Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Sunday, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.
Communities across the world are turning more attention to young people in the struggle against coronavirus, as the month of April approaches.
Some U.S. states are opening vaccine eligibility to the general population, now that highly at-risk older people and medical staff have taken their first turn in line. A few universities are organizing back-to-campus inoculation drives. Some states are reopening public spaces. Experts warn that as contagion ebbs among older people, new variants may explode when young adults return to social life or crowds.
In Washington state, the question of the day is, how fast will children and teachers return to school?
School districts are closing in rapidly on Gov. Jay Inslee’s recent April 5 deadline to offer at least a hybrid option mixing online with in-person classes, to students from kindergarten to fifth or sixth grade. And by April 19, all K-12 students must have a hybrid option that includes at least two days per week of in-person instruction. Educators are eligible for vaccination appointments, but many haven’t yet completed two doses and a several-day wait to become fully immune. Still, the union representing Seattle Public Schools did ratify an agreement to bring elementary students back to class part-time April 5.
Throughout Sunday, on this page, we’ll be posting Seattle Times and out-of-state reports on the outbreak and its effects on the Seattle area, the Pacific Northwest and the world. Updates from Saturday can be found here, and all our coronavirus coverage can be found here.
The following graphic includes the most recent numbers from the Washington State Department of Health, released Saturday afternoon.
Judge tosses case after lawyer refuses to wear a mask in court
A New York judge has tossed a woman's personal injury case because her attorney refused to wear a mask in court.
The New York Daily News reports that Brooklyn Judge Lawrence Knipel, who was hospitalized with COVID-19 last spring, had ordered attorney Howard Greenwald to put on a face mask. Rules require wearing the protective coverings in all state court buildings.
But Greenwald refused, saying he could not breathe.
“I want the record to reflect that I am speaking with great difficulty,” Greenwald, 68, told the judge. “I want to the record to reflect that I am sweating profusely from the effort.”
According to the Daily News, he also said: "I don’t contest the rule … I just am not physically able to comply with the rule to do my job as a lawyer.”
The woman's case had been set for trial. The judge told the Daily News she would have legal recourse to continue her litigation even though her case was dismissed. The lawsuit stemmed from a 2017 car crash that fractured the woman’s leg.
“Forget about my personal experience with COVID,” the judge told the newspaper. “We have over half a million dead in this country. We have protocols. The most important protocol is wearing a mask.”
King County will re-open restrooms in parks
Restrooms in King County parks are opening up again for public use.
King County Parks shared the news in a tweet Sunday. The restrooms will be open to the public starting Thursday after COVID-19 precautions prompted their closures last year.
King County says its park system includes more than 200 parks and miles of recreational and backcountry trails.
In Alaska, 8 youth develop syndrome associated with COVID-19
Health officials in Alaska say eight youths in the state developed a serious inflammatory syndrome from a previous case of the coronavirus and some ended up in the pediatric intensive care unit with severe complications.
The condition in the youth is called multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, or MIS-C. It can lead to inflamed organs, including the heart, lungs, kidneys and brain, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Of the first eight children with MIS-C cases in Alaska, half were 4 years old or younger while three were between ages 5 and 10, according to a report released Friday. One was between the ages of 11 and 20, said health officials.
Since May 2020, the CDC has reported 2,617 cases of MIS-C and 33 deaths from the syndrome across the U.S.
Most cases were in children and adolescents between the ages of 1 and 14, with the median age being 9. Cases have occurred in children and adolescents aged less than 1 year old and up to 20. About 66% of the reported cases have occurred in children who are Hispanic, Latino or Black — a total of 1,586 cases, according to the CDC.
Roughly 99% of those who developed the syndrome had previously tested positive for the coronavirus, and 1% were around someone who had it, the CDC said.
Dr. Benjamin Westley, an infectious disease specialist who treated six of the eight Alaska minors and contributed to the state report, said that with treatment virtually all children recover from the syndrome.
“This happens to kids after COVID,” he said. “It’s weeks after COVID, where their immune systems are kind of going haywire.”
Fauci calls eased restrictions 'premature' as COVID-19 cases rise nationally
More infectious COVID-19 variants and an easing of restrictions in several states have contributed to a rise in infections in the U.S., following weeks of declining case counts.
The country averaged 61,545 cases last week, 11% more than the average two weeks earlier. Deaths from the pandemic continue to decrease.
“The variants are playing a part, but it’s not completely the variants,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the Biden administration’s chief science adviser, said Sunday on the CBS program “Face the Nation.” Most states have lifted restrictions, including on indoor dining, in response to the drop in numbers, actions that Fauci called “premature.”
As of Thursday, there were 8,337 known U.S. cases of the B.1.1.7 variant, but the actual number is probably much higher because labs in the country analyze only a very small proportion of the diagnosed cases. Still, the trend is clear: The variant — which is more transmissible and possibly more lethal — has been rising exponentially in the United States, its growth masked by the overall drop in infections.
Read the whole story here.
Spanish concert, with same-day tests, masks, marks a brief return to pre-pandemic life
Spanish authorities allowed 5,000 people to attend a rock concert, closely packed and wearing masks, to measure the effectiveness of same-day testing as a means to resume large, in-person gatherings. The rest of the country is still limited to in-person gatherings of four people or fewer.
Love of Lesbian played a sold-out Barcelona concert hall Saturday night in an event that marked a brief return to life before the pandemic, masks notwithstanding.
Ticket buyers chose between three venues in Barcelona where they could take a quick antigen test on Saturday morning. Those with negative results got a code on their cellphones validating their tickets for the 7 p.m. show.
People with heart disease, cancer, or those who have been in contact with someone infected by COVID-19 in recent weeks were asked not to sign up.
Organizers said it was the first commercial event with an audience that big held in Europe during the pandemic.
The show was sold out. The tickets, ranging from 23-28 euros ($27-33), included the cost of the test and the face mask that was obligatory except when eating or drinking in designated areas.
Attendees agreed to inform researchers at Barcelona’s The Fight AIDS and Infectious Diseases Foundation if they come down with COVID-19 in the weeks following the concert.
A watershed moment for U.S. vaccination strategy approaches
In the weeks ahead, the U.S. faces a crucial test of its vaccination strategy, which has focused on prioritizing those most at risk of severe illness and death from COVID-19.
Infections are again rising in many states. Earlier in the pandemic, these spikes were followed weeks later by increases in hospitalizations and deaths.
Now, with about 26% of the population, or more than 87 million people, having received at least one vaccine dose, public health officials are watching anxiously to see if it will be enough to stave off another wave of severe illness and death from a virus that has sickened at least 30 million and killed more than 547,000 in the U.S.
While there are early signs that the vaccination strategy has muted the lethality of the pandemic in places like nursing homes, it remains to be seen whether it will hold true with other at-risk groups and younger people.
Most people in the U.S. still aren’t protected. And there are major roadblocks in the U.S. race to stay ahead of the virus, including vaccine hesitancy and barriers to access, declines in testing and the emergence of more-contagious variants.
Read the whole story here.
Pope laments weariness, economic harm at second Palm Sunday service amid pandemic
Celebrating a second pandemic Palm Sunday mass, Pope Francis lamented the weariness and economic toll of COVID-19.
The service was again held inside St. Peter's Basilica, before about 120 congregants, rather than in the square outside, with thousands in attendance. Italy, the first Western country to be hit by the pandemic a year ago, is again under travel restrictions amid an increase in cases.
“For the second time we are living it (Holy Week) in the context of the pandemic,” Francis said. "Last year, we were more shocked. This year it is more trying for us. And the economic crisis has become heavy.”
Read the whole story here.
Phase Finder elegibility check to be dropped, state says
Washington vaccine providers no longer need to see proof of eligibility under the state’s Phase Finder system before administering a coronavirus vaccine shot as of March 31.
The Washington Department of Health (DOH) told providers of the change, citing, in its weekly vaccine partner newsletter, “the importance of getting as many vulnerable community members vaccinated as fast as possible before we open May 1 to all people 16 years and older.”
Removing the Phase Finder eligibility check will speed up the vaccination process and reduce barriers, the DOH said.
“We trust most people will continue to do the right thing and wait their turn,” the DOH said.
Washington is currently in vaccine phase 1B, Tier 2. The state expects to expand eligibility at the end of the month to phase 1B, Tiers 3 and 4, including all people over 60, people 16 years or older with two or more underlying health conditions, people in certain congregate living facilities, and high-risk critical workers in restaurants, food service, construction and manufacturing.
Extraordinary efforts to vaccinate Alaskan seafood industry workers, communities
An Eastern Aleutian Tribes community health aide in Alaska was swung through the air in a small man basket to reach a pair of large seafood processing vessels and vaccinate hundreds of people aboard against COVID-19.
That’s one of the very Alaskan ways vaccines have reached seafood processing plant workers, deep-sea fishermen and others in a seafood industry that three months ago endured severe outbreaks, causing plant closures as the Bering Sea fishing season started. Among the worst outbreaks was at the Akutan facility owned by Seattle-based Trident Seafoods, where 40% of the 706 workers had been infected since the first infections were reported in mid-January.
Now some 2,000 Trident employees have been vaccinated, the company said.
Many of the vaccines being administered to seafood industry workers – drawn from distant states and countries by the seasonal work -- are coming not from state supplies, but from a federal allocation given to Eastern Aleutian Tribes.
Read the whole story from The Anchorage Daily News here.
Grappling with the mental health toll of the pandemic
Isolation and the global suffering of the coronavirus and restrictions aimed at stopping it have taken a heavy toll, with alarming increases in suicide and self-harm observed around the world. In the U.S., emergency rooms have seen increased admissions of children and teenagers suffering from mental health issues.
While mental health experts say it is difficult to directly link any given suicide to specific reasons, many families of suicide victims are grappling with questions about the role the pandemic and associated lockdowns may have played.
Read the whole story from The New York Times here.
If you are having thoughts of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline in the United States at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK).
Q&A on back to school in Washington
After more than a year of coronavirus restrictions, many younger public school students in Washington are returning to in-person instruction in just over a week. It’s a major, anxiety-producing change with many attendant questions.
The Seattle Times Education Lab team answers them in this Q&A, covering Gov. Jay Inslee’s back-to-school-by-April 5 proclamation, safety, service offerings, union negotiations, family’s choices and more.
Read the whole thing here.
Universities push to inoculate students
Several universities across the U.S. are making plans to inoculate students when they gradually return to campus, in some cases as early as this week.
The University of Arizona will open appointments Friday for students to receive shots, at an expected pace of 4,000 people per day. The University of North Carolina received 2,000 doses and will vaccinate students on campus beginning Wednesday, with preference to those in group living.
Some are waiting on local health authorities for guidance. College students were largely left out of early rounds of vaccination drives, as states gave top priority to medical personnel, or to older citizens who are at the highest risk of death from catching COVID-19.
The University of Washington will hold most spring courses online, and revert to mainly in-person classes fall quarter. U.S. President Joe Biden has declared that vaccines will be available to all Americans by May 1.
Read more about universities plans' here.
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