Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Wednesday, June 9, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.
Despite President Joe Biden’s months of vaccination planning, the United States is unlikely to meet his target to have 70% of Americans at least partially vaccinated by July 4. Still, the White House says the missed goal will have little effect on the overall U.S. recovery.
As the country begins to reopen, U.S. employers posted a record 9.3 million job openings in April, though they hired just 6.1 million, suggesting that positions are opening faster than companies can fill them.
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.
Yes, your employer can require you to be vaccinated
As many Americans prepare to head back to the office, companies are hammering out policies on the extent to which they will require, or strongly encourage, employees to be vaccinated against the coronavirus.
The bottom line is that companies are legally permitted to make employees get vaccinated, according to recent guidance from the federal agency that enforces workplace discrimination laws, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Here’s the latest about the rules in the United States on vaccinations in the workplace.
PCC delays opening of downtown Seattle store, citing lack of workers and customers
PCC Community Markets says it’s delaying the opening of its new downtown location until next spring due to a shortage of workers and likely customers.
The downtown location, which will occupy 20,000 square feet on the ground floor of the 58-story Rainier Square tower at 401 Union St., was slated to open in late summer, but will now wait till “early 2022,” a spokesperson said Wednesday.
Suzy Monford, CEO and president of PCC, cited company concerns about finding the 100 or so workers necessary to staff a new store when the retailer already has vacancies at its existing 15 locations.
“Our focus is on filling those roles first” at existing stores, Monford said in a statement.
Biden to lay out vax donations, urge world leaders to join
MAWGAN PORTH, England — One year ago, the U.S. was the deadliest hotspot of the COVID-19 pandemic, forcing the cancellation of the Group of Seven summit it was due to host. Now, the U.S. is emerging as a model for how to successfully emerge from more than 15 months of global crisis.
For President Joe Biden, who is meeting with leaders of the wealthy G-7 democracies on his first overseas trip since taking office, it’s a personal vindication of his pledge to turn around the U.S. virus, but also a call to action to enlist other countries in the global fight.
In a speech on the eve of the summit, Biden on Thursday will unveil plans for the U.S. to donate 500 million vaccine doses around the globe over the next year, on top of 80 million he has already pledged by the end of the month. U.S. officials say Biden will also include a direct request to his fellow G-7 leaders to do the same.
“We have to end COVID-19, not just at home — which we’re doing — but everywhere,” Biden told American servicemembers Wednesday on the first stop of his three-country, eight-day trip, adding that the effort “requires coordinated, multilateral action.”
A doctor falsely testified that vaccines magnetize people: ‘They can put a key on their forehead. It sticks.’
Sherri Tenpenny, a Cleveland-based doctor invited as an expert witness Tuesday to a hearing in the Ohio House, had a grave warning for legislators about coronavirus vaccines.
The anti-vaccination advocate known for spreading unfounded claims falsely told legislators that the drugs could leave people “magnetized.”
“I’m sure you’ve seen the pictures all over the internet of people who have had these shots and now they’re magnetized,” Tenpenny said. “They can put a key on their forehead. It sticks. They can put spoons and forks all over them and they can stick, because now we think that there’s a metal piece to that.”
Her baseless remarks — which also suggested that vaccines “interface” with 5G cellular towers — didn’t elicit strong pushback from legislators, who were listening to testimony in favor of a bill that would prevent businesses or the government from requiring proof of vaccination.
Officials in touch with first $250,000 winner in Washington state vaccine lottery
If you’re eagerly awaiting a call from the Washington Lottery about this week’s $250,000 prize, we have some bad news. Officials confirmed Wednesday afternoon they’ve already spoken with the lucky winner.
However the state is continuing to make calls for other winners who were selected in Tuesday’s drawing for merchandise prizes. So far, lottery officials are having to leave a lot of messages, according to lottery spokesperson Dan Miller.
In a Wednesday email to The Seattle Times, he passed along a message he hoped Washingtonians would remember as the drawings continue: Check your voicemail!
This week’s cash prize winner will submit their claim form Thursday, Miller said.
The rest of the June drawings will take place every Tuesday, with the drawing for the big $1 million jackpot scheduled for July 13. The biggest prize will be $250,000 every week, though other prizes will include merchandise prizes like Xboxes, airplane tickets and tickets to sporting events.
COVID numbers are trending downward, but Washington state health officials advise caution, vaccination
While caution is still key, Washington’s Secretary of Health Dr. Umair Shah says the state’s COVID-19 numbers are “going in the right direction.”
Numbers of new cases and deaths are down almost across the board, because vaccines work, said Shah at the Department of Health’s weekly news briefing Wednesday.
“Get them. Help others get them,” he said. “Protect yourself, your loved ones and your community … We do not want to see a tale of two societies.”
Case counts have declined since late April, according to a June 3 DOH situation report based on data available through May 20.
WTO to intensify talks on easing access to COVID-19 vaccines
World Trade Organization member nations agreed Wednesday to intensify talks geared at improving access to COVID-19 products, as developing nations push for a proposal to ease patents and other intellectual property protections for coronavirus vaccines and some wealthier countries remain stiffly opposed.
A WTO panel focusing on intellectual property, which includes patents on technological know-how like vaccines and the processes to manufacture them, wrapped up a two-day meeting on Wednesday with an agreement to start a “text-based process” for pulling together proposals to improve the fight against COVID-19 through the Geneva-based trade body’s intricate system of rules.
The goal is to help jump-start lagging efforts to get vaccines to developing-world countries that badly need them.
South Africa and India floated a proposal in the fall for a temporary easing of patent protections for COVID-19 vaccines, therapies and tests – known as an “IP waiver. While many developed countries with strong pharmaceutical industries hesitated or were outright opposed to the idea, the debate received a jolt last month when the Biden administration announced support for granting IP waivers for just vaccines.
US to buy 500M Pfizer vaccines to share globally
The U.S. will buy 500 million more doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to share through the global COVAX alliance for donation to 92 lower income countries and the African Union over the next year, a person familiar with the matter said Wednesday.
President Joe Biden was set to make the announcement Thursday in a speech before the start of the Group of Seven summit. Two hundred million doses — enough to fully protect 100 million people — would be shared this year, with the balance to be donated in the first half of 2022, the person said.
“As he said in his joint session (address), we were the ‘arsenal of democracy’ in World War II,” National security adviser Jake Sullivan said. “We’re going to be the ‘arsenal of vaccines’ over this next period to help end the pandemic.”
Sheriff’s deputy from Clark County under investigation for vaccine card misuse
A Battle Ground man employed as a Multnomah County, Ore., sheriff’s deputy is under criminal investigation by his agency over alleged misuse of vaccination cards.
The Portland Tribune on Friday identified the deputy as Robert J. Haney. A search warrant application related to the investigation — filed in Clark County — sought the seizure of evidence relating to the Oregon crimes of misuse of confidential information, first-degree official misconduct, first- and second-degree forgery, first- and second-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument and criminal simulation.
Two COVID-19 vaccination cards were seized from a kitchen cupboard, as well as the box for Haney’s county-issued firearm, according to a property receipt.
Durkan: Seattle becomes first major city to fully vaccinate 70% of residents
Seattle has become the first major American city to reach its goal of fully vaccinating 70% of residents 12 and older, helping push Washington toward its overall vaccination and reopening targets.
Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan touted the city’s milestone in a news release Wednesday, saying the city has surpassed San Francisco to take the lead in COVID-19 vaccine jabs.
“Seattle is America’s most vaccinated major city, and it would not have been possible without our residents’ commitment to protecting themselves, their loved ones and our entire community,” Durkan said in a statement.
Durkan said 78% of Seattleites who are 12 and up have begun the vaccination process.
Fully vaccinated Canadians can avoid border quarantine soon
Canada’s health minister said Wednesday that fully vaccinated Canadian citizens who test negative for COVID-19 will soon be exempt from two weeks quarantine when returning to the country.
Health Minister Patty Hajdu said she expects that to happen in early July.
And Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, said she would like to see 75% of eligible Canada residents fully vaccinated before advising that border restrictions be loosened for tourists and business travelers who aren’t citizens or permanent residents.
The Canadian government expects to have enough vaccine delivered for 80% of eligible Canadians to be fully vaccinated by the end of July.
The border between Canada and the U.S. remains closed to all non essential travel. The restrictions were announced in March, 2020 in the early months of the pandemic and have been extended every month since.
State health officials confirm 522 new coronavirus cases
The state Department of Health (DOH) reported 522 new coronavirus cases and eight new deaths on Wednesday.
The update brings the state's totals to 442,098 cases and 5,793 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. Tuesday.
In addition, 24,673 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the virus — 54 new hospitalizations. In King County, the state's most populous, state health officials have confirmed a total of 110,688 COVID-19 diagnoses and 1,604 deaths.
Since vaccinations began in mid-December, the state and health care providers have administered 7,301,374 doses and 44.98% 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 27,209 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. joins Canada, Mexico, EU, UK to study reopening of travel
The Biden administration is forming working groups with Canada, Mexico, the EU and the U.K. to examine how to reopen international travel as the coronavirus pandemic eases, a White House official said Wednesday.
The announcement, which came shortly before President Joe Biden arrived in the U.K. for a Group of Seven summit, comes as international allies and airlines have pushed the White House to ease travel restrictions amid a decrease in U.S. coronavirus cases.
Free transit "Recovery Cards" for Seattle restaurant and grocery workers
Seattle will provide six months of free transit rides to some 2,000 restaurant and grocery workers in the form of post-pandemic "Recovery Cards."
The special ORCA farecards are for workers in the Little Saigon, the Chinatown International District, Japantown and Pioneer Square neighborhoods, where officials said communities of color were especially hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. The city statement didn't bring up vandalism and encampments, two more hardships for small business. However, City Council President Lorena González said workers in these neighborhoods endured "racist attitudes over the COVID-19 virus."
The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) will distribute ORCA Recovery Cards between June 21 and June 30, using interpreters in Mandarin, Cantonese, Vietnamese and Spanish. They're worth about $100 per month.
Employees and business owners can pick up farecards at the following locations:
- June 23 and 24, from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. at Little Saigon Creative, at 1227 S Weller St Suite A.
- June 21 to June 30, from 1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. at Hing Hay Park.
Individuals must show proof of ID (does not need to be an official document) but there is no need to show proof of employment. Everyone who receives a card is expected to complete a registration form, the SDOT said.
Funding comes out of Seattle's new transit sales tax, of 15 cents per $100 purchase, that voters approved last fall to subsidize affordable access and frequent buses, formerly funded by a car-tab fee.
“These communities are seeing an increase in business as workers and tourists return,” said a statement by Terry White, King County Metro Transit general manager. “This program provides employees in the shops and restaurants with easy access to transportation and saves them money as they travel to and from work.”
Rise of virus variant puts Johnson in a tough spot as he weighs whether Britain should fully reopen
Boris Johnson faces a life-or-death decision. That is not hyperbole. In the next few days, the British prime minister must decide whether to fully reopen society as planned, even as a new and highly infectious coronavirus variant surges.
Johnson will make this decision as British scientists — who are running one of the best genomic surveillance programs in the world — are telling him that the viral strain B. 1.617.2, originally discovered in India and known now as the delta variant, is exploding, and that Britain could soon enter a dreaded third wave.
The delta variant is at least 40% more infectious, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said Monday, and it is quickly becoming the dominant strain in Britain — outpacing the variant first discovered in southeastern England that became ubiquitous in Europe and the United States. Cases of the delta variant are now doubling every eight days.
Hospitalizations are still low, and ICU beds across the National Health Service system are mostly empty of coronavirus cases. On Monday, England recorded just a single death from the virus.
That makes it harder to tell the British people they need to wait.
Can’t find your vaccine record for Washington state’s lottery? You’re probably already entered, health department says
If you’ve been stressing out about whether your name was entered into the vaccine prize lottery, the Washington state Department of Health has good news. Wednesday morning, DOH reported that 3.9 million names had been successfully entered into the lottery. The department is also working to address problems with the MyIR website, where Washingtonians can look up their vaccine records to confirm they’re counted for the lottery.
DOH also offered guidance for those whose vaccine records weren’t automatically entered. This group includes veterans, military personnel and others who received shots through federal institutions that do not share data with the state. In these cases, DOH is encouraging those who’ve been vaccinated to show their documents to their regular doctors, who can submit the information to the state on patients’ behalf.
Health officials said more than 3.9 million Washington residents have been entered into the lottery. The state also reported that 3.9 million Washington residents have been vaccinated.
DOH said people can get help by calling 1-833-VAX-HELP (1-833-829-4357).
Pandemic shows risk of obesity, and challenge of weight loss
Jennifer Bergin was already obese and pre-diabetic before the pandemic, and learning she also had high blood pressure made her worry about how sick she might get with COVID-19. She began walking three hours a day, eventually losing 60 pounds.
“I just knew I was a prime candidate for getting it and not recovering,” said Bergin, a 50-year-old resident of Charlotte, North Carolina. Now 170 pounds and 5 feet, 4 inches tall, she is no longer considered obese, but would like to continue improving her health.
Since the early days of the pandemic, health officials have warned that obesity and related conditions such as diabetes were risk factors for severe COVID-19. It was another reminder of the many underlying health issues often signaled by obesity — as well as of how stubbornly difficult sustained weight loss can be. Even faced with such risks, it’s not clear how common Bergin’s dramatic weight loss may be.
Across the country, countless people of all body sizes have either gained or lost weight during the pandemic. For some like Bergin, no longer commuting to an office meant more time for walking, eating out less and greater control over what she ate.
But for others, being stuck at home meant moving less and eating more because of stress, anxiety, depression — or just proximity to the kitchen.
The spectrum of weight changes underscores the complexities of obesity, including how much of a role a person’s circumstances can play in their health, said Karen H. Yeary, an obesity researcher at the Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center in Buffalo, N.Y. That’s contrary to the notion that losing weight is just a matter of willpower, she said.
Texas hospital workers suspended over mandatory vaccine policy
Nearly 200 staff members at a Houston-area hospital were suspended for not following a policy that requires employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Their suspensions followed a protest by dozens of workers Monday night against the policy.
The hospital, Houston Methodist, had told employees that they had to be vaccinated by Monday or face suspension. Last month, 117 Houston Methodist employees filed a lawsuit against their employer over the vaccine policy.
While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends health care workers get a flu shot, and some hospital systems require it, few companies have required COVID-19 shots, despite federal government guidance that says employers can mandate vaccines for on-site workers.
Jennifer Bridges, a nurse who led the Houston Methodist protest, has cited the lack of full FDA approval for the shots as a reason she won’t get vaccinated. A March survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that health care workers had concerns about the vaccines’ newness and their possible side effects, both of which are common reasons for waiting to be vaccinated.
San Francisco is nearing COVID-19 herd immunity, but LA still has months to go
San Francisco is nearing herd immunity, some experts believe, a milestone in California’s efforts to gain control of the COVID-19 pandemic.
San Francisco has one of California’s highest rates of vaccination, with 72% of residents having received at least one dose. Only one other county in California — Marin, just north of San Francisco — has a higher rate of vaccination, with 75% of residents there at least partially vaccinated.
Herd immunity, also known as community immunity, is a a form of indirectly protecting people without immunity to a disease from an infection. It occurs when a significant percentage of the overall population is immune either through vaccines or from surviving a previous infection.
There is no definitive percentage at which herd immunity to COVID-19 is achieved. It can only be tested when essentially all restrictions are loosened, and officials observe whether disease transmission increases. Previous guesses for when herd immunity is achieved to COVID-19 have been between 70% to 85% of a community with immunity.
“I think San Francisco is pretty close,” said University of California, San Francisco epidemiologist Dr. George Rutherford, who thinks a good guess for a threshold to achieve herd immunity is north of 75%. “I think we’re in really good shape here, here meaning the city [of San Francisco]. Other places, we’re plenty close.”
Wedding boom is on in the U.S. as vendors scramble to keep up
Couples in the U.S. are racing to the altar in a vaccination-era wedding boom that has venues and other vendors in high demand.
With restrictions on large gatherings loosening, wedding planners and others who make the magic happen said they’ve started pushing their bookings into late 2022 and early 2023.
“We’ve run out of trucks for some dates this year and that hasn’t happened before,” said Ben Goldberg, co-founder and president of the New York Food Truck Association. “Our phones have been ringing off the hook with clients looking to have the weddings they had to put off during COVID.”
Also contributing to the rush are couples who went ahead and got hitched during stricter pandemic times with few or no guests and are now on their second go-arounds with larger groups. They’re competing for services with those who had always intended to marry this year.
Q&A: Mayo Clinic expert weighs in on traveling after getting vaccinated for COVID-19
As more people are vaccinated for COVID-19, many are looking forward to being able to travel again. While many restrictions have been lifted, COVID-19 has not gone away. So how safe is it to travel?
Dr. Stacey Rizza, a Mayo Clinic infectious diseases specialist, answers questions about traveling at this point in the pandemic, including what's the most important step for safe travel, whether masks should still be worn on planes and steps to take at the conclusion of a trip.
‘This IS INSANE’: Africa desperately short of COVID vaccine
In the global race to vaccinate people against COVID-19, Africa is tragically at the back of the pack.
In South Africa, which has the continent’s biggest coronavirus caseload, just 0.8% of the population is fully vaccinated, according to a worldwide tracker kept by Johns Hopkins University. In Nigeria, Africa’s biggest country with more than 200 million people, only 0.1% are fully protected. Kenya, with 50 million people, is even lower.
The World Health Organization says the continent of 1.3 billion people is facing a severe shortage of vaccine at the same time a new wave of infections is rising across Africa. Vaccine shipments into Africa have ground to a “near halt,” WHO said last week.
“People are dying. Time is against us. This IS INSANE,” South African human rights lawyer Fatima Hasan, an activist for equal access to health care, wrote in a series of text messages.
EXPLAINER: The US investigation into COVID-19 origins
Once dismissed by most public health experts and government officials, the hypothesis that COVID-19 leaked accidentally from a Chinese lab is now receiving scrutiny under a new U.S. investigation.
Experts say the 90-day review ordered on May 26 by President Joe Biden will push American intelligence agencies to collect more information and review what they already have. Former State Department officials under President Donald Trump have publicly pushed for further investigation into virus origins, as have scientists and the World Health Organization.
Many scientists, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, say they still believe the virus most likely occurred in nature and jumped from animals to humans. Virus researchers have not publicly identified any key new scientific evidence that might make the lab-leak hypothesis more likely.
Virologists also say it is unlikely that any definitive answer about virus origins will be possible in 90 days. The work to fully confirm origins and pathways of past viruses — such as the first SARS or HIV/AIDS — has taken years or decades.
Catch up on the past 24 hours
Seattle music venues are getting ready to rock again, with few guidelines. From the Neptune Theatre and Benaroya Hall to the Tractor Tavern, each venue has a different approach as a return to full-capacity shows looms in just a few weeks, creating a mix of jubilation and anxiety.
The European Union today approved a new travel certificate that will allow people to cross borders without having to quarantine. Here's how it will work, and why Edmonds-based travel king Rick Steves says you should think twice about booking that Europe trip.
The stopped clocks of the pandemic are now showing the right time — time to open up, columnist Danny Westneat writes. The vaccines have changed everything, and state Republicans, implacably wrong for months, are now suddenly right.
Fortunes were spent on plastic shields as everyone sought plexiglass protection. But there's a hitch: Not a single study has proven they stop COVID-19, and they may even worsen the risk.
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