The pace of vaccinations in the Seattle area accelerated Saturday with the opening of the city’s mass vaccination site at Lumen Field Event Center, where 2,160 doses were administered.

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.

Frat-Party-Fueled Outbreak Prompts Duke to quarantine 14,000 students

Duke University ordered nearly all its students Saturday evening to quarantine for at least a week because of a coronavirus outbreak at the school, The New York Times reported.

More than 180 students have tested positive in the last week, and an additional 200 people were already in isolation after contact tracing, the university order said.

In a statement Sunday, Duke said the new cases were “almost all linked to unsanctioned fraternity recruitment events that took place off campus.”

“This stay-in-place order is the direct result of individual behavior in violation of Duke’s requirements for in-person activity,” the statement said, adding, “Those who are found responsible for organizing and hosting these events will be held accountable.”

Under the order, students who live on the campus in Durham, North Carolina, must stay in their rooms except for essential errands like picking up food; they may walk outdoors in groups of three or less. Students living elsewhere were told not to go to campus and were “strongly encouraged” to limit their movements and activities off campus. All classes will be taught online.

In all, the order covers 6,000 undergraduates and 8,000 graduate and professional students who are in or near Durham, the university said.

You can read the full story here.

—Marina Delkic, The New York Times

As Seattle-area educators get vaccinated against coronavirus, concern lingers over back-to-school plan

Even as they happily received COVID-19 vaccination shots at a Rainier Beach pop-up clinic Sunday, Seattle-area teachers and school staff expressed worry about how Gov. Jay Inslee’s new directive to reopen in-person schooling next month will be implemented safely.

“Personally, I’m kind of terrified,” said Corina Cook, who starts a long-term substitute stint Wednesday teaching seventh-grade history at Robert Eagle Staff Middle School in North Seattle. “I don’t know if it’s worth the stress on the staff and on the kids to try to rush this.”

Before Inslee’s announcement Friday, Seattle Public Schools had planned a phased return to in-person teaching, starting with kids most in need and then gradually adding more categories until finally all middle- and high-school students could go back.

“That has been tossed in the garbage,” Cook said. Now schools must prepare to offer some in-person instruction to all students by April 19.

That’s the new deadline for school principals and district administrators to work out the complex logistics of cleaning the buildings and scheduling classes, teachers and support services, as well as providing protective gear and daily health screening for everyone.

You can read the full story here.

—Dominic Gates

Most states, including Washington, not giving vaccine access to U.S. Postal Service workers

Beleaguered in the pandemic and thrust into the spotlight by the 2020 election, the United States Postal Service now finds itself competing for its share of the vaccine, The New York Times reported.

Postal workers must navigate a patchwork of policies to determine whether they can get a shot. In Virginia, they can get the vaccine along with private mail carriers. And Gov. Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas announced that postal workers in his state could get the vaccine as of Monday. However, they are not yet eligible in Maine, Texas and Washington.

The Postal Service has endured tumultuous months amid a significant increase in online shopping, understaffing, government funding issues and an explosion of mail-in ballots during a contentious election. Thousands of postal workers have contracted the coronavirus, and more than 150 have died. Still, fewer than half of the states across the country — at least 22 — have begun administering shots to Postal Service workers, at least in some counties, even as they rapidly expand access to more groups of people, according to a New York Times survey.

You can read the full story here.

—The New York Times

New study suggests 3 feet is sufficient distance for students - with masks and other safety measures

A new study, published last week in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, suggests public schools may be able to reopen safely for in-person instruction as long as children maintain three feet of distance between them, and with other mitigation measures maintained, such as wearing masks, The New York Times reported.

Jill Biden and members of her husband’s administration have been traveling in a concerted campaign for reopening schools safely while parents and educators have grown increasingly frustrated by the off-again, on-again policies from district to district.

Asked about the new report by Jake Tapper on CNN’s “State of the Union” program on Sunday, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, agreed the study appeared to indicate three feet would be sufficient distance to curb transmission of the virus.

No official guidance on shortening the recommended six-foot rule has yet been issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, although Dr. Fauci said the agency is studying the data.

You can read the full story here.

—Roni Caryn Rabin, The New York Times

Ireland suspends AstraZeneca vaccine amid blood clot reports

Irish health officials on Sunday recommended the temporary suspension of the AstraZeneca vaccine after reports of serious blood clotting after inoculations in Norway, The Associated Press reported.

Dr. Ronan Glynn, Ireland’s deputy chief medical officer, said the recommendation was made after Norway’s medicines agency reported four cases of blood clotting in adults after receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine.

He said that while there was no conclusive link between the vaccine and the cases, Irish health officials are recommending the suspension of the vaccine’s rollout as a precaution. Danish, Norwegian and Icelandic authorities have taken similar precautionary steps.

AstraZeneca said in a statement Sunday that it “would like to offer its reassurance on the safety of its COVID-19 vaccine based on clear scientific evidence.”

You can read the full story here.

—The Associated Press

Fauci says Trump should urge his followers to get vaccinated

The nation's top infectious disease expert says former President Donald Trump should use his clout to encourage his followers to get vaccinated.

In a round of interviews Sunday, Dr. Anthony Fauci said he was dismayed by polling showing Trump supporters are more likely to refuse to be vaccinated.

Although Trump has urged followers to get the vaccine, he did not appear in a new public service campaign for the vaccine that featured four former presidents: Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

Read more about what Fauci had to say here.

—Michelle Liu, The Associated Press

A field guide to vaccines for COVID

Three vaccines to protect against COVID-19 have been authorized for use in the U.S., and more are on the way.

Here's a rundown of the available vaccines, and how they differ.


Vending machines evolve during the pandemic

Coronavirus pandemic fears and social distancing have accelerated the adoption of vending machines for a wide variety of foods.

Consumers can now get artisanal pizza, hot bowls of ramen and prime cuts of beef at certain locations in the country. Vending machines are considered safe because the products are prepackaged, and in some cases you don't even have to touch the buttons — you can use an app on your phone to order.

Read more about vending machines and how they have evolved during the pandemic here.

—Laura Reiley, The Washington Post

Facebook studies spread of ideas that contribute to vaccine skepticism

Facebook is quietly conducting a huge study of doubts by U.S. users about vaccines and how those ideas are contributing to vaccine hesitancy, according to documents obtained by The Washington Post.

The company banned false and misleading statements about vaccines in December. But early findings suggest that a large amount of content that does not break Facebook's rules may be causing harm in some communities, where it has an echo chamber effect.

Read more about the study here.

—Elizabeth Dwoskin, The Washington Post

Yo-Yo Ma surprises clinic with cello performance

How do you while away 15 minutes of post-vaccination observation time after you receive a coronavirus shot? For Yo-Yo Ma, the answer was to give a mini cello concert.

The world-famous cellist, who had gone to the vaccination clinic at Berkshire Community College in Pittsfield, Mass., for his second coronavirus vaccine Saturday, played the prelude to Bach's Cello Suite No. 1 in G Major, as well as "Ave Maria."

"It just brought that whole room together," said Hilary Bashara, a nurse administering vaccines at the clinic who administered both of Ma's doses. "It was so healing."

Read the story here.

—Paulina Firozi, The Washington Post

Flu? What flu?

So far this season, influenza has been a no-show.

The U.S. is experiencing the lowest number of flu cases on record, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Washington, which averages about 160 confirmed flu deaths a year, has recorded none.

And it's not just the flu — Washington researchers testing for 27 respiratory pathogens found nearly all have been close to nonexistent in the state this season.

The phenomenon demonstrates the power of simple measures to rein in a wide variety of dangerous viruses, and some believe it will lead to permanent changes in behavior, like seasonal masking.

But there's a danger that people could be more vulnerable to a resurgence next season. Read more about the lack of a flu season here.

—Sandi Doughton, Seattle Times

Seattle considers easing restrictions on home businesses

In the months since the COVID pandemic forced small businesses to shut their doors, many entrepreneurs have had to move their operations into their homes. Now, the Seattle City Council is considering changes to zoning laws that would make it easier for people to run businesses out of their homes or garages, at least temporarily.

The proposed changes would ease restrictions, allowing home businesses to have more visible signage and more than one additional employee. Customer visits would no longer need to be appointment only, and parking requirements would be eased.

Read more about the proposed new regulations here.

—David Gutman, Seattle Times

Maryland has relaxed COVID capacity limits - though it's not yet a return to normal

Gyms, restaurants, bars, houses of worship and retail businesses in Maryland began operating this weekend under Gov. Larry Hogan’s order removing capacity limits. Yet it's some way off from a return to normal life.

Many establishments were proceeding with caution. And because social distancing guidelines and mask requirements are still in place, the removal of the capacity limits won’t make much difference in some venues, particularly at smaller retail stores and restaurants.

Local officials in some counties opted to keep some restrictions in place.

Read more.

—Joe Heim and Rachel Weiner, Washington Post

Seattle Times special Sunday section: A Year of Pandemic

A year ago, we embarked on a journey none of us chose.

We've suffered from the virus — or fear of it. We've learned to mask up and adapt. We've wept for family members lost, dreams dashed and businesses closed. We've grown hopeful — for vaccines, for an end.

These are the stories of our year with COVID-19 — one that has changed us all.

Read more.

—Evan Bush and other Seattle Times staff