Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Monday, March 28, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.

Long before the invasion of Ukraine, the Russian government waged an anti-vaccine disinformation campaign aimed at Ukrainians that is compounding fears of a COVID-19 outbreak and adding to the woes of millions of refugees fleeing to other countries or huddling in crowded shelters.

Just 35% of Ukrainians are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 — among the lowest rates in Europe, according to data from Oxford University.

Meanwhile, Hawaii over the weekend became the last state in the U.S. to lift its indoor masking requirement as the omicron surge fades.

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 the rest of our coronavirus coverage and here to see how we track the daily spread across Washington.

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Here’s how COVID changed hotels — and what it means for your next vacation | Travel Troubleshooter

Hotels have changed a lot since the pandemic started, and more changes are coming. Now that COVID-19 finally appears to be on its way out the door, hotels are making a few more adjustments in time for the summer — for better or worse.

So how will your post-COVID hotel stay be different? Debbie Winsett, a nonprofit tour planner, has seen some of the post-COVID changes, and she is not impressed. 

On a recent business trip to Southern California, her hotel charged her $10 to park and another $10 for breakfast. Pre-pandemic, the same hotel included parking and breakfast in the room rate. When she asked about the extras, a representative shrugged and said, “we have to make up for all the extra COVID costs somehow.”

“My hotel rates were not less than prior years, and the service was definitely less,” she adds.

Read the full story here.

— Christopher Elliott, Special to The Seattle Times
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A milestone: Majority of Americans say they’ve had COVID, even more in GOP

Early this year, the acting head of the Food and Drug Administration offered a stern and ominous warning: Most Americans were going to contract the coronavirus.

Americans now report that we have reached this milestone. And the numbers point to the virus taking a disproportionate toll on Republicans.

In a new Monmouth University poll, 52% of Americans say they’ve contracted the virus. That’s up from 40% in late January, in the weeks following FDA acting commissioner Janet Woodcock’s testimony. Today, a little more than 4 in 10 say they’ve tested positive for or been diagnosed with covid, while 10% say they haven’t been diagnosed but know they’ve had the virus.

This appears to be the first poll to show a majority of Americans saying they’ve been infected at some point. An August poll from the Pew Research Center showed that 30% had tested positive or were “pretty sure” they’d contracted the virus. A year earlier, in August 2020, that number was 14%.

Read the full story here.

— Aaron Blake, The Washington Post

State health officials confirm new coronavirus cases, deaths

The state Department of Health (DOH) reported 565 new coronavirus cases on Friday, 579 on Saturday and 939 cases on Sunday. It also reported 22 more deaths over those days.

The update brings the state's totals to 1,453,251 cases and 12,454 deaths, meaning that 0.8% of people diagnosed in Washington have died, according to the DOH. The data is as of 11:59 p.m. Sunday. New state data is reported on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

In addition, 59,198 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the virus — 108 new hospitalizations. In King County, the state's most populous, state health officials have confirmed a total of 373,237 COVID-19 diagnoses and 2,665 deaths.

Since vaccinations began in late 2020, the state and health care providers have administered 13,203,615 doses and 67.4% 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 4,509 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.

—Amanda Zhou

Idaho Legislature passes a bill that seeks to protect the unvaccinated

The Idaho Legislature passed a bill last week that would prohibit businesses from requiring a COVID-19 vaccination for employment or service and prevent unvaccinated individuals from being “treated differently or discriminated against.”

The bill, which was supported by Republican legislators and known as the Coronavirus Pause Act, landed on Gov. Brad Little’s desk this week. Little, also a Republican, has not stated whether he will veto or sign it, and Marissa Morrison Hyer, a spokesperson for the governor, said in a statement Saturday that Little “does not comment on pending litigation.”

The bill states that the decision to receive a vaccine is “a very personal and individual decision” and one that should not be mandated by public or private entities.

Read the story here.

—Eduardo Medina, The New York Times
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Spring break crackdown puts focus on future of South Beach

Miami Beach officials have spent recent years trying to control the raucous crowds, public drinking and growing violence associated with the city’s world-famous South Beach neighborhood during spring break.

In an attempt to discourage large crowds, the city had canceled all programs amid the pandemic, leaving a void for tens of thousands of people gathered with nothing to do. Business owners claim they’re being unfairly targeted by regulations, and civil rights advocates say the city is trying to scare away Black tourists who make up many of the visitors.

Two shootings that wounded five people last weekend, prompting the city to impose an emergency midnight curfew this weekend, have refocused attention on the glamorous waterfront’s future — as an entertainment district or something else entirely. The city’s mayor, a Democrat, insists the crackdown is about bad behavior, not race.

The 10-block stretch of Ocean Drive known for art deco hotels, restaurants and bars lies between areas that cater to more affluent tourists, as well as locals. Many longtime residents have learned to treat spring break like a hurricane: Stay inside and hunker down until it’s over.

Resident Pedro Herrera, 40, said spring break is great for business at the hotel where he works, but he stays away from tourist areas when he’s off the clock.

“Before spring break, you can go walk on Ocean Drive,” Herrera said. “Right now, I prefer to stay home, because I know if I go there, something is going to happen.”

Read the story here.

—David Fischer, The Associated Press

Musk tweets he ‘supposedly’ has COVID-19 again; almost no symptoms

—Craig Trudell and Michael Sin, Bloomberg

A broccoli a day keeps COVID (and colds) away? Researchers are looking into it

Your mom was right: Eat your vegetables!

Vegetables have long been a mainstay of a healthy diet, but there may be one more reason to eat your greens. They may stave off a bad COVID-19 infection.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center found that a chemical compound called sulforaphane found in abundance in broccoli cabbage, kale and Brussels sprouts might slow growth of coronaviruses such as those that cause COVID-19 and the common cold.

At the start of the pandemic, the researchers began looking for potential treatments for the virus when they came across the compound. They haven’t tested it in humans yet, but in cells and mice they found sulforaphane was a promising weapon against severe disease because it interferes with virus replication. That’s how the virus spreads in the body.

“I was screening multiple compounds for anti-coronavirus activity and decided to try sulforaphane since it has shown modest activity against other microbial agents that we study,” said Lori Jones-Brando, a Hopkins Children’s Center microbiologist and senior author of a paper recently published on the findings in the Nature journal Communications Biology.

This isn’t the first time health researchers have looked at greens for more than just a healthy gut. Other Hopkins researchers have been looking into using the compound to prevent or treat breast cancer after discovering there was some anti-cancer benefit to sulforaphane decades ago.

Read the full story here.

—Meredith Cohn The Baltimore Sun
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Russia spread anti-vax lies in Ukraine. Will it cause a COVID crisis for Europe?

Long before Russia launched its military assault on Ukraine, its citizens had been targeted for years by another Russian campaign — one designed to undermine confidence in Western vaccines and the governments offering them to their citizens.

The anti-vaccine messages were actively encouraged by President Vladimir Putin’s government, broadcast by Russian state television, and amplified on social media by Russian computer bots. The offensive was part of a larger effort to sow division within fledgling democracies and heighten suspicion of the West across Eastern Europe and the former Soviet republics.

In Ukraine, the seeds of vaccine skepticism fell on particularly fertile ground. Just 35% of residents are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and only 1% more are partially vaccinated — among the lowest such rates in Europe, according to data from Oxford University. Childhood immunizations for diseases like measles and polio are among the continent’s lowest as well.

That gives public health officials reason for worry as more than 3.6 million Ukrainian refugees have poured into other countries and millions more are displaced within Ukraine, often hunkered down in crowded, frigid places without clean water or electricity.

Read the story here.

—Melissa Healy and Emily Baumgaertner, Los Angeles Times

Early puberty cases in girls have surged during COVID, doctors say

Before the pandemic, Vaishakhi Rustagi, a Delhi-based pediatric endocrinologist, found that cases of early puberty were pretty uncommon, but not unheard of: In a typical year, she would see about 20 such patients.

Then the pandemic hit, and the cases started to pile up. Since June 2020, Rustagi has seen more than 300 girls experiencing early puberty, she said.

Precocious or early puberty is defined as the development of pubertal changes among children earlier than what is considered normal, which stands at 8 for girls and 9 for boys. It’s known to sometimes be caused by genetic syndromes, a family history of the disease, central nervous system problems, and tumors or growths on the ovaries, adrenal glands, pituitary gland or brain.

The phenomenon of increased cases during the pandemic hasn’t been restricted to India. Pediatricians across the world — from Italy to Turkey to the United States — have reported increases in precocious puberty cases. Parents have, too.

“I think it’s directly related to the amount of stress that the children have gone through,” said Rustagi, adding lockdowns are not the only factor, with many children also coping with grief. “These children have lost family members.”

Read the story here.

—Puja Changoiwala, The Washington Post

South Korea’s omicron surge has likely peaked, officials say

South Korea’s daily average of new COVID-19 cases declined last week for the first time in more than two months, but the number of critically ill patients and deaths will likely continue to rise amid the omicron-driven outbreak, officials said Monday.

South Korea reported an average of about 350,000 new cases last week, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said Monday. It was the first drop in the weekly average in 11 weeks, KDCA Commissioner Jeong Eun-kyeong said.

The current outbreak has likely peaked and is expected to trend downward, Jeong said citing expert studies. But new cases in South Korea will likely drop slowly because of relaxed social distancing rules, an expansion of in-person school classes and rising infections due to the coronavirus mutant widely known as “stealth omicron,” she said.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press
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Shanghai starts China’s biggest COVID-19 lockdown in 2 years

China began its most extensive coronavirus lockdown in two years Monday to conduct mass testing and control a growing outbreak in Shanghai as questions are raised about the economic toll of the nation’s “zero-COVID” strategy.

Shanghai, China’s financial capital and largest city with 26 million people, had managed its smaller previous outbreaks with limited lockdowns of housing compounds and workplaces where the virus was spreading.

But the citywide lockdown that will be conducted in two phases will be China’s most extensive since the central city of Wuhan, where the virus was first detected in late 2019, confined its 11 million people to their homes for 76 days in early 2020. Millions more have been kept in lockdown since then.

Shanghai’s Pudong financial district and nearby areas will be locked down from Monday to Friday as mass testing gets underway, the local government said. In the second phase of the lockdown, the vast downtown area west of the Huangpu River that divides the city will start its own five-day lockdown Friday.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

Another Biden spokesperson tests positive for COVID-19 after trip

White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre said she tested positive for COVID-19 on Sunday after returning from Europe with President Joe Biden, in the latest infiltration of the coronavirus into the West Wing’s protective bubble around Biden.

Jean-Pierre, the principal deputy press secretary, said she last saw Biden “during a socially distanced meeting” on Saturday. Biden, because he is fully vaccinated, is not considered a “close contact” under Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.

Jean-Pierre traveled to Belgium and Poland with Biden after press secretary Jen Psaki tested positive for the virus last week.

Read the full story here.

—The Associated Press

FDA expected to authorize second COVID booster for 50 and older

The Food and Drug Administration is poised to authorize a second coronavirus vaccine booster for anyone 50 and older, a bid to provide an extra layer of protection amid concerns Europe’s rise in infections from an omicron subvariant could hit the United States, according to several government officials.

The authorizations for second Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna boosters could be announced as soon as Tuesday, according to the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not permitted to discuss the situation. They said talks continue, and it was possible, but unlikely, that major changes could occur.

After the FDA acts, Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is expected to issue a statement saying second boosters are available for eligible individuals interested in receiving them but not to explicitly recommend that.

People will be able to get a second booster at least four months after receiving the first booster. Currently, second boosters are recommended only for people whose immune systems are impaired, which can hamper an effective response to the vaccine.

The question of additional boosters has sparked days of discussion among health officials in the Biden administration and debate within the wider scientific community. Administration officials, as with past vaccine decisions, have struggled to decipher intriguing but frequently evolving data, often from Israel; a political environment in which large swaths of the American population are ambivalent — or in come cases, hostile — toward vaccines; and uncertainty about whether the highly transmissible omicron subvariant BA.2 poses a major threat.

Read the full story here.

—Lena H. Sun and Laurie Mcginley The Washington Post