Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Monday, June 7, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.
Even as much of the United States economy has begun to reopen, vaccination rates across the country have dropped, threatening President Joe Biden’s goal of getting at least 70% of adults vaccinated by July 4.
The White House’s COVID-19 data director on Sunday congratulated Washington on becoming the 13th state where 70% of adults have had at least one dose of the vaccine, but health officials here calculate vaccine rates differently. By their count, about 63% of Washington residents 16 and older have received at least one dose.
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.
Frozen but not forgiven, U.S. student loans are coming due again soon
For millions of Americans, there’s an unwelcome side of the return to business-as-usual after the pandemic: They’ll have to start repaying their student loans again.
More than 40 million holders of federal loans are due to start making monthly installments again on Oct. 1, when the freeze imposed as part of COVID-19 relief measures is due to run out. It covered payments worth about $7 billion a month, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York estimated. Their resumption will eat a chunk out of household budgets, in a potential drag on the consumer recovery.
Americans now owe about $1.7 trillion of student debt, more than twice the size of their credit-card liabilities. Politicians recognize it’s not sustainable. Yet for all the talk of loan forgiveness during last year’s election campaign — including from President Joe Biden, who promised to write off at least $10,000 per borrower — there’s been no progress toward shrinking the pile.
Graduates fresh out of college or postgrad programs, when incomes are typically lower, tend to find payment especially hard. Since the U.S. economy is still 7.6 million jobs short of pre-pandemic levels, many more of them are likely to be out of work now.
Kids 5 and up get shots in tests for COVID vaccine
NEW ORLEANS — Seven-year-old Russell Bright squeezed his dad’s hand tightly as tests of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine started Monday in Louisiana for children ages 5 through 11.
Children held stuffed animals, played under chairs and a few cried at Ochsner Medical Center, just outside New Orleans. Their temperature and blood pressure were checked, their noses swabbed and their blood drawn for tests. Finally, they got a shot of either the vaccine or a placebo.
Ochsner is among 98 facilities in 26 states, the District of Columbia, Finland, Poland and Spain where the tests are taking place or planned.
Families won’t know for six months whether their children actually were vaccinated. At that point, children who didn’t get the vaccine will have the chance to do so.
The Pfizer vaccine was approved May 10 for children aged 12-15.
State and federal vaccine numbers will take time to align, say state health officials
There are differences in vaccine data reported by the state Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and it will take some time for the two agencies’ information to align, state health officials said Monday.
While the Washington state Department of Health reported on its data dashboard that 7,253,646 vaccine doses had been administered as of June 5, the CDC’s federal COVID Data Tracker shows 7,843,092 doses administered in Washington as of June 6.
The state said its data dashboard “represents the most accurate information the department has control over, and there are a few reasons why numbers are different.”
Among them: The federal government’s data comes from the Department of Defense, the Federal Bureau of Prisons, Veterans Affairs and other sources not shared with DOH.
Additionally, records of vaccines administered to Washingtonians in other states would not be included in the state’s Immunization Information System but would show up on the CDC’s dashboard.
Washington: Marijuana stores can offer joints for vaccines
SEATTLE — Licensed marijuana stores in Washington state can offer free joints to promote on-site COVID-19 vaccine clinics, officials said Monday.
The state Liquor and Cannabis Board is calling the effort the “Joints for Jabs” program. The board says licensed adult-use marijuana retail shops can give away a single pre-rolled joint to anyone over 21 who gets a shot at an on-site vaccine clinic held by July 12.
The board has already allowed breweries, wineries and restaurants to offer free drinks in exchange for proof of vaccination — though alcohol-serving establishments have not had to host a clinic on-site to give out product.
Other incentives being offered in Washington include free sports tickets and prize money of up to $1 million.
Norwegian plans Florida sailings, stands by vaccine rule
Miami-based Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings on Monday announced plans to set sail from two Florida ports requiring passengers to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 despite state legislation banning businesses from asking for proof.
Norwegian announced sailings from New York, Los Angeles, Port Canaveral and Miami.
Carnival Cruise Line, also based in Miami, announced sailings from the Port of Galveston, Texas, with vaccinated guests and was working with Florida officials for a ship to leave from PortMiami.
The cruise lines’ plans appear to be at odds with the new state law signed in April by Gov. Ron DeSantis banning businesses from requiring customers to show proof of vaccination. Last week, Royal Caribbean announced it won’t require vaccinations on U.S. cruises, except in Seattle.
State health officials report 380 new coronavirus cases
The state Department of Health reported 380 new coronavirus cases and 20 new deaths on Monday.
The update brings the state's totals to 440,889 cases and 5,856 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. Sunday. Tallies may be higher earlier in the week because new state data isn’t reported on Sundays and COVID-19-related deaths aren’t reported on the weekends.
In addition, 24,535 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the virus — 70 new hospitalizations. In King County, the state's most populous, state health officials have confirmed a total of 109,349 COVID-19 diagnoses and 1,589 deaths.
Since vaccinations began in mid-December, the state and health care providers have administered 7,253,646 doses and 44.67% 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 23,288 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.
New York City plans a Central Park mega-concert to celebrate reopening
Brunch crowds are back. Rush-hour traffic is back. Tourists in horse-drawn carriages are back.
But the best proof that New York City has returned to its full glory may be a mega-concert in the green expanse of Central Park.
Seeking a grand symbol of New York’s revitalization after a brutal pandemic year, Mayor Bill de Blasio is planning a large-scale performance by multiple acts and has called on Clive Davis, the 89-year-old producer and music-industry eminence, to pull it together.
The show, tentatively set for Aug. 21, is still coming together, with no artists confirmed, though Davis — whose five-decade career highlights have included working with Janis Joplin, Bruce Springsteen, Aretha Franklin, Alicia Keys and Whitney Houston — said he is aiming for eight “iconic” stars to perform a three-hour show for 60,000 attendees and a worldwide television audience.
De Blasio said in an interview that the concert was part of a “Homecoming Week” to show that New York City is coming back from the pandemic — a celebration for residents and those in the region who might not have visited in a while.
Full volume: White House briefing room back to crammed again
The White House briefing room on Monday might have been a fire marshal’s nightmare.
For the first time in 449 days, reporters could cram into every seat for the daily briefing. Coronavirus restrictions had kept one of the most recognized rooms in the U.S. government almost empty. But mass vaccinations allowed reporters to first doff their masks on May 13 and then nearly a month later to gather in a pack of raised hands, shouting, hard-eyed stares and the occasional grimace.
“Hope everyone’s cozy,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said at she stepped to the lectern.
Forty-nine journalists sat elbow-to-elbow in blue seats, while others stood on the edges. The loudspeaker before the briefing told reporters not to block the aisle, but no one budged.
The briefing marked something of a surreal return to business as usual and Monday was proof.
Advocates call on Gov. Inslee to extend Washington eviction ban again
Housing advocacy groups and the City of Seattle urged Gov. Jay Inslee this week to hold off on lifting the statewide eviction moratorium until support programs are in place to keep renters from losing their homes in vast numbers.
Instead of lifting the moratorium all at once, the letter to Inslee proposes a county-by-county approach that would roll back the moratorium only after a county is effectively distributing rental assistance and has set up programs to help tenants. The letter also asks Inslee to extend a prohibition on rent increases for one year.
Landlords say the moratorium should end at the end of this month, when it’s currently set to expire.
Federal and state governments have approved hundreds of millions of dollars in rental assistance, which is paid to landlords on behalf of tenants who have fallen behind. But not all of that assistance has actually made it to tenants or landlords.
WHO: High vaccination rates can help reduce risk of variants
A top World Health Organization official estimated Monday that COVID-19 vaccination coverage of at least 80% is needed to significantly lower the risk that “imported” coronavirus cases like those linked to new variants could spawn a cluster or a wider outbreak.
Dr. Michael Ryan, WHO’s emergencies chief, told a news conference that ultimately, “high levels of vaccination coverage are the way out of this pandemic.”
Britain, which has vastly reduced case counts thanks to an aggressive vaccination campaign, has seen a recent uptick in cases attributed largely to the so-called delta variant that originally appeared in India — a former British colony.
Ryan acknowledged that data wasn’t fully clear about the what percentage of vaccination coverage was necessary to fully have an impact on transmission.
“But … it’s certainly north of 80% coverage to be in a position where you could be significantly affecting the risk of an imported case potentially generating secondary cases or causing a cluster or an outbreak,” he said.
Seattle’s Neptune Theatre announces reopening concert series at full capacity
For months now, live music has been happening around town in reduced-capacity settings.
But as Washington inches closer toward a June 30 reopening date, Seattle venues are starting to announce their first full-capacity shows in more than a year.
The Seattle Theatre Group has unveiled a comeback concert series set to take place at the Neptune Theatre in July. Running Saturdays from July 10-31, each lineup is a triple bill of Seattle favorites (save for one out-of-town comic), starting with visionary producer Sango and local hip-hop heavyweights Dave B and Stas THEE Boss on July 10.
News of the series makes the Neptune, which holds 1,000 people, the largest Seattle club to unveil plans for full-capacity concerts in July.
United Airlines giving extra vacation days to flight attendants who get COVID-19 vaccine
United Airlines will give its flight attendants an incentive to get the COVID-19 vaccine, but it will not require the shots.
Flight attendants who choose to get vaccinated will get up to three extra vacation days in 2022, the union representing United’s flight attendants said. To get the maximum number of days, flight attendants must have received at least one dose by June 9. United reached a deal with its pilots union last week that provides additional pay for pilots who choose to get the vaccine.
Delta Air Lines is requiring all new hires be vaccinated, unless they qualify for an accommodation. American Airlines does not require vaccines but offered employees an extra vacation day in 2022 and $50 as an incentive. Southwest Airlines said it encourages employees to get the vaccine, but has not offered an incentive.
Royal Caribbean won't require vaccinations on U.S. cruises, except in Seattle
Royal Caribbean International will no longer require its cruise passengers to be vaccinated for COVID-19 as it had previously planned to, except for those originating in Seattle.
In a press release Friday announcing cruises for sale on eight of its ships from U.S. ports this summer, starting with Freedom of the Seas from PortMiami on July 2, the company said it will recommend passengers get the COVID-19 vaccine, but not require it. The announcement is a reversal from previous statements and vaccine protocols the company submitted to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last month that said it would require all passengers at least 18 years old and older to be vaccinated.
The about-face is an apparent submission to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has insisted that there will be no exception made for cruise companies to a newly passed Florida law that fines companies $5,000 each time they ask a patron to provide proof of vaccination.
On May 26, the cruise line updated its website to say that passengers 16 years old and older on its cruises from Seattle and The Bahamas are required to be vaccinated. Previously, the website said passengers 16 years old and older on all of the company’s U.S. cruises had to meet the requirement.
Thais debut locally made AstraZeneca but supplies are tight
Health authorities in Thailand began their much-anticipated mass rollout of locally produced AstraZeneca vaccines on Monday, but it appeared that supplies were falling short of demand from patients who had scheduled vaccinations for this week.
Hospitals in various parts of the country have been posting notices for several days that some scheduled appointments would be delayed, adding to existing public skepticism about how many doses Siam Bioscience would be able to produce each month.
The government has said it will produce 6 million doses in June, then 10 million doses each month from July to November, and 5 million doses in December.
As India’s surge wanes, families deal with the devastation
Two months ago Radha Gobindo Pramanik and his wife threw a party to celebrate their daughter’s pregnancy and the upcoming birth of their long-awaited grandchild. They were so happy that they paid little attention to his wife’s cough.
It’s an oversight that may forever haunt him. Within days, his wife, his daughter and his unborn grandchild were all dead, among the tens of thousands killed as the coronavirus ravaged India in April and May.
“Everyone whom I loved the most has left me,” the 71-year-old said on a recent night as a Hindu priest chanted mantras and performed a ritual for the dead at his home in the northern city of Lucknow. “I am left alone in this world now.”
As India emerges from its darkest days of the pandemic, families across the country are grieving all that they’ve lost and are left wondering if more could have been done to avoid this tragedy.
Polio: When vaccines and re-emergence were just as daunting
The COVID-19 pandemic and the distribution of the vaccines that will prevent it have surfaced haunting memories of polio for Americans who lived through an earlier time when the country was swept by a virus that, for so long, appeared to have no cure or way to prevent it.
Now they are older adults and sharing their memories with today’s younger people as a lesson of hope for the emergence from COVID-19.
Clyde Wigness, a retired University of Vermont professor active in a mentoring program, recently told 13-year-old Ferris Giroux about the history of polio during their weekly Zoom call.
“As soon as the vaccine came out, everybody jumped on it and got it right away,” recounts Wigness, 84, a native of Harlan, Iowa. “Everybody got on the bandwagon, and basically it was eradicated in the United States.”
Many Seattle-area school districts returning to in-person graduation ceremonies
Here’s something that seemed like a far-off fantasy less than a year ago: Over the next two weeks, thousands of Seattle-area students will walk across stages set up at school football stadiums and outdoor venues to receive their diplomas, their loved ones sitting in the stands.
There won’t be handshakes with principals or hugs from teachers. Some speeches and performances might be prerecorded. And in some places, the students and families will arrive in cohorts, rather than all at once. But as send-offs go, it’s more normal than what their peers last year had, and far more than what students thought they would get just a few months ago.
“I was holding on to hope,” said Fatima Garcia, a senior at Cleveland STEM High School who will walk across the stage at Seattle’s Memorial Stadium on June 19. “It’s something I’ve always wanted to be a part of.”
Catch up on the past 24 hours
Congratulations, Washingtonians — well, maybe. The White House is praising the state for hitting a key COVID-19 vaccination threshold, but health officials here say it hasn't happened yet.
One very telling stat: 97% of King County's new infections are among people who haven’t gotten the shots, essentially creating two societies, columnist Danny Westneat writes.
Nationally, plummeting vaccination rates are putting President Joe Biden's Fourth of July goal in doubt.