Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Thursday, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.

Last week, the number of newly reported COVID-19 cases and deaths fell everywhere except the Middle East and Southeast Asia, according to the World Health Organization’s weekly pandemic report.

At the same time, two omicron subvariants, BA.4 and BA.5, are gaining ground in the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. The two subvariants make up 13% of new COVID-19 cases reported in the country, up from 7.5% a week ago and 1% in early May.

Meanwhile, health authorities and experts urged German leaders to prepare for any possible COVID-19 scenario this fall that could strain health systems and critical infrastructure. The expert panel said the country continues to have immunity gaps in the population, and it recommended promoting vaccines against the coronavirus and making them more easily available.

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 the rest of our coronavirus coverage and here to see how we track the daily spread across Washington.

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China officials fear wind is blowing COVID in from North Korea

Some officials in a Chinese city on the border with North Korea say they can’t figure out where persistent new COVID-19 infections are coming from — and suspect the wind blowing in from their secretive neighbor.

Despite being locked down since the end of April, daily cases have been trending up in Dandong, a city of 2.19 million. Most of the infected people found in the community during the past week hadn’t been outside their housing compounds for at least four days before their diagnosis, according to the city’s Center for Disease Control.

Officials say they’re unable to establish a chain of transmission and their suspicions have instead settled on their neighboring country, with authorities urging residents living by the Yalu River that runs between the two countries to close their windows on days with southerly winds, according to a government notice.

There isn’t any clear scientific evidence backing up the theory and research shows that infections through airborne transmission are unlikely over long distances, particularly in outdoor settings without repeated exposure.

Still, some residents suspect authorities are considering the possibility that the virus is being carried through the air from North Korea, with suspected cases topping 4 million since late April, according to the state-run Korean Central News Agency.

Read the story here.

—Bloomberg
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Virus testing the new normal as China sticks to ‘zero-COVID’

Thousands of coronavirus testing sites have popped up on sidewalks across Beijing and other Chinese cities in the latest development in the country’s “zero-COVID” strategy.

Lines form every day, rain or shine, even where the spread of the virus has largely stopped. Some people need to go to work. Others want to shop. All are effectively compelled to get tested by a requirement to show a negative test result to enter office buildings, malls and other public places.

Regular testing of residents is becoming the new normal in many parts of China as the ruling Communist Party sticks steadfastly to a “zero-COVID” approach that is increasingly at odds with the rest of the world.

Major cities have been told to set up testing stations within a 15-minute walk for all residents. Beijing and Shanghai alone have put up 10,000 or more each.

Read the story here.

—Ken Moritsugu, The Associated Press

More Americans apply for jobless benefits last week

More Americans applied for jobless aid last week, but the total number of Americans collecting unemployment remains at a five-decade low.

Applications for unemployment benefits rose by 27,000 to 229,000 for the week ending June 4, the most since mid-January, the Labor Department reported Thursday. First-time applications generally track the number of layoffs.

The four-week average for claims, which evens out some of the weekly volatility, rose by 8,000 from the previous week to 215,000.

The total number of Americans collecting jobless benefits for the week ending May 28 remained unchanged from the previous week at 1,306,000, the fewest since Jan. 10, 1970.

American workers are enjoying historically strong job security two years after the coronavirus pandemic plunged the economy into a short but devastating recession. Weekly applications for unemployment aid have been consistently below the pre-pandemic level of 225,000 for most of 2022, even as the overall economy contracted in the first quarter and concerns over inflation persist.

Last week, the government reported that U.S. employers added 390,000 jobs in May, extending a streak of solid hiring that has bolstered an economy under pressure from high inflation and rising interest rates.

Read the story here.

—Matt Ott, The Associated Press

China’s trade rebounds in May as anti-virus curbs ease

China’s trade growth rebounded in May after anti-virus restrictions that shut down Shanghai and other industrial centers began to ease.

Exports surged 16.9% over a year earlier to $308.3 billion, up from April’s 3.7% growth, a customs agency statement said Thursday. Imports rose gained 4.1% to $229.5 billion, accelerating from the previous month’s 0.7%.

China’s trade has been dampened by weak export demand and curbs imposed to fight outbreaks in Shanghai, site of the world’s busiest port, and other cities. Consumer demand was crushed by rules that confined millions of families to their homes.

Forecasters have cut estimates for China’s economic growth to as low as 2% this year, well below the ruling Communist Party’s target of 5.5%. Some expect activity to shrink in the quarter ending in June before a gradual recovery begins.

Most factories, shops and other businesses in Shanghai, Beijing and other cities have been allowed to reopen but are expected to need weeks or months to return to normal activity.

Read the story here.

—Joe McDonald, The Associated Press
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Officials: Millions of COVID-19 shots ordered for youngest

Millions of COVID-19 vaccine doses have been ordered for small children in anticipation of possible federal authorization next week, White House officials say.

The government allowed pharmacies and states to start placing orders last week, with 5 million doses initially available — half of them shots made by Pfizer and the other half the vaccine produced by Moderna, senior administration officials said.

As of this week, about 1.45 million of the 2.5 million available doses of Pfizer have been ordered, and about 850,000 of available Moderna shots have been ordered, officials said. More orders are expected in the coming days.

Young children are the last group of Americans who have not been recommended to get COVID-19 vaccinations. Up to about 20 million U.S. children under 5 would become eligible for vaccination if the government authorizes one or both shots.

Read the story here.

—Mike Stobbe, The Associated Press

New vaccine may be option for troops with religious concerns

A COVID-19 vaccine that could soon win federal approval may offer a boost for the U.S. military: an opportunity to get shots into some of the thousands of service members who have refused other coronavirus vaccines for religious reasons.

At least 175 active duty and reserve service members have already received the Novavax vaccine, some even traveling overseas at their own expense to get it. The vaccine meets Defense Department requirements because it has the World Health Organization’s emergency use approval and is used in Europe and other regions. The Food and Drug Administration is considering giving it emergency use authorization in the U.S.

The Novavax vaccine may be an acceptable option for some of the 27,000 service members who have sought religious exemptions from the mandatory vaccine. Military officials say many troops who refuse the shots cite certain COVID-19 vaccines’ remote connection to abortions.

Read the story here.

—Lolita C. Baldor

Seattle-area choirs return to performing but things are not the same

Like the sound of music from another room, laughter echoes in the great dome of St. James Cathedral. Members of Seattle Pro Musica crack jokes behind their face masks as they file, precisely spaced, into a crescent shape around the altar.

The delight of the choir members rehearsing together last month was nearly enough to forget March 6, 2020, when Seattle Pro Musica’s canceled dress rehearsal left Lynnwood’s Trinity Lutheran Church devoid of the friendly chatter and soaring notes the choir usually brings.

The choir and its Puget Sound-area peers have accomplished a lot since that fateful week when pandemic shutdowns began — piecing together concert videos in the style of a “Brady Bunch” intro, donning coats and gloves to rehearse with open windows, perfecting enunciation while singing behind multilayered cloth — but, so far, a return to normalcy is not on that list. Even as performances have resumed, there have been many changes to the way choral groups rehearse and perform, and heavy precautions keep members from socializing how they once did.

On top of it all is a leftover hesitancy around choirs that’s been present since March 10, 2020, when 53 members of the Skagit Valley Chorale left a rehearsal infected with the coronavirus in an event that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention later labeled as a superspreader, one of the country’s first.

Read the story here.

—Grace Gorenflo
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Aid stalled, White House to shift testing funds to vaccines and treatments

White House officials said Wednesday that they would have to repurpose federal COVID-19 funds meant for coronavirus tests and protective equipment in order to supply more antiviral pills and vaccines, after so far failing to persuade Congress to pass a new pandemic relief package.

Roughly $10 billion from Department of Health and Human Services funds will be rerouted, around half of it to purchase vaccines for Americans before a possible fall or winter wave of virus cases, when an updated shot may be needed, according to one White House official.

The other half will go mostly to purchasing 10 million courses of Paxlovid, an antiviral treatment made by Pfizer that has been shown to substantially reduce the severity of COVID-19 in high-risk people, the official said. Around $300 million will be spent on another kind of treatment, monoclonal antibodies.

Read the story here.

—Noah Weiland, The New York Times

WHO: COVID cases and deaths falling nearly everywhere

The number of new coronavirus cases and deaths reported globally fell everywhere last week except the Middle East and Southeast Asia, according to the World Health Organization.

In its latest weekly update on the pandemic, the U.N. health agency said Wednesday that confirmed cases dropped 12% to more than 3 million and reported deaths declined 22% to about 7,600.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus described the continuing decline of COVID-19, which peaked in January, as “a very encouraging trend.”

Still, he warned that the pandemic was not yet over and urged caution, even as many countries have dropped their coronavirus protocols and shifted into trying to live with the virus.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

Experts urge Germany’s govt to prepare for fall COVID wave

Authorities in Germany should prepare for several possible pandemic scenarios this fall that would likely strain the country’s health system and critical infrastructure, an expert panel said Wednesday.

The government-appointed panel said the country continues to have immunity gaps in the population, and it recommended promoting vaccines against the coronavirus and making them more easily available.

The panel advised authorities to ensure that testing facilities can be scaled up quickly in the fall and also said COVID-19 patients also should get earlier access to antiviral drugs.

The experts urged the German government to provide a clear legal foundation for any public health restrictions it might decide to put in place, especially if a dangerous new variant emerges.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press
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Two new versions of omicron are gaining ground in U.S., the CDC estimates

The omicron subvariants known as BA.4 and BA.5 now represent 13% of new coronavirus cases in the United States, up from 7.5% a week ago and 1% in early May, according to new estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The spread of the subvariants adds more uncertainty to the trajectory of the pandemic in the United States, where current case counts are likely to be a significant underestimate. But whether it leads to a major new wave of infections, or spikes in hospitalizations and deaths, remains unclear, scientists cautioned.

The new figures, which were released Tuesday, are based on modeling, and the CDC’s estimates have missed the mark before. But the overall trend suggests that BA.4 and BA.5 could outcompete the two other omicron subvariants, BA.2 and BA.2.12.1, which together account for most U.S. cases, said Denis Nash, a public health researcher at the City University of New York Graduate School of Public Health & Health Policy.

“This could happen very quickly,” Nash said.

Read the story here.

—Emily Anthes, The New York Times