Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Tuesday, May 11, 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 It is no longer being updated.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 COVID-19 vaccinations continue to roll out for American adults, some shots could be approved for children as young as 12 this week, as U.S. regulators on Monday expanded the use of Pfizer’s vaccine. But makers of Novavax, the latest experimental vaccine in the United States, have announced they probably won’t seek emergency use authorization until July at the earliest.
In Washington, hospitalizations for COVID-19 are flattening after rising to alarming levels as recently as two weeks ago — though the numbers are still higher than desired.
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.
US job openings soar to highest level on record
WASHINGTON — U.S. employers posted a record number of available jobs in March, illustrating starkly the desperation of businesses trying to find new workers as the country emerges from the pandemic and the economy expands.
Yet total job gains increased only modestly, according to a Labor Department report issued Tuesday. The figures follow an April jobs report last week that was far weaker than expected, largely because companies appear unable to find the workers they need, even with the unemployment rate elevated at 6.1%.
Job openings rose nearly 8%, to 8.1 million in March, the most on records dating back to December 2000, the government said. Yet overall hiring that month rose less than 4% to 6 million. The hiring number is a gross figure, while the government’s jobs report — which said 770,000 jobs were added in March — uses a net total. Tuesday’s report is known as the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, or JOLTS.
A separate survey of small businesses by the National Federation of Independent Business found that 44% had jobs they couldn’t fill, also a record high.
Europe’s rights body fears virus measures hurting democracy
ATHENS, Greece — Europe’s leading human rights body warned Tuesday that threats to democratic rights and personal freedoms have worsened during the pandemic, with some governments using health restrictions as a pretext to advance undemocratic political agendas.
In a 148-page report lamenting a state of “democracy in distress,” the Council of Europe said several countries where safeguards for the judiciary and other institutions were already under threat had been further eroded in 2020.
It highlighted a “clear and worrying degree of democratic backsliding,” said Marija Pejcinovic Buric, the council’s secretary-general. “The danger is that our democratic culture will not fully recover.”
Based in Strasbourg, France, the Council of Europe was created after World War II to protect human and democratic rights and its membership expanded to include Russia and many formerly Communist states. It’s not a European Union institution.
Among countries cited for undemocratic practices were Russia, Turkey, Moldova, Hungary, and Azerbaijan. The practices included intimidation and arbitrary detention of government critics, journalists and members of civil society, as well as changes to the judiciary that were seen as threats to its independence.
Some consumer-friendly air purifiers destroy the coronavirus, and they have FDA certification to prove it
Scribner’s Catskill Lodge in Hunter, N.Y., was one in a nationwide sea of hotel establishments to temporarily close last year when the pandemic wiped out tourism and travel.
Between mid-March and June, the hotel’s managers did what many other closed hospitality establishments did — focused on a reopening strategy involving deep cleanings, temperature checks and other coronavirus-related safety precautions. As shutdown restrictions eased, the hotel reopened in time for summer travelers, but rooms were held vacant for 48 hours between guests. Each room has built-in cooling systems, and staff would turn the fans on full blast, hoping to send stray respiratory droplets out the window before the next vacationer was set to arrive.
“Air quality was something we were really concerned about,” said Kate Lala, director of operations at the redesigned 1960s motor lodge.
Now the hotel thinks it has found a better way. While researching novel disinfecting methods, Lala stumbled across an air purifier brand that promised to do what most others couldn’t — suck the virus in and kill it, rather than collecting the germs and possibly recirculating them.
US casinos match best quarter ever; post-COVID hopes rise
ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — America’s commercial casinos matched their best quarter ever in the first three months of this year, as customers continued returning amid the COVID-19 pandemic and internet and sports betting money helped boost revenue numbers.
Figures released Tuesday by the American Gaming Association, the casino industry’s national trade group, show the nation’s commercial casinos took in over $11.1 billion in the first quarter of this year.
That matched the industry’s best quarter in history, the third quarter of 2019. The figures do not include tribal casinos.
And March was a particularly good month: 12 states reported their highest-ever levels of monthly gambling revenue.
The 2021 first-quarter revenue numbers represented a nearly 18% increase over the first quarter of 2020, when the pandemic began to take hold nationwide, and an increase of more than 4% from the first quarter of 2019, before the pandemic began.
Brazil to vaccinate athletes, coaches for Tokyo Olympics
SAO PAULO — Brazil’s government is about to start delivering COVID-19 vaccines to athletes, coaches, referees and accredited media headed for the Olympics and Paralympic Games in Tokyo.
Health Minister Marcelo Queiroga told a news conference Tuesday that Brazil will use 4,050 doses of the Pfizer shot and another 8,000 from Chinese pharmaceutical company Sinovac.
“We will vaccinate our Olympic athletes and coaches to ensure they can perform very well in their capacities and bring many medals,” Queiroga said.
He estimates 1,814 people will be vaccinated to go to Japan, with any remaining doses to be given to the public health care system.
The athlete vaccination program will begin Wednesday and will be conducted in Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Fortaleza. It follows similar measures being undertaken by countries including the United States, Britain and Australia.
Tokyo Olympic torch relay pulled off streets in Hiroshima
The Tokyo Olympic torch relay is being pulled off the streets in Hiroshima prefecture as COVID-19 cases rise in Japan barely 10 weeks before the opening ceremony.
Hiroshima Governor Hidehiko Yuzaki said that a ceremony next week without the relay is likely to still take place. This is at least the sixth change to the relay — from rerouting to cancellation — in the last several weeks.
Organizers warned before the relay began that changes and delays were expected in the face of the pandemic.
‘Kitten Season’ is coming to Puget Sound. It’s going to be a big year, thanks to the pandemic
Kitten season is coming to Puget Sound, and experts say it’s going to be a boom year.
Two factors — the weather and the pandemic — have created a “perfect storm,” according to Seattle Humane adoption program manager Melody Stone. The mild winter allowedcats to get out and mingle, while pandemic-related restrictions have prevented people from getting their pets neutered and spayed.
“There are a lot of kittens in our shelter, and there’s going to be a lot more that are going to be coming,” Stone said.
While an aggressive spaying and neutering campaign has kept the local cat population at bay, other areas haven’t had such luck, according to the Progressive Animal Welfare Society.
Many kittens will be coming from partner agencies outside of Puget Sound and Washington state, PAWS Cat City manager Rebecca Oertel said.
Washington state won’t yet consider a COVID-19 vaccine mandate in schools
Washington officials who oversee the state’s immunization policies in schools won’t consider a requirement to mandate COVID-19 vaccines in schoolchildren until a vaccine is fully approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, state officials said this week.
The FDA on Monday signed off on emergency use of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in 12- to 15-year-olds, opening a new chapter in the nation’s vaccine rollout; more than 370,000 Washington teens and adolescents are in this age group, the state’s secretary of health, Umair Shah, said Tuesday. Teens ages 16 and up are already eligible, but immunizing younger adolescents and teenagers could be critical to returning to some sense of normality in schools nationwide.
Like the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, the two other vaccines available here — from Moderna and Johnson & Johnson — were also streamlined by the FDA for emergency use in response to the public health crisis. Vaccines undergo rigorous review before they’re fully approved, but the FDA can allow use under so-called “emergency use authorization” in instances when vaccines meet certain criteria and there are no approved alternatives.
Until a COVID-19 vaccine is formally approved, however, officials from the Washington State Board of Health — the board that oversees state vaccine policies — say they won’t consider adding it to the list of required immunizations.
Washington state health officials confirm 1,277 new coronavirus cases
The state Department of Health (DOH) reported 1,277 new coronavirus cases and 7 new deaths on Tuesday.
The update brings the state's totals to 416,930 cases and 5,593 deaths, meaning that 1.3% 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-related deaths aren’t reported on the weekends.
The new cases may include up to 200 duplicates, according to DOH.
In addition, 22,954 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the virus — 27 new hospitalizations. In King County, the state's most populous, state health officials have confirmed a total of 105,690 COVID-19 diagnoses and 1,538 deaths.
Since vaccinations began in mid-December, the state and health care providers have administered 2,080,607 doses and 34.26% of Washingtonians have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to vaccination data, which the state updates on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Providers are currently giving an average of about 44,190 vaccine shots per day.
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. State health officials recommend reviewing the dashboard's epidemiologic curves tab for the most accurate representation of the state's COVID-19 spread.
Younger adolescents get ready to receive COVID-19 vaccine
Parents, schools and vaccine clinics rushed to begin inoculating younger adolescents Tuesday after U.S. regulators endorsed Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for children as young as 12, a decision seen as a breakthrough in allowing classroom instruction to resume safely around the country.
A handful of cities started offering shots to children ages 12 to 15 less than a day after the Food and Drug Administration gave the vaccine emergency use authorization for that age group.
Most communities were waiting for a federal advisory committee that meets Wednesday to sign off on the move, while anxious families called clinics and pharmacies to ask about the soonest appointments.
CDC director encourages parents to get children vaccinated
During a Senate hearing Tuesday, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky urged parents to vaccinate their children now that federal officials have authorized the Pfizer-BioNTech shots for children as young as 12.
The Food and Drug Administration cleared the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine for emergency use in children as young as 12 on Monday, expanding access to the vaccine before next school year. Walensky said she knew some parents wanted to wait and see how the administration of shots to children goes, but she urged children to ask for the vaccine if their parents were hesitant.
“I would encourage all parents to get their children vaccinated. I know many parents are enthusiastic and have been texting me,” Walensky told the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. “Some parents want to be first, but I’m also encouraging children to ask for the vaccine. I have a 16-year-old myself, and I can tell you he wanted to get the vaccine. He wants his life back. These kids want to go back to school.”
AAA sees a huge jump in travel over Memorial Day weekend
U.S. highways will be far busier over the Memorial Day holiday weekend than last year, but traffic still won’t reach pre-pandemic levels, according to a forecast by the AAA auto club.
AAA officials say travel will increase because more Americans have been vaccinated against COVID-19 — about one-third of U.S. adults — and consumer confidence is growing.
The auto club and insurance company said Tuesday it expects more than 37 million people to travel at least 50 miles from home during the holiday weekend, up 60% from last year, which was the lowest since AAA began keeping records in 2000.
If the AAA forecast is right, however, it would still be 6 million people, or 13%, fewer than left home over Memorial Day in 2019.
AAA said 34 million Americans plan driving trips between May 27 and May 31, a 52% increase over last year, and nearly 2.5 million will take plane trips, nearly six times more than the same period in 2020. A small number will take buses or trains.
Biden announces Uber, Lyft rides amid July 4 vaccine push
President Joe Biden is highlighting new programs from ride-sharing companies Uber and Lyft to provide free rides to and from vaccination sites, as the pace of shots nationally declines and he looks to meet his July Fourth inoculation targets.
The partnership with the ride-sharing companies marks the latest in a series of government-encouraged efforts to increase access to shots.
Biden set a new goal last week of delivering at least one dose of vaccine to 70% of adult Americans by Independence Day.
Deadly ‘black fungus’ cases add to India’s COVID crisis
As coronavirus cases and deaths soared in India recently, doctors began to notice another disturbing trend. Some COVID-19 patients who had been released from hospitals were coming back with different symptoms, including sinus pain, blurred vision, black and bloody nasal discharge and a dark discoloration around the nose.
The culprit was a deadly fungal infection called mucormycosis that physicians say is increasingly preying on people with immune systems weakened by COVID-19 and the steroids used to treat it.
Though cases of the black fungus remain rare, its lethality and increasing prevalence have prompted government warnings, put doctors on high alert and added to the country’s health crisis.
Cue the lights: Broadway is back Sept. 14 with ‘Hamilton,’ ‘The Lion King’ and more
In September, Broadway is going from zero to 100. A passel of productions – including such long-running megahits as “The Lion King,” “Wicked” and “Hamilton” – have announced they are returning Sept. 14 or a bit later, and at 100 percent of conventional capacity.
Producers of “The Phantom of the Opera,” “Chicago,” “Come From Away” and “Tina: The Turner Musical” also have detailed their comeback plans, with tickets already on sale for many of them. Other musicals announcing their return between late September and the end of the year: “Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations,””Company” and “Mrs. Doubtfire.”
But the nail-biting uncertainty: With all of this happening at once, will box offices go nuts, or go bust?
The announcements follow the decision last week by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to remove, as of May 19, nearly all of the state’s capacity restrictions on indoor gatherings for retail stories, movie theaters, hair salons, museums – and Broadway. Although the timing took many producers by surprise, Cuomo’s action lit an immediate fuse, and an explosion soon followed of declarations that Broadway shows would be coming back.
Is It COVID or the flu? New combo tests can find out
In January, a man in his 60s with heart disease and diabetes went to a South Dakota hospital with a cough and fever, worried he had COVID. A nurse swabbed the inside of his nose, and the sample went into a small device resembling an inkjet-printer cartridge, which was then placed into a machine about the size of a printer.
This so-called quad test, now available at thousands of hospitals and clinics around the country, could detect not only the coronavirus, but two types of influenza and the respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV. A little more than a half-hour later, Dr. Blake Gustafson had the patient’s result: He had the flu.
“I remember giving myself a fist bump like, ‘Yes! It’s not COVID. It’s the flu,’” said Gustafson, chief of emergency medicine of the Sanford USD Medical Center in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. He relayed the news to the patient and his wife, happily adding that there was a treatment he could offer right away, Tamiflu. “The relief in their eyes above their masks was very satisfying,” Gustafson said.
The patient’s situation was somewhat unusual this past winter given that the United States, like many other countries, witnessed a shocking absence of a flu season. But as the country begins to reopen, doctors say that flu and other pathogens might make a comeback this autumn.
Brazil halts AstraZeneca shots for pregnant women after reported death
Brazil’s health regulator recommended officials stop giving AstraZeneca Plc’s Covid-19 shots to pregnant women as authorities investigate the reported death of a woman in Rio de Janeiro who had received the vaccine.
On Tuesday, the Health Ministry said in an emailed note that it was notified by Rio de Janeiro officials of the incident and is looking into the alleged death which was first reported by newspaper Folha de Sao Paulo.
AstraZeneca is one of two shots more widely available in the country, home to 212 million people.
US schools fight to keep students amid fear of dropout surge
U.S. educators are doing everything they can to track down high school students who stopped showing up to classes and to help them get the credits needed to graduate, amid an anticipated surge in the country’s dropout rate during the coronavirus pandemic.
There isn’t data available yet on how the pandemic has affected the nation’s overall dropout rate — 2019 is the last year for which it is available — and many school officials say it’s too early to know how many students who stopped logging on for distance learning don’t plan to return. But soaring numbers of students who are failing classes or are chronically absent have experts fearing the worst, and schools have been busy tracking down wayward seniors through social media, knocking on their doors, assigning staff to help them make up for lost time and, in some cases, even relaxing graduation requirements.
“When students drop out, they typically look for an out, an opportunity to leave. And this has provided that, unfortunately,” Sandy Addis, chairman of the National Dropout Prevention Center, said recently, referring to the pandemic. His group believes the dropout rate has spiked this year and will remain high for years.
Department of Corrections resumes in-person visitation
In-person visits to loved ones at Washington State Department of Corrections facilities resumed this week, according to a news release from the DOC.
Approved visitors must go online to schedule visits, which will initially be allowed for one hour once per month per visitor, according to the news release. The guidelines are intended to allow visits for as many clients as possible while maintaining safety and sanitation standards to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the department said.
All visitors must pass an in-person COVID-19 screening, including temperature checks, at the facility prior to visiting. Visiting stations will be sanitized in between each session.
The DOC shut down in-person visits in March 2020 when the COVID-19 outbreak hit the region. More information is available here.
Scores of dead bodies found floating in India’s Ganges River
Scores of dead bodies have been found floating down the Ganges River in eastern India as the country battles a ferocious surge in coronavirus infections. Authorities said Tuesday they haven’t yet determined the cause of death.
Health officials working through the night Monday retrieved 71 bodies, officials in Bihar state said.
Images on social media of the bodies floating in the river prompted outrage and speculation that they died from COVID-19. Authorities performed post mortems on Tuesday but said they could not confirm the cause of death due to the decomposition of the bodies.
One resident of Ghazipur said villagers didn’t have enough wood to cremate their dead on land so bodies were being buried in the river.
Mexico: Russia’s Sputnik V shortages mean limited 2nd doses
Russian authorities have been having so many problems producing second doses of their Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine that Russia probably will be unable to supply enough to people who already got the first dose, Mexican officials said Monday.
It’s the latest account of production problems for Sputnik V, which the Russian government has been promising to other countries but has not been able to supply in sufficient quantities.
Sputnik is unusual among coronavirus vaccines in that the two doses are different and not interchangeable.
Mexico has so far received only 1.9 million Sputnik V doses, out of a total of 24 million it has signed a contract for.
Global cases are falling, but virus surging in countries that had kept it under control
After a record-breaking tear, global coronavirus cases and deaths are falling as the virus recedes in the West. But world leaders and experts warn that the world is rapidly dividing: Wealthy nations well stocked with COVID vaccines are gaining control of the virus while it continues to run rampant in other parts of the world, pummeling India and flaring in Southeast Asian countries that had been fending it off.
New global cases are leveling off after rising steadily since March and peaking in late April, but the world is in danger as long as they remain at “an unacceptably high plateau,” the director general of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said Monday.
Scientists warn that if the virus is allowed to spread unchecked in parts of the world with lower vaccine coverage, dangerous variants will continue to evolve, threatening all countries.
“Globally, we are still in a perilous situation,” Tedros said. About 783,000 new cases are reported on average each day globally, nearly half in India, where a virus variant, B.1.617, has been spreading.
Poll: Most in US who remain unvaccinated need convincing
Fewer Americans are reluctant to get a COVID-19 vaccine than just a few months ago, but questions about side effects and how the shots were tested still hold some back, according to a new poll that highlights the challenges at a pivotal moment in the U.S. vaccination campaign.
Just 11% of people who remain unvaccinated say they definitely will get the shot, while 34% say they definitely won’t, according to the poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.
That leaves a large swath of Americans in the middle who might still roll up their sleeves — including 27% who say they probably will and 27% who say they probably won’t — if someone credible addressed their concerns. That’s where National Institutes of Health immunologist Kizzmekia Corbett comes in.
Corbett helped lead development of the Moderna shot, and she spends hours giving plain-spoken answers to questions from Americans — especially Black Americans like her — to counter misinformation about the three vaccines used in the U.S.
Catch up on the past 24 hours
Medical teams are working on plans to vaccinate youth ages 12 to 15, welcome news for many families eager for a return to normalcy. The FDA yesterday authorized Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine and detailed its side effects in that age group. Shots could start as soon as a CDC advisory committee issues recommendations, expected tomorrow. Meanwhile, hospitalizations in our state are flattening, and other trends may be showing signs of improving. Learn where to find shots in our guide to getting a vaccine.
Is it COVID-19 or the flu? With flu season possibly on the way back, new combination tests can find out.
Dracula’s castle turns out to be an ideal setting for vaccinations, complete with the fangs.