Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Thursday, March 10, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.
The number of reported coronavirus cases and deaths across the globe continue to fall except in the Western Pacific, where officials reported an increase in COVID-19, according to the World Health Organization.
Meanwhile, Democratic House leaders abandoned plans to set aside $15.6 billion for COVID-19 assistance in the $1.5 trillion spending bill approved in The House on Wednesday.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that while the decision was “heartbreaking.” Democrats felt an urgency to make concessions in bargaining with Republicans and provide $13.6 billion in assistance to Ukraine and European allies, she said.
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.
Navigating the pandemic
- How to get a COVID-19 vaccine or booster in Washington state
- Should you still wear a mask after mandates lift? How to tackle that choice
- How to navigate the COVID pandemic in the Seattle area: resources on masks, tests, vaccines and more
New vaccine findings pose tough questions for parents of young children
For American parents, particularly those with young children, the past couple of months have been dizzying and beyond frustrating.
In early February, federal regulators announced they would evaluate Pfizer-BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine for the youngest children — only to scrap that plan 10 days later, citing doubts about the vaccine’s effectiveness in that age group.
Soon after, scientists reported that the vaccine was only weakly protective against infection with the omicron variant among children ages 5-11 and that it appeared to offer little defense against moderate COVID-19 illness among adolescents ages 12-17.
On Monday, citing these data, Florida’s surgeon general declared that healthy children need not be immunized, advice that Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, called “deeply disturbing.”
TSA extends mask mandate on airplanes and public transit
The Transportation Security Administration will extend its mask mandate for airplanes and other public transportation through mid-April, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention works with federal agencies to revise mask policies, the two agencies announced Thursday.
The requirement will extend at least through April 18 at the CDC’s recommendation and will apply to public transportation and transportation hubs. Under the TSA’s rule, passengers on airplanes, buses and trains and at airports and transit stations must wear masks.
But the relatively short extension, coming as U.S. cases have plummeted from the height of the omicron surge, signaled that the federal government may be preparing to wind down the requirement, at least in some places. The CDC was consulting other federal agencies to determine when masks should be required on public transit, taking into account case counts and the risks of new variants, among other factors.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki suggested that federal scientists would need to incorporate varying risk levels across the country, a strategy the CDC deployed in drafting new recommendations for when Americans could stop wearing masks.
Study: COVID infections on uptick in older adults in England
Coronavirus infections appear to be rising in older adults in England, with cases remaining at a high level despite a broad decline since a peak in January, according to a government-commissioned study published Thursday.
The REACT COVID-19 monitoring program, which looked at almost 95,000 home swab tests taken in February, showed that around 1 in 35 people in England was infected with the virus during the period and infections were rising among those aged 55 and older.
Researchers said the increase may have been driven by more socializing since all coronavirus restrictions were lifted in late February, as well as waning protection from the vaccine booster.
The data showed that “the pandemic is not over and we can expect to see COVID circulating at high levels,” said Jenny Harries, head of the U.K. Health Security Agency.
NYC revival plan includes tourism, clean streets, pot sales
After two years of the pandemic battering New York City, Mayor Eric Adams is hoping to steer his city toward an economic revival by luring tourists back, beautifying the streets and embracing New York’s looming legal pot industry.
Adams, a Democrat who was elected last year on a pro-business, anti-crime message, unveiled an economic development plan Thursday that he said would usher in a “New New York.”
“We will never be the same. COVID has changed the game. And we must be prepared to win in the game,” Adams said.
New York City, with a population of 8.8 million, became the early epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S. and was again at the center of the storm this past winter when the omicron variant emerged.
Justice Dept. names prosecutor to go after pandemic fraud
The Justice Department named a chief prosecutor for pandemic fraud Thursday, following through on President Joe Biden’s State of the Union promise to go after criminals who stole billions in relief money.
Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco said Kevin Chambers, an associate deputy attorney general, will lead criminal and civil enforcement efforts targeting pandemic-related fraud. Monaco on Thursday convened the department’s COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force, which includes nearly 30 agencies that administer and oversee pandemic relief funding.
The Justice Department has already taken enforcement actions related to more than $8 billion in suspected pandemic fraud, Monaco and Attorney General Merrick Garland said Thursday. That includes bringing charges in more than 1,000 criminal cases involving losses in excess of $1.1 billion, opening civil cases against over 1,800 individuals and businesses for alleged fraud involving more than $6 billion in loans, and seizing more than $1.2 billion in relief funds.
Garland said they know their work is not done and the department remains committed to using every criminal, civil and administrative action available to combat and prevent pandemic fraud. Monaco added that the crimes are not victimless, that “every stolen dollar is taken from somebody who needed it.”
US extends mask rule for travel while weighing new approach
Federal officials are extending the requirement for masks on planes and public transportation for one more month — through mid-April — while taking steps that could lead to lifting the rule.
The mask mandate was scheduled to expire March 18, but the Transportation Security Administration said Thursday that it will extend the requirement through April 18.
TSA said the extra month will give the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention time to develop new, more targeted policies that will consider the number of cases of COVID-19 nationally and in local communities, and the risk of new variants.
Civil rights leaders decry missed minorities in 2020 census
The 2020 census missed an unexpectedly small percentage of the total U.S. population given the unprecedented challenges it faced, according to a report released Thursday, but civil rights leaders were outraged that Black, Hispanic and American Indian residents were overlooked at higher rates than a decade ago.
The percentage of people overlooked during the 2020 census was much higher for some minority groups, with the Asian population being an exception, the Census Bureau said in a report that measured how well the once-a-decade head count tallied every U.S. resident and whether certain populations were undercounted or overrepresented in the count. Overcounts take place, for example, if someone owns a vacation home and is counted there as well as at a home address.
Marc Morial, president and CEO of the National Urban League, blamed political interference by the Trump administration, which tried unsuccessfully to add a citizenship question to the census form and cut field operations short.
The Black population in the 2020 census had a net undercount of 3.3%, while it was almost 5% for Hispanics and 5.6% for American Indians and Native Alaskans living on reservations. The non-Hispanic white population had a net overcount of 1.6%, and Asians had a net overcount of 2.6%, according to one of the reports.
In the 2010 census, by comparison, the Black population had a net undercount of more than 2%, while it was 1.5% for the Hispanic population. There was almost a 4.9% undercount for American Indian and Alaskan Natives living on reservations, and it was 0.08% for Asians. The non-Hispanic white population had a net overcount of 0.8%.
How will COVID end? Experts look to past epidemics for clues
Two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, most of the world has seen a dramatic improvement in infections, hospitalizations and death rates in recent weeks, signaling the crisis appears to be winding down. But how will it end? Past epidemics may provide clues.
The ends of epidemics are not as thoroughly researched as their beginnings. But there are recurring themes that could offer lessons for the months ahead, said Erica Charters of the University of Oxford, who studies the issue.
“One thing we have learned is it’s a long, drawn-out process” that includes different types of endings that may not all occur at the same time, she said. That includes a “medical end,” when disease recedes, the “political end,” when government prevention measures cease, and the “social end,” when people move on.
The COVID-19 global pandemic has waxed and waned differently in different parts of the world. But in the United States, at least, there is reason to believe the end is near.
About 65% of Americans are fully vaccinated, and about 29% are both vaccinated and boosted. Cases have been falling for nearly two months, with the U.S. daily average dropping about 40% in the last week alone. Hospitalizations also have plummeted, down nearly 30%. Mask mandates are vanishing — even federal health officials have stopped wearing them — and President Joe Biden has said it’s time for people to return to offices and many aspects of pre-pandemic life.
After pandemic, war in Ukraine new threat to food security
The crisis in Ukraine and Russia, one of the world’s main sources of grain, fertilizers and energy, presents new challenges in securing food supplies on top of a prolonged pandemic, a U.N. official said Thursday.
“We weren’t going well even before the pandemic, the hunger was rising slowly and then the pandemic hit,” said Gabriel Ferrero de Loma-Osorio, head of the Committee on World Food Security, a platform within the United Nations for the fight against hunger.
He told The Associated Press that an estimated 161 million more people are suffering from hunger than before the pandemic, totaling 821 million. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has had a heavy impact on the availability and prices of food, “so unfortunately, we will need to be cautious, but we can see an important impact on food security globally.”
Two years into COVID, was $800B payroll aid plan worth it?
President Donald Trump rolled out the Paycheck Protection Program to catapult the U.S. economy into a quick recovery from the coronavirus pandemic by helping small businesses stay open and their employees working. President Joe Biden tweaked it to try to direct more of the money to poorer communities and minority-owned companies.
Now, almost two years after the program made its debut, the question is what taxpayers got for the $800 billion. The Biden administration says its version of the program helped prevent racial inequality from worsening, while a prominent academic study suggests the overall price tag was high per job saved and most of the benefits accrued to the affluent.
Nearly a year after the implementation of its $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package, the Biden administration is arguing that it made critical adjustments to the forgivable loan program, pointing to internal figures showing that more benefits went to poorer communities, racial minorities and the smallest of businesses — those in which the owner is the sole employee.
More Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week
Slightly more Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week, but layoffs have settled to the low, pre-pandemic levels seen before the coronavirus recession in 2020.
Jobless claims rose by 11,000 to 227,000 for the week ending March 5, the Labor Department reported Thursday. The previous week’s number was 216,000. First-time applications for jobless aid generally track the pace of layoffs.
The four-week average for claims, which compensates for weekly volatility, rose by 500 to 230,750.
In total, 1,474,000 Americans were collecting jobless aid the week that ended Feb. 26, up slightly from the week before that. The four-week moving average for that number is at its lowest level in more than 50 years.
Last week, the government reported that employers added a robust 678,000 jobs in February, the largest monthly total since July. The unemployment rate dropped to 3.8%, from 4% in January, extending a sharp decline in joblessness to its lowest level since before the pandemic erupted two years ago.
At the other end of the equation, U.S. businesses posted a near-record level of open jobs in January. That trend has helped pad workers’ pay and added to inflationary pressures.
Mississippi advances bill against COVID vaccine mandates
Anyone in Mississippi could cite “a sincerely held religious objection” to avoid a public or private employer’s COVID-19 vaccination mandate, under a bill that advanced Wednesday at the state Capitol.
COVID-19 vaccine mandates have not been widespread in Mississippi, but Republican Sen. Brice Wiggins of Pascagoula, said President Joe Biden’s attempt to set a mandate for federal contractors could have caused big problems for Mississippi’s largest private employer, Ingalls Shipbuilding. Wiggins said he is “proudly vaccinated” but believes getting the vaccine should be a personal choice.
“To me, this is about government overreach,” Wiggins said.
The spectators’ galleries were packed Wednesday, and people applauded as some senators denounced vaccine mandates.
Mississippi has one of the lowest COVID-19 vaccination rates in the United States. About 51% of eligible residents in the state have received at least two doses, according to a Mayo Clinic vaccine tracker. The national rate is 65.1%.
China fights new COVID-19 spike with more selective approach
China is tackling a COVID-19 spike with selective lockdowns and other measures that appear to slightly ease its draconian “zero tolerance” strategy.
In Hong Kong, where experts say the city’s worst outbreak to date may have peaked, barber shops and hair salons reopened Thursday. Still, many are seeing that as an example of mixed messages from the government of the semi-autonomous Chinese territory that has been ordered to follow the “zero tolerance” approach used on the mainland.
Hong Kong authorities reported 31,392 local infections on Thursday, down from over 50,000 infections the previous day.
On the mainland, the 402 cases of local transmission reported Thursday were quadruple the number of cases a week ago. Of those, 165 were in the northeastern province of Jilin, mainly in the cities of Changchun and Jilin, where city authorities locked down 160 residential communities where multiple cases have been detected.
How has the COVID-19 pandemic changed after two years?
How has the COVID-19 pandemic changed after two years?
More countries are shifting toward a return to normal and learning to live with the virus. Safe, effective vaccines have been developed and there’s better understanding of how to treat people sickened by the virus.
Two years after the pandemic began, questions remain about the coronavirus. But experts know a lot more about how to keep it under control.
“The world has watched us learn in real-time how to treat COVID-19,” says Neil J. Sehgal, an assistant professor of health policy and management at the University of Maryland School of Public Health.
“Eventually every country will have to learn to live with COVID,” says Sehgal.
End of COVID funds? House eyes $15.6B, but outlook dim
This could be the end of the line for congressional funding to fight COVID-19.
What started a month ago as a $30 billion request from the White House to prepare for the next phase of the pandemic has been slashed, reduced and fallen apart on Capitol Hill.
The end result Wednesday was a $15.6 billion package prepared by House Democrats that has almost no chance of passing in the evenly divided Senate, where Republicans have indicated they are unwilling to provide more money without cuts elsewhere or a full accounting from the Biden administration of already-approved virus funding.
That means it’s highly likely no new federal money will be readily approved to fight COVID as the pandemic moves to what many officials are now calling the endemic stage.
Catch up on the past 24 hours
Masks will be optional in Seattle schools starting Monday. But students are threatening to walk out in protest, and some educators are fuming after yesterday's announcement. Tacoma schools will lift their mask rules, too. The switch will come two days after the broader statewide mask mandate vanishes.
"Teachers are stressed and burned out" by pandemic-era challenges — but they're mostly staying put, a new analysis shows.
Only one part of the globe saw a jump in COVID-19 cases in the past week, the World Health Organization reported.
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