Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Monday, May 17, 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 It is no longer being updated.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 demand for the COVID-19 vaccine drops, the CDC is advising health care providers to prioritize giving shots to anyone who still wants one, even if it means opening up a vial without knowing if all the doses inside will be used.
Refugees from countries ravaged by COVID-19 are seeking safety in the U.S.
In a graduation ceremony speech at Emory University, Dr. Anthony Fauci said that the pandemic revealed “the undeniable effects of racism” in its disproportionate impact on communities of color.
Florida’s theme parks are ready to relax mask requirements for their patrons.
And in Seattle, a pandemic-prompted pay and sick leave mandate for delivery-app drivers could become permanent.
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 the previous days’ live updates and all our other coronavirus coverage, and here, to see how we track the daily spread across Washington and the world.
Oregon Senate votes to reinstate foreclosure moratorium
SALEM, Ore. — A bill that would reinstate Oregon’s moratorium on foreclosures for those experiencing financial hardship during the coronavirus pandemic passed the state Senate on Monday.
The bill, which would allow homeowners to put their mortgage in forbearance at least through June 30, passed on a 19-9 vote and now moves to the House. The previous state moratorium expired at the end of 2020, but many homeowners continued to struggle to catch up on mortgage payments.
The bill could be extended until the end of the year if Gov. Kate Brown lengthens the statewide emergency period.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the state’s ongoing housing crisis has only been exacerbated.
They live in the U.S., but they’re not allowed to come home
In early April, Payal Raj accompanied her family to India to renew the visas that permit them to live in the United States. She and her husband waited until they had been vaccinated, carefully preparing their paperwork according to the advice of their immigration lawyers. But the visa itself would soon strand her in India indefinitely, separating her from her husband and daughter in Hendersonville, Tennessee.
“Our family is in a crisis,” said Raj, who is one of thousands of immigrants stuck in India, in part because the Biden administration’s restrictions on most travel from the country mean that temporary visa holders are explicitly barred from reentering the United States. “Every morning is a struggle.”
The restrictions, issued as a devastating surge in coronavirus cases has overwhelmed India in recent weeks, prohibit Raj and others like her from returning to their homes, families and jobs in the United States. Even those exempt under the ban are in limbo as the outbreak forces the U.S. Embassy and consulates to close, leaving many with no clear path home.
Seattle extends free outdoor-dining permits to restaurants through May 2022
Many Seattle neighborhoods can expect to see a surge of bars and restaurants offering outdoor seating well into next spring as the Seattle City Council on Monday waived sidewalk- and curb-space permit fees through May 31, 2022.
The city council on Monday voted unanimously to extend the Safe Start permits and allow cafes and other businesses to continue setting up canopies, picket fences, small dining tables and lawn chairs along the sidewalks and curb sides without the usual red tape or permit fees that would have accompanied these efforts in prepandemic times.
The free permits, first approved last summer, were set to expire later this year before the council extended the deadline to help the struggling restaurant industry edge toward recovery as the state starts to reopen from pandemic hibernation.
The city currently has 202 active sidewalk permits, according to the Seattle Department of Transportation. As Seattle inches closer to shorts and T-shirt weather, city officials are bracing for a flood of new applicants to take advantage of the free sidewalk-cafe permits to make up for the lost seating capacity since most of Washington remains in Phase 3 of Gov. Jay Inslee’s reopening plan, with indoor dining capped at 50%. Inslee said last week that he hopes to reopen the state to full capacity by the end of June.
Cuomo set to earn $5M from book on COVID-19 crisis
ALBANY, N.Y. — New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo disclosed Monday that he was paid a $3.1 million advance to write his COVID-19 leadership book last year and under his publishing contract will make another $2 million on the memoir over the next two years.
That total windfall of more than $5.1 million further inflamed critics who have said it was inappropriate for Cuomo to personally enrich himself with a self-congratulatory book, published just as the state was seeing a deadly resurgence in infections last October.
At least 52,987 people have died of COVID-19 in New York, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University of Medicine.
Cuomo, a Democrat, had for months declined to say how much money he made from writing “American Crisis: Leadership Lessons From the COVID-19 Pandemic,” published by Crown Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House. The book largely recounts the governor’s once-daily press conferences on the COVID-19 pandemic.
Million-dollar shot and other giveaways reveal desperate push to vaccinate U.S.
The first incentives were relatively modest: doughnuts, hunting licenses, baseball tickets. And cheeseburgers. Beer. Whiskey. Maybe even a savings bond, enough to buy a nice toaster someday.
The United States has a surplus of coronavirus vaccine doses on its hands and dwindling demand has forced governors and mayors to get creative. Now, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, a Republican, has upped the ante. He’s offering $1 million to five adults, provided they are vaccinated. That’s $1 million each.
They’ll be chosen by lottery once a week, starting May 26. Separately, he’ll hand out full-ride scholarships at a public state university to five vaccinated teenagers. But not all are buying.
Columbus resident Sadea Bryant said she’s delaying vaccination, $1 million or no, until she’s comfortable that the long-term effects have been thoroughly studied.
“I understand that they want to push people to really think about their health and get vaccinated,” she said. “But it feels to me kind of like a bribe.”
King County health officials promise clarity on mask mandate later this week
As Americans struggle to figure out what recent federal and state guidelines mean for wearing masks indoors and outdoors, particularly for fully vaccinated people, public health officials in King County are hoping to offer more clarity this week.
In a tweet Monday, Public Health — Seattle & King County said it's "considering whether ending the indoor mask mandate is the best option in King County at this time and if additional guidance or clarification is needed."
The department also acknowledged that federal indoor mask mandates, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "should be linked to local COVID-19 & vaccination coverage rates." It promised it would provide an update later this week.
Meanwhile, Jeff Duchin, the health officer of King County, said on his personal Twitter account that he "strongly encourage(s) all KC residents (not just unvaccinated people) to continue wearing face masks when in indoor public spaces & strongly encourage KC businesses to continue their policies to ensure all customers & workers wear masks when in indoor public spaces."
The confusion follows an announcement last week from the CDC, which eased mask-wearing guidance for fully vaccinated people, allowing them to stop wearing masks outdoors in crowds and in most indoor settings. Many businesses and local officials, however, are concerned that there's no easy way to confirm someone has been fully vaccinated.
Half of Alaska residents 16 and up received one vaccine dose
Nearly half of Alaska residents 16 and older are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, while more than half have received at least one dose, state public health officials said.
Data from the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services shows that 46.9% of state residents had received both doses while 52.6% had received at least one dose These milestones were reached days after Alaska opened up vaccination appointments to children 12 and up.
Washington state health officials confirm 589 new coronavirus cases
The state Department of Health (DOH) reported 589 new coronavirus cases and 18 new deaths on Mondayday.
The update brings the state's totals to 423,382 cases and 5,640 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. Sunday. Tallies may be higher earlier in the week because new state data isn’t reported on Sundays and COVID-related deaths aren’t reported on the weekends.
The new cases may include up to 100 duplicates, according to DOH.
In addition, 23,277 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the virus — 90 new hospitalizations. In King County, the state's most populous, state health officials have confirmed a total of 107,366 COVID-19 diagnoses and 1,546 deaths.
Since vaccinations began in mid-December, the state and health care providers have administered 6,337,924 doses and 37.54% 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 42,521 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.
Do you have children too young to be vaccinated yet? We want to hear from you
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced new guidance last week: Fully vaccinated people can now shed their masks in most outdoor and indoor settings.
While masks are still required on public transit and the new guidance does not override local mask mandates, for many, it offers a glimpse at activities that were unthinkable this time last year.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has authorized Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson and Johnson vaccines for all adults. However, only Pfizer has been approved for children ages 12 and up. No vaccine is authorized for younger children.
That means parents following guidelines could find themselves in a situation where not every member of the family is vaccinated. If you’re in this situation — or work in a child care setting with unvaccinated children — we’d like to hear from you about how you plan to navigate a post-mask world. Reach out to us here.
Saudi Arabia eases travel ban for vaccinated citizens
Vaccinated Saudis will be allowed to leave the kingdom for the first time in more than a year on Monday as the country eases a ban on international travel aimed at containing the spread of the coronavirus and its new variants.
For the past 14 months, Saudi citizens have mostly been banned from traveling abroad out of concerns that international travel could fuel the outbreak of the virus within the country of more than 30 million people. In recent months, the kingdom has vaccinated close to 11.5 million residents with at least one jab of the COVID-19 vaccine,
The kingdom, which has covered coronavirus-related hospitalizations for citizens and residents, imposed some of the most sweeping measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus early on in the pandemic.
Sanofi-GSK reports success in virus vaccine, after setback
Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline’s potential COVID-19 vaccine triggered strong immune responses in all adult age groups in preliminary trials after an earlier setback, boosting optimism the shot may join the fight against the pandemic this year.
After two doses of the vaccine candidate, participants showed neutralizing antibodies in line with those found in people who had recovered from the disease, according to results of the Phase 2 trial released Monday.
The Sanofi-GSK vaccine was an important part of the European Union’s vaccination strategy, and had notably been championed by French President Emmanuel Macron’s government. But researchers had to reformulate it after early testing produced an inadequate immune response in older people.
If you’re fully vaccinated against COVID-19, you won’t have to wear a mask at Mariners games
On Monday, the Mariners announced that beginning immediately “fully vaccinated fans attending Seattle Mariners games at T-Mobile Park are no longer required to wear masks. This change brings ballpark protocols into alignment with recently announced Centers for Disease Control (and Prevention) and state of Washington guidelines for fully vaccinated individuals.”
How will people be able to know the difference?
Per the Mariners release, fans who show proof of vaccination will receive a wristband when they enter through either the gates in center field or right field or when they check in at the vaccine-only seating sections. That wristband will allow them to go mask-free while in the ballpark. For fans who are going maskless and don’t have a wristband, they will be asked to produce proof of vaccination.
South Africa’s Tutu gets jab to help start inoculation drive
South Africa’s anti-apartheid icon Archbishop Desmond Tutu, 89, came out of retirement Monday to help the country launch its drive to inoculate older citizens against the coronavirus.
“All my life I have tried to do the right thing and, today, getting vaccinated against COVID-19 is definitely the right thing to do,” said Tutu, who won the Nobel Prize Prize in 1984 for his peaceful work to end apartheid, South Africa’s previous regime of racist rule by the white minority.
South Africa’s vaccination drive comes as the country is seeing a rise in cases of COVID-19 and experts warn of a resurgence as the country approaches the colder months of the Southern Hemisphere’s winter.
South Africa has been the country hardest hit by the pandemic in Africa with more than 1.6 million confirmed infections and more than 55,000 reported deaths. The county's 7-day rolling average of daily new cases and deaths nearly doubled over the past two weeks.
Vacation redux: British tourists return to Portugal beaches
British vacationers began arriving in large numbers in southern Portugal on Monday for the first time in more than a year, after governments in the two countries eased their COVID-19 pandemic travel restrictions.
A plane from Manchester, England, disembarked the first of more than 5,000 tourists expected to arrive on 17 U.K. flights in Portugal’s southern Algarve region on the first day nonessential travel was allowed.
The arrivals brightened the outlook for Portugal’s crucial tourism sector much of which was shut down for most of the past year.
They’re vaccinated and keeping their masks on, maybe forever
Whenever Joe Glickman heads out for groceries, he places an N95 mask over his face and tugs a cloth mask on top of it. He then pulls on a pair of goggles.
He has used this safety protocol for the past 14 months. It did not change after he contracted the coronavirus in November. It did not budge when, earlier this month, he became fully vaccinated. And even though President Joe Biden said on Thursday that fully vaccinated people do not have to wear a mask, Glickman said he planned to stay the course.
In fact, he said, he plans to do his grocery run double-masked and goggled for at least the next five years.
Even as a combination of evolving public health recommendations and pandemic fatigue lead more Americans to toss the masks they have worn for more than a year, Glickman is among those who say they plan to keep their faces covered in public indefinitely.
For people like Glickman, a combination of anxiety, murky information about new virus variants and the emergence of an obdurate and sizable faction of vaccine holdouts means mask-free life is on hold — possibly forever.
New York to let vaccinated people ditch masks
Vaccinated New Yorkers can ditch their masks, even indoors, the New York City marathon is coming back and Radio City Music Hall will reopen to vaccinated audiences, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday in a flurry of announcements intended to accelerate the state’s reopening.
“Let’s get back to life,” Cuomo said, speaking from Radio City Music Hall’s grand auditorium. “If you are vaccinated, you are safe. No masks. No social distancing.”
Unvaccinated and immunocompromised people must continue to wear a mask and maintain at least 6feet of social distancing, but people who have waited two weeks after completing their inoculation series no longer have to do either, starting Wednesday.
Skipping mortgage payments? Here’s what you need to know when it’s time to resume
Mortgage servicers took their sweet time last spring advising customers affected by the pandemic about their right to hit the pause button on making payments with no documentation required, and no penalty charged to get back on track.
Now that most of those borrowers are preparing to resume making payments, mortgage servicers are again facing criticism for not being straight with their customers about their options.
Because those borrowers typically have less equity to work with, consumer advocates say consumers will need to take the initiative to work out a payment-resumption plan with their mortgage servicers — which include traditional banks and payment processors that aren’t banks.
If they’re not satisfied with the answers they get, help is available from volunteer legal aid organizations and federally funded housing counselors.
Borrowers planning to exit forbearance, as well as those not in forbearance who have missed payments, need to take the initiative now — before the federal foreclosure moratorium expires on June 30 — to contact their mortgage servicers and inquire about their options.
California won’t lift its mask requirement for another month
California won’t lift its mask requirement until June 15 to give the public and businesses time to prepare and ensure cases stay low, state Health Director Dr. Mark Ghaly said Monday.
Many other states lifted their mask requirements last week after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it’s safe for fully vaccinated people to skip face coverings and social distancing in most situations.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom already has said that if cases remain low the state will drop nearly all COVID-19 restrictions on June 15.
Free offices with a view: 4 lighthouses, courtesy of feds
Dreading your eventual return to the office? The federal government is making available — for free — some waterfront workspaces with killer views that are sure to entice. But there’s a catch.
The General Services Administration says the U.S. Coast Guard has decided it no longer needs four of the nation’s most picturesque lighthouses: Watch Hill Light in Westerly, Rhode Island, Cleveland Harbor West Pierhead Light in Ohio; Duluth Harbor North Pierhead Light in Minnesota. Also Beavertail Lighthouse in Jamestown, Rhode Island — America’s third-oldest lighthouse, and a beacon that defeated British forces torched out of spite in 1779 as they withdrew from the new nation — is up for grabs.
Conditionally, that is: The government says it’ll make the historic lighthouses and their outbuildings available free of charge to federal, state and local agencies; nonprofit organizations; educational and community development agencies; or groups devoted to parks, recreation, culture, or historic preservation.
Downtown stores, businesses await their customers’ return
In many downtown areas where companies closed their offices and commuting ground to a halt, sandwich shops, bakeries and other small businesses are waiting with guarded optimism for their customers to return.
The next few months will be an uneasy time in business districts across the country. With cities reopening and more people vaccinated, office workers are expected to return — especially with big companies like Goldman Sachs and Bank of America notifying staffers that they’ll need to return to work. But many businesses are expected to give their employees the flexibility to work from home. And some companies have permanently closed their offices and gone fully remote.
That will keep small business owners waiting and wondering, with varying degrees of optimism.
Panama cautious after day without COVID-19 deaths
Panama raised capacity on public transportation across the country Monday, a day after celebrating the first day in 14 months without a COVID-19 death.
On Sunday, Health Minister Luis Francisco Sucre announced that there were no new deaths to announce for the previous 24-hour period.
WATCH: Biden to boost global vaccine sharing to 80M doses
President Joe Biden will announce Monday that the U.S. will share an additional 20 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines with the world in the coming six weeks, the White House said.
The doses would come from existing U.S. production of Pfizer, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccine stocks, according to the White House.
It comes on top of the Biden’s administration’s prior commitment to share about 60 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which is not yet authorized for use in the U.S., by the end of June. To date, the U.S. has shared about 4.5 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine with Canada and Mexico.
U.S. officials seek big fines against more airline passengers
Federal regulators are continuing to pursue large penalties against a few airline passengers accused of disrupting flights.
The Federal Aviation Administration said Monday that it will seek fines totaling more than $100,000 against four passengers on recent flights, including a penalty of $52,500 against a man who tried to open the cockpit door and assaulted a flight attendant, striking him twice after breaking free from plastic handcuffs. The FAA said police boarded the plane in Seattle and took him into custody.
Airlines have reported a spate of troubling incidents in recent months, many of them involving passengers who appear intoxicated or refuse to wear face masks — that’s still a federal requirement even after health officials relaxed guidelines around mask wearing last week.
Glimmer of hope seen in India, but virus crisis not over yet
For the first time in months, Izhaar Hussain Shaikh is feeling somewhat optimistic.
The 30-year-old ambulance driver in India’s metropolis of Mumbai has been working tirelessly ever since the city became the epicenter of another catastrophic COVID-19 surge slashing through the country. Last month, he drove about 70 patients to the hospital, his cellphone constantly vibrating with calls.
But two weeks into May, he’s only carried 10 patients. Cases are falling and so are the phone calls. In the last week, the number of new cases plunged by nearly 70% in India’s financial capital, home to 22 million people. On Monday, reported infections continued to decline as cases dipped below 300,000 for the first time in weeks.
The turnaround represents a glimmer of hope for India, still in the clutches of a devastating coronavirus surge that has raised public anger at the government.
Joy for UK pubs and hugs tempered by rise in virus variant
Drinks were raised in toasts and reunited friends hugged each other as thousands of U.K. pubs and restaurants opened Monday for indoor service for the first time since early January. Yet the prime minister sounded a cautious tone, warning about a more contagious COVID-19 variant that threatens reopening plans.
The latest step in the U.K.’s gradual easing of nationwide restrictions also includes reopening theaters, sports venues and museums, raising hopes that Britain’s economy may soon start to recover from the devastating effects of the pandemic.
But the rapid spread of a variant first discovered in India is tempering the optimism amid memories of how another variant swept across the country in December, triggering England’s third national lockdown.
Prisons push Thailand’s COVID-19 cases to new daily high
Health authorities in Thailand reported 9,635 new coronavirus cases on Monday, doubling the previous daily record set last week. Over 70% of Monday’s increase — 6,853 cases — came from prisons.
Thailand’s confirmed case total rose to 111,082, of which almost three-quarters — 82,219 __ have been recorded since the beginning of April this year, when a new wave of coronavirus infections began. Twenty-five deaths were reported Monday, bringing total fatalities to 614.
Thailand had about 7,100 cases including 63 deaths in all of last year, in what was regarded as a success story in containing the virus.
Catch up on the past 24 hours
The CDC's director is defending its abrupt reversal on masks, saying the science evolved in the past two weeks but adding: "This is not permission for widespread removal of masks." (These are the new recommendations.) The reversal caught senior White House officials and medical experts completely off guard. A behind-the-scenes look reveals how that unfolded.
Which stores are requiring masks, and which aren't? Walmart says vaccinated shoppers can pull them off immediately, but other major retailers in Washington state are split.
All Washington counties head into the third phase of reopening tomorrow. Here's what you can and can't do in this phase.
As if a COVID-19 surge weren't enough, India is bracing for a powerful cyclone to hit today. Authorities are trying to evacuate hundreds of thousands of people to relief shelters as the storm and the virus threaten to worsen each other's effects.
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