Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Friday, May 25, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.
A new government data analysis is showing nearly all COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. now are in people who weren’t vaccinated, a staggering demonstration of how effective the shots have been and an indication that deaths per day could be practically zero if everyone eligible got the vaccine.
Meanwhile, the number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits dropped last week, a sign that layoffs declined and the job market is improving.
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.
Inslee lifts COVID-19 capacity restrictions for public buildings amid heat wave
OLYMPIA — With dangerous heat ensconcing itself in Washington, Gov. Jay Inslee Friday lifted COVID-19 capacity restrictions for cooling centers run by governments and nonprofits.
Temperatures are expected to surpass 100 degrees Sunday and reach a record-breaking high Monday of 104 degrees, according to a National Weather Service warning.
In a statement Friday afternoon, the governor said that heat would put state residents “at high to very high risk of heat-related effects.”
“I want to ensure that local jurisdictions have flexibility in options that can provide relief from the heat,” Inslee added.
Cooling centers allowed to lift capacity restrictions are those administered, created or designated by a local, county or state agency, or a nonprofit organization, according to the statement.
What changes should we keep after the pandemic, to advance equity?
As we tentatively look ahead to life post-pandemic, what are some of the changes and adaptations we should hang onto in a post-pandemic society to leave us with a more equitable world? For example, should we continue to allow flexible work arrangements so working parents can better care for children? Should we continue to wear masks when we are sick, to keep each other healthy?
Please click here to share your ideas for changes we implemented during the pandemic that we should keep, or other suggestions for how we could come out of the pandemic more equitably than we started. You can also email firstname.lastname@example.org to share your thoughts.
Thailand isolates construction workers to curb virus spread
As Thailand struggles to slow its worst wave of coronavirus infections, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha announced Friday a one-month lockdown of camps where construction workers are housed in Bangkok and nine other areas.
Construction workers will be isolated in camps in Bangkok and five neighboring provinces, and in the country’s four southernmost provinces, all virus hotspots.
The situation has become critical as the number of hospital beds in Bangkok for seriously ill COVID-19 patients runs short despite the creation of several field hospitals.
Bangkok currently has 107 virus clusters, mainly in crowded communities and at construction camps, factories and markets, said Apisamai Srirangsan, deputy spokesperson for the government’s Center for COVID-19 Situation Administration. Of them, 25 of the clusters have been active for more than 28 days.
Is Japan’s remarkable vaccine drive in time for Olympics?
After months of frustration and delay, Japan has hit the remarkable benchmark of 1 million vaccines a day. But with the Olympics set to start in less than a month, and only a small portion of the country vaccinated, a question lingers: Is it enough?
The vaccination pace is quickening even as the young remain hesitant amid an anti-vaccination misinformation campaign and officials have slowed vaccination reservations as demand outpaces supply.
The acceleration is causing worries about a supply shortage, and further progress is now uncertain. Taro Kono, the minister in charge of inoculations, on Wednesday abruptly announced a temporary suspension of many new vaccination reservations, saying vaccine distribution cannot keep pace with demand.
“It’s a tightrope situation,” Kono said.
Seattle, King County officials shutter COVID-19 testing and vaccination sites because of heat
Several COVID-19 testing and vaccination sites in Seattle and King County will be closed or are closing early this weekend due to excessive heat, according to health officials.
In Seattle, the community testing site on Aurora Avenue and the Sodo testing and vaccination site will close at 12 p.m. Monday, according to the Seattle Fire Department. Also, the vaccine pop-up at BluWater Bistro in Leschi will be canceled on Monday because of the heat, fire officials said.
Testing sites in Auburn, Enumclaw and Tukwila will be closed Saturday through Monday, with additional sites closed Sunday, according to Public Health — Seattle & King County.
For more information about individual testing sites in King County, click here.
Kitsap County cancels 3 vaccination clinics due to excessive heat
Kitsap County is canceling three of its upcoming COVID-19 vaccination sites this weekend and early next week due to extreme heat, the county public health department said Friday.
Vaccination clinics at Poulsbo Farmers Market and a Habitat For Humanity event in East Bremerton will be canceled Saturday, and another at Olympic College in Poulsbo will be canceled Tuesday.
The public health department is calling patients who had appointments at those sites and said it will help in finding replacement appointments if needed, according to a statement from Kitsap Public Health.
For questions about the cancellations, residents can call 360-728-2219 or email email@example.com.
Wisconsin’s Johnson to tout claims of vaccine side effects
Republican U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, a vocal critic of COVID-19 vaccine mandates, announced plans Friday to hold a news conference bringing together people who claim to have had adverse reactions to the vaccine, including the wife of a former Green Bay Packer player.
Johnson, who has also advocated for alternative and unproven treatments for COVID-19, said the Monday event in Milwaukee will allow people from across the country to tell their stories and concerns he said have been “repeatedly ignored” by the medical community.
Johnson, who has no medical training or expertise, hasn’t been vaccinated, saying he doesn’t think he has to because he had the virus last year and formed natural antibodies. He has said he’s “just asking questions” and isn’t against vaccines, but doctors and other critics have blasted him for spreading misinformation.
State health officials report 481 new coronavirus cases
The state Department of Health (DOH) reported 481 new coronavirus cases and 4 new deaths on Friday.
The update brings the state's totals to 449,983 cases and 5,902 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. Thursday.
In addition, 25,355 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the virus — 31 new hospitalizations. In King County, the state's most populous, state health officials have confirmed a total of 112,265 COVID-19 diagnoses and 1,652 deaths.
Since vaccinations began in mid-December, the state and health care providers have administered 2,761,378 doses and 60% 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 21,888 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.
Merkel: Europe ‘on thin ice’ amid delta virus variant rise
Europe is “on thin ice” in its battle against COVID-19, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Thursday as EU leaders agreed that vaccinations should be sped up to fight the highly contagious delta variant.
A stronger response to the pandemic was a main topic of discussion among European Union heads of state and government leaders at a meeting in Brussels, where they also acknowledged that the bloc’s borders should be reopened in a cautious way.
In what might have been her last government declaration to the German parliament, Merkel noted that the number of COVID-19 cases in the 27-nation bloc continues to decline, while vaccination rates climb.
“But even though there is reason to be hopeful, the pandemic isn’t over, in particular in the world’s poor countries,” she said. “But in Germany and Europe, we’re also still moving on thin ice.”
UK health minister admits virus rules breach with embrace
Britain’s health minister apologized Friday for breaching national coronavirus restrictions after a newspaper ran pictures of him embracing a woman with whom he allegedly had an affair.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock, who has led the country’s response to the pandemic, is the latest in a string of British officials to be accused of breaching restrictions they imposed on the rest of the population to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
The tabloid Sun newspaper ran images appearing to show the married Hancock and a senior aide kissing in an office at the Department of Health. It said the closed circuit television images were taken May 6 — 11 days before lockdown rules were eased to allow hugs and other physical contact with people outside one’s own household.
Hancock said in a statement that “I accept that I breached the social distancing guidance in these circumstances.”
Two young unvaccinated passengers on cruise ship test positive for coronavirus
Two young unvaccinated passengers on a Royal Caribbean International cruise out of the Bahamas tested positive for the coronavirus, the cruise line said.
The passengers, who were younger than 16 and traveling in the same group, left Adventure of the Seas before the end of the cruise on Thursday in Freeport with their companions. They returned home to Florida on a private flight arranged by the cruise company, CEO Michael Bayley said in a Facebook post.
It was the latest reminder of the difficulty of keeping the virus off cruise ships — and the latest test of the protocols meant to keep COVID from spreading on board. Cruising from the United States on large vessels has been shut down since March 2020, but the first voyages are set to begin as soon as this weekend.
Both of the young passengers tested positive Wednesday during regular end-of-trip testing and were quarantined right away. One was asymptomatic and one had mild symptoms. The cruise line said close contacts were identified and tested, and all were negative. Other members of the passengers’ immediate group had been vaccinated and also tested negative.
Supreme Court sides with Alaska Natives in COVID-19 aid case
The Supreme Court ruled Friday that hundreds of millions of dollars in coronavirus relief money tied up in court should benefit Alaska Natives rather than be spread more broadly among Native American tribes around the U.S.
The justices ruled 6-3 in the case, which involved the massive pandemic relief package passed last year and signed into law by then-President Donald Trump. The $2.2 trillion legislation earmarked $8 billion for “Tribal governments” to cover expenses related to the pandemic.
The question for the court was whether Alaska Native corporations, which are for-profit companies that provide benefits and social services to more than 100,000 Alaska Natives, count as “Indian tribes.” The high court answered yes.
“The Court today affirms what the Federal Government has maintained for almost half a century: ANCs are Indian tribes,” wrote Justice Sonia Sotomayor for a group of both liberal and conservative members of the court.
1st cruise ship to sail from US as industry seeks comeback
The first cruise ship to board passengers at a U.S. port in 15 months is set to sail Saturday from the industry’s South Florida hub in a symbolic stride toward normalcy that will be watched closely by health experts as vaccines curb the coronavirus’ spread in the country.
Industry officials hope the Celebrity Edge’s voyage serves as a bookend for people for whom the gravity of the pandemic first hit home in the alarming reports last year of deadly outbreaks on crowded ships, with guests quarantined for weeks, vessels begging to dock and sickened passengers carried away on stretchers at ports.
Celebrity Cruises, one of Royal Caribbean Cruises’ brands, says at least 95% of those boarding the Celebrity Edge have been vaccinated against the coronavirus in line with health requirements from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the ship will run at a reduced capacity.
Mobile homeowners fear evictions as pandemic protections end
An estimated 22 million people in the United States live in mobile homes, which have evolved over the decades from travel trailers to structures that can be delivered by a truck. Usually containing one or two bedrooms, and officially known in the industry as manufactured housing, they have long been pitched as affordable homeownership to the working poor, people on fixed incomes and retirees.
The pandemic hit owners of mobile homes especially hard. In August, the Urban Institute, an economic and social-policy think tank, reported that 35% of mobile homeowners had worked in industries that lost the most jobs during the pandemic.
But government efforts to protect them have been patchy and the owners of mobile homes have had little choice but to rely on the good graces of the dominant financing firms.
Biggest COVID outbreak hits Northwest detention center as 29 immigrants test positive
For much of the pandemic, a steadily dropping population at the Northwest ICE Processing Center in Tacoma has helped keep at bay the kind of large-scale coronavirus outbreaks that have hit some federal immigrant detention centers and state prisons.
But since the beginning of June, as federal authorities transferred hundreds of detainees from the southern border, 29 of those held at the Tacoma facility have tested positive.
All were recent transfers, according to court filings in a class-action lawsuit filed by the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project and the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington on behalf of older and medically vulnerable individuals.
Aaron Korthuis, a NWIRP attorney working on the lawsuit, said the recent cases amount to “clearly the biggest outbreak we’ve seen during COVID.”
Japan proposes four-day workweek as idea gains purchase amid pandemic
Japan, known for its rigid work culture, is entertaining changes to the standard workweek few would have predicted even several years ago.
The country’s annual economic policy guidelines, released this month, unveiled plans to push employers to adopt four-day workweeks, marking official acceptance of a once-fringe approach that has gained increasing purchase internationally amid workplace changes wrought by the coronavirus pandemic.
The recommendation that companies adopt an optional shorter workweek is meant to support employees who want to further their education, take care of family members or simply to go out, spend money and even meet others, as Japan’s population ages and shrinks.
5 out of 6 early coronavirus cases went uncounted, NIH estimates
For every coronavirus infection that was recorded in the United States in mid-2020, nearly five asymptomatic cases went undetected, according to a new study by the National Institutes of Health.
The study, which was released Tuesday, reinforced previous findings that the scope of contagion was much more widespread in the early months of the pandemic. NIH researchers estimated that there were as many as 20 million infections in the United States by mid-July 2020, far more than the 3 million cases that public health authorities recorded.
The new study “helps account for how quickly the virus spread to all corners of the country and the globe,” Bruce Tromberg, director of the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering, said in a statement.
NJ residents flock outside as vaccine earns free state parks
As New Jersey residents prepare to head outdoors for the Fourth of July, the state’s parks are already seeing an explosion in popularity, with more than 100,000 people signing up for annual park passes as part of New Jersey’s COVID-19 vaccine incentive.
Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy announced in May that any state resident who has at least one shot by July 4 can get a free state parks pass, which would cost $50 for residents this year.
The 100,000 signups dwarf the roughly 5,000 annual passes typically purchased in a year. The state eclipsed its goal of 4.7 million vaccinations last week amid the allurement.
Catch up on the past 24 hours
Which coronavirus variants are silently spreading around us? Our FAQ describes the dominant variants in Washington state, the most worrisome ones, and whether they could force a reopening rollback in the fall.
Nearly all COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. are now among unvaccinated people. A new analysis also found that "breakthrough" infections in fully vaccinated people accounted for less than 0.1% of COVID-19 hospitalizations.
This week's winner of Washington's $250,000 vaccine lottery became the first to join Gov. Jay Inslee during the announcement, adding a message of her own.
Inside the extraordinary effort to save Donald Trump: The president's case of COVID-19 was more severe than the White House acknowledged, according to a new book that details five harrowing days in October 2020.
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