Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Monday, January 3, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.

Across the country, as students prepare to go back to school, some districts are ramping up testing, while others will start the new year with remote learning. In Seattle, school is canceled Monday to allow students and staff to get tested at free, district-run clinics.

Top federal health officials are considering advising that Americans should test negative before ending isolation. The news comes after the agency shortened isolation restrictions from 10 days to five days, which received criticism from many health professionals.

In the United Kingdom, which has seen a record-breaking spike in infections, officials are preparing for staff absences of up to 25% in the public sector. Estimates showed about 1 in 15 people in London had COVID-19 the week before Christmas.

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.

Navigating the pandemic

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In Seattle Public Schools’ COVID testing experiment, lines swelled, and some were turned away

The notice was short, but the lines were long. 

On Monday — the day that Seattle Public Schools canceled class to offer three hours of rapid coronavirus testing to staff and students — testing sites were so swamped with families that the district had to turn some people away. 

The district announced five days ago that it would offer tests to students and staff returning from the holiday break, as COVID-19 cases soared in the region.

Seattle Public Schools received 60,000 rapid tests from the state health department to use during the clinics, which were set up at various middle schools around the city. The tests will be available throughout the next week. 

Read the full story here.

—Jenn Smith and Dahlia Bazzaz
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DeSantis blames feds for treatment, testing shortages as omicron spreads

Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday said he’s waiting on the federal government to send COVID-19 treatments to re-establish sites for residents to combat the virus. He also blamed the federal government for a shortage of COVID-19 tests that has led to long lines at testing centers and runs on at-home testing kits as the omicron variant of the virus courses through the state.

“We will turn on additional sites as soon as the federal government gives us the supply,” DeSantis told reporters at a Fort Lauderdale hospital, adding that between 30,000 and 40,000 doses of monoclonal antibody treatments have been pledged. “It’s all locked and loaded; it’s just a matter of the federal government giving us more doses.”

DeSantis didn’t say when he expects the doses to arrive but said he’ll set up treatment sites in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties as well as a site in Central Florida “the next day.”

DeSantis criticized an earlier decision by President Joe Biden’s administration to withhold some monoclonal antibody doses to states because initial data in some studies show they aren’t as effective against the omicron variant as they are against the delta variant.

Read the full story here.

State health officials confirm 6,037 new coronavirus cases

The state Department of Health (DOH) reported 6,037 new coronavirus cases.

The update brings the state's totals to 882,144 cases and 9,853 deaths, meaning that 1.1% of people diagnosed in Washington have died, according to the DOH. The data is as of 11:59 p.m. Monday. Tallies may be higher earlier in the week because new state data isn’t reported on weekends holidays.

Due to a technical issue, data on deaths was incomplete on Monday, DOH said.

In addition, 46,220 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the virus — 839 new hospitalizations. In King County, the state's most populous, state health officials have confirmed a total of 212,293 COVID-19 diagnoses and 2,142 deaths.

Since vaccinations began in mid-December, the state and health care providers have administered 11,996,354 doses and 62.8% of Washingtonians have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to vaccination data, which the state updates on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Providers are currently giving an average of about 22,451 vaccine shots per day.

The DOH says its daily case reports may also include duplicate test results, results assigned to the wrong county, results that are reported for today but are actually from a previous day, occasional false positive tests and other data discrepancies. Because of this, the previous day’s total number of cases plus the number of new daily cases does not add up to the new day’s total number of cases. State health officials recommend reviewing the dashboard's epidemiologic curves tab for the most accurate representation of the state's COVID-19 spread.

—Amanda Zhou

Fully vaccinated and just got COVID? Here’s when you should get a booster, and what to do right away

The surge of COVID-19 cases across the nation is proving an unsettling yet well-known fact: you can still get infected with the coronavirus despite being fully vaccinated, even more so with the highly transmissible omicron variant.

Infection is still possible even among the boosted, but how does a positive COVID-19 test affect those who are fully vaccinated and have yet to get an extra jab?

You’ll definitely have to wait a bit, though specific timing depends on your preferences, experts say.

Anyone 16 and older can receive a booster shot at least six months after they received their second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines or at least two months after they received their single dose of the Johnson & Johnson shot. The Pfizer vaccine is the only shot currently authorized as a booster for 16- and 17-year-olds.

Read the full story here.

—Katie Camero, McClatchy Washington Bureau
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Omicron upends return to US schools and workplaces

Some school systems around the U.S. extended their holiday break Monday or switched back to online instruction because of the explosion in COVID-19 cases, while others pressed ahead with in-person classes amid a seemingly growing sense that Americans will have to learn to co-exist with the virus.

Caught between pleas from teachers fearful of infection and parents who want their children in class, school districts in cities such as New York, Milwaukee, Chicago, Detroit and beyond found themselves in a difficult position midway through the academic year because of the super-contagious omicron variant.

New York City, home of the nation’s largest school system, reopened classrooms to roughly 1 million students with a stockpile of take-home COVID-19 test kits and plans to double the number of random tests done in schools.

“We are going to be safe, and we will be open to educate our children,” newly sworn-in Mayor Eric Adams said on MSNBC.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

SPS testing sites reach capacity, no longer taking guests

Seattle Public Schools officials announced Monday that all their COVID-19 testing sites have reached capacity and are no longer taking additional guests.

SPS provided rapid antigen COVID testing on a limited basis at 12 middle school locations on Monday for students before they return to school on January 4, according to an update from the school district. The limited testing is only available to SPS students.

Additional testing will be provided to students with parental consent in the following weeks. Officials are encouraging students to get tested before returning but it is not required, the alert said.

—Daisy Zavala

Washington House to hold remote legislative sessions as COVID’s omicron surge continues

Legislative officials are scaling back plans to hold in-person sessions of the Washington House and Senate this month as the omicron wave of COVID-19 rises.

Last year, Democratic leaders in both chambers decided to hold a largely remote legislative session, with committee hearings and floor votes held by teleconference, except for a handful of staff and lawmakers in the House and Senate chambers.

This year, Democratic legislative leaders decided to keep committee meetings remote. But the House and Senate — which each come up with their own policy — planned to allow more lawmakers and some members of the public — to attend House and Senate floor sessions.

But the record-level cases brought on by the omicron variant — which includes a spike in Thurston County cases — is changing the plan for the 60-day legislative session that begins Monday, Jan. 10.

Read the story here.

—Joseph O'Sullivan
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British PM: Health service under strain, but no new measures

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned on Monday that the country’s health system will remain under strain for weeks amid the current surge in coronavirus infections, but suggested there would be no tightening of measures soon to slow the spread.

The highly transmissible omicron variant has sent Britain’s daily new caseload soaring over Christmas and the New Year, with 157,758 infections reported for England and Scotland on Monday and and 42 deaths in England. Figures for Wales and Northern Ireland were not released.

“I think we’ve got to recognize that the pressure on our NHS, on our hospitals, is going to be considerable in the course the next couple of weeks, and maybe more,” Johnson said during a visit to a vaccination center in Aylesbury, 85 kilometers (53 miles) northwest of London.

Johnson was speaking after The Sunday Times newspaper reported that a group of hospitals in the eastern county of Lincolnshire had declared a “critical incident” due to “extreme and unprecedented” staff shortages.

Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, which represents health trusts that run hospitals around the country, told the BBC: “We’re seeing increasing staff absences, and that’s coming on top of a very significant amount of wider pressure.”

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

Congress’ doctor wants ‘maximal telework’ amid virus surge

Congress’ top doctor urged lawmakers on Monday to move to a “maximal telework posture,” citing surging numbers of COVID-19 cases at the Capitol that he said are mostly breakthrough infections of people already vaccinated.

The seven-day average rate of infection at the Capitol’s testing center has risen from less than 1% to more than 13%, Brian P. Monahan, the attending physician, wrote in a letter to congressional leaders obtained by The Associated Press.

Monahan said there has been “an unprecedented number of cases in the Capitol community affecting hundreds of individuals.” In what he said was limited sampling as of Dec. 15, about 61% of the cases were the new, highly contagious omicron variant while 38% were the delta variant.

While providing no figure, he said “most” of the cases are breakthroughs.

While such cases have not led to any deaths or hospitalizations among vaccinated lawmakers or congressional staff, he said even mild infections can lead to six to 12 months of “long COVID.” A “reasonable estimate” is that 6% to 10% of cases could end up that way, he added.

Monahan urged congressional offices to “reduce in-person meetings and in-office activities to the maximum extent possible.”

Read the story here.

—Alan Fram, The Associated Press

Ontario shuts schools, indoor dining and gyms

All schools in Canada’s most populous province will be shut down and move to online learning because of a record number of coronavirus infections fueled by the ultra-contagious omicron variant, Ontario’s premier announced Monday.

Premier Doug Ford also announced the closure of indoor dining. Gyms and cinemas will also close and hospitals have also been told to pause all non-urgent surgeries

Ontario is seeing record new infections and there are concerns about hospital capacity.

“I know online learning is not ideal,” Ford said. “The fact is omicron spreads like wildfire.”

The reopening of schools has been delayed until at least Jan. 17. Just last week, the government announced schools would open on Wednesday.

Schools shut down for in class learning last April because of record cases driven by the delta variant. They had since resumed in class learning.

Read the story here.

—Rob Gillies, The Associated Press
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Schools adapt for return from break as COVID-19 cases surge

Mask requirements are returning in some school districts that had dropped them. Some are planning to vastly ramp up virus testing among students and staff. And a small number of school systems are switching to remote learning — for just a short while, educators hope.

With coronavirus infections soaring, the return from schools’ winter break will be different than planned for some as administrators again tweak protocols and make real-time adjustments in response to the shifting pandemic. All are signaling a need to stay flexible.

“Change has been the only constant in this fight,” Newark Schools Superintendent Roger León wrote in a notice to parents before break. He announced Thursday that students will learn remotely for at least the first two weeks of the new year. The virus, León said, continues “to be a brutal, relentless and ruthless virus that rears its ugly head at inopportune times.”

Read the story here.

—Carolyn Thompson, The Associated Press

Want a coronavirus test with your Viagra?

Like many New Yorkers the week before Christmas, Dinah Chamberlain, 39, was on the hunt for at-home COVID-19 tests. She was going to visit her parents in Wisconsin, and she wanted to test regularly while with them.

She saw a post on Instagram from a local news site in her Brooklyn neighborhood saying that Roman, a health care provider known for catering to men, had tests in stock and could get them to customers within two days.

The New York City-based startup was founded in October 2017 as a digital men’s health clinic. It is a place men can get treatment for conditions including hair loss, erectile dysfunction and premature ejaculation. And no in-person doctor’s visit is needed; everything can be done virtually.

Chamberlain said she certainly never expected to become a customer. Until now that is. She had tests shipped to Wisconsin immediately.

“It’s funny that in an emergency situation I am turning to an erectile dysfunction company,” she said. “I mean, good for them for having them when no one else did.”

Read the story here.

—Alyson Krueger, The New York Times

FDA expands Pfizer boosters for more teens as omicron surges

The U.S. is expanding COVID-19 boosters as it confronts the omicron surge, with the Food and Drug Administration allowing extra Pfizer shots for children as young as 12.

Boosters already are recommended for everyone 16 and older, and federal regulators on Monday decided they’re also warranted for 12- to 15-year-olds once enough time has passed since their last dose.

But the move, coming as classes restart after the holidays, isn’t the final step. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention must decide whether to recommend boosters for the younger teens. Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the CDC’s director, is expected to rule later this week.

The FDA also said everyone 12 and older who’s eligible for a Pfizer booster can get one as early as five months after their last dose rather than six months.

FDA vaccine chief Dr. Peter Marks said in a statement the agency made its decision because a booster “may help provide better protection against both the delta and omicron variants,” especially as omicron is “slightly more resistant” to the vaccine-induced antibodies that help fend off infection.

Read the story here.

—Lauran Neergaard, The Associated Press
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Sheep, goats join in German efforts to encourage vaccination

Tasty bits of bread did the trick for about 700 sheep and goats to join Germany’s drive to encourage more people to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

The animals were arranged on Monday into the shape of a roughly 100-meter (330-foot) syringe in a field at Schneverdingen, south of Hamburg.

Shepherd Wiebke Schmidt-Kochan spent several days practicing with her animals, news agency dpa reported. But she said in the end, it wasn’t difficult to work things out — she laid out pieces of bread in the shape of the syringe, which the sheep and goats gobbled up when they were let out into the field.

Organizer Hanspeter Etzold said the action was aimed at people who are still hesitating to get vaccinated.

“Sheep are such likeable animals — maybe they can get the message over better,” he said.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

Pentagon chief Austin says he has tested positive for COVID

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Sunday he has tested positive for COVID-19 and was experiencing mild symptoms while quarantining at home.

In a statement Sunday night, Austin said he plans to attend key meetings and discussions virtually in the coming week “to the degree possible.” He said Deputy Secretary Kathleen Hicks would represent him in appropriate matters.

Austin said he last met with President Joe Biden on Dec. 21, more than a week before he began to experience symptoms, and had tested negative the morning of that day.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

Some people are getting fourth, fifth COVID vaccine shots

If asked to show her vaccine card, Stacey Ricks can choose from three.

Ricks, 49, a kidney transplant recipient who takes immune suppressing medication, didn’t develop antibodies after her first two Moderna shots.

In June, without disclosing she already had received the Moderna shots, she got a dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine before federal health officials had approved anyone for a third shot.

Getting her fourth and fifth shots was trickier. By July, pharmacy records in the Houston area where she lives finally showed her prior shots. Armed with a doctor’s note explaining that she hadn’t developed antibodies, Ricks convinced a pharmacist to give her two doses of the Pfizer vaccine over the summer.

Ricks is one of many people with compromised immune systems in the U.S. who have sidestepped government guidelines and received unauthorized fourth or fifth shots.

Read the story here.

—Amanda Morris, The New York Times
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Catch up on the past 24 hours

Need a coronavirus test? Bundle up. The wait stretched for hours yesterday as two Seattle Public Schools clinics provided rapid tests, with conditions leaving some parents to fret that the clinics themselves would become super-spreader events. Classes are canceled today as the district offers more tests for students and staff at 12 locations. Here's when and where to find the tests.

Fully vaccinated and just got COVID-19? Here's how long you should wait to get a booster shot and what to do right away.

A dream trip, derailed: The experience of a vaccinated American couple who can't get home from Italy — and can't get medical care — provides a cautionary tale of what can happen to tourists who test positive.

What happened to exposure apps? They were supposed to slow the virus by letting people know if they were near someone who tested positive. But much of the country still doesn't use the apps, even as evidence grows that they can prevent large numbers of cases. (In our state, a new twist on the WA Notify app lets you incorporate home test results.)

How will the pandemic end? Omicron serves as a warning, but there are reasons for hope. As the U.S. sends signals that we're on the road to a new normal, experts are peering into the social and scientific future.

—Kris Higginson