WHO teams visits Wuhan food market in search of virus clues
WUHAN, China (AP) — A World Health Organization team looking into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic on Sunday visited the food market in the Chinese city of Wuhan that was linked to many early infections.
The team members visited the Huanan Seafood Market for about an hour in the afternoon, and one of them flashed a thumbs up sign when reporters asked how the trip was going.
The market was the site of a December 2019 outbreak of the virus. Scientists initially suspected the virus came from wild animals sold in the market. The market has since been largely ruled out but it could provide hints to how the virus spread so widely.
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Israel to give some coronavirus vaccines to Palestinians
JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel has agreed to transfer 5,000 doses of the coronavirus vaccine to the Palestinians to immunize front-line medical workers, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz’s office announced Sunday.
It was the first time that Israel has confirmed the transfer of vaccines to the Palestinians, who lag far behind Israel’s aggressive vaccination campaign and have not yet received any vaccines.
The World Health Organization has raised concerns about the disparity between Israel and Palestinians living in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, and international human rights groups and U.N. experts have said Israel is responsible for the well being of Palestinians in these areas. Israel says that under interim peace agreements reached in the 1990s it is not responsible for the Palestinians and in any case has not received requests for help.
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"Captain Tom" hospitalized for virus he raised money to fight
LONDON (AP) — Tom Moore, the 100-year-old World War II veteran who captivated the British public in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic with his fundraising efforts, has been hospitalized with COVID-19, his daughter said Sunday.
Hannah Ingram-Moore revealed in a statement posted on Twitter that her father, widely known as Captain Tom, has been admitted to Bedford Hospital because he needed “additional help” with his breathing.
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The spread of COVID-19 led to a surge in orders for factory robots
Orders for robots soared in North America at year-end as manufacturers attempted to grapple with the rising toll of COVID-19 and avoid putting employees at risk.
Companies ordered 9,972 robots in the fourth quarter, up 64% from a year earlier. That lifted the annual total to 31,044 units, up 3.5%, the Association for Advancing Automation reported Thursday. And for the first time, automakers didn’t lead demand.
“The pandemic has created a sense of urgency for manufacturing companies to invest in automation like never before,” said Mike Cicco, chief executive officer of the Americas unit of Fanuc, a Japanese robot maker.
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Seattle pop-up clinic vaccinates qualified grocery workers against COVID-19
In a nondescript union hall in South Seattle, between an auto-parts store and a lot of empty tractor trailers, the city inched slowly, ever-so-slowly, toward curbing the coronavirus pandemic.
Grocery store workers trickled in at appointed times. Union officials directed them inside. Temporary city employees registered them. Seattle Fire Department medics and technicians filled syringes and administered vaccines.
The city of Seattle has received about 2,000 vaccine doses, with another 1,000 expected to arrive Tuesday, city officials said. For the last two weeks, Fire Department teams have been going door to door to vaccinate some of Seattle’s most vulnerable — elderly residents of adult family homes and senior affordable housing.
As of Friday, the city had administered nearly all of its doses, with none wasted, officials said. They hoped to vaccinate 400 people Sunday at the pop-up clinic hosted by the city and United Food and Commercial Workers Local 21.
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For emerging adults, pandemic serves up unique challenges
The coronavirus pandemic has been hard on both kids and adults. But what about those who are in between?
Demographic shifts during the last century have given rise to a distinct developmental stage called “emerging adulthood.” Spanning the late teens and early 20s, it’s a volitional, transitional period marked by exploration of life and love, work and world views. But with the now nearly yearlong pandemic causing major disruptions in education, employment, housing and more, young people who are no longer adolescents but not quite adults are struggling to find their footing.
An 18-year-old in Florida selected a college sight unseen. A 23-year-old in Texas lost his job in his dream industry. And for a 24-year-old in New Hampshire, the pandemic halted her hard-won academic and social momentum.
“This generation is losing out on this key transition period,” says Kathryn Sabella, director of research at the University of Massachusetts Medical School’s Transitions to Adulthood Center for Research. She has been studying the pandemic’s effect on young people with mental health conditions and has found patterns of isolation, angst and uncertainty.
“We’re seeing a lot of stress about school, about finding a job in the short term, and longer term, what does this look like?” she says. “There’s a sense of despair and hopelessness.”
Washington lawmakers look for ways to exit the eviction moratorium — and prevent the fallout
Nearly a year after Gov. Jay Inslee stopped evictions for failure to pay during the pandemic, lawmakers now find themselves attempting to unwind an experiment of their own making.
Both Republicans and Democrats are looking for a way to end the eviction moratorium while staving off what some predict could be a “tsunami” of evictions once it is lifted.
They are split on how to do so. Some lawmakers have proposed a suite of bills that could immediately ease the growing financial burdens of renters. Others lawmakers seek to permanently reshape the balance of power between tenants and landlords.
In a remote legislative session with a cascade of funding needs, lawmakers may struggle to pass dramatic reforms. But funding bills like those raising money for rent assistance could stay in play through the end of the session.
Anxiety grows as long-term care awaits COVID-19 vaccines
Frustration is building over the pace of COVID-19 vaccinations at long-term care sites, where some homes still await first shots while fending off a virus that can devastate their residents.
The major drugstore chains tasked with giving shots in these places are far along in vaccinating nursing home residents and staff. But some other types of group residences won’t receive first doses until mid-February or later, despite being among the top priorities for shots.
CVS and Walgreens have started a massive vaccination push in nearly all states, and they say they are proceeding on schedule. But resident advocates and experts are anxious about delays in delivering vaccines that have been available for more than a month.
“Every week that you wait and you’re not vaccinating is a big deal here,” said David Grabowski, a health policy professor at Harvard Medical School. “My sense is that this process is still going too slow.”
Ten Senate Republicans propose compromise covid relief package, request meeting with Biden
Ten Republican senators announced plans Sunday to release an approximately $600 billion covid relief package that could serve as a bipartisan alternative to President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion plan, and requested a meeting with the president to discuss it.
The senators, led by Susan Collins, R-Maine, said they would release additional details of the package on Monday. In a letter to Biden they said they were offering their proposal in recognition of the president’s “calls for unity.”
“We want to work in good faith with you and your administration to meet the health, economic and societal challenges of the covid crisis,” they wrote.
Their move comes as Democrats prepare to move forward on Monday to set up a partisan path forward for Biden’s relief bill, which Republicans have dismissed as overly costly given some $4 trillion Congress has already committed to fighting the pandemic, including $900 billion in December.
The GOP proposal is expected to jettison certain elements that have drawn Republican opposition, such as increasing the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour.
It would also significantly narrow eligibility for a new round of $1,400 stimulus checks Biden wants to send to individual Americans. Biden’s plan would cap eligibility for the checks at individuals making $75,000 a year and couples making $150,000.
How the movie ‘Groundhog Day’ can help us move forward during COVID
Groundhog Day is Feb. 2. The prospect of the extension of this already endless winter — an unthinkable entire year into the global pandemic — is enough to make somebody load Punxsutawney Phil into a truck and drive him off a cliff. If the world’s most famous forecaster sees his shadow, we’re condemned to six more weeks of increasing stir-craziness, our shivering lives ever more circumscribed by this random, senseless thing as we fear the variants and wait seemingly forever for the vaccine, every day the same as the one before.
Sorry to sound so dire. But the helplessness, the inability to plan a future, to attain any sense of forward motion — the human psyche is not geared toward this. It may sound ludicrous in the context of our very real collective fear, but the 1993 comedy “Groundhog Day” is here to help.
When COVID-19 restrictions ease, what are you most looking forward to doing?
When the world returns relatively back to normal — whether that means receiving a vaccine, reaching herd immunity, or lifting restrictions — what are you most looking forward to doing?
Are you finally going to go on that tropical vacation or visit your mom more often? Do you long for a crowded bar and rubbing elbows with strangers again, or just getting back to some kind of work?
Is there someone you want to see? Some dear friend you want to hug? Or just the freedom to move around outside carefree?
It’s been nearly one year since the Puget Sound region experienced its first death from COVID-19. One year of tremendous loss and uncertainty. Canceled plans and soaring unemployment. One long year.
But now as vaccines slowly roll out offering a glimmer of hope, what are you most looking forward to doing again? When you think about returning to some form of normalcy, what are you yearning for? The Seattle Times wants to know.
COVID-19 pandemic takes social and emotional toll on Washington’s youngest learners
On a Thursday morning in January, from his home in Seattle, a boy in Kevin Gallagher’s kindergarten class popped the cap off his green scented marker and took a big sniff.
Was it sweet, like a Granny Smith? Or citrusy, like a lime? For anyone in his virtual kindergarten class, it was hard to tell. But the moment was fleeting, as Mr. Gallagher and his teaching intern André Silberman were speaking again, instructing the 5- and 6-year-olds to stay on task. Use the green marker to underline the word “fish” on their work sheets, they said — a “third grade” vocabulary word that would strengthen their reading abilities. Visible only through his screen, the boy moved the marker from his nose to the paper.
“It would be great to hear everyone read the page together,” said Mr. Gallagher, as the Bryant Elementary teacher is known to his students. “I like this part a lot.”
Suddenly a chorus of falsettos was reading at once, following Mr. Gallagher’s finger as it moved from word to word.
Gallagher’s first task is to guide his students through academic lessons like this one. As kindergartners, they are some of the youngest learners attending school remotely this year, and among a group that many teachers, parents and education experts feared were most likely to suffer academically during the pandemic, since they aren’t used to sitting still or focusing for hours at a time. Gallagher’s second goal is more difficult: to help his students stay connected to their peers and build social bonds critical for early development.
Seattle-area residents tell of ‘massively frustrating’ efforts to get COVID-19 vaccine
Crashed appointment websites. Long lines. Midnight alarms set to book a time before the morning rush. And hours spent waiting on hold, in calls made by those who don’t have — or struggle with — internet access.
Millions of Washington residents are doing whatever it takes to navigate the state’s labyrinth-like rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine program, which in large part relies on the hospital system. The hospitals, too, have been vexed by an unreliable supply of vaccine and ever-changing rules about who qualifies for the shots, and how and where to receive them.
More than 1 million people in Washington are age 65 and older, making them eligible for the injection, along with health care workers, first responders and residents and staff of long-term care facilities, as well as people over 50 who live in multigenerational households.
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