Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Saturday, March 13, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.
As much of the rest of the world continues to struggle with coronavirus vaccine shortages, President Joe Biden this week directed his administration to order another 100 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson shots. He added Friday, however, that the U.S. would join India, Japan and Australia in jointly manufacturing and distributing up to 1 billion doses of the vaccine before the end of next year.
In Washington, Gov. Jay Inslee on Friday directed the state’s school districts to offer at least some in-person instruction to all students by late April, and that he plans to issue an emergency proclamation next week.
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.
2,160 doses administered at Lumen Field mass vaccination clinic
On its first day of operations Saturday, 2,160 doses of coronavirus vaccine were administered at the city of Seattle’s mass vaccination site at Lumen Field Event Center.
Appointments remain available for the next mass vaccination clinic, scheduled for Tuesday afternoon, said Kelsey Nyland, who leads communications and outreach for the city’s vaccine effort. The mass vaccination site is operated in partnership with First & Goal, which owns the facility, and Swedish.
The first day's clinic was "smooth" and "joyful," Nyland said, with no long lines and people moving quickly through the space — which housed an emergency field hospital, albeit unused, in the early weeks of the pandemic.
The city plans to administer 1,200 doses at the site on Tuesday to people who live or work in King County and are in phases 1A, 1B Tier 1 and 2.
Another clinic is planned on Saturday, with an expected 3,100 doses, Nyland said. Information on how to join an email list to be notified of available appointments is available at www.seattle.gov/vaccine.
Tunisia starts vaccination campaign with Sputnik V shots
TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) — Tunisia launched its vaccination campaign on Saturday, four days after receiving the first 30,000 doses of Russia’s Sputnik V coronavirus vaccines.
First up for a shot in the arm in the North African country were health care workers, soldiers and security officers, plus people over 65 and people with chronic health problems.
The opening round of vaccinations was held in a field hospital set up in a sports complex in the El Mensah district of Tunis, the capital. Mehrzia El Hammami, a 54-year-old nursing supervisor at Bardo Hospital, was the first person to be inoculated.
“The economy is affected, the health situation is critical, and we have lost a lot of health workers, so citizens must receive the vaccine” she told journalists after being vaccinated.
Tunisia’s vaccination program has dragged behind neighbors, even as virus infections and hospitalizations remain high.
Online funerals, Zen apps keep Japan’s Buddhist temples afloat
Memorial services held online. Zen meditation apps. Buddhist temple-led matchmaking services.
As the coronavirus pandemic forces institutions around the world to change the way they do things, those new endeavors are some of the ways that Buddhist groups in Japan are trying to survive. Their temples are part of the landscape: there are about 77,000, more than the number of Japan’s ubiquitous convenience stores.
COVID-19 has caused further pain for Buddhist organizations already struggling in recent years due to Japan’s shrinking population and sagging interest in religion among the young. One estimate is that temples’ total income has halved in the five years to 2020. And now the virus has kept believers at home, reducing donations they make for services such as memorials for the deceased.
Buddhist temples have thrived in Japan for more than a millennium. But they need money to operate, and the pandemic has prompted some priests and monks to think of new ways to generate income.
State health officials confirm 906 new coronavirus cases in Washington
The state Department of Health (DOH) reported 906 new coronavirus cases on Saturday.
The update brings the state's totals to 349,425 cases and 5,123 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. Friday, though the state does not report new death data on weekends or update its data dashboard on Sundays.
The new cases may include up to 130 duplicates, according to DOH.
In addition, 19,830 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the virus — 42 new hospitalizations. In King County, the state's most populous, state health officials have confirmed a total of 86,234 COVID-19 diagnoses and 1,439 deaths.
Since vaccinations began in mid-December, the state and health care providers have administered 2,267,958 doses and 10.98% 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 44,610 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.
How the coronavirus pandemic has changed your taxes
The pandemic year of 2020 was a doozy. Besides affecting the health, jobs, home lives and psyches of millions of Americans, the pandemic may also have consequences for your tax bill.
Three giant legislative packages extended different types of coronavirus-related relief, including two rounds of checks, expanded unemployment benefits and a series of tax breaks. The latest, a $1.9 trillion package signed into law Thursday, will provide many people with yet another check.
Not surprisingly, taxpayers are confused: Can I qualify for a larger relief check? Would it be, um, wrong to pay myself the unspent money in my dependent care spending account because I did all of the caregiving while also working? (It feels right, but you probably know the legal answer to that one already.)
We highlighted some of the most significant changes below and tried to answer questions that are most likely to arise.
How the pandemic has changed Washington families for better, for worse … forever?
About three months into Washington’s coronavirus pandemic-induced stay-home order, Emily Eastlake, a Seattle software engineer, was working from home when a colleague posed the question: “Where would you go if you could live and work from anywhere?”
“Tacoma,” Eastlake and her husband Greg Hyde joked at the time. Since the pandemic began and day care centers shut down, both their parents had started helping out with their young son during the day. But with the West Seattle Bridge closed, their parents’ commute from Tacoma to West Seattle had become a struggle, and Eastlake’s mother now slept at their house three days a week.
Six weeks after they joked about it, Eastlake found out she was pregnant with their second child and they offered on a home in Tacoma.
The pandemic has upended family life in ways that were unimaginable just over a year ago.
China aims to vaccinate 70-80% of population by mid-2022
BEIJING (AP) — China is aiming to vaccinate 70-80% of its population by mid-2022, the head of the country’s Center for Disease Control said Saturday.
With four approved vaccines, China will vaccinate 900 million to 1 billion people, Gao Fu, the CDC head, said in an interview with Chinese state media broadcaster CGTN. “We hope that China can take the lead in achieving herd immunity in the world,” he said.
Herd immunity occurs when enough of the population has immunity, either from vaccination or past infection, to stop the uncontrolled spread of an infectious disease like COVID-19.
China had administered 52.5 million vaccine doses through the end of February. It has been slower in its vaccination campaign than many other countries, including the U.S., government health experts have acknowledged. China has committed roughly 10 times more doses abroad than it has distributed at home.
In a pandemic, Navajo community steps up for its vulnerable
TEESTO, Ariz. (AP) — For as long as Raymond Clark has lived alone on this quiet stretch of the Navajo Nation under the watch of the “Praying Mountain,” he has depended on everyone yet no one.
The 71-year-old has no vehicle or running water but is content hitchhiking and carrying jugs down a dusty washboard road to replenish his supply. He works at home in Teesto painting murals and silversmithing, but friends often stop by.
Or at least they did before the pandemic. Now, rides and visits are scarcer in an area with no grocery store or gas station and where homes sit far apart.
The sense of community, though, never faded. With residents urged to stay home, tribal workers, health representatives and volunteers have stepped up efforts to ensure the most vulnerable citizens get the help they need.
Medically vulnerable in US put near end of vaccine line
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — When Ann Camden learned last month that her 17-year-old daughter got exposed to the coronavirus at school and was being sent home, she packed her belongings, jumped in the car and made the two-hour drive to the coast to stay with her recently vaccinated parents.
The 50-year-old mother had been diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer and could not afford to become infected. She also was not yet eligible under North Carolina’s rules to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. So she left her twin daughters with her husband and fled for safety.
Across the United States, millions of medically vulnerable people who initially were cited as a top vaccination priority group got slowly bumped down the list as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention modified its guidelines to favor the elderly, regardless of their physical condition, and workers in a wide range of job sectors.
How a Seattle chef lost her James Beard Award-winning restaurant but came out hopeful after an unreal pandemic year
One year ago, chef Maria Hines had been running her James Beard Award-winning Seattle restaurant, Tilth, for nearly a decade and a half. Housed in a charming Wallingford Craftsman, Tilth was only the second certified organic restaurant in the country when it debuted. Hines’ cooking in Tilth’s small kitchen supported the work of local farmers, fishers, foragers and more, while both local and national critics applauded as her ethos helped define a new era of high-end Pacific Northwest cuisine. Lucky regulars and those celebrating alike felt — and tasted — the alchemy happening, clinking innumerable glasses as evenings stretched out deliciously within Tilth’s butter-colored walls. Hines opened two more places along the way, but after the sad closure of one and the sale of the other, she spoke frankly of the difficulty of running restaurants as Seattle grew, of the increasing competition and skyrocketing expense. Tilth, however, she would hold on to — as she said in the Before Times of 2019, “It’s my baby.”
On March 15, 2020, Tilth’s dining room went quiet.
Why common colds might spike when kids return to school
When many students in the United States go back to in-person learning this fall, parents and school administrators may have to contend with an unexpected infectious disease problem: more colds than usual.
That’s the caution coming from researchers in Hong Kong, who published a study last week detailing a spike in common colds after students returned to classrooms in the fall following nearly a year of remote learning. Specifically, the researchers reported almost seven times more large outbreaks of acute upper respiratory infections (involving 20 people or more) compared with those recorded in 2017, 2018 and 2019 combined.
“Normally, we don’t think of them as a real public health challenge,” Benjamin Cowling, one of the study’s authors and a public health researcher and biostatistician at the University of Hong Kong School of Public Health, said of common colds. But it can be tough to distinguish the symptoms of a cold from those of COVID-19, especially in kids. And if colds start spreading through schools in the United States, children may be sent home until they have been tested for the coronavirus. They may even have to return to remote learning.
Here’s what happened to students abroad, and what it might mean for kids in the United States.
Lumen Field mass vaccination site opens
What the Seattle mayor's office is calling the largest civilian-run vaccination site in the country opens Saturday at Lumen Field Event Center.
The event center, located between Seattle's two pro sports stadiums downtown, will initially vaccinate about 5,000 people a week, but that could stretch to 150,000 — if supply is available, according to Mayor Jenny Durkan's office.
For the time being, the site will be open two to three days a week. The city of Seattle is running the site, in partnership with Swedish Health Services and First & Goal, the company that oversees Lumen Field and the event center.
Durkan plans to visit patients and volunteers Saturday at the site and answer questions from the press.
ICE has no clear plan to vaccinate thousands of detainees
The coronavirus has been running rampant for months through Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s network of jails holding civil immigration detainees fighting deportation – but the agency has no vaccination program and, unlike the Bureau of Prisons, is relying on state and local health departments to procure vaccine doses. Nobody can say how many detainees have been vaccinated.
The Biden administration says it wants to make every adult in the United States eligible for vaccination by May – and immigration agents have said they would not interfere with efforts to vaccinate undocumented immigrants outside of detention. But lawyers for immigrants who are detained say there is no urgency to vaccinate those in federal custody against a deadly pathogen that can spread fast in confined spaces.
“ICE has no plan to provide vaccines on a systemwide basis,” said Melissa Riess, a staff attorney for Disability Rights Advocates in California, one of several nonprofits that filed a federal lawsuit in California seeking the release of detainees with high-risk health conditions. “That’s having horrendous consequences. It seems like they’re doing nothing.”
Spike in COVID-19 cases recorded on WSU campus
Whitman County reported 30 new positive COVID-19 cases Friday, a day after Washington State University announced an increase in positive cases affecting its Pullman campus.
In a Thursday statement from WSU, 189 students and employees have tested positive for COVID‑19 since Feb. 24. Ninety cases remain active and those individuals are isolated at home or in WSU-provided quarantine locations.
WSU says the risk to the Pullman community is low.
Warp-speed spending and other surreal stats of COVID times
WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. effort in World War II was off the charts. Battles spread over three continents and four years, 16 million served in uniform and the government shoved levers of the economy full force into defeating Nazi Germany and imperial Japan.
All of that was cheaper for American taxpayers than this pandemic.
The $1,400 federal payments going into millions of people’s bank accounts are but one slice of a nearly $2 trillion relief package made law this past week. With that, the United States has spent or committed to spend nearly $6 trillion to crush the coronavirus, recover economically and take a bite out of child poverty.
Set in motion over one year, that’s warp-speed spending in a capital known for gridlock, ugly argument and now an episode of violent insurrection.
How high can you count? At one turn after another, that may be the rhetorical question of these COVID-19 times.
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