Food and Drug Administration scientists shared Friday that Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine for children 5 and under is safe and effective. The vaccine could be authorized by the end of next week.

Meanwhile, false claims have been circulating that over 20,000 people in the U.S. have died from receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. To date, nine deaths in the U.S. have been linked to the vaccine.

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 the rest of our coronavirus coverage and here to see how we track the daily spread across Washington.

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Florida refuses to enforce vaccine rule for healthcare workers

The federal government is withholding $1.2 million from Florida, and has threatened other penalties, because the state is exempting many health care workers from getting the COVID-19 vaccine.

The Florida Agency for Health Care Administration replied, "$1.2 million is a small price to pay to protect the freedom of health care workers."

More than 50 medical groups support vaccination requirements for health care employees. The full story from South Florida Sun Sentinel is here.

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Huskies finally enjoy in-person graduation gala

About 7,000 graduates descended on Husky Stadium on Saturday and more will be coming Sunday to celebrate earning their degrees at the University of Washington, many crossing the stage one or two years later than they imagined after COVID protections made the huge, in-person ceremonies impossible until now.

On Saturday, graduates carried purple and yellow bouquets and balloons with messages like “The tassel was worth the hassle." Even those who completed degrees on schedule had to cope with closed laboratories and classrooms for months.

Read the entire story here.

—Seattle Times Education Lab

‘We should definitely be concerned.’ Miami-Dade’s COVID-19 cases, positivity rates soar

MIAMI — With a new wave of omicron COVID cases surging in Miami-Dade County, the percent of local positive tests, known as the positivity rate, has soared, representing a fourfold increase since April and likely an undercount due to at-home testing.

On Monday, Miami-Dade County’s seven-day average COVID-19 positivity rate rose to 22%, up from a 5% rate on April 8, according to the county’s COVID-19 Daily Dashboard. The latest number is nearing the rates at the height of the omicron surge in January, when positivity rates scaled 35%.

“We should definitely be concerned now,” said Mary Jo Trepka, an infectious disease epidemiologist and professor at Florida International University. “In fact, we should have been concerned several weeks ago.”

Miami-Dade’s mayor acknowledged the rising case counts and positivity rates, but said county residents are in a better position to weather the surge, the sixth wave since the coronavirus began in March 2020, as a result of their vaccinations.

“Miami-Dade is now in a new phase of the pandemic,” the Office of Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava told the Miami Herald on Thursday. “We have not beaten this virus, but we know how to control it. We are the most vaccinated county in Florida and our protective efforts are paying off.”

Read more here.

—Miami Herald

A school reflects on a full year with mandatory masks: ‘We’re used to it’

First grader Khamoni Davis-Victor kept her face mask tucked under her chin as she munched on lunch Wednesday in the cafeteria at Yorkship Elementary School in Camden, New Jersey.

As soon as the 7-year-old finished her favorite lunch — tacos — she pulled up her mask to cover her mouth and nose. She said she understood why her school district has a mask mandate.

”The virus is spreading,” she said matter-of-factly.

The Camden school system, which enrolls about 5,100 students in its 15 traditional public schools, will wrap up the 2021-22 school year in two weeks with a mask requirement still in place for all students and teachers.

Camden is believed to be the only South Jersey district that kept the mask rule in place after Gov. Phil Murphy lifted the state requirement in March. Newark, the state’s largest school system, also kept the mask mandate, while Trenton reinstated it last week.

Read the full story here.

—The Philadelphia Inquirer
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New York City is lifting mask mandate for toddlers Monday

NEW YORK — New York City Mayor Eric Adams on Monday will end the mask mandate for 2- to 4-year-olds who attend day care and preschool, he said Thursday, because the city is past the peak of its latest wave of coronavirus cases.

“I have always said that the science will guide us out of the pandemic, and because we have followed the data, which shows that cases are steadily falling, we’ve beaten back the latest COVID-19 surge,” Adams said in a statement.

The city is still strongly recommending that masks be worn indoors for people of all ages, however, as new, confirmed cases remain at a high level despite recent declines. The city’s alert level is also still orange, or high, but Adams has repeatedly said he will remove or implement mandates as he and his advisers see fit, rather than wait for his alert system to trigger actions.

The toddler mask mandate has been a subject of great contention in New York City as one of the last mandates the mayor has left in place during the pandemic. The mayor lifted mask mandates for older school children, along with vaccination verification policies at bars, restaurants and indoor entertainment venues, in early March. He also declined to reinstate a wider indoor mask requirement when the city went to a high alert level in mid-May, even though his alert system recommended it. Read more here.

—The New York Times

New study is first to document likely cat-to-human virus transmission

A veterinarian in Thailand likely contracted the coronavirus from an infected pet cat last year, researchers concluded in a new study. It is the first documented case of suspected cat-to-human transmission, although experts stress that the risk of cats infecting humans with the virus remains low overall.

One of the cat’s two owners, who both had COVID-19, probably passed the virus to the cat, which then sneezed in the veterinarian’s face, according to the paper, which was written by scientists at Thailand’s Prince of Songkla University. Genomic sequencing confirmed that the cat and all three people were infected with an identical version of the virus, which was not widespread in the local population at the time.

Cats are far more likely to catch the virus from people than to transmit it to them, scientists say. But the case is a reminder that people who are infected with the virus should take precautions around their pets — and that veterinarians and shelter workers who may come into contact with infected animals should do the same, said Dr. Scott Weese, an infectious diseases veterinarian at the University of Guelph in Ontario.

“When things become human diseases, we too often forget everything else,” he said. “I think it’s important for us to recognize this virus still can move between species.”

Read more here.

—The New York Times

So far, COVID-19 booster uptake slow for kids age 5 to 11

So far, COVID-19 booster doses have not been terribly popular among kids ages 5 to 11.

According to the state vaccination reports, about 7.4% of booster-eligible San Diego County residents in that age bracket had received booster doses through Thursday, compared to 10.2% throughout California. The FDA approved boosters for kids age 5 to 11 on May 19.

Boosters can only be given to those who are at least five months past their last regular dose, meaning that only about 77,000 of the 138,000 in this range who are fully vaccinated are now far enough along to qualify for a boost.

Vaccination in the 5-to-11 age bracket has remained low since first doses were approved, with the county health department estimating that 44.5% of the 310,643 kids ages 5 to 11 living in San Diego County had received at least one dose through June 1. By comparison, about 79% of those age 12 to 29 have had at least one dose, the next-lowest demographic group, with the region’s overall vaccination number at 87%.

Dr. Mark Sawyer, an infectious disease specialist at San Diego’s Rady Children’s Hospital, said the reasons uptake among those of elementary school age has so far been slow comes down to a mix of factors. Overall, coronavirus has been producing milder illness in many since the Omicron variant first appeared in December, causing many parents to feel like the risk is low. And many are also, he said, concerned about reports of heart symptoms called myocarditis, even though that condition has been shown to appear most often in adolescent and young adult men. Read the full story.

—The San Diego Union-Tribune
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Coronavirus infection during pregnancy linked to brain development problems in babies

Babies whose mothers were infected with the coronavirus during pregnancy may face a higher risk of brain development disorders such as autism and bipolar disorder, a new study that examined more than 7,500 births suggests.

The finding, published Thursday in the journal JAMA Network Open, adds to the urgency to get coronavirus transmission under control even though newer variants are less likely to cause severe cases of COVID-19.

Other viruses, such as influenza and measles, are thought to make babies more vulnerable to conditions such as autism, schizophrenia and depression if they are exposed in utero. Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School wondered whether the same might be true about SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

“There are more than a decade of studies that suggest viral infection during pregnancy might be associated with neurodevelopmental disorders, so there was reason to be concerned likewise with this virus,” said Dr. Roy Perlis, director of the Center for Quantitative Health at Massachusetts General Hospital and the study’s senior author.

Read the full story here.

—Los Angeles Times