Because the United States lacks enough genetic sequencing needed to detect new variants of the coronavirus, such mutations are likely proliferating quickly and undetected, experts are saying.

In Washington, the variant first found in the U.K. has been detected in Snohomish and Pierce counties — and on Friday, local health officials confirmed they also found the variant in King County. Here’s what to know about the B.1.1.7 strain.

This page updated the latest news about the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects on the Seattle area, the U.S. and the world on Saturday, Jan. 30, 2021. Click here to see previous days’ live updates and all our other coronavirus coverage, and here to see how we track the daily spread across Washington and the world.

(Jennifer Luxton / The Seattle Times)

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New Washington COVID-19 cases tick up slightly

The downward trend of new COVID-19 cases appeared to continue with the latest update from state officials.

Washington had recorded 311,597 confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 as of Friday night, according to the Saturday update of the state Department of Health's COVID dashboard.

That's an increase of 1,796, or 0.58%, from the Thursday total. Health officials note that the total may include up to 560 duplicates.

The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases has trended downward since a recent post-holidays peak on Jan. 8.

The state does not update the total of COVID-19 related deaths on the weekend. The total stood at 4,285 as of Friday night.

—Benjamin Romano
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Protesters disrupt Dodger Stadium mass vaccination site

Protesters shut down one of the largest COVID-19 vaccination sites in the country, at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, delaying hundreds of people seeking the vaccine Saturday afternoon.

The Los Angeles Times reported that anti-vaccine and far-right groups gathered at the site's entrance, prompting the Los Angeles Fire Department to close it as a precaution.

Demonstrators carried signs and shouted at people waiting in line for vaccines, but no incidents of violence were reported.

Read more from The Associated Press.

—Los Angeles Times

Appointments at South King County vaccination sites filling up

COVID-19 vaccination appointments at King County's Kent mass vaccination site are booked for the next two weeks. The Auburn drive-thru site is booked for the next week, but still had "plenty" of appointments available for the following week as of 3:30 p.m. Saturday, Public Health - Seattle & King County said.

The agency said on Twitter that it continues booking vaccine appointments for the two sites through February and beyond. Beginning Monday, the sites will serve South King County residents 75 and older, those 50 or older who cannot live independently or live and care for kin, or those providing paid or unpaid care to someone age 50 or older.

Communities of color, including those in the South King County, have suffered higher coronavirus infection rates.

The ShoWare Center in Kent and the General Services Administration complex in Auburn are expected to administer 500 vaccines a day, six days a week, initially.

Appointments are required and can be made here.

—Benjamin Romano

Registration info for next week's Washington mass vaccination sites

Washington health officials are opening registration for week two of operations at four mass vaccination sites around the state.

More than 10,000 people received COVID-19 vaccines at four Washington mass vaccination sites during the first week of operations, the state Department of Health said Saturday.

The sites, operated by the DOH, the Washington National Guard and local partners, are in Spokane, Wenatchee, Kennewick and Ridgefield, Clark County.

Registration information for the coming week varies by site, but people are encouraged to make appointments online at the links provided below. Assistance is available by phone at 1-800-525-0127, then press #.

People seeking an appointment must first confirm eligibility to receive the vaccine using the state's Phase Finder tool. Currently, people in Phase 1A and 1B-1 are eligible. These phases include anyone age 65 or older, people 50 or older living in multigenerational households, high-risk health care workers in health care settings, high risk first responders, long-term care facility residents, all other workers at risk in health care settings.

The Spokane site, at the Spokane Arena, will begin registration at 5 p.m. on Monday. People can call 509-444-8200 for assistance at the Spokane site. Some 2,509 people were vaccinated there this week.

Registration for the Ridgefield site at the Clark County Fairgrounds begins at noon on Sunday. Some 800 appointments will be available each day. Ridgefield saw 3,060 vaccine doses administered this week.

Wenatchee expects to have 700 daily appointments available. Registration opens at noon on Sunday. The site, at Town Toyota Center, saw 1,550 vaccine doses administered this week.

In Kennewick, at the Benton County Fairgrounds, some 800 daily appointments will be available next week. Registration is already open. Some 3,817 doses were administered there this week.

—Benjamin Romano
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Fishing vessel arrived in Alaska from Seattle with 20 crew testing positive for COVID-19

A factory trawler joined a growing list of seafood processors and vessels in Alaska’s Aleutian Islands that have experienced COVID-19 outbreaks recently.

Twenty members of the 40-member crew on the factory trawler Araho, owned by the O’Hara Corp., tested positive for the virus, the city of Unalaska said Friday.

Upon arrival in Unalaska from Seattle on Wednesday night, a couple of crew members reported symptoms of COVID-19, according to Unalaska city manager Erin Reinders, who said testing began when the vessel arrived.

On Thursday, five cases were confirmed among workers on another vessel — the Island Enterprise, a catcher processor owned by Trident Seafoods.

In addition to vessel outbreaks, multiple shore processors in the Aleutians have been shut down as well, including North America’s largest fish processing plant.

Read more here.

—Morgan Krakow, Anchorage Daily News

He Is Israel’s ‘Prince of Torah.’ But to Some, He Is the King of COVID.

Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, 93, can’t use a phone. He rarely leaves his house. His family says he has never successfully made a cup of tea. His closest aides think he doesn’t know the name of Israel’s prime minister. He studies the Torah for, give or take, 17 hours a day.

Yet despite his seeming detachment from worldly life, this spiritual leader of hundreds of thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews has become one of the most consequential and controversial people in Israel today.

He's at the center of tensions over the coronavirus between the Israeli mainstream and its growing ultra-Orthodox minority.

Twice, during the first and second waves of the pandemic in Israel, he rejected state-imposed antivirus protocols and would not order his followers to close their yeshivas, independent religious schools where students gather in close quarters to study Jewish scripture.

“God forbid!” he exclaimed. If anything, he said, the pandemic made prayer and study even more essential.

Throughout the pandemic, Israeli authorities have clashed with the ultra-Orthodox over their resistance to antivirus protocols, particularly their early refusal to close schools or limit crowds at religious events. Similar conflicts have played out in the New York area.

Though Israel has been a leader in vaccinating its population, the emergence of more infectious variants has recently been overwhelming its hospitals —sharpening the conflict between the politically powerful ultra-religious minority and the mostly non-religious majority.

Read more here.

—Patrick Kingsley, The New York Times

10,000 doses of COVID vaccine sat with pharmacies. Now, Idaho is getting them back

Several thousand doses of COVID-19 vaccine that were shipped to Idaho were set aside for a federal public-private partnership — and then went unused.

More than 10,000 of the doses are being returned to the state’s control this weekend, for use in upcoming vaccination clinics.

A large share of Idaho’s coronavirus vaccine doses (33,150) were earmarked for a program that tasked Walgreens and CVS pharmacies with operating vaccination clinics at nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

But the pharmacies had administered just 6,186 of those 33,150 doses as of Jan. 19, and hadn’t yet reached more than 80 facilities that had signed up for the program. Walgreens had given 4,490 shots and CVS had given 1,696.

The vaccination total grew by a few thousand over the next week and a half. CVS and Walgreens had administered a total of 10,433 doses to Idaho long-term care facilities by Jan. 28, according to federal data. That left more than 20,000 still unused at that point.

A Walgreens spokesperson said Idaho nursing homes and assisted living facilities overestimated how many doses they would need.

Read more here.

— Audrey Dutton, The Idaho Statesman
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CDC requires face masks on airlines, public transportation

Starting next week, travelers on airplanes and public transportation like buses and subways will be required to wear face masks to curb the spread of COVID-19.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a mask-wearing rule late Friday that builds on an order announced Jan. 21 by President Joe Biden.

The 11-page CDC order takes effect just before midnight on Monday night. It makes refusal to wear a mask a violation of federal law, enforced by the Transportation Security Administration and other federal, state and local authorities.

The rule applies to passengers on airplanes, trains, subways, buses, taxis and ride-shares. It says travelers must wear a mask that covers their nose and mouth while riding and while getting on and off rides. The order extends to waiting areas such as airports, train platforms and subway stations.

The CDC said some face coverings aren’t good enough to comply with the rule, including: face shields, bandanas, masks with exhalation valves and masks that are too big or otherwise don’t fit properly.

Read more here.

—The Associated Press

Racial disparity seen in US vaccination drive

An Associated Press analysis shows a racial gap that's opened up in the nation’s COVID-19 vaccination drive, with Black Americans in many places lagging behind whites in receiving shots.

An early look at the 17 states and two cities that have released racial breakdowns through Jan. 25 found that Black people in all places are getting inoculated at levels below their share of the general population, in some cases significantly below.

That is true even though they constitute an oversize percentage of the nation’s health care workers, who were put at the front of the line for shots when the campaign began in mid-December.

Experts say several factors could be driving the emerging disparity, including deep distrust of the medical establishment among Black Americans because of a history of discriminatory treatment; inadequate access to the vaccine in Black neighborhoods; and a digital divide that can make it difficult to get crucial information. Vaccination sign-ups are being done to a large degree online.

Hispanic people also lagged behind in vaccinations, but their levels were somewhat closer to expectations in most places studied. Hispanics on average are younger than other Americans, and vaccinations have yet to be thrown open to young people.

However, several states where Hispanic communities were hit particularly hard by COVID-19 have yet to report data, notably California and New York.

Read more here.

—Carla K. Johnson, Angeliki Kastanis and Kat Stafford of the Associated Press

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