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 It is no longer being updated.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

Washington state is expected to surpass 5,000 COVID-19 deaths this week — almost exactly a year after the first was announced in the U.S. The trend now is encouraging, but big challenges remain. 

As the pandemic marched across Washington it exposed a public health system gradually starved of money, staff and attention over the past two decades.

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.


(Jennifer Luxton / The Seattle Times)

More

Minimum wage hike all but dead in big COVID relief bill

WASHINGTON — Democrats’ hopes of including a minimum wage increase in their $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill seemed all but dead as the Senate prepared to debate its own version of the House-passed aid package.

Four days after the chamber’s parliamentarian said Senate rules forbid inclusion of a straight-out minimum wage increase in the relief measure, Democrats on Monday seemed to have exhausted their most realistic options for quickly salvaging the pay hike. In one decision, they abandoned a potential amendment threatening tax increases on big companies that don’t boost workers’ pay to certain levels.

“At this moment, we may not have a path but I hope we can find one” for pushing the federal pay floor to $15 an hour, said No. 2 Senate Democratic leader Richard Durbin of Illinois.

Senate Democrats hope to unveil their version of the broad relief package and begin debate as early as Wednesday. Congressional leaders want to send President Joe Biden the legislation combating the pandemic and bolstering the economy by March 14, the date emergency jobless benefits that lawmakers approved in December expire.

—Associated Press
Advertising

Twitter cracks down on COVID vaccine misinformation

SAN FRANCISCO — Twitter says it has begun labeling tweets that include misleading information about COVID-19 vaccines and using a “strike system” to eventually remove accounts that repeatedly violate its rules.

The company said Monday that it has started using human reviewers to assess whether tweets violate its policy against COVID vaccine misinformation. Eventually, the work will be done by a combination of humans and automation, it said.

Twitter had already banned some COVID-related misinformation in December, including falsehoods about how the virus spreads, whether masks are effective and the risk of infection and death.

“Through the use of the strike system, we hope to educate people on why certain content breaks our rules so they have the opportunity to further consider their behavior and their impact on the public conversation,” Twitter said in a blog post Monday.

People with one violation — or strike — will see no action. Two strikes will lead to an account being locked for 12 hours. Five or more will get a user permanently banned from Twitter.

—Associated Press

COVID-19 pandemic fuels attacks on health workers globally

Two Nigerian nurses were attacked by the family of a deceased COVID-19 patient. One nurse had her hair ripped out and suffered a fracture. The second was beaten into a coma.

Following the assaults, nurses at Federal Medical Centre in the Southwestern city of Owo stopped treating patients, demanding the hospital improve security. Almost two weeks passed before they returned to work with armed guards posted around the clock.

“We don’t give life. It is God that gives life. We only care or we manage,” said Francis Ajibola, a local leader with the National Association of Nigeria Nurses and Midwives.

The attack in Nigeria early last month was just one of many on health workers globally during the COVID-19 pandemic. A new report by the Geneva-based Insecurity Insight and the University of California, Berkeley’s Human Rights Center identified more than 1,100 threats or acts of violence against health care workers and facilities last year.

Researchers found that about 400 of those attacks were related to COVID-19, many motivated by fear or frustration, underscoring the dangers surrounding health care workers at a time when they are needed most.

—Associated Press

Chinese vaccines sweep much of the world, despite concerns

TAIPEI — The plane laden with vaccines had just rolled to a stop at Santiago’s airport in late January, and Chile’s president, Sebastián Piñera, was beaming. “Today,” he said, “is a day of joy, emotion and hope.”

The source of that hope: China – a country that Chile and dozens of other nations are depending on to help rescue them from the COVID-19 pandemic.

China’s vaccine diplomacy campaign has been a surprising success: It has pledged roughly half a billion doses of its vaccine to more than 45 countries, according to a country-by-country tally by The Associated Press. With just four of China’s many vaccine makers able to produce at least 2.6 billion doses this year, a large part of the world’s population will end up inoculated not with the fancy Western vaccines boasting headline-grabbing efficacy rates, but with China’s humble, traditionally made shots.

Amid a dearth of public data on China’s vaccines, fears over their efficacy and safety are still pervasive in the countries depending on them, along with concerns about what China might want in return for deliveries. Nonetheless, inoculations with Chinese vaccines have begun in more than 25 countries, and the shots have been delivered to another 11, according to AP’s tally, based on independent reporting in those countries along with government and company announcements.

It’s a potential face-saving coup for China, which has been determined to transform itself from an object of mistrust over its initial mishandling of the COVID-19 outbreak to a savior.

—Associated Press
Advertising

Comic-Con to remain virtual in 2021, cites financial strain

SAN DIEGO, Calif. — San Diego Comic-Con will remain virtual for the July event, but organizers are planning for a smaller-scale gathering later this year.

Comic-Con announced Monday that the annual confab will return to virtual for a second-straight year between July 23-25. The in-person experience was canceled again due to coronavirus-related cautions around large gatherings.

Organizers said postponements and other challenges caused by the pandemic left them with “limited financial resources.” As a result, the virtual convention in July was reduced from four to three days.

However, organizers said they are planning a smaller in-person November event in San Diego. The details have not yet been released.

—Associated Press

Frontier cancels flight, citing maskless passengers

A Frontier Airlines flight from Miami to La Guardia Airport in New York was canceled Sunday night after a large group of passengers, including several adults, refused to wear masks, the airline said.

By Monday morning, the airline was facing accusations of anti-Semitism for its treatment of the passengers, who are Hasidic Jews, as well as demands for an investigation from the Anti-Defamation League of New York and other groups. Frontier steadfastly held to its position that the passengers had refused to comply with federal rules requiring them to wear masks.

Several cellphone videos that have surfaced do not show the confrontation that took place between the passengers and the Frontier crew members, only the aftermath. The video footage from inside the aircraft appeared to show members of the group wearing masks. Some passengers said that the episode escalated because just one member of the group, a 15-month-old child, was not wearing one.

A Frontier Airlines spokesperson said in a statement that “a large group of passengers repeatedly refused to comply with the U.S. government’s federal mask mandate.”

—The New York Times

Colombia first in Americas to get vaccines from UN program

BOGOTA, Colombia — Colombia on Monday became the first country in the Americas to receive a shipment of coronavirus vaccines from the United Nations-backed COVAX initiative, a program meant to ensure that the world’s most vulnerable people are inoculated but that has so far struggled to assist nations around the globe.

The arrival of 117,000 doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine to the South American country’s capital, Bogota, came a few days after the anniversary of the first case of COVID-19 found in the region.

The Pan American Health Organization said it expects to increase vaccine access in the region through the COVAX effort each month, with plans to bring about 280 million vaccines to the Americas and the Caribbean by the end of the year.

But the initiative, formed to ensure fair access to vaccines by low- and middle-income countries, has been hampered by the severely limited global supply of doses and logistical problems. Although it aims to deliver 2 billion shots this year, it currently has legally binding agreements only for several hundred million shots.

The organization said in a news release Monday that 36 countries in the region will receive vaccines through the initiative. Of those, 26 will do so through their own funds while 10 will receive the vaccines for free.

—Associated Press
Advertising

Microsoft says vaccine tools have ‘fallen short’ after D.C. snags

Widely used Microsoft vaccine scheduling software that has run into difficulties in Iowa and New Jersey is being blamed for problems that left some residents of the nation’s capital unable to book appointments.

After three straight days of issues with the District of Columbia’s online vaccination registration, the Redmond-based technology company released a statement along with the city government acknowledging “that our efforts have fallen short” and vowing to address the problems.

The issues in Washington, D.C., represent another black eye for Microsoft, which has heavily touted its software as a way to help with rapid vaccine deployment and scheduling. In the past several years, the software giant has increasingly focused on health care and hospital systems as customers for its cloud and artificial intelligence systems, including releasing a cloud software package tailored to the industry last year.

Frustrated users of the system took to Twitter to voice a litany of complaints, including Captcha response tests not working, error messages saying the service was unavailable and web page crashes.

—Bloomberg

University of Oregon confirms 'predominantly' in-person classes this fall

The University of Oregon on Monday confirmed the school would return to "predominantly" in-person classes for its fall quarter, according to a statement from the university president.

The news follows an announcement by Oregon Gov. Kate Brown and the Oregon Health Authority last week that higher education faculty and staff will be eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine by May 1, the statement said. The school added that hundreds of its other employees have already been vaccinated because of their priority levels in Phase 1A.

"I am under no illusion that life on campus will be what it was before COVID-19," University of Oregon President Michael H. Schill said in the statement. "The virus is not going away. But now, we can be ready."

Over the past year, the university has reconfigured classrooms, office and common spaces to ensure physical distancing, adjusted its air handling systems and urged the school community to wear masks and wash their hands frequently, the statement said.

"These will all continue in the fall and, with the addition of vaccines, will allow for the safe in-person experiences that the university prides itself on," Schill wrote. "We will be ready to welcome you back."

—Elise Takahama

Biden works to unify Senate Democrats on $1.9 trillion relief bill

WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden launched a lobbying effort targeting fellow Democrats on Monday to unify them behind his $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill as the Senate prepares to move forward on the massive legislation this week.

Democrats don’t have a vote to spare in the Senate, but several moderate-leaning senators have raised concerns about the structure of unemployment insurance benefits and Biden’s plan to send $350 billion to state and local governments, among other issues.

Biden convened a group of these Democrats on a conference call Monday afternoon, the first in a days-long outreach campaign that will also include calling into the weekly Senate Democratic lunch on Tuesday and addressing the House Democratic caucus on Wednesday evening.

The White House and congressional Democrats are staring down a March 14 deadline when enhanced unemployment benefits will expire unless the relief legislation is signed into law first. The House passed the bill on Saturday, allowing just two weeks to get it through the Senate, where it’s likely to undergo some changes, and then back to the House for final passage.

—The Washington Post
Advertising

Seattle lawmakers urge Inslee, Durkan to fast-track vaccine access for educators

To bridge a school-reopening impasse between Seattle Public Schools and its teachers union, several state lawmakers are lobbying Gov. Jay Inslee and Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan to create vaccine clinics on school sites for educators, and fast-track their timeline to receive doses.

A letter sent last week by more than a dozen lawmakers representing Seattle in the state Legislature called on Inslee to create clinics located on school campuses “in order to rapidly facilitate opening of schools.” Another letter, sent to Durkan, asks for the city’s support.

“Site-based vaccination is important for vaccinating the school personnel for second shots, rather than having staff taking time from vital work to schedule and be vaccinated,” the letter said. “Site-based vaccination is the strategy that has been demonstrated to be most effective in having universal vaccination for essential workplaces.”

But on Monday evening, Inslee gave no indication that he would change the state’s eligibility requirements to move teachers higher up the priority list.

Read the full story here.

—Dahlia Bazzaz

A COVID vaccine side effect, enlarged lymph nodes, can be mistaken for cancer

Coronavirus vaccinations can cause enlarged lymph nodes in the armpit or near the collarbone, which may be mistaken for a sign of cancer.

As vaccines are rolled out across the country, doctors are seeing more and more of these swollen nodes in recently immunized people, and medical journals have begun publishing reports aimed at allaying fears and helping patients avoid needless testing for a harmless condition that will go away in a few weeks.

The swelling is a normal reaction by the immune system to the vaccine, and occurs on the same side as the arm where the shot was given. It can also occur after other vaccinations, including those for flu and the human papillomavirus (HPV). Patients may or may not notice it. But the enlarged lymph nodes show up as white blobs on mammograms and chest scans, resembling images that can indicate the spread of cancer from a tumor in the breast or elsewhere in the body.

The swelling in the armpit was a recognized side effect in the large trials of the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines. 

—The New York Times

Swiss bask in reopened shops as COVID-19 cases drop

GENEVA — The timing couldn’t have been better for Michele Pesson for Swiss authorities to order a reopening of stores across Switzerland amid a recent drop in coronavirus cases and deaths: Her son’s birthday is coming up, and she wanted to get her hands on something special for him to read.

Pesson, a school teacher and administrator, was one of the droves of shoppers who turned out on Monday in a Geneva shop of well-known Swiss bookstore chain Payot to buy up magazines, books and other wares after a six-week shutdown that left only essential stores in Switzerland open because of the pandemic.

Swiss authorities last week gave a go-ahead to what they called a “cautious” reopening despite a new, more-transmissible COVID-19 variant that first appeared in Britain that is increasingly circulating in the rich Alpine country.

In mid-January, authorities ordered the closure of stores except for supermarkets, pharmacies and other essential businesses — around the time that the country of 8.5 million was tallying more than 3,000 new coronavirus cases per day based on a seven-day average. That rate has gradually dropped in recent weeks, now to about 1,000 per day — or less.

—Associated Press
Advertising

Seattle teachers union files unfair labor practice complaints against school district

The Seattle Education Association union has filed unfair labor practice complaints against Seattle Public Schools for actions the district took late last week to bring some educators back to classrooms before the two sides had reached an agreement on reopening school buildings after months of remote learning because of the coronavirus pandemic.

On Sunday, the union filed three complaints with the state’s Public Employment Relations Commission alleging the district interfered with the rights of employees to collectively bargain working conditions, violating two state statutes. Each complaint represents one of three main categories of employees the union represents: teachers, paraeducators and school-building office staffers.

After getting authorization from the Seattle School Board last week, the district designated some 700 educators as “essential” to speed up the process of in-person instruction for special education students, some of whom have been waiting months for services as COVID-19 school building closures remain in place. The most recent agreement with the teachers union requires the district to negotiate a return to in-person instruction, but the move last week uses a clause in the contract that gives the superintendent the right to determine essential staff who need to be on-site in buildings.

The union argued that the action forces educators back into the classroom before the two parties were able to agree on important coronavirus safety protocols.

Read the full story here.

—Dahlia Bazzaz

Chicago schools open doors to thousands more students

CHICAGO — Thousands of Chicago Public Schools students returned to school on Monday morning, the second — and largest — wave of students to go back to classrooms after almost a year of remote learning due to the coronavirus pandemic.

CPS did not immediately provide any details on how many of the 37,000 students in kindergarten through fifth grade who signed up for in-person learning actually showed up. Roughly 5,000 pre-kindergarten students and special education students returned to the classroom when in-person learning became available for them last month.

Next Monday, another 18,500 students — sixth, seventh and eighth grades — who opted in for in-person learning in the nation’s third-largest school district will be allowed back into their schools.

On Monday, Mayor Lori Lightfoot and CPS CEO Janice Jackson welcomed students back to Hawthorne Elementary School in the Lakeview neighborhood on the city’s North Side.

Lightfoot and Jackson spoke of happy students — some literally skipping to school — and of the $100 million spent to make safe those facilities that were closed last March because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

—Associated Press

State reports 475 new coronavirus cases, 13 new deaths

The state Department of Health (DOH) reported 475 new coronavirus cases and 13 new deaths on Monday.

The update brings the state's totals to 340,708 cases and 4,969 deaths, meaning that 1.5% 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-related deaths aren’t reported on the weekends.

In addition, 19,372 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the virus — 53 new hospitalizations. In King County, the state's most populous, state health officials have confirmed a total of 84,244 COVID-19 diagnoses and 1,394 deaths.

On Dec. 16, DOH’s case, hospitalization and death counts started including both confirmed cases and probable cases in its total count. According to DOH, probable cases refer to people who received a positive antigen test result but not a positive molecular test result, while confirmed cases refer to those who have received a positive molecular test result.

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.

—Nicole Brodeur
Advertising

China says it aims to vaccinate 40% of population by June

FILE – In this Dec. 23, 2020, file photo released by China’s Xinhua News Agency, a Sinovac worker checks the labeling on vials of COVID-19 vaccines on a packaging line in Beijing. With just four of China’s many vaccine makers claiming they are able to produce at least 2.6 billion doses this year, a large part of the world’s population will end up inoculated not with Western vaccines boasting headline-grabbing efficacy rates, but with China’s traditionally made shots. (Zhang Yuwei/Xinhua via AP, File)

China plans to inoculate 40% of its population by June, Chinese health experts said Monday.

Zhong Nanshan, the leader of a group of experts attached to the National Health Commission, said the country has delivered 52.52 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines as of Feb. 28.

The target is the first China has offered publicly since it began its mass immunization campaign for key groups in mid-December.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

Slovakia signs deal to acquire 2 million doses of Sputnik V

Russia’s Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine arrives at Kosice Airport, Slovakia, Monday March 1, 2021. Hard-hit Slovakia signed a deal to acquire 2 million dozes of Russia’s Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine. The country’s prime minister says Slovakia will get one million shots in next two months while another million will arrive in May and June. (Frantisek Ivan/TASR via AP)

Slovakia signed a deal to acquire 2 million doses of Russia’s Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine, Prime Minister Igor Matovic said Monday.

Matovic said his country, which has suffered the most COVID-19 deaths by population in the world, will get 1 million shots in the next two months while another million will arrive in May and June.

Slovakia has so far administered 305,832 shots of Western vaccines that it has received through an EU deal. To speed up what is considered a slow EU delivery, the country started to look for other options.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

CDC watching COVID-19 variant in New York

A new COVID-19 variant detected in New York City that’s now traveled through various city neighborhoods is being watched closely by U.S. health officials, Anthony Fauci said on Monday.

The variant, known scientifically as B.1.526, likely started off in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan, Fauci, a top adviser to President Joe Biden on the pandemic, said during a news briefing. It is one of five concerning variants now being tracked nationally by health officials.

Recent research suggests B.1.526 needs to be closely watched “for its ability to evade both monoclonal antibody and, to a certain extent, the vaccine-induced antibody,” said Fauci, who also heads the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

“It’s something we take very, very seriously,” Fauci said.

The variant may have arisen in November in immunocompromised people who remained sick despite treatment over a long period of time. Fauci said infectious disease specialists are often asked whether immunocompromised people should get vaccinated.

Read the full story here.

—Josh Wingrove and Jordan Fabian, Bloomberg
Advertising

States easing virus restrictions despite experts’ warnings

With the U.S. vaccination drive picking up speed and a third formula on the way, states eager to reopen for business are easing coronavirus restrictions despite warnings from health experts that the outbreak is far from over and that moving too quickly could prolong the misery.

Massachusetts on Monday made it much easier to grab dinner and a show. In Missouri, St. Louis and Kansas City are relaxing some measures. Iowa’s governor recently lifted mask requirements and limits on the number of people allowed in bars and restaurants.

The push to reopen comes as nearly 20% of the nation’s adults — or over 50 million people — have received at least one dose of vaccine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

But the efforts come with strong warnings from health officials against reopening too quickly, as worrisome coronavirus variants spread.

On Monday, the head of the CDC, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, urgently warned state officials and ordinary Americans not to let down their guard. “We stand to completely lose the hard-earned ground that we have gained.”

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

Pandemic won't be over soon

A senior World Health Organization official said Monday it was “premature” and “unrealistic” to think the pandemic might be stopped by the end of the year, but that the recent arrival of effective vaccines could at least help dramatically reduce hospitalizations and death.

The world’s singular focus right now should be to keep transmission of COVID-19 as low as possible, said Dr. Michael Ryan, director of WHO’s emergencies program.

“Right now the virus is very much in control,” he said.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

65 and over can get shots now in Kent and Auburn

Eligibility has been expanded to include adults 65 and older at vaccination sites in Kent and Auburn starting Monday, according to Public Health -- Seattle & King County.

The Kent and Auburn COVID-19 vaccine sites are open Monday through Saturday, 8:30 AM – 5:30 PM. Vaccinations are by appointment only and are aimed at South King County residents.

Additional appointments are available this week because more vaccine was received from the Washington State Department of Health, the local public health agency said on its website.

Check eligibility and sign up for a slot here.

—Christine Clarridge
Advertising

All Oregonians eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine by July 1

All Oregonians who are 16 and older will be eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccinations no later than July 1, Gov. Kate Brown announced Friday.

The governor presented her new vaccine eligibility timeline for the state during a news conference Friday — outlining when people with underlying health conditions, people in low-income housing, homeless people, essential workers and the general public will receive shots.

“Yes, you are hearing me correctly,” Gov. Brown said. “Come summer – provided supplies from the federal government continue as planned — any Oregonian who wants the vaccine will be eligible to receive it.”

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

UK: Poorer nations should get ‘gold-standard’ COVAX vaccines

British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said Monday that he understood the “conundrum” faced by developing countries as they wait for vital supplies of coronavirus vaccine.

But Raab urged poorer nations to wait for the “gold standard” vaccines delivered by a U.N.-backed program rather than opt for shots from China and Russia.

The COVAX initiative, formed to ensure fair access to vaccines by low- and middle-income countries, has been hampered by the severely limited global supply of doses and logistical problems.

The chief of the World Health Organization said Monday it was “regrettable” that younger and healthier adults in some rich countries are being vaccinated against the coronavirus ahead of at-risk health workers in developing countries.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

Nepal worried about supply of COVID-19 vaccine

Nepal authorities are worried about future supplies as the country competes with dozens of other nations for much-sought vaccines produced by a handful of manufacturers.

The government is negotiating with India’s Serum Institute to obtain 5 million doses for the second stage of the campaign, Health Minister Hridayesh Tripathi said in an interview with The Associated Press on Monday.

Nepal received a gift from the Indian government in January of 1 million doses of the AstraZeneca-Oxford University vaccine manufactured under license by India’s Serum Institute. Nepal also purchased another 2 million doses from the company at a subsidized rate with the help of the Indian government.

Tripathi said he is hopeful that Indian authorities will again help their small northern neighbor.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press
Advertising

Tensions over vaccine equity pit rural against urban America

Rita Fentress was worried she might get lost as she traveled down the unfamiliar forested, one-lane road in rural Tennessee in search of a coronavirus vaccine.

FILE – In this Jan. 22, 2021, file photo, vehicles snake through a line beside a farm field in Poplar Bluff, Mo., for the state’s first mass COVID-19 vaccination event.  As the unprecedented campaign to inoculate the most vulnerable Americans continues, those in some rural areas say they are getting slighted in favor of urban centers. (Robert Cohen/St. Louis Post-Dispatch via AP, File)

The 74-year-old woman wasn’t eligible to be vaccinated in Nashville, where she lives, because there were so many health care workers to vaccinate there. But a neighbor told her the state’s rural counties had already moved to younger age groups and she found an appointment 60 miles away.

“I felt kind of guilty about it,” she said. “I thought maybe I was taking it from someone else.” But late that February day, she said there were still five openings for the next morning.

The U.S. vaccine campaign has heightened tensions between rural and urban America and in some cases, recriminations over how scarce vaccines are distributed have taken on partisan tones.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

Deal reached to get California children back in classrooms

California’s public schools could get $6.6 billion from the state Legislature if they return to in-person instruction by the end of March, according to a new agreement announced Monday between Gov. Gavin Newsom and the state’s legislative leaders.

Most of California’s public schools have not met in-person since March because of the coronavirus. Many districts have struggled to reach agreements with teachers’ unions on the best way to return students and staff to the classroom.

California can’t order schools to return to in-person instruction, but state officials can offer a lot of money to those that do.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

Czechs send 30,000 police, soldiers to enforce travel limits

Police officers check cars on a road between the towns, Ceske Budejovice and Cesky Krumlov, near Kosov, Czech Republic, Monday, March 1, 2021. Limits for free movement of people are set in place in the Czech Republic. Travelling to other counties unless they go to work or have to take care about relatives is prohibited.(Vaclav Pancer/CTK via AP)

Police and military forces in the Czech Republic set up 500 checkpoints across the country as one of the European Union’s hardest-hit nations marked the first anniversary of its coronavirus outbreak on Monday by significantly limiting free movement.

Some 30,000 officers were involved in an unprecedented operation to enforce a tight new restriction that bans people from traveling to other counties unless they go to work or have to take care of relatives.

It’s part of a series of measures that took effect Monday as the Central European nation seeks to slow down the spread of a highly contagious virus variant first found in Britain.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press
Advertising

Locks down: German hairdressers reopen despite virus fears

A customer gets her hair colored by a hairdresser at a barber shop in Gelsenkirchen, Germany, Monday, March 1, 2021. Hairdressers across Germany have reopened for business this morning after a more than 2-month closure, another cautious step as the country balances a desire to loosen restrictions with concern about the impact of more contagious coronavirus variants. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)

Germans flocked to the salons Monday as hairdressers across the country reopened after a 2½-month closure, another cautious step toward normality as Germany balances a desire to loosen restrictions with concerns about more contagious virus variants.

The move came after many German elementary students returned to school a week ago, following a decision by Chancellor Angela Merkel and Germany’s 16 state governors.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

Alaska records 10 cases of California coronavirus variant

Scientists in Alaska have discovered 10 cases of a new coronavirus strain that researchers have said is more contagious and potentially more effective at evading vaccines.

The B.1.429 variant, first discovered in California, was identified in Alaska in early January and has since been detected nine more times, according to a report released on Wednesday by scientists assembled by the state to investigate new strains.

At least six groups of B.1.429 cases have been detected statewide this year, the report said.

Scientists and public health officials have expressed concerns about multiple new strains of the coronavirus, which they say could prolong the pandemic even as governments scale up their vaccination efforts, KTOO-FM reported.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

Catch up on the past 24 hours

Seattle is opening three new vaccination sites, including one designed to give as many as 150,000 shots a week. But you can't just walk in. Here's how they will work, and our guide to getting your vaccine.

Our state is expecting its first shipment of the Johnson & Johnson one-dose vaccine within days, after it gained federal approval this weekend. Next, J&J will test it in infants, pregnant women and people with compromised immune systems. The single dose isn't the only way J&J's shot differs from the other vaccines.

As Washington kids learned from home, they generally lost ground in math but held steady in reading. Should the differences in the ways students acquire skills — and forget them — change how schools approach academics when they reopen classrooms? It depends who you ask, and some educators are proposing a fundamental shift. Meanwhile, a Republican senator has a great idea to save the school year in Washington state, columnist Danny Westneat writes.

Track the spread of COVID-19, or fix a broken septic system? That's the kind of choice some Washington counties face as the virus strains a public health system that's been starved of money, staff and attention over decades. Now, as Democrats draft a new budget, they’re vowing to make amends and wielding hundreds of millions of dollars.

King County's COVID-19 infection rate has dropped so much that only one other major U.S. county is faring better, according to a new analysis. Snohomish and Pierce counties look nearly as good.

If you think you might have had COVID-19 but you're not sure, there may be a new way to tell. A Seattle company's new screening uses machine-learning technology from Microsoft to fill a gap left by standard antibody screening.

—Kris Higginson