Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Friday, June 4, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.
On Thursday, Gov. Jay Inslee became the latest in a series of governors offering a chance at winning a large cash prizes to those who get vaccinated. The jackpot for Washington will be a whopping $1 million along with four separate drawings for $250,000 and other prizes.
Nationwide, the U.S. Labor Department reported yesterday that the number of Americans seeking unemployment has dropped to a new pandemic low of 385,000 jobless claims. That’s down 20,000 from the week before.
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.
Amazon defends failure to pay workers for COVID screening time
Amazon.com Services has no obligation to pay fulfillment center workers for time spent undergoing mandatory COVID-19 screenings, which benefit the public in general, the company says in a motion to dismiss a would-be class-action lawsuit filed in the Eastern District of California.
The required screenings, conducted in accordance with government regulations and guidance — not just for employees, but for all visitors — aren’t compensable “work” under the Fair Labor Standards Act because they aren’t primarily for Amazon’s benefit, the Thursday motion says. According to Amazon, the screenings benefit everyone, and its benefit is merely incidental.
Even if considered work-related, the pre-shift health screenings are “preliminary” to their principle activities, Amazon argues, likening them to the security screenings the U.S. Supreme Court found not compensable under the Fair Labor Standards Act.
Amazon acknowledges an informal FAQ published by the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division states that for certain employees, “a temperature check before they begin work must be paid because it is necessary for their jobs.”
Hawaii sets vaccine thresholds for lifting travel quarantine
Hawaii Gov. David Ige said Friday that the state will drop its quarantine and COVID-19 requirement for travelers once 70% of the state’s population has been vaccinated against the disease. Hawaii will also lift its requirement that people wear masks indoors once that level has been reached, he said.
The state Department of Health website said 59% of Hawaii’s population has had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 52% finished their dosing regimen.
The state is using its figures, and not those provided by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to calculate thresholds for lifting restrictions. Health Department Director Dr. Libby Char said that’s because Hawaii’s numbers are more accurate. She said it appears the CDC has been counting some of Hawaii’s doses twice.
Right now, travelers arriving from out of state must spend 10 days in quarantine or, to bypass that quarantine, they must show proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken before departure for the islands.
COVID variants get new names; here’s what to call the ones circulating in Washington
These letters, periods and numbers strung together sound like droid names from a “Star Wars” movie. Instead, are the names of variants of the coronavirus.
More than a year into the pandemic, World Health Organization officials decided to make the variant names easier to follow and are borrowing from the backup naming system for hurricanes by using the Greek alphabet.
For our FAQ Friday, we delve into the new nomenclature for variants and answer questions about variants in Washington.
USDA sending $1B in funding to country’s food bank networks
The Department of Agriculture is sending $1 billion to the country’s food bank networks, seeking to expand the reach of the system and revamp the way food banks acquire and distribute aid.
The funding, announced Friday, comes half from the American Rescue Plan COVID stimulus bill and half from standard congressional appropriations. Like other aspects of President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better initiative, the food bank plan openly seeks to use COVID recovery as a chance to reform a support system whose flaws were exposed by the pandemic.
“We must do more to improve partnerships and infrastructure that power emergency food distribution to ensure the food provided is nutritious and supports a better food system,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement.
Vilsack said the upcoming reforms would seek to “apply lessons learned from food assistance activities early in the pandemic to improve how the USDA purchases food and supports on-the-ground organizations.”
State health officials confirm 721 new coronavirus cases
The state Department of Health (DOH) reported 721 new coronavirus cases and 15 new deaths on Friday.
The update brings the state's totals to 439,263 cases and 5,836 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, 24,440 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the virus — 61 new hospitalizations. In King County, the state's most populous, state health officials have confirmed a total of 110,089 COVID-19 diagnoses and 1,593 deaths.
Since vaccinations began in mid-December, the state and health care providers have administered 7,133,121 doses and 43.86% 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 23,270 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.
Most California workers to stay masked under revised rules
Workers in California will have to keep their masks on unless every employee in the room is fully vaccinated against the coronavirus.
That’s the mandate under revised rules approved Thursday night by a sharply divided California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board. The guidelines are expected to go into effect by June 15 — the same day that the state more broadly loosens masking and other requirements in social settings in keeping with recent federal health recommendations.
In the run-up to the board’s vote, business groups had harshly criticized the new rules. Board members made it clear the regulations are temporary while they consider further easing pandemic rules in coming weeks or months.
Taiwan, feuding with China, gets vaccines from Japan
A flight carrying 1.24 million doses of AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine from Japan touched down in Taiwan on Friday to help the vaccine-starved island fight its largest outbreak since the pandemic began.
The donation underscores how geopolitics has come to impact the global vaccine rollout, as countries scramble to secure enough doses for their populations. Taiwan, a self-governing island short of doses, has blamed China for interfering in a potential deal for another vaccine.
Last month, Taiwan accused China, which claims Taiwan as its territory, of blocking Taiwan from getting the Pfizer vaccine through BioNTech, the German co-developer.
Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi told reporters on Friday that Japan was responding to a Taiwanese request, and that the donation reflects “Japan’s important partnership and friendship with Taiwan.”
Crossing points reopen in split Cyprus as virus numbers fall
Ethnically split Cyprus took a key step toward a return to its routine rhythms of life amid the pandemic on Friday when nine crossing points along a United Nations-controlled buffer zone were reopened, enabling ordinary Cypriots to cross the divide.
A trickle of people began crossing on foot at the checkpoint along Ledra Street, a busy pedestrian thoroughfare that bisects the medieval center of the capital, Nicosia. Most of the crossing points are open to vehicles, but everyone crossing either northward or southward must display a negative COVID-19 test taken in the previous seven days.
Officials said the openings became possible after a significant drop in confirmed coronavirus cases on both sides.
CDC director urges parents to vaccinate teens, noting increased hospitalization rates
Citing increased hospitalization rates of teenagers with COVID-19 in March and April, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky urged parents to vaccinate their teens to protect them from an illness that can be severe even among young people.
A recent study showed that nearly one-third of those teenagers hospitalized with COVID-19 during a surge of cases early this year required intensive care, and 5% required mechanical ventilation.
COVID-19 hospitalization rates among adolescents declined in January and February 2021, the report said, but increased during March and April, even as hospitalization rates stabilized for those 65 and older, likely because of their higher rates of vaccination.
California draws 15 winners of $50,000 vaccine prizes
California Gov. Gavin Newsom played gameshow host Friday in a drawing for 15 winners of $50,000 prizes for getting vaccinated against the coronavirus.
It was the first in a series of drawings for $16.5 million in prize money aimed at encouraging Californians to get their shots ahead of June 15, when the state plans to lift almost all virus-related restrictions. So far, 67% of eligible people 12 and older have received at least one dose of the vaccine. The state’s goal is to fully vaccinate at least 75% of people.
Next week, another 15 people will win $50,000 and on June 15 there will be 10 grand prize winners who will get $1.5 million each — the largest of any vaccination prize in the country.
The winners will remain anonymous unless they give the state permission to share their names, and they have 96 hours to claim their prizes before the state draws alternate winners.
Airlines push Trudeau for plan to open U.S.-Canadian border
Airlines in the U.S. and Canada are pressing Justin Trudeau’s government for a plan to allow more flights, after a Canadian advisory panel said it’s time to loosen COVID-19 restrictions at the border.
The government should spell out how and when air travel between Canada and the U.S. will start,said the National Airlines Council of Canada and Airlines for America.
Last week, an advisory body set up by Trudeau’s government said fully vaccinated travelers should be exempt from both quarantine and pre-departure virus tests and Canada should drop the hotel quarantine entirely.
Experts see strides on AIDS, but COVID-19 halted progress
Some researchers believe COVID-19 has derailed the fight against HIV, siphoning away health workers and other resources and setting back a U.S. campaign to decimate the AIDS epidemic by 2030.
Saturday marks the 40th anniversary of the first report that brought AIDS to the attention of the public. For a time, the battle against HIV — the virus that causes AIDS — was going well. But experts believe the U.S. could soon see its first increase in infections in years. Internationally, recent strides could also be undone because of COVID-19’s interruption of HIV testing and care.
“COVID was a huge setback,” said Jeffrey Crowley, a former director of the White House Office of National AIDS Policy who is now at Georgetown University.
COVID-19 has killed nearly 600,000 Americans in 16 months, approaching the 700,000 Americans that AIDS killed over 40 years.
Before COVID-19, health officials were celebrating how new medicines and other developments had gradually tamed HIV, prompting then-President Donald Trump to announce in 2019 a campaign to “eliminate” the U.S. epidemic by 2030.
But now, U.S. health officials are gathering data on exactly how much COVID-19 affected HIV infections and deaths, including how well testing, prevention and treatment kept up in the pandemic.
US traffic deaths up 7% last year, highest number since 2007
U.S. traffic deaths rose 7% last year, the biggest increase in 13 years even though people drove fewer miles due to the coronavirus pandemic, the government’s road safety agency reported Thursday.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration blamed the increase on drivers taking more risks on less-congested roads by speeding, failing to wear seat belts, or driving while impaired by drugs or alcohol.
An estimated 38,680 people died in traffic crashes last year, the most of any year since 2007, the agency said in releasing preliminary numbers. Final numbers normally come out in the fall.
The increase came even though the number of miles traveled by vehicle fell 13% from 2019.
Motorcyclist deaths rose 9% last year to 5,015, while bicyclist deaths were up 5% to 846. Pedestrian deaths remained steady at 6,205, and the number of people killed in passenger vehicles rose 5% to 23,395, according to NHTSA.
Heart reaction probed as possible rare vaccine link in teens
Health authorities are trying to determine whether heart inflammation that can occur along with many types of infections could also be a rare side effect in teens and young adults after the second dose of COVID-19 vaccine.
An article on seven U.S. teen boys in several states, published online Friday in Pediatrics, is among the latest reports of heart inflammation discovered after COVID-19 vaccination, though a link to the vaccine has not been proven.
The boys, aged 14 to 19, received Pfizer shots in April or May and developed chest pain within a few days. Heart imaging tests showed a type of heart muscle inflammation called myocarditis.
None were critically ill. All were healthy enough to be sent home after two to six days in the hospital and are doing ‘’doing pretty well,’’ said Dr. Preeti Jaggi, an Emory University infectious disease specialist who co-authored the report.
She said more follow-up is needed to determine how the seven fare but that it’s likely the heart changes were temporary.
Only one of the seven boys in the Pediatrics report had evidence of a possible previous COVID-19 infection and doctors determined none of them had a rare inflammatory condition linked with the coronavirus.
Summer camps reopen to a stampede of stressed-out parents
Pandemic-induced challenges and a fevered hunt for child care are making the lead-up to this year’s summer-camp season the most stressful ever.
The old-fashioned American institution serves a particularly important role this year, not only freeing parents to jump back into their own jobs, but providing children social and psychological relief after more than a year stuck at home in front of computer screens. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week loosened its guidance in hopes of allowing as normal a summer as possible.
At Washington state’s Four Winds Westward Ho on Orcas Island, which offers $1,600-per-week sessions that include horseback riding, archery and sailing on a 61-foot yawl, parents of second-, third- and even fourth-generation campers have tried to nudge their offspring higher on the waitlist.
The singalongs, canoe voyages and capture-the-flag mayhem are a chance for children to enjoy controlled adventure and for parents to enjoy blissful solitude, needed more than ever after more than a year of pandemic lockdowns.
Eastern Washington University says students and faculty must get vaccine to be in class
Eastern Washington University officials have decided that students and staff must get a COVID-19 vaccine to be on campus. That’s a reversal of a decision last month to not require vaccination.
Interim Eastern Washington President David May announced the new decision on Thursday. The Cheney, Washington, campus is scheduled to reopen on July 1.
Additional colleges in the state requiring the vaccination include Washington State University, Central Washington University, Western Washington University, the University of Washington, Pacific Lutheran University and Seattle University.
Catch up on the past 24 hours
Washington state will give away more than $2 million in prizes to persuade people to get COVID-19 vaccines, including a $1 million grand prize and a wide assortment of other goodies. If you're already vaccinated, you've been entered in the lottery. If not, our guide to getting a vaccine can get you there. Here's how the lottery will work.
They sound like droid names from a “Star Wars” movie: B.1.1.7, and P. 1, and B. 1.351. Coronavirus variants are finally getting new, simpler names that borrow from another system of naming disasters. Our FAQ Friday looks at this and which variants (with their new names) are circulating in Washington state.
China’s "Bat Woman" and a scientist adventurer who worked in dark caves are finding themselves in a harsh spotlight as the coronavirus lab-leak theory gets a fresh look.
How long do vaccines last? Looming expiration dates are a factor as the U.S. rushes to donate tens of millions of doses to countries that desperately need them. Track the spread of the virus around the world — and closer to home — in these graphics.
Bonjour! France is welcoming back vaccinated tourists under new rules.
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