Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Sunday, June 6, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.
With vaccination rates in many parts of the U.S. and Europe increasing, more and more of life is re-opening, though the path taken on either side of the Atlantic differs markedly, with Europe and the U.K. taking a much more cautious tack.
Meanwhile, much of the rest of the world continues to struggle to obtain and administer vaccines.
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.
British tourists scramble to return from Portugal after new quarantine
British tourists scrambled to leave Portugal over the weekend in order to beat a Tuesday deadline for a new quarantine imposed by the British government on those returning from Portugal. The country is one of the most popular destinations for British tourists.
The switch of travel rules for Portugal, announced by the British government Thursday, prompted thousands of British tourists to pay extra to rebook themselves onto early return flights. British Airways and other airlines added flight capacity to help bring them home.
Vaccination rates fall off, imperiling Biden’s July Fourth goal
Plummeting vaccination rates have turned what officials hoped would be the “last mile” of the coronavirus immunization campaign into a marathon, threatening President Joe Biden’s goal of getting shots to at least 70% of adults by July 4.
The United States is administering fewer than 1 million shots per day, a decline of more than two-thirds from the peak of 3.4 million in April, according to The Washington Post’s seven-day average, even though all adults and children over age 12 are now eligible.
Small armies of health workers and volunteers often outnumber the people showing up to get shots at clinics around the country, from a drive-through site in Chattanooga, Tenn., to a gymnasium in Provo, Utah, or a park in Raleigh, N.C.
The slowdown is national – with every state down at least two-thirds from its peak – and particularly felt across the South and Midwest. Twelve states, including Utah, Oklahoma, Montana, the Dakotas and West Virginia, have seen vaccinations fall below 15 daily shots per 10,000 residents; Alabama had just four people per 10,000 residents get vaccinated last week.
However, the picture varies considerably across the country: Thirteen mostly East and West Coast states have already vaccinated 70% of adult residents, and another 15 states, plus the District of Columbia, are over 60% and will likely reach Biden’s goal.
NYC turns to smart thermometers for disease detection in schools
Over the past few years, a California-based tech startup has repeatedly made headlines for beating public health agencies at their own game.
Kinsa, which makes internet-connected thermometers, has routinely detected the spread of seasonal flu weeks before the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And when COVID hit last year, the company saw unusual spikes in fevers about 18 days before states recorded peaks in deaths.
“The difference is not that we’re smarter,” said Kinsa founder and CEO Inder Singh. “We’ve got better data.”
Many disease-tracking efforts, including the CDC’s flu surveillance system, rely on data — patient symptoms, test results, inpatient admissions and deaths, for instance — reported by hospitals, laboratories and other health care facilities. But Kinsa’s devices provide an illness signal as soon as someone feels sick enough to use a thermometer. “In simple terms, we talk to mildly symptomatic patients,” Singh said. “The health care system misses them entirely.”
Now, the company is putting its pandemic prognostication skills to a new test in a partnership with the New York City Department of Health.
Jill Biden, Dr. Fauci visit vaccine site at Harlem church
NEW YORK (AP) — First lady Jill Biden and Dr. Anthony Fauci toured a COVID-19 vaccination site at a historic Harlem church on Sunday.
Biden, Fauci and U.S. Sen Kirsten Gillibrand, a New York Democrat, watched as people got their shots in the basement of the Abyssinian Baptist Church.
Biden asked a teenager about to get his shot how old he was, and when he said he was 14, she responded, “You’re 14, that’s exactly what we want! Twelve and over.”
White House celebrates high vaccination rate in Washington
Has Washington reached a key milestone of 70% of adults at least partially vaccinated? That depends on who you ask.
White House COVID-19 Data Director Cyrus Shahpar wrote on Twitter Sunday that Washington has become the 13th state to reach 70% of adults with at least one dose of the vaccine.
But here in Washington, health officials track vaccination data slightly differently. By their metrics, we haven’t quite hit 70%.
In the state's measure, about 63% of Washingtonians 16 and older have started the vaccination process. Nearly 55% of the population is fully vaccinated.
The 70% goal is significant nationally and here in Washington. President Joe Biden has set a goal of 70% of American adults at least partially vaccinated by July 4, but at current rates the country is on track to just miss that mark. In Washington, Gov. Jay Inslee has said the state will lift broad coronavirus restrictions by June 30 or sooner if 70% or more of state residents over the age of 16 have gotten at least one shot.
In a response to Shahpar’s Tweet, the Washington State Department of Health wrote that the state counts the vaccine rate of everyone 16 and older, not 18 and older, and uses a state population estimate rather than U.S. Census data.
Still, the department struck an upbeat tone, writing, “Needless to say we are on the right track!"
We continue 2 work 2 get as many Washingtonians vaxed. Our dashboard uses different data which is why the numbers vary ; 1) WA State uses 16y/o vs 18y/o+ 2) WA state uses recent OFM population est. vs 2019 ACS values. Needless to say we are on the right track! 🥳#GetVaccinated— WA Dept. of Health (@WADeptHealth) June 6, 2021
American expats want vaccine access
The United States is one of the small number of countries where coronavirus vaccinations are widely available.
“All over the world people are desperate to get a shot that every American can get at their neighborhood drugstore,” President Joe Biden said on Wednesday.
But one group of Americans feels left behind: expatriates.
“We pay taxes, we vote, why shouldn’t we have a vaccine?” asked Loran Davidson, an American living in Thailand.
So far, the request has been denied. “We have not historically provided private health care for Americans living overseas, so that remains our policy,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters last month.
Read the full story in the Washington Post.
Vaccinate the world, UK says
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will use the Group of Seven wealthy democracies’ summit next week to urge world leaders to commit to vaccinating the global population by the end of 2022.
Johnson is expected to stress the importance of a global vaccination drive when he meets with fellow world leaders on Friday in Cornwall, on England’s southwestern coast, for the first face-to-face G-7 summit since the pandemic hit.
“The world is looking to us to rise to the greatest challenge of the postwar era: defeating COVID and leading a global recovery driven by our shared values,” he said in a statement Sunday. “Vaccinating the world by the end of next year would be the single greatest feat in medical history.”
U.S. President Joe Boden and the leaders of Canada, France, Italy and Japan will arrive in Cornwall from Friday for three days of talks focusing on the global recovery from the pandemic.
Read the whole story here from the Associated Press
Going back to church? A new question, as communities re-open
Now that more people are vaccinated, many are re-examining their routines, pondering whether they want and are ready to go back to their favorite pre-pandemic coffee shop, exercise class or concert hall. Amid this investigation of needs is a weighty one: What about worship services?
Faith leaders have been anxious about this moment since the pandemic broke out a year ago, and the possibility that Americans, in their secularizing, convenience-oriented country, would spend a year away from houses of worship and decide it suited them just fine. All year clergy have been waiting to see if slews of people will decide to become virtual-only members, flit between multiple virtual services, or just quit congregational life altogether.
Read the whole story here, from The Washington Post.
We will probably need booster shots for COVID
As the nation edges closer to President Joe Biden’s goal of a 70% vaccination rate, many people are beginning to wonder how long their protection will last.
For now, scientists are asking a lot of questions about COVID-19 booster shots, but they do not yet have many answers. The National Institutes of Health recently announced that it has begun a new clinical trial of people fully vaccinated — with any authorized vaccine — to see whether a booster of the Moderna shot will increase their antibodies and prolong protection against getting infected with the virus.
Although many scientists estimate that the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines authorized in the United States will last at least a year, no one knows for sure. It is also unclear whether emerging variants of the coronavirus will change our vaccination needs.
“We’re in uncharted waters here in terms of boosters,” said Dr. Edward Belongia, a physician and public health researcher at the Marshfield Clinic Research Institute in Marshfield, Wisconsin.
Read the whole story here.
Transplant patients pile on vaccinations
For Jennifer Woda, two doses of the Moderna vaccine were not enough protection against the covid-19 virus. Over a month later, she got a third and fourth dose, this time with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
An opera singer who teaches music to kids, Woda received a kidney transplant in September 2019, one of about 160,000 transplants that have occurred in the U.S. since 2017. Emerging research is now showing that these patients, who suppress their immune system with drugs so their bodies don’t reject donated organs, are dramatically less likely to develop protective antibodies using the authorized vaccine dosage.
That’s spurring some recipients to get extra shots as worries mount over the end of pandemic restrictions and as U.S. vaccine supply outpaces demand. They went to pharmacies and clinics to get their shot on their own without doctor’s notes. Some weren’t asked questions about their vaccination history, and some explained their situation and still got the shot.
Read the whole story here.
From coronavirus cutbacks to states flush with cash
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Just a year ago, the financial future looked bleak for state governments as governors and lawmakers scrambled to cut spending amid the coronavirus recession that was projected to pummel revenue.
They laid off state workers, threatened big cuts to schools and warned about canceling or scaling back building projects, among other steps.
Today, many of those same states are flush with cash, and lawmakers are passing budgets with record spending. Money is pouring into schools, social programs and infrastructure. At the same time, many states are socking away billions of dollars in savings.
“It’s definitely safe to say that states are in a much better fiscal situation than they anticipated,” said Erica MacKellar, a fiscal analyst with the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Read the story from the Associated Press here.
Another COVID side effect: summer school
With her three teenagers vaccinated against COVID-19, Aja Purnell-Mitchell left it up to them to decide whether to go back to school during summer break.
The decision was unanimous: summer school.
“Getting them back into it, helping them socialize back with their friends, maybe meet some new people, and, of course, pick up the things that they lacked on Zoom,” the Durham County, North Carolina, mother said, ticking off her hopes for the session ahead, which will be the first time her children have been in the classroom since the outbreak took hold in the spring of 2020.
Across the U.S., more children than ever before could be in classrooms for summer school this year to make up for lost learning during the outbreak, which caused monumental disruptions in education. School districts nationwide are expanding their summer programs and offering bonuses to get teachers to take part.
Read the complete story from the Associated Press.
Labor shortage threatens restaurant recovery
When Ba Bar restaurant in South Lake Union was preparing to reopen in May, owners Eric Banh and Teresa Nguyen had so much trouble hiring staff they had to host and bus tables themselves. When a cook went home sick, the kitchen was so short-staffed they had to shut the whole restaurant for the night.
It’s a similar story across town at Bar del Corso in Beacon Hill. On a recent Saturday, owner Jerry Corso was so short-staffed he had to multitask as pizzaiolo, prep cook, host and server, dessert-plater and takeout order taker.
Labor is so tight Corso won’t be able to fully open by June 30, when the last pandemic restrictions on restaurants are lifted. If he loses a single cook in meantime, “it really is panic mode,” Corso said.
Read the complete story here.
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