Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Tuesday, March 8, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.

AstraZeneca’s Evusheld, a treatment consisting of a pair of antibody injections meant to prevent COVID-19, has proven to be effective for people who remain highly vulnerable to the virus even when fully vaccinated.

But the treatment is hard to come by and remains largely inaccessible to many people due to scant awareness and a complicated process for allocating the treatment’s limited supplies.

Meanwhile, Moderna signed with Kenyan government officials to establish the drug company’s first mRNA vaccine manufacturing facility in Africa. The announcement comes as several African countries report that less than 5% of their populations have been vaccinated due to limited supplies and other difficulties.

We’re updating this page with the latest news about the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects on the Seattle area, the U.S. and the world. Click here to see the rest of our coronavirus coverage and here to see how we track the daily spread across Washington.

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Hawaii to lift last US state mask mandate by March 26

The last statewide mask mandate in the U.S. will be lifted by March 26, Hawaii Gov. David Ige announced Tuesday.

No states will require masks indoors after 11:59 p.m. March 25. Hawaii is the last to drop the pandemic safety measure, with Oregon’s and Washington state’s indoor mask mandates expiring at 11:59 p.m. Friday.

Ige said Hawaii’s COVID-19 case counts and hospitalizations are decreasing. The seven-day new case average is about 140, he said, while a week ago it was more than 300. There were 48 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 Tuesday. He said that’s the first time the number has been under 50 since around last summer.

He said he expects the downward trends to continue.

Read the full story here.

— Jennifer Sinco Kelleher, The Associated Press
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Biden offers more free COVID tests, although demand has slowed

The Biden administration Tuesday formally began allowing Americans who had ordered free coronavirus tests this winter to request a second round of four tests per household, through the same U.S. Postal Service program that President Joe Biden unveiled in January.

The move, which Biden had promised last week during his State of the Union address, followed a crush of interest in the program when it debuted in January. At the time, case rates had skyrocketed because of the omicron variant, and tens of millions of households scrambled to obtain the free tests.

Now, with supply outpacing demand and virus cases on a steep decline, White House officials and public health experts say it will require significant effort to sustain interest in testing — and ensure that manufacturers keep producing tests.

“People were able to sell tests like hotcakes over omicron,” said Gigi Gronvall, a testing expert at Johns Hopkins University. “They were able to gouge prices. It’s now, when the libraries can’t give them away, that the government needs to make sure that the manufacturers don’t pull out, like what happened before delta.”

Read the full story here.

—Noah Weiland, The New York Times

AP PHOTOS: Scenes from Hong Kong’s COVID-19 crisis

The fast-spreading omicron variant is overwhelming Hong Kong, prompting mass testing, quarantines, supermarket panic-buying and a shortage of hospital beds. Even the morgues are overflowing, forcing authorities to store bodies in refrigerated shipping containers.

As the global death toll from the coronavirus topped 6 million this week, the semi-autonomous Chinese city has been recording about 150 deaths per day, giving it the world’s highest death rate per 1 million people, according to the Our World in Data website.

More than 2,000 people have died in less than three months in Hong Kong since Dec. 31. By comparison, the city of 7.4 million people had lost just 213 people to COVID-19 previously.

A low vaccination rate, particularly among the elderly, is one of the key factors in the latest surge. An analysis of the first 1,153 fatal cases in the current wave showed just 8% had received two doses of a vaccine.

Read the full story here.

Vaccine mandate for federal employees awaits court ruling

A federal judge in Texas overstepped his authority when he blocked President Joe Biden’s requirement that all federal employees get vaccinated against COVID-19, an attorney for the administration told a federal appeals court panel Tuesday.

Department of Justice lawyer Charles Scarborough noted that district judges in a dozen jurisdictions had rejected a challenge to the vaccine requirement for federal workers. U.S. District Judge Jeffrey Brown, who was appointed to the District Court for the Southern District of Texas by President Donald Trump, issued a nationwide injunction against the requirement in January.

Scarborough argued that the Constitution gives the president, as the head of the federal workforce, the same authority as the CEO of a private corporation has to require that employees be vaccinated. “This is the president exercising his authority as an employer,” Scarborough said.

Arguing for those challenging the mandate, lawyer Trent McCotter said it was the administration that was exceeding its statutory and constitutional power. He called the federal employee mandate "a sort of freestanding, ongoing constitutional injury."

Read the story here.

—Kevin McGill, The Associated Press
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New York City Ends School Mask Mandate in a Key Step to Recovery

Schoolchildren from the Upper East Side to East New York turned up to classrooms Monday morning with nothing on their faces — except, perhaps, the remnants of a milk mustache.

In other words: Masks are now optional for public school children in New York City from kindergarten on up.

It was a day some had yearned for and others thought had come too soon, triggered by the decision by Mayor Eric Adams to lift the mask mandate in New York City schools. The move came hours after Gov. Kathy Hochul announced she would lift the statewide mandate.

The New York City Department of Education said it would continue to require daily health screenings and that students returning from suspected coronavirus infections must wear masks for several days. In addition, the Department of Education strongly recommends that students or staff exposed to the virus wear face coverings, although it does not require them to do so.

Read the full story here.

—Grace Ashford, The New York Times

Florida recommends against COVID vaccines for healthy kids

Florida Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo on Tuesday released guidance recommending against vaccinations for healthy children, contradicting federal public health leaders whose advice says all kids should get the shots.

The new state Department of Health guidance says healthy children ages 5 to 17 may not benefit from receiving the vaccine. Children with underlying health conditions or comorbidities should consider a COVID-19 vaccine in consultation with their health care provider, the guidance said.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends coronavirus vaccines for everyone 5 years and older, saying the shots provide strong protection against hospitalization and death. The Food and Drug Administration cleared the use of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine in children as young as 5 based on a study showing the child-size doses were 91% effective at preventing symptomatic COVID-19.

Ladapo previewed the guidance Monday during a roundtable discussion organized by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis where speakers criticized virus lockdowns and mandate policies.

Read the full story here.

—Anthony Izaguirre, The Associated Press

Seattle’s eviction ban has lifted. Here’s where to find help

Trevor Rigdon has a plan for the next week: Pick up as many Instacart and DoorDash trips as he can, looking to average 10 to 12 hours of work each day.

“I’ll have to get on that … and just work as hard as possible,” Rigdon said. 

Rigdon is counting down the days because last week his landlord issued him a 14-day notice to pay the month’s rent he owes or leave his Capitol Hill micro-studio. Even with an array of new city and state protections, including the right to a payment plan, the notice is a source of anxiety because it’s the first step toward potential eviction.

For nearly two years, Seattle’s eviction moratorium helped tenants who fell behind on rent avoid eviction and drew criticism from landlords who said they were struggling to cover their own bills. Last week, the moratorium expired, opening a new chapter: the return of payment-related eviction notices, new demand for financial and legal help and a test of new tenant protections meant to keep people housed.

Because of sometimes lengthy legal processes, the scale of evictions won’t be clear for some time. But the days just before and after the end of the moratorium have brought an uptick in calls for help, service providers say. 

Read the story here.

—Heidi Groover and Sarah Grace Taylor
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COVID long-haulers face grueling fights for disability benefits

Deepa Singh, 30, of Louisville, Ky., has been seriously ill for two years, racked with extreme fatigue, racing heartbeat and memory problems from long COVID that she says prevent her from working. Adding to her distress, she says, has been a grueling — and so far unsuccessful — battle for disability payments.

Singh, who worked as a project manager for a Fortune 100 company, is among a cohort of long COVID patients who have been denied disability benefits, either by private insurance companies, which operate benefit plans offered by employers, or by the Social Security Administration, which manages government disability benefits.

Tasked with sorting legitimate health claims from fraudulent or marginal ones, these gatekeepers now face a novel challenge as the coronavirus pandemic drags on: a flood of claims citing a post-infection syndrome that is poorly understood by the medical community and difficult to measure.

Patients cite a litany of symptoms that defy verification through basic medical tests. They become exhausted at the merest exertion. They can’t remember simple words. Their hearts feel like they are fluttering. Yet neurological exams, EKGs and chest X-rays come back clean.

Doctors said in interviews they are treating long COVID patients who are clearly too sick to work but who have difficulty meeting the evidence threshold insurers demand: objective medical test results showing an inability to perform work.

“I would say some denials are unjustified,” said Monica Verduzco-Gutierrez, chair of the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine at the Long School of Medicine and chief of the long COVID clinic at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. “Almost every day I’m filling out disability paperwork, writing letters of appeal and talking with people from disability companies.”

Read the story here.

—Christopher Rowland, The Washington Post

Scenes from Hong Kong’s COVID-19 crisis

The fast-spreading omicron variant is overwhelming Hong Kong, prompting mass testing, quarantines, supermarket panic-buying and a shortage of hospital beds. Even the morgues are overflowing, forcing authorities to store bodies in refrigerated shipping containers.

As the global death toll from the coronavirus topped 6 million this week, the semi-autonomous Chinese city has been recording about 150 deaths per day, giving it the world’s highest death rate per 1 million people, according to the Our World in Data website.

More than 2,000 people have died in less than three months in Hong Kong since Dec. 31. By comparison, the city of 7.4 million people had lost just 213 people to COVID-19 previously.

A low vaccination rate, particularly among the elderly, is one of the key factors in the latest surge. An analysis of the first 1,153 fatal cases in the current wave showed just 8% had received two doses of a vaccine.

See the photo gallery here.

—The Associated Press

What you need to know about mask, vaccine rules at Seattle-area arts and music events

If you’re looking forward to attending in-person arts events this spring, don’t toss your stash of masks just yet. As Washington and King County drop COVID-19 masking and vaccination requirements this month, the response from the Seattle arts community is mixed. While some arts groups and venues are following the eased guidelines, many performing arts organizations are sticking to requiring masks and vax proof at least through the end of May.

On March 1, King County ended its requirement that restaurants, bars, gyms and cultural and recreational spaces verify patrons’ vaccination or negative coronavirus test status. And Gov. Jay Inslee announced late last month that the statewide mask mandate would lift March 12, ahead of his initial timeline; King and Snohomish counties are following suit. Businesses, though, are free to impose their own vaccination and masking requirements if they choose. 

To find out what a number of arts, music and culture organizations in the Seattle area are doing, read the story here.

—Grace Gorenflo , Jerald Pierce , Moira Macdonald and Michael Rietmulder
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It’s ‘alarming’: Children are severely behind in reading

The kindergarten crisis of last year, when millions of 5-year-olds spent months outside of classrooms, has become this year’s reading emergency.

As the pandemic enters its third year, a cluster of new studies now shows that about one-third of children in the youngest grades are missing reading benchmarks, up significantly from before the pandemic.

In Virginia, one study found early reading skills were at a 20-year low this fall, which the researchers described as “alarming.”

In the Boston region, 60% of students at some high-poverty schools have been identified as at high risk for reading problems — twice the number of students as before the pandemic, according to Tiffany P. Hogan, director of the Speech and Language Literacy Lab at the MGH Institute of Health Professions in Boston.

Children in every demographic group have been affected, but Black and Hispanic children, as well as those from low-income families, those with disabilities and those who are not fluent in English, have fallen the furthest behind.

“We’re in new territory,” said Hogan, about the pandemic’s toll on reading. If children do not become competent readers by the end of elementary school, the risks are “pretty dramatic,” she said. Poor readers are more likely to drop out of high school, earn less money as adults and become involved in the criminal justice system.

Read the story here.

—Dana Goldstein, The New York Times

WHO says COVID boosters needed, reversing previous call

An expert group convened by the World Health Organization said Tuesday it “strongly supports urgent and broad access” to booster doses amid the global spread of omicron, in a reversal of the U.N. agency’s insistence last year that boosters weren’t necessary and contributed to vaccine inequity.

In a statement, WHO said its expert group concluded that immunization with authorized COVID-19 vaccines provide high levels of protection against severe disease and death amid the continuing spread of the hugely contagious omicron variant. WHO said in January that boosters were recommended once countries had adequate supplies and after protecting their most vulnerable.

It said vaccination, including the use of boosters, was especially important for people at risk of severe disease.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

COVID-19 has now been found in 29 kinds of animals, which has scientists concerned

The 11-year-old cat had been vomiting and lethargic for several days, and showed little interest in food.

When the pet was examined at the University of Pennsylvania’s Ryan Veterinary Hospital in September, her owner mentioned a possible clue to the symptoms: Someone in the household had COVID-19.

The animal’s nasal swab turned up negative. A fecal sample, on the other hand, told the tale. The shorthair feline was infected with the delta variant.

Scientists have now found the coronavirus in 29 kinds of animals, a list that has been steadily growing almost since the start of the pandemic and includes cats, dogs, ferrets, hamsters, tigers, mice, otters, and hippos. In most cases, the animals have not been shown to transmit the virus back to humans.

But in at least two cases, it looks as if they can. Minks have spread the virus to people, and in a new Canadian study, scientists identified one person who tested positive after unspecified “close contact” with infected white-tailed deer.

The good news is that with all known variants that have circulated in humans, the vaccines remain very good at preventing severe disease. The concern is that as the virus continues to circulate in other animals, it could accumulate mutations that render the vaccines less effective.

Read the story here.

—Tom Avril, The Philadelphia Inquirer
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Malaysia to reopen borders April 1 after two years

Malaysia will reopen its borders on April 1 after two years and lift remaining coronavirus restrictions on businesses as it moves to restore normal life, Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob announced Tuesday.

Ismail said the decision was a result of the country’s high vaccination rate, low hospital bed usage by COVID-19 patients and small percentage of serious cases.

The move “allows us all to return back to an almost normal life after almost two years at war with COVID-19,” he said in a national broadcast. “Most importantly, Malaysia is now an open destination.”

Malaysia shut its borders in March 2020. Since then, 99% of adult Malaysians have received two doses of vaccine, and 64% have also received a booster shot. Vaccinations for teenagers have also reached a high level and the government recently started shots for children between age 5 and 11.

New daily cases have risen sharply to above 25,000 in recent weeks due to the omicron strain but less than 1% have been categorized as serious.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

As virus cases go from 1 to 24,000, New Zealand changes tack

Back in August, New Zealand’s government put the entire nation on lockdown after a single community case of the coronavirus was detected.

On Tuesday, when new daily cases hit a record of nearly 24,000, officials told hospital workers they could help out on understaffed COVID-19 wards even if they were mildly sick themselves.

It was the latest sign of just how radically New Zealand’s approach to the virus has shifted, moving from elimination to suppression and now to something approaching acceptance as the omicron variant has taken hold.

Experts say New Zealand’s sometimes counterintuitive actions have likely saved thousands of lives by allowing the nation to mostly avoid earlier, more deadly variants and buying time to get people vaccinated. The nation of 5 million has reported just 65 virus deaths since the pandemic began.

But virus hospitalizations have been rapidly rising, hitting a record of more than 750 on Tuesday.

Read the story here.

—Nick Perry, The Associated Press

Catch up on the past 24 hours

Masks are dropping in many schools across the U.S., but worries persist. In a preview for Washington state, a complicated mix of emotions was on display yesterday as New York City kids turned up with naked faces for the first time. With changes ahead here in Washington, this guide to deciding whether to unmask has a helpful section on masks at school.

COVID-19 may cause changes in the brain, according to new research involving mostly people who had mild infections.

COVID has now been found in 29 kinds of animals, which has scientists concerned. Three explain what the latest findings mean.

—Kris Higginson