Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Monday, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.
As vaccinations start to beat back the pandemic, the U.S. is gripped with tensions and tradeoffs over how fast to try to go back to pre-coronavirus life.
Theaters reopened in New York City over the weekend, but audiences were sparse. Frontline workers in restaurants worry about their safety as some states ease mask rules. In Yakima, a return to in-person classes has improved grades and mental health for students.
Meanwhile, in Idaho, anti-maskers encouraged their children to burn masks at the state capitol even as more than 500,000 people have died of COVID-19 in the United States.
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.
Oregon to spend $325M to help kids catch up on learning
SALEM, Ore. — Oregon leaders plan to spend up to $325 million in state and federal money to help fill the gaps in students’ pandemic-year learning with summer programs.
Gov. Kate Brown and legislative leaders announced Monday that they will devote $250 million in state money to the effort of making up educational ground lost amid COVID-19 shutdowns and remote learning, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported. They’ll also add $75 million in federal money to that effort.
The largest expenditure will be $90 million for grants that will add summer enrichment activities for students in grades K-8. Another $72 million will be for grants districts can use to help high-school students catch up over the summer.
Disney World workers get spit on, yelled at, and pushed trying to enforce COVID safety rules
ORLANDO, Fla. — A security guard reminded a guest to put on his mask before he walked into Disney World’s Contemporary Resort near the Magic Kingdom last month.
“I’m a guest,” argued the middle-aged, fedora-wearing man. He asked to be left alone.
Then he spat, and some of his saliva hit the guard’s forehead.
It was one of several confrontations on Disney property in recent weeks as some guests have angrily refused to follow Disney’s pandemic safety rules. Some of the situations have led to arrests, although not in the case of the spitting man, who hurried inside the hotel and disappeared in the elevators before he could be identified on Feb. 5.
At Disney World, visitors are required to have their temperatures checked and they must wear masks at the four theme parks, hotels and Disney Springs. Many have praised Disney for putting strict rules in place and devoting employees to enforce them during the COVID-19 pandemic that has killed more than 31,000 Floridians.
But Orange County Sheriff’s reports released to the Orlando Sentinel also depict the challenges theme parks and their employees face enforcing the rules. Not everyone is willing to obey them.
More than 2 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine administered in Washington
More than 2 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in Washington since mid-December, state health officials announced Monday.
“I am so grateful for the tireless efforts of our partners on the ground, including local health jurisdictions, community health centers, hospitals, clinics, pharmacies and so many others. The successes we are seeing are a testament to their hard work over the past few months,” state Secretary of Health Umair A. Shah said in a statement.
As of Monday, the 1,400 provider facilities administering vaccines in Washington have given 2,065,762 shots — more than 80% of doses delivered to the state, the statement said.
In the past week, the state has also reached its goal of giving more than 45,000 doses of vaccine per day.
“As our race to vaccinate Washingtonians as quickly and equitably as possible continues, these accomplishments are further proof that hope is on the horizon," Shah said in the statement.
COVID bill to deliver big health insurance savings for many
WASHINGTON — Several million people stand to save hundreds of dollars in health insurance costs, or more, under the Democratic coronavirus relief legislation on track to pass Congress.
Winners include those covered by “Obamacare” or just now signing up, self-employed people who buy their own insurance and don’t currently get federal help, laid-off workers struggling to retain employer coverage, and most anyone collecting unemployment. Also, potentially many more could benefit if about a dozen states accept a Medicaid deal in the legislation.
Taken together, the components of the coronavirus bill represent the biggest expansion of federal help for health insurance since the Obama-era Affordable Care Act more than 10 years ago. “Obamacare” not only survived former President Donald Trump’s repeated attempts to tear it down but will now get a shot of new life.
Because health insurance is so complicated, consumers are going to have to do their homework to figure out if there’s something in the bill for them. And health care benefits are not like stimulus checks that can be blasted out. There will be a lag as government agencies, insurers and employers unpack the bill’s provisions.
Can a pill help fight COVID-19? Early study results suggest it’s possible
A potential new treatment for COVID-19 still undergoing study cleared non-hospitalized coronavirus patients who had symptoms of infection faster than in patients who received a placebo, according to preliminary results newly released.
And it’s a pill.
If ongoing clinical trials continue to show similar positive results, it could be the first oral antiviral against COVID-19 to join a relatively small toolbox of treatments, potentially saving infected people from progressing to severe disease.
The only other treatment that has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is remdesivir, a drug that’s delivered through the veins and limited to hospitalized COVID-19 patients ages 12 and up.
Results from the Phase2a study were presented at the 2021 Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections on Saturday.
“The secondary objective findings in this study, of a quicker decrease in infectious virus among individuals with early COVID-19 treated with (the pill), are promising and if supported by additional studies, could have important public health implications, particularly as the SARS-CoV-2 virus continues to spread and evolve globally,” Dr. William Fischer, lead investigator of the study and an associate professor of medicine at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, said in a statement.
State reporters 455 coronavirus cases and 22 new deaths
The state Department of Health (DOH) reported 455 new coronavirus cases and 22 new deaths on Monday.
The update brings the state's totals to 345,731 cases and 5,063 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. 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, 19,677 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 85,282 COVID-19 diagnoses and 1,425 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.
COVID-19 claims 15 people in life of one Milwaukee woman
MILWAUKEE — The first person Kimberly Montgomery lost to COVID-19 was her aunt. She had trouble breathing, so her daughter dropped her off at the emergency room. It was the last time her daughter saw her alive.
Then, one after another, 14 other people in Montgomery’s world — family members, friends, friends who were like family — succumbed to the same disease.
There was the retired police officer who was an usher and deacon at her church. A friend’s brother who was a restaurant cook. A close friend who was a nurse caring for virus patients in Atlanta. A cousin who came home from the hospital after 12 days thinking she was getting better, but didn’t. An artist and drummer for an African dance company.
It was an unimaginable string of losses in the year since COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, and all but one of those who died was Black, like Montgomery.
“I don’t know if I ever will … process all of them,” said Montgomery, 59. She added: “The shock factor, it never wears off. But it tempers.”
Nationwide, Black people represent about 12 percent of the population, but they account for nearly 15 percent of all coronavirus deaths of known race, according to the APM Research Lab, which is tracking mortality from the disease.
Dutch prime minister extends his country’s pandemic lockdown
On Monday, one week before a parliamentary election in the Netherlands that could make him the longest-serving Dutch leader, Prime Minister Mark Rutte extended the country’s tough coronavirus lockdown.
Polls have shown support for the coronavirus lockdown eroding in recent weeks as this nation of 17 million grows tired of shuttered cafes, restaurants, museums and other meeting places.
The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Netherlands rose over the past two weeks from 23.08 new cases per 100,000 people on Feb. 21 to 26.42 on March 7.
Vietnam vaccinates COVID-19 front-liners with its 1st doses
Vietnam administered its first COVID-19 doses Monday to the front-line workers who made the nation’s relative success in controlling the pandemic possible — health workers, contact tracers and security forces who handled quarantine duties.
The Southeast Asian nation of 96 million people has a goal to inoculate at least half of the population by the end of the year.
Thousands of doctors, nurses and technicians working at hospitals designated to treat COVID-19 patients lined up in the morning and received the first jabs of the AstraZeneca vaccine.
“I have been waiting for this day for a long time,” nurse Nguyen Thi Huyen said.
Israel celebrates 5 millionth coronavirus vaccination
Israel’s leaders Monday celebrated the country’s 5 millionth coronavirus vaccination on the same day the government began vaccinating Palestinian laborers who work in the country. The time lag has drawn international criticism and highlighted global disparities.
Palestinian laborers who crossed into Israel at several West Bank checkpoints received their first doses of the Moderna vaccine from Magen David Adom paramedics. The vaccination drive orchestrated by COGAT, Israel’s military agency coordinating government operations in the West Bank, had been beset by postponements.
The head of COGAT said in a statement in Arabic that Israelis and Palestinians “live in the same epidemiological space” and that it was a shared interest to vaccinate Palestinians.
Israel has administered over 8.7 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine to its population of 9.3 million. But until Monday, Israel had provided few vaccines for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Germany looks to AstraZeneca shot to boost vaccine rollout
Germany has begun ramping up the use of the coronavirus vaccine made by AstraZeneca, after authorities last week gave the green light for it to be administered to people age 65 and over.
Hundreds of thousands of doses have been gathering dust in storage in recent weeks because of the restrictions on who could get the vaccine and misgivings among some of those who were eligible for it. Germany has received 2.1 million doses of the AstraZeneca shot so far, but administered just 721,000, according to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control.
Last week, the country’s independent vaccine committee said new data showed the AstraZeneca vaccine was effective in older groups too, prompting a swift changes of rules by the government, which has come under criticism for the slow rollout of anti-COVID-19 shots compared to Britain and the United States.
A new vaccine center opened Monday at the disused Tempelhof airport in the heart of Berlin will administer only the AstraZeneca vaccine.
Spring-break partying falls victim to COVID-19 crisis
Goodbye, sunshine. Hello, study sessions.
Colleges around the U.S. are scaling back spring break or canceling it entirely to discourage partying that could spread the virus and raise infection rates back on campus.
Texas A&M University opted for a three-day weekend instead of a whole week off. The University of Alabama and the University of Wisconsin-Madison also did away with spring break but are giving students a day off later in the semester.
Even some students who have the time to get away aren’t in the mood. Michigan Tech’s weeklong break began Friday, but 21-year-old Justin Martin decided to visit family in Michigan instead of making that epic senior-year trip to Florida he once envisioned.
“I don’t want to travel all that way, first of all, especially with everything being shut down. It just doesn’t seem worth it, especially with COVID too,” he said.
Cambodia turns hotel into COVID hospital as cases rise
A defunct luxury hotel in Cambodia’s capital finished conversion into a 500-room coronavirus hospital on Monday, as authorities enforced a new law imposing criminal punishments for violating health rules and infections continued to rise in the Southeast Asian country.
The Great Duke Phnom Penh hasn’t been in operation for two years, and is now set up to treat virus patients amid a third wave of the pandemic in Cambodia. Prime Minister Hun Sen assigned Gen. Hun Manet, his eldest son and a powerful army chief, to lead the two-day effort to turn the hotel into a temporary hospital.
The property is currently owned by a Chinese businessman who renamed it after purchasing it from a Cambodian tycoon. It’s unclear why the upscale hotel has since been closed. Located in central Phnom Penh and apparently in good condition, the hotel was well known in the 2000s and was a popular spot for foreign embassies, NGOs and other groups during government-hosted conferences or summits.
On Friday, Cambodia’s government passed a law allowing criminal punishments, including fines and prison sentences, for breaking health measures aimed at preventing the virus’s spread.
For example, under the new law, intentionally spreading the virus is punishable by up to 10 years in prison, or 20 years if the offense is committed by an organized group.
Fully-vaccinated people can gather without masks, CDC says
Fully-vaccinated Americans can gather with other vaccinated people indoors without wearing a mask or social distancing, according to long-awaited guidance from federal health officials.
The recommendations also say that vaccinated people can come together in the same way with people considered at low-risk for severe disease, such as in the case of vaccinated grandparents visiting healthy children and grandchildren.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced the guidance Monday.
The guidance is designed to address a growing demand, as more adults have been getting vaccinated and wondering if it gives them greater freedom to visit family members, travel, or do other things like they did before the COVID-19 pandemic swept the world last year.
“We know that people want to get vaccinated so they can get back to doing the things they enjoy with the people they love,” said CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky, in a statement.
The CDC is continuing to recommend that fully vaccinated people continue to wear well-fitted masks, avoid large gatherings, and physically distance themselves from others when out in public.
Hungary closes stores, schools to curb surge due to variants
Hungarians on Monday awoke to a new round of strict lockdown measures aimed at slowing a record-breaking wave of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths that are among the worst in the world.
A rapid rise in pandemic indicators since early February prompted Hungary’s government to announce the new restrictions, including closing most stores for two weeks and kindergartens and primary schools until April 7. Most services are also required to cease operations, and the government urged businesses to allow employees to work from home. Grocery stores, pharmacies, gas stations and tobacconists can stay open.
Hungary’s high schools have been remote learning since November and its bars, restaurants and gyms have been closed since then as well.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has warned that the strain on the country’s hospitals will soon surpass any other period in Hungary since the pandemic began, and that failing to impose harsher restrictions now would result in a “tragedy.”
“The next two weeks will be difficult … but if we want to open by Easter, we’ve got to close down,” Orban said Friday on a Facebook video.
The number of patients on ventilators in Hungarian hospitals has more than doubled in the last two weeks, with 806 patients on Monday compared to the previous peak of 674 in early December.
Local pharmacists step up in COVID-19 vaccination effort
Local pharmacy owners are filling in the gaps as federal, state and county authorities across the country struggle to ramp up vaccinations vital to crushing the COVID-19 pandemic. In some small towns across the U.S., an independent pharmacy is the only local place where residents can get a COVID-19 vaccination.
The hope is that local pharmacies will now play a key role in getting more Americans inoculated. They have become vaccine providers by applying to state health officials and the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program for COVID-19 Vaccination, which has been distributing vaccine to networks of independently owned pharmacies, as well as the big national chains.
The Biden administration’s coronavirus coordinator, Jeff Zients, said at the start of the program last month about 6,500 pharmacies would receive a total of 1 million doses, with more pharmacies joining the program as vaccine production increases.
Syrian president, wife test positive for coronavirus
Syrian President Bashar Assad and his wife have tested positive for the coronavirus, the president’s office said Monday, with both having only mild symptoms of the illness.
In a statement, Assad’s office said the first couple did PCR tests after they experienced minor symptoms consistent with the COVID-19 illness. It said Assad, 55, and his wife Asma, who is 10 years younger and announced her recovery from breast cancer in 2019, will continue to work from home where they will isolate between two to three weeks.
Syria, which marks 10 years of war next week, has recorded nearly 16,000 virus cases in government-held parts of the country, including 1,063 deaths. But the numbers are believed to be much higher with limited amounts of PCR tests being done, particularly in areas of northern Syria outside government control.
Alaska governor recovering from virus, promotes vaccine
Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy has said he is feeling better after contracting the coronavirus last month.
The Republican governor said last Friday that while his voice still gets slightly hoarse if he talks for too long, his other symptoms are now mild.
He said he had a bad headache, fever, chills and body aches for a several days.
There have been more than 56,000 coronavirus cases and 301 virus-related deaths in Alaska as of last Friday, according to data from the state Department of Health and Social Services.
Catch up on the past 24 hours
More people are eligible for vaccines now, but more than 100,000 older adults in King County still haven't gotten their doses — and some groups are far less likely than others to have been vaccinated. But there's a ray of hope: More shipments of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine may come sooner than expected. You can get help finding your shot(s) with our guide to vaccination.
We may never reach herd immunity — but it probably doesn’t matter, according to Dr. Jeffrey Duchin of Public Health — Seattle & King County. He and others explain what will matter now that virus variants have "kicked the can" further out of reach, with modeling suggesting Washington is particularly vulnerable to a fourth wave.
Those fever scanners that schools and workplaces are using to fight COVID-19 can be wildly inaccurate, researchers have found. The FDA has issued an alert.
"How did she get a vaccine?!" Envy, condemnation and guilt are spreading, fueled by unequal access and confusing rules, and this hasn't been helped by a few terrible errors in judgment that went viral. Here's how some vaccine recipients wrestled with their decisions.
Excited travelers are heading out on "vaxications" after they get their shots, though public health experts are sounding notes of caution about this. As many other Americans wait for vaccines before traveling, the world is bracing for the floodgates to swing open: Disneyland and California's other theme parks are mapping their reopening, and the European Union is planning a digital vaccine passport.
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