Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Thursday, May 13, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.
Two days after the Food and Drug Administration gave emergency authorization for use of the Pfizer vaccine in 12- to 15-year-olds, some 378,000 Washingtonian children became eligible for the two-dose shot. Many on Wednesday received their first shots.
Meanwhile, some wealthy nations that were most praised last year for controlling the coronavirus are now lagging far behind in vaccinations — and some, especially in Asia, are seeing COVID-19 cases grow.
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.
Gov. Jay Inslee has set a press conference today at 2:30 p.m. to discuss the state’s ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Bill Maher taping canceled after host’s positive virus test
LOS ANGELES — A taping of Bill Maher’s weekly HBO show was canceled after the host tested positive for COVID-19.
Maher, who is fully vaccinated, is “asymptomatic and feels fine,” according to a statement Thursday from HBO. “No other staff or crew members have tested positive at this time,” the channel said.
The taping of Friday’s episode of “Real Time with Bill Maher” will be rescheduled, HBO said. Guests were to include astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson and podcast host Dan Carlin.
Maher was tested as part of the Los Angeles production’s weekly protocol for staff, the channel said, adding that “every precaution” is taken in accordance with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines regarding the coronavirus.
The comedian and political gadfly moved back to in-studio shows with a limited audience late last summer, after taping episodes at his home in the early months of the pandemic.
Optimism, uncertainty at Seattle-area businesses as reopening plans take shape
Across Washington state’s business community, Gov. Jay Inslee’s plan to fully reopen the state economy next month was greeted with a mix of optimism and uncertainty.
Industry and business groups were largely jubilant over Inslee’s announcement Thursday that the state’s broad COVID-19 restrictions would be lifted by June 30, or sooner if vaccination rates increase.
“This news comes as a ray of hope,” said Mark Canlis, co-owner of Seattle’s Canlis restaurant. “Everything we’ve done for 14 months has been to survive.”
“Today’s announcement suggests we are on the cusp of finally turning the corner on this pandemic,” added Tammie Hetrick, president and CEO of the Washington Food Industry Association, the industry group representing grocers, in a statement Thursday.
But business and labor leaders also warned that a full reopening, if not carefully managed, could spark yet another surge in cases.
Airbnb reports 1Q loss of nearly $1.2 billion, revenue rises
Airbnb reported Thursday that its first-quarter loss more than tripled, to $1.17 billion, as travel remained depressed by the pandemic and the company was weighed down by costs from past borrowing.
However, revenue topped the same period in 2019, and Airbnb recorded billions in new bookings as the rollout of vaccines against COVID-19 raised hopes for a travel boom.
The home-sharing business said in a letter to shareholders that travel is starting to return, “and we expect a travel rebound unlike anything we have seen before.”
Still, Airbnb expressed concern about travel restrictions and lockdowns in Europe, a key market for summer rentals. The San Francisco-based company said it is too early to predict whether the pace of the travel recovery will continue in the second half of the year.
Mask requirement lifted for fully vaccinated in Oregon
SALEM, Ore. — Oregon Gov. Kate Brown has announced that the state will immediately follow guidance from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention which eases indoor mask-wearing and social distancing for fully vaccinated people.
Brown said in a video statement Thursday that the new CDC guidance means Oregonians who are fully-vaccinated no longer need to wear masks or social distance in most public spaces.
She also said the guidance makes clear that vaccines are the fastest way to get back to doing the things “we all love” and returning to a sense of normalcy.
The federal guidance issued Thursday still calls for wearing masks in crowded indoor settings like buses, planes, hospitals, prisons and homeless shelters, but will help clear the way for reopening workplaces, schools, and other venues.
Mask requirements also will remain in place in Oregon schools this school year, Brown added.
Nevada vaccine website implants more trackers than any state
CARSON CITY, Nev. — The Nevada website the public uses to get information on coronavirus vaccines is packed with more ad trackers and third-party cookies than any state vaccination website in the country, allowing companies to track how visitors navigate the internet and collect data on them that can potentially be used or sold by third parties.
Since vaccines became available, health officials have directed people looking for vaccine information — where doses are available and how to schedule appointments, for example — to ImmunizeNevada.org or NVCOVIDFighter.org, which is an address that directs visitors to the same website.
Both state officials and representatives from Immunize Nevada, the nonprofit that runs the website, say the trackers are standard for outreach campaigns and for user experience and to evaluate the effectiveness of advertising efforts.
But digital privacy experts question that explanation. They say the number of trackers on Nevada’s site in comparison to other states is alarming and goes beyond data-gathering applicable to outreach.
Virus outbreak reaches highest risk level in Ketchikan, Alaska
KETCHIKAN, Alaska — Restaurants, bars and gyms in the Alaska port town of Ketchikan have been asked to close as officials attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19 after the city’s pandemic risk level was raised to its highest level.
Local public health officials reported 15 new cases in the community on Tuesday, bumping the total number of active cases to 77 as of that evening. Officials said one person was in the COVID-19 unit at a hospital.
Ketchikan’s test positivity rate was an all-time high of 4.43% on Tuesday, up from 4.14% on Monday.
Two schools were set to close to in-person learning for the rest of the week and many public facilities were also shuttered. Local fields were closed to organized sports and events with more than 20 people were discouraged.
Officials also asked restaurants, bars, personal services and gyms to close, but the recommendations were not mandatory.
Inslee: Washington to lift COVID-19 restrictions by June 30 — and right now, mask rules eased for vaccinated people
OLYMPIA — Washington’s broad COVID-19 restrictions will lift by June 30, if not sooner. And starting immediately, fully-vaccinated people will have fewer requirements for wearing masks, and can attend weddings, funerals and sporting events without capacity limits applying to them.
Gov. Jay Inslee’s announcements in a news conference Thursday marked by far the most dramatic easing of restrictions since the coronavirus pandemic roared into Washington last spring.
It came just hours after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced a leap toward a return to pre-pandemic life, saying fully vaccinated people could stop wearing masks outdoors in crowds and in most indoor settings.
A full reopening would come sooner if 70% or more of state residents over the age of 16 have gotten at least their first shot before then, said the governor. Currently, 57% of Washingtonians 16 and up have gotten at least one shot, according to Inslee’s office.
Tunisia to reopen economy despite hospital strain
Tunisian authorities plan to reopen the economy next week amid public pushback against virus restrictions, even as the country’s hospitals are struggling for enough oxygen to treat a persistently high number of COVID-19 patients.
Tunisia shut down shops and restaurants and banned all sports and cultural events last week as the prime minister warned that the health system risked collapsing. Houses of prayer were also closed – including for the Eid al-Fitr holiday marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan that starts Thursday.
But while Tunisia is currently reporting the highest number of new COVID-19 deaths per capita in Africa, the public is frustrated, and some small business owners or market traders have defied the new lockdown.
The government announced Wednesday night that it will go forward with reopening plans starting May 16, and promised new aid to businesses and the poor.
Washington state health officials confirm 1,505 new coronavirus cases
The state Department of Health (DOH) reported 1,505 new coronavirus cases and 12 new deaths on Thursday.
The update brings the state's totals to 419,382 cases and 5,626 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. Wednesday.
The new cases may include up to 300 duplicates, according to DOH.
In addition, 23,059 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the virus — 40 new hospitalizations. In King County, the state's most populous, state health officials have confirmed a total of 106,275 COVID-19 diagnoses and 1,544 deaths.
Since vaccinations began in mid-December, the state and health care providers have administered 6,056,656 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.
Grants help small businesses survive in International District of Vancouver, Wash.
In the 40 years that Haeng Chong has owned his Vancouver dry cleaning business, he’s never seen demand drop like this.
When COVID-19 first hit, the volume of customers seeking services from Fourth Plain One Hour Dry Cleaning cratered by around 90%, he said. People just weren’t going out much anymore — and that meant they didn’t really need to maintain their going-out clothes. Laundering those going-out clothes is his livelihood.
Chong and his wife made it through the last year in part due to grant funding for small businesses. With the help of their son, the Chongs applied and received two rounds of funding from the Small Business Emergency Grant Program operated by local nonprofit Fourth Plain Forward.
Fourth Plain One Hour Dry Cleaning is one of approximately 150 small businesses along the central Vancouver corridor, also referred to as the city’s International District. Around 80 percent of those businesses have owners from Black, Indigenous and people of color communities.
Coronavirus strain fueling India crisis is the newest ‘variant of concern’ and is spreading globally
The coronavirus variant that has spread catastrophically in India has seeded itself in dozens of countries, and the World Health Organization has declared it a “variant of concern,” citing preliminary evidence that it is more transmissible than some earlier strains of the virus.
It is not clear to what degree the crisis in India — which reported 4,200 deaths on Wednesday alone — has been accelerated by the emergence of this variant, known as B.1.617. It is possible the main driver of the outbreak has been mass gatherings in a densely populated nation that still has low levels of vaccination.
Although the WHO treats B.1.617 as a single variant, it has already splintered into three versions, called sub-lineages, with slightly different suites of mutations. Britain last week declared B.1.617.2, which is spreading quickly there, a variant of concern.
In the United States, that variant accounts for about 3 percent of cases but is gaining traction, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention surveillance. The CDC lists all three B.1.617 sub-lineages as variants of interest.
Lab accident or jump from animals? Hutch virus expert calls for a new probe of COVID-19’s origins
A computational biologist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center is leading a renewed push for a thorough investigation into the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a letter published Thursday in the journal Science, lead author Jesse Bloom and 17 fellow scientists say so many unanswered questions remain that it’s impossible to rule out either of the leading theories: that the virus spilled over naturally from animals, or that it was released in a lab accident in Wuhan, China.
A joint Chinese-World Health Organization team that spent four weeks tracking down leads and interviewing officials concluded the virus almost certainly emerged in bats, jumped to a second species, and then mutated enough to infect humans.
But Bloom and his colleagues point out that the lab accident scenario got short shrift in the WHO investigation, accounting for only four out of 313 pages of the final document. Similar concerns were raised by WHO Director Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
No ‘party fouls’: The do’s and don’ts of vaccinated get-togethers
With going on one-third of the humans of these here United States fully vaccinated (according to Johns Hopkins University data as of this writing), this is exclamation-mark-worthy stuff! Prepare to party!!!
What is this “party,” you ask? It’s been so, so long. Turns out that every human still has a lower part of the front of their head that contains a nose and a mouth. The latter is used for something called “conversation,” which can occur with a person standing way less than 6 feet away from you with that weird lippy thing fully exposed and moving around, making sounds and moving air from inside them toward your own air-holes. A party involves a group of people all doing this together, generally indoors, while touching things and even each other, maybe, and it’s “fun.”
Deep breaths. We can do this, and good manners can help, how feral we’ve all gone notwithstanding.
Let’s look at some specifics of “normal” “party” “behavior,” including some holdovers from yesteryear and some new norms because, as you may have noticed, nothing actually matters anymore.
Seattle schools expect to fully open to in-person learning this fall, interim leader says
Seattle Public Schools expect to fully open to in-person learning in the fall, the district’s interim superintendent, Brent Jones, announced Thursday. The move would usher in a return to some sense of normalcy following more than a year away from classrooms during the pandemic.
Jones had hinted at his intention to return to in-person learning last week, when he succeeded former Superintendent Denise Juneau and took his oath of office. Other districts including Bellevue, Tacoma and Highline have also announced their intentions to be fully in-person this fall, and on Thursday the national president of the American Federation of Teachers said she was “all in” on bringing students back to the classroom.
But what, exactly, will school look like?
Our critic goes to 3 kinds of shows, as live music slowly comes back in Seattle. Here’s what they’re like
The vast majority of clubs around town remain dark and most local luminaries are biding their time until full-capacity crowds can congregate once more. But since Gov. Jay Inslee lifted the “Footloose”-esque moratorium on live music back in February, opportunities to catch a formal concert have increased.
At least a handful of venues between Everett and Tacoma have cracked their doors open to limited audiences, with current guidelines allowing for 25-50% capacity, depending on the county. Several promoters are throwing by-the-books outdoor shows (and others not so by-the-books). Acclaimed singer-songwriter Damien Jurado kicks off a whopping 10-show run at Ballard Homestead May 12-16 and Heart’s Nancy Wilson has a summer date with the Seattle Symphony July 9, marking the highest profile Seattle shows since the pandemic hit.
But any sort of return to concerts as we knew them could still be months away and, for now, the local scene remains stuck in an awkward, in-between state of purgatory. Nevertheless, there are ways to get your live music fix while vaccinations continue.
Over the past few months, I’ve attended several types of shows currently happening on a regular basis: the reduced-capacity club gig, an outdoor concert following strict pandemic protocol and a semidiscreet outdoor rave.
AP source: Govt to ease up guidance on indoor mask-wearing
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday will ease indoor mask-wearing guidance for fully vaccinated people, allowing them to safely stop wearing masks inside in most places, according to a person briefed on the announcement.
The new guidance will still call for wearing masks in crowded indoor settings like buses, planes, hospitals, prisons and homeless shelters, but could ease restrictions for reopening workplaces and schools.
It will also no longer recommend that fully vaccinated people wear masks outdoors in crowds. The announcement comes as the CDC and the Biden administration have faced pressure to ease restrictions on fully vaccinated people — people who are two weeks past their last required COVID-19 vaccine dose — in part to highlight the benefits of getting the shot.
The eased guidance comes two weeks after the CDC recommended that fully vaccinated people continue to wear masks indoors in all settings and outdoors in large crowds.
Canada’s largest province keeps ban on outdoor recreation
Ontario’s premier is keeping outdoor recreational activities like golf courses closed for at least two more weeks despite calls by health officials to resume them for physical and mental health.
Premier Doug Ford on Thursday extended what he calls a “stay-at-home” order for Canada’s largest province until at least June 2.
The Ontario Medical Association released a statement this week stressing the importance of outdoor recreational facilities such as golf courses, tennis and basketball courts in improving physical and mental health. Golf Ontario started a campaign called “LetUsPlay.” Ontario is the only jurisdiction in North America where golf is not allowed.
“There’s nothing wrong with golfing. The problem is the mobility, then after golf they have a few pops. That’s the problem,” Ford said.
Inside one network cashing in on vaccine disinformation
The couple in the website videos could be hawking any number of products.
Click the orange button, the woman says, “to join in the fight for health freedom” — or more specifically, to pay $199 to $499 for Charlene and Ty Bollingers’ video series, “The Truth About Vaccines 2020.”
The Bollingers are part of an ecosystem of for-profit companies, nonprofit groups, YouTube channels and other social media accounts that stoke fear and distrust of COVID-19 vaccines, resorting to what medical experts say is often misleading and false information.
An investigation by The Associated Press has found that the couple work closely with others prominent in the anti-vaccine movement — including Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and his Children’s Health Defense — to drive sales through affiliate marketing relationships.
Some proms are back, with masks, testing and distancing
A minor league baseball stadium. A negative coronavirus test and absolutely no slow dancing.
Those are just a few of the unusual requirements for a high school prom happening in Manchester, New Hampshire, later this month, one of many school districts across the country struggling to navigate holding the formal dance in the second year of the pandemic.
Students only found out early this month that the proposal to hold prom May 28 at the New Hampshire Fisher Cats stadium had been approved, after some school board members expressed reservations the event could spread the coronavirus. Along with socially-distanced dancing, students are also being encouraged to get vaccinated before the dance.
School districts across the country are weighing whether they can safely hold an event that many seniors consider a capstone to their high school careers. Some have already cancelled prom over safety concerns while others are forging ahead.
Political turmoil returns as Nepal suffers worst COVID surge
Political turmoil has returned to Nepal, which has had eight different governments in a decade and is experiencing its worst COVID-19 surge with acute shortages of health facilities and oxygen for patients.
Their hopes for stability lost, the people are angry at the government and the politicians they elected.
“The leaders have failed us again while people are dying in their homes, street and hospital parking lots while the politicians are fighting on who gets to be the prime minister,” said Hari Sah, a plumber who was trying to buy rice and lentils for his family in the two hours people are allowed to shop during an ongoing virus lockdown.
Khadga Prasad Oli became prime minister in 2018 with strong support from two-thirds of Parliament, but two splits in his ruling party this year helped push him out of office Monday. No political party now has a majority, and they’re unlikely to agree to a coalition government anytime soon.
US cities see surge in deadly street racing amid pandemic
Across America, illegal drag racing has exploded in popularity since the coronavirus pandemic began, with dangerous upticks reported from Georgia and New York to New Mexico and Oregon.
Street racers block roads and even interstates to keep police away while they tear around and perform stunts, often captured on videos that go viral. Packs of vehicles, from souped-up jalopies to high-end sports cars, roar down city streets, through industrial neighborhoods and down rural roads.
Experts say TV shows and movies glorifying street racing had already fueled interest in recent years. Then shutdowns associated with the pandemic cleared normally clogged highways as commuters worked from home.
Nurses, nonprofits, others take vaccine to homebound people
As interest in mass coronavirus vaccination sites dwindles nationwide, providers are ramping up efforts to find and reach millions of people in the U.S. who cannot leave their homes or who need help with transportation.
The process is slow and requires careful planning, but advocates say getting vaccinated is critical for people who are constantly exposed to visiting aides — and that they should have been a focus sooner.
Johnson ‘anxious’ over rise of Indian virus variant in UK
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Thursday he was “anxious” about a rise in the U.K. of the coronavirus variant first identified in India, after a closely-monitored study of infections in England found the variant is becoming more prevalent just ahead of the next big easing of lockdown restrictions.
“It is a variant of concern, we are anxious about it,” Johnson said. "There is a range of things we could do, we are ruling nothing out.”
In its latest assessment published Thursday, Imperial College London said overall cases have fallen to their lowest level since August following a strict lockdown and a successful rollout of vaccines. However, it warned that the Indian variant should be closely monitored. The study found that the Indian variant, designated “of concern” because it could be more transmissible, was identified in 7.7% of the 127,000 cases tested between Apr.15 and May 3.
1st ballot test of governor’s pandemic powers starts in PA
Republican lawmakers across the country have tried to roll back the emergency powers that governors wielded during the COVID-19 pandemic, as they ordered businesses shut, mask-wearing in public and students home for distance learning.
Pennsylvania’s Legislature is now taking its case to the ballot.
In the first vote of its kind since the coronavirus outbreak, voters statewide are being asked to end a governor’s emergency disaster declaration after 21 days and to give lawmakers the unilateral authority to extend or end it with a majority vote.
Catch up on the past 24 hours
Kids began showing up for vaccines as Seattle's Lumen Field mass-vaccination site buzzed with excitement on a momentous day yesterday, with eligibility opening to some 378,000 Washingtonians age 12 and up. We've updated our guide to getting a vaccine with what parents should know.
U.S. deaths have hit the lowest level in 10 months, and as vaccinations spread, "people are touching each other again. They are hugging." But on the other side of the globe, people in the world’s most vaccinated nation are spooked as COVID-19 cases spike. These graphics track the virus in Washington and around the world.
Get vaccinated and you could win $1 million: One state is giving away five of those jackpots, along with five full-ride college scholarships, as it tries to reach the unvaccinated. Across the U.S., millions of people are falling into a rather unseen category: They haven’t gotten a vaccine yet, but they aren’t "hesitant."
The other deadly pandemic surge: street racing, which is exploding in popularity. In Portland, police say they’re too overwhelmed to do much about it.
What not to do on an airplane: One maskless guy who blew his nose into a blanket has a big fine to sniffle about now.
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