Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Saturday, March 27, 2021, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.
President Joe Biden has promised enough coronavirus vaccine doses by the end of May to immunize all of the nation’s roughly 260 million adults. But between then and the end of July, the government has locked in commitments from manufacturers for enough vaccine to cover 400 million people — about 70 million more than the nation’s entire population, The New York Times reports. Whether to keep, modify or redirect those orders is a question with significant implications: Of the vaccine doses given globally, about three-quarters have gone to only 10 countries. At least 30 countries have not yet injected a single person. Global scarcity threatens to grow more acute as nations and regions clamp down on vaccine exports.
As Washington state comes off its third surge in coronavirus cases, daily case counts have flattened to 654 per day as of March 11, which is worrisome because that number is comparable to the state’s count in mid-October during the state’s second surge, said Dr. Umair Shah, the state’s secretary of health. At the Department of Health’s weekly press briefing, Shah said that the state was making “incredible progress” in coming off the surge but cautioned that the flattening of the case count was “very concerning to all of us in public health.”
Vaccinations and tracking shift toward younger adults
The state of West Virginia opened up coronavirus vaccinations to all adults, just one of many ways health officials in some regions are racing against new variants of coronavirus.
Deaths among nursing home residents have dropped 88% nationally since December, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Most state have targeted older residents in early phases of vaccination drives, to reach the people most at risk of dying.
However, growing case counts are expected to emerge in younger age groups, as happened in Israel despite its world-leading vaccine program. Young adults still spread COVID-19 and some deaths are expected.
At this stage, there's a glaring need to be more precise about measuring which communities experience new outbreaks, according to Ali Mokdad, a professor at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation in Seattle. "Otherwise, we are flying blind."
Read the full story by Bloomberg News here.
Washington reports 1,442 new COVID-19 cases
The state Department of Health (DOH) reported 1,442 new coronavirus cases Saturday.
The update brings the state's totals to 361,115 cases and 5,218 deaths since the outbreak began a year ago, meaning that 1.4% of people diagnosed in Washington have died, as of 11:59 p.m. Friday, according to the DOH.
In addition, 20,363 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the virus, including an incomplete count of 17 new hospitalizations Friday. In King County, the state's most populous, state health officials have confirmed a total of 89,636 COVID-19 diagnoses and 1,458 deaths.
Since vaccinations began in mid-December, the state and health care providers have administered 3.01 million doses and 14.8% 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 48,455 vaccine shots per day, a bit higher than the goal of 45,000.
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.
Passover: Israel celebrates deliverance from the pandemic
After a year of lockdowns, Jews in Israel are celebrating deliverance from the modern plague of coronavirus during this Passover week.
The country of 9.3 million people has vaccinated more than 80% of adults, and recently reopened restaurants, hotels, museums and theaters. As many as 20 people may gather indoors.
Palestinians in Israeli-occupied territory have imported more than 130,000 doses but are months away from inoculating 5 million residents of Gaza and the West Bank.
Passover, which begins Saturday night, celebrates the biblical Israelites' liberation from slavery in Egypt, following a series of divine plagues. A year ago, synagogues closed and extended families couldn't gather as usual.
Read the full Associated Press story here.
Microstates, island nations and overseas territories speed ahead in global vaccination race
The international coronavirus vaccination race might appear to be dominated by giants like China, Russia, the United States and the European Union, all of which have developed multiple vaccines and distributed millions of doses. But some of the big winners are quite small.
Tiny island nations, microstate enclaves and far-flung overseas territories are likely to be among the first places to vaccinate nearly their entire adult populations, proving that bigger isn’t always necessarily better when it comes to vaccinations.
Last week, British Health Secretary Matt Hancock described Gibraltar, a British-administered territory on the tip of the Iberian Peninsula home to around 30,000 people, as “the first nation in the world to complete its entire adult vaccination program.”
Vatican City, a city-state considered the least-populated sovereign nation in the world with just 450 full-time residents, is just this week completing the first doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and beginning the second doses, according to the Holy See press office. To learn about other high-performing countries, read the full story.
Some want later school hours, started during COVID-19 pandemic, to stay
With many schools returning to in-person learning – and earlier schedules – even as the pandemic continues, how can parents help their adolescents sleep more soundly?
“As I often phrase it, multilevel interventions are needed,” says Wendy Troxel, a senior scientist and sleep expert at the Rand Corp. By that, she says she means that families, schools, and state and local governments should contribute to finding solutions.
Families, Troxel says, can do a lot to support teen sleep by removing technology from their bedrooms. Have a central place – not a bedroom – for the entire family to disconnect from their phones and charge them overnight. Research suggests parents can be influential role models: children often copy their mother and dad’s technology habits.
Rebecca Robbins, an instructor in medicine at Harvard Medical School, says another evidence-based way for teenagers to get sleep during the pandemic and beyond is to get plenty of exposure to natural light, ideally in the morning.
“Light is the strongest physiological cue to the brain, providing vital information to kick-start the alert phase of our circadian rhythm,” she says. Read the full story here.
Suicide and Self-Harm: Bereaved Families Count the Costs of Lockdowns
LONDON — Sunny, driven and with a new engineering master’s degree in hand, Joshua Morgan was hopeful he could find a job despite the pandemic, move out of his mother’s house and begin his life.
But as lockdowns in Britain dragged on and no job emerged, the young man grew cynical and self-conscious, his sister Yasmin said. Morgan felt he could not get a public-facing job, like working at a grocery store, because his mother, Joanna, had open-heart surgery last year, and Morgan was “exceptionally careful” about her health.
He and his mother contracted the coronavirus in January, forcing them to quarantine in their small London apartment for over two weeks. Concerned by things he was saying, friends raised the alarm and referred him to mental health services.
But days before the end of his quarantine last month, Morgan, 25, took his own life.
“He just sounded so deflated,” his sister said of their last conversation, adding that he said he felt imprisoned and longed to go outside.
There are some signs indicating a widespread mental health crisis. Japan saw a spike in suicide among women last year, and in Europe mental health experts have reported a rise in the number of young people expressing suicidal thoughts. In the United States, many emergency rooms have faced surges in admissions of young children and teenagers with mental health issues. Read the full story here.
Balky sign-ups complicate virus vaccinations for blind, deaf
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Unable to see, Carla McQuillan typically uses a program that converts the letters on a screen into audible words when she wants to read something online. The tool wouldn’t work when she tried to schedule an appointment to get a COVID-19 vaccine, however.
“When I clicked, it wouldn’t tell me what the date was. I could have tapped on something, but I wouldn’t have known what it was,” said McQuillan, who operates a Montessori school and serves as president of the National Federation of the Blind of Oregon. Her husband, who can see, eventually helped out.
In Alabama, Donte Little helped 20 blind and deaf people who had trouble signing up for vaccinations and getting to a clinic for shots.
“It’s been a challenge for anybody. Add deafness or blindness on top of it and it’s that much more of one,” said Little, who is visually impaired and directs a regional center for the Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind.
The confusing maze of websites, phone numbers, emails and paper documents required to sign up for an immunization in the United States is presenting a challenge for people who are visually impaired or hard of hearing. Providers are using multiple different systems that can vary by state and even cities, they say, often forcing the disabled to rely on others to help them get in line. Read the full story here.
As daily deaths near 4,000, worst may lie ahead for Brazil
Brazil currently accounts for one-quarter of the entire world’s daily COVID-19 deaths, far more than any other single nation, and health experts are warning that the nation is on the verge of even greater calamity.
The nation’s seven-day average of 2,400 deaths stands to reach to 3,000 within weeks, six experts told the Associated Press. That’s nearly the worst level seen by the U.S., though Brazil has two-thirds its population. Spikes of daily deaths could soon hit 4,000; on Friday there were 3,650.
Having glimpsed the abyss, there is growing recognition shutdowns are no longer avoidable — not just among experts, but also many mayors and governors. Restrictions on activity they implemented last year were half-hearted and consistently sabotaged by President Jair Bolsonaro, who sought to stave off economic doom. He remains unconvinced of any need for clampdown, which leaves local leaders pursuing a patchwork of measures to prevent the death toll from spiraling further.
It may be too late, with a more contagious variant rampaging across Brazil. Read the full story.
COVID-19 pandemic shopping habits are giving inflation experts a headache
Financial markets are obsessed with where inflation is headed. Statisticians are struggling to figure out where it’s at.
The pandemic has created major headaches for the people whose job it is to determine the rate of inflation right now, and set the benchmarks that will be used to measure it in the future. They face two fundamental problems.
First, gauges like the Consumer Price Index are based on a “basket” of stuff that Americans typically spent their money on in the past — which looks quite different from what people have been buying in the pandemic year.
Second, the standard way of compiling inflation numbers is to visit stores and check their asking prices. Researchers haven’t been able to do that during lockdown, leaving holes in the data. And a lot of shopping has in any case shifted online, where prices can be tailored to individual shoppers and subject to rapid change — making them harder to measure.
These are more than just technical issues. The incomes of almost 80 million Americans, from recipients of social security and food stamps to workers in collective wage agreements, are tied in some way to the CPI. When it fails to capture changes in the cost of living, their budgets can get squeezed.
Read more here about the economy's rapid rebound and economists' concerns about a rise in inflation.
Washington House Democrats propose state budget aimed at easing housing crisis after COVID-19 pandemic
OLYMPIA — Washington House Democrats released a budget proposal Friday that focuses on preventing the state from sinking into an even deeper housing and homelessness crisis due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The roughly $58 billion proposed 2021-23 state operating budget in some ways mirrors the proposal released a day earlier by Senate Democrats. It includes a proposed 7% tax on capital gains over $250,000, which has been opposed by Republican minorities in the Legislature. That is intended to fund a tax credit for low-income families, as well as child care.
And the Friday proposal by the House earmarks billions of dollars in federal COVID-19 relief aid to help the state recover from the pandemic.
But House Democrats in their plan emphasized a slew of different programs to prevent foreclosures and tenant evictions that could make Washington’s already-severe homelessness crisis even worse. Read the full story here.
When you go back to the office, will you recognize it? How Seattle-area companies are preparing to bring workers back
When office workers emptied Seattle and Eastside corporate towers and campuses last year, many left behind a fairly routine setup: assigned desks, conference rooms for big meetings, and an expectation that they show up to the office at least most workdays.
When they return, all of that could be different.
“The days of having your own space and being able to spread out and have all your tchotchkes and pictures at your desk are gone,” said Dena Yamaguchi, associate principal at the Seattle office of the architecture firm CallisonRTKL. “If you’re working from home part of the time, you can’t use up that valuable real estate.”
As a growing number of people in Seattle and around the country get vaccinated against the coronavirus and begin to contemplate a return to family gatherings and hugs with loved ones, a more workaday question emerges: What about the office?
Employers, architects and commercial real estate experts are now contemplating what post-pandemic office work will look like, with ramifications that extend far beyond the average cubicle dweller. Read the full story here.
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