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 It is no longer being updated.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

Washington has been preparing to administer COVID-19 vaccines to children under 5, though Department of Health officials have urged patience, saying sudden demand after federal approval for the vaccinations may outstrip the immediate supply.

Nationally, fewer people are dying of COVID-19 even as infection rates rise, breaking the previous pattern of rising death rates closely following surges in virus prevalence. Scientists say COVID deaths remain low because so many Americans have been vaccinated, previously infected, or both — though the virus is still killing an average of over 300 Americans each day.

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.

U.S. begins vaccinating youngest children against COVID

Eighteen months after a New York nurse received the first U.S. coronavirus vaccination, immunizations became available Tuesday for about 19 million children between the ages of 6 months and 5 years, the last group of Americans to be afforded that protection.

Pediatricians, drugstores, hospitals and community vaccination centers began to administer first doses of two vaccines to children: the Pfizer-BioNTech product to children ages 6 months through 4 years; and the Moderna vaccine to children 6 months through 5 years old.

President Joe Biden spoke at the White House Tuesday afternoon, calling the development “a very historic milestone, a monumental step forward.” He said the United States is now the first nation to offer vaccine to children as young as six months and urged parents to get their children vaccinated. Biden earlier visited a city-run coronavirus center where vaccines were being offered to children.

Read the full story here.

—Lenny Bernstein and Daniel Wu, The Washington Post
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‘It always wins’: North Korea may declare COVID-19 victory

SEOUL, South Korea — It’s only been a month since North Korea acknowledged having a COVID-19 outbreak, after steadfastly denying any cases for more than two years. But already it may be preparing to declare victory.

North Korea’s official virus numbers, experts believe, have as much to do with propaganda to boost leader Kim Jong Un as with a true picture of what’s happening in the country, and there’s widespread doubt about their accuracy.

A victory lap, however, isn’t a foregone conclusion. Doing so, according to some experts, would deprive Kim of a useful tool to control the public and could open the government up to humiliation if cases continue.

Read the full story here.

—Hyung-Jin Kim, Associated Press

Biden visits clinic, celebrates COVID shots for kids under 5

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden visited a vaccination clinic Tuesday to celebrate that virtually all Americans can now get a COVID-19 shot Tuesday after the authorization of vaccines for kids under 5 over the weekend.

“The United States is now the first country in the world to offer safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines for children as young as six months old,” Biden said at the White House.

Addressing parents, Biden said, “I encourage you to talk to the doctor after you make a plan to get your child vaccinated.”

Read the full story here.

—Josh Boak and Zeke Miller, Associated Press

Chinese omicron study renews debate over zero-COVID policy

A new Chinese study about the relatively low risks associated with the omicron variant of the coronavirus has reignited discussion about whether the country’s aggressive response to COVID-19 cases is necessary.

Under the country’s “zero COVID” policy — which shut down Shanghai for almost two months — a single positive test result can set off a lockdown of an entire apartment complex, confining hundreds and even thousands of residents to their homes for weeks with very little notice. When someone tests positive for the coronavirus, residents within a certain proximity might be ordered to take tests for three straight days to be cleared as a low health risk.

The lockdowns and constant testing have brought the Chinese economy to a standstill while fueling resentment among parts of the population that say the measures are excessive.

Read the full story here.

—Daisuke Wakabayashi, The New York Times
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Broadway theaters drop their mask mandate starting in July

NEW YORK — In another sign that the world of entertainment is returning to pre-pandemic normal, Broadway theaters will no longer demand audiences wear masks starting in July.

The Broadway League announced Tuesday that mask-wearing will be optional next month onward, a further loosening of restrictions.

Read the full story here.

—Mark Kennedy, Associated Press

Hong Kong’s new health chief staunchly defends COVID Zero

For Hong Kong residents hoping the city will end its strict quarantine policies soon, the city's new health secretary isn't likely to inspire confidence.

Lo Chung-mau, approved by Beijing over the weekend as part of new Chief Executive John Lee's Cabinet, made headlines in February saying that Hong Kong needed to maintain COVID Zero because living with the virus would "get us all killed." At the time, he said the U.S. and Europe were only easing restrictions because they failed to control COVID-19.

Lo appeared to soften his tone in his first meeting with the press on Sunday, saying that not all of the mainland's COVID-19 policies would be right for Hong Kong. He pledged to carry out "evidence-based COVID policies" so that Hong Kong can reconnect both to the international community and to mainland China, repeating a line frequently uttered by other city officials.

"By using scientific, effective and precise control measures, the maximum results can be achieved with minimum cost," Lo said, invoking a slogan that often appears in Chinese President Xi Jinping's speeches and Communist Party propaganda.

Lo, 61, will be a key figure in determining whether Hong Kong finally shifts away from the hard-line COVID policies that have left the one-time financial hub cut off from the world even as main rival Singapore fully opens up. Besides a seven-day quarantine for travelers, the city still forces some mildly infected cases and close contacts into spartan isolation camps, while issuing near-daily compulsory testing notices to thousands of people.

Read the full story here.

—Bloomberg News

Citing disastrous U.S. pandemic response, experts to call for overhaul of public health system

A bipartisan panel of health experts will call on Tuesday for an overhaul of the American public health system that would greatly expand the role of the federal government, giving Washington the authority to set minimum health standards and coordinate a patchwork of nearly 3,000 state, local and tribal agencies.

The recommendations flow from what the panel, the Commonwealth Fund Commission on a National Public Health System, described as the inadequacies and inequities of the United States’ response to the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed more than 1 million Americans.

But in a report to be released Tuesday, the panel said it also wanted to address the failures of the nation’s public health agencies to protect Americans from other health risks, including drug overdoses, diabetes and maternal mortality.

In recommending the creation of a new “national public health system,” the bipartisan panel, financed by the Commonwealth Fund, a nonprofit research group focused on health care issues, is dipping its toe in contentious political waters.

Read the full story here.

—Sheryl Gay Stolberg, The New York Times
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Michigan set to pay $200,000 on 2020 lawsuit over Gov. Whitmer’s pandemic orders

DETROIT — The state of Michigan will pay about $200,000 in attorney fees and costs in relation to a lawsuit that toppled Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s emergency powers more than six months into the pandemic.

U.S. District Judge Paul Maloney signed off on a stipulated order Friday awarding attorney fees and costs to the Mackinac Center for Public Policy more than a year and a half after the center represented medical providers and a patient suing the state over an executive order that required the facilities to delay nonessential services during the pandemic.

Maloney’s order did not include the amount awarded, but the Mackinac Center said in a Monday statement that the total amounted to $200,000. The governor and Attorney General Dana Nessel continue to deny liability, the center said.

Read the full story here.

—Beth LeBlanc, The Detroit News

Arbitrator orders Chrysler and Dodge manufacturer to end its Canadian vaccine mandate

Chrysler and Dodge maker Stellantis NV must end its COVID-19 vaccine mandate for Canadian employees after an arbitrator determined the policy is now unreasonable because of waning efficacy against the omicron variant.

The decision issued Saturday has the potential to affect more than 300 employees who have been placed on unpaid leave since January for being unvaccinated or declining to disclose their vaccination status, according to the arbitrator’s decision.

After Stellantis announced the requirement for employees and visitors at its Canadian facilities in October alongside General Motors and Ford Motor, it was implemented on Dec. 17 after discussions with Unifor, the Canadian autoworkers union. Unifor Local 444 and Local 1285, which represent employees making the Chrysler Pacifica minivan at Windsor Assembly Plant and Dodge muscle cars and Chrysler 300 sedan at Brampton Assembly Plant in Ontario, respectively, filed a grievance over the policy.

Read the full story here.

—Breana Noble, The Detroit News

How China’s COVID lockdowns may be saving Americans money

Warehouses in China and the U.S. are stuffed with unsold televisions, refrigerators and sofas, a shared sign of diverging pandemic recoveries that could herald renewed pressure on global supply chains and shake up the selection of goods in American stores.

Merchandise is piling up for different reasons in each country.

In the U.S., consumers are spending more on in-person experiences like restaurant meals rather than on accumulating goods, as they did last year, a switch that left retail stockpiles at a record high.

Chinese inventories are rising due to the government’s “zero-COVID” policy, which depressed consumer spending in recent months while allowing factories to keep producing. Inventories of finished goods in April equaled more than 21 days of sales for the first time in at least 12 years, according to Capital Economics, a research consultancy.

Read the full story here.

—David J. Lynch, The Washington Post
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U.S. children can get COVID vaccines Tuesday, but hurdles remain

Parents who experienced more than two years of anxiety may feel some relief Tuesday, as much of the U.S. begins administering coronavirus vaccines to children younger than 5, allowing babies and toddlers to more safely explore the world.

“We’re very excited,” said Rachel Lumen, a lawyer in Kent, and the mother of Athena, who is almost 3, and Ozette, who is 7 months old. “The faster it happens, the faster we’re able to get out there.”

Last week, after multiple delays, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention signed off on Moderna and Pfizer vaccines for children as young as 6 months, expanding immunization to almost all Americans.

“It marks an important moment in the pandemic because it was the last group, the last demographic, that had not had the opportunity to keep themselves maximally safe,” said Dr. Bob Wachter, chair of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. “It’s not likely to turn the tide in terms of where we are generally in the pandemic, but for the parents of those kids, it’s an important watershed.”

The start of vaccination for young children is a milestone, but that group never faced as much risk from COVID-19 as older Americans, and this phase of the nation’s immunization effort has been met with mixed emotions.

Read the full story here.

—Jill Cowan, The New York Times