Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Wednesday, June 2, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.
With vaccinations climbing, recreational travel is starting to become a reality for some, but not all. Yesterday, Greece and Germany started issuing “vaccination travel certificates” for travelers who are fully vaccinated, have antibodies or have a negative test. New York also introduced the country’s first vaccination passport, which comes in the form of QR code.
However, immunocompromised people living in Seattle say they still cannot enjoy activities like dining indoors or attending church. Nursing homes are also still struggling with outbreaks and deaths, though they are less severe than at the height of the pandemic.
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.
Rick Steves tells us what to expect when Europe reopens to tourists this summer
Europe is sorta-kinda opening back up to U.S. travelers, but Rick Steves — the American king of European travel — suggests we bide our time.
For those with the money and the inclination, that could be tough. Just hearing the words “Europe” and “travel” might trigger a little late-pandemic reverie: day hikes to ancient, sunbaked monasteries where choirs have been singing hymns since the bubonic plague; rediscovering your buoyancy in the salty Mediterranean; marveling at French museums (by day) and French rappers (by night); cooling down in a quiet Czech alehouse whose stone walls have seen and heard 400 years of human stories.
All that is waiting for us, Steves said in a recent interview — but we should also wait for it.
Summer camps reopen to a stampede of stressed-out parents
Pandemic-induced challenges and a fevered hunt for child care are making the lead-up to this year’s summer-camp season the most stressful ever.
The old-fashioned American institution serves a particularly important role this year, not only freeing parents to jump back into their own jobs, but providing children social and psychological relief after more than a year stuck at home in front of computer screens. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week loosened its guidance in hopes of allowing as normal a summer as possible.
“As of now, my kiddo is on three waitlists,” said Molly Martin, a mother from Hinesburg, Vermont, in search of summer care for her 6-year-old daughter Varya. “I was able to find a camp with an opening, but it’s a two-hour round trip, so I’m hoping one of the waitlist camps will open up.”
At Washington state’s Four Winds Westward Ho on Orcas Island, which offers $1,600-per-week sessions that include horseback riding, archery and sailing on a 61-foot yawl, parents of second-, third- and even fourth-generation campers have tried to nudge their offspring higher on the waitlist.
When next pandemic hits, new science chief wants vaccine ready in 100 days
The new White House science adviser wants to have a vaccine ready to fight the next pandemic in just about 100 days after recognizing a potential viral outbreak.
In his first interview after being sworn in Wednesday, Eric Lander painted a rosy near future where a renewed American emphasis on science not only better prepares the world for the next pandemic with plug-and-play vaccines, but also changes how medicine fights disease and treats patients, curbs climate change and further explores space. He even threw in a “Star Trek” reference.
“This is a moment in so many ways, not just health, that we can rethink fundamental assumptions about what’s possible and that’s true of climate and energy and many areas,” Lander told The Associated Press.
Lander took his oath of office on a 500-year-old fragment of the Mishnah, an ancient Jewish text documenting oral traditions and laws. He is the first director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy to be promoted to Cabinet level.
Federal stimulus checks substantially reduced hardship, study shows
In offering most Americans two more rounds of stimulus checks in the past six months, totaling $2,000 per person, the federal government effectively conducted a huge experiment in safety net policy. Supporters said a quick, broad outpouring of cash would ease the economic hardships caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Skeptics called the policy wasteful and expensive.
A new analysis of Census Bureau surveys argues that the two latest rounds of aid significantly improved Americans’ ability to buy food and pay household bills and reduced anxiety and depression, with the largest benefits going to the poorest households and those with children.
Among households with children, reports of food shortages fell 42% from January through April. A broader gauge of financial instability fell 43%. Among all households, frequent anxiety and depression fell by more than 20%.
The study does not address the critics’ main complaints: that the spending swelled the deficit, that much of the money went to economically stable families who did not really need it and that the checks were part of a pattern of aid over the last year that left some people with less incentive to find jobs.
Japan gives $800M to UN-backed COVID-19 vaccine program
Japan’s prime minister announced Wednesday an additional $800 million contribution to the U.N.-backed initiative to provide COVID-19 vaccines to poor countries, a four-fold increase of Japanese funding for the COVAX program.
The pledge by Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga comes as his government attempts to accelerate vaccinations in Japan, one of the world’s least inoculated countries, only about 50 days before it hosts the Olympics amid a continuing surge in infections.
UK hits vaccine milestone, warns of ‘deadly’ misinformation
Three-quarters of Britain’s adult population has received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, the government said Wednesday, as it warned that “deadly” misinformation was undermining the global inoculation effort.
The Department of Health said that 75.2% of people 18 and over in the U.K. have received a shot, and 49.5% are fully vaccinated after two doses.
Britain is racing to vaccinate all adults and curb a more contagious delta variant of the virus, which was first identified in India and is spreading rapidly in the U.K.
British Health Secretary Matt Hancock called the 75% milestone a big step forward, but he warned that “a worldwide pandemic of misinformation” threatened the vaccination campaign.
“The speed of misinformation is a deadly threat,” Hancock said at an international meeting organized by Britain to encourage vaccine uptake.
State health officials confirm 703 new coronavirus cases
The state Department of Health (DOH) reported 703 new coronavirus cases and 12 new deaths on Wednesday.
The update brings the state's totals to 437,677 cases and 5,801 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. Tuesday.
In addition, 24,315 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the virus — 61 new hospitalizations. In King County, the state's most populous, state health officials have confirmed a total of 109,819 COVID-19 diagnoses and 1,588 deaths.
Since vaccinations began in mid-December, the state and health care providers have administered 7,071,595 doses and 43.34% 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 29,203 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.
Romania launches drive to vaccinate 12 to 15-year-olds
Romania on Wednesday started administering COVID-19 vaccines to young teenagers aged 12 to 15, after the European Medicines Agency approved use of the Pfizer jab last week for that age group in the 27-nation European Union.
National vaccination committee chief Valeriu Gheorghita said more than 2,100 appointments were made for children in the past 24 hours via the online national booking platform.
Since launching its vaccination campaign, Romania has administered nearly 8 million vaccine doses to its population of more than 19 million. But just 3.7 million people have so far been fully inoculated.
World Health Organization OKs China’s Sinovac Vaccine
The World Health Organization has cleared a coronavirus vaccine made by the Chinese pharmaceutical company Sinovac for emergency use, the agency announced on Tuesday.
The decision, which comes about a month after the agency authorized another Chinese vaccine, made by Sinopharm, for emergency use, means that Sinovac’s vaccine can potentially be included in Covax, a worldwide initiative to supply coronavirus vaccines to low-income countries.
There is dire need for vaccines in countries and regions where the virus is surging, like India, much of Southeast Asia and South America. Adding another vaccine to the distribution calculus could help meet that demand.
Sinovac’s vaccine, called CoronaVac, was developed using inactivated viruses, a technique that has been in use for over a century.
Clinical trials of CoronaVac in Brazil and Turkey showed that the vaccine protected against COVID-19. The vaccine has already been approved for use in 29 countries, including China, Brazil and Mexico, according to the Our World in Data project at the University of Oxford.
Germany probes possible fraud after surge in testing centers
German authorities are investigating allegations of fraud involving the massive rollout of free coronavirus tests, which are being carried out now in converted cellphone stores, beauticians and art galleries across the country.
Germans have to present a negative test result in order to enter non-essential stores, visit restaurants or bars, or attend small-scale cultural events. The government pays for one free test per person each week, which has led to a proliferation of more than 15,000 businesses offering antigen tests that provide results within 20 minutes.
“There is the suspicion, a very well-founded suspicion after everything I’ve seen, that there’s also been fraud,” Jens Spahn, the country’s health minister, said Tuesday.]
Free beer, other new incentives for Biden’s ‘vaccine sprint’
President Joe Biden is announcing a “month of action” to urge more Americans to get vaccinated for COVID-19 before the July 4 holiday, with an early summer sprint of incentives, including free beer, childcare and sports tickets to persuade Americans to roll up their sleeves.
In a Wednesday afternoon address from the White House, Biden is to announce a slew of new steps to ease barriers to vaccinations and to make getting shots more appealing to those who haven’t received doses.
He is closing in on his goal to get 70% of adults at least partially vaccinated by Independence Day — essential to his aim of returning the nation to a pre-pandemic sense of normalcy this summer.
Ohio ready to announce 2nd Vax-a-Million incentive winners
Ohio residents who were recently vaccinated may want to answer their phone Wednesday even if the number isn’t familiar. It might be Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine on the other end.
The Ohio Lottery planned to announce the next winners of the state’s Vax-a-Million vaccination incentive prizes at 7:29 p.m. Wednesday at the end of the lottery’s Cash Explosion TV show.
Wednesday is also the day that the last statewide orders meant to slow the spread of the coroanvirus expire, including—for unvaccinated individuals—the statewide mask order and social distancing requirements—and limits on restaurant table seating. DeWine continues to urge people to get the COVID-19 vaccine and to wear masks if not vaccinated.
The only virus-related restrictions that will remain in place after Wednesday are those involving nursing homes and assisted living facilities. But businesses and schools will still be able to require masks and social distancing, if they choose to do so.
Vaccine protection may diminish need for yearly boosters
Scientists have found clues that the world’s leading COVID-19 vaccines offer lasting protection that could diminish the need for frequent booster shots, but they caution that more research is needed and that virus mutations are still a wild card.
Critical studies are underway, and evidence is mounting that immunity from the mRNA vaccines made by Pfizer and Moderna does not depend exclusively on antibodies that dwindle over time. The body has overlapping layers of protection that offer backup.
Some experts say boosters may be needed only every few years. They point to ways the immune system remembers the coronavirus so that once original antibodies fade, the body’s defenses can swing back into action if a person is exposed again.
Costco brings back popular food samples, another sign that life is returning to pre-pandemic normal
Shoppers go to Costco for the low prices, the selection — and the food samples.
The box-box chain’s popular perk has been gone for the past year, due to COVID-19 precautions, but now it’s about to make a comeback.
The retailer announced it is “beginning a phased return to full sampling” in June, Costco chief financial officer Richard Galanti said Thursday on an earnings call.
“As you all know, we eliminated our popular food sampling and demo activities in our warehouses last March at the onset of the pandemic,” Galanti said on the call, reports The Kansas City Star. “I’m happy to report that over the next couple of weeks we will be beginning a phased return to full sampling.”
AstraZeneca starts deliveries of Thailand-made vaccines
AstraZeneca’s partner in Thailand on Wednesday began its first deliveries of COVID-19 vaccines after concerns they were behind on their production schedules for the country and parts of Southeast Asia.
Siam Bioscience said the first locally produced AstraZeneca doses were delivered to Thailand’s Ministry of Health ahead of the June 7 start of the country’s official mass vaccination program.
So far, less than 4% of the country’s roughly 69 million people have received at least one vaccine dose. The government wants to fully inoculate about 70% of the population by the end of the year.
UK’s Heathrow Airport opens terminal for high-risk travelers
A terminal at London’s Heathrow Airport that was mothballed because of the coronavirus pandemic reopened Tuesday to serve passengers arriving from high-risk countries — an action that critics said was long overdue.
Britain has barred travelers from a “red list” of 43 coronavirus hotspots including India, Brazil, Turkey and South Africa, fearing they could bring in worrisome virus variants. U.K. citizens and residents who return from those countries face a mandatory 10-day supervised quarantine in a government-approved hotel.
Critics, however, have complained that red list passengers have been using the same airport arrivals hall as thousands of travelers from other destinations.
Catch up on the past 24 hours
Far more fans will soon be able to attend Mariners games. The team got permission to roughly double seating capacity at T-Mobile Park, and games at full capacity likely aren't far behind. Fans should be aware of some new rules.
Europe is opening up to U.S. travelers, but that doesn’t mean we should all rush to book flights, says Rick Steves, the Edmonds-based travel king. He’s talking about what to expect. Seven European countries got a jump yesterday, launching a vaccine certificate system for travelers.
Will our nation's first government-issued vaccine passport catch on? Plenty of eyes are on New York, where a magic ticket is raising hopes and new worries.
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