Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Monday, June 14, 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 It is no longer being updated.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 COVID-19 cases continue to decline nationally, some experts warn that regions with low vaccination rates could face another upswing in cases. One reason for the current decline is that people who contracted the disease have developed natural immunity, but their protection may be waning, the Associated Press reported Sunday. Without widespread vaccinations in vulnerable states, the disease could make new inroads.
Here in King County, where more than 75% of people age 16 and older have started vaccinations, library officials announced that all of 50 branches of the King County Library System will be open for in-person visits by July 13.
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.
A Delta pilot left a note behind last March. 435 days later, another pilot found the ‘pandemic time capsule.’
The scene in the desert was “chilling, apocalyptic, surreal” as Delta pilot Chris Dennis arrived to drop off a plane for storage at Southern California Logistics Airport in 2020.
It was March 23, less than two weeks since the fast-spreading coronavirus had been declared a pandemic. Passenger numbers were spiraling. Airlines were slashing flights and laying up their unused planes.
In a Facebook post at the time, Dennis shared photos of what he saw at the airport in Victorville, Calif.: Long rows of Delta and Southwest jets parked on the runways under a cloudy sky. In one, a somber Dennis appeared in the foreground.
“It’s hard to fathom how many aircraft Delta has until you see that many of them parked in one place,” he said later in a Delta news release. “When we got in line, it looked like an optical illusion. It just kept going and going. I don’t know how to describe it — it was shocking.”
The final picture in the Facebook post was of a note penned by Dennis, a first officer, to an unknown eventual audience. Delta called it a “pandemic time capsule” that waited out the past 15 months behind a tray table in the cockpit.
Tokyo organizers roll out final editions of COVID rule books
TOKYO — IOC Vice President John Coates arrived in Tokyo on Tuesday, the same day that organizers and the International Olympic Committee were set to roll out the third and final edition of their so-called Playbooks.
Coates is the International Olympic Committee’s official in charge of overseeing the Tokyo Games. He has been a controversial figure in Japan, saying the postponed Olympics would go ahead even if the country were under a state of emergency.
Organizers confirmed Coates’ arrival from Australia. Officials last week said he would be quarantined for three days, followed by 11 days of restricted activities during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Coates arrives with Tokyo and other parts of Japan under a state of emergency until June 20, but with reported new cases falling and a slow vaccine rollout finally speeding up.
Less than 5% of Japanese have been fully vaccinated.
State warns residents of Washington’s vaccine lottery scams
The phone rings and you’ve just been informed you’re a lucky winner of Washington’s “Shot of a Lifetime” vaccine lottery.
But be cautious of what comes next. And if you start to get an uneasy feeling during your conversation, listen to your gut.
The Washington state Attorney General’s Office is warning recipients to be wary of phony calls after Washington’s Lottery received reports of scammers attempting to use the program to extract personal information from residents.
Anyone who has been vaccinated and logged in the Washington Immunization Information System is automatically entered into the weekly drawings.
Lottery officials will primarily contact winners by phone, though they may reach out by email or text message as a final attempt.
Chinese virologist at center of a pandemic storm speaks out
To a growing chorus of U.S. politicians and scientists, she is the key to whether the world will ever learn if the virus behind the devastating COVID-19 pandemic escaped from a Chinese lab.
Shi Zhengli, a top Chinese virologist, is once again at the center of clashing narratives about her research on coronaviruses at a state lab in Wuhan, the city where the pandemic first emerged.
The idea that the virus may have escaped from a lab had long been widely dismissed by scientists as implausible. Wuhan is a major transportation hub and the city's markets were selling many animal species capable of harboring dangerous pathogens that could jump to humans.
But some scientists say Shi conducted risky experiments with bat coronaviruses in labs that were not safe enough. Shi has denied these accusations and now finds herself defending the reputation of her lab and, by extension, that of her country.
In a rare interview over email, she denounced the suspicions as baseless, including the allegations that several of her colleagues may have been ill before the outbreak emerged.
The speculation boils down to one central question: Did Shi’s lab hold any source of the new coronavirus before the pandemic erupted?
State health officials report 258 new coronavirus cases
The state Department of Health reported 258 new coronavirus cases and 31 fewer deaths — following a data reporting review — on Monday.
The update brings the state's totals to 444,722 cases and 5,782 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. Sunday. Tallies may be higher earlier in the week because new state data isn’t reported on Sundays and COVID-related deaths aren’t reported on the weekends.
The state removed the deaths, which are distributed between April 2020 and April 2021, on Monday after a review found them to not be related to COVID-19, DOH said.
In addition, 24,847 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the virus — 52 new hospitalizations. In King County, the state's most populous, state health officials have confirmed a total of 111,137 COVID-19 diagnoses and 1,614 deaths.
Since vaccinations began in mid-December, the state and health care providers have administered 7,466,229 doses and 46.9% 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 30,004 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.
These businesses found a way around the worker shortage: A big boost in wages
The owners of Klavon’s Ice Cream Parlor had hit a wall.
For months, the 98-year-old confectionary in Pittsburgh couldn’t find applicants for the open positions it needed to fill ahead of warmer weather and, hopefully, sunnier times for the business after a rough year.
The job posting for scoopers — $7.25 an hour plus tips — did not produce a single application between January and March.
So owner Jacob Hanchar decided to more than double the starting wage to $15 an hour, plus tips, “just to see what would happen.”
The shop was suddenly flooded with applications. More than 1,000 piled in over the course of a week.
“It was like a dam broke,” Hanchar said. Media coverage that followed his decision soon pushed other candidates his way.
Extra COVID vaccine may help protect transplant patients
A small study offers the first hint that an extra dose of COVID-19 vaccines just might give some organ transplant recipients a needed boost in protection.
Even as most vaccinated people celebrate a return to near normalcy, millions who take immune-suppressing medicines because of transplants, cancer or other disorders remain in limbo — uncertain how protected they really are. It’s simply harder for vaccines to rev up a weak immune system.
Monday’s study tracked just 30 transplant patients but it’s an important step toward learning if booster doses could help.
Of the 24 patients who appeared to have no protection after the routine two vaccinations, eight of them — a third — developed some virus-fighting antibodies after an extra shot, researchers from Johns Hopkins University reported in Annals of Internal Medicine. And six others who’d had only minimal antibodies all got a big boost from the third dose.
“It’s very encouraging,” said Dr. Dorry Segev, a Hopkins transplant surgeon who helped lead the research.
Read the story here.
Workers push back against hospitals requiring COVID vaccines
Jennifer Bridges, a registered nurse in Houston, is steadfast in her belief that it’s wrong for her employer to force hospital workers like her to get vaccinated against COVID-19 or say goodbye to their jobs. But that’s a losing legal argument so far.
In a stinging defeat, a federal judge bluntly ruled over the weekend that if employees of the Houston Methodist hospital system don’t like it, they can go work elsewhere.
“Methodist is trying to do their business of saving lives without giving them the COVID-19 virus. It is a choice made to keep staff, patients and their families safer. Bridges can freely choose to accept or refuse a COVID-19 vaccine; however, if she refuses, she will simply need to work somewhere else,” U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes wrote in dismissing a lawsuit filed by 117 Houston Methodist workers, including Bridges, over the vaccine requirement. The ruling Saturday in the closely watched legal case over how far health care institutions can go to protect patients and others against the coronavirus is believed to be the first of its kind in the U.S. But it won’t be the end of the debate.
‘Freedom Day’ for England pushed back 4 weeks to July 19
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed Monday that the next planned relaxation of coronavirus restrictions in England will be delayed by four weeks, until July 19, a decision he said will save thousands of lives as the government speeds up its vaccination drive.
In a press briefing, Johnson voiced his confidence that the new date for the lifting of restrictions on social contact will be the final one as the vaccination drive is accelerated to counter the delta variant that scientists reckon is between 40% and 80% more transmissible than the previous dominant strain in the U.K.
“I think it is sensible to wait just a little longer,” he said. “Now is the time to ease off the accelerator, because by being cautious now we have the chance in the next four weeks to save many thousands of lives by vaccinating millions more people.”
He said that by July 19, two-thirds of the adult population will have been double-vaccinated.
New analysis Monday from Public Health England showed that two doses of the main vaccines in the U.K.’s rollout are highly effective against hospitalization from the delta variant, which was first identified in India. It said the Pfizer vaccine is 96% effective against hospitalization after 2 doses while the AstraZeneca jab is 92% effective.
As reopening approaches, many Skagit County restaurants are short-staffed
For more than a year, restaurants have been waiting for the day when they could have full dining rooms again.
With vaccinations increasing and cases declining, that day may come soon. Gov. Jay Inslee has set June 30 as the official statewide reopening date, which may happen earlier if 70% or more of Washingtonians ages 16 and older initiate vaccination.
But in Skagit County, as in the state’s big cities, restaurants face staff shortages — and tourist season looms.
Thinner Mints: Girl Scouts have millions of unsold cookies
The Girl Scouts have an unusual problem this year: 15 million boxes of unsold cookies.
The 109-year-old organization says the coronavirus — not thinner demand for Thin Mints — is the main culprit. As the pandemic wore into the spring selling season, many troops nixed their traditional cookie booths for safety reasons.
The impact will be felt by local councils and troops, who depend on the cookie sales to fund programming, travel, camps and other activities.
Novavax: Large study finds COVID-19 shot about 90% effective
Vaccine maker Novavax said Monday its COVID-19 shot was highly effective against the disease and also protected against variants in a large study in the U.S. and Mexico, potentially offering the world yet another weapon against the virus at a time when developing countries are desperate for doses.
The two-shot vaccine was about 90% effective overall, and preliminary data showed it was safe, the American biotechnology company said. That would put the vaccine about on par with Pfizer’s and Moderna’s.
While demand for COVID-19 shots in the U.S. has dropped off dramatically and the country has more than enough doses to go around, the need for more vaccines around the world remains critical. The Novavax vaccine, which is easy to store and transport, is expected to play an important role in boosting vaccine supplies in the developing world.
As US COVID-19 death toll nears 600,000, racial gaps persist
Jerry Ramos spent his final days in a California hospital, hooked to an oxygen machine with blood clots in his lungs from COVID-19, his 3-year-old daughter in his thoughts.
“I have to be here to watch my princess grow up,” the Mexican American restaurant worker wrote on Facebook. “My heart feels broken into pieces.”
Ramos didn’t live to see it. He died Feb. 15 at age 32, becoming not just one of the nearly 600,000 Americans who have now perished in the coronavirus outbreak but another example of the outbreak’s strikingly uneven and ever-shifting toll on the nation’s racial and ethnic groups.
On the way to the latest round-number milestone, the virus has proved adept at exploiting inequalities in the U.S., according to an Associated Press data analysis.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adjusting for population age differences, estimates that Native Americans, Latinos and Blacks are two to three times more likely than white people to die of COVID-19.
Zambia’s Kenneth Kaunda hospitalized amid virus surge
Zambia’s first president Kenneth Kaunda, 97, has been admitted to hospital, his office announced Monday, as the southern African country battles a surge in COVID-19 cases.
Kaunda asked for “all Zambians and the international community to pray for him as the medical team is doing everything possible to ensure that he recovers,” according to the statement issued by Kaunda’s administrative assistant Rodrick Ngolo.
The short statement did not specify the cause of Kaunda’s illness, but Zambia is experiencing a surge in COVID-19 cases and the country’s founding president was admitted to Maina Soko Medical Center, a treatment center for the disease in the capital, Lusaka.
Zambia’s 7-day rolling average of daily new cases has risen dramatically over the past two weeks.
With surge in virus, Oman faces shortage of hospital beds
Coronavirus infections are surging in the Gulf Arab state of Oman, where health officials warned Monday that hospitals now face an acute shortage of beds amid a lagging vaccine rollout, the spread of highly transmissible variants and relaxed movement restrictions.
The influx of severe infections has forced overwhelmed hospitals nationwide to turn away patients, local media reported. The main COVID-19 field hospital in Muscat, the capital, surpassed 90% occupancy and its intensive care beds are now completely full, said the state-run Omani News Agency. Many smaller hospitals across the country also said they were operating beyond capacity.
Oman’s cases have more than tripled in the past month with severe and critical cases of COVID-19 hitting record highs.
As infections rise, England braces for delay in reopenings
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to disappoint people across England later Monday by saying that restrictions on social contact will remain in place for a few more weeks because of rising infections due to the delta coronavirus variant.
The variant first found in India is estimated by some to be at least 60% more contagious than the previous dominant strain. British scientists have urged the prime minister to err on the side of caution and postpone plans to lift most coronavirus restrictions in England on June 21.
For businesses, particularly those in hospitality and entertainment, any delays to what has been dubbed by the British media as “Freedom Day” will be a massive disappointment. A delay will be a particularly bitter pill for nightclubs, as they have not been allowed to reopen since March 2020.
New hiking trail app designed to help avoid crowded trails in Central Washington
Hiking season is underway in the Pacific Northwest, and there’s a new app for outdoor enthusiasts looking to explore some of Washington state’s most popular trails.
“We had this pandemic that created this need to go outside,” said Mat Lyons, president of Trails, Recreation, Education, Advocacy, Development, or TREAD, a nonprofit that connects people with public lands.
The group has released its TREAD Map App pilot program which will provide real-time trail and recreational data through spring and summer 2021 in Kittitas, Grant, Douglas, Chelan, and Okanagan counties.
Catch up on the past 24 hours
Where you can fly nonstop from Seattle: Now that the State Department has updated its COVID-19 travel advisories, we’ve compiled a list of the 16 international destinations that travelers can get to directly. But hold on: "Can" doesn't mean "should," and it doesn't apply to everyone. Our guide includes essential information about the rules and the virus risk levels for each place. And speaking of travel, Americans will soon be able to return to Ireland.
The Novavax vaccine was highly effective against COVID-19 and also protected against variants in a large study in the U.S. and Mexico, the company said today. This shot is expected to play a key role in low-income countries.
Book lovers, rejoice: Libraries across the Puget Sound area are reopening more branches. Here's what we know.
No one pandemics like Seattle. It's the most vaccinated city, and before that it was the big city with the least COVID-19 cases and deaths, even though it started out as the epicenter. Columnist Danny Westneat looks at whether it's all a fluke — or perhaps there's something about us that made us born to do this.
One family is making up for lost time in a big way now that vaccines have arrived. They gathered recently to party their way through a dozen birthdays, an Easter egg hunt, a toast to a new year … and more. Enjoy the photos.
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