Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Saturday, June 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 It is no longer being updated.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.
As vaccination rates continue to increase throughout the country, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is updating its guidance to allow people who are fully vaccinated to be in outdoor transportation settings — including airports and train stations — without masks.
Meanwhile, the country is confronted with an ever-growing surplus of coronavirus vaccine, looming expiration dates and stubbornly lagging demand at a time when the developing world is clamoring for doses to stem a rise in infections.
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.
More than half of all eligible Californians are fully vaccinated
More than half of Californians 12 and older, the current minimum age to be eligible for one of the vaccines against COVID-19, are fully inoculated, a significant milestone just days before the state’s major lifting of pandemic restrictions on June 15.
Additionally, 68.5% of Californians 12 and older have received at least one shot of a vaccine, according to data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Among Californians 18 and older, 71.6% have at least one dose and 56.8% are fully vaccinated.
Pandemic bakers are going pro
Before the pandemic, Max Kumangai spent his Saturdays singing and dancing his way through back-to-back performances of “Jagged Little Pill,” a rock musical on Broadway.
Saturday is still his busiest day. But whereas he once kicked off his workday by practicing lifting his colleagues above his head, he now begins by removing sourdough loaves from the refrigerator and preparing them for baking. (The oven in his apartment, in the New York City section of Harlem, is so old that the numbers on the temperature dial wore off long ago, but he knows which dot to pick to get the color and crust just right.)
Once the loaves are done, he places them in paper bags stamped with the logo for Humpday Dough, the business he now runs with his fiance, and heads to the subway to deliver them across the city.
Confused? Overwhelmed? You may have travel whiplash.
"Before landing in London’s Heathrow Airport last month, I thought I had a firm grasp on the new layers of pandemic travel — the testing requirements, screening procedures, locator forms, and health and safety protocols, to name a few.
I had recently taken a work trip from Istanbul to New York City, which involved two long-haul flights from two major airports, and after successfully navigating that process, I figured traveling through Europe would be straightforward.
But as I approached passport control, it felt like I had been transported back to the 1990s," wrote Ceylan Yeginsu.
The Brooklyn man who set out to track every Jew lost to COVID
What did you do during the pandemic?
Tzali Reicher, who is 24 and lives in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, met his future wife, got married, traveled among three continents and embarked on a project to track every Jew who died of the coronavirus.
He counted colleagues, neighbors, people he admired, including the rabbi he hoped to pray with at his wedding. Another rabbi, who worked one floor below Reicher on Eastern Parkway in the headquarters of the global Chabad-Lubavitch movement, died after nearly 10 months in the hospital.
‘Supertaster’ gene research tackling COVID
In the early days of the pandemic, Henry P. Barham, a 38-year-old ear, nose and throat doctor and researcher at Baton Rouge General, was operating three to four days a week, performing tracheotomies, and the removal of skull-based tumors, and some days did 30 nasal endoscopies — procedures that increased risk of exposure to COVID-19 through aerosolization, the broadcasting of viral particles.
Despite wearing protective gear, some of his colleagues got the virus. Barham did not.
He was grateful, but perplexed. Why, he asked, wasn’t he getting sick?
Barham specializes in rhinology, treating nasal and sinus problems. During his residency, he studied the T2R38 gene, otherwise known as the “supertaster” gene because it affects people’s ability to taste. The term, introduced in the 1990s by Yale psychologist Linda Bartoshuk, is something of a misnomer, since it doesn’t refer to those who have an abundance of taste buds.
T2R38 confers only the ability to taste bitterness. Supertasters – and Barham is one – taste the bitterness in coffee or broccoli acutely. A person must inherit the T2R38 gene from both parents to be a supertaster.
The gene also plays a role in the immune system, which, in the midst of the pandemic seemed intriguingly relevant to Barham.
He hypothesized that supertasters were unlikely to develop severe symptoms of COVID-19. He thought that “tasters,” who have inherited the gene from only one parent, were likely to experience mild to moderate symptoms, and “nontasters” who had not inherited the gene were at a higher risk for severe symptoms and hospitalization.
Man gets 10-year sentence for attacking and coughing on person who asked him to pull up mask
While shopping for eyeglasses in Des Moines, Iowa, last year, Shane Wayne Michael was approached by a patron and asked what’s become a familiar question during the coronavirus pandemic: Can you pull your mask over your nose? But Michael, whose nose was exposed inside Vision 4 Less, did not take kindly to the question in November, according to a criminal complaint.
What happened next, police say, was a parking-lot fight in which Michael allegedly attacked Mark Denning’s eyes and genitals. Denning told authorities that Michael then pulled down his mask and began to cough and spit in his face.
“If I have it, you have it!” said Michael, referring to COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, according to the complaint.
Johnson voices caution over next lockdown easing in England
LONDON (AP) — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson gave a strong hint Saturday that the next planned relaxation of coronavirus restrictions in England this month will be delayed as a result of the spread of the delta variant first identified in India.
In a series of interviews on the sidelines of the Group of Seven leaders’ summit in southwest England, Johnson conceded that he has grown more pessimistic about sanctioning the next easing scheduled for June 21 as the number of infections across the U.K. has increased to levels not seen since February.
The British government has planned to take the next step in bringing England out of lockdown by removing all legal limits on social contact — including allowing nightclubs to reopen for the first time since the pandemic struck in March 2020. Johnson is set to make an announcement about the June 21 timetable on Monday.
However, the recent rise in new confirmed cases has led many scientists to call for a delay, potentially of up to four weeks, so more people can get vaccinated before the restrictions are lifted.
State officials confirm 714 new coronavirus cases
The state Department of Health reported 714 new coronavirus cases on Saturday.
The update brings the state's totals to 444,166 cases and 5,815 deaths, meaning that 1.3% of people diagnosed in Washington have died, according to the DOH. The data is as of 11:59 p.m. Friday, though the state does not report new death data on weekends or update its data dashboard on Sundays.
In addition, 24,795 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the virus — 33 new hospitalizations. In King County, the state's most populous, state health officials have confirmed a total of 111,022 COVID-19 diagnoses and 1,614 deaths.
Since vaccinations began in mid-December, the state and health care providers have administered 7,375,424 doses and 45.47% 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 26,891 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.
COVID-sniffing dogs are accurate but face hurdles for widespread use
Dog noses are great COVID-19 detectors, according to numerous laboratory studies, and COVID sniffing dogs have already started working in airports in other countries and at a few events in the United States, like a Miami Heat basketball game.
But some experts in public health and in training scent dogs say that more information and planning are needed to be certain they are accurate in real life situations.
“There are no national standards” for scent dogs, according to Cynthia M. Otto, director of the Penn Vet Working Dog Center at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine and one of the authors of a new paper on scent dog use in COVID detection.
And although private groups certify drug-sniffing and bomb and rescue dogs, similar programs for medical detection do not exist, according to the new paper in the journal Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness.
Aid groups appeal to G-7 for cash to get shots into arms
FALMOUTH, England (AP) — Rich nations must do more than just donate surplus vaccines if they hope to end the COVID-19 pandemic, according to public health experts and humanitarian groups that are calling for money, increased production and logistical support to help developing countries where the virus is still raging.
The appeal came after U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he hoped leaders of the Group of Seven major industrialized nations will agree to provide at least 1 billion vaccine doses for poorer countries. The G-7 leaders, who are holding their annual meeting this weekend in Cornwall, southwest England, continue to debate other forms of aid to get lifesaving vaccine shots into arms.
While almost half of the combined population of the G-7 nations has received at least one dose of vaccine the worldwide figure is less than 13%. In Africa, it’s just 2.2%.
Moscow orders new restrictions as COVID-19 infections soar
MOSCOW (AP) — Moscow’s mayor on Saturday ordered a week off for some workplaces and imposed restrictions on many businesses to fight coronavirus infections that have more than doubled in the past week.
The national coronavirus taskforce reported 6,701 new cases of infection in Moscow, compared with 2,936 on June 6. Nationally, the daily infection tally has spiked by nearly half over the past week, to 13,510.
After several weeks of lockdown as the pandemic spread in the spring of 2020, Moscow eased restrictions and did not reimpose any during subsequent case increases. But because of the recent sharp rise, “it is impossible not to react to such a situation,” Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said.
He ordered that enterprises that do not normally work on weekends remain closed for the next week while continuing to pay employees. In addition, food courts and children’s play areas in shopping centers are to close for a week beginning Sunday, and restaurants and bars must limit their service to takeout from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m.
China, US diplomats clash over human rights, pandemic origin
BEIJING (AP) — Top U.S. and Chinese diplomats appear to have had another sharply worded exchange, with Beijing saying it told the U.S. to cease interfering in its internal affairs and accusing Washington of politicizing the search for the origin of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Senior Chinese foreign policy adviser Yang Jiechi and Secretary of State Antony Blinken held a phone call Friday that revealed wide divisions in a number of contentious areas, including the curtailing of freedoms in Hong Kong and the mass detention of Muslims in the northwestern Xinjiang region.
Calls for a more thorough investigation into the origin of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 are particularly sensitive for China because of suggestions that it might have have escaped from a laboratory in the central city of Wuhan, where cases were first discovered.
Yang said China was “gravely concerned” over what he called “absurd” stories that the virus escaped from the Wuhan lab.
They’re growing up in a pandemic. Here are their stories
Seattle Times reporters Hannah Furfaro and Dahlia Bazzaz and engagement editor Jenn Smith worked with teachers around the region to develop a class assignment that asked youth of all ages to reflect on what they learned about themselves, what challenged them, and what activities, objects or people helped them cope during a school year unlike any other.
The nine students profiled here were among dozens who responded to those questions. Reporters visited these students’ schools, and photographers Erika Schultz and Amanda Snyder worked with them to capture their portraits and images of artifacts that represent their interests and passions. In interviews, students spoke with video journalists Lauren Frohne and Ramon Dompor about finding power in independence, learning to talk through their feelings and connecting more deeply with family.
Their responses help give shape to how our youngest generation struggled through school and the real world over the past year. Their reflections are also a reminder of how resilience and growth are born from loss and hardship.
These businesses found a way around the worker shortage: A big boost in wages
Across the country, businesses in sectors such as food service and manufacturing that are trying to staff up have been reporting an obstacle to their success — a scarcity of workers interested in applying for low-wage positions.
The issue has raised concerns about the strength of the country’s recovery as coronavirus cases abate, with the economy still down more than 7.5 million jobs compared with before the pandemic.
Republicans have blamed enhanced unemployment benefits for the shortage; Democrats and most labor economists say the issue is the result of a complicated mix of factors, including many schools having yet to fully reopen, lingering concerns about workplace safety and other ways the workforce has shifted during the pandemic.
The experience of 12 business operators interviewed by The Washington Post who raised their minimum wage in the last year points to another element of the equation: the central role that pay — specifically a $15-an-hour minimum starting wage — plays in attracting or dissuading workers right now.
AMA doctors meet amid vocal backlash over racial equity plan
The nation’s largest, most influential doctors’ group is holding its annual policymaking meeting amid backlash over its most ambitious plan ever — to help dismantle centuries-old racism and bias in all realms of the medical establishment.
The dissenters are a vocal minority of physicians, including some white Southern delegates who accuse the American Medical Association of reverse discrimination.
Dr. Gerald Harmon, the group’s incoming president, is a 69-year-old white native of rural South Carolina who knows he isn’t the most obvious choice to lead the AMA at this pivotal time. But he seems intent on breaking down stereotypes and said pointedly in a phone interview, “This plan is not up for debate.’’
The six-day meeting that began Friday is being held virtually because of the pandemic. It offers a chance for doctors to adopt policies that spell out how the AMA should implement its health equity plan. But some white doctors say the plan goes too far.
As virus cases wane, governors weigh ending emergency orders
New coronavirus infections and deaths in the U.S. are down dramatically from earlier highs, though more contagious variants are spreading. Most people are now are at least partially vaccinated, yet lingering hesitancy has slowed the pace and even caused some doses to go to waste.
So is the COVID-19 emergency over, or is it continuing?
That’s the question facing residents and business owners in many states as governors decide whether to end or extend emergency declarations that have allowed them to restrict public gatherings and businesses, mandate masks, sidestep normal purchasing rules and deploy National Guard troops to help administer vaccines.
In many states, those emergency declarations have been routinely extended by governors every few weeks or months since the pandemic began. But those decisions are getting harder to make — and the extensions harder to justify — as circumstances improve and state lawmakers press to restore a balance of power.
Between a pandemic and Black Lives Matter protests, 2020 changed the life trajectories of many college students
As James Innocent watched a mob of thousands storm the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, he said he felt a “call to action” to do something different with his life.
“It just made it very clear that I’m in a country that doesn’t want me here. Whether or not that’s how people feel, that was definitely the message that I felt,” said Innocent, who is biracial. “I think it really forced me to be like, ‘Do I want to be a cog in the machine right now? Do I want to continue doing this? Or do I at least try to make a difference?’”
Innocent said a career change had been on his mind for a while, but the culmination of the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown, the Black Lives Matter movement and the Capitol insurrection pushed him past his breaking point. At age 30, he’s decided to leave his career as a project manager at a technology company and go back to school to earn his master’s degree in psychology.
The verdict is in: No one pandemics like Seattle
The long trial isn’t quite over yet, but one verdict is already in: Nobody knows how to pandemic like Seattle.
Whether it’s our rule-following nature, the demographics of the city, the Seattle “freeze,” our outdoorsiness, our tech culture, our wealth, or maybe just biological or geographic luck, it’s now apparent that something about Seattle made this place an almost perfect redoubt against a once-in-a-lifetime invader.
The news this past week that Seattle has become the “most vaccinated city” — the first of the 30 largest U.S. metros to reach 70% fully vaxxed — is just the capper to a curious 16-month odyssey. We started out as Ground Zero for an infectious disease outbreak, but then watched as it took off and slammed everywhere else much harder than it ever did here.
“It would not have been possible without our residents’ commitment to protecting themselves,” Mayor Jenny Durkan said this past week, about the vaccination news.
Was it something about us? I imagine people in other places also would like to protect themselves. But the story here really is an outlier, even extraordinary, and needs further study.
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