Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Tuesday, May 8, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.
While vaccine data continues to come in, health officials have noticed there are differences in the numbers reported by the state Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Meanwhile, many Seattle-area schools are returning to in-person graduation ceremonies, adjusting for changing state guidelines around social distancing and large group gatherings.
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.
Study: US ski areas rebound despite COVID-19 restrictions
DENVER — Ski areas across the United States experienced a strong rebound this winter despite public health restrictions put in place amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Skier visits to U.S. resorts totaled 59 million for the season, the fifth best on record, according to the Colorado-based National Ski Areas Association.
“What a year it has been,” said Kelly Pawlak, association president and CEO. “From utter uncertainty to a top-10 season in terms of participation, it shows the wide spectrum that our industry bridged this year.”
Resorts across the country were forced to close in spring 2020, and many mountain communities were disproportionately affected by COVID-19 early in the pandemic.
The U.S. ski industry lost at least $2 billion that winter, and skier visits fell 14% compared with the 2018-2019 season.
Delta variant accounts for 6% of new U.S. coronavirus infections
A highly transmissible coronavirus variant first identified in India accounts for 6% of new infections in the United States, the Biden administration said Tuesday. Yet vaccines appear to be highly effective against this version of the virus that has quickly spread into Great Britain and elsewhere.
Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious-disease expert, revealed the extent of the variant’s push into the United States, but said it appears to be slowed by vaccines.
“It’s essentially taking over” in the United Kingdom, Fauci said at a briefing for reporters. “We cannot let that happen in the United States, which is such a powerful argument” for vaccination, he said.
Fauci referred to data from Britain’s public health agency that shows two doses of the vaccines made by Pfizer-BioNTech and AstraZeneca are 88% effective in preventing symptomatic disease caused by the new variant, also known as delta. He said in an interview that the Pfizer data would be similar for Moderna’s product, which also is an mRNA vaccine.
But one vaccine dose offers just 33% protection, the data shows, a reminder of how strongly the second shot boosts immunity to the virus, Fauci said.
State Department lowers dozens of countries from ‘Do Not Travel’ to ‘Reconsider Travel’ status
A month and a half after warning Americans not to travel to most of the world, the U.S. State Department is easing travel advisories for dozens of countries — at least a little.
The department on Tuesday said it was taking 58 countries and territories out of the Level 4, or “Do Not Travel,” category and designating them as Level 3, or “Reconsider Travel,” destinations. Another 27 places were moved to the first two levels, where travelers are urged to exercise increased caution or exercise normal precautions.
Among the countries no longer in the “Do Not Travel” bucket: Japan, France, Italy, Spain, Greece, Switzerland, Canada and Mexico.
Tuesday’s shuffling was prompted by changes to travel health notices by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The agency said it updated the primary and secondary criteria that it uses in determining those notice levels “to better differentiate countries with severe outbreak situations from countries with sustained, but controlled, COVID-19 spread.”
As a result, 62 destinations were recategorized from the highest warning level to the second-highest.
South Africa health minister put on ‘special leave’
South Africa’s health minister was placed on special leave Tuesday over a corruption scandal involving an irregular government contract where $11 million was paid to a company connected to two people who used to work for him.
Zweli Mkhize has been spearheading the COVID-19 response in South Africa, which has the most cases and deaths in Africa. South Africa’s Special Investigative Unit is still probing the contract and hasn’t released a report, although Mkhize’s own health department has already found that the contract was “irregular.”
There are new allegations that Mkhize’s son personally benefitted from the contract. It’s one of multiple corruption scandals that have tainted the South African government’s virus response.
Carnegie Hall reopens in October after 19-month closure
Carnegie Hall will resume performances in October following a 1 1/2-year closure caused by the coronavirus pandemic but with a limited schedule of recitals and small ensembles until large orchestras return in January.
The Hall initially intended to open the season with a virtual gala, but Carnegie executive and artistic director Clive Gillinson said planning is underway for a live opening concert following New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s announcement on May 5 that Broadway theaters could reopen in September at full capacity.
“The governor’s announcement about Broadway changed everybody’s thinking overnight,” Gillinson said.
State health officials report 710 new coronavirus cases
The state Department of Health (DOH) reported 710 new coronavirus cases and 70 fewer deaths — due to a data processing review — on Tuesday.
The update brings the state's totals to 441,591 cases and 5,785 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. Monday. Tallies may be higher earlier in the week because new state data isn’t reported on Sundays and COVID-related deaths aren’t reported on the weekends.
The state reported fewer deaths Tuesday because local health departments did an "intensive review" following a DOH process update and found the 70 deaths, which were distributed evenly between February 2020 and June 2021, were not related to COVID-19, DOH said. The state also noted Tuesday that the day's case counts include a backlog of cases processed Monday.
In addition, 24,619 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the virus. In King County, the state's most populous, state health officials have confirmed a total of 109,458 COVID-19 diagnoses and 1,595 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.
U.S. education secretary promotes vaccine efforts at colleges
U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona visited a COVID-19 vaccine clinic at a suburban Detroit community college Tuesday to highlight the White House’s efforts to encourage similar efforts across the country.
Cardona talked about the Biden administration’s COVID-19 College Challenge, in which colleges and universities commit to working to get their communities vaccinated. The challenge is part of President Joe Biden’s effort to get at least one vaccine dose into 70% of American adults by July 4.
US increasingly unlikely to meet Biden’s July 4 vax goal
For months, President Joe Biden has laid out goal after goal for taming the coronavirus pandemic and then exceeded his own benchmarks. Now, though, the U.S. is on pace to fall short of his aim to have 70% of Americans at least partially vaccinated by July 4.
The White House has launched a month-long blitz to combat vaccine hesitancy and a lack of urgency to get shots, particularly in the South and Midwest, but it is increasingly resigned to missing the president’s vaccination target. The administration insists that even if the goal isn’t reached, it will have little effect on the overall U.S. recovery, which is already ahead of where Biden said it would be months ago.
About 16 million unvaccinated adults need to receive at least one dose in the next four weeks for Biden to meet his goal. But the pace of new vaccinations in the U.S. has dropped to about 400,000 people per day — down from a high of nearly 2 million per day two months ago.
COVID prolonged foster care stays for thousands
Leroy Pascubillo missed his daughter’s first step, her first word and countless other precious milestones. After being born addicted to heroin, she had been placed with a foster family, and he anxiously counted the days between their visits as he tried to regain custody. But because of the pandemic, the visits dwindled and went virtual, and all he could do was watch his daughter — too young to engage via computer — try to crawl through the screen.
They are among thousands of families across the country whose reunifications have been snarled in the foster care system as courts delayed cases, went virtual or temporarily shut down, according to an Associated Press analysis of child welfare data from 34 states.
The decrease in children leaving foster care means families are lingering longer in a system intended to be temporary, as critical services were shuttered or limited. Vulnerable families are suffering long-term and perhaps irreversible damage, experts say, which could leave parents with weakened bonds with their children.
The AP’s analysis found at least 8,700 fewer reunifications during the early months of the pandemic compared with the March-to-December period the year before — a decrease of 16%. Adoptions, too, dropped — by 23%, according to the analysis. Overall, at least 22,600 fewer children left foster care compared with 2019.
To the beach! Spain opens borders to tourists, cruise ships
Spain jump-started its summer tourism season on Monday by welcoming vaccinated visitors from most countries as well as European tourists who can prove they are not infected with coronavirus. It also reopened its ports to cruise ships.
The move opened borders for the first tourists from the United States and other countries outside of the European Union since those travelers were banned in March last year, when the pandemic hit global travel.
Ex-Olympic skater charged with defrauding virus relief fund
A former Olympic figure skater has been arrested on charges that he ripped off a program to help struggling small businesses harmed by the coronavirus pandemic, authorities said Tuesday.
Luka Klasinc, a 48-year-old Slovenian man, was arrested Monday and has been charged with bank fraud and aggravated identity theft.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said Klasinc used false documents to get a total of $1,595,800 in 11 Economic Injury Disaster Loans for his event management company, which he said stages major ice-themed amusement park style events worldwide.
“At a time when U.S. small businesses were struggling because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Klasinc thought he could scam his way to easy money,” Strauss said. “His plans have been put on ice."
Wisconsin conspiracy theorist and former pharmacist gets prison for ruining COVID vaccines
A former pharmacist in Wisconsin who purposefully ruined more than 500 doses of COVID-19 vaccine was sentenced to three years in prison on Tuesday.
Steven Brandenburg, 46, of Grafton, pleaded guilty in February to two felony counts of attempting to tamper with a consumer product.
Brandenburg is an admitted conspiracy theorist who believes he is a prophet, vaccines are a product of the devil, the Earth is flat and the 9/11 terrorist attacks were faked. He also secretly substituted saline for the flu vaccine that he was mandated to receive and persuaded several co-workers to do the same.
Library of Congress gets health workers’ audio COVID diaries
The Library of Congress has acquired a digital archive of the real-time impressions of more than 200 frontline health care workers documenting the country’s descent into the coronavirus pandemic.
Calvin Lambert, a fetal medicine fellow in a Bronx hospital, recalls how a Black pregnant woman who came in for a checkup “became irate and became scared” even when he attempted to give her a COVID-19 test. She thought the nasal swab itself would give her the virus.
Lambert, who is Black, said he learned to understand “the deep distrust that the patient had and that many patients who are Black have for the medical system.”
The audio diaries from health care workers like Lambert were collected by The Nocturnists, a medical storytelling project, for its “Stories from a Pandemic” podcast series, which ran in spring 2020. The collection contains more than 700 audio clips documenting the chaotic conditions in overwhelmed hospitals as medical workers struggled with their own stress, exhaustion and grief.
The digital archive will be housed in the library’s American Folklife Center, which has been building up a collection of oral histories dating back to World War I, including testimonials from 9/11 first responders and survivors from hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
Foundation to spend $1.3B to vaccinate Africans for COVID
One of the world’s largest foundations will spend $1.3 billion over the next three years to acquire and deliver COVID-19 vaccines for more than 50 million people in Africa. It’s a first-of-its-kind effort for a Western nonprofit to bolster Africa’s lagging vaccination campaign amid widespread fears of a third wave of infections on the continent.
The Tuesday announcement from the Toronto-based Mastercard Foundation, which has more than $39 billion in assets, comes days after the World Health Organization said Africa was encountering an alarming mix of a spike in virus cases and “a near halt” of vaccine shipments.
The foundation will purchase single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccines at the discounted rate negotiated by the African Union during its $220 million dose deal with the vaccine manufacturer.
Lawrence O. Gostin, a professor of global health law at Georgetown University, said the effort will not solve all the continent's pandemic problems. “Africa will soon become the epicenter for the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said.
US job openings surge to record 9.3 million in April
U.S. employers posted a record 9.3 million job openings in April, up 12% from the 8.3 million counted in March, with the U.S. economy reopening at break-neck speed.
But employers hired just 6.1 million, up 1% from March, according to a Labor Department report Tuesday, suggesting that positions are opening faster than companies can fill them. Hotels and restaurants, reopening after being forced to close or curb hours during the coronavirus pandemic, reported the biggest increase in job openings.
The number of Americans quitting their jobs, however, rose 11% to almost 4 million in April, the highest figure in records going back to 2000.
Most nonprofits emerge from pandemic wounded, but still open
Nonprofits across the nation suffered deep economic hardships and many cut services during the pandemic, but strong government support and stepped-up giving by foundations and individuals averted the widespread charity failures that many experts had feared, according to interviews with experts and a new study out Tuesday.
A new study released Tuesday by the Center for Effective Philanthropy backs up that perspective on how charities weathered the pandemic. “We were a bit surprised that they fared better than expected,” said Ellie Buteau, vice president for research.
Nonprofits were hit hard by the public health and economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. The needs of the communities that nonprofits serve rose sharply, the report states. “At the same time, nonprofits had fewer resources to provide crucial services because of declining revenues — and safety restrictions made providing these services even more challenging. Yet nonprofits fared better than they had feared they would because of increased support from the government, foundations, and individual donors.”
More Boeing workers will return to worksites starting mid-July
Many of the thousands of Boeing employees who are still working remotely will begin shifting back to the office next month — though it’s not clear how many are coming back or how quickly that might happen.
In an announcement to workers last week, Michael D’Ambrose, chief human resources officer, said Boeing will start bringing back some additional employees to worksites in the Puget Sound area and other U.S. locations as early as mid-July, “as local health and safety conditions permit.”
But D’Ambrose’s statement offered few specifics. The company isn’t saying how many employees are still working remotely, how many of those were expected to return or how long the entire return process might take.
Although many Boeing workers, including its roughly 27,000 local manufacturing workers, have long since returned to their physical worksites, many others continue to work remotely in some capacity.
Canada set to relax quarantine rules for vaccinated travelers
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is preparing to ease Canada’s border restrictions for travelers who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to people familiar with the discussions.
The government is crafting plans to loosen the current 14-day isolation period for border-crossers who’ve had two vaccine doses, said the people, speaking on the condition they not be identified. Travelers entering Canada would still be tested for the virus and may be required to quarantine for a shorter period.
The plan is expected be announced within days, though the timing could shift, according to the people. It isn’t clear when the changes would be implemented or whether Canada will open up its borders to non-U.S. travelers at the same time.
Despite COVID pandemic, level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere hits historic levels
Economies worldwide nearly ground to a halt over the 15 months of the coronavirus pandemic, leading to a startling drop in global greenhouse gas emissions.
But the idle airplanes, boarded-up stores and quiet highways barely made a dent in the steady accumulation of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which scientists from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Monday had reached the highest levels since accurate measurements began 63 years ago.
The new figures serve as a sober reminder that even as President Joe Biden and other world leaders make unprecedented promises about curtailing greenhouse gas emissions, turning the tide of climate change will take even more massive efforts over a much longer period of time.
“Fossil fuel burning is really at the heart of this. If we don’t tackle fossil fuel burning, the problem is not going to go away,” Ralph Keeling, a geochemist at Scripps, said in an interview, adding that the world ultimately will have to make emissions cuts that are “much larger and sustained” than anything that happened during the pandemic.
Catch up on the past 24 hours
One lucky vaccinated person will win big bucks today. That winner and others will be chosen in Washington’s first lottery for residents who have gotten a COVID-19 vaccine. Here's how you'll find out if you've won, along with who's eligible and what the prizes are (the list is long). The new lottery, though, has already had some hiccups.
Free pot is the latest perk for getting a COVID-19 vaccine. Marijuana stores can start offering joints for jabs under new rules, Washington officials say.
Why does the math look all funky on Washington's vaccinations? We cut through the confusion to see why the state and federal counts are more than a half-million doses apart.
Doctors are taking their vaccination message behind bars to reach people in King County jails. It's starting to pay off.
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