Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Tuesday, March 9, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.

Washington health care providers as of Monday had administered more than 2 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine since mid-December, a significant milestone as the state’s vaccination rollout continues. As spring approaches, however, colleges around the country are scaling back spring break or canceling it entirely to discourage partying that could spread the virus.

Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control announced Monday that Americans who have been fully vaccinated can gather with other vaccinated people indoors without wearing a mask or social distancing.

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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Alaska becomes first US state to open vaccines to nearly all

JUNEAU, Alaska — Alaska has become the first state to drop eligibility requirements for COVID-19 vaccines and allow anyone 16 or older who lives or works in the state to get a vaccine, Gov. Mike Dunleavy said Tuesday.

Dunleavy made the announcement after his own bout with COVID-19, which he described as an inconvenience and said underscored his own desire to be vaccinated. He said he did not become severely ill but did not want “to be laid up in the house again,” impact his family or possibly spread the virus to others.

He described expanding eligibility for vaccines in Alaska as a “game changer,” particularly with the summer tourist season looming and as the state seeks to rebuild its pandemic-tattered economy.

He said he respects those who do not wish to get a vaccine and wanted to relay his personal experience for those mulling vaccination. “I would ask that you give some due consideration,” the Republican said.

—Associated Press
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King County approves hazard pay for grocery workers in unincorporated areas

Whole Foods in Seattle’s Interbay. The King County Council Tuesday passed hazard pay legislation for grocery employees working in the unincorporated area of King County for the duration of Executive Dow Constantine’s coronavirus emergency order. (Ellen M. Banner / The Seattle Times)
Whole Foods in Seattle’s Interbay. The King County Council Tuesday passed hazard pay legislation for grocery employees working in the unincorporated area of King County for the duration of Executive Dow Constantine’s coronavirus emergency order. (Ellen M. Banner / The Seattle Times)

Beginning March 22, hundreds of grocery employees throughout King County will get additional money in their pockets when a $4-per-hour raise goes into effect.

The King County Council Tuesday passed hazard pay legislation for grocery employees working in the unincorporated area of King County for the duration of Executive Dow Constantine’s coronavirus emergency order. King County joins Seattle and cities elsewhere in the country in requiring the $4 pay increase.

The additional pay for grocery workers is designed to compensate employees for taking on the additional risk of exposure to coronavirus while working during the pandemic.

The ordinance will grant an additional $4 per hour to workers in unincorporated King County, at stores over 10,000 square feet that mostly sell groceries, or at retail stores over 85,000 square feet where at least 30% of the store is used to sell groceries. The employers must employ at least 500 workers worldwide, with at least one employee working at a store in unincorporated King County. It does not apply to people who work at convenience stores or in farmers markets.

Read the full story here.

—Melissa Hellman

A university is offering students $75 to skip spring break

A university in California is hoping a cash incentive will keep students from traveling for spring break, the latest effort by a school to curb the spread of the coronavirus as experts urge against travel.

The University of California at Davis is offering $75 “staycation” grants for students staying in town for spring break in late March. Students must apply for the grants by Wednesday evening, and 2,000 students will be selected to receive a gift card to a local business. The school had a total of more than 39,000 students in fall 2019.

It has been about a year since the virus first threw a wrench into academic calendars across the country, prompting schools to shut students out of the classroom or send them away from campus. Some colleges have scaled back or scrapped spring break altogether as students, most of whom may still be waiting for a vaccine, consider what the rest of the school year will look like.

The school, which has offered similar grants before, initially planned to give them to 750 students but increased that number to 2,000 after seeing a huge response, Atkinson said.

—The Washington Post

A year into pandemic, some in media tell individual stories

NEW YORK — The emotional center of Nicolle Wallace’s MSNBC show often comes at the very end, when statistics are set aside to tell the story of a life cut short by COVID-19.

The “Lives Well Lived” feature, which is being expanded into a prime-time special on Wednesday to commemorate a year since the pandemic altered America, is one of a handful of continuing efforts in the media to give a face to suffering.

Every Friday, the “In Memoriam” feature on PBS’ “NewsHour” profiles five Americans from all walks of life who died of COVID-19. The New York Times usually does one obituary a day of a virus victim under the “Those We’ve Lost” banner. Several CNN shows make it a point to tell individual stories.

All consider it important to continue, particularly at a point when people are getting weary of the story and restrictions on their lives.

“The main goal is to remind people that people who are loved are dying of this disease,” said Frank Carlson, a “NewsHour” producer who puts together that show’s segments, learning of victims through viewers and local obituaries. “It may be a cliche, but a number doesn’t really convey it in the same way.”

—Associated Press
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Firefighters, faith leaders team up to vaccinate vulnerable

MIAMI BEACH (AP) — At the end of a recent Sunday evening Spanish-language Mass, the Rev. Roberto Cid made an announcement that perked up many gray-haired heads.

“If you are over 65 and a Florida resident and want a COVID vaccine, call the parish office and we can help you,” the Roman Catholic priest said, as happy nodding spread through the pews of historic St. Patrick church.

In much of the country, getting the coveted vaccine has been tremendously difficult for many older adults due to complicated and overtaxed websites and bureaucracies — and even more so for those who have disabilities, are homebound or have no family to help.

But in Miami Beach, faith leaders and the fire department have joined resources to expedite getting shots in the arms of older adults starting with the homebound and those in low-income housing, winning plaudits from both the newly vaccinated and their relieved relatives.

—Associated Press

Tennessee: Some inmates now qualify for COVID-19 vaccine

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — After initially deeming that inoculating prisoners could be a “PR nightmare,” Tennessee officials on Tuesday said some inmates were receiving a COVID-19 vaccine — but only those who qualify as part of other groups the state has prioritized.

The Department of Correction has ordered 2,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and 980 doses of the Moderna vaccine to be distributed to inmates who are 65 and older or have health conditions that put them in groups already given priority status by the state, department spokesperson Dorinda Carter said in an email.

“We anticipate receiving additional doses soon and will order more doses, as needed,” Carter said. “The vaccine will be administered first to older inmates and those with health risks.”

Carter added that the state had begun vaccinating inmates Tuesday.

—Associated Press

Canadian Open canceled for 2nd straight year amid pandemic

TORONTO — The RBC Canadian Open, the fourth-oldest national championship in golf, has been canceled for the second straight year because of circumstances related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The tournament, which dates to 1904, was to be played June 10-13 at St. George’s Golf & Country outside Toronto.

“Even with an extensive health and safety plan in place, we faced a number of significant logistical challenges that led us to this decision,” PGA Tour President Tyler Dennis said.

The PGA Tour said Tuesday it would stage another event in the United States in place of the Canadian Open, which falls a week before the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines.

Rory McIlroy won the last Canadian Open in 2019.

—Associated Press
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Gov. Kate Brown updates Oregon’s county risk levels

PORTLAND, Ore. — Beginning Friday only two of Oregon’s 36 counties — Coos and Douglas — will remain in the “extreme risk” level category, due to COVID-19 spread in the area.

In addition, Multnomah County — the state’s most populous county and home of Portland — will improve to the “moderate risk” tier, which allows for increased capacity in restaurants, gyms, movie theaters and stores.

“We are largely seeing case rates decline across the state,” Gov. Kate Brown said Tuesday, when she announced the updated risk levels. “This should serve as a reminder that when we follow the health and safety measures we know work against this virus, we can truly make a difference in infection spread.”

—Associated Press

State reports 665 coronavirus cases and 14 new deaths

The state Department of Health (DOH) reported 665 new coronavirus cases and 14 new deaths Tuesday.

The update brings the state's totals to 346,403 cases and 5,077 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. Monday. Tallies may be higher earlier in the week because new state data isn’t reported on Sundays and COVID-19-related deaths aren’t reported on the weekends.

The new cases may include up to 200 duplicates, according to DOH.

In addition, 19,692 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the coronavirus — 15 new hospitalizations. In King County, the state's most populous, state health officials have confirmed a total of 85,417 COVID-19 diagnoses and 1,427 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.

—Megan Burbank

Biden $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill nears finish line in Congress

House Budget Committee Chairman John Yarmuth, D-Ky., center, is flanked by Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass., left, and Majority Whip James Clyburn, D-S.C., at a news conference ahead of the vote on the Democrat’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill, at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, March 9, 2021. (J. Scott Applewhite / The Associated Press)
House Budget Committee Chairman John Yarmuth, D-Ky., center, is flanked by Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass., left, and Majority Whip James Clyburn, D-S.C., at a news conference ahead of the vote on the Democrat’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill, at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, March 9, 2021. (J. Scott Applewhite / The Associated Press)

The House is poised to approve a sweeping $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill on Wednesday and send it to President Joe Biden to sign, a major early legislative victory for the new president and the Democrats who control Congress.

Despite united GOP opposition and a narrow Democratic majority, House Democratic leaders expressed confidence on Tuesday that they will have votes to spare. House Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries of New York said he was “110% confident” of success.

Democrats touted the breadth of the legislation, which they’ve begun to frame not just as a bill to attack the coronavirus pandemic and economic downturn, but as a generational anti-poverty measure.

Republicans are using much the same argument against the bill, saying it’s largely unconnected to the pandemic crisis.

Final passage would come before a prime-time speech Biden is planning for Thursday to mark the anniversary of the nation plunging into widespread shutdowns to combat the devastating coronavirus pandemic, which has devastated the economy and killed more than 520,000 Americans. Although the economy has shown signs of rebounding, millions still remain unemployed, with the poorest Americans hit hardest.

Read the story here.

—Erica Werner, The Washington Post
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Many in US still face COVID-19 financial loss

Logan DeWitt with his wife, Mckenzie, and daughter, Elizabeth, stand outside their home Monday, March 8, 2021, in Kansas City, Kan. Because he could work at home, Logan kept his job through the pandemic while his wife lost hers and went back to school. Their financial situation was further complicated with the birth of their daughter nine months ago. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Logan DeWitt with his wife, Mckenzie, and daughter, Elizabeth, stand outside their home Monday, March 8, 2021, in Kansas City, Kan. Because he could work at home, Logan kept his job through the pandemic while his wife lost hers and went back to school. Their financial situation was further complicated with the birth of their daughter nine months ago. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Roughly 4 in 10 Americans say they’re still feeling the financial impact of the loss of a job or income within their household as the economic recovery remains uneven one year into the coronavirus pandemic.

A new poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research provides further evidence that the pandemic has been devastating for some Americans, while leaving others virtually unscathed or even in better shape, at least when it comes to their finances. The outcome often depended on the type of job a person had and their income level before the pandemic.

The pandemic has particularly hurt Black and Latino households, as well as younger Americans, some of whom are now going through the second major economic crisis of their adult lives.

Read the story here.

— Ken Sweet and Emily Swanson, The Associated Press

Tunisia receives first batch of coronavirus vaccines

Boxes loaded with the Russian Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine are tug after arriving at Tunis airport, Tuesday, March 9, 2021. Tunisia is also awaiting the arrival of the first lot of the Chinese vaccine Sinovac as well as the Pfizer and Astrozeneca vaccines (AP Photo/Hassene Dridi)
Boxes loaded with the Russian Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine are tug after arriving at Tunis airport, Tuesday, March 9, 2021. Tunisia is also awaiting the arrival of the first lot of the Chinese vaccine Sinovac as well as the Pfizer and Astrozeneca vaccines (AP Photo/Hassene Dridi)

Tunisia received its first batch of coronavirus vaccines on Tuesday — 30,000 doses of Russia’s Sputnik V — and will start inoculations on Saturday.

The North African country’s vaccination program has dragged behind its neighbors, even as virus infections and hospitalizations have remained high.

The first deliveries came from Russia aboard an Air France plane and were ceremoniously received by the health minister. Vaccinations are scheduled to start with health care workers, soldiers and security officers, people over 65 and people with chronic health problems.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

Russia to make Sputnik V vaccine in Italy; a 1st in EU

Boxes containing Russian vaccine Sputnik V are unloaded in San Marino, Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021.  (Andrea Costa/IssRSMarino via AP)
Boxes containing Russian vaccine Sputnik V are unloaded in San Marino, Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021. (Andrea Costa/IssRSMarino via AP)

Russia has signed a deal to produce its Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine in Italy, the first contract in the European Union, the Italian Russian Chamber of Commerce announced Tuesday.

The deal was signed with the Italian subsidiary of a Swiss-based pharmaceutical company. aProduction of a planned 10 million doses this year is set to launch in July.

According to a study published last month in the journal Lancet, Sputnik V is 91% effective and appears to prevent inoculated individuals from becoming severely ill with COVID-19.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press
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Seattle schools set new start date for some special-education students and preschoolers

Seattle Public Schools and the teachers union are still working on an agreement to offer in-person services to around 10,000 students, including kindergartners and first-graders. (Ellen M. Banner / The Seattle Times)
Seattle Public Schools and the teachers union are still working on an agreement to offer in-person services to around 10,000 students, including kindergartners and first-graders. (Ellen M. Banner / The Seattle Times)

The start of in-person classes for some special-education students and preschoolers in Seattle has been rescheduled for March 29 instead of this Thursday, according to a Tuesday release from Seattle Public Schools and the union representing its educators.

The announcement comes after intense opposition from the union to the district’s move to summon 700 educators back to buildings this week to teach students ahead of an agreement on expanding in-person instruction. Those educators were supposed to report to their buildings on Monday to ready their classrooms for learning, but a campaign by the union — the Seattle Education Association — asked them to stay remote.

“SPS and SEA together agreed that school staff could benefit from additional time to prepare to offer the safest, most equitable in-person learning environments possible in every SPS building,” the release said.

A safety check of some district buildings by union and district officials, an independent HVAC system contractor and the state Labor & Industries department found no major issues, according to the release.

The two parties are still working on an agreement to offer in-person services to around 10,000 students, including kindergartners and first-graders. The timeline is the first jointly released by management and labor for any type of in-person instruction since the pandemic began.

Read the story here.

—Dahlia Bazzaz

A viral tsunami: How the underestimated coronavirus took over the world

New Year’s Eve 2019: Ian Lipkin, a famed Columbia University epidemiologist, is having dinner with his wife and a fellow scientist. He gets a confidential phone call from a highly placed source in China: There’s a cluster of pneumonia-like illnesses in the city of Wuhan caused by a novel coronavirus. The source says it’s not that big a deal: It doesn’t look very transmissible.

“I was told not to worry about it,” Lipkin recalls.

It was something to worry about.

That virus, later named SARS-CoV-2, would slowly reveal its secrets — and proceed to shut down much of the planet, killing more than 2.6 million people in the most disruptive global health disaster since the influenza pandemic of 1918.

Read the story here.

—Joel Achenbach, Ariana Eunjung Cha and Frances Stead Sellers, The Washington Post

Miami janitor quietly feeds thousands, and love’s the reason

Doramise Moreau is a part-time janitor at a technical school. She spends most of her time shopping for ingredients and helping to cook meals for 1,000 to 1,500 people a week that show up for food at the church.  (AP Photo/Marta Lavandier)
Doramise Moreau is a part-time janitor at a technical school. She spends most of her time shopping for ingredients and helping to cook meals for 1,000 to 1,500 people a week that show up for food at the church. (AP Photo/Marta Lavandier)

Doramise Moreau toils long past midnight in her tiny kitchen every Friday — boiling lemon peels, crushing fragrant garlic and onion into a spice blend she rubs onto chicken and turkey, cooking the dried beans that accompany the yellow rice she’ll deliver to a Miami church.

She’s singlehandedly cooked 1,000 meals a week since the pandemic’s start — an act of love she’s content to perform with little compensation.

Moreau, a 60-year-old widow who lives with her children, nephew and three grandchildren, cooks in the kitchen of a home built by Habitat for Humanity in 2017.

Her days are arduous. She works part-time as a janitor at a technical school, walking or taking the bus. But the work of her heart, the reason she rises each morning, is feeding the hungry.

As a little girl in Haiti, she often pilfered food from her parents’ pantry — some dried rice and beans, maybe an onion or an ear of corn — to give to someone who needed it.

Her mother was furious, constantly scolding and threatening Moreau, even telling the priest to refuse to give her communion. But she was not deterred.

“I told her, ‘You can whup me today, you can whup me tomorrow, but I’m going to continue to do it.’”

Decades later, Moreau is still feeding the hungry.

Read the story here.

—Kelli Kennedy, The Associated Press
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COVID-19 patients moved abroad as Czech hospitals struggle

With record numbers of COVID-19 patients filling up intensive care units in the Czech Republic, the first patient to be moved outside of the country was transported to southern Poland on Tuesday.

The 68-year old woman was moved to Raciborz in Poland from a clinic in the town of Usti nad Orlici, in the Pardubice region. Foreign Minister Tomas Petricek said six other patients from a different region should be taken to Germany.

To cope with the surge attributed to a highly contagious coronavirus variant, the Czech Republic activated a plan to move dozens of its patients to hospitals in Germany, Poland and Switzerland.

The nation of 10.7 million has had over 1.3 million confirmed cases with 22,147 deaths. It currently has the highest per-capita infection rate in the EU, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

Florida couple claiming to be farmers plead guilty to $1 million pandemic scam

A South Florida couple claiming to be farmers working the land on two tiny suburban lots as they raked in federal COVID-19 relief funds pleaded guilty Monday to a fraud scheme.

Latoya Stanley and Johnny Philus hauled in more than $1 million in Small Business Administration loans while lying that they were struggling to operate not only a couple of nonexistent suburban farms but also a beauty supply store and an auto leasing business, according to authorities.

Stanley, 38, and Philus, 33, were arrested in August and charged with committing wire fraud and making false statements when they applied for SBA loans under a federal program that provides financial assistance to businesses ailing from the impact of coronavirus pandemic.

Read the story here.

—Jay Weaver ,The Miami Herald

Mexico to rely heavily on Chinese vaccines

Mexico announced a huge bet on Chinese vaccines Tuesday, without making public any information about their efficacy.

Foreign Relations Secretary Marcelo Ebrard said the Mexican government has signed agreements for 12 million doses of the yet-unapproved Sinopharm vaccine and increased to a total of 20 million doses its contracts for the Coronavac dose made by China’s Sinovac.

The total doses dwarf the estimated 5 million vaccine doses Mexico has acquired so far from other sources.

Sinopharm has claimed its vaccine was 79% effective based on interim data from clinical trials, but like other Chinese firms, it has not publicly released its late-stage clinical trial data.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press
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Tell us your pandemic reunion stories

In this photo taken May 17, 2020, Kris Browning, right, stands in Canada and holds hands with her husband, Tim Browning, in the U.S., at the border near Lynden, Wash. With the border closed to nonessential travel amid the global pandemic, families and couples across the continent have found themselves cut off from loved ones on the other side. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
In this photo taken May 17, 2020, Kris Browning, right, stands in Canada and holds hands with her husband, Tim Browning, in the U.S., at the border near Lynden, Wash. With the border closed to nonessential travel amid the global pandemic, families and couples across the continent have found themselves cut off from loved ones on the other side. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Now that Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines say it's OK for vaccinated grandparents and other family members to see their loved ones for the first time in a year, we want to mark the celebration.

Let us know what your reunion plans are, and whether you'd be willing to let us chronicle the happy moments. And if you've already reunited, let us know how long the hugs lasted.

Read the story here.

—Nicole Brodeur

Showbox manager keeps her staff fed by sending groceries

Showbox Assistant General Manager Shannon Welles used donations from patrons to buy groceries for 60 members of the staff. Volunteers packed groceries and delivered them just before the February snowstorm.  (Courtesy Shannon Welles)
Showbox Assistant General Manager Shannon Welles used donations from patrons to buy groceries for 60 members of the staff. Volunteers packed groceries and delivered them just before the February snowstorm. (Courtesy Shannon Welles)

Caroline Anne has worked in music since she was 14. Even when she was recovering from surgery to remove a tumor, she worked in security at the Showbox. Couldn’t keep her out of the place.

And then the pandemic hit, closing the doors of the storied music venue and many others. For the first time in her life, Anne found herself on unemployment and in need of the help she would never admit to needing.

It came in the form of groceries — lots of them — and through the generosity of the very people she used to keep an eye on: Showbox patrons, who bought music-themed masks and prints as part of a fundraiser; and local restaurants, grocery chains and farms who donated food.

The grocery donations — restaurant-sized cans of tomatoes, beans, pasta, peanut butter, cheese, eggs and fresh produce — were organized by Shannon Welles, who has been the Showbox’s assistant general manager for 19 years.

Read the story here.

—Nicole Brodeur

Provincial Italian hospital overrun by virus variant

Nurses prepare to enter the ICU at the Mellino Mellini hospital in Chiari, northern Italy, Monday, March 8, 2021. The 160-bed hospital in the Po River Valley town of Chiari has no more beds for patients stricken with the highly contagious variant of COVID-19 first identified in Britain, and which now has put hospitals in Italy’s northern Brescia province on high alert. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)
Nurses prepare to enter the ICU at the Mellino Mellini hospital in Chiari, northern Italy, Monday, March 8, 2021. The 160-bed hospital in the Po River Valley town of Chiari has no more beds for patients stricken with the highly contagious variant of COVID-19 first identified in Britain, and which now has put hospitals in Italy’s northern Brescia province on high alert. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

The 160-bed hospital in the Po River Valley town of Chiari has no more room for patients stricken with the highly contagious variant of COVID-19 first identified in Britain that has put hospitals in Italy’s northern Brescia province on high alert.

That history was repeating itself one year after Lombardy became the epicenter of Italy’s pandemic was a sickening realization for Dr. Gabriele Zanolini, who runs the COVID-19 ward in the M. Mellini Hospital in the once-walled city that maintains its medieval circular street pattern.

The U.K. variant surge has filled 90% of hospital beds in Brescia province, bordering both Veneto and Emilia-Romagna regions, as Italy crossed the grim threshold of 100,000 pandemic dead on Monday and marks the one-year anniversary Wednesday of Italy’s draconian lockdown, the first in the West.

Read the story here.

—Colleen Barry, The Associated Press
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U.S. airline fliers top 1 million-a-day pace, a pandemic rarity

U.S. airlines carried an average of more than 1 million passengers a day in the past week, the highest non-holiday total since the covid-19 pandemic began gutting travel demand in the country almost a year ago.

Sunday’s total of 1.28 million was the third highest since travel collapsed in mid-March 2020, according to data reported by the Transportation Security Administration.

The airline industry remains depressed compared to before the pandemic with passenger volumes still 56% below the same week in 2019, according to the Airlines for America trade group.

Read the story here.

—Alan Levin, Bloomberg

Cow cuddling has become a thing for lonely hearts in the pandemic

James Higgins, who runs the Krishna Cow Sanctuary in Hawaii, cuddles with Uma. (Krishna Cow Sanctuary handout photo).
James Higgins, who runs the Krishna Cow Sanctuary in Hawaii, cuddles with Uma. (Krishna Cow Sanctuary handout photo).

Renee Behinfar lives alone in Scottsdale, Ariz. The pandemic has been painfully isolating for her and has left her longing for warmth and touch.

On a recent afternoon, she finally was smothered in long-awaited hugs – by a 2,000-pound cow.

“It was really my first real hug of the year,” said Behinfar, 43, a psychologist who sought out bovine comfort with a friend.

When Sammy the cow, who was rescued from a dairy farm, laid her head in Behinfar’s lap and fell asleep, Behinfar began to cry. The pandemic, she said, has been a time of unprecedented loneliness.

“In the end, I really didn’t want to let her go,” Behinfar said.

People are signing up to hug cows at sanctuaries across the country, many desperate for affection as the nation approaches a full year of social distancing during the pandemic.

Read the story here.

—Kellie B. Gormly, The Washington Post

Catch up on the past 24 hours

If you've had your vaccine, the CDC has a message for you: You can gather with other vaccinated people indoors without a mask or social distancing. The new guidance, which also addresses coming together with unvaccinated people (like grandkids), is a hopeful glimpse of the pandemic's next phase. Here's a quick look at what vaccinated people should and shouldn't do.

Does the CDC's guidance mean a sweet reunion for you? We'd love to tell these happy stories, and we hope you'll share them.

Women are reporting worse side effects after vaccination, at least in part because of differences in men's and women's immune systems.

The Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe and the Port Angeles School District created a unique learning center after the pandemic hit, wrapping kids in normalcy and helping raise their grades. Now they're planning to keep it open beyond the pandemic. Take a look inside; the photos are lovely.

The "happiest place on Earth" is awfully unhappy for workers these days. Disney World employees are getting spit on, yelled at and pushed as they try to enforce COVID-19 safety rules.

—Kris Higginson
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Ask in the form below and we'll dig for answers. If you're using a mobile device and can't see the form on this page, ask your question here. If you have specific medical questions, please contact your doctor.