Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Monday, May 24, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.
In some Washington state ZIP codes, adult vaccination rates for at least one dose have risen well above 80%. Overall statewide, about 59% of Washingtonians 16 and older have received at least one shot, and state officials say vaccine supply exceeds demand.
Nationwide, more than 61% of American adults have received at least one vaccine dose, and the U.S. added fewer than 30,000 COVID-19 cases a day for the first time since June.
Still, most scientists say reaching herd immunity — when the virus can’t readily be transmitted because so many are protected — is unlikely. And in some areas, vaccination rates are behind despite ample supply. Convincing those who remain unvaccinated still requires outreach and public health campaigns.
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.
Seattle Times now charting coronavirus cases county-by-county
The Seattle Times is now charting recent coronavirus cases per county as part of its Mapping a Pandemic efforts, showing the infection rate and case counts from the previous two weeks to help Washingtonians better understand the local breakdowns of the virus' spread.
The choropleth map, which will be updated every Monday, shows the most recent virus cases in each county in the state, comparing per capita counts to see how the virus is moving around the state as restrictions start scaling back.
The graphic uses data from the state Department of Health; the color legend may update based on the breakdowns of cases.
High school back to online learning after COVID-19 outbreak
BEND, Ore. — A COVID-19 outbreak at a central Oregon high school that required nearly half its students and staff into quarantine has prompted school officials to send students back to online learning for nearly two weeks.
As of Friday afternoon, 15 staff members and students from La Pine High School had been diagnosed with COVID-19, The Bulletin reported.
A letter sent to families Friday by interim principal Anne-Marie Schmidt said that resulted in the larger quarantine. She told the newspaper that resulted in many classes taught by substitutes, and some students becoming nervous about getting sick.
She described the move as a pause to stop cases from spreading.
State health officials investigating heart problems in a 'small number' of vaccinated people, though they've yet to confirm a connection to the shots
State health officials confirmed Monday evening that they're investigating reports of some cases of myocarditis or pericarditis in people who have received COVID-19 shots, though they're not yet sure if the vaccine was a factor.
The state is looking into a "small number" of cases and have notified health care providers in Washington, Idaho and Oregon so "they can be ready to quickly identify symptoms if more cases occur," according to a Monday statement from the state Department of Health.
"Further investigation is needed to determine if these cases are connected in any way to COVID-19 vaccines," DOH continued.
Myocarditis is an inflammation of the heart tissue and is usually caused by a viral infection, according to the state. Symptoms can include chest pain, abnormal heartbeat and shortness of breath. Pericarditis is swelling and irritation of the thin, saclike tissue surrounding the heart, the state said.
DOH is working with local public health departments and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which recently said it was looking into reports that a small number of vaccinated teenagers and young adults may have experienced heart problems, according to The New York Times.
The CDC's vaccine safety group said over the weekend that there were "relatively few" cases and that they may be entirely unrelated to the vaccine. The cases that have been reported appear to be mild, the group added.
The CDC has yet to determine if there's any evidence the vaccines caused the heart condition.
Is your living room the future of hospital care?
Hospital-level care at home — some of it provided over the internet — is poised to grow after more than a decade as a niche offering, boosted both by hospitals eager to ease overcrowding during the pandemic and growing interest by insurers who want to slow health care spending. But a host of challenges remain, from deciding how much to pay for such services to which kinds of patients can safely benefit.
Under the model, patients with certain medical conditions, such as pneumonia or heart failure — even moderate COVID— are offered high-acuity care in their homes, with 24/7 remote monitoring and daily visits by medical providers.
In the latest sign that the idea is catching on, two big players — Kaiser Permanente and the Mayo Clinic — announced plans this month to collectively invest $100 million into Medically Home, a Boston-based company that provides such services to scale up and expand their programs.
The two organizations estimate that 30% of patients currently admitted to hospitals nationally have conditions eligible for in-home care. (Kaiser Health News is not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.)
State health officials confirm 900 new coronavirus cases
The state Department of Health (DOH) reported 900 new coronavirus cases and seven new deaths on Monday.
The update brings the state's totals to 429,499 cases and 5,709 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-19-related deaths aren’t reported on the weekends.
In addition, 23,745 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the virus. In King County, the state's most populous, state health officials have confirmed a total of 108,508 COVID-19 diagnoses and 1,562 deaths.
Since vaccinations began in mid-December, the state and health care providers have administered 6,749,266 doses and 40.8% 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 48,269 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.
Biden signs bill opening door for Alaska cruises to resume
JUNEAU, Alaska — President Joe Biden signed into law Monday legislation that opens a door for resumed cruise ship travel to Alaska after the pandemic last year scrapped sailings.
The measure pushed by members of Alaska’s Republican congressional delegation will allow large cruise ships to sail directly from Washington state to Alaska without stopping in Canada. It is intended as a temporary workaround of a longstanding federal law that requires certain large cruise ships bound for Alaska to stop in Canada or start trips there.
Canada, amid COVID-19 concerns, has barred cruise operations through February.
U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski said Alaska has a limited opportunity for cruise travel, unlike sunny locales such as Florida. Before the pandemic, the season in Alaska would begin in late spring and extend through the summer or sometimes early fall.
The pandemic brought New Zealanders back home. Will they stay?
Like many New Zealanders before her, Cat Moody chased the broader horizons of life abroad, unsure if she would ever return to a homeland she saw as remote and limiting.
But when the pandemic arrived, it “changed the calculus” of what she valued, she said. Suddenly, fresh air, natural splendor and a sparse population sounded more appealing, as did the sense of security in a country whose strict measures have all but vanquished COVID-19.
In February, Moody, 42, left her house and the life she had built in Princeton, New Jersey, and moved back to New Zealand with her husband, a U.S. citizen. She is among more than 50,000 New Zealanders who have flocked home during the pandemic, offering the country a rare opportunity to win back some of its best and brightest.
The unexpected influx of international experience and connections has led to local news reports heralding a societal and industrial renaissance in New Zealand. Policymakers are exhorting businesses to capitalize on the “fundamental competitive advantage” offered by the country’s success against the coronavirus.
The question is how long the edge will last.
Some chiropractors stoking fear of COVID vaccines
Toney Hicks, 78, almost became part of last winter’s death toll when he contracted COVID-19 with double pneumonia and spent a week in intensive care. That was four months ago, and now that he’s recovered, his family has been urging him to get vaccinated.
But despite the risks and his underlying conditions of irregular heartbeat and high blood pressure, Hicks has been holding off. Mostly, he told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, because of advice from his chiropractor.
On Facebook, his chiropractor Josh Paxton, who has an office near the Tennessee border, has repeatedly claimed that the COVID vaccines can have frightening side effects, despite their stellar overall safety record. In January, Paxton reposted a video of a woman experiencing convulsions who blames the Moderna vaccine, an unsubstantiated claim. “Run from this untested medical EXPERIMENT,” the chiropractor wrote in his post.
Critics of chiropractic say Georgia is a hotbed for practitioners who discourage vaccines because of the influence of Marietta-based Life University, which promotes spinal adjustments and healthy living as the best protection against disease.
Top Pakistan health official doesn’t foresee India scenario
Pakistan’s top health official said Monday the COVID-19 variant that devastated neighboring India, causing record infections and deaths, has not yet been found in Pakistan.
Faisal Sultan said Pakistan was still in the middle of a third wave of infections that began earlier this year, flooding hospitals with COVID patients. But he said he hoped the tide of new cases would subside in the coming weeks.
“I don’t foresee an India-like situation in Pakistan,” he told The Associated Press. Sultan said Pakistan avoided a similar scenario to India because thousands of beds were added to hospitals and the production of oxygen was increased as part of a contingency plan.
Stephen Colbert says he’s going back before live audiences
In one more step toward a reopened entertainment world, CBS said Monday that Stephen Colbert’s late-night show will return on June 14 to episodes with a full studio audience.
Audience members will have to provide proof that they have been vaccinated against COVID-19 before attending shows at New York’s Ed Sullivan Theater. Face masks will be optional.
Since the COVID shutdown in March 2020, Colbert has produced 205 episodes without a live audience, taping his first monologue from the bathtub of his South Carolina home. In August, he moved to a small studio at the Sullivan Theater offices, usually only with the show’s executive producer, stage manager and occasionally Colbert’s wife watching.
Public health officials target vaccine-hesitant via dating apps
The Biden administration is partnering with top dating apps to encourage young and healthy people to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
Tinder, Hinge, OkCupid and other popular dating apps will add special vaccination badges and benefits to users’ profiles after they receive the vaccine. For example, any person on Tinder who adds a sticker to their profile promoting the COVID-19 vaccine receives a free “Super Like.” The apps will also provide information about vaccines and help people schedule appointments.
“People who display their vaccination status are 14% more likely to get a match. We have finally found the one thing that makes us all more attractive,” said Andy Slavitt, the White House’s senior adviser for COVID-19 response.
Dating apps are among the most popular non-gaming apps available and can reach up to 50 million people, administration officials said.
Wisconsin priest who ignored COVID limits is asked to resign
A priest in Wisconsin who has been ignoring COVID-19 gathering restrictions at his masses and criticizing Democrats for their stance on the virus vaccines says the leader of the Diocese of La Crosse has asked him to resign.
The Rev. James Altman announced the request from Bishop William Callahan during his sermon Sunday at St. James the Less Catholic Church in La Crosse. The sermon was recorded and posted to YouTube.
Altman came under fire last fall for calling Democrats godless and warning they would go to hell if they don’t repent. Later, he called COVID-19 protocols “Nazi-esque controls.”
NYC will eliminate remote learning options
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio on Monday announced that classrooms will open for in-person instruction in September with no remote option.
New York is one of the first big cities in the country to remove the option of remote learning altogether for the next school year, making widespread predictions that online classes would be a fixture for school districts seem premature. Gov. Phil Murphy of New Jersey, a Democrat, announced last week that the state would no longer have remote classes come fall. Leaders in Massachusetts and Illinois, along with San Antonio, have said there will be extremely limited remote options.
Education officials in Florida have indicated they will significantly reduce or even eliminate online classes next school year, and the superintendent of Miami-Dade schools said he expected all students to return this fall. Houston, one of the largest districts in the country, will keep a remote option for fall, as will Philadelphia.
Children and staff members who have been in physical schoolrooms have been randomly tested for COVID-19, and the city has reported very low rates of virus transmission in the schools.
U.S. arrival of highly contagious COVID-19 variant from India draws CDC scrutiny
Federal Health officials are ramping up their surveillance of the highly transmissible COVID-19 variant first identified in India as experts warn that under-vaccinated areas in the U.S. could become hot spots for the mutation.
U.S. cases attributed to the B.1.617 variant currently sit below 1%, but one science group said the strain could be as much as 50% more transmissible than B.1.1.7, the variant that emerged from the U.K. That mutation was first seen in the U.S. in late December, and is now dominant nationally.
Amtrak restores service on routes through Seattle following COVID cutbacks
In another hopeful sign that the travel industry is bouncing back in Washington state after pandemic-induced lows last year, Amtrak says it will restore daily service on 12 long-distance routes across the country, including two that run through Seattle.
Starting Monday, both the Empire Builder — Chicago to Seattle/Portland — and Coast Starlight — Seattle to Los Angeles — routes will resume daily service, giving passengers on the West Coast more travel options, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported.
The routes had previously been operating only three times a week due to low ridership during the pandemic.
Thai villages isolated over variant find amid vaccine worry
Thailand placed barbed wire and checkpoints in several southern villages along the Malaysian border Monday after identifying a cluster of infections with a coronavirus variant that’s believed to spread faster.
Security forces sought to isolate about a dozen villages in the Narathiwat province, where the variant first discovered in South Africa was detected last week. The person infected with the variant is believed to have crossed the border from Malaysia, which is also experiencing a coronavirus surge.
Thailand will begin its national vaccination campaign on June 7 and hopes to vaccinate 70% of the estimated 70 million people living in the country by the end of the year. It has administered 2.91 million doses so far, using the vaccines from AstraZeneca and China’s Sinovac.
Japan opens mass vaccine centers 2 months before Olympics
Japan mobilized military doctors and nurses to give shots to elderly people in Tokyo and Osaka on Monday as the government desperately tries to accelerate its vaccination rollout and curb coronavirus infections just two months before hosting the Olympics.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga is determined to hold the Olympics in Tokyo after a one-year delay and has made an ambitious pledge to finish vaccinating the country’s 36 million elderly people by the end of July, despite skepticism it’s possible. Worries about public safety while many Japanese remain unvaccinated have prompted growing protests and calls for canceling the games, set to start on July 23.
India virus death toll passes 300,000, 3rd highest in world
India crossed another grim milestone Monday with more than 300,000 people lost to the coronavirus, while a devastating surge of infections appeared to be easing in big cities but was swamping the poorer countryside.
The milestone, as recorded by India’s Health Ministry, comes as slowed vaccine deliveries have marred the country’s fight against the pandemic, forcing many to miss their shots, and a rare but fatal fungal infection affecting COVID-19 patients has worried doctors.
India’s death toll is the third-highest reported in the world after the U.S. and Brazil.
Catch up on the past 24 hours
Parents are facing tough new decisions after the CDC eased its guidance on masks, with many wondering what they should do around their unvaccinated kids. Here's how Western Washington parents are navigating this and why, for some, "the new guidance closes our world." Meanwhile, scientists offer a breakdown of which activities kids without vaccines can safely do.
If you mixed two kinds of COVID vaccines, would you get the best of both worlds? Some vaccinated people are wondering if it makes sense to get a different shot for even more protection. Don't try it on your own, but scientists say this is an "exciting area of vaccine research."
When will we get our pre-COVID lifestyles back? We talked with Seattle-area scientists about the clues and unknowns in six key areas that will determine the course ahead, from variants to masks and booster shots. Across the nation, case numbers are looking better than they have in nearly a year, but some regions are far behind others when it comes to vaccination.
We all have a critical choice to make about masks. Columnist Naomi Ishisaka explains why she's keeping hers firmly fastened.
Michigan's governor is in hot water after a photo hit social media of her breaking COVID-19 rules at a bar. It isn't the first time Gov. Gretchen Whitmer failed to take her own advice on the pandemic.
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