Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Monday, May 21, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.
Faced with the first pandemic of the modern era, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation turned to a tried-and-true playbook to ensure access to COVID-19 vaccines in low- and middle-income countries. But the foundation, which now faces unprecedented criticism, is unlikely to meet even its original, modest goal.
India, hard-hit by the coronavirus pandemic, is now seeing a spike in a rare and often fatal fungal disease. Unprepared for this spring’s devastating COVID-19 second wave, many of India’s hospitals took desperate steps to save lives — steps that may have opened the door to yet another deadly disease.
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.
Watchdog: Nursing home deaths up 32% in 2020 amid pandemic
WASHINGTON — Deaths among Medicare patients in nursing homes soared by 32% last year, with two devastating spikes eight months apart, a government watchdog reported Tuesday in the most comprehensive look yet at the ravages of COVID-19 among its most vulnerable victims.
The report from the inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services found that about 4 in 10 Medicare recipients in nursing homes had or likely had COVID-19 in 2020, and that deaths overall jumped by 169,291 from the previous year, before the coronavirus appeared.
“We knew this was going to be bad, but I don’t think even those of us who work in this area thought it was going to be this bad,” said Harvard health policy professor David Grabowski, a nationally recognized expert on long-term care, who reviewed the report for The Associated Press.
“This was not individuals who were going to die anyway,” Grabowski added. “We are talking about a really big number of excess deaths.”
Seattle City Council approves plan to spend $128 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds
Nearly $130 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds will flow to Seattle residents, programs and businesses under a spending plan approved Monday by the City Council.
Nearly all of the money will come from the American Rescue Plan Act that President Biden signed in March with $12 million more coming from another federal source. Monday’s vote was 9-0.
“This is our chance to build back better and to build back more equitably,” Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda said.
Mayor Jenny Durkan worked with council leaders last month to draft the plan, and the council made minor adjustments. For example, the council earmarked some economic recovery funds for arts institutions and reserved a greater share of business-district grants for neighborhoods outside downtown.
State orders fixes at Seattle schools after finding special education violations during pandemic
The Washington state education department is ordering Seattle Public Schools to make up for excessive delays to in-person instruction and medical care for some disabled students during the pandemic.
Under one of two orders issued earlier this month, the school district must provide a year of after-school tutoring for students who were promised in-person instruction because of their disability but faced significant delays getting it — in one case, up to 21 weeks. The state is currently reviewing the cases of 329 kids to determine who may qualify.
Another order requires the district to meet individually with families of 11 medically fragile students the district declined to compensate for nursing care, and discuss whether reimbursement is necessary.
A state investigation found the school district issued a blanket policy of not paying for nurse care rather than discussing what was necessary for each student. That’s a violation of federal law, which requires school districts to assess the needs of each student individually.
Coworking from your apartment building
Before the pandemic, Tony Dopazo leased an office in Boston and used coworking spaces in New York City for his company, Metro Tech Services, an IT provider for startups and biotech companies. Then the pandemic lockdown forced him, like countless others, to work remotely. That meant he was on the phone with clients from his apartment building in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn.
At first, with the common areas in his rental building closed by COVID restrictions, Dopazo, 47, hunkered down in his one-bedroom, which was “brutal,” he said, “everything mish-mashing into one big blob of time.” But after the common spaces opened in September, he started going down to a coworking area in a ninth-floor lounge every day.
The arrangement affords some “mental separation” from his home, he said, and, with other tenants working in the same space, he has companionship. When he needs to print or scan something, he heads to the ground-level business center. If he’s hungry, he returns to his apartment to make a sandwich, and for a break, he can take a dip in the building’s pool.
Recently, he has noticed that some fellow tenants have swapped their pandemic sweatpants for business attire as they head back to offices. But Dopazo won’t be joining them.
He has terminated his office lease, making his work-at-home arrangement permanent.
“This is the perfect setup for me,” he said.
State health officials report 224 new coronavirus cases
The state Department of Health (DOH) reported 224 new coronavirus cases and 18 new deaths on Monday.
The update brings the state's totals to 447,724 cases and 5,838 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.
In addition, 25,036 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the virus — 34 new hospitalizations. In King County, the state's most populous, state health officials have confirmed a total of 111,556 COVID-19 diagnoses and 1,614 deaths.
Since vaccinations began in mid-December, the state and health care providers have administered 7,658,911 doses and 48.7% 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 27,531 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.
Companies give vaccines to workers, boosting Japan’s rollout
Thousands of Japanese companies began distributing COVID-19 vaccines to workers and their families Monday in an employer-led drive reaching more than 13 million people that aims to rev up the nation’s slow vaccine rollout.
The Tokyo-based beverage maker plans to inoculate 51,500 people, including part-time workers and employees’ families, with the Moderna vaccine.
About 3,500 companies have signed up for the free vaccines, and that number is growing. The companies must present a plan to inoculate at least 1,000 people per site. But they decide whom to include, such as families, affiliate companies and suppliers.
Vaccine technology transfer center to open in South Africa
The World Health Organization is in talks to create the first-ever technology transfer hub for coronavirus vaccines in South Africa, a move to boost supply to the continent that’s desperately in need of COVID-19 shots, the head of the U.N. agency announced.
The new consortium will include drug makers Biovac and Afrigen Biologics and Vaccines, a network of universities and the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. They will develop training facilities for other vaccine makers to make shots that use a genetic code of the spike protein, known as mRNA vaccines.
Africa will soon be able to “take responsibility for the health of our people,” South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said in the press briefing.
Poor countries in Africa and elsewhere are facing dire shortages of COVID-19 jabs despite some countries having the ability to produce vaccines.
Let them eat snacks: COVID aside, students still need to eat and drink in school
After more than a year of virtual school, I returned to (hybrid) in-person learning at Sammamish High School in early April. Like many of my classmates, I had a successful first day back — except for the huge headache I came home with. The reason? Hunger and dehydration.
Working online from home, I’d grown accustomed to being able to run into the kitchen whenever I felt hungry, so going five hours between breakfast and lunch felt like an eternity. As rules and safety precautions filled my brain, my focus quickly dissolved into a pounding head and growling stomach.
Turns out many of my classmates feel the same way. In normal years, most secondary-school classrooms allow students to eat snacks during class, and many students do. However, with concerns regarding contaminated surfaces and the spread of respiratory droplets, the Bellevue School District, as well as many school districts throughout Washington state, chose to prohibit classroom snacking during the pandemic.
For many students, these restrictions have hindered their health and learning.
Canada eases border rules for its citizens and residents
The Canadian government will loosen COVID-19 travel restrictions for its fully vaccinated people amid warnings that a return to a completely open border will take awhile longer.
Canadian citizens and residents who’ve received two shots will be exempt from a 14-day quarantine on arrival to the country, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government said in a statement Monday. Travelers will still need to show they’ve tested negative for COVID-19 before they cross into Canada and take a second test at the border. Those arriving by air, who are currently expected to do the first three days of their quarantine in a hotel, will be exempt from that requirement.
The changes — effective July 5 — are a first, incremental step toward easing restrictions as the government faces mounting impatience to permit more freedom of movement between the U.S. and Canada. A fuller reopening that allows tourist travel to resume won’t happen until 75% of Canadians are fully vaccinated, Trudeau’s border chief said on Sunday.
Youngest adults are least likely to be vaccinated, and their interest in shots is declining, CDC finds
The nation’s youngest adults remain the least likely to be vaccinated against the coronavirus — and their weekly rates of vaccination are declining, according to federal research released Monday.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analyzed adult vaccination rates by age through May 22, finding 80% of adults older than 65 had been immunized compared with just 38.3% of 18- to 29-year-olds.
The percentage of people per week getting a shot stalled after vaccine eligibility opened to all adults in April and has continued to decline. From April 19 to May 22, the percentage of 18- to 29-year-olds being vaccinated dropped from 3.6% a week to 1.9% a week.
Hospitals start requiring workers to get COVID shots
After a Texas federal court sided with a Houston hospital that required workers to get a COVID-19 vaccine or find another job, public health experts predict that most hospitals and medical practices will soon issue similar mandates.
When vaccines first became available in December under an emergency use authorization, hospitals reported that they planned to wait until the U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted full approval of the vaccines before deciding whether to make the shots mandatory.
But in recent weeks, dozens of hospitals and medical groups in Indiana, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Washington, D.C., and elsewhere began issuing vaccination requirements. Public health law experts say the moves are a legal means of ensuring a safe, COVID-19-free environment for patients and workers. Hospitals and other medical groups run a serious legal risk if a patient becomes infected from contact with an unvaccinated worker.
Florida principal crafts personal notes for 459 graduates
A Florida high school principal spent the last several months of the school year crafting personalized notes for each of the 459 graduates and left them on their seats to read before receiving their diplomas.
Matanzas High School principal Jeff Reaves scoured through transcripts, emails and used his own personal memories to prepare the notes in time for the June 2 graduation, The Daytona Beach News Journal reported. He wanted to do something special since their last two years in school were marred by the coronavirus pandemic.
“It was an incredible class of students and I was honored to serve them,” Reaves said.
Parents and teachers have expressed their gratitude to Reaves on the Matanzas High School’s Facebook page.
US hitting encouraging milestones on virus deaths and shots
COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. have dipped below 300 a day for the first time since the early days of the disaster in March 2020, while the drive to put shots in arms approached another encouraging milestone Monday: 150 million Americans fully vaccinated.
The coronavirus was the third leading cause of death in the U.S. in 2020, behind heart disease and cancer, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But now, as the outbreak loosens its grip, it has fallen down the list of the biggest killers.
New cases are running at about 11,400 a day on average, down from over a quarter-million per day in early January. Average deaths per day are down to about 293, according to Johns Hopkins University, after topping out at over 3,400 in mid-January.
About 45% of the U.S. population has been fully vaccinated, according to the CDC, and over 53% of Americans have received at least one dose of vaccine.
Joints for Jabs vaccine program fails to catch in Eastern Washington
More than a week after state officials invited licensed marijuana retail outlets to take an active role in getting more people vaccinated from COVID-19 reports indicate participating shops are a minority.
In the Walla Walla Valley, as of June 14, management of Walla Walla Cannabis Co., on West Main Street, and A Greener Today Marijuana, on West Poplar, say they discussed it but declined.
Kelilah Benavides, who manages 365 Recreational Cannabis in Dayton on Highway 12, said she would like to host a vaccination clinic and offer the incentive, but little is easy for an industry that remains illegal under federal law.
Is it better to get immunity from catching COVID-19 — or from vaccines? What science shows
Research shows both coronavirus infection and vaccination offers immunity that can protect people from getting sick again. But by how much and for how long remains unclear — a scientific gap that only time could fill.
While people can gain immunity from both infection and vaccination, antibodies created from both routes target different parts of the virus, which leads to variations in the quality of protection.
It’s like a coin flip: risk contracting COVID-19 — and potentially becoming a long-hauler — or getting vaccinated. Some argue the final outcome is similar, but one is far more dangerous than the other.
‘Quite a party in the private aviation business’ as rich buyers snap up planes
The coronavirus pandemic has created an overhang of pent-up travel demand and left unspent money burning holes in the pockets of the well-to-do. Put the two together and the result is a hunger for private jets.
Buyers have scooped up so many of the good used planes out there that they’re now getting on waiting lists to purchase new aircraft, said bankers at this week’s Corporate Jet Investor conference.
“There’s been quite a party in the private aviation business in the last 18 months,” Jim Simpson, a senior managing director at First Republic Bank who’s in charge of aircraft and yacht financing, said Thursday. “We had a fabulous year.”
At Citigroup, clients are so flush with cash that many who have never owned an aircraft are thinking of taking the plunge, said Ford von Weise, who heads global aircraft finance at the lender’s private bank. At times, he said, he sees a duty to talk them out of it.
Candice Nakagawa, a senior wealth adviser at MUFG Union Bank, has also preached caution to her clients. Still, that hasn’t stopped them. “They’re itching to get out there. They’ve got excess cash. They have pent-up demand,” she said.
Vaccine hesitancy puts India’s gains against virus at risk
In Jamsoti, a village tucked deep inside India’s most populous state of Uttar Pradesh, the common refrain among the villagers is that the coronavirus spreads only in cities. The deadly infection, they believe, does not exist in villages.
So when a team of health workers recently approached Manju Kol to get vaccinated, she locked up her house, gathered her children and ran to the nearby forest. The family hid there for hours and returned only when the workers left in the evening.
“I would rather die than take the vaccine,” said Kol.
A deadly surge of coronavirus infections that ripped through India in April and May, killing more than 180,000, has tapered off and new cases have declined. But the relief could be fleeting as a significant amount of the population is still reluctant to get the shots. This has alarmed health experts who say vaccine hesitancy, particularly in India’s vast hinterlands, could put the country’s fragile gains against COVID-19 at risk.
Indonesia records its largest 1-day jump in COVID infections
Indonesian health authorities announced the country’s largest one-day jump in new coronavirus infections on Monday, as the number of confirmed cases since the pandemic began crossed 2 million.
The Health Ministry reported 14,536 new infections and 294 deaths, bringing the country’s total confirmed fatalities to more than 54,950. Both the total cases and total deaths are the most in Southeast Asia.
Indonesia, the world’s fourth most populous country, has seen infections surge in recent weeks, a climb that has been blamed on travel and the arrival of new virus variants, such as the the Delta version first found in India. So far only fully vaccinated 12.3 million of Indonesia’s 270 million people have been vaccinated.
Catch up on the past 24 hours
How many people are vaccinated against COVID in your neighborhood? King County has a big vaccination gap, and that matters as we approach the moment this month when the mask directive vanishes. FYI Guy's column maps the most and least vaccinated areas, and everyplace in between.
The delta variant is showing up in a "very substantial" rise in COVID-19 cases in parts of the U.S., and a former FDA chief is concerned about what will happen this fall. Also keeping him up at night: a recent study showing brain tissue shrank in people with COVID-19.
If you're traveling this summer, chances are high that you'll encounter the delta variant. Here's what vaccinated and unvaccinated people should know about it. You can also get a clear picture of where the virus is raging from these pandemic maps.
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