Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Wednesday, May 12, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.

Although cases of coronavirus are falling and vaccination efforts are ramping up globally, world leaders and experts are warning that while wealthy nations well stocked with COVID shots are gaining control of the virus, it continues to run rampant in other parts of the world.

In the United States, a handful of cities started offering shots to children ages 12 to 15 Tuesday, less than a day after the Food and Drug Administration gave the vaccine emergency use authorization for that age group. Still, many states, including Washington, aren’t yet considering a vaccine mandate in schools.

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.

Today, we’ve updated our daily coronavirus graphic to include more information about vaccinations in Washington state, including vaccinations by age group and county, as well as the percent of eligible people vaccinated. This new info will help our readers track the rollout of vaccines, a key effort in the fight against COVID-19. We’ve also removed data on the status of testing, hospitalizations and cumulative county-by-county case counts, as those metrics have become less helpful on a daily basis. We are continuing to include trends over time in reported cases and total deaths. As the pandemic shifts, we may bring back some removed metrics, or add others, as we find the best balance of information for our readers.

Navigating the pandemic
(Jennifer Luxton / The Seattle Times)

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When can 12- to 15-year-olds get Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine in Washington state? Here’s what we know

Customer service floor manager Terry McMahon tells 13-year-old Emmett O’Donnell to just look at him, not at the doctor or the needle, as Dr. Diane Timberlake gives him a shot of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at Lumen Field on Wednesday. Some providers began administering doses of the vaccine to younger people after the FDA approved the shot for 12- to 15-year-olds earlier this week. (Ellen M. Banner / The Seattle Times)

Young Washingtonians forced to live portions of their formative years in front of computer screens rather than in school hallways could soon have license to new freedoms.

Some 378,000 Washingtonians ages 12 to 15 are now eligible for the two-dose Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, with many on Wednesday getting their first shots.

For these adolescents, it could be a gateway to a more normal summer.

And for their parents, vaccination could offer peace of mind and maybe even a respite — “a little space” — from their beloved offspring, said Michele Roberts, the state’s acting assistant secretary of health in charge of the vaccine rollout, eager to vaccinate kids of her own.

The Food and Drug Administration gave emergency authorization for use of this vaccine in 12- to 15-year-olds on Monday. An independent committee of experts advising the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention met on Wednesday and voted to recommend the vaccine for these children.

The advisers to the CDC unanimously found that the benefits of the vaccine outweighed any potential risks. A clinical trial found the vaccine had 100% efficacy against symptomatic COVID-19 for children ages 12 to 15.

Read the full story here.

—Evan Bush, Paige Cornwell and Ryan Blethen
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They haven’t gotten a COVID vaccine yet. But they aren’t ‘hesitant’ either.

The slowdown in vaccinations across the country has often been attributed to a blend of misinformation and mistrust among Americans known as “vaccine hesitancy.” But emerging is an overlooked but sizable group whose reasons for remaining unvaccinated are not about opposition to the shots or even skepticism about them.

According to a new U.S. census estimate, some 30 million American adults who are open to getting a COVID vaccine have not yet managed to actually do so. Their ranks are larger than the hesitant — more than 28 million who said they would probably or definitely not get vaccinated, and the 16 million who said they were unsure. And this month, as the Biden administration set a goal of 70% of adults getting at least one dose by July 4, they became an official new focus of the nation’s mass vaccination campaign.

In addition to “the doubters,” President Joe Biden said at a press briefing last week, the mission is to get the vaccine to those who are “just not sure how to get to where they want to go.”

If the attention has centered on the vaccine hesitant, these are the vaccine amenable. In interviews, their stated reasons for not getting vaccines are disparate, complex and sometimes shifting.

They are, for the most part, America’s working class, contending with jobs and family obligations that make for scarce discretionary time.

—The New York Times

Wealthy nations once lauded as successes lag in vaccinations

WELLINGTON, New Zealand — Some wealthy nations that were most praised last year for controlling the coronavirus are now lagging far behind in getting their people vaccinated — and some, especially in Asia, are seeing COVID-19 cases grow.

In Japan, South Korea and New Zealand, the vaccination rates are languishing in the single figures. That is in sharp contrast to the U.S., where nearly half of all people have gotten at least one shot, and Britain and Israel, where rates are even higher.

Not only do those three Pacific countries rank worst among all developed nations in vaccinating against COVID-19, they also rank below many developing countries such as Brazil and India, according to national figures and the online scientific publication Our World in Data.

Australia, which isn’t providing a full breakdown of its vaccination numbers, is also performing comparatively poorly, as are several other places initially considered standout successes in battling the virus, including Thailand, Vietnam and Taiwan.

That could change as vaccination campaigns gather pace and supplies loosen. But meanwhile, previously successful countries are being left exposed to the virus and face longer delays in reopening to the world.

—Associated Press

CNN’s Sanjay Gupta worries about a muddled pandemic message

NEW YORK — At this stage in the pandemic, CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta is concerned that Americans are not getting clear enough messages about what they should or shouldn’t be doing to keep themselves and others protected.

Should people still be wearing a mask outside? (He doesn’t.) What can a vaccinated person do that an unvaccinated person shouldn’t? Is it safe to eat inside at a restaurant? (Not if it’s full, he believes.)

The veteran CNN chief medical correspondent — who produced and narrated a documentary about the race to develop a vaccine airing this weekend — said government medical experts have sacrificed clarity in an attempt to be comprehensive at a time vaccines are changing the outbreak’s picture.

Right now you have people on both extremes: those who won’t let down their guard, or masks, despite 115 million Americans now fully vaccinated, and those who say “you guys don’t know what you’re talking about, so I’m not going to abide by any of these guidelines,” he said.

—Associated Press
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ZooTunes is back, with its first summer 2021 concerts lined up

Seattle’s Naked Giants (left to right, Gianni Aiello, Henry LaVallee and Grant Mullen) are among the local bands featured in the 2021 ZooTunes lineup.  (Grayson Whitmire)

After a year of virtually no live music, signs of live shows are popping up. The latest: Woodland Park Zoo’s popular ZooTunes, which this week announced a partial lineup of summer concerts.

The zoo is partnering this year with Seattle radio station KEXP, which is curating a lineup of local musicians. On the schedule so far:

  • The Posies, July 18
  • Naked Giants, Aug. 8
  • Polyrhythmics, Aug. 25

Tickets for those shows go on sale May 21 at zoo.org/zootunes.

Seven more artists, to be announced at a later date, will be added to the lineup, according to a zoo spokesperson.

Read the full story here.

—Seattle Times staff

Australia signs deal for 25 million Moderna COVID-19 doses

CANBERRA, Australia — Australia has reached a supply agreement for 25 million doses of Moderna COVID-19 vaccines, the U.S.-based biotechnology company and the prime minister said Thursday.

The deal included 10 million doses of the vaccine against the ancestral strain to be delivered in 2021 and 15 million doses of an updated variant booster to be delivered in 2022, Moderna said in a statement.

The vaccines have yet to be approved by the Australian regulator, the Therapeutic Goods Administration. Pfizer and AstraZeneca are the only other coronavirus vaccines approved for use in Australia. All three vaccines require two doses.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he expected the first Moderna vaccines to arrive in Australia in the last three months of 2021.

—Associated Press

World’s most vaccinated nation spooked by spike in coronavirus cases

Marie Neige, a call center operator in Seychelles, was eager to be vaccinated. Like the majority of the residents in the tiny island nation, she was offered China’s Sinopharm vaccine in March, and was looking forward to the idea of being fully protected in a few weeks.

On Sunday, she tested positive for the coronavirus.

“I was shocked,” said Neige, 30, who is isolating at home. She said she has lost her sense of smell and taste and has a slightly sore throat. “The vaccine was supposed to protect us — not from the virus, but the symptoms,” she said. “I was taking precaution after precaution.”

China expected its Sinopharm vaccines to be the linchpin of the country’s vaccine diplomacy program — an easily transported dose that would protect not just Chinese citizens but also much of the developing world. In a bid to win goodwill, China has donated 13.3 million Sinopharm doses to other countries, according to Bridge Beijing, a consultancy that tracks China’s impact on global health.

Instead, the company, which has made two varieties of coronavirus vaccines, is facing mounting questions about the inoculations. 

—The New York Times
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California likely to keep some mask mandates, governor says

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California is likely to have “guidelines and mandates” for wearing masks indoors after the state fully reopens next month, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Wednesday, appearing to walk back comments from the previous day that indicated masks would be gone in nearly all situations.

California’s mask requirements took effect in June 2020. Last month, Newsom announced he would lift most restrictions on business and activities on June 15 if the state’s coronavirus cases remained low but said masks orders would stay in effect.

Then, in an interview Tuesday, he said California once the state fully reopens it will look “a lot like the world we entered into before the pandemic.”

“We’re not wearing face coverings. We’re not restricted in any way, shape or form from doing the old things that we used to do, save for huge, large-scale indoor convention events like that, where we use our common sense,” Newsom said in an interview with Fox 11 in Los Angeles, adding there will be “no mandates” and “no restrictions on businesses large and small.”

A day later, while touting billions more for K-12 education in Monterey, he altered his words, saying the state “will still have likely some mask guidelines and mandates” for indoor activities.

—Associated Press

Ohio to give $1M away to 5 vaccinated adults, 5 full-ride college scholarships

Ohio will give away $1 million prizes to five adults, plus an additional five full-ride public college scholarships to teens who get vaccinated against COVID-19, Gov. Mike DeWine said Wednesday during a statewide televised address.

Calling it “Ohio Vax-a-Million,” DeWine said drawings will be held for five consecutive Wednesdays, starting May 26, to pick the $1 million winners. The winners will be pulled from the Ohio Secretary of State’s voter registration database.

The Ohio Lottery will conduct the drawings but the money will come from existing federal coronavirus relief funds.

To be eligible, you must be 18 or older, an Ohio resident and vaccinated before the drawing.

DeWine said 12- to 17-year-olds can sign up for the scholarship drawing via an electronic portal that will open May 18. Drawings will be held for five straight Wednesdays to select one student to receive the scholarship, which will cover tuition, room-and-board and books.

—The Columbus Dispatch

Slovakia plans to keeping using AstraZeneca despite pause

Slovakia’s Prime Minister Eduard Heger receives his first AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccination at the National Soccer Stadium in Bratislava, Slovakia, Saturday, May 1, 2021. The AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine should remain part of Slovakia’s vaccination program the country’s Health Minister said on Wednesday, May 12. Slovakia on Tuesday halted use of the two-shot AstraZeneca vaccine after Slovakia’s State Institute for Drug Control concluded last week that the death of a 47-year-old woman who received the AstraZeneca was “likely” linked to the vaccine. (Jakub Kotian/TASR via AP)

Slovakia’s health minister says he plans to keep AstraZeneca in the country’s vaccine arsenal, speaking a day after the country suspended use of the shots after a recipient died.

Slovakia on Tuesday halted use of the two-shot AstraZeneca vaccine after its State Institute for Drug Control concluded last week that the death of a 47-year-old woman who received the AstraZeneca was “likely” linked to the vaccine.

AstraZeneca is still being administered, however, to those who have already gotten the first dose and are awaiting a second shot. It’s currently being given to people between the ages of 18 and 44.

Health Minister Vladimir Lengvarsky said the main reason, for the suspension was that Slovakia does not have enough AstraZeneca shots to continue their administration.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press
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Washington state health officials confirm 1,301 new coronavirus cases

The state Department of Health (DOH) reported 1,301 new coronavirus cases and 21 new deaths on Wednesday.

The update brings the state's totals to 418,020 cases and 5,614 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. Tuesday.

The new cases may include up to 300 duplicates, according to DOH.

In addition, 23,019 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the virus — 65 new hospitalizations. In King County, the state's most populous, state health officials have confirmed a total of 105,967 COVID-19 diagnoses and 1,541 deaths.

Since vaccinations began in mid-December, the state and health care providers have administered 6,046,656 doses and 35.05% 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 46,644 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.

Dry cleaners suffer as pandemic changes what we wear

Rosa Hernandez dries a shirt at Sig Samuels Dry Cleaners in Atlanta in April. Co-owner Steve Collins says he cut his staff from a dozen to seven people who are coming in only three days a week. (Steve Schaefer for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Sig Samuels Dry Cleaners has stood on the same Atlanta corner since 1932, riding the ups and downs of the Great Depression, wars, recessions and neighborhood change.

But the past year makes Steve Collins, co-owner of the family business, worry about the future.

“I don’t think anybody in our family history has seen anything like this,” Collins said.

The shutdowns caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have devastated service industry businesses from florists and spas to restaurants and hotels. But, as pandemic-related restrictions are lifted and people slowly return to eating out and traveling, dry cleaners are struggling to stay afloat. Many are closing.

That’s because this past year has altered the way a large number of people dress.

Even before the pandemic, the dry cleaning business had declined as attire in many offices morphed to business casual or even jeans and hoodies. But now, with many businesses debating if they need expensive office space with workers so productive at home, some dry cleaner owners worry that the age of stretchy clothing and dressing only from the waist up for Zoom meetings is here to stay.

Read the story here.

—Christopher Quinn, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

COVID-19 infections surge among prisoners in Bangkok

In this photo released by Department of Corrections, an empty room is seen at COVID-19 prisoners field hospital set up at Medical Correctional Institution to treat COVID-19 inmates, in Bangkok, Thailand, on May 8, 2021. Almost 3,000 inmates incarcerated at two prisons in Thailand’s capital Bangkok have tested positive for COVID-19, the Corrections Department said Wednesday, May 12, 2021 as the Southeast Asian nation battles a virulent third wave of the coronavirus. (Department of Corrections, Thailand via AP)

 Nearly 3,000 inmates at two prisons in Thailand’s capital have tested positive for COVID-19, the Corrections Department said Wednesday, as the country battles a new wave of the coronavirus.

The department said 1,785 of the 3,274 inmates tested positive at Bangkok Special Prison, which holds detainees ahead of trial. At the Central Women’s Correctional Institution, 1,040 of the 4,475 inmates were infected, it said.

The new coronavirus wave began at the beginning of April, originating in upmarket entertainment venues in Bangkok and spawning clusters in several crowded slum communities, followed by other venues such as department stores. Many recent cases involve the British variant of the virus, which is more infectious than the original form found last year.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press
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Scientists race to study variants in India as cases explode

First detected in the coastal Maharashtra state last year, a new coronavirus variant has been found in samples in 19 of the 27 states surveyed. Meanwhile a variant first detected in Britain has declined in India in the past 45 days.

Indian health officials have cautioned that it is too soon to attribute the nation’s surge solely to such variants. Experts point out that the spread was catalyzed by government decisions to not pause religious gatherings and crowded election rallies.

But Dr. Gagandeep Kang, who studies microorganisms at Christian Medical College at Vellore in southern India, said researchers need to figure out if the variant is capable of infecting those who previously had COVID-19 and, if so, whether it could result in severe disease.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

Fact-checking Ron Johnson’s unscientific use of vaccine and death data

Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., speaks during a confirmation hearing for United States Ambassador to the United Nations nominee Linda Thomas-Greenfield before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Capitol Hill, Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2021, in Washington. (Michael Reynolds/Pool via AP)

Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis, has been making scientifically dubious claims about coronavirus vaccines, arguing that U.S. health officials and agencies are not disclosing all the relevant risks and open questions to the public.

But the information he provides in media appearances, ostensibly to fill in the gaps, is highly suspect.

Take this interview with a conservative radio host in Wisconsin. The senator was asked how many people have died after getting vaccinated against the coronavirus, which causes the disease COVID-19. He cited data from the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) and suggested the death count was above 3,000.

However, no evidence or scientific study shows any coronavirus vaccine caused any deaths. According to the CDC, “A review of available clinical information, including death certificates, autopsy, and medical records has not established a causal link to COVID-19 vaccines.”

Read the story here.

—Salvador Rizzo, The Washington Post

Fact check: Biden boasts about equitable senior vaccination rate by race without data to back it up

President Joe Biden snaps his fingers as he responds to a reporters question during a meeting with congressional leaders in the Oval Office of the White House, Wednesday, May 12, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

During May 3 remarks on the American Families Plan, President Joe Biden boasted that there was not much disparity in the vaccination rates for white Americans and Americans of color who are at least 65.

“And what’s happening now is all the talk about how people were not going to get shots, they were not going to be involved — look at what that was — we were told that was most likely to be among people over 65 years of age,” said Biden. “But now people over 65 years of age, over 80%, have now been vaccinated, and 66% fully vaccinated. And there’s virtually no difference between white, Black, Hispanic, Asian American.”

This isn’t the only time that Biden has made that claim. But is it true?

The national data that Biden keeps touting — vaccination statistics regarding both race and age — is not public.

So, we moved on to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Spokesperson Chandra Zeikel told KHN-PolitiFact on May 6 that “unfortunately, we don’t have available a data breakdown of both racial demographics and age together.”

Current CDC vaccination data is broken down only by race/ethnicity and shows significant differences, with white Americans far outpacing the percentage of other groups getting a shot.

Read the story here.

—Victoria Knight, Kaiser Health News
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CEO pandemic pay: ‘Heads I win, tails I win almost as much’

Norwegian Cruise Line called 2020 its “most challenging year.” The company lost $4 billion, a half-decade’s worth of profit. Shares dropped 56%. Thousands of crew members lost their livelihoods.

But Frank Del Rio, its chief executive officer, did just great. He collected his largest pay package to date: $36.4 million.

How? Corporate boards cut Del Rio and scores of other CEOs extraordinary slack for miserable results in the pandemic, securities filings show. Otherwise, their pay would have plunged because it is tied to metrics such as sales, profit and stock prices.

Compensation committees decided the crisis wasn’t the bosses’ fault, so they shouldn’t suffer the consequences. More than 300 companies have tweaked pay to give top executives a break in 2020 or said they’ll apply discretion on payouts, according to data compiled by the Conference Board, data analytics firm Esgauge and Semler Brossy, a compensation advisory firm.

As a result, the executives as a group collected bonuses worth hundreds of millions that would otherwise have been wiped out. 

Read the story here.

—Anders Melin, Bloomberg

Damien Jurado’s 10 comeback concerts mark Seattle’s highest-profile shows since the shutdown

When Damien Jurado takes the stage this week for his first shows in over a year, things will be different.

Damien Jurado at the Historian Recording Co. in Youngstown, OH. (Photo by David Pokrivnak)

Live music has been happening in limited forms around the Puget Sound since Gov. Jay Inslee opened the door for limited-capacity shows in February. Thus far, the vast majority of local clubs and musical luminaries are holding out for when concerts can return full-bore (or at least until the numbers tip in their financial favor).

The acclaimed singer-songwriter’s anticipated five-night, 10-show run at Ballard Homestead May 12-16, however, will be the city’s highest-profile gigs in 14 months. And there might not be a hometown artist better equipped for the strange, in-between state of socially distanced live music.

“I don’t think I’ve ever been more excited about playing a group of shows in my life, pandemic or not,” Jurado says. 

Read the story here.

—Michael Rietmulder, Seattle Times music writer

88-year-old artist finishes year of pandemic ‘daily doodles’

Artist Robert Seaman works on his 365th daily doodle in his room at an assisted living facility Monday, May 10, 2021, in Westmoreland, N.H. Seaman, who moved into the facility weeks before the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown his outside world in 2020, recently completed his 365th daily sketch, or what he calls his “Covid Doodles”, since being isolated due to the virus outbreak. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Much like the round clock faces, gears and planets that often populate his artwork, Robert Seaman has come full circle.

Seaman, 88, has been drawing since he was a boy, and at age 60, left a real estate career to pursue his hobby professionally. But it took the coronavirus pandemic to fully return him to his passion.

Tuesday marked one year since Seaman started churning out “daily doodles” from his small, one-room apartment at the Maplewood Assisted Living facility in Westmoreland, New Hampshire. He spends about six hours a day working on his intricate, fanciful illustrations, starting with pencil sketches and finishing with ink, colored pencil and watercolor.

“After a long life, I’m back doing what I did when I was 11 years old,” he said. “And it’s great, I love it. I’m so lucky that I can do this.”

Read the story here.

—Holly Ramer, The Associated Press
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COVID-19 pet boom has veterinarians backlogged, burned out

Dr. Katarzyna Ferry, left, looks over at dog named Wendy who is being treated for a flare-up of Addison’s disease, Monday, April 12, 2021, at the Veterinary Specialty Hospital of Palm Beach Gardens in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. Forced to stay at home due to the pandemic, Americans adopted nearly 12 million pets last year meaning the average vet clinic saw nearly 400 new patients last year. Veterinarian offices across the country are experiencing unprecedented demand, adding extra staff and extending hours to fill in the gaps. “We are still short staffed despite active seeking of additional staff,” said Ferry. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

During the gloomiest stretches of the pandemic, Dr. Diona Krahn’s veterinary clinic has been a puppy fest, overrun with new four-legged patients.

Typically, she’d get three or four new puppies a week, but between shelter adoptions and private purchases, the 2020 COVID-19 pet boom brought five to seven new clients a day to her practice in Raleigh, North Carolina. Many are first-time pet owners.

Approximately 12.6 million U.S. households got a new pet last year after the pandemic was declared in March 2020, according to a COVID-19 Pulse Study by the American Pet Products Association.

Meanwhile, fewer people relinquished their pets in 2020, so they needed ongoing care, experts said. And as people worked from home and spent more time with their pets, they’ve had more opportunities to notice bumps, limps and other ailments that could typically go untreated.

Read the story here.

—Kelli Kennedy, The Associated Press

No Pullman Lentil Festival this year

Washington State University football players take to the streets of Pullman, marching in the annual National Lentil Festival parade in 2011. The festival will not be held in 2021. (Dean Rutz / The Seattle Times)

Without enough time to plan the National Lentil Festival this year, the Pullman Chamber of Commerce may instead try to organize a smaller events in August to welcome Washington State University students back to campus.

With Whitman County still in Phase 2 of Gov. Jay Inslee’s phased COVID-19 recovery plan, and with uncertainty about when restrictions will be lifted, Pullman Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Marie said there is too little time to prepare for one of Pullman’s biggest annual events.

“We have not been able to really plan a Lentil Festival as we’ve had in the past, so even if everything got lifted tomorrow, we would not be ready,” she said. “I mean, it takes 10-11 months just to plan from one year to the next.”

Read the story here.

—Anthony Kuipers, Moscow-Pullman Daily News, Moscow, Idaho

CDC advisers mull how to use Pfizer shots in kids 12 and up

States are rolling out Pfizer’s COVID-19 shots to pediatricians and even some school vaccine clinics as they prepare to vaccinate millions of kids as young as 12.

Federal health advisers were meeting Wednesday to issue recommendations on how to vaccinate those 12 to 15 years old with the shot. Earlier in the week, the Food and Drug Administration cleared expanded use of Pfizer’s shots, citing evidence they worked as well for the younger age group as for those 16 and older.

Read the story here.

—Lauran Neergaard and Mike Stobbe, The Associated Press
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Taming the virus: US deaths hit lowest level in 10 months

FILE – In this May 5, 2021, file photo, a group of friends, who said they are fully vaccinated for COVID-19, mingle on the beach in the Venice section of Los Angeles. COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. have tumbled to an average of just over 600 per day — the lowest level in 10 months — with the number of lives lost dropping to single digits in well over half the states and hitting zero on some days. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)

COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. have tumbled to an average of around 600 per day — the lowest level in 10 months — with the number of lives lost dropping to single digits in well over half the states and hitting zero on some days.

Confirmed infections, meanwhile, have fallen to about 38,000 day on average, their lowest mark since mid-September. While that is still cause for concern, they have plummeted 85% from a peak of more than a quarter-million cases per day in early January.

The last time deaths were this low was early July, nearly a year ago. COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. topped out in mid-January at an average of more than 3,400 a day, just a month into the biggest vaccination drive in the nation’s history.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

Frustration in Japan as leader pushes Olympics despite virus

A man wearing a protective mask to help curb the spread of the coronavirus walks past a banner for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo Tuesday, May 11, 2021. The Japanese capital confirmed more than 920 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)

A full-page newspaper ad says Japanese will be “killed by politics” because the government is forcing them to endure the pandemic without vaccines. More than 300,000 people have signed a petition calling for the Tokyo Olympics to be canceled. And a swimming star has faced pressure to drop out of the games.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, meanwhile, has caused anger and confusion by repeatedly vowing to skeptical lawmakers that the Olympics will be safe, even as some hospitals struggle to find beds for the sick and dying and a state of emergency was extended on Wednesday to more places in Japan.

Only 1% of the public has been fully vaccinated, even as millions of doses sit unused in freezers, and there’s deepening frustration over Suga’s request for people to endure more emergency virus measures amid ramped-up planning for the resource-draining Olympics, which are to start in about two months.

Read the story here.

—Mari Yamaguchi, The Associated Press

Samantha Power wants to restore U.S. prestige by getting American-made vaccines ‘into arms’ around the world

Samantha Power, the administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development, in Washington. (Bill O’Leary / Washington Post).

Late last fall, as Joe Biden prepared to take office and act on his promise to restore America’s global leadership, Samantha Power had something to say.

It was all well and good for Biden to declare “America is back.” But nothing would prove it more, after four years of Donald Trump, than a show of sheer American competence.

“The United States can re-enter all the deals and international organizations it wants,” Power wrote in an article in late November for Foreign Affairs magazine, “but the biggest gains in influence will come by demonstrating its ability to deliver in many countries’ hour of greatest need.”

By spearheading global vaccine distribution, the United States could beat China at the biggest soft-power contest in generations, regain its reputation as the world’s “indispensable” nation and, not incidentally in Power’s view, do good.

Months later, she finds herself in position to argue the case directly in the upper echelon of the administration and to act on it, as President Biden’s administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development, with a seat on the National Security Council (NSC).

Read the story here.

—The Washington Post
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Panel suggests WHO should have more power to stop pandemics

A panel of independent experts who reviewed the World Health Organization’s response to the coronavirus pandemic says the U.N. health agency should be granted “guaranteed rights of access” in countries to investigate emerging outbreaks, a contentious idea that would give it more powers and require member states to give up some of theirs.

In a report released Wednesday, the panel faulted countries worldwide for their sluggish response to COVID-19, saying most waited to see how the virus was spreading until it was too late to contain it, leading to catastrophic results. The group also slammed the lack of global leadership and restrictive international health laws that “hindered” WHO’s response to the pandemic.

Some experts criticized the panel for failing to hold WHO and others accountable for their actions during COVID-19, describing that as “an abdication of responsibility.”

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

Red Cross warns that coronavirus cases are exploding in Asia

Bodies of people who died of COVID-19 are cremated at an open crematorium on the outskirts of Bengaluru, Karnataka state, India, Wednesday, May 12, 2021. (AP Photo/Aijaz Rahi)

Coronavirus cases are exploding in Asia and the Pacific with over 5.9 million new confirmed infections in the past two weeks, more than in all other regions combined, the International Federation of the Red Cross said Wednesday.

Seven out of 10 countries globally that are doubling their infection numbers the fastest are in Asia and the Pacific, it said. Laos took just 12 days to see its cases double, and the number of confirmed infections in India has doubled in under two months to more than 23 million, the Red Cross said in a statement.

It said Oxford University’s Our World in Data reported more than 5.9 million new COVID-19 infections in Asia and the Pacific during the two weeks.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

Catch up on the past 24 hours

Washington schools won't require vaccines for kids, at least not yet, even though a CDC panel today is expected to approve shots for ages 12 and up. (The agency's director is already pleading with parents to get their children vaccinated.) As Washington schools officials explain their reasoning, several districts are moving forward with vaccine clinics for kids.

Nationwide, many families are already scrambling to find shots for kids. Here's our guide to getting a vaccine.

Americans will get free Uber and Lyft rides to vaccination sites under a new federal partnership.

Some consumer-friendly air purifiers destroy the coronavirus, and they have FDA certification to prove it.

—Kris Higginson