Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Thursday, June 3, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.
The global effort to distribute coronavirus vaccines is ramping up. Earlier this week, the World Health Organization cleared the vaccine made by Chinese pharmaceutical company Sinovac for emergency use. In Thailand, Siam Bioscience, which manufactures the AstraZeneca vaccine for parts of Southeast Asia, delivered its first locally produced doses to the country’s Ministry of Health.
In the U.S., evidence is mounting that immunity from the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine do not depend exclusively on the antibodies that dwindle over time. Some experts say that boosters may be needed less frequently than previously thought.
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.
US to swiftly boost global vaccine sharing, Biden announces
President Joe Biden announced Thursday the U.S. will swiftly donate an initial allotment of 25 million doses of surplus vaccine overseas through the United Nations-backed COVAX program, promising infusions for South and Central America, Asia, Africa and others at a time of glaring shortages abroad and more than ample supplies at home.
The doses mark a substantial — and immediate — boost to the lagging COVAX effort, which to date has shared just 76 million doses with needy countries.
The announcement came just hours after World Health Organization officials in Africa made a new plea for vaccine sharing because of an alarming situation on the continent, where shipments have ground to “a near halt” while virus cases have spiked over the past two weeks.
Overall, the White House has announced plans to share 80 million doses globally by the end of June, most through COVAX. Officials say a quarter of the nation’s excess will be kept in reserve for emergencies and for the U.S. to share directly with allies and partners.
Q&A: How Washington’s top education leader Chris Reykdal envisions schooling after the pandemic
At the end of a year of pandemic learning, Washington’s top education official, Chris Reykdal, says one question has occupied his mind more than any other. What flaws did the pandemic expose in how Washington children are taught in school?
He’s also thought about why the state’s education system responded slowly as the pandemic hit. Why some students still aren’t showing up for in-person learning. And why he disagrees with eliminating online education when the pandemic fades.
The Seattle Times sat down (virtually) with the superintendent of public instruction to talkabout all the ways the state’s education system was shaken during the pandemic — and how he intends to get back to some version of “normal” next school year.
WHO: Vaccinating kids ‘not a high priority’ amid shortage
The World Health Organization’s top vaccines expert said Thursday that immunizing children against COVID-19 is not a high priority from a WHO perspective, given the extremely limited global supply of doses.
During a social media session, Dr. Kate O’Brien said children should not be a focus of COVID-19 immunization programs even as increasing numbers of rich countries authorize their coronavirus shots for teenagers and children.
“When we’re in this really difficult place, as we are right now, where the supply of vaccine is insufficient for everybody around the world, immunizing kids is not a high priority right now," O'Brien said.
WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has urged rich countries to donate shots to poor countries rather than immunize their adolescents and children. Fewer than 1% of COVID-19 vaccines administered globally have been used in poor countries.
1st cruise ship sails through Venice since start of pandemic
Early risers in Venice were surprised Thursday to see a cruise ship nosing down the Giudecca canal for the first time since the start of the pandemic, despite repeated government pledges to reroute such huge vessels due to safety and environmental concerns.
The 92,409-ton MSC Orchestra passed through the basin in front of St. Mark’s Canal around 6 a.m. under tugboat and port authority escort, ahead of the first post-pandemic cruise ship departure from Venice, scheduled for Saturday.
The Italian government in March passed a law aimed at definitively blocking cruise ship traffic through Venice, leaving many with the mistaken impression that the ban was already in effect.
After the virus pause, many Venetians aren’t happy to see cruise ships return for the first time since January 2020. The No Big Ships Committee is planning to see the Costa Orchestra passengers off with a noisy protest on Saturday.
Peruvians to pick new president amid relentless pandemic
Amid an unrelenting coronavirus pandemic that has overwhelmed cemeteries, Peruvian voters will choose Sunday between a political novice who has scared business by promising to overhaul the key mining industry and a career politician whose father is a former president jailed for corruption and human rights violations.
The polarizing runoff election between rural teacher Pedro Castillo and Keiko Fujimori, making her third run for the presidency, comes on the heels of the Peruvian government’s admission that the death toll of the pandemic is at least 2.5 times higher than previously acknowledged. The jump brings the estimated death toll to more than 180,000 in a country with about one-tenth the population of the United States.
Polls have shown the two candidates virtually tied heading into Sunday’s runoff.
While Castillo’s stance on nationalizing key sectors of the economy has softened, he remains committed to rewriting the constitution that was approved under the regime of Fujimori’s father. Fujimori, a conservative former congresswoman, was imprisoned as part of a graft investigation. Her father, former President Alberto Fujimori, is serving a 25-year sentence for corruption and the killings of 25 people. She has promised to free him should she win.
State health officials confirm 872 new coronavirus cases
The state Department of Health (DOH) reported 872 new coronavirus cases and 20 new deaths on Thursday.
The update brings the state's totals to 438,544 cases and 5,821 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. Wednesday.
In addition, 24,379 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the virus — 64 new hospitalizations. In King County, the state's most populous, state health officials have confirmed a total of 109,966 COVID-19 diagnoses and 1,591 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.
Greece starts vaccine campaign at asylum-seeker facilities
Greek authorities launched a vaccination campaign Thursday for tens of thousands of asylum-seekers living in government-run facilities, starting with the islands of Lesbos, Chios, and Samos.
Health Ministry officials said the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine was being used for the program, which is scheduled to expand to other Greek islands and the mainland starting later this week.
Around 60,000 migrants and asylum-seekers currently live in camps, shelters, and government-subsidized apartments in Greece.
US jobless claims drop to 385,000, another pandemic low
The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits fell last week for a fifth straight week to a new pandemic low, the latest evidence that the U.S. job market is regaining its health as the economy further reopens.
The Labor Department reported Thursday that jobless claims dropped to 385,000, down 20,000 from the week before.
Employers have added 1.8 million jobs this year — an average of more than 450,000 a month — and the government’s May jobs report on Friday is expected to show that they added an additional 656,000 last month.
Inslee: More than $2 million in prizes for Washington residents getting their COVID-19 vaccine
Washington state will give away more than $2 million in prizes as an incentive for people to get their COVID-19 vaccines, Gov. Jay Inslee announced Thursday, including a $1 million grand prize.
Those cash drawings are the biggest part of an incentive package that also includes tuition money for students and tickets to flights and sports games, among other things.
The plan for cash giveaways will involve one drawing each week for $250,000 across four weeks for all vaccinated residents. At the end of four weeks, there will be another drawing — for a full $1 million.
Drawings for college tuition and expenses will also be held.
Vaccinated residents don’t need to do anything to be entered in the drawings. The lottery will automatically gather names from the state Department of Health’s immunization database.
Read the story here.
EXPLAINER: Why and when do COVID-19 vaccines expire?
How long do vaccines last? That’s now a critical question as the Biden administration prepares to send tens of millions of unused COVID-19 doses abroad to help curb the pandemic.
Some state officials have said in recent days that some unused doses may expire by the end of the month, and White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Thursday that looming expiration dates were a factor as the administration works to get the doses sent out as quickly as possible.
Many drugs and vaccines can last for years if stored properly, but all can eventually start losing effectiveness much like how food can degrade in a pantry. Like many perishable items, COVID-19 vaccines remain stable longer at lower temperatures.
Alarm in Africa: Virus surges, vaccines grind to ‘near halt’
COVID-19 vaccine shipments have ground to “a near halt” in Africa while virus cases have spiked 20% over the last two weeks, the World Health Organization said Thursday, a bleak scenario for the continent on both those critical fronts.
South Africa alone saw a more than 60% rise in new cases last week as the country with the highest coronavirus caseload in Africa continued to face delays in its effort to roll out the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
More than 1 million J&J doses that should have already been put to use remain on hold at a pharmaceuticals plant in South Africa because of contamination concerns at a U.S. factory.
Tokyo nightlife bustles despite virus emergency
COVID-19 cases are still high and hospitals remain under strain despite a state of emergency as Japan on Thursday marks 50 days before the start of the Tokyo Olympics.
But the city’s nightlife continues almost as usual as people in one of the world’s least vaccinated countries show increasing signs of frustration and defy the largely toothless emergency measures.
Trains are packed with people who dine after work or shopping until restaurants close — now at 8 p.m. under the emergency measures. In streets and parks, young people drink cans of beer and eat snack food because bars are closed.
Japan has never enforced a hard coronavirus lockdown but has managed to keep its number of illnesses and deaths lower than many advanced countries. It toughened a law requiring business owners to close early, with compensation for cooperation and fines for violators, but measures for the general public remain merely requests and are increasingly ignored.
China’s Sinopharm sees reputation darkened amid COVID spikes in countries using it
Last year, Bahrain became one of the first countries to throw support behind China’s Sinopharm vaccine, granting it emergency use approval in December — a substantial boost for Beijing’s global ambitions for the vaccine, despite doubts on the part of some scientists over lack of public safety and efficacy data.
Now, the Persian Gulf country is the latest to raise doubts about the vaccine’s effectiveness.
Almost 50% of the country has been fully vaccinated, according to The Washington Post’s tracking, but the country has seen its worst wave of cases yet in the past few weeks, and the government has implemented a two-week lockdown in a bid to tame the outbreak.
The Gulf nation is not the only place where the rollout of Sinopharm doses has coincided with large waves of cases. In the Seychelles, Chile and Uruguay, all of whom have used Sinopharm in their mass vaccination efforts, cases have surged even as doses were given out.
Bahraini and United Arab Emirates officials have said they would be offering Pfizer-BioNTech doses to certain high-risk individuals who have already received two Sinopharm jabs.
Seafarers come ashore in U.S. for J&J one-dose vaccines
Ports around the U.S. are rolling out vaccines for seafarers, extending a lifeline to thousands of mostly foreign workers who’ve spent the pandemic isolated aboard ships ensuring goods kept trading across a battered global economy.
From Boston to Houston and Los Angeles, and even in smaller trade gateways like Gulfport, Miss., local health officials and nonprofits are boarding container ships, tankers and other cargo carriers to administer COVID-19 shots or, when possible, shuttling crews to nearby pharmacies and clinics.
The preferred vaccine for maritime workers: the one-dose Johnson & Johnson shot, because they’re often docked for just a day or two.
Similar efforts are getting underway at nearly 50 U.S. seaports, according to a list maintained by the North American Maritime Ministry Association.
Throughout the pandemic, seafarers have suffered a doubly harsh form of cabin fever. Travel restrictions prevented crew changes, forcing many to stay aboard beyond their original contracts and the 11-month limit set by maritime law. They’ve also been banned from disembarking in port for fear of spreading COVID or putting their vessel into quarantine for a week or more at the expense of millions of dollars.
Biden announces international COVID-19 vaccine sharing plan
The U.S. will donate 75% of its unused COVID-19 vaccines to the U.N.-backed COVAX global vaccine sharing program, President Joe Biden announced Thursday.
The White House unveiled the allocation for sharing the first 25 million doses with the world, saying 80 million vaccine doses will be shared globally by the end of June. The administration says 25% will be kept in reserve for emergencies and for the U.S. to share directly with allies and partners.
“As long as this pandemic is raging anywhere in the world, the American people will still be vulnerable,” Biden said in a statement.
Of the first 25 million doses, the White House says about 19 million will go to COVAX, with approximately 6 million for South and Central America, 7 million for Asia, and 5 million for Africa. The doses mark a substantial — and immediate — boost to the lagging COVAX effort, which to date has shared just 76 million doses with needy countries.
Even vaccinated California workers may have to keep masks on
California is set to fully reopen in less than two weeks and do away with virtually all mask and social distancing requirements for vaccinated people, but those who regulate workplaces in the state aren’t ready to go that far.
The California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board meets Thursday and will consider new workplace rules that would only allow workers to go maskless if everyone in a room is fully vaccinated against the coronavirus. The rules could remain in place into early next year.
Recent U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance says that fully vaccinated people can now skip face coverings and distancing in nearly all situations, but the state safety board’s staff says conditions are different among workers, leading to their proposed rule that even vaccinated employees remain masked unless everyone else in their workspace is inoculated.
Mammograms in Washington fall by half during COVID pandemic
A steep drop in breast cancer screenings in Washington during the COVID-19 pandemic appears to have most affected women of color and those living in rural communities, according to Washington State University researchers.
After looking over clinical data of tens of thousands of Washington women both before and after the pandemic began last spring, researchers noticed sharp disparities when the data were separated by race and geographic location.
WSU assistant professor Ofer Amram, lead author on the study, said overall, they found completed mammograms in the state between April and December of 2020 fell to half the number reported in that same time the year before, but the drop was steeper among low-income, rural and nonwhite women.
While Amram said it’s logical to assume this could lead to more cases of breast cancer within these groups being caught late, more research needs to be done.
Slow to start, China now vaccinating at a staggering pace
In the span of just five days last month, China gave out 100 million shots of its COVID-19 vaccines.
After a slow start, China is now doing what virtually no other country in the world can: leveraging the power and all-encompassing reach of its one-party system and a maturing domestic vaccine industry to administer shots at a staggering pace. Chinese public health leaders now say they’re hoping to inoculate 80% of the population of 1.4 billion by the end of the year.
As of Wednesday, China had given out more than 704 million doses — with nearly half of those in May alone. China’s total is roughly a third of the 1.9 billion shots distributed globally, according to Our World in Data, an online research site.
The call to get vaccinated comes from every corner of society. Companies offer shots to their employees, schools urge their students and staffers, and local government workers check on their residents.
“The Communist Party has people all the way down to every village, every neighborhood,” said Ray Yip, former country director for the Gates Foundation in China and a public health expert. “That’s the draconian part of the system, but it also gives very powerful mobilization.”
Do I need to get tested for COVID-19 if I’m vaccinated?
Do I need to get tested for COVID-19 if I’m vaccinated?
No, you can skip routine testing, with some exceptions.
The latest guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says you don’t need to be tested or to quarantine if you’re fully vaccinated, even if you’ve been exposed to someone who was sick. An exception is if you develop COVID-19 symptoms such as fever, cough and fatigue.
The updated guidance reflects recent studies showing vaccinated people face very little risk of serious disease. Even if you get an infection, you’ll be less likely to spread it to others and any symptoms will likely be milder.
As a result, the CDC says most vaccinated people can also be excluded from routine workplace screening though there are exceptions.
Catch up on the past 24 hours
Gov. Jay Inslee today will dangle incentives for people to get vaccines, and the guest list offers a hint of what's on the way. This comes just after Anheuser-Busch promised to buy every American adult a beer if we meet President Joe Biden's vaccination goal. For his part, he's offering everything from free babysitting to barbershop vaccinations.
It's never been easy for Washington's homeless people to get help with drug addiction or severe mental illness. Now the pandemic has made it nearly impossible, and many who want inpatient treatment are left to spiral downward in public view.
Telehealth visits will likely stick around after the pandemic, and the most useful ones involve careful preparation. Doctors are explaining how to make the most of them.
Costco's food samples are coming back, perhaps the biggest sign that things are returning to normal(ish). The popular perks are arriving with new safety precautions.
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