Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Monday, March 29, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.

The number of total coronavirus cases is rising again in the United States as variants spread and officials ease COVID-19 restrictions in several states.

The New York Times reports that the nation averaged 61,545 infections last week — a figure 11% higher than the average two weeks earlier. The increase in reported cases follows recent declines and plateaus in case counts.

The number of COVID-19 deaths continue to decrease.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the Biden administration’s chief science adviser, said Sunday on the CBS program “Face the Nation,” that the rise in cases cannot solely be blamed on the spread of infections COVID-19 variants. The uptick is also the result of state leaders lifting mitigation measures, and large social interactions, like spring break gatherings in Florida, he said.

Most states have lifted restrictions, including on indoor dining, which Fauci called “premature.”

“The variants are playing a part, but it’s not completely the variants,” Fauci said.

Throughout Monday, 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 Sunday can be found here, and all our coronavirus coverage can be found here.

Millions of American adults in 14 states will become eligible for vaccines this week

More than a dozen states will open vaccine eligibility to all adults this week in a major expansion of COVID-19 shots for tens of millions of Americans amid a worrisome increase in virus cases and concerns about balancing supply and demand for the vaccines.

States opening eligibility to anyone ages 16 and older on Monday included Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Ohio, North Dakota and Kansas.

On Tuesday, Minnesota opens eligibility, followed by Indiana and South Carolina on Wednesday, Connecticut and Montana on Thursday, and New Hampshire and Colorado on Friday. In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that residents over 30 will be eligible for vaccinations starting Tuesday, and everyone over 16 can sign up starting April 6.

Connecticut officials said “priority access” will be given to people with high medical risks or developmental disabilities once everyone 16 and up is eligible.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

State confirms 640 new coronavirus cases and 8 new deaths

The state Department of Health (DOH) reported 640 new coronavirus cases and 8 new deaths on Monday.

The update brings the state's totals to 362,385 cases and 5,226 deaths, meaning that 1.4% of people diagnosed in Washington have died, according to the DOH. The data is as of 11:59 p.m. Sunday. Tallies may be higher earlier in the week because new state data isn’t reported on Sundays and COVID-related deaths aren’t reported on the weekends.

In addition, 20,441 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the virus — 78 new hospitalizations. In King County, the state's most populous, state health officials have confirmed a total of 90,125 COVID-19 diagnoses and 1,461 deaths.

On Dec. 16, DOH’s case, hospitalization and death counts started including both confirmed cases and probable cases in its total count. According to DOH, probable cases refer to people who received a positive antigen test result but not a positive molecular test result, while confirmed cases refer to those who have received a positive molecular test result.

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.

—Nicole Brodeur

Pakistan’s president says he’s positive for coronavirus

 Pakistan’s president said Monday he tested positive for coronavirus, hours after the government imposed a partial lockdown in high-risk areas in the country amid a sharp spike in new cases.

Arif Alvi said on Twitter he tested positive for COVID-19 despite having his first dose of vaccine on March 15. He was due for a second dose in a week. “Please continue to be careful,” he urged people.

The development came nine days after Prime Minister Imran Khan and his wife tested positive for coronavirus. Khan also tested positive days after receiving his first dose of vaccine.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

MLB to relax virus protocols when 85% on field vaccinated

Card games, car pools and eating at restaurants may be back in the major leagues later this season. Trips to church and sponsor events may return, too.

Mask use would be dropped from dugouts and bullpens, and electronic tracing devices would be eliminated when 85% of major league players and primary field staff are vaccinated. Communal clubhouse video would return before and after games. Pool tables would be restored, along with team saunas.

A three-page memorandum from Major League Baseball and the players’ association sent to players and staff on Monday and obtained by The Associated Press also stated “all players and staff are strongly encouraged to receive one of the approved COVID-19 vaccines when eligible.”

Opening day is Thursday.

Read the story here.

—Ronald Blum, The Associated Press

More than a dozen states to open vaccines to all adults

More than a dozen states will open vaccine eligibility to all adults this week in a major expansion of COVID-19 shots for tens of millions of Americans amid a worrisome increase in virus cases and concerns about balancing supply and demand for the vaccines.

Meanwhile, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Monday she had a recurring feeling of “impending doom” about a potential fourth wave of coronavirus infections after cases in the U.S. rose 10% over the last week. She pleaded with Americans not to relax preventative practices such as social distancing measures and mask-wearing.

Several Northeastern states and Michigan are reporting hundreds or thousands more new cases per day than they were two weeks ago.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

Ban on renter evictions during COVID-19 pandemic is extended

The Biden administration is extending a federal moratorium on evictions of tenants who have fallen behind on rent during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday moved to continue the pandemic-related protection, which had been scheduled to expire on Wednesday. The moratorium is now extended through the end of June.

The ban, initially put in place last year, provides protection for renters out of concern that having families lose their homes and move into shelters or share crowded conditions with relatives or friends during the pandemic would further spread the highly contagious virus, which has killed more than 545,000 people in the United States.

To be eligible for the housing protection, renters must earn $198,000 annually or less for couples filing jointly, or $99,000 for single filers; demonstrate that they’ve sought government help to pay the rent; declare that they can’t pay because of COVID-19 hardships; and affirm they are likely to become homeless if evicted.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

‘A long time coming’: Seattle preschoolers, some special-ed students return to in-person instruction

Tite Zeleke watched with relief as her 4-year-old, Numerson, stepped into his classroom at South Shore PreK-8 School on Monday morning. After more than a year of online learning, he had been so excited to see his teacher and friends that he stumbled and fell down on his way into the building, his mother said, smiling.

“It’s been challenging, being on a screen for such long periods of time,” Zeleke said, adding that she struggled to keep both her preschooler and 7-year-old son focused at home. “So we’re feeling good.”

Her older son, Immanuel, returns to school next week, she said. He’s also looking forward to reuniting with his friends — and returning to in-person math, he said Monday after seeing his younger brother off.

Teachers and staff members beamed as they greeted families outside South Shore. Districtwide, about 1,100 Seattle students enrolled in special education and preschool returned to in-person instructionMonday. The return came as a result of the most recent agreement between Seattle Public Schools and its teachers union, Seattle Education Association.

Read the story here.

—Elise Takahama

New Yorkers 30 and over can get COVID-19 vaccine Tuesday

New York state residents over 30 will be eligible for COVID-19 vaccinations starting Tuesday, and everyone over 16 will be eligible starting April 6, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Monday.

Vaccine eligibility had previously been restricted to people over 50, people in certain job categories and those with health conditions that put them at risk for serious illness if they were to become infected with the coronavirus. Previously, 12.2 million out of over 15 million New Yorkers over the age of 16 were eligible for COVID-19 vaccination as of last week.

People over the age of 30 can begin booking appointments at 8 a.m. on Tuesday morning.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

Dear Normal: Were you really that great in the first place?

Dear Normal,

Everyone wants you back. It seems every day of this late-stage pandemic era is marked with someone wistfully talking about Normal: going back to you, starting new with you. It’s all about norms and normalcy. All about you.

As for me, I’m not so interested in Normal. I defer to Taylor Swift: We are never, ever, ever getting back together.

Read the story here.

—Sophia Rosenbaum, The Associated Press

Car travel rebounding to pre-pandemic levels

Americans may be rounding a corner — literally — in their response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The number of daily passenger vehicle trips has hit a major milestone, reaching pre-pandemic levels for the first time in a year, according to data provided to The Associated Press by the transportation analytics firm Inrix, with Americans driving more often and farther than at any time since pandemic lockdowns were invoked.

The rise in vehicle travel comes amid other encouraging health and economic indicators. Consumer spending and manufacturing have been picking up. Employers have been adding workers. Governors have been easing restrictions on indoor dining and social gatherings. More auto fuel is being purchased. The winter peak in COVID-19 cases has receded. And more than one-fourth of Americans have received at least one dose of a vaccine.

Read the story here.

—David A Lieb, The Associated Press

Feuds, fibs and finger-pointing: Trump officials say coronavirus response was worse than known

Several top doctors in the Trump administration offered their most pointed and direct criticism of the government response to coronavirus last year, with one of them arguing that hundreds of thousands of COVID-19 deaths could have been prevented.

They also admitted their own missteps as part of a CNN special that aired Sunday night, saying that some Trump administration statements the White House fiercely defended last year were misleading or outright falsehoods.

“People really believed in the White House that testing was driving cases, rather than testing was a way for us to stop cases,” said Deborah Birx, who served as White House coronavirus coordinator. Birx also said that most of the virus-related deaths in the United States after the first 100,000 in the spring surge could have been prevented with a more robust response.

“That’s what bothers me every day,” she said.

Read the story here.

—Dan Diamond, The Washington Post

CDC director has feeling of ‘impending doom’ amid new spike

 The head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention made an impassioned plea to Americans Monday not to let their guard down in the fight against COVID-19, warning of a potential fourth wave of the virus and saying she has a recurring feeling “of impending doom.”

Speaking during a virtual White House briefing, Dr. Rochelle Walensky grew emotional as she reflected on her experience treating COVID-19 patients who are alone at the end of their lives.

Cases of the virus are up about 10% over the past week from the previous week, to about 60,000 cases per day, with both hospitalizations and deaths ticking up as well, Walensky said. She warned that without immediate action the U.S. could follow European countries into another spike in cases and suffer needless deaths.

She appealed to Americans to continue safety measures. “Just please hold on a little while longer.”

Read the story here.

—Zeke Miller, The Associated Press

Merkel faults German ‘perfectionism’ for current virus woes

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has blamed her country’s difficulties during the coronavirus pandemic — from the slow vaccine rollout to the back-and-forth over lockdown rules — partly on “a tendency toward perfectionism” and called for greater flexibility to tackle the latest surge in cases.

In an hour-long television interview with public broadcaster ARD late Sunday, Merkel acknowledged that mistakes were made by her government, including on plans for an Easter lockdown, which had to be reversed.

The long-time leader also expressed frustration over the actions of some of Germany’s state governors, including members of her own party, who have resisted tougher restrictions they had previously agreed to.

But Merkel, who isn’t running again in September’s national election, said she stands by her pledge to offer every adult a vaccine by the end of the summer, and insisted Germany still compares well with most of its neighbors.

“Perhaps we’re very perfectionist at times and want to do everything right, because obviously whoever makes a mistake always faces quite a lot of public criticism,” Merkel said.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

Pfizer, Moderna vaccines 90% effective in preventing coronavirus infections in U.S. study of essential workers, CDC says

The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines being deployed to fight the coronavirus pandemic are robustly effective in preventing infections in real-life conditions, according to a federal study released Monday that provides reassurance of protection for front-line workers in the United States.

In a study of about 4,000 health-care personnel, police, firefighters and other essential workers, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that the vaccines reduced the risk of infection by 80% after one shot. Protection increased to 90% following the second dose. The findings are consistent with clinical trial results and studies showing strong effectiveness in Israel and the United Kingdom, and in initial studies of health-care workers at the University of Texas and in southern California.

The CDC report is significant, experts said, because it analyzed how well the vaccines worked among a diverse group of front-line working-age adults whose jobs make them more likely to be exposed to the virus and to spread it.

The workers came from eight locations in six states — Arizona, Florida, Minnesota, Oregon, Texas and Utah. They received vaccinations between mid-December, when the doses first became available, to mid-March, a 13-week period that included the deadly winter surge that was killing more than 3,000 people a day by January.

Among 2,479 fully vaccinated people, just three had confirmed infections. Among 477 people who received one dose, eight infections were reported.

Read the story here.

—Lena H. Sun, The Washington Post

Happy Monday? England embarks on major easing of lockdown

It’s being dubbed Happy Monday, with open-air swimmers donning their wetsuits for the first time in months and rusty golfers doing their best to get their drives down the middle of the fairway.

England has embarked on a major easing of its latest coronavirus lockdown that came into force at the start of the year, with families and friends able to meet up in outdoor spaces and many sports permitted once again.

And, as if right on cue, the weather is turning, with temperatures rising to levels more akin to southern Spain at this time of year.

Under Monday’s easing, groups of up to six, or two households, can socialize in parks and gardens once more, while outdoor sports facilities can reopen after the stark stay-at-home order, which has seen new coronavirus cases fall dramatically over the past three months, officially ended.

After months of being cooped up at home, many people are relishing the prospect of being able to to enjoy their outdoor sport of choice, from tennis to open-air swimming. Organized team sports, such as children’s football clubs, can start up again too.

Read the story here.

—Pan Pylas, The Associated Press

WHO draft report says animals likely source of COVID-19

A joint World Health Organization-China study on the origins of COVID-19 says that transmission of the virus from bats to humans through another animal is the most likely scenario and that a lab leak is “extremely unlikely,” according to a draft copy obtained by The Associated Press.

The findings offer little new insight into how the virus first emerged and leave many questions unanswered, though that was as expected. But the report does provide more detail on the reasoning behind the researchers’ conclusions. The team proposed further research in every area except the lab leak hypothesis.

The report, which is expected to be made public Tuesday, is being closely watched since discovering the origins of the virus could help scientists prevent future pandemics — but it’s also extremely sensitive since China bristles at any suggestion that it is to blame for the current one.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

Indians gather for Holi celebrations as virus cases surge

Hindus threw colored powder and sprayed water in massive Holi celebrations Monday despite many Indian states restricting gatherings to try to contain a coronavirus resurgence rippling across the country.

Holi marks the advent of spring and is widely celebrated throughout Hindu-majority India. Most years, millions of people throw colored powder at each other in outdoor celebrations. But for the second consecutive year, people were encouraged to stay at home to avoid turning the festivities into superspreader events amid the latest virus surge.

India’s confirmed infections have exceeded 60,000 daily over the past week from a low of about 10,000 in February. On Monday, the health ministry reported 68,020 new cases, the sharpest daily rise since October last year. It took the nationwide tally to more than 12 million.

Daily deaths rose by 291 and the virus has so far killed 161,843 people in the country.

Read the story here.

—Sheikh Saaliq

Hungary first in European Union for vaccinations, and deaths

Hungary has vaccinated more of its population than any other country in the European Union, according to figures from an EU agency, but it continues to be one of the world’s worst in the number of COVID-19 deaths per capita.

The Central European country has given at least a first dose of a vaccine to 21.6% of its population, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, just ahead of the small island nation of Malta and surpassing the 27-member bloc’s average of 12.3%.

But Hungary’s high vaccination rate, a product of a procurement strategy that secured doses from China and Russia in addition to those provided by the EU, has been unable to slow a surge in the pandemic that has given it the highest two-week mortality rate per capita in the world, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Read the story here.

—Justin Spike, The Associated Press

ICU cases creep toward new peak in French virus surge

The number of patients in intensive care in France is fast approaching the worst point of the country’s last coronavirus surge in the autumn of 2020, another indicator of how a renewed crush of infections is bearing down on French hospitals.

The French government count of COVID-19 patients in ICUs and hospital surveillance units climbed to 4,872 on Sunday night. That is just short of the last high-point of 4,919 ICU cases on Nov. 16, when France was also gripped by a virus surge and was locked down in response.

With ICU admissions continuing to increase by double digits on a daily basis, that November peak could be overtaken within days. Doctors are increasingly sounding the alarm that they may have to start turning patients away for ICU care, particularly in the Paris region.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

Catch up on the past 24 hours

Washington state has detected more than 600 cases involving variants that are being closely watched. In some cases, the variants show resistance to vaccines. Here’s what is known, and what isn’t.

Cases are rising again in the U.S., and that's not completely because of the variants, Dr. Anthony Fauci says.

COVID-19 likely came from animals, not a lab leak, according to a draft of a joint WHO-China study that will soon be released.

Is indoor dining safe if you're vaccinated? Doctors and disease specialists are talking about what it will take for them to feel comfortable with this.

U.S. "vaccine passports" are on the way as a growing number of companies say they'll require proof of vaccination before opening their doors. There will be an app for that, but it isn't easy to develop.

Feeling unsettled? Maybe it's vaccine envy. Go easy on yourself, experts on envy say as they offer perspective on "the one emotion that everyone is ashamed to admit."

Has the pandemic forever changed the way you get around, or will you go back to your old commuting ways? We’re exploring how people will use transportation in the months ahead, and we’d like to hear from you.

—Kris Higginson