Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Friday, Jan. 22, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.
Exactly a year after the first COVID-19 case was discovered in Washington state, President Joe Biden on Thursday signed a burst of executive orders aimed to increase vaccinations and testing, prepare for reopening schools and businesses and immediately increase the use of masks.
Public health experts, however, continue to run into vaccine shortages, which they’re blaming in part on the Trump administration’s rush to get states to quickly expand their vaccination drives. In Washington, Gov. Jay Inslee announced Thursday Amazon is partnering with Virginia Mason on a pop-up vaccine clinic they’re hoping will vaccinate 2,000 people this weekend.
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.
Boris Johnson says U.K. coronavirus variant may be more deadly
LONDON — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Friday that the variant of the coronavirus first detected in England — and spreading around the world, including in the United States — “may be associated with a higher degree of mortality.”
The new strain was already known to be more infectious than the original virus. Studies have suggested it is 30 to 70 percent more transmissible.
At a Friday news briefing at 10 Downing Street, Johnson and his advisers gave the first indication that the strain might also be more deadly.
England’s chief scientific adviser, Patrick Vallance, offered an example. He said that among 1,000 men in England age 60 years or older, the original virus would kill 10. The new variant, he said, would kill 13 or 14. That would represent a 30 percent rise in mortality, though it is important to note that absolute risk of death remains low.
Since the new variant was discovered in Britain last year, public health officials had stressed that the mutated virus did not appear to make people sicker or increase deaths. So this small but measurable uptick in mortality is potentially worrying.
Alaska job numbers down in December amid ongoing pandemic
JUNEAU, Alaska — Alaska had 24,100 fewer jobs in December than a year earlier amid ongoing economic repercussions from the COVID-19 pandemic, the state labor department reported Friday.
Karinne Wiebold, a department economist, said there aren’t many bright spots to glean from the December jobs report.
“One possible glimmer is that we think oil and gas employment has bottomed out, so while the year over year losses are still steep, it should not get much worse,” she said by email.
That sector reported about 6,800 jobs in both November and December, but the department said there’s no sign yet of a “bounce.” Oil and gas employment stood around 10,000 in December 2019, the department said.
Florida governor walks back claim over 1 millionth shot
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis had a made-for-TV moment: A 100-year-old World War II veteran getting a vaccine against the coronavirus. “An American hero,” the governor proclaimed Friday, would be the 1 millionth senior in his state to get a lifesaving shot in the arm.
As it turned out, the assertion was premature, and the Republican governor later walked back the claim, saying instead that the injection was symbolic of the state being on track to hit 1 million doses soon.
State officials acknowledged that it could take a few more days to reach the milestone. DeSantis’ own health department reported that, as of Thursday, fewer than 840,000 seniors had received the shot.
The governor’s misstep came as Florida’s congressional Democrats, in a letter to DeSantis, expressed “serious concerns with the state’s rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine,” even as DeSantis has barnstormed the state in recent days to announce the expansion of vaccination sites.
The Democrats said more than 1 million unused vaccines were “on hold” in Florida, suggesting the state was not expeditiously administering them.
Wuhan returns to normal as world still battling pandemic
WUHAN, China — A year ago, a notice sent to smartphones in Wuhan at 2 a.m. announced the world’s first coronavirus lockdown that would last 76 days.
Early Saturday morning, residents in the central Chinese city where the virus was first detected were jogging and practicing tai chi in a fog-shrouded park beside the mighty Yangtze River.
Life has largely returned to normal in the city of 11 million, even as the rest of the world grapples with the spread of the virus’ more contagious variants. Efforts to vaccinate people for COVID-19 have been frustrated by disarray and limited supplies in some places. The scourge has killed over 2 million people worldwide.
Traffic was light in Wuhan but there was no sign of the barriers that a year ago isolated neighborhoods, prevented movement around the city and confined people to their housing compounds and even apartments.
Wuhan accounted for the bulk of China’s 4,635 deaths from COVID-19, a number that has largely stayed static for months. The city has been largely free of further outbreaks since the lockdown was lifted on April 8, but questions persist as to where the virus originated and whether Wuhan and Chinese authorities acted fast enough and with sufficient transparency to allow the world to prepare for a pandemic that has sickened more than 98 million.
Washington state lawmakers propose a $2.2 billion COVID-19 package supporting renters, vaccinations, businesses
Washington state lawmakers Friday afternoon released the outline of a new COVID-19 relief bill aimed at boosting vaccine distribution and contact tracing, and aiding schools, renters and small businesses amid the pandemic.
The $2.2 billion measure is funded largely by federal aid dollars from the pandemic-relief packages passed by Congress in last spring and in December. It also uses about $440 million from the state’s budget reserves.
The legislation is designed to get relief money out into the communities by the end of next month, said Sen. Christine Rolfes, D-Bainbridge Island.
The bill would spend $618 million on boosting vaccination efforts and contact tracing, according to a summary of the legislation.
Redmond entrepreneur accused of peddling unauthorized coronavirus vaccine faces federal charges
A Redmond entrepreneur is facing federal charges after allegedly marketing and administering an unauthorized coronavirus vaccine — even after receiving multiple warnings from state and federal officials to stop, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Seattle.
Johnny Stine, 55, a self-described biotech expert, was arrested Thursday after being accused of “introducing misbranded drugs into interstate commerce,” U.S. Attorney Brian T. Moran said in a statement.
According to Moran, Stine offered to inject customers with a “nCoV19 spike protein vaccine” for $400 to $1,000 through his company, North Coast Biologics, as early as March 2020 — well before any coronavirus vaccine had been federally approved.
It’s unclear how many people Stine allegedly treated with the unauthorized material, though a Superior Court lawsuit filed in King County in June 2020 accused him of administering it to about 30 people in Washington and other states.
Thousands of Hong Kongers locked down to contain coronavirus
HONG KONG — Thousands of Hong Kong residents were locked down Saturday in an unprecedented move to contain a worsening outbreak in the city, authorities said.
Hong Kong has been grappling to contain a fresh wave of the coronavirus since November. Over 4,300 cases have been recorded in the last two months, making up nearly 40% of the city’s total.
Coronavirus cases in Hong Kong’s Yau Tsim Mong district – a working-class neighborhood with old buildings and subdivided flats – represent about half of infections in the past week.
Sewage testing in the area picked up more concentrated traces of the virus, prompting concerns that poorly built plumbing systems and a lack of ventilation in subdivided units may present a possible path for the virus to spread.
Authorities said in a statement Saturday that an area comprising 16 buildings in Yau Tsim Mong will be locked down until all residents have been tested. Residents will not be allowed to leave their homes until they have received their test results to prevent cross-infection.
Pfizer to ship fewer vaccine vials to account for ‘extra’ doses
In December, pharmacists made the happy discovery that they could squeeze an extra vaccine dose out of Pfizer vials that were supposed to contain only five.
Now, it appears, the bill is due. Pfizer plans to count the surprise sixth dose toward its previous commitment of 200 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine by the end of July and therefore will be providing fewer vials than once expected for the United States.
And yet, pharmacists at some vaccination sites say they are still struggling to reliably extract the extra doses, which require the use of a specialty syringe.
“Now there’s more pressure to make sure that you get that sixth dose out,” said Michael Ganio, senior director for pharmacy practice and quality at the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists.
State health officials opening 4 mass vaccination sites in Washington
Four mass COVID-19 vaccination sites are expected to open next week in Washington state, though none are in King County, which is working toward a February debut of its own sites in the county’s hard-hit south.
The state Department of Health (DOH) said Thursday it was partnering with local health care systems in Clark, Benton, Chelan and Spokane counties to deliver tens of thousands of vaccines.
The announcement came three days after Gov. Jay Inslee expanded eligibility for vaccination and set a goal of vaccinating 45,000 people a day. The state is currently administering an average of 15,500 doses each day.
Across the county line, Snohomish County and the Snohomish Health District have spun up three high-volume vaccination sites in Everett, Edmonds and Monroe.
DOH didn’t answer questions about how the counties were chosen for mass vaccination sites or if more sites are planned. King County has not yet had any discussion about a state high-volume vaccination site.
State health officials confirm 2,174 new coronavirus cases
The state Department of Health (DOH) reported 2,174 new coronavirus cases and 49 new deaths on Friday.
The update brings the state's totals to 298,249 cases and 4,114 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. Thursday.
The new cases may include up to 200 duplicates, according to DOH.
In addition, 17,037 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the virus — 98 new hospitalizations. In King County, the state's most populous, state health officials have confirmed a total of 74,951 COVID-19 diagnoses and 1,203 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.
Seattle grocery workers could get $4 per hour pandemic boost
The Seattle City Council, citing the increased risk that grocery workers have faced during the coronavirus pandemic, is seeking to give them a $4 per hour pay boost for the remainder of the pandemic.
The new legislation would require large grocery stores to give the pay boost to retail workers who are covered by Seattle’s minimum wage law as long as the city remains in a civil emergency due to the pandemic. Mayor Jenny Durkan declared the pandemic an emergency on March 3 of last year. The legislation says the City Council intends to reconsider the pay boost after four months, but that is nonbinding.
It would apply to grocery companies with more than 500 employees worldwide and to stores larger than 10,000 square feet. It would not apply to convenience stores or farmers markets.
The legislation, introduced by Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda, would require a three-quarter supermajority in the council to take effect immediately. The council could pass the ordinance as soon as Monday.
Turkey’s Erdogan says extra 10M doses of Chinese vaccine due
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Friday that a further 10 million doses of the Chinese CoronaVac vaccine could arrive in Turkey by this weekend.
Speaking after prayers in Istanbul, Erdogan said delivery of a second batch of the vaccine had been approved by China.
Turkey has so far received 3 million doses and has vaccinated nearly 2 million people, prioritizing health workers and the elderly, since its program started a week ago. Erdogan has said he expects a Turkish-developed vaccine to be available in May.
Greece to reopen high schools but stay in lockdown
Authorities in Greece say high schools will reopen on Feb. 1 for the first time since mid-November, but that nationwide lockdown measures will remain in effect.
Education Minister Niki Kerameus on Friday said high schools would follow the reopening of primary schools on Jan. 11 and a limited opening of retail stores a week later.
But restrictions on movement will remain in effect, including a national nightly curfew, a ban on domestic travel and a mandatory seven-day quarantine for all passengers arriving from abroad at Greek airports through Feb. 8. Remote classes will also continue for university students.
Greece has seen a steep decline in pandemic-related deaths in recent weeks, but authorities say tough restrictions will remain in place through the winter.
Group urges climate adaptation funding in pandemic recovery
An organization that promotes efforts to adapt the environment to cope with the effects of climate change is calling on governments and financers around the globe to include funding for adaptation projects in their COVID-19 recovery spending.
The appeal was published Friday in a report issued by the Netherlands-based Global Center on Adaptation before an online summit starting Monday that will launch an agenda for boosting the planet’s resilience.
“As governments begin spending trillions of dollars to recover from the pandemic, the world has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to build a more resilient, climate-smart future by integrating climate adaptation into their response and recovery plans,” the center said in its report.
A group of more than 3,000 scientists from 130 countries also released a statement Friday before the summit linking investment in the environment with pandemic recovery plans.
“The twin threats of COVID-19 and climate change are, above all, caused by human actions. We must do everything in our power to ensure our response to both is coordinated and becomes a watershed moment for investment in a more sustainable world,” the scientists wrote.
Alaska renters could wait months for $200M federal virus aid
Alaska renters will have to wait for an undetermined amount of time before receiving allotments of up to $200 million in federal coronavirus aid.
The Alaska Housing Finance Corp. will oversee the rental assistance in much of the state, but the corporation said Wednesday it is still forming plans to distribute the funds, Anchorage Daily News reported Wednesday.
Corporation Public Relations Manager Soren Johansson said the U.S. Treasury issued updated guidance this week on establishing rules for the program’s implementation.
“We’re working now to understand the requirements and develop a plan that supports renters and gets money to landlords as soon as we’re able,” Johansson said.
Congress passed and former President Donald Trump signed legislation in December distributing $25 billion to households unable to pay rent and utilities because of the pandemic.
The measure allows cities with more than 200,000 residents to request separate funding outside state control. The Municipality of Anchorage applied for a separate share, but neither the corporation nor legislative budget officials were certain of how much.
A year after Wuhan lockdown, a world still deep in crisis
Nearly a year to the day after the Chinese city of Wuhan went into lockdown to contain a virus that had already escaped, President Joe Biden began putting into effect a new war plan for fighting the outbreak in the U.S., Germany topped 50,000 deaths, and Britain closed in on 100,000.
The anniversary of the lockdown Saturday comes as more contagious variants of the coronavirus spread and efforts to vaccinate people against COVID-19 have been frustrated by disarray and limited supplies in some places. The scourge has killed over 2 million people worldwide and over 410,000 in the U.S., which has the world's highest death toll.
The 76-day Wuhan lockdown began a year ago with a notice sent to people’s smartphones at 2 a.m. announcing the airport and train and bus stations would shut at 10 a.m. It eventually was expanded to most of the rest of Hubei province, affecting 56 million people.
By the time of the lockdown, the virus had spread well beyond China’s borders.
Today, Wuhan has largely returned to normal while elsewhere the pandemic rages.
Bond film ‘No Time to Die’ delayed again because of virus
It’s still not time for “No Time to Die.”
Producers of the forthcoming James Bond thriller say the film’s release has been delayed again, until the fall of 2021, because of the effects of the coronavirus pandemic
The official 007 Twitter account said late Thursday that the 25th installment in the franchise will now open on Oct. 8.
“No Time To Die” was originally slated to open in April 2020 but was pushed back to November of that year as the virus swept around the world. It was then delayed again to April 2, 2021.
Language barriers, wariness make vaccinating immigrants hard
Migrant workers lined up by the hundreds during a break from picking produce this week to receive the coronavirus vaccine on a Southern California grape farm.
The farmworkers who got their shots are among vulnerable immigrants in the United States — particularly the 11 million in the country illegally — who advocacy groups say may be some of the most difficult people to reach during the largest vaccination campaign in American history.
Some immigrants in the country illegally fear that information taken during vaccinations could be turned over to authorities and so may not seek out vaccines, while those who speak little or no English may find it difficult to access them. Like other groups, some are also hesitant about receiving a newly approved shot — and language barriers may also make it harder to get messages countering misinformation to them.
While these challenges may exist for many vulnerable immigrant groups, they are particularly worrying for Latino immigrants, who make a large portion of the workforce in industries where they have a significant risk of exposure.
“There is anxiety and it’s real … but so is the fear of dying of COVID-19,” said Pablo Alvarado, director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network.
Dry January is moist for some at the rocky start of 2021
A raging pandemic, tumultuous presidential election and deadly Capitol insurrection have combined to make the annual tradition of Dry January more moist than air-tight for some.
Eight-year-old Dry January, which comes at the height of resolution season after the holidays, has brought on the desired benefits for many among the millions participating around the world. They’re losing quarantine weight, experiencing more clarity and sleeping easier.
Others with lockdown time on their hands and round-the-clock access to TV news and the home liquor cabinet are struggling to meet the challenge. Some who have already cheated hoisted a glass on Inauguration Day, Dry January’s surreal New Year’s Eve.
UK chief scientist says new virus variant may be more deadly
There is some evidence that a new coronavirus variant first identified in southeast England carries a higher risk of death .than the original strain, the British government’s chief scientific adviser said Friday — though he stressed that the data is uncertain
Patrick Vallance told a news conference that “there is evidence that there is an increased risk for those who have the new variant.”
He said that for a man in his 60s with the original version of the virus, “the average risk is that for 1,000 people who got infected, roughly 10 would be expected to unfortunately die.”
“With the new variant, for 1,000 people infected, roughly 13 or 14 people might be expected to die,” he said.
But Vallance stressed that “the evidence is not yet strong” and more research is needed.
In contrast to that uncertainty, he said, there is growing confidence that the variant is more easily passed on than the original coronavirus strain. He said it appears to be between 30% and 70% more transmissible.
Ohio legislator who questioned Black hygiene to lead state's health panel
A Republican lawmaker and doctor who questioned whether members of “the colored population” were disproportionately contracting the coronavirus because of their hygiene is drawing new criticism from Black lawmakers after his appointment to lead the Ohio Senate Health Committee.
“Could it just be that African Americans – or the colored population — do not wash their hands as well as other groups? Or wear masks? Or do not socially distance themselves?” state Sen. Stephen Huffman asked a Black health expert in June 11 testimony. “Could that just be the explanation of why there’s a higher incidence?”
The comments resulted in calls from Democrats and the ACLU of Ohio for him to resign from the GOP-controlled Senate.
Huffman, of Tipp City, was appointed last week by Senate President Matt Huffman, his cousin, to chair the committee even after he was fired from his job as a Dayton-area emergency room physician for his comments.
In a letter Wednesday, the Ohio Black Legislative Caucus demanded a health committee leader who understands and can respond to the inequities of healthcare in Ohio “without political influence.”
“If the Senate leadership will not replace Sen. Huffman as Chair, then we will expect Sen. Huffman to use his position to improve the health of Ohio’s African-American population by working with OLBC to pass legislation that effectively addresses health disparities in the state of Ohio,” director Tony Bishop said in a news release.
CDC quietly says virus patients can be switched to another vaccine for 2nd dose in 'exceptional' cases
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has quietly changed its recommendations for coronavirus immunizations to allow patients to switch the authorized vaccines between the first and second doses in “exceptional situations,” and to extend the interval between doses to six weeks, even though such changes have not been studied in large clinical trials.
The new guidelines were posted on the agency’s website Thursday with little public notice. With the possibility of vaccine shortages on the horizon and little expectation that supply can be increased before April, the changes may offer a way to vaccinate more people — a high priority for President Joe Biden, who outlined his national COVID-19 strategy Thursday.
A CDC spokeswoman, Kristen Nordlund, said the agency’s “intention is not to suggest people do anything different but provide clinicians with flexibility for exceptional circumstances.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the president’s special adviser for COVID-19, has repeatedly advised against delaying the second dose or making any other changes in vaccination protocol without the data to support them.
Chicago teachers to start getting vaccinated in mid-February
Chicago’s school district announced Friday that it plans to start vaccinating teachers for the coronavirus in mid-February, though it remained to be seen if that would be enough to stop the teachers union from voting to defy the district’s order to return to their classrooms next week.
Chicago Public Schools, which is the nation’s third-largest district, said in a statement that its mid-February rollout would be the beginning of a multi-month effort to offer vaccinations to its thousands of teachers and other staff members, who like educators throughout Illinois, will be eligible to receive the shots as of Monday under the state’s plan.
The announcement came a day after the union’s 25,000 members began voting on whether to back its leadership’s resolution to continue teaching from home in defiance of the district’s order for roughly 10,000 K-8 educators to return to school for the first time since March. The union’s vote is set to conclude Saturday.
Coronavirus guidelines now the rule at White House
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 guidelines.
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.
Lebanese hospitals fight exhausting battle against virus
Death stalks the corridors of Beirut’s Rafik Hariri University Hospital, where losing multiple patients in one day to COVID-19 has become the new normal. On Friday, the mood among the staff was even more solemn as a young woman lost the battle with the virus.
There was silence as the woman, barely in her 30s, drew her last breath. Then a brief commotion. The nurses frantically tried to resuscitate her. Finally, exhausted, they silently removed the oxygen mask and the tubes — and covered the body with a brown blanket.
The woman was one of 57 victims who died on Friday and more than 2,150 lost to the virus so far in Lebanon, a small country with a population of nearly 6 million that since last year has grappled with the worst economic and financial crisis in its modern history.
In recent weeks, Lebanon has seen a dramatic increase in virus cases, following the holiday season when restrictions were eased and thousand of expatriates flew home for a visit.
Venezuela power struggle impedes delivery of COVID vaccine
Venezuela’s political conflict has claimed another casualty: relief from the coronavirus pandemic.
The socialist government of Nicolás Maduro and the U.S.-backed opposition are accusing each other of playing politics with proposals to finance United Nations-supplied vaccines — so far blocking any option from going ahead.
The cash-strapped government, shut out from western banks by U.S. sanctions, has proposed selling some of the $2 billion in Venezuelan-owned gold ingots sitting frozen in the vaults of the Bank of England. Lawyers for Venezuela’s central bank warn a “humanitarian disaster, and a potentially large loss of life” could result if the U.K. funds aren’t freed up.
But the opposition led by Juan Guaidó opposes that plan — a stance that scuppers any movement until Britain’s Supreme Court decides the thorny question of who is Venezuela’s legitimate president, with oversight of its assets.
Pfizer to supply 40M COVID-19 shots for poor countries
Pfizer on Friday committed to supply up to 40 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine this year to a World Health Organization-backed effort to get affordable shots to poor and middle-income countries.
The deal is a boost to the global program known as COVAX, as wealthy nations have snapped up most of the millions of coming shots.
The commitment, announced at a virtual press conference held by the Geneva-based WHO, is seen as important because Pfizer and its partner BioNTech won the first emergency authorization from the influential U.S. Food and Drug Administration in mid-December. That clearance makes it easier for international health groups and poor nations to quickly OK emergency use.
Earlier this week, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus criticized drugmakers for seeking profits from the pandemic and mostly supplying wealthy countries.
German virus death toll tops 50,000 even as infections sink
The death toll from the coronavirus in Germany has passed 50,000, a number that has risen swiftly over recent weeks even as infection figures are finally declining.
The country’s disease control center, the Robert Koch Institute, said Friday that another 859 deaths were reported over the past 24 hours, taking the total so far to 50,642.
Germany had a comparatively small number of deaths in the pandemic’s first phase and was able to lift many restrictions quickly.
But it has seen much higher levels of infections in the fall and winter. Hundreds of deaths, sometimes more than 1,000, have been reported daily in the country of 83 million people over recent weeks. Germany hit the 40,000 mark on Jan. 10.
President Frank-Walter Steinmeier will leave a light shining in a window at his Bellevue palace in Berlin every evening starting Friday in memory of the dead and those fighting for their lives, his office said. He encouraged other Germans to do the same.
Spain to probe whether military top brass jumped jab queue
Spain’s Defense Ministry is launching an internal inquiry to find out if the military top brass dodged coronavirus vaccine protocols by receiving a jab before their turn.
El Confidencial Digital, an online news site, first reported that Chief of Staff Gen. Miguel Ángel Villarroya and several other high-ranking officers in Spain’s Armed Forces had recently received the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
In Spain, top government and other officials have not been granted preferential access to the vaccine — unlike other European countries where they were among the first to get the jab, to encourage members of the public to follow suit.
Nursing home residents and staff, as well as first-line health workers, are currently receiving jabs as priority groups in the national vaccination plan. The rollout is suffering delays due to a shortage of deliveries by Pfizer-BioNTech, currently the main supplier of vaccines.
It’s a secret: California keeps key virus data from public
California Gov. Gavin Newsom has from the start said his coronavirus policy decisions would be driven by data shared with the public to provide maximum transparency.
But with the state starting to emerge from its worst surge, his administration won’t disclose key information that will help determine when his latest stay-at-home order is lifted.
State officials said they rely on a very complex set of measurements that would confuse and potentially mislead the public if they were made public.
After Newsom, a Democrat, imposed the nation’s first statewide shutdown in March, his administration developed reopening plans that included benchmarks for virus data such as per capita infection rates that counties needed to meet to relax restrictions.
But as cases surged after Thanksgiving, Newsom tore up his playbook. Rather than a county-by-county approach, he created five regions and established a single measurement — ICU capacity — as the determination for whether a region was placed under a stay-at-home order.
Now restrictions are being lifted but it’s a mystery how the state made the decision because the data is not being shared.
What will decide the fate of the Tokyo Olympics?
As the global resurgence in covid-19 cases reignites debate over whether to hold the Olympics this summer, focus has turned to how the fate of the Tokyo games will be decided, and what they will look like if they go ahead.
A resurgence of infections around the world and the emergence of new strains have led organizers to acknowledge that nothing is certain. Although the resumption of professional sports and arrival of vaccines have provided some optimism, leagues around the world are battling outbreaks and inoculation campaigns have been slow. Adding to the headwinds is Japan’s second state of emergency and public opposition toward hosting the event.
Speculation of a possible cancellation intensified Friday after the Times of London reported the Japanese government is seeking a way out of hosting this year. The report, which cited an unidentified member of the ruling coalition, said Japan is focused on securing the games for 2032.
“I want to flatly deny the report,” Manabu Sakai, Japan’s deputy chief cabinet secretary, told reporters in Tokyo. Other officials also rushed to dismiss the report.
“We are determined to stage a safe Games, with thorough precautions,” Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga told parliament on Friday, “as proof that the world has defeated the novel coronavirus and to show the world the recovery from the Great East Japan earthquake.”
Woodland Park Zoo’s new tiger was one of world’s first animals to test positive for coronavirus. She made a full recovery
The Woodland Park Zoo’s newest tiger, Azul, has a dubious claim to fame: She was one of the first animals in the world to be diagnosed with COVID-19 last spring while living at New York’s Bronx Zoo.
Woodland Park isn’t worried that Azul could bring the coronavirus to its animals. She fully recovered last April, along with other tigers and lions that had tested positive.
The 5-year-old Malayan tiger flew to Seattle with her New York City zookeepers in September. She entered the public enclosure this week after a standard 30-day quarantine and time to adjust to her new home.
Azul’s sister Nadia was the first animal in the world to test positive for the coronavirus last spring. Bronx Zoo staff noticed Nadia had a dry cough in late March, and soon several other lions and tigers all showed symptoms.
Four tigers (including Azul) and three lions tested positive. Scientists were still scrambling to ramp up coronavirus testing in New York, the epicenter of the pandemic, and the tests used for the animals were different than those effective on humans, the zoo clarified.
NFL giving free Super Bowl tickets to 7,500 health workers
The NFL announced Friday that 7,500 health care workers vaccinated for the coronavirus will be given free tickets to next month’s Super Bowl to be played in Tampa, Florida.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell also said in a news release that attendance at the Feb. 7 game would be limited to those workers and about 14,500 other fans. Raymond James Stadium, home of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, has a capacity of just under 66,000, according to its website.
Most of the health care workers who will get free game tickets will come from the Tampa Bay area and central Florida, Goodell said. But he added that all 32 NFL teams will choose some workers from their cities to attend the game.
“These dedicated health care workers continue to put their own lives at risk to serve others, and we owe them our ongoing gratitude,” Goodell said. “We hope in a small way that this initiative will inspire our country and recognize these true American heroes.”
There will also be what Goodell called “a variety of special moments” to honor health care workers in the stadium during the game and also on the television broadcast by CBS.
Tampa Mayor Jane Castor said the NFL’s decision is a perfect way to honor health care workers at such a high-profile event.
Biden ordering stopgap help as talks start on big aid plan
President Joe Biden plans to take executive action Friday to provide a stopgap measure of financial relief to millions of Americans while Congress begins to consider his much larger $1.9 trillion package to help those affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
The two executive orders that Biden is to sign would increase food aid, protect job seekers on unemployment and clear a path for federal workers and contractors to get a $15 hourly minimum wage.
“The American people cannot afford to wait,” said Brian Deese, director of the White House National Economic Council. “So many are hanging by a thread. They need help, and we’re committed to doing everything we can to provide that help as quickly as possible.”
Deese emphasized that the orders are not substitutes for the additional stimulus that Biden says is needed beyond the $4 trillion in aid that has already been approved, including $900 billion this past December. Several Republican lawmakers have voiced opposition to provisions in Biden’s plan for direct payments to individuals, state and local government aid and a $15 hourly minimum wage nationwide.
Most economists believe the United States can rebound with strength once people are vaccinated from the coronavirus, but the situation is still dire as the disease has closed businesses and schools. Nearly 10 million jobs have been lost since last February, and nearly 30 million households lack secure access to food.
One of Biden’s orders asks the Agriculture Department to consider adjusting the rules for food assistance, so that the government could be obligated to provide more money to the hungry.
Catch up on the past 24 hours
What to do if you think you qualify for a vaccine: Our Q&A outlines the steps to take, starting with using the state's online tool and ending with what you should do after your shot.
Looking for a vaccine? Amazon aims to inoculate 2,000 Washingtonians on Sunday, and you can still join the list. But some states are running out of vaccines and canceling appointments. Here's what you should know about the supply and President Joe Biden's ability to boost it. Meanwhile, a lucky few people are hitting surprise vaccine jackpots.
Biden has unveiled a "full-scale wartime effort" to battle the virus. The first salvo: executive orders that affect how Americans work, travel and more.
The Bellevue School District has expanded in-person learning — and taken the teachers union to court. Some teachers called to buildings yesterday didn't show up as their union opposed plans to bring more students in, saying vaccines should be in place first. A few hours after school started, the dispute landed in court. It's a possible sign of things to come across the region.
“I would hug my family longer”: A year ago this week, COVID-19 burst into local headlines. Seattle-area residents are sharing their compelling vignettes on what they were doing in a week that seems a lifetime ago, and whether they would have done anything differently if they’d been able to glimpse the future.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, unleashed: He's suddenly everywhere, feeling liberated as he delivers his message and a pointed observation. “One of the new things in this administration is, if you don’t know the answer, don’t guess. Just say you don’t know the answer.”
The final U.S. county to get the virus is a former leper colony that's so remote, basic supplies are brought in by barge once a year.
People may get paid to stay home as the U.K. struggles with lockdown violations.
Comedian Dave Chappelle has tested positive and canceled his shows.
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.
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- Gov. Inslee: Law enforcement, firefighters, grocery workers to get COVID-19 vaccines in March
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- Giant landfill in tiny Washington hamlet turns trash to natural gas, as utilities fight for a future
- 'Bridging the Political Divide' becomes bridge to nowhere as Washington state Democratic, Republican chairs lob accusations