Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Friday, March 5, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.

With federal COVID-19 vaccine shipments on the rise, Gov. Jay Inslee Thursday expanded the list of Washingtonians eligible for doses in the coming weeks to more groups of people, including law enforcement, public transit and grocery workers.

On the downside, after this week’s initial shipment of 60,900 Johnson & Johnson doses, Washington won’t receive any more of the third vaccine to gain federal emergency use authorization for another three weeks.

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 previous days’ live updates and all our other coronavirus coverage, and here to see how we track the daily spread across Washington and the world.


(Jennifer Luxton / The Seattle Times)

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Senate Dems strike jobless aid deal, relief bill OK in sight

WASHINGTON — Senate leaders and moderate Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin struck a deal over emergency jobless benefits, breaking a logjam that had stalled the party’s showpiece $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill.

The compromise, announced by the West Virginia lawmaker and a Democratic aide late Friday, seemed to clear the way for the Senate to begin a climactic, marathon series of votes and, eventually, approval of the sweeping legislation.

The overall bill, President Joe Biden’s foremost legislative priority, is aimed at battling the killer pandemic and nursing the staggered economy back to health. It would provide direct payments of up to $1,400 to most Americans and money for COVID-19 vaccines and testing, aid to state and local governments, help for schools and the airline industry and subsidies for health insurance.

The Senate next faced votes on a pile of amendments that were likely to last overnight, mostly on Republican proposals virtually certain to fail but designed to force Democrats to cast politically awkward votes.

—Associated Press
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California OKs reopening of ball parks, Disneyland

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California has cleared a path for fans to hit the stands at opening-day baseball games and return to Disneyland nearly a year after coronavirus restrictions shuttered major entertainment spots.

The state on Friday relaxed guidelines for reopening outdoor venues as a fall and winter surge seemed to be ending, with COVID-19 infection rates, hospitalizations and deaths plummeting and vaccination rates rising.

New public health rules would allow live concerts at stadiums and sports arenas to reopen with limited attendance April 1. Amusement parks also will be permitted to reopen in counties that have fallen from the state’s purple tier — the most restrictive — to the red tier.

In all cases, park capacities will be limited, and COVID-19 safety rules such as mask-wearing requirements will apply.

“Steady opening is consistent with the data. As cases decline, we want to return to work and school,” said Dr. Jeffrey Klausner, clinical professor of preventive medicine at the University of Southern California. “Outdoor activities in particular have always been low risk. Opening these sites makes sense.”

—Associated PRess

Washington hits goal of administering 45,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine per day

State health officials announced Friday that this week Washington hit its goal of administering 45,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines per day.

As of Wednesday, health officials had given an average of 45,221 doses each day over the past seven days, the state Department of Health (DOH) said in a statement.

"This achievement is proof DOH and our partners continue to make progress with COVID-19 vaccine distribution and administration efforts," the statement said.

Overall, more than 1,864,640 shots have been administered and reported across the state — more than 77% of the 2,414,000 doses that have been delivered to the state.

More information about the latest vaccination updates can be found here.

—Elise Takahama

Vaccine shortage affects over 100,000 King County elders awaiting doses

Carolyn Smith, 65, gets her first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at the UW Neighborhood Clinic in Kent, Saturday. “I feel great, I’ve been waiting for this for so long,” said Smith, who said she had been struggling with the confinement of quarantine. “I just want to be free, go shopping, do what I want to do.” Patients for the pop-up clinic were invited with a call or text message to sign up for appointments, in an effort to vaccinate harder-to-reach communities in South King County. Smith said she received a phone call about the clinic and was able to book an appointment that way, something she had been worried about being able to do. (Bettina Hansen / The Seattle Times)

A shortage of coronavirus vaccines in King County is slowing efforts to reach herd immunity, which would greatly slow the spread of COVID-19. But health officials received good news on Friday about the availability of the new one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which may help to more quickly vaccinate the more than 100,000 elders awaiting doses.

The county thought it might have to wait at least three weeks to access the J & J vaccine. Instead, it may receive doses sooner. Health officials awaiting confirmation from the state Department of Health (DOH) should have more information early next week, Public Health — Seattle & King County spokesperson James Apa said Friday.

During a virtual town hall livestreamed on the King County Public Health Facebook page on Wednesday, health director Patty Hayes discussed the local implications of governmental efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19, including Gov. Jay Inslee’s announcement that school employees and child-care workers will be prioritized for vaccinations.

Currently, no vaccine has been approved for people under the age of 16.

Read the full story here.

—Melissa Hellman
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CDC links restaurant dining to a rise in coronavirus cases

Even as officials in Texas and Mississippi lifted statewide mask mandates, researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday offered fresh evidence of the importance of face coverings, reporting that mask-wearing mandates were linked to fewer infections with the coronavirus and COVID-19 deaths in counties across the United States.

Federal researchers also found that counties opening restaurants for on-premises dining — indoors or outdoors — saw a rise in daily infections about six weeks later, and an increase in COVID-19 death rates about two months later.

The study does not prove cause and effect, but the findings square with other research showing that masks prevent infection and that indoor spaces foster the spread of the virus through aerosols, tiny respiratory particles that linger in the air.

“You have decreases in cases and deaths when you wear masks, and you have increases in cases and deaths when you have in-person restaurant dining,” Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the CDC, said Friday. “And so we would advocate for policies, certainly while we’re at this plateau of a high number of cases, that would listen to that public health science.”

On Friday night, the National Restaurant Association, which represents 1 million restaurants and food service outlets, criticized the CDC study as “an ill-informed attack on the industry hardest-hit by the pandemic.”

—The New York Times

In Oregon, scientists find a coronavirus variant with a worrying mutation

Scientists in Oregon have spotted a homegrown version of a fast-spreading variant of the coronavirus that first surfaced in Britain — but now it’s combined with a mutation that may make the variant less susceptible to vaccines.

The researchers have so far found just a single case of this formidable combination, but genetic analysis suggested that the variant had been acquired in the community and did not arise in the patient.

“We didn’t import this from elsewhere in the world — it occurred spontaneously,” said Brian O’Roak, a geneticist at Oregon Health and Science University who led the work. He and his colleagues participate in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s effort to track variants, and they have deposited their results in databases shared by scientists.

The variant originally identified in Britain, called B.1.1.7, has been spreading rapidly across the United States, and accounts for at least 2,500 cases in 46 states. This form of the virus is both more contagious and more deadly than the original version, and it is expected to account for most U.S. infections in a few weeks.

The new version that surfaced in Oregon has the same backbone, but also a mutation — E484K, or “Eek” — seen in variants of the virus circulating in South Africa, Brazil and New York City.

—The New York Times

UK says vaccine shipment from India won’t hurt poor nations

LONDON — Britain’s vaccines minister on Friday dismissed suggestions that the country was getting key COVID-19 jabs intended for poorer countries, insisting that 10 million doses coming from India were always intended for distribution in the U.K.

Nadhim Zahawi, in an interview with The Associated Press, confirmed reports that the Serum Institute of India, one of the world’s largest vaccine makers, would be sending doses of the vaccine developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca to the U.K.

Non-governmental organizations such as Medecins Sans Frontieres have raised concerns that shipments from the Serum Institute would reduce supplies to developing countries. Zahawi insisted this was not the case.

“We, of course, sought assurances from AstraZeneca and from Serum that our doses will not impact their commitment to the low-income and middle-income countries of the world,’’ he said. “And they are making about 300 million doses available to low- and middle-income countries. You’ve seen those arrive in Accra in Ghana, last week and the Philippines this week … and Ivory Coast as well. And you’re going to see much more of that volume also going out.’’

—Associated Press
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State health officials confirm 784 new coronavirus cases

The state Department of Health (DOH) reported 784 new coronavirus cases and nine new deaths on Friday.

The update brings the state's totals to 343,868 cases and 5,041 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. Thursday.

In addition, 19,556 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the virus — 56 new hospitalizations. In King County, the state's most populous, state health officials have confirmed a total of 84,855 COVID-19 diagnoses and 1,415 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.

—Elise Takahama

New California law aims to put kids in class. Will it work?

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California’s public schools can tap into $6.6 billion in a plan Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law Friday to try to pressure districts to reopen classrooms by the end of March. Educators, parents and lawmakers question whether it will work.

After nearly a year of distance learning for most K-12 students during the coronavirus pandemic, parents in the nation’s most populated state say they are frustrated and losing hope their children will see the inside of a classroom this year.

“Is this money going to be a motivator? I don’t know,” said Dan Lee, a father in San Francisco, a city that sued its own school district to reopen classrooms. “We throw money at them, we sue them, we shame them. They still haven’t moved.”

The law does not require school districts to resume in-person instruction. Instead, the state is dangling $2 billion before cash-strapped school boards, offering them a share only if they start offering in-person instruction by month’s end. The rest of the money would go toward helping students catch up.

“This is the right time to safely reopen for in-person instruction,” said Newsom, who faces a likely recall election this year, fueled by anger over his handling of the pandemic.

—Associated Press

WHO head wants virus vaccine patents waived to boost supply

GENEVA — The head of the World Health Organization called Friday for patent rights to be waived until the end of the coronavirus pandemic so that vaccine supplies can be dramatically increased, saying these “unprecedented times” warrant the move.

At a press briefing, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said countries with their own vaccine capacity should “start waiving intellectual property rights ” as provided in special emergency provisions from the World Trade Organization.

“These provisions are there for use in emergencies,” Tedros said. “If now is not a time to use them, then when?” He said the WHO would be meeting soon with representatives of the industry to identify bottlenecks in production and discuss how to solve them.

The Associated Press found factories on three continents whose owners say they could start producing hundreds of millions of COVID-19 vaccines at short notice if only they had the blueprints and technical know-how. But that knowledge belongs to the large pharmaceutical companies that have produced the first three vaccines authorized by countries including Britain, the European Union and the U.S. — Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca. The factories are all still awaiting responses.

—Associated Press
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‘It’s ridiculous’ — with Washington’s grocery-store workers now eligible for COVID-19 vaccines, 5 Seattle chefs say restaurant workers should be too

The next group of Washington residents eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccines starting March 22 includes “high-risk essential workers groups” such as grocery-store personnel, child-care workers and corrections staff — but not, glaringly, restaurant workers.

The guidelines for vaccine prioritization indicate that the next group, Phase 1B-2, is meant to encompass those working at “significantly high risk of exposure and transmission” in settings “in an enclosed space where they are interacting with a high volume of people (i.e., supermarket) over extended time and not able to consistently social distance (i.e., be more than 6 feet apart).”

With indoor dining currently allowed at 25% capacity, restaurant staffers are one of few classes of Washington’s workers that are regularly exposed to the unmasked public at close range. Their omission from the next group to be vaccinated was met with disbelief on social media from many in the restaurant industry.

Reached for comment, these chef-owners share their views.

—Bethany Jean Clement

Czech state orders students to help at struggling hospitals

The Czech government is ordering medical and other university and high school students to help out at hospitals struggling to cope the record numbers of COVID-19 patients, the country’s health minister said on Friday, as the country faces a new spike in infections.

Health Minister Jan Blatny warned that hospitals across the country are under “extreme pressure” amid an infection surge that he attributed to a highly contagious coronavirus variant.

Blatny said students will get to work at hospitals on Monday. They’ll handle simple tasks, like transporting patients, but won’t be allowed to treat anyone in intensive are units. He said the situation will remain difficult as 600 to 700 daily hospital admissions are expected over the next 10 days.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

Pope urges Iraq to embrace its Christians on historic visit

Pope Francis is welcomed by Iraqi President Barham Salih, at Baghdad’s Presidential Palace, Iraq, Friday, March 5, 2021. Pope Francis has arrived in Iraq to urge the country’s dwindling number of Christians to stay put and help rebuild the country after years of war and persecution, brushing aside the coronavirus pandemic and security concerns. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

Pope Francis urged Iraqis on Friday to treat their Christian brothers as a precious resource to protect, not an “obstacle” to eliminate as he opened the first-ever papal visit to Iraq with a plea for tolerance and fraternity among Christians and Muslims.

Francis brushed aside the coronavirus pandemic and security concerns to resume his globe-trotting papacy after a yearlong hiatus spent under COVID-19 lockdown in Vatican City. His primary aim over the weekend is to encourage Iraq’s dwindling number of Christians, who were violently persecuted by the Islamic State group and still face discrimination by the Shiite majority, to stay and help rebuild the country devastated by wars and strife.

“Only if we learn to look beyond our differences and see each other as members of the same human family will we be able to begin an effective process of rebuilding and leave to future generations a better, more just and more humane world,” Francis, 84, told Iraqi authorities in his welcoming address.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press
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Study finds mask mandates, dining out influence virus spread

NEW YORK (AP) — A new national study adds strong evidence that mask mandates can slow the spread of the coronavirus, and that allowing dining at restaurants can increase cases and deaths.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released the study Friday.

“All of this is very consistent,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said during a White House briefing on Friday. “You have decreases in cases and deaths when you wear masks, and you have increases in cases and deaths when you have in-person restaurant dining.”

The study was released just as some states are rescinding mask mandates and restaurant limits. Earlier this week, Texas became the biggest state to lift its mask rule, joining a movement by many governors to loosen COVID-19 restrictions despite pleas from health officials.

Read the full story here.

—The Associated Press

Americans vaccinated against COVID-19 still wait for advice on what they can and can’t do

FILE – In this March 1, 2021, file photo, a patient receives a shot of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine next to a guidelines sign at a CVS Pharmacy branch in Los Angeles. More than 27 million Americans fully vaccinated against the coronavirus will have to keep waiting for guidance from U.S. health officials for what they should and shouldn’t do. The Biden administration said Friday, March 5, it’s focused on getting the guidance right and accommodating emerging science. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)

More than 27 million Americans fully vaccinated against the coronavirus will have to keep waiting for guidance from federal health officials for what they should and shouldn’t do.

The Biden administration said Friday it’s focused on getting the guidance right and accommodating emerging science, but the delays add to the uncertainty around bringing about an end to the pandemic as the nation’s virus fatigue grows.

Such guidance would address a flood of questions coming in from people who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19: Do I still have to wear a mask? Can I go to a bar now? Can I finally see my grandchildren?

The need has slowly grown since January, when the first Americans began to complete the two-dose series of COVID-19 vaccines then available.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

Oregon governor ordering teachers to return to classroom

 Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said Friday she is issuing an executive order mandating that all K-12 public schools provide universal access to in-person learning by the month’s end for students up to fifth grade and by mid-April for older students.

The state’s coronavirus case numbers have fallen significantly and Oregon put teachers ahead of older residents in the line for the COVID-19 vaccine — a decision that angered many people age 65 and up. As teachers get vaccinated, Brown has been under tremendous pressure from parents and local elected officials in many counties to reopen schools.

Many teachers’ unions nationally have balked at returning to in-person learning, putting them at odds with Democratic governors like Brown in some states. In neighboring Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee has implored educators to return to the classroom, but most students there are in on-line classes and the Seattle teachers’ union is defying a district plan to return special education students to schools.

Under the Oregon order, students in K-5 must have an in-person learning option by March 29. Students in grades six through 12 must have one by April 19.

Students who prefer to remain in online class will also have the option.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press
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Snohomish County opens fifth mass vaccination site

A downtown Everett arena has been transformed into Snohomish County's fifth mass vaccination location.

On Friday, the Angel of The Winds Arena began its latest iteration as a place to administer COVID-19 vaccines. Snohomish County was one of four counties to receive the Johnson & Johnson vaccine this week. All of the 5,000 doses passed along from the state Department of Health will be used at the arena.

Hours of operation were truncated during the arena's first day because of a limited supply of vaccine, but having another mass vaccination site in Everett will bolster the county's readiness to serve more people as vaccine supply increases, Jason Biermann, the county's emergency management director, said during a Friday press briefing.

"We recognize that we're still in short supply of vaccine, but as a task force excited that we're going to have additional capacity that will be vetted, that the processes will be smooth and that when more vaccine arrives, we'll be able to get it out quickly and safely," he said.

Snohomish County's other mass vaccination sites are at Edmonds College, the Boeing Everett Activity Center, the Evergreen State Fairgrounds in Monroe and the Arlington Airport.

The area was used in the spring as a quarantine facility. The arena is a walk-in clinic and not a drive-thru. Shots are being administered to people with appointments.

—Ryan Blethen

Swelling after COVID-19 shots may cause cancer false alarms

Getting a mammogram or other cancer check soon after a COVID-19 vaccination? Be sure to tell the doctor about the shot to avoid false alarm over a temporary side effect.

That’s the advice from cancer experts and radiologists. Sometimes lymph nodes, especially in the armpit, swell after the vaccinations. It’s a normal reaction by the immune system but one that might be mistaken for cancer if it shows up on a mammogram or other scan.

“We need to get the word out,” said Dr. Melissa Chen, a radiologist at the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston who recently had to reassure a frightened patient who sought cancer testing because of an enlarged lymph node.

“This should not prevent patients from getting the vaccine,” said Chen.

Read the story here.

—Lauran Neergaard, The Associated Press

We’re having trouble recognizing each other in masks, and it’s getting awkward

Visitors to downtown Seattle last year wear masks, adhering to Gov. Jay Inslee’s mask requirement. (Ellen M. Banner / The Seattle Times, file)

For a few fleeting moments as he sat in a Panera, Todd Hagopian wondered if he’d made a grave mistake.

Hagopian, 40 and a business owner in Bixby, Okla., had just left home on a Wednesday morning in January when a colleague called him about a situation at the office. Rather than waiting to deal with it once he arrived, he pulled his car into the nearest Panera parking lot and grabbed a table inside. As he spoke on the phone in what he described as a loud, “not so happy” voice, a woman peered at him from around the corner.

“I gave her a look like, ‘What are you looking at? I’m in the middle of a work call.’ Then I just gave her a nod,” Hagopian said, “like you’d give to any stranger who you made eye contact with.” The woman walked away to pick up her food, then glanced over again.

As soon as he hung up, the same woman approached Hagopian’s table. She removed her mask and Hagopian found himself face-to-face with Andrea, his wife of 10 years and the mother of his four sons.

She had just said goodbye to him at home an hour earlier. “Did you just nod at me?” she asked him.

In his defense, his wife was not someone Hagopian expected to bump into on this particular morning at this particular Panera. “I’m usually at work by then, and I didn’t know that that was part of her morning routine,” Hagopian said.

Ever since we were told to wear masks 11 months ago, our social life has been adjusting. But some of us are still having trouble placing a familiar face, winding up in the surreal, often embarrassing predicaments of having failed to recognize colleagues, friends, neighbors and even members of our own family.

Read the story here.

—Ashley Fetters, The Washington Post
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Anchorage will lift capacity limits on many businesses

Anchorage will lift its coronavirus-related capacity restrictions on many businesses and will ease limits on other places where people gather under a new emergency order set to take effect on Monday.

City officials announced the changes Thursday, saying retailers, bars, restaurants and other businesses will have their capacity restrictions eliminated, the Anchorage Daily News reported. Requirements for wearing masks and maintaining distance will remain in effect.

The businesses must operate in ways that allow consumers to stay six feet (two meters) apart from people outside of their households. Indoor gatherings with food and beverages will be allowed to have 25 people while indoor gatherings without food or drinks can have up to 35 people.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

Canada clears Johnson & Johnson vaccine, first to approve 4

People wait in line at a COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic at Olympic Stadium marking the beginning of mass vaccination in the Province of Quebec based on age in Montreal, on Monday, March 1, 2021. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press via AP)

Canada is getting a fourth vaccine to prevent COVID-19 as the country’s health regulator has cleared a Johnson & Johnson shot that works with just one dose instead of two, officials said Friday.

Health experts are eager for a one-and-done option to help speed vaccination. Canada has also approved vaccines from Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca and Health

Canada is the first major regulator to approve four different vaccines, said Dr. Supriya Sharma, Health Canada’s chief medical adviser.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

Detroit mayor turned down J&J vaccine in favor of others

Detroit this week turned down 6,200 doses of the newly authorized Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine, with Mayor Mike Duggan favoring shots from Pfizer and Moderna for now.

“Johnson & Johnson is a very good vaccine. Moderna and Pfizer are the best,” he said Thursday. “And I am going to do everything I can to make sure that residents of the city of Detroit get the best.” Duggan’s comments conflicted with guidance from top state and federal health officials who have urged people to take whichever they can get.

White House coronavirus special adviser Andy Slavitt said Friday that the White House talked to the Detroit mayor’s office, which called the situation a “misunderstanding.” “In fact, he is very eager for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine,” Slavitt said of Duggan.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press
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As schools reopen, Asian American students are missing from classrooms

Nancy Lin, left, with her children, Miranda Gao, 12, and Stanley Gao, 13, in Philadelphia. She decided to maintain their remote education because of issues with a school building’s condition. (Rachel Wisniewski / The Washington Post)

It’s happening in well-to-do Pakistani households in the suburbs of Washington and among Chinese restaurant workers in Philadelphia. It’s happening among weary Filipino nurses in Queens, Hmong refugee families in Minneapolis and in Silicon Valley’s Asian American community.

As school buildings start to reopen, Asian and Asian American families are choosing to keep their children learning from home at disproportionately high rates.

Some are pleased with online learning and see no reason to risk the health of their family. Others say they are worried about elderly parents in multigenerational households, distrustful of promised safety measures and afraid their children will face racist harassment at school.

Read the story here.

—Moriah Balingit, Hannah Natanson and Yutao Chen, The Washington Post

Africa welcomes COVAX doses but warns against ‘selfishness’

Technicians show a carton of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine manufactured by the Serum Institute of India, inside a cold storage room at the central vaccine depot in Kitengela town on the outskirts of Nairobi, in Kenya Thursday, March 4, 2021. Around 1.02 million doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine arrived in the country on Wednesday as part of the COVAX facility. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)

Urgent calls for COVID-19 vaccine fairness rang through African countries on Friday as more welcomed or rolled out doses from the global COVAX initiative, with officials acutely aware their continent needs much more.

“Rich countries should not be so selfish,” Pontiano Kaleebu, head of the Uganda Virus Research Institute, said as his country prepared to receive its first doses. “It’s a concern, and everyone is talking about it.”

The East African nation of 45 million people was seeing the arrival of under 1 million vaccine doses — 864,000. It’s the first batch of a total of 18 million COVAX doses for Uganda, but when all will arrive is not known.

The foundation of Nobel Peace Prize winner and former South African archbishop Desmond Tutu and his wife, Leah, on Friday issued a statement saying that “more must be done, immediately, to ensure lower-income countries have faster access to COVID-19 vaccines, diagnostic tools and treatments.” It noted that a small number of rich countries hold the majority of vaccine doses.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

California thinks it can stop COVID by flooding poor areas with vaccine. Will it work?

St. John’s Well Child and Family Center facilities coordinator Raul Chiriboga, middle, helps Joel Flores, 36, who suffers from autism, and his mother, Emilia del Carmen Flores, 75, originally from El Salvador, get through with the wheelchair at the COVID-19 vaccination site at the East Los Angeles Civic Center in Los Angeles, Thursday, March 4, 2021. California will begin setting aside 40% of all vaccine doses for the state’s most vulnerable neighborhoods in an effort to inoculate people most at risk from the coronavirus more quickly. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

Months into a vaccine rollout that has been stymied by shortages and marred by persistent inequities, California is now going all in on a new strategy: flooding those communities hardest hit by COVID-19 with doses.

Officials say they hope the radical shift unveiled this week will not only slow the spread of the disease and tackle glaring inequities in who is receiving vaccines, but also speed up reopening of the economy by inoculating essential workers who are putting themselves at greater risk.

Under the new approach, the state will now provide 40% of its available supplies to underserved areas, such as in South L.A., the Eastside, Santa Ana and the heavily Latino communities along the Interstate 10 corridor between Pomona and San Bernardino — places that have experienced a disproportionate share of the pandemic’s pain, yet still lag behind more affluent neighborhoods when it comes to getting vaccines.

The dramatic change in California’s allocation strategy reflects the growing view from state officials that they must more equitably balance vaccinating those most in danger of dying of COVID-19 and those who have the greatest risk of contracting and spreading the disease because of where they work and live.

Deciding who should get access to the COVID-19 vaccine has long been an ethical minefield, as the demand and need for doses has continually outstripped supply.

Some experts say giving priority to residents in higher-risk communities — many of whom live in crowded or communal settings and have jobs requiring them to be on-site — makes sense right now.

Read the story here.

—Melissa Healy, Rong-Gong Lin II, Soumya Karlamangla and Luke Money, Los Angeles Times
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France backs Italy in vaccine ban as EU defends mechanism

 Europe’s vaccine solidarity got a shot in the arm Friday as France rallied to support Italy, saying it could follow suit in blocking exports of coronavirus vaccines outside the European Union if necessary to enforce its own contracts with drugs manufacturers.

The European Union defended the Italian authorities’ decision to stop a large shipment of doses destined for Australia as part of a longstanding feud with drug manufacturer AstraZeneca, and Germany

The EU’s executive commission said the decision was not targeting Australia but had been taken to ensure that AstraZeneca delivers the number of doses it committed to dispatch to EU countries.

Faced with a shortages of doses during the early stages of the vaccine campaign that started in late December, the EU anounced the export control system for COVID-19 vaccines in late January, in a bid to force companies to respect their contractual obligations to the bloc first.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

After mixed messages, Europe warns against vaccine shopping

FILE – In this Feb.25, 2021 file photo, a vial of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine is pictured at a family doctor office in Paris. First, France’s president suggested the AstraZeneca vaccine was “quasi-ineffective” in protecting older people from the coronavirus. Now, his government is pleading with French medical staff to take it. Top French and German officials are urging people to take the AstraZeneca vaccine amid skepticism from some who fear it is not effective enough. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena, File)

First, France’s president suggested that the AstraZeneca vaccine was “quasi-ineffective” in protecting older people from COVID-19. Now, Emmanuel Macron’s government is begging people to take it.

Germany finds itself in a similar situation when it shifted gears on its cautious policy this week after an independent vaccine panel said the AstraZeneca shots should be used in people over 65. Top German officials on Friday argued against “vaccine shopping” and urged people to take whatever potential protection they’re offered.

Mixed messaging has left many people in both countries confused or distrustful of governmental guidance on the AstraZeneca jab. Meanwhile, Europe’s infections are rebounding and other people around the continent and the world are clamoring for access to any COVID-19 vaccine they can get.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

COVID-19’s death toll in northern Italy was staggering. Did air pollution play a role?

An hazy view of the dome of Santa Maria delle Grazie (Holy Mary of Grace) shows the polluted skyline in Milan, Italy, in 2017. Italy’s periodic smog alerts have accelerated thanks to unseasonably warm temperatures, low rainfall and wildfires contributing to pollution from car emissions, with Turin and Milan particularly hard hit in recent days. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno, file)

When Chiara Geroldi takes off her makeup at night, she can see the pollution that comes off with it. Her terrace is full of dust that needs to be swept constantly, and her hair gets dirty faster outside.

“Bergamo is a highly polluted area,” said Geroldi, 50, who works as an archivist. “It’s a very industrial city. The air isn’t good here, especially in winter.”

For decades, Bergamo and other picturesque cities in the Po River Valley in northern Italy have suffered some of the worst air quality in Europe. Pollution has long been considered a leading cause of cancer in the area, which is full of factories and highways crowded with trucks hauling commercial goods. Many of the homes are off the main gas grid, meaning that, in winter, wood-burning and pellet stoves release particulate matter into the stagnant air.

Now, scientists are investigating whether one longstanding health crisis has played a role in making a new one worse. Early research suggests that long-term exposure to microscopic particles abundant in Bergamo’s dirty air — and that are also in Los Angeles’ — is associated with greater risk of death from COVID-19, which is, after all, a respiratory disease.

Read the story here.

—Janna Brancolini, Los Angeles Times
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When COVID-19 closed Seattle music venues, Sir Mix-A-Lot rolled up his sleeves (and opened his wallet)

Sir Mix-A-Lot was among the Seattle musicians and luminaries who took part in a virtual COVID-19 relief concert last June that raised more than $45 million. (Courtesy of All In WA)

Sir Mix-A-Lot was three gigs into a 30-date tour when it happened. One year ago, clubs across the globe, from Seattle to Sydney, began shutting down as the new coronavirus silently ripped around the world.

Unlike most musicians, who make the bulk of their income touring, these days the Seattle rap forefather earns most of his money off royalties. Most musicians, of course, don’t have two platinum albums and a ubiquitous smash synonymous with its era (“Baby Got Back”) under their belt. But Mix knew what an indefinite closure meant for working artists and the folks whose livelihoods depend on live events.

“I knew that … if those clubs died, the next generation, they have nowhere to sharpen their skills,” Mix said. “They don’t have anywhere to go and these are small businesses that helped me. For me to stand idly by and watch these clubs go away, I can’t do that.”

Since the pandemic forced music halls into a financial free fall, coalitions of national and local venues — including the Washington Nightlife Music Association (WANMA) — have warned that without aid, some might not make it to the other side.

As WANMA and its fundraising sibling Keep Music Live have waged public awareness and fundraising campaigns, a number of Seattle music’s heavy hitters have pitched in help in various ways. But none have been as committed and hands-on as Sir Mix-A-Lot.

Read the story here.

—Michael Rietmulder

Catch up on the past 24 hours

Many more Washingtonians will become eligible for vaccines in coming weeks, Gov. Jay Inslee announced yesterday. Here's who will be included in the next several stages. The rush for appointments got more crowded this week after vaccinations opened up to teachers, child care workers and veterans of all ages. Our guide offers help with finding a vaccine.

Johnson & Johnson's first vaccine shipment has arrived in Washington state, but don't expect more for weeks. Who will get it? Our FAQ Friday looks at where J&J's vaccine will go and whether it can be used as a second dose after a patient received a different first shot.

Two Northwest dioceses are telling Catholics to avoid the J&J vaccine unless it's the only shot available. Public-health experts disagree with their stance.

The youngest COVID-19 "long-haulers": Doctors are increasingly seeing children with complications that don't go away, from extreme fatigue to loss of smell. Will that last a lifetime?

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's top aides rewrote a report to hide nursing homes' death toll from COVID-19, according to interviews and documents.

Get those poor U.S. Senate clerks some water. They had to read the entire 628-page COVID-19 relief bill out loud yesterday, and it took 10 hours. Today, the Senate heads into a voting marathon on the $1.9 trillion package, which includes direct payments for many Americans. Follow along.

—Kris Higginson

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