In Washington, the Puyallup School District plans to group students into larger cohorts even as the district deals with more COVID-19 cases. And Seattleites are saying goodbye to the beloved Remo Borracchini’s Bakery & Mediterranean Market on Rainier Avenue South, which is closing after nearly 100 years in business as weddings and other special events have slowed during the pandemic.
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.
Prince Harry mentions Diana’s death in book for children who have lost parents to COVID-19
Prince Harry has a message for children grieving the loss of their parents during a deadly year: “I know how you feel.”
In an emotional introduction for a new British children’s book about a child whose mother, an essential worker, dies of COVID-19, Harry opens up about his own grief and experience losing his mother at 12 years old.
“When I was a young boy I lost my mum. At the time, I didn’t want to believe it or accept it, and it left a huge hole inside of me,” Harry wrote, according to excerpts from “Hospital by the Hill” published in the Times of London. “I know how you feel, and I want to assure you that over time that hole will be filled with so much love and support.”
Harry’s mother Diana, the princess of Wales, died in a car crash in Paris in 1997 while being chased by a swarm of paparazzi.
The book will be made free in Britain for children whose parents died as essential workers in the pandemic.
“We all cope with loss in a different way, but when a parent goes to heaven, I was told their spirit, their love and the memories of them do not,” Harry wrote. ” … I find this to be true.”
The prince has previously discussed the death of his mother. He has lamented the way the media treated Diana, who was widely beloved by the general public but hounded by reporters and photographers, and said she was treated as an outsider by the royal family.
In 2017, Harry revealed that he’d gone to therapy to deal with grief. He said he’d come “very close to a complete breakdown” because he’d blocked out his emotions.
California adopts 3-foot-spacing rule for classrooms, changing reopening equation
Students in California are now allowed to sit 3 feet apart in classrooms — instead of 4 or 6 feet — in guidelines state officials issued Saturday, a major change in policy that will exert pressure on local officials for a faster and more complete reopening of campuses that have been closed for over a year in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Local education leaders will have the final say — and Los Angeles Unified Supt. Austin Beutner said Sunday that L.A. schools would stick with the 6-foot rule. Still, the ground has shifted rapidly since the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday announced its endorsement of a 3-foot rule for elementary schools. The agency also OKd 3-foot desk spacing on campuses with older students, but there are substantial caveats, including the rate of coronavirus cases in the community.
It took only one day for the state of California to follow suit. L.A. County health officials have yet to formally announce their own rules — which may be more strict than the state’s — but Paul Simon, chief science officer for the Los Angeles County Public Health Department, said Friday he was “fairly confident that we will incorporate that CDC guidance into our own guidance for schools.”
How soon the new state standard will come into use seems likely to vary from place to place. Some schools and districts have chafed at restrictive measures and are almost certain to embrace the revised rules immediately. But many school systems also have approved agreements with their teachers unions that stipulate a 6-foot desk separation. These districts include Los Angeles Unified, the nation’s second-largest school system.
Beutner said Sunday morning: “The recent CDC guidance will not change our current reopening plans.
“Our challenge is convincing families that schools are safe, not finding ways to stuff more kids into classrooms.”
Fully Vaccinated and Time to Party, If You Are 70
Bobby Stuckey flipped through receipts this month, surprised to see a huge increase in cocktail sales, the highest in the 17-year history of his restaurant, even though the bar section has been closed. The septuagenarians are back.
“Every night we are seeing another couple or a pair of couples in the dining room, and they feel so much relief,” said Stuckey, owner of Frasca Food and Wine in Boulder, Colorado. “COVID was hard on everybody, but you can’t even think of the emotional toll in this group. They haven’t gone out. They want to have the complete experience. It is just joyful to see them again.”
Older people, who represent the vast majority of Americans who are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, are emerging this spring with the daffodils, tilting their faces to the sunlight outdoors. They are filling restaurants, hugging grandchildren and booking flights.
Marcia Bosseler is back to playing pingpong — and beating all the men, she said — at her apartment complex in Coral Gables, Florida.
Randy and Rochelle Forester went out to eat with another couple for the first time in a year, and Rochelle Forester celebrated the pleasure of being “out of sweats, to put on some pretty earrings and lipstick and be back in the world a little bit.” Fully vaccinated, Louis Manus Jr., an 82-year-old Navy veteran in Rapid City, South Dakota, is getting ready for his first vintage car club meeting in a year.
The upside-down world in which older Americans are drinking more martinis inside restaurants at a far greater rate than millennials will be short-lived. It is a fleeting COVID-era interregnum in which the elders celebrate while their younger counterparts lurk in grocery stores in search of leftover shots or rage on social media, envious of those who have received a vaccine.
For states’ COVID-19 contact tracing apps, privacy tops utility
The digital contact tracing effort in Virginia is 2 million phones strong. Roughly a quarter of the adult population has downloaded the state’s COVIDWISE app or opted in on their iPhones to receive exposure notifications. Almost 26,000 times, a notification has been sent to let someone know they were likely exposed to a person with COVID-19.
But that’s the bulk of the information the state health department can glean.
The system doesn’t track user locations, so officials don’t know where exposures happened, according to Jeff Stover, an executive adviser to the commissioner of Virginia’s Department of Health. Officials can’t follow up on notifications to see whether exposed residents are isolating. Nor can they pinpoint potential hot spot locations.
“The fact that we do not collect name or location data makes it a little more difficult to evaluate effectiveness,” he said.
Yet Stover and other health department officials say the limited data is the trade off required to assuage privacy concerns while still using the technology to slow the virus’ spread.
“I think the privacy concern of individuals is real,” he said. “It is a real issue and something we have to make sure we are getting right. I think we did do this right.”
Over the past year, 24 states and Washington, D.C., have spent millions developing and promoting the Apple and Google-based apps or systems. The tech giants made the basic platform free, but states have spent anywhere from $9,600 in North Dakota to $3 million in Washington state on app development and marketing.
Rich Countries Signed Away a Chance to Vaccinate the World
In the coming days, a patent will finally be issued on a five-year-old invention, a feat of molecular engineering that is at the heart of at least five major COVID-19 vaccines. And the U.S. government will control that patent.
The new patent presents an opportunity — and some argue the last best chance — to exact leverage over the drug companies producing the vaccines and pressure them to expand access to less affluent countries.
The question is whether the government will do anything at all.
The rapid development of COVID-19 vaccines, achieved at record speed and financed by massive public funding in the United States, the European Union and Britain, represents a great triumph of the pandemic. Governments partnered with drugmakers, pouring in billions of dollars to procure raw materials, finance clinical trials and retrofit factories. Billions more were committed to buy the finished product.
But this Western success has created stark inequity. Residents of wealthy and middle-income countries have received about 90% of the nearly 400 million vaccines delivered so far. Under current projections, many of the rest will have to wait years.
A growing chorus of health officials and advocacy groups worldwide are calling for Western governments to use aggressive powers — most of them rarely or never used before — to force companies to publish vaccine recipes, share their know-how and ramp up manufacturing. Public health advocates have pleaded for help, including asking the Biden administration to use its patent to push for broader vaccine access.
Governments have resisted. By partnering with drug companies, Western leaders bought their way to the front of the line. But they also ignored years of warnings — and explicit calls from the World Health Organization — to include contract language that would have guaranteed doses for poor countries or encouraged companies to share their knowledge and the patents they control.
France’s limited lockdown beset by glitches as cases rise
PARIS — Residents of Paris and several other regions of France spent their first weekend under a limited monthlong lockdown. While the French government insisted the rules would be less strict than in the past, the measures have been criticized as messy.
A travel authorization certificate posted online was so ridiculed by French media for its unnecessary complexity that the Interior Ministry scrapped it within hours. For now, simple proof of residence is required to stroll within a 10-kilometer (6.2-mile) radius.
The form the French government still obliges citizens to fill out to travel greater distances – up to 30 kilometers (18.6 miles) also was not accessible online because of a technical glitch. A website Sunday simply said, “Available soon.”
Sikh leaders celebrate upcoming holiday with vaccine clinic
Sikh leader Balwinder Singh Basra rolled up his sleeve to get a COVID-19 vaccine Sunday at the Guru Nanak Gurdwara in Luton, north of London. And he wanted everyone to know about it.
Unlike most of the 756,873 people who received injections Sunday in the U.K., Basra, the gurdwara’s president, invited reporters and TV news to watch his shot to make sure the community would take notice.
“I say to everyone. ‘I took the vaccine this morning and everyone should take the vaccine and save the (National Health Service),’” said Basra, who wore a vibrant saffron turban for the occasion.
While politicians such as Prime Minister Boris Johnson have shown up for camera-ready coronavirus jabs, local efforts are far more important in combatting the hesitancy of some people in minority ethnic communities to get vaccinated, according to Gurch Randhawa, a professor of diversity in public health at the University of Bedfordshire.
In Luton, the Sikh community decided the best way to celebrate the upcoming holy festival of Vaisakhi was with a vaccination clinic, which embodies the faith’s principles of equality, justice and service. The festival is normally marked with prayers and large processions, but those celebrations will be curtailed by COVID-19 restrictions.
Japan PM vows no virus rebound as emergency measures end
TOKYO — Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga pledged Sunday to do his utmost to prevent a resurgence of the coronavirus ahead of the Olympic torch relay and his upcoming visit to Washington.
Suga was addressing his ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s annual convention, just hours ahead of the planned lifting of a virus state of emergency in the the Tokyo region. Suga said after the state of emergency is lifted is “an extremely important time” for virus prevention.
“We must not put our guards down … to prevent the infections from rebounding,” he said.
Suga on Thursday announced that the monthslong emergency measures for Tokyo, Kanagawa, Chiba and Saitama would end at midnight Sunday, a move underscoring his government’s eagerness to minimize burdens on businesses and keep the economy going, despite concerns raised by experts about the potential for an upsurge.
The lifting of the measure comes just days before the Olympic torch relay starts from Fukushima, northeast of Tokyo and the site of the 2011 nuclear crisis, as a symbol of reconstruction.
A rapid COVID-19 vaccine rollout backfired in some US states
Despite the clamor to speed up the U.S. vaccination drive against COVID-19 and get the country back to normal, the first three months of the rollout suggest faster is not necessarily better.
A surprising new analysis found that states such as South Carolina, Florida and Missouri that raced ahead of others to offer the vaccine to ever-larger groups of people have vaccinated smaller shares of their population than those that moved more slowly and methodically, such as Hawaii and Connecticut.
The explanation, as experts see it, is that the rapid expansion of eligibility caused a surge in demand too big for some states to handle and led to serious disarray. Vaccine supplies proved insufficient or unpredictable, websites crashed and phone lines became jammed, spreading confusion, frustration and resignation among many people.
“The infrastructure just wasn’t ready. It kind of backfired,” said Dr. Rebecca Wurtz, an infectious disease physician and health data specialist at the University of Minnesota’s School of Public Health. She added: “In the rush to satisfy everyone, governors satisfied few and frustrated many.”
China urges unhurried public to get vaccinated against COVID
BEIJING — In China, the problem doesn’t seem to be a shortage of vaccine. Rather, with the COVID-19 outbreak largely under control at home, not enough people want to get the shot.
Chinese health officials appealed to the public Sunday to get inoculated. They also said that with vaccination not a guarantee against infection they would still require anyone arriving in China to quarantine for 14 days, even if they have received a vaccine.
“China will continue the current prevention control measures to prevent imported cases and rebound of domestic cases,” Feng Zijian, the deputy director general of China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said at a news conference.
Married 66 years, husband, wife die minutes apart of virus
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Bill and Esther Ilnisky spent nearly seven decades together as Christian ministers and missionaries, including stints in the Caribbean and Middle East before preaching for 40 years in Florida.
They complemented each other — he the bookworm, she outgoing and charismatic. One without the other seemed unthinkable.
So when they died minutes apart of COVID-19 this month at a Palm Beach County hospice, it may have been a hidden blessing, their only child, Sarah Milewski, said — even if it was a devastating double loss for her. Her father was 88, her mom 92. Their 67th wedding anniversary would have been this weekend.
A traveler’s worst nightmare: when your COVID-19 test comes back positive
Late last year, Jose Arellano, a U.S. Navy veteran, and his wife, Gloria, traveled 2,000 miles from home to the resort town of Oaxaca, Mexico, to use up about $400 in plane tickets they had purchased at the start of the pandemic. The couple used masks, face shields and disinfectant, but not even a week into the trip, Jose Arellano, 56, who had asthma, and then Gloria Arellano, 54, began to get headaches and run a fever.
They had both contracted the coronavirus and were battling it in a place where they had no doctors or health insurance and no nearby family or friends to offer support.
There is no way of knowing how many people have been infected with the virus on a trip, but one insurance provider, Seven Corners, has had 2,000 claims filed for related illnesses since June, said the company’s president, Jeremy Murchland. And, one medical evacuation business said it has averaged three flights a month for those with the coronavirus since the start of the pandemic.
The city of Redmond tries a new tourism tack: giving visitors money
The city of Redmond wants you to visit. So bad that tourism officials there will pay you $100 to do so.
Got your shots and itching for a “vaxication”? Or just can’t stand being a shut-in anymore following our long winter of COVID-19? Starting Sunday, by booking two nights at a participating hotel in the town that Microsoft made famous, you can use the $100 travel bonus to pay for meals, spa visits, clothing or anything else at more than three dozen eligible local businesses.
“The Redmond-area businesses, just like in every other small community in our country and our world, they’re hurting,” said Peter Klauser, tourism manager of Experience Redmond, the city of 75,000’s visitor development program. “The pandemic has definitely affected business and we’ve had a few businesses close, and we’ve certainly had a lot of businesses that are way down in their numbers. So we’re trying to do everything we can to support the small-business community here. With the rising tide, all ships will lift.”
A year into pandemic, veterans halls ‘barely hanging’ on
NEW BEDFORD, Mass. — Paul Guilbeault knew the writing was on the wall for the last Veterans of Foreign Wars post in this city south of Boston when businesses across Massachusetts were ordered to close as the coronavirus pandemic took hold last March.
Within six months, the 90-year-old Korean War vet was proven right. VFW Post 3260 in New Bedford, a chapter of the national fraternity of war vets established in 1935, had surrendered its charter and sold the hall to a church.
“The economic shutdown is what killed us,” said Guilbeault, who has overseen the post’s finances for years. “There’s no way in the world that we could make it. A lot of these posts are barely hanging on. Most don’t make a huge profit.”
Local bars and halls run by VFW and American Legion posts — those community staples where vets commiserate over beers and people celebrate weddings and other milestones — were already struggling when the pandemic hit. After years of declining membership, restrictions meant to slow the spread of COVID-19 became a death blow for many.
After US clears 100M vaccine shots since Jan. 20, Biden eyes new goal
WASHINGTON — The U.S. on Friday cleared President Joe Biden’s goal of injecting 100 million coronavirus shots, more than a month before his target date of his 100th day in office, as the president prepared to set his sights higher in the nationwide vaccination effort.
With the nation now administering about 2.5 million shots per day, Biden, who promised to set a new goal for vaccinations next week, teased the possibility of setting a 200 million dose goal by his 100th day in office.
COVID-19 changed schooling profoundly — in some ways, for the better
There’s no going back.
That is the consensus emerging from education leaders across the country as the nation enters a second year of schooling in a pandemic.
A public school district in Arizona is looking to become a service provider for parents who have pulled their children out to home-school them. In Oklahoma, students are having a say in where and when they learn. And educators everywhere are paying closer attention to students’ mental well-being.
“None of us would have ever wanted to go through this,” said Deborah Gist, the superintendent of schools in Tulsa, Oklahoma. “We have a chance now to make it something that will change teaching and learning forever for the better.”
Grandparents in the pandemic: a lost year, but now some hope
CINCINNATI — No sleepovers with popcorn and Disney movies. No dance recitals or holiday pageants, let alone any Grandparents’ Day for visiting the kids’ classrooms.
The first 12 months of the pandemic represent a lost year for many in the largest group of grandparents in U.S. history. Most of the nation’s some 70 million grandparents are in the fourth quarter of their lives, and the clock has kept running.
“Working with older adults, I’m seeing a lot of depression, a lot of increases in loneliness,” says Nick Nicholson, a nursing professor and researcher on aging at Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Connecticut. “It’s been really difficult … the anxiety, the despair, the social isolation. Over time, there are so many adverse effects. The sooner we expand the bubble, the better, so people can start healing together.”
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