Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Tuesday, March 1, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.

New York health officials found that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is less effective in preventing coronavirus infection in children 5 to 11 years old than among adolescents and adults. The data set analysis found that while the vaccine prevents children from becoming severely ill, it offers “virtually no protection” against infection.

Meanwhile, several public health experts have expressed worries that many are mistaking the end of the omicron surge with the end of the pandemic.

The concerns come after several states have announced plans to end COVID-19 safety restrictions. The Centers for Disease Control has also updated its safety guidelines, shifting to no longer recommend enforcement of masks and social distancing among communities where the risk to contract COVID-19 is low.

Many states, including Washington, have announced plans to end mask mandates and other COVID-19 restrictions aimed at keeping the public safe as reported COVID-19 cases decline. Gov. Jay Inslee said he will lift COVID-19 mask requirements about a week earlier than originally planned.

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.

Don’t use these 3 unauthorized COVID tests, FDA warns. You might get a false result

There are three COVID-19 tests distributed in the U.S. to avoid and if you already have any of them, don’t use them, the Food and Drug Administration is warning of the unauthorized tests.

The agency “is concerned about the risk of false results when using” all three, it said on Tuesday about certain COVID-19 antigen tests by companies Celltrion, ACON Laboratories and SD Biosensor. Each company has issued their own recalls for their particular kits.

Avoid the Celltrion DiaTrust COVID-19 Ag Rapid Test found in bright green and white packaging and the ACON Laboratories Flowflex SARS-CoV-2 Antigen Rapid Test (Self-Testing) found in a dark blue box, the FDA says. Additionally, don’t use SD Biosensor’s Standard Q COVID-19 Ag Home Test found in a white and magenta box.

If you have a test by any of these three companies, compare the packaging with the photos shared by the FDA of the unauthorized tests. Other COVID-19 tests by each company are authorized.

Read the full story here.

— Julia Marnin, McClatchy Washington Bureau
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Rep. Suzan DelBene tests positive for the coronavirus

U.S. Rep. Suzan DelBene has tested positive for the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 and announced she’d miss President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address on Tuesday.

DelBene, D-Medina, who represents Washington’s 1st Congressional District, took a test Tuesday morning, which came back positive, her office announced.

“I will be isolating and working remotely. I will not be attending the State of the Union. My office remains fully operational for WA-01 constituents,” DelBene said in a statement.

DelBene, who is fully vaccinated and boosted, is “feeling ok for now,” said her spokesperson, Nick Martin, in an email.

Earlier Tuesday, DelBene who chairs the centrist New Democrat Coalition, joined U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Seattle, who chairs the Congressional Progressive Caucus, in calling for “urgent action” to deliver on pieces of Biden’s stalled domestic agenda on climate change and other priorities.

—Seattle Times staff

Hawaii to lift COVID-19 travel quarantine rules this month

Hawaii plans to lift its COVID-19 quarantine requirement for travelers this month, meaning that starting on March 26 those arriving from other places in the U.S. won’t have to show proof of vaccination or a negative test to avoid sequestering themselves for five days.

Hawaii is the only U.S. state to implement a coronavirus quarantine program of this kind.

Gov. David Ige said at a news conference the requirement saved lives and was a major factor in limiting the spread of COVID-19 in the islands. Hawaii has one of the lowest coronavirus infection rates in the nation.

The quarantine period for travelers lasted 14 days when Hawaii first imposed it in March 2020. The state later created testing and vaccination exemptions.

Read the full story here.

—Audrey McAvoy, The Associated Press

How many Americans have had coronavirus? More than double the case counts, CDC estimates

More than 140 million Americans have had the coronavirus, according to estimates from blood tests that reveal antibodies from infection — about double the rate regularly cited by national case counts.

The estimates, compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, show that about 43% of the country has been infected by the virus. The study shows that the majority of children have also been infected.

The data goes through late January, when the omicron variant of the coronavirus was causing more than 500,000 cases a day, meaning the number of Americans now infected is considerably higher. The data comes from 72,000 blood samples taken in January.

The highly infectious variant has caused case counts to skyrocket. As of late November, just before the omicron variant began spreading in the United States, the blood test study estimated that 103 million people had been infected. By that measure, 37 million new people caught the virus over two months ending in late January.

Read the full story here.

—Dan Keating, The Washington Post
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Should you still wear a mask after mandates lift? How to tackle that choice

As masking mandates lift and new coronavirus infections fall across the United States, there’s lots of confusion about if, and when, to wear a mask.

“This is the hardest thing of all, because it’s not just the risks and benefits to you,” said Dr. Robert Wachter, a professor and the chair of the medicine department at the University of California, San Francisco. “It’s the risks and benefits to the people around you.”

One good way to frame the issue is to ask: Who is the most vulnerable person in your immediate circle?

If you have compromised immunity, for example, or live with someone who does, it’s a good idea to continue to wear a mask and maintain social distance around strangers, especially in indoor areas with standing air where the virus may collect. Masks are also important if you’re unvaccinated or spending time with others who are unvaccinated. Unvaccinated people are at overwhelmingly higher risk of hospitalization and death from COVID-19. Masks are also a must in hospitals, where there are many vulnerable people.

Read the full story here.

—Amelia Nierenberg, The New York Times

Auditor: Iowa Gov. Reynolds must return $450K in COVID funds

Iowa’s state auditor has again called for Gov. Kim Reynolds to return nearly $450,000 in federal coronavirus relief funds that were used to pay for 21 governor’s office staff members for three months in 2020.

Auditor Rob Sand, a Democrat, released a report Tuesday that repeated his recommendation from October 2020 and last December that the funds were improperly used and should be returned.

Sand said in December that the Republican governor not only misspent the federal money but tried to conceal it by passing it through the state Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.

After that report was released, Sand said he finally received in December a 159-page packet of information he had sought repeatedly from the governor’s office to justify use of federal pandemic emergency money for her staff’s salaries.

After reviewing the documentation, he said his recommendation to return the $448,448 remains the same.

Read the story here.

—David Pitt, The Associated Press

Biden extends FEMA coronavirus aid for states through July 1

President Joe Biden is extending the federal government’s 100% reimbursement of COVID-19 emergency response costs to states, tribes and territories through July 1, the White House announced Tuesday.

White House COVID-19 coordinator Jeff Zients informed governors on a conference call that Biden is approving the extension of Federal Emergency Management Agency support to help continue FEMA-backed efforts like vaccination clinics, mass testing sites and surging hospital resources to deal with local case spikes.

The extension through the first half of the year is a sign that the White House continues to see a need for federal resources in combating COVID-19 even as Biden tries to guide the country to live with the coronavirus while case counts recede.

Read the story here.

—Zeke Miller, The Associated Press
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Hospital leaders encourage indoor masking even after WA mandates end March 12

COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations continue to trend down throughout Washington state, giving hospitals some more breathing room as the omicron surge subsides.

But hospital leaders have concerns about the approaching end to statewide masking requirements and are encouraging people to mask indoors even after mandates lift.

Gov. Jay Inslee and public health officials on Monday sped up the timeline for the end of indoor masking requirements — to March 12.

Although hospitalizations are also decreasing throughout the UW Medicine system, Dr. Santiago Neme, clinical associate professor of medicine and infectious diseases at UW Medicine, said Tuesday that universal masking will still be required in the health care system’s hospital settings for patients, staffers and visitors. 

He also encouraged people to continue masking indoors even after the mandate lifts.

Read the story here.

—Elise Takahama

Pfizer shots protect kids from severe COVID even in omicron

Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine gave children 5 and older strong protection against hospitalization and death even during the omicron surge that hit youngsters especially hard, U.S. health officials reported Tuesday.

New data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention come a day after a study of New York children suggested the vaccine may not be as effective in 5- to 11-year-olds as in older kids — especially at blocking milder infections. That data raised the question of whether kid-sized doses given to those under 12 might be too low.

But the CDC said data from multiple other states suggests the issue isn’t children’s ages or dose size — it’s omicron. Vaccination generally is less effective against the hugely contagious omicron variant than earlier versions of the coronavirus — and vaccinations for 5- to 11-year-olds began just weeks before omicron began circulating.

Read the story here.

—Lauran Neergaard, The Associated Press

Traffic jams back in Philippine capital as restrictions ease

Traffic jams and outdoor crowds are back in the Philippine capital and 38 other cities and provinces Tuesday after officials allowed businesses and public transport, including shopping malls, movie houses and restaurants, to operate at full capacity as COVID-19 cases continued to drop with more vaccinations, officials said.

In a bid to further boost the pandemic-battered economy, authorities placed metropolitan Manila and 38 other regions under the lowest rung of a five-step pandemic alert system from Tuesday to March 15 and lifted most health restrictions, but still required the full vaccination of residents 18 and older against the coronavirus and the wearing of face masks outdoors and in indoor establishments.

Social distancing is no longer required in Manila and the other specified areas, restaurants can now remove plastic barriers on tables, and public gatherings — such as birthday parties, weddings, sport events and family reunions — can fully resume. All government employees have been ordered to return to office for work.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press
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As LGBTQ+ nightlife returns, will the scene be forever changed?

Pre-pandemic, Capitol Hill was the undisputed center of Seattle’s LGBTQ+ nightlife. The area’s long standing institutions like NeighboursThe Cuff and R Place were decades-old multilevel complexes and spaces for shared communities, themed nights and blockbuster Pride events, and were — especially Neighbours and R Place — notable destinations for world-famous drag performers. Smaller though just as vibrant bars — like Pony, the Eagle, the Crescent Lounge, the Wildrose and more — firmly anchored LGBTQ+ communities to the Hill.

Then, the early pandemic brought waves of lockdowns, temporary and permanent closures, and the future of LGBTQ+ nightlife seemed uncertain. While Neighbours sat shuttered, it suffered damage and financial losses due to break-ins. When the owner of R Place’s four-story building died, the estate chose not to renew the club’s lease. Just down the Hill, Re-bar — a Denny Triangle mainstay for LGBTQ+, events produced by Black, Indigenous and people of color, and much more — closed after 30 years. Pandemic closures were upsetting for any venue, but these were cornerstones for LGBTQ+ communities, and there was no indication if or when they would ever come back. 

Now a new wave of nearly-post-pandemic queer nightlife has sprung up out of the disruptions of the last two years and Seattle’s queer spaces seem more robust than ever. Seattle’s gay nightlife giants are being reborn and new venues are popping up in different neighborhoods. Venues old and new are expanding outward — and southward in particular — from the Hill. As LGBTQ+ nightlife expands, it’s courting more inclusive crowds, and queer and trans people of color are hopeful they’ll be returning to a more inclusive scene. 

Read the story here.

—Mark Van Streefkerk, Special to The Seattle Times

Congresswoman Suzan DelBene tests positive for COVID-19, will miss State of the Union

U.S. Rep. Suzan DelBene will miss the President Biden's first State of the Union address after testing positive for COVID-19.

DelBene, D-Medina, who represents the state's 1st Congressional District, took a test Tuesday morning, which came back positive, her office announced.

"I will be isolating and working remotely. I will not be attending the State of the Union. My office remains fully operational for WA-01 constituents," DelBene said in a statement.

DelBene, who is fully vaccinated and boosted, is "feeling ok for now," said her spokesperson, Nick Martin, in an email.

Earlier Tuesday, DelBene who chairs the centrist New Democrat Coalition, joined U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Seattle, who chairs the Congressional Progressive Caucus, in calling for "urgent action" to deliver on pieces of Biden's stalled domestic agenda on climate change and other priorities.

—Jim Brunner

New Orleans hosts its 1st full-dress Mardi Gras since 2020

Revelers decked out in traditional purple, green and gold came out to party on Fat Tuesday in New Orleans’ first full-dress Mardi Gras since 2020. The fun includes back-to-back parades across the city and marches through the French Quarter and beyond, with masks against COVID-19 required only in indoor public spaces.

Parade routes are shorter than usual, because there aren’t enough police for the standard ones, even with officers working 12-hour shifts as they always do on Mardi Gras and the days leading up to the end of the Carnival season.

But with COVID-19 hospitalizations and case numbers falling worldwide and 92% of the city’s adults at least partly vaccinated, parades and other festivities are back on after a season without them.

Costumed partiers gathered before dawn to see the North Side Skull & Bone Gang, dressed as skeletons, wake up the city’s Treme neighborhood, reminding everyone of their mortality. From then on it was “Let the good times roll,” with celebrations in just about every corner of the city, leading up to a ceremonial clearing of Bourbon Street at midnight.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press
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Devotees crowd Nepal temple as COVID-19 cases decline

Hundreds of thousands of devotees crowded a revered Hindu temple in Nepal’s capital for a festival on Tuesday as coronavirus cases decline and life returns to normal.

Around a million devotees were expected to visit the temple to Hindu god Shiva on Shivaratri, one of Nepal’s most cherished festivals.

Temples, schools and markets have begun to reopen in recent weeks as the number of COVID-19 cases declines. On Monday, just 180 new infections were reported, down from a peak of over 9,000 per day in January.

Pashupatinath Temple in Kathmandu is among the most important Hindu temples and is popular among pilgrims. During the festival, devotees fast all day and visit the temple and take dip in the Bagmati River.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

British queen holds virtual audiences after COVID symptoms

Queen Elizabeth II held two virtual audiences after more than a week of suffering cold-like symptoms from COVID-19.

Buckingham Palace said the 95-year-old British monarch held virtual sessions with the ambassadors of Chad and Andorra. The queen canceled several sessions last week, so the ones held Tuesday suggest she is recovering.

The monarch’s age, COVID-19 diagnosis and a health scare last year caused worry among officials and the public. The palace’s Feb. 20 announcement that Elizabeth had tested positive test for the coronavirus virus prompted concern and get-well wishes from across Britain’s political spectrum.

The palace has declined to offer day-to day commentary on the monarch’s health, citing her right to privacy. But palace officials have said that Elizabeth, who has been fully vaccinated and had a booster shot, would continue with “light” duties at Windsor Castle.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

Australian prime minister diagnosed with COVID-19

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he tested positive for COVID-19 on Tuesday but will continue his official duties while isolating.

“I am experiencing flu-like symptoms and will be recovering over the next week,” Morrison said in a statement.

He said would continue working as prime minister, focusing on the government’s responses to the Ukraine war and devastating floods on Australia’s east coast. He is isolating in his official Sydney residence.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press
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Catch up on the past 24 hours

Washingtonians will be able to drop their masks sooner inside schools and businesses, after Gov. Jay Inslee yesterday accelerated the timeline. So, now that mask-wearing will largely rest on personal choices, how do you decide wisely? This guide provides experts' useful advice on making mask decisions in everyday situations, including how to check the risk level in your county.

Starting today, restaurants, bars and gyms in King County aren’t required to ask you for proof of vaccination — but some plan to keep doing it.

How many Americans have had coronavirus: The number is likely more than double what case counts show, according to a new CDC analysis of blood tests.

​​​​​​​"What do you do when you can’t agree on reality?" The suburban Facebook group was once seen as social media at its best, a vital resource for a supportive community. But then came the breaking point, and an abrupt end that highlights how pandemic unity has curdled into discord.

—Kris Higginson