The U.S. Senate has passed a $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package that includes stimulus checks of up to $1,400 for people making $75,000 or less, $350 billion for cities and states and $130 billion for schools. The package also authorizes $300 per week in additional unemployment payments until September.

Elsewhere in the world, Swedish police dispersed hundreds of people who had gathered in central Stockholm to protest coronavirus restrictions set by the Swedish government.

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.

Navigating the pandemic
(Jennifer Luxton / The Seattle Times)


What's in the $1.9 trillion pandemic relief bill? FAQ on stimulus, unemployment and tax rebates

The Senate passed its version of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan on Saturday. The pandemic relief bill now goes back to the House of Representatives, which must approve the Senate’s changes before it can go to President Joe Biden’s desk.

Q: How big are the stimulus payments in the bill, and who is eligible?

A: The stimulus payments would be $1,400 for most recipients. Those who are eligible would also receive an identical payment for each of their children.

To qualify for the full $1,400, a single person would need an adjusted gross income of $75,000 or below. For heads of household, adjusted gross income would need to be $112,500 or below, and for married couples filing jointly that number would need to be $150,000 or below.

To be eligible for a payment, a person must have a Social Security number.

Q: Is there a partial payment for higher earners?

A: Yes. But payments would phase out quickly as adjusted gross income rises.

For single filers, the checks decrease to zero at $80,000. For heads of household, the cutoff is $120,000. And for joint filers, the checks stop at $160,000. Payments for children decrease in the same way.

Read the full story here.

—New York Times

Tucked into pandemic stimulus package: an $86 billion bailout for pension plans

Tucked inside the $1.9 trillion stimulus bill that cleared the Senate on Saturday is an $86 billion aid package that has nothing to do with the pandemic.

Rather, the $86 billion is a taxpayer bailout for about 185 union pension plans that are so close to collapse that without the rescue, more than 1 million retired truck drivers, retail clerks, builders and others could be forced to forgo retirement income.

The bailout targets multiemployer pension plans, which bring groups of companies together with a union to provide guaranteed benefits. All told, about 1,400 of the plans cover about 10.7 million active and retired workers, often in fields like construction or entertainment where the workers move from job to job. As the workforce ages, an alarming number of the plans are running out of money. The trend predated the pandemic and is a result of fading unions, serial bankruptcies and the misplaced hope that investment income would foot most of the bill so that employers and workers wouldn’t have to.

Read the full story here.

—New York Times

Grades and mental health improve as more students return to in-person classes in Yakima area

As Zillah High School students entered the front campus doors to have their temperatures checked before heading to class last Monday morning, school staff greeted them by name and offered encouragement to students who had recently improved their grades.

After just nine days of returning to campus for part-time in-person learning, failing grades among students had dropped by 14%, according to data from the high school.

Both students and teachers also reported that the content of instruction had improved. Students said they felt more on task and that they were taking more away from their work, rather than checking off tasks. Teachers said they were better able to track how students were doing in coursework and support them, and also that lessons had become more detailed and better focused.

Read the full story here.

—Yakima Herald-Republic

3,000 at Romania anti-vaccination protest amid COVID-19 rise

BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — Around 3,000 anti-vaccination protesters from across Romania converged outside the parliament building in Bucharest on Sunday as authorities announced new restrictions amid a rise of COVID-19 infections.

It has been less than six weeks since COVID-19 restrictions were relaxed in Bucharest, but rising infections have prompted authorities to reimpose tighter restrictions for a 14-day period effective as of Monday.

The restrictions will see bars, restaurants, theaters, gambling venues, and cafes close indoor spaces as the capital’s infection rate rose above three cases per 1,000 inhabitants over a 14-day rolling period — effectively entering a “red scenario,” which the authorities use as a threshold to manage both restrictions and the spread of the virus.

Many protestors brandished Romanian flags and chanted “freedom” and “down with the mask.” A large placard read: “Say no to forced vaccination.”

Read the full story here.

—The Associated Press

North Macedonia gets first batch of Russia vaccine Sputnik V

SKOPJE, North Macedonia (AP) — North Macedonia on Sunday received the first batch of 3,000 doses of Russian vaccine Sputnik V from a total order of 200,000 in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

The first shipment was delivered to the country’s main airport near the capital, Skopje, and Health Minister Venko Filipce said that the Russian vaccine is aimed at people over the age of 65, and that inoculation is expected to start from the middle of next week.

North Macedonia began administering vaccinations against the coronavirus three weeks ago from a first batch of 4,680 doses of Pfizer vaccines donated by neighboring Serbia.

Read the full story here.

—The Associated Press

The business winners in Biden’s relief package

Restaurants, concert venues and airplane manufacturers all stand to benefit from the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package the Senate just approved.

They are among the few industries that won targeted help in the massive spending bill. Unlike its predecessor – the $2 trillion Cares Act, which proved a smorgasbord for corporate interests – the latest installment of federal aid focuses on funding state and local governments and schools and extra support for individuals.

Lawmakers snubbed a wide array of businesses pleading for help from Washington. Gym operators and long-term senior care facilities are among those arguing Congress has left them facing further closures and layoffs even as the broader economic outlook brightens.

Read the full story here.

—The Washington Post

Yes, the coronavirus mutates. No, that doesn’t spell doom for vaccines

Carolyn Smith, 65, got her first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at the UW Neighborhood Clinic in Kent/Des Moines last month. Researchers say ample evidence that current vaccines work well against several of the well-known variants, and that immunity is never an all-or-nothing affair. (Bettina Hansen / The Seattle Times)

SAN DIEGO — From South Africa to Brazil to California, the list of locations linked to new strains of the coronavirus is growing — and so are concerns that viral variants could undo the vaccine rollout.

The worries come at a time when most Americans still haven’t received a COVID-19 vaccine. That could change by the end of May, when President Joe Biden says there will be enough vaccine for all adults in the U.S. But by then, new and faster-spreading coronavirus strains will likely account for nearly all cases.

Does that mean this whole effort is for naught?

Not according to local researchers with a deep understanding of viruses and the immune system. They say there’s ample evidence that current vaccines work well against several of the well-known variants, and that immunity is never an all-or-nothing affair.

Manufacturers and federal regulators have signaled that updating current vaccines to keep pace with new strains will be relatively straightforward. Some of that work is already happening.

Read the full story here.

—San Diego Union-Tribune

Audiences hold back, even as more movie theaters open

Theaters reopening in New York City this weekend did not set the box office on fire. North American theatrical grosses stayed relatively muted, despite some major new releases like Disney’s “Raya and the Last Dragon” and Lionsgate’s Tom Holland and Daisy Ridley action flick “Chaos Walking,” according to studio estimates Sunday.

Walt Disney Animation’s “Raya and the Last Dragon” earned an estimated $8.6 million from 2,045 locations in North America. The well-reviewed fantasy adventure, featuring the voices of Awkwafina and Kelly Marie Tran, is also available for Disney+ subscribers to rent and stream at home for $29.99. Streaming grosses were not reported.

Approximately 80% of the domestic market is currently allowed to operate with limited capacity. Many areas in North America are not yet fully open, including Los Angeles, and most California counties, Washington D.C., and much of Canada.

Read the full story here.

—The Associated Press

With coronavirus relatively contained, Saudi Arabia lifts most pandemic restrictions

Saudi Arabia on Sunday lifted most restrictions that had been imposed to slow the spread of the coronavirus, permitting indoor dining at restaurants and allowing gyms and barbershops to reopen.

After getting hit hard by the virus last summer, the kingdom has done comparatively well at controlling its epidemic with on-again, off-again restrictions. The country of 34 million, more than one-third of them noncitizens, has recorded more than 379,000 cases and 6,500 deaths.

After a rise in cases, the government on Feb. 3 imposed restrictions on recreational activities that were supposed to last 10 days but were extended for another 20 days.

Under the new rules, indoor dining at restaurants has resumed, with mandatory temperature checks upon entry and no more than five people at tables that must be 3 meters apart. Movie theaters, gyms and sports centers have also reopened.

Read the full story here.

—The New York Times

Anti-maskers encourage kids to burn their face coverings on the Capitol steps in Idaho

Cheering parents watched as children tossed surgical masks into a fire outside the Idaho Capitol in Boise on Saturday as more than 100 people gathered to protest mask mandates as an affront to their civil liberties.

The rally was one of several held statewide in opposition to the coronavirus-related requirements, which health experts have said remain crucial even as vaccines are distributed and the number of new reported cases has dropped.

Idaho Gov. Brad Little, a Republican, has never implemented a statewide mask requirement, though nearly a dozen areas of the state have local restrictions, including Boise. For months, Little has been at odds with Lt. Gov Janice McGeachin, also a Republican, over pandemic restrictions (in Idaho, the governor and lieutenant governor run on separate tickets). McGeachin vehemently opposes any mask mandates.

McGeachin, who appeared in a video last fall that suggested that the pandemic "may or may not be occurring," was photographed speaking at the Boise protest Saturday.

Read the full story here.

—The Washington Post

German lawmaker to resign after his firm profited from masks

BERLIN (AP) — A lawmaker with German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party said Sunday he will give up his seat in parliament and leave politics after it emerged that his company profited from deals to procure masks early in the pandemic — drawing sharp criticism in an election year.

Nikolas Loebel, a backbench lawmaker with Merkel’s center-right Christian Democratic Union, was blasted by members of his own party and opponents after it emerged Friday that a company he runs earned commissions of 250,000 euros (nearly $300,000) from brokering contracts to buy masks. Saying that he should have been “more sensitive,” Loebel admitted that he had made a mistake and gave up his seat on parliament’s foreign affairs committee.

That wasn’t enough for critics — particularly as his home state of Baden-Wuerttemberg elects a new regional legislature on March 14. A national election in which Germans will choose a new parliament, and determine who succeeds Merkel, follows on Sept. 26.

Read the full story here.

—The Associated Press

Rita Wilson ‘grateful’ for her health one year after she and husband Tom Hanks were diagnosed with COVID-19

FILE – In this Sunday, Feb. 9, 2020 file photo, Tom Hanks, left, and Rita Wilson arrive at the Oscars at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. Hanks and Wilson were diagnosed with coronavirus last spring but have since recovered. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)

As the world marks one year of the COVID-19 pandemic, Rita Wilson is celebrating that she’s still alive.

The actress, who tested positive last year along with husband Tom Hanks, reflected on the past year Sunday, a day before the one-year anniversary of starting to feel symptoms in Australia.

“I want to take a moment to say how grateful we are for our health, how thankful we are for the medical care we got in Queensland, and that we share in the sorrow of each person who lost a loved one to this virus,” Wilson, 64, wrote on Instagram.” I’m hopeful for so many being able to get the vaccine.”

Read the full story here.

—New York Daily News

Vaccine site overrun after false rumors said all could come

FLORIDA CITY, Fla. (AP) — A Florida vaccination site had so few eligible takers Saturday that it started inoculating any adult who wanted a shot rather than let the vaccine on hand go to waste.

Word spread and on Sunday the Florida City site was overwhelmed, particularly after local state Sen. Annette Taddeo incorrectly tweeted that the federally run site would again take all comers. The Democrat, who was the party’s lieutenant governor candidate in 2014, later deleted that tweet and corrected herself.

Police had to calm the crowd Sunday when the site again enforced the state’s eligibility rules: 65 and older; frontline medical workers and police officers, teachers and firefighters over 50; and younger people with a physician’s note saying they would be endangered if they caught the virus.

Read the full story here.

—The Associated Press

With many vaccinated, Israel reopens economy before election

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel reopened most of its economy Sunday as it removed many of its remaining coronavirus lockdown restrictions, lifted by its successful vaccination campaign and giving a boost to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s re-election hopes.

The easing of restrictions comes after months of government-imposed shutdowns and less than three weeks before the country’s fourth parliamentary elections in two years. Israel, a world leader in vaccinations per capita, has fully immunized nearly 40% of its population in just over two months.

Bars and restaurants, event halls, sporting events, hotels and all primary and secondary schools that had been closed to the public for months were permitted to reopen Sunday. Some restrictions remained on crowd sizes, and certain places were open to the vaccinated only.

Read the full story here.

—The Associated Press

From vote to virus, misinformation campaign targets Latinos

WASHINGTON (AP) — Tom Perez was a guest on a Spanish-language talk radio show in Las Vegas last year when a caller launched into baseless complaints about both parties, urging Latino listeners to not cast votes at all.

Perez, then chairman of the Democratic Party, recognized many of the claims as talking points for #WalkAway, a group promoted by a conservative activist, Brandon Straka, who was later arrested for participating in the deadly Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

In the run-up to the November election, that call was part of a broader, largely undetected movement to depress turnout and spread disinformation about Democrat Joe Biden among Latinos, promoted on social media and often fueled by automated accounts.

The effort showed how social media and other technology can be leveraged to spread misinformation so quickly that those trying to stop it cannot keep up.

More recently, it has morphed into efforts to undermine vaccination efforts against the coronavirus. Read the full story here.

—The Associated Press

Mass testing, mask wearing help Detroit slow virus’ pace

DETROIT (AP) — It was March 11 last year when Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan announced that the St. Patrick’s Day parade was canceled because a virus that had already sickened tens of thousands worldwide had reached Michigan.

“All those folks standing shoulder to shoulder for hours, it was a recipe for the spread of the problem,” Duggan told reporters at the time. He said it would be “a matter of days” before a city resident was infected.

He was right. COVID-19 hit Detroit hard. But fast action by city leaders early in the pandemic may have slowed the rampant advance of the virus among Detroit’s largely Black population.

Detroit recorded 431 confirmed COVID cases on March 30, 2020, and another 387 two days later, according to the city’s Health Department. There were 49 confirmed deaths on April 1, another 51 on April 9 and 52 on April 16.

“We know Detroit was one of the first in the nation to be hit by COVID,” said Renuka Tipirneni, an assistant professor of internal medicine at the University of Michigan. “People live in more crowded housing, need public transportation to get to work in essential jobs.”

Read the full story here.

—The Associated Press

Workers worry about safety, stress as states ease mask rules

JACKSON, Mississippi (AP) — Leo Carney worries that bigger crowds and mask-less diners could endanger workers at the Biloxi, Mississippi, seafood restaurant where he manages the kitchen. Maribel Cornejo, who earns $9.85 an hour as a McDonald’s cook in Houston, can’t afford to get sick and frets co-workers will become more lax about wearing masks, even though the fast food company requires them.

As more jurisdictions join Texas, Mississippi and other states in lifting mask mandates and easing restrictions on businesses, many essential workers — including bartenders, restaurant servers and retail workers — are relieved by changes that might help the economy but also concerned they could make them less safe amid a pandemic that health experts warn is far from over.

Many business owners on the Mississippi Gulf Coast were glad Gov. Tate Reeves decided to eliminate mask requirements, limits on seating in restaurants and most other binding restrictions. “But the workers themselves… especially ones that have pre-existing conditions, they’re scared right now,” Carney said.

Read the full story here.

—The Associated Press

Highlights of the $1.9T COVID bill nearing final passage

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate approved a sweeping pandemic relief package over Republican opposition on Saturday, moving President Joe Biden closer to a milestone political victory that would provide $1,400 checks for most American and direct billions of dollars to schools, state and local governments, and businesses.

The bill cleared by a party-line vote of 50-49 after a marathon overnight voting session and now heads back to the House for final passage, which could come early next week.

Democrats said their “American Rescue Plan” would help the country defeat the virus and nurse the economy back to health. Republicans criticized the $1.9 trillion package as more expensive than necessary. The measure follows five earlier virus bills totaling about $4 trillion that Congress has enacted since last spring.

Read about some highlights of the legislation here.

—The Associated Press

Who will actually go back to school? Many families of color, kids with health issues don’t feel confident

The polarizing debate over how and when to reopen schools has revolved around an argument that children — especially students of color — do better when they’re learning in school buildings. But some families are pushing back against that idea, finding that their children are doing just as well, and sometimes better, when learning from the safety of their own homes. Not because online learning has been great, but because in-person school was awful.

In cities nationwide that have resumed in-person learning, white families are significantly overrepresented among those who return. This divide is yet another example of how the pandemic is playing out in a dramatically different way for different groups.

“Nobody knows the needs of families of color better than families of color,” said Maki Park, whose child attends Dearborn Park International School in Seattle.

Read the full story here.

—Hannah Furfaro and Joy Resmovits