Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Thursday, June 16, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.

Food and Drug Administration advisers voted unanimously in recommending that COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna be accessible to U.S. children under five.

The agency could officially authorize the vaccines by next week.

Beginning June 20, Canadians traveling within the country will no longer need to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination due in part to the country’s high vaccination rates.

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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Chinese city may have used a COVID app to block protesters, drawing an outcry

Since the pandemic’s early days, China has used mobile apps to identify and isolate people who might be spreading COVID. Now, a central Chinese city may have shown a far more troubling use of that data: stopping would-be protesters.

Dozens of people from across China had set off for the city of Zhengzhou days ago to protest the freezing of their savings amid an investigation into several regional banks. But when they arrived in the city, many found that the so-called health codes on their phones had turned from green — meaning good — to red, a designation that would prevent them from moving freely.

Tom Zhang, the owner of a textile business in the eastern province of Zhejiang, said that this happened to him when he was on a train headed to Zhengzhou on Sunday, despite coming from a town where there had been no COVID cases. Upon arriving in the city, Zhang said, he was stopped by police and told his red code — usually suggesting an infection or close contact — indicated he posed a public health risk. He said the Zhengzhou police held him in a local library for around 12 hours.

“The red code was definitely used to limit us depositors,” Zhang said in a phone interview. “It was a complete absurdity.”

Read the full story here.

—Joy Dong, The New York Times
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Shanghai to mass-test whole city weekly to keep COVID at bay

Shanghai, which reported just 16 COVID-19 cases for Wednesday, will conduct mass-testing drives every weekend until the end of July in the latest display of the lengths authorities are going to in order to maintain a zero-tolerance approach to the virus that’s disrupting its economy and leaving it isolated.

A temporary lockdown will also be imposed on residential complexes where a COVID case is detected in the week leading up to the weekend testing, Zhao Dandan, an official with the Shanghai Municipal Health Commission, said at a briefing Wednesday. The lockdown will be lifted once everyone in the compound has been tested, he said.

In an effort to detect cases early and break transmission chains, the city’s residents will need to take nucleic acid tests at least once a week until the end of July, with workers at supermarkets, barbers, drugstores, shopping malls and restaurants required to undergo daily testing. Delivery workers need to take both a nucleic acid and rapid antigen tests every day. Staff at banks, gas companies and industrial entities should also do an antigen test every day.

The latest policy measure in China’s financial hub, which emerged from a bruising two-month lockdown earlier this month, shows the government’s increasing reliance on frequent mass testing to stick to its COVID Zero stance in the face of the hyper-infectious omicron variant. Tens of thousands of lab testing booths are being set up across large cities to allow frequent swabbing to help uncover infection chains early and avert economically-crushing lockdowns. The country reported just 80 local cases nationwide on Wednesday.

Read the full story here.

—Bloomberg News

Being ‘fully vaccinated’ but not boosted doesn’t prevent omicron, study finds

Two shots of COVID-19 vaccine without an additional booster offer essentially no lasting protection against infection with omicron, and a coronavirus infection is as effective as a recent booster shot in preventing a new omicron-fueled illness, researchers reported Wednesday.

At the same time, any immunity to the highly contagious variant, either from infection or vaccination, appears to offer significant and lasting protection against serious illness, hospitalization and death, the researchers found. And if you haven’t had either the virus or the vaccine, doctors urged, it’s better to get the jab.

The results, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, provide some of the best understanding to date on the longevity of different types of coronavirus immunity and offer insight into the future of the pandemic.

“COVID-19 is going to stay with us essentially forever. It’s not really going to disappear. But the question will be: Will we be able to live with it somehow?” said Laith Jamal Abu-Raddad, an infectious disease epidemiologist at Weill Cornell Medicine-Qatar and a co-author of the study. “And the initial results we are getting are actually very encouraging.”

Read the full story here.

— Corinne Purtill, Los Angeles Times

Anti-vaccine doctor sentenced to prison for Capitol riot

A California doctor who is a leading figure in the anti-vaccine movement was sentenced on Thursday to two months in prison for storming the U.S. Capitol, where she delivered speeches to rioters during the mob’s attack.

U.S. District Judge Christopher Cooper in Washington, D.C., also sentenced Dr. Simone Gold to 12 months of supervised release after her 60-day prison term and ordered her to pay a $9,500 fine. She can report to prison at a date to be determined.

Gold, a former emergency room physician, said she deeply regrets entering the Capitol during the riot on Jan. 6, 2021, and didn’t intend to get involved in an event that was “so destructive to our nation.”

Read the story here.

—Michael Kunzelman, The Associated Press
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COVID-19 testing provider closing its public sites in Alaska

One of Alaska’s largest private COVID-19 testing providers plans to close its public testing sites in the state by the end of June.

The decision by Capstone Clinic is mainly driven by financial considerations, Matt Jones, Capstone’s director of non-clinical operations, told the Anchorage Daily News.

Jones said it began with an abrupt move by the federal government earlier this year to no longer cover the costs of COVID-19 tests or treatments for those without health insurance. Low testing volume in recent weeks compounded the financial concerns, he said.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

N. Korea reports another disease outbreak amid COVID-19 wave

North Korea reported a new “epidemic” of an intestinal disease on Thursday, an unusual announcement from the secretive country that is already contending with a COVID-19 outbreak and severe economic turmoil.

It’s unclear how many people are infected in what the official Korean Central News Agency said was “an acute enteric epidemic” in southwestern Haeju city.

The agency didn’t name the disease, but enteric refers to intestinal illnesses, such as typhoid, dysentery and cholera, which are caused by germs in contaminated food or water or contact with the feces of infected people. Such diseases routinely occur in North Korea, where there is a shortage of water treatment facilities and the public health system has been largely broken for decades.

Read the story here.

—Hyung-Jin Kim, The Associated Press

WHO: COVID-19 deaths rise, reversing a 5-week decline

After five weeks of declining coronavirus deaths, the number of fatalities reported globally increased by 4% last week, according to the World Health Organization.

In its weekly assessment of the pandemic issued on Thursday, the U.N. health agency said there were 8,700 COVID-19 deaths last week, with a 21% jump in the Americas and a 17% increase in the Western Pacific.

WHO said coronavirus cases continued to fall, with about 3.2 million new cases reported last week, extending a decline in COVID-19 infections since the peak in January. Still, there were significant spikes of infection in some regions, with the Middle East and Southeast Asia reporting increases of 58% and 33% respectively.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press