Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Monday, July 12, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.
Dr. Anthony Fauci said on Sunday that “it is entirely conceivable, maybe likely” that COVID-19 vaccine booster shots will be needed the coming months, but that it was too soon to make that call. Top U.S. health officials planned to meet with representatives from Pfizer on Monday to discuss discuss the drugmaker’s request for federal authorization of a third dose.
As the U.S. looks to bolster immunity, other countries are still struggling to contain the disease. Myanmar has been slow to contain to a devastating surge in cases since mid-May, as the country has remained consumed by a bitter and violent political struggle since the military seized power in February.
Iran is enduring a fifth wave of the pandemic, driven by the highly contagious Delta variant of the virus. Thousands of Iranians frustrated with the government’s chaotic vaccine rollout and desperate for protection after enduring wave after wave of the coronavirus are flocking by air and land to neighboring Armenia to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
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.
Fujifilm finds new niches, record profits amid pandemic
TOKYO — Scores of Japanese manufacturers less well known than Toyota and Sony are linchpins in world supply chains and innovation.
One such company is Fujifilm. It outlived the decline of traditional photography and has logged record profits after diversifying into a wide range of businesses, from drugs and cosmetics to advanced materials, cameras and other types of imaging machines.
Leading those efforts was Shigetaka Komori, who stepped aside last month after 20 years to become an executive adviser to Fujifilm. He focused the 87-year-old company on leveraging its film making technology, boosted by strategic acquisitions, to become a leader in biopharmaceuticals.
That paid off when the pandemic struck.
Fujifilm has made the most of its “analog strengths,” such as expertise in materials, he said.
Greece pressures vaccine skeptics as infections surge
ATHENS, Greece — Health care workers in Greece will be suspended if they refuse to get vaccinated under a new mandatory policy announced Monday by the country’s prime minister.
Staff at nursing homes will be suspended starting Aug. 16 if they fail to book a vaccination appointment, with a similar policy to follow in September for workers at state-run and private hospitals.
Starting Friday, and until the end of August, all indoor commercial areas, including bars, cinemas, and theaters, will only be available for the vaccinated.
“After a year and a half, no one can claim ignorance about the coronavirus anymore,” Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said in a televised address. “The country will not shut down again due to attitude adopted by certain people … It’s not Greece that’s a danger, but unvaccinated Greeks.”
The new restrictions will apply nationwide, including the Greek islands and other key tourism destinations.
Curfews return in Spain as infections soar in young people
MADRID — Spanish regions are bringing back curfews as well as restrictions on socializing and nightlife to contain a sharp rise in coronavirus infections as the fast-spreading delta variant races through the country’s unvaccinated young people.
Catalonia and Valencia, two Mediterranean coast regions with major virus outbreaks, are limiting social gatherings to 10 people and restoring late night restrictions on all activities, while the northern region of Asturias on Monday banned indoor bar and restaurants operations.
Fuelled by parties to mark the end of the school year and the beginning of summer, Spain’s two-week COVID-19 caseload is now over three times higher among people under 30 than the average. The closely watched variable rose nationally on Monday to 368 cases per 100,000 residents, according to Fernando Simón, who coordinates Spain’s response to health emergencies.
Simón said although younger patients typically don’t need intensive care treatment, the high number of cases among under 30s was slowly pushing up the rate of hospital admissions.
Washington Monument to reopen Wednesday
The Washington Monument is expected to reopen Wednesday after a six-month closure because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The popular tourist site will open at 9 a.m. It will be open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Officials with the National Park Service said all visitors must wear masks, “regardless of vaccination status, inside the Washington Monument.”
To buy tickets, visitors should go to recreation.gov. No tickets are given out on the site.
Fox News hosts smear COVID shots though outbreaks mostly affect the unvaccinated
It's a repeated refrain on the prime-time shows hosted by Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham on Murdoch’s Fox News Channel: vaccines could be dangerous, people are justified in refusing them and that public authorities have overstepped in their attempts to deliver them.
Carlson and Ingraham last week criticized a plan by the Biden administration to increase vaccinations by having health care workers and volunteers go door to door to try to persuade the reluctant to get shots.
“Going door-to-door?” Ingraham said. “This is creepy stuff.”
The message is at odds, however, with the recommendations of health experts, even as the virus’ delta variant and other mutations fuel outbreaks in areas where vaccination rates are below the national average.
UW Medicine to run mix-and-match COVID vaccine booster trial
Researchers with UW Medicine are among those at 12 sites nationally that will be studying whether a single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine will keep COVID-19 and its scary variants away. And they need volunteers to help.
The purpose of the clinical trial, which is sponsored by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, is to test the safety and effectiveness of additional doses of vaccines in people who have already received emergency-use authorized vaccines.
The three vaccines that have been approved for emergency use in the U.S. are made by Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson.
The trial could also indicate whether getting a booster with a different vaccine platform provides broader protection as immunity wanes or helps fight against variants, said Dr. Christine Johnston, principal investigator and an associate professor of medicine at UW Medicine’s Division of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
6,000 people have died from COVID-19 in Washington state
The number of Washington residents who have died from COVID-19 has now reached 6,000, according data from the state Department of Health.
About 44% of the state’s deaths are among residents, staff and visitors of long-term-care facilities, which have borne the brunt of the deadly virus. As of July 6, 2,666 people associated with the state’s nursing homes, assisted-living facilities and adult family homes have died, according to the DOH.
The weekly number of long-term-care deaths, however, has dropped dramatically since widespread vaccinations began in early 2021 at the sites. At its 2021 peak in the first week of January, there were 87 new deaths. Since mid-May, there have been fewer than 10 deaths associated with long-term-care facilities each week, according to DOH.
Washington surpassed its previous milestone of 5,000 deaths on March 3 this year. The country’s first COVID-19 death, which took place in King County, was reported on March 1, 2020.
Summer camps hit with COVID outbreaks — are schools next?
The U.S. has seen a string of COVID-19 outbreaks tied to summer camps in recent weeks in places such as Texas, Illinois, Florida, Missouri and Kansas, in what some fear could be a preview of the upcoming school year.
In some cases the outbreaks have spread from the camp to the broader community.
The clusters have come as the number of newly confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the U.S. has reversed course, surging more than 60% over the past two weeks from an average of about 12,000 a day to around 19,500, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
The rise in many places has been blamed on too many unvaccinated people and the highly contagious delta variant.
Washington’s $1 million vaccine lottery winner to be selected this week
The final drawing for Washington state’s vaccine lottery will take place Tuesday. The prize on the line: a $1 million jackpot.
The winner will be contacted Wednesday and will have 72 hours to respond. Otherwise the prize will be forfeited to an alternate winner.
The previous four drawings, which took place throughout June, were for cash prizes of $250,000. Winners included a Yakima resident, a nursing student from Spokane and a Walla Walla food-service worker, who almost didn’t return the call.
Conventions and conferences are back, with changes for the COVID era. Here’s a look inside
Before walking into a convention of neuroscientists, surgeons and medical technicians at the Los Angeles Convention Center on Friday, Amy Pruszenski had to check in with staff standing behind plexiglass, show proof that she had been vaccinated against COVID-19 and walk past a thermal camera that measured her body temperature.
The gathering was billed as California’s first in-person medical convention since the pandemic struck. Pruszenski, an optometrist from New Hampshire, felt at ease meeting in a large hall — in physically distanced chairs — with hundreds of strangers from across the country.
“I’m feeling completely safe here,” she said. “These are the world’s leading neuroscientists. If anyone is on top of it, they are.”
On the other end of the spectrum was Deborah Zelinsky, an optometrist who stayed home in Illinois and rented an electronic tablet mounted on a remote-controlled robot so she could virtually roll around the convention hall, looking at exhibits and talking to fellow conventioneers. She said that she wanted to be there but was still not comfortable mingling with others.
The precautions taken at the Los Angeles Convention Center may reflect the future of conventions, trade shows and conferences in California, at least until the pandemic is brought under control.
FDA will attach warning of rare nerve syndrome to Johnson & Johnson vaccine
The Food and Drug Administration is planning to warn that Johnson & Johnson’s coronavirus vaccine can lead to an increased risk of a rare neurological condition known as Guillain–Barré syndrome, another setback for a vaccine that has largely been sidelined in the United States because of manufacturing problems and a temporary safety pause earlier this year, according to several people familiar with the plans.
Although regulators have found that the chances of developing the condition are low, they appear to be three to five times higher among recipients of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine than among the general population in the United States, according to people familiar with the decision.
Federal officials have identified roughly 100 suspected cases of Guillain-Barré disease among recipients of the Johnson & Johnson shot through a federal monitoring system that relies on patients and health care providers to report adverse effects of vaccines. The reports are considered preliminary. Most people who develop the condition recover.
The rationing of a last-resort COVID treatment is still ongoing
Throughout the pandemic, American doctors found themselves in the unfamiliar position of overtly rationing treatment, but not with ventilators as was originally feared but with a mechanical substitute for badly damaged lungs called ECMO.
The limited availability of ECMO treatment — which requires expensive equipment similar in concept to a heart-lung machine and specially trained staff who can provide constant monitoring and one-on-one nursing — forced stark choices among patients.
Doctors tried to select individuals most likely to benefit. But dozens of interviews with medical staff and patients across the country, and reporting inside five hospitals that provide ECMO, revealed that in the absence of regional sharing systems to ensure fairness and match resources to needs, hospitals and clinicians were left to apply differing criteria, with insurance coverage, geography and even personal appeals having an influence.
England to lift last virus restrictions on July 19
All remaining lockdown restrictions in England will be lifted in a week despite a sharp rise in coronavirus cases, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed Monday. He said it was “the right moment to proceed” as schools close for summer vacation but urged people to “proceed with caution.”
Johnson said although risks of the pandemic remain, legal restrictions will be replaced by a recommendation that people wear masks in crowded places and on public transport. Nightclubs and other venues with crowds should use vaccine passports for entry “as a matter of social responsibility,” he added.
At the same time infections have soared in recent weeks, running at over 30,000 new cases daily, driven by the delta variant.
Read the story here.
France tries to slow delta variant, boost vaccines
Is France’s summer over already?
Just three days ago, the country threw open its nightclubs for the first time in 16 months, completing a protracted national effort at returning to a pre-pandemic normal just in time for summer vacation. But with the delta variant now driving resurgent infections across Europe, potential new restrictions loom.
President Emmanuel Macron is hosting a top-level virus security meeting Monday morning and then giving a televised speech in the evening, the kind of solemn speech he’s given at each turning point in France’s virus epidemic.
This time, he’s expected to announce plans for a law requiring health care workers to get vaccinated, and may require special COVID-19 passes for restaurants or other day-to-day activities.
Either move would be unusual in Europe, where most governments have shied away from vaccine requirements.
Israel starts administering third dose of Pfizer vaccine to at-risk adults
Israel’s Ministry of Health on Monday began offering a third dose of the Pfizer vaccine to severely immunocompromised adults in what health experts say could be the first phase of an experiment to provide booster shots for older people and the most vulnerable.
The recommendation, published Sunday by the ministry, clarified that the goal of the new program was to raise antibody levels among immunocompromised citizens — including cancer patients and recipients of liver transplants, and others who data shows have recently exhibited weakened vaccine protection — and that it had still not made a decision on administering third shots for the general adult population.
The decision comes as Israel, which was among the fastest to vaccinate and among the first in the world to begin reopening in the spring, is experiencing a surge in new cases, spurred by the prevalence of the more transmissible Delta variant first identified in India. Over the past month, infection rates in Israel have spiked from single digits to around 450 a day.
Dutch leader says easing lockdown was ‘error of judgment’
The Dutch leader apologized Monday for what he called “an error of judgment” in relaxing the Netherlands’ coronavirus lockdown, a move that has led to a sharp surge in infections.
Caretaker Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s government scrapped most remaining restrictions just over three weeks ago amid declining infection numbers and hospital admissions. The easing meant that, among other public spaces, nightclubs and discotheques were allowed to reopen for the first time in more than a year.
On the first weekend after the relaxation, thousands of mainly young people flocked to clubs in towns and cities across the country. Since then, infections have skyrocketed. Rutte was forced to backtrack and on Friday reintroduced some measures to rein in the virus’ spread.
On Saturday, the country’s public health institute reported more than 10,000 new COVID-19 cases, the highest number of positive tests since late December.
“An error of judgment was made, we are sorry about that,” Rutte told reporters in The Hague.
World hunger was dramatically worse in pandemic year
The United Nations on Monday lamented what it called a “dramatic worsening” of world hunger last year, saying much of that is likely connected to the pandemic.
A report issued jointly by five U.N. agencies said hunger outpaced population growth in 2020, with nearly 10% of all people estimated to be undernourished.
It said the sharpest rise in hunger came in Africa, where 21% of the people are estimated to be undernourished.
Children paid a high price, with 149 million of those younger than five estimated be have stunted growth and 45 million children too thin for their height.
“In many parts of the world, the pandemic has triggered brutal recessions and jeopardized access to food,” the United Nations said in a summary of its findings.
COVID vaccine hesitancy by King County ZIP code — and why some neighborhoods have much higher rates
King County has one of the highest COVID-19 vaccination rates among major U.S. counties. But since the beginning of the vaccine rollout, we’ve seen the rates in parts of the south and east lagging behind the rest of the county.
Now some new data helps us understand some of the “why” behind this disparity.
A research project from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington School of Medicine and COVID Collaborative shows data on people’s openness to receiving a COVID-19 vaccine by ZIP code for the entire United States.
From June 25 to July 1, there was a significantly higher percentage of people expressing hesitancy about the vaccine in certain neighborhoods in South and East King County.
In Auburn’s 98002, about 21% of unvaccinated people answered “probably not” or “definitely not” when asked if they would choose to get vaccinated if offered a vaccine to prevent COVID-19. That was nearly three times higher than the overall rate of 7.8% for King County.
Nearby in Federal Way’s 98003, about 18% expressed hesitancy about getting vaccinated, the second highest percentage in the county. And in Algona/Pacific’s 98047, about 17% were reluctant to get jabbed.
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