Trump emphatically credited an experimental antibody therapy for his quick recovery from COVID-19 and even as drugmakers ramp up supplies, only a trickle of the product has found its way into regular people. While hundreds of thousands of vials sit unused, sick patients who, research indicates, could benefit from early treatment — available for free — have largely been fending for themselves.

Gary Herritz was feeling pretty sick by the time he tested positive for COVID-19 on Jan. 12, .

His scratchy throat had turned to a dry cough, headache, joint pain and fever — all warning signs to Herritz, who underwent liver transplant surgery in 2012, followed by a rejection scare in 2018. He knew his compromised immune system left him especially vulnerable to a potentially deadly case of COVID-19.

“The thing with transplant patients is we can crash in a heartbeat,” said Herritz, 39. “The outcome for transplant patients [with COVID-19] is not good.”

On Twitter, Herritz had read about monoclonal antibody therapy, the treatment famously given to President Donald Trump and other high-profile politicians and authorized by the Food and Drug Administration for emergency use in high-risk COVID-19 patients. But as his symptoms worsened, Herritz found himself very much on his own as he scrambled for access.

His primary care doctor wasn’t sure he qualified for treatment. His transplant team in Wisconsin, where he’d had the liver surgery, wasn’t calling back. No one was sure exactly where he should go to get it. From bed in Pascagoula, Mississippi, he spent two days punching in phone numbers, reaching out to health officials in four states, before he finally landed an appointment to receive a treatment aimed at keeping patients like him out of the hospital — and, perhaps, the morgue.

Read the story here.

—JoNel Aleccia, Kaiser Health News
Advertising

Lilly drug can prevent COVID-19 illness in nursing homes

Drugmaker Eli Lilly said Thursday its COVID-19 antibody drug can prevent illness in residents and staff of nursing homes and other long-term care locations.

It’s the first major study to show such a treatment may prevent disease.

Residents and staff who got the drug had up to a 57% lower risk of getting COVID-19 compared to others at the same facility who got a placebo, the drugmaker said. Among nursing home residents only, the risk was reduced by up to 80%.

The study involved more than 1,000 residents and staff at nursing homes and other long-term care locations. The research was conducted with the National Institutes of Health. Results were released in a press release and the company said it would publish results in a journal soon.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

What’s next for WHO after US takes steps to stay

The Biden administration has taken quick steps to keep the United States in the World Health Organization and reinforce financial and staffing support for it — part of his ambition to launch a full-throttle effort to fight the COVID-19 pandemic in partnership with the world.

Biden, just hours after his inauguration Wednesday, made good on a campaign pledge and revoked a Trump administration order that would have pulled the U.S. out of the U.N. health agency this summer. Early Thursday, his top medical adviser on the pandemic, Dr. Anthony Fauci, was dispatched to show new U.S. support for WHO.

Established in 1948, the Geneva-based agency brings together 194 U.N. members under the founding principle that health is a human right. It is the only health agency in the world with the authority to coordinate a global response to public health threats like like COVID-19 — but also works on the gamut of health issues like polio, maternal health care, tobacco and sugar consumption and even addiction to video games.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

Catch up on the past 24 hours

What bogged down Washington’s vaccine rollout: For clinics, pharmacies and other vaccine providers statewide, "everything was makeshift" as they launched vaccinations amid intense demand — while still waiting for the software to manage the process. Read the Times Watchdog story.

New President Joe Biden immediately let loose yesterday with a blizzard of executive actions to tear down his predecessor's legacy. Among them: concrete steps on the pandemic that will affect your daily life.

Can COVID-19 vaccines be mixed and matched, or should you stick with the same company's shot? Health officials are giving guidance. Meanwhile, California has OK'd a big batch of vaccines after temporarily halting injections because people fell ill.

Seattle's restaurants could get a crucial lifeline in the latest round of federal COVID-19 relief, and so could arts and culture institutions. Here's how this will work, and why it's different from past rounds.

A year ago today, the coronavirus first made headlines in Western Washington. If you’d known what would follow, would you do anything differently? We'd like to hear, and we'll share some of the answers.

—Kris Higginson
Advertising

How is the pandemic affecting you?

What has changed about your daily life? What kinds of discussions are you having with family members and friends? Are you a health care worker who's on the front lines of the response? Are you a COVID-19 patient or do you know one? Whoever you are, we want to hear from you so our news coverage is as complete, accurate and useful as possible. If you're using a mobile device and can't see the form on this page, click here.