Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Thursday, June 23, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.

Oregon continued on Wednesday to report a modest decline in new cases of COVID-19 but not in positivity rates, a perplexing sign as the latest outbreak appears to wane. In California, an unfamiliar outbreak is taking shape as an influx in new cases is dulled by a relatively low number of deaths.

Meanwhile, Chinese cities, many of which had been in strict lockdown until just a few months ago, are reinstating pandemic countermeasures. The repeated stop-and-go tactics suggest residents could be headed for more of the same.

Coronavirus cases rose last week in Southeast Asia, the Middle East and Europe, the World Health Organization said Wednesday in a weekly report. New cases have been declining since peaking in January.

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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Austria scraps COVID vaccine mandate, says it split society

BERLIN (AP) — Austria’s health minister announced Thursday that the country is scrapping a dormant coronavirus vaccine mandate, saying the measure risked polarizing society and could even lead to fewer people getting the shot.

The government announced plans last year requiring all people aged 18 and over to get vaccinated against COVID-19, the first country in Europe to do so. The law took effect in February but lawmakers suspended the mandate before police were due to enforce it in mid-March.

Health Minister Johannes Rauch said the rise of new virus variants had changed citizens’ perception of the effectiveness and necessity of a vaccination, even among those willing to get the shot.

This could deter them from voluntarily getting booster shots that will help curb the outbreak in the fall, he said.

“The vaccine mandate hinders some people who are generally willing to get the shot from taking the booster, the idea being: I’m not going to be told what to do,” said Rauch.

Read the full story here.

—The Associated Press
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Experts endorse Moderna COVID-19 shots for kids ages 6 to 17

NEW YORK (AP) — An expert panel backed a second COVID-19 vaccine option for kids ages 6 to 17 Thursday.

Advisers to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention voted unanimously to recommend Moderna shots as an option for school-age kids and adolescents. This group has been able to get shots shots made by Pfizer since last year.

The panel’s recommendations usually are adopted by the CDC, and become the government’s guidance for U.S. doctors and their patients.

Last week, the Food and Drug Administration authorized the shots — full-strength doses for children ages 12 to 17 and half-strength for those 6 to 11. The doses are to be given about a month apart.

The FDA also authorized a third dose for kids with significantly weakened immune systems, to be given about a month after the second dose of the primary series. The CDC is expected to recommend the same thing.

Read the full story here.

—MIKE STOBBE, The Associated Press

COVID vaccines saved 20M lives in 1st year, scientists say

Nearly 20 million lives were saved by COVID-19 vaccines during their first year, but even more deaths could have been prevented if international targets for the shots had been reached, researchers reported Thursday.

On Dec. 8, 2020, a retired shop clerk in England received the first shot in what would become a global vaccination campaign. Over the next 12 months, more than 4.3 billion people around the world lined up for the vaccines.

The effort, though marred by persisting inequities, prevented deaths on an unimaginable scale, said Oliver Watson of Imperial College London, who led the new modeling study.

“Catastrophic would be the first word that comes to mind,” Watson said of the outcome if vaccines hadn’t been available to fight the coronavirus. The findings “quantify just how much worse the pandemic could have been if we did not have these vaccines.”

The researchers used data from 185 countries to estimate that vaccines prevented 4.2 million COVID-19 deaths in India, 1.9 million in the United States, 1 million in Brazil, 631,000 in France and 507,000 in the United Kingdom.

Read the full story here.

—CARLA K. JOHNSON, The Associated Press

Birx describes a White House divided on COVID response

WASHINGTON (AP) — A lack of clear, concise and consistent messaging about the seriousness of the novel coronavirus in the earliest months of its spread created a false sense of security among Americans that the pandemic would not be serious and resulted in inaction early on across the federal government.

That was the assessment of Dr. Deborah Birx, who served as the COVID response coordinator under former President Donald Trump and testified for the first time Thursday before a House panel about her time in the Trump administration.

“It wasn’t just the president, many of our leaders, were using words like ‘we could contain,’ and you cannot contain a virus that cannot be seen,” Birx said. “And it wasn’t being seen because we weren’t testing.”

Read the full story here.

—KEVIN FREKING, The Associated Press
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EU regulator authorizes COVID shot made by France’s Valneva

LONDON (AP) — The European Medicines Agency said Thursday it is recommending the authorization of the coronavirus vaccine made by French pharmaceutical Valneva, making it the sixth shot given the green light in Europe.

The EU drug regulator said in a statement that it had cleared Valneva’s two-dose vaccine for people aged 18 to 50. The main study used to assess Valneva’s vaccine was research in about 3,000 people aged 30 and over; scientists compared it to the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine.

Those results showed Valneva’s vaccine triggered the production of higher levels of antibodies than the AstraZeneca vaccine. The EMA said “the (Valneva) vaccine is as effective at triggering the production of antibodies in people aged between 18 and 29 as it is in people aged 30 years and older.”

Read the full story here.

—The Associated Press

Fauci says he’s ‘example’ for COVID-19 vaccinations

WASHINGTON (AP) — Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, says his COVID-19 recovery is an “example” for the nation on the protection offered by vaccines and boosters.

Speaking during a White House briefing, Fauci, 81, said he began experiencing virus symptoms on June 14 and tested positive a day later. He was prescribed the anti-viral drug Paxlovid, which has proven to be highly effective at preventing serious illness and death from COVID-19, on June 15.

“I’m still feeling really quite fine,” Fauci said Thursday, as the administration emphasized the protection offered by vaccines to people of all ages, after the U.S. became the first country in the world to extend vaccine eligibility to children as young as six months.

“I think I’m an example, given my age, of what we’re all talking about today,” Fauci said. “I’m vaccinated. I’m doubly boosted. And I believe if that were not the case, I very likely would not be talking to you looking as well as I look, I think, right now. So all is well with Fauci.”

—The Associated Press

Florida-based grocery chain won’t offer COVID vaccine to youngest kids

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — The Florida-based Publix grocery store chain is not offering the COVID-19 vaccine to children younger than 5 but has not explained its decision.

The supermarket chain with 1,288 stores in seven Southern states was instrumental in distributing the vaccine when it was initially released. Its website indicates it is currently offering the vaccine to adults and children 5 and older.

The company told the Tampa Bay Times that Publix stores won’t offer the vaccine to young children “at this time.” It did not explain the decision or return multiple messages or phone calls to The Associated Press on Thursday.

Read the full story here.

—By Brendan Farrington and Freida Frisaro, The Associated Press
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Nursing director admits lying about fake vaccination cards

A former nursing director pleaded guilty Thursday to lying to federal agents in South Carolina about providing fake COVID-19 vaccination cards.

Tammy Hudson McDonald, who worked at a PruittHealth skilled nursing facility last summer, filled out cards for people she knew had not received the vaccine, according to an investigation by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, FBI and South Carolina Law Enforcement Division.

When authorities confronted McDonald after they were alerted to the fake cards last September, she told federal agents, contrary to the evidence, that she had never given anyone a falsified vaccine card, a Justice Department press release said.

Read the full story here.

—By James Pollard, The Associated Press

UK’s Glastonbury Festival welcomes back fans after pandemic

LONDON (AP) — Thousands of people are returning to England’s Glastonbury Festival as the five-day music and performing arts event reopened Wednesday for the first time in three years after being disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The festival, which is marking its 50th anniversary, has 3,000 performers scheduled, including Billie Eilish, Diana Ross, Kendrick Lamar and Paul McCartney. McCartney’s weekend gig will make him, at age 80, the festival’s oldest solo headline performer.

Read the full story here.

—The Associated Press

Airport chaos: European travel runs into pandemic cutbacks

LONDON (AP) — The airport lines are long, and lost luggage is piling up. It’s going to be a chaotic summer for travelers in Europe.

Liz Morgan arrived at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport 4 1/2 hours before her flight to Athens, finding the line for security snaking out of the terminal and into a big tent along a road before doubling back inside the main building.

“There’s elderly people in the queues, there’s kids, babies. No water, no nothing. No signage, no one helping, no toilets,” said Morgan, who is from Australia and had tried to save time Monday by checking in online and taking only a carry-on bag.

People “couldn’t get to the toilet because if you go out of the queue, you lost your spot,” she said.

After two years of pandemic restrictions, travel demand has roared back, but airlines and airports that slashed jobs during the depths of the COVID-19 crisis are struggling to keep up. With the busy summer tourism season underway in Europe, passengers are encountering chaotic scenes at airports, including lengthy delays, canceled flights and headaches over lost luggage.

Read the full story here.

—The Associated Press
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German volleyball team refuses to play virus-hit China

QUEZON CITY, Philippines — Players on the German national volleyball team refused to face China rivals a few days after some of their opponents tested positive for COVID-19, costing the team a forfeit loss on Thursday.

The men’s Volleyball Nations League game in the Philippines was canceled “even though the Chinese athletes were cleared by local authorities after testing positive,” the International Volleyball Federation said in a statement.

China was awarded a 3-0 victory in Quezon City.

The German volleyball federation said 21 members of the Chinese delegation had tested positive on Saturday. It requested follow-up PCR tests on the Chinese players before agreeing to play but organizers deferred to local health regulations, the federation said.

On Wednesday, China forfeited its game against France because of the virus cases.

Read the full story here.

—The Associated Press