Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Tuesday, March 23, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.
Yakima will host the state’s first federal mass vaccination site, in addition to mobile vaccination units. The White House announced that 1,200 daily doses of the COVID-19 vaccine are expected to be administered over a six-week period starting March 31. In addition to the mobile units, there will be a fixed, drive-thru vaccination site at Central Washington State Fair Park.
King County Executive Dow Constantine announced his plans to fight anti-Asian racism with money from the “American Rescue Plan,” the pandemic relief legislation that granted billions of federal dollars to Washington state, including $437 million to King County. The first part of the funding, Constantine said, will be $5 million for community organizations, including multicultural media and a coalition of eight organizations battling hate and bias.
Postponed Olympic torch relay to start this week in Japan
The Olympic torch relay, which begins Thursday in northeastern Japan, could be the “canary in the coalmine” for attempting to hold the Olympics in four months despite the pandemic. Social distancing, mask-wearing and limited crowds that are prohibited from loud cheering will be the order when the relay starts from Fukushima prefecture on its way to the postponed opening ceremonies for the Tokyo Olympics on July 23: 121 days with 10,000 runners expected to crisscross Japan’s 47 prefectures.
It was exactly at the start of the relay a year ago that the Olympics were postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic. It was the first postponement since the modern Olympic began in 1896.
If the relay has problems, if COVID-19 cases pop up and if there are delays, it could send up red flags about the feasibility of holding the Olympics.
The slogan for the relay is “Hope Lights the Way.”
Sentiments expressed in polls in Japan so far are overwhelmingly negative with about 80% suggesting another delay or cancellation.
Insurers in WA temporarily banned from using credit scores to set rates
Washington Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler Tuesday issued a temporary emergency order banning insurers from using credit scores to set rates for personal property insurance amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The emergency order, which was filed this week, will take effect June 20, but Kreidler is working to turn it into a three-year prohibition to help consumers as they recover from the pandemic and restrictions that have left people unemployed.
The new rule requires insurers to file amended plans for impacted policies to Kreidler’s office by May 6. Then, the ban kicks in on all new policies or policy renewals processed on June 20 or later.
The order applies to personal insurance on private automobiles, as well as renter and homeowner’s coverage, according to the rule, and prohibits insurers from using credit history to determine premiums, rates or eligibility for personal insurance coverage. The ban kicks in on all new policies or policy renewals processed on June 20 or later.
Brazil posts record single-day toll of 3,251 virus deaths
Brazil reported more than 3,000 COVID-19 deaths in a single day for the first time Tuesday amid calls for the government and the new health minister to take action to stem the nation’s resurgence of coronavirus infections.
In recent weeks, Latin America’s largest country has become the pandemic’s global epicenter, with more deaths from the virus each day than in any other nation. Tuesday’s record toll of 3,251 deaths was driven by the state of Sao Paulo, Brazil’s most populous, which recorded 1,021 new deaths, far above the previous high of 713 last July.
The pandemic has brought the health systems of Brazilian states to near collapse, with hospitals watching their ICU beds fill up and stocks of oxygen required for assisted breathing dwindle. Most of the states in recent days adopted measures to restrict activity, over the fierce resistance of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro.
Public health experts and economists have said Bolsonaro is presenting a false choice between preserving health and economic well-being.
State health officials confirm 566 new coronavirus cases in Washington
The state Department of Health (DOH) reported 566 new coronavirus cases and 3 new deaths on Tuesday.
The update brings the state's totals to 356,536 cases and 5,186 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. Monday.
In addition, 20,195 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the virus. In King County, the state's most populous, state health officials have confirmed a total of 88,112 COVID-19 diagnoses and 1,452 deaths.
Since vaccinations began in mid-December, the state and health care providers have administered 2,824,937 doses and 13.83% 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 46,103 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.
Biden extends Affordable Care Act insurance sign-ups to mid-August
President Joe Biden announced Tuesday that the federal insurance marketplace will remain open for consumers to buy Affordable Care Act health plans through mid-August, doubling the length of an unprecedented extra enrollment period that launched last month.
Speaking at a cancer hospital and research institute at Ohio State University, Biden made the announcement as part of a recognition of the act’s 11th anniversary of being signed into law. The sprawling health-care measure has helped more than 20 million Americans gain coverage through marketplace health plans and Medicaid, and it has altered many other aspects of the U.S. health-care system, even as it has remained a target of vehement Republican opposition.
The extension of the special enrollment time reflects Biden’s determination to use the 2010 health-care law as a fulcrum to expand the number of Americans who have access to affordable insurance and, as a result, to care.
The extension of the deadline, from May 15 to Aug. 15, also reflects the administration’s hopes that an imminent increase in federal subsidies for Affordable Care Act (ACA) health plans will be a potent magnet to attract more Americans to this type of insurance.
The $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief plan that Biden signed into law this month contains the first increase since the law’s passage of the subsidies that already help nearly 9 in 10 people with ACA health plans pay for monthly premiums.
Indiana to lift mask mandate amid concern: ‘We’re not ready’
Indiana’s governor announced Tuesday he would lift the statewide mask mandate and remaining COVID-19 business restrictions in two weeks.
Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb said in a speech from his Statehouse office that the state’s steep declines in coronavirus hospitalization and deaths rates along with the growing number of people fully vaccinated justify the steps starting April 6.
While Holcomb has faced public pressure and from conservative state lawmakers to ease restrictions, especially after governors in Texas and other states have done so recently, he didn’t make any bold victory announcements and asked residents to respect rules adopted by businesses and others.
But some health experts worry it is premature to lift the statewide restrictions, pointing to the steep increase in hospitalizations and deaths the state saw beginning in September after the governor lifted most business restrictions before reinstating crowd limits after winning reelection in November.
Newly confirmed surgeon general to focus on COVID, opioids
The Senate confirmed a soft-spoken physician as President Joe Biden’s surgeon general Tuesday. While Dr. Vivek Murthy says ending the coronavirus pandemic is his top priority, he’s also raised concerns over a relapsing opioid overdose crisis.
The vote on Murthy was 57-43, giving him bipartisan support. Biden’s coronavirus response can already count on plenty of star players, but Murthy has a particular niche. As a successful author he’s addressed issues of loneliness and isolation that have been exacerbated by the pandemic.
For Murthy, this will be his second tour as America’s doctor, having previously served under former President Barack Obama.
US colleges tout hopes for return to new normal this fall
Colleges throughout the U.S. are assuring students that the fall semester will bring a return to in-person classes, intramural sports and mostly full dormitories. But those promises come with asterisks.
Administrators say how quickly campus life comes back will depend on the success of the nation’s COVID-19 vaccination efforts and the ability to avoid widespread outbreaks.
Universities saw their budgets hammered during the coronavirus pandemic, which emptied dorms and led to declines in enrollment, and are facing pressure to reopen fully.
13 Oregon counties can start broadening vaccine access
The Oregon Health Authority says 13 counties can start giving COVID-19 vaccines to agricultural workers, people experiencing homelessness and other vulnerable populations.
Oregon Public Broadcasting reports the move Monday follows the state’s announcement last week that it would speed up vaccination timelines to meet the Biden administration’s goal of having all adults eligible for a vaccine by May 1.
Thirteen Oregon counties have applied and received approval to move ahead so far: Baker, Benton, Deschutes, Grant, Jefferson, Lake, Lincoln, Malheur, Marion, Morrow, Polk, Umatilla and Union.
Regal Cinemas, 2nd largest chain in US to reopen in April
Regal Cinemas, the second largest movie theater chain in the U.S., will reopen beginning April 2, its parent company, Cineworld Group, announced Tuesday.
Regal had been one of most notable holdouts in the gradual reopening of cinemas nationwide. For nearly half a year, its 7,211 screens and 549 theatres in the U.S. have been dark. Doors will open early next month with attendance limited to 25% to 50% capacity in about 500 locations.
Regal’s April 2 reopening coincides with the release of Warner Bros.’ “Godzilla vs. Kong.”
German brewery pairs with bakers to use surplus beer
With restaurants and bars all closed due to pandemic restrictions, a Duesseldorf brewery found itself with 1,585 gallons of its copper-colored “Altbier” unsold and nearing its expiry date.
But with trying times come novel solutions. Fuechschen Brewery brewery paired up with craft bakers already using leftover grains from the brewing process to produce loaves of “Treberbrot,” or “Spent Grain Bread.”
“It would have been such a shame to just toss out such a tasty beer,” said Peter Koenig, whose family has run the brewery since 1908.
“Then we came up with this idea to bake the bread with the beer, to leave out the water,” he said Tuesday. “I think it’s great that these two craft industries have come together like this.”
About a dozen bakeries have been producing the Treberbrot since the start of the week, giving the added bonus of a bottle of Fuechschen’s Altbier, a regional specialty, for free with each loaf.
“It’s a very hearty, tasty bread with a crispy baked crust and a soft middle,” said baker Janika Derksen, whose family runs Coelven bakery.
U.S. extends travel restrictions at land borders with Canada, Mexico
The U.S. government has announced that the country’s land borders with North American neighbors Canada and Mexico will remain closed to nonessential travel for at least another month, through April 21, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The Department of Homeland Security reiterated that the goal of the extended border closures is to limit the spread of coronavirus, determining that nonessential travel still poses too great a risk.
Texas joins states making vaccines available to all adults
Texas is becoming the most populous state to expand COVID-19 vaccine eligibility to all adults, more than a month before President Joe Biden’s goal of making the shots available to anyone who wants one by May 1.
The announcement by state health officials Tuesday adds Texas to the rapidly growing list of states that are making the vaccine available to all adults. The drastic expansion for the state’s nearly 30 million residents will begin Monday.
For the past two weeks, Texas has been the nation’s largest state with no coronavirus restrictions after Republican Gov. Greg Abbott repealed a mask mandate that has divided businesses and lifted limits on restaurant and retail occupancy. Hospitalizations in Texas have plummeted to their lowest levels since October, but local health officials say they are again watching the numbers closely after spring break last week.
Reputation of AstraZeneca’s COVID vaccine marred by missteps
AstraZeneca’s release Monday of encouraging data about its coronavirus vaccine from its U.S. trial raised hopes that the drug company could put a troubled rollout behind it.
But just hours after its announcement, American officials issued an unusual statement expressing concern the company had included “outdated information” from its study and that it may have provided “an incomplete view of the efficacy data.”
Coupled with earlier missteps in reporting data and a recent blood clot scare, experts said the new stumble could cause lasting harm to the shot that is key to global efforts to stop the pandemic and erode vaccine confidence more broadly.
“I doubt it was (U.S. officials’) intention to deliberately undermine trust in the AstraZeneca vaccine,” said Dr. Paul Hunter, a professor of medicine at the University of East Anglia. “But this will likely cause more vaccine hesitancy.”
Damage from virus: Utility bills overwhelm some households
Millions of U.S. households are facing heavy past-due utility bills, which have escalated in the year since the pandemic forced Americans hunkered down at home to consume more power.
And now, government moratoriums that for months had barred utilities from turning off the power of their delinquent customers are starting to expire in most states. As result, up to 37 million customers — representing nearly one-third of all households — will soon have to reckon with their overdue power bills at a time when many of them are struggling with lost jobs or income.
A study done by Arcadia, which runs a service that helps households lower utility bills, found that the average past-due amount by those in its network was roughly $850.
The crisis has emerged as one of the repercussions of the recession that was touched off by the viral pandemic.
Rose rejoins Knicks, says he had COVID, like flu ‘times 10’
Derrick Rose rejoined the New York Knicks on Monday, though it’s unclear when he will play again as he recovers from COVID-19.
Looking tired, Rose detailed his struggles Monday, saying his kids also had gotten sick and they all quarantined together.
“They say everybody is different, but with me I never felt anything like that before,” Rose said. “I’ve had the flu. It was nothing like the flu. It was that times 10. So like I said, I’m slowly getting back. I’m progressing every day and just trying to get back in the swing of things.”
UK reflects on ‘grief and loss,’ a year from first lockdown
A year to the day since Prime Minister Boris Johnson first put the country under lockdown to slow the fast-spreading coronavirus, a national day of reflection has been organized by the end-of-life charity Marie Curie to remember the people who died after contracting COVID-19.
The U.K. has registered more than 126,000 virus-related deaths, the highest pandemic death toll in Europe and one of the highest in the world as a proportion of population.
The country observed a minute’s silence at noon to remember those who have died after contracting the virus. Later, London’s skyline will turn yellow when landmarks including the London Eye, Trafalgar Square and Wembley Stadium light up at nightfall with people encouraged to stand on their doorsteps at 8 p.m. with phones, candles and flashlights to signify a “beacon of remembrance.”
Putin’s COVID-19 vaccination to be kept out of public eye
Russian President Vladimir Putin will be getting his first vaccination against COVID-19 on Tuesday, but out of sight of the cameras, his spokesman said, prompting questions about whether the gesture will boost comparatively low immunization rates in Russia.
Asked whether the Kremlin will release any photos or footage of Putin getting his coronavirus vaccine shot, Dmitry Peskov told reporters during a conference call that they would have to “take (our) word for it.”
Putin announced that he would get vaccinated at a government meeting Monday. Kremlin critics have argued that Putin’s reluctance to get vaccinated was contributing to the already growing domestic hesitancy about the Sputnik V vaccine.
Sinovac says its vaccine is safe for children as young as 3
Sinovac said its COVID-19 vaccine is safe in children ages 3-17, based on preliminary data, and it has submitted the data to Chinese drug regulators.
China has approved its use in adults but it has not yet been used in children, because their immune systems may respond differently to the vaccine.
Early and mid-stage clinical trials with over 550 juvenile subjects showed the vaccine would induce an immune response, Gang Zeng, the medical director at Sinovac, said at a news conference Monday. Two recipients developed high fevers in response to the vaccine, one a 3-year-old and the other a 6-year-old. The rest of the trial subjects experienced mild symptoms, Zeng said.
More than 70 million shots of Sinovac’s vaccine have been given worldwide, including in China.
AP-NORC poll: Learning setbacks a top concern for parents
Parents across the U.S. are conflicted about reopening schools. Most are at least somewhat worried that a return to the classroom will lead to more coronavirus cases, but there’s an even deeper fear that their children are falling behind in school while at home.
Sixty-nine percent of parents are at least somewhat concerned that their children will face setbacks in school because of the coronavirus pandemic, including 42% who say they’re very or extremely worried about it, according to a new poll from The University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy and The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.
Oregon college students, unhappy with online learning, sue to get their money back
Three students have filed class-action lawsuits against Oregon’s two largest colleges, saying they were charged full price for online classes of poorer quality than in-person classes.
When the University of Oregon and Oregon State University closed their campuses because of the coronavirus pandemic, they didn’t offer to refund students’ tuition bills, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported.
The University of Oregon says on its website that in order to provide quality education now and in the future, it cannot discount tuition. The universities did agree to refund portions of their room and board.
“The University of Oregon, we believe, has unfairly continued to charge tuition payers for all of the things they were not allowed to experience and use during the COVID-19 campus closure and switch to online classes,” said Steve Berman, managing partner of Hagens Berman and attorney for students in the class action.
Catch up on the past 24 hours
A new problem is clouding the sunny results from the AstraZeneca vaccine's U.S. trial: It may have used outdated information, according to an unusual federal statement.
First he got COVID-19, then came the psychosis. A Bainbridge Island man who was known as “great in a crisis” is describing the paranoid delusions that turned his family’s life into a nightmare.
Is driving still safer than flying if you’re vaccinated? Six experts break down the risks as the summer travel season approaches. And here's the CDC's guidance on what else vaccinated people should and shouldn't do.
Peeeeee-yew: One nasty, lingering side effect of COVID-19 has left people vomiting, avoiding their loved ones and even repulsed by their own scent.
How much weight did Americans gain during lockdowns? A new study is providing hints, adding to research about changes in our dietary habits, daily steps and more.
Free doughnuts! This won't help with extra pounds, but it's worth knowing: Krispy Kreme will give a doughnut to anyone who's been vaccinated until the end of 2021. Go prepared.
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