Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Thursday, May 27, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.
More than a year has passed since the COVID-19 pandemic began, yet many questions around the origins of the virus remain unanswered. On Wednesday, President Joe Biden ordered U.S. intelligence officials to “redouble” their efforts to investigate how the coronavirus spread so quickly and push Chinese officials to be more open about the outbreak.
Vaccination efforts continue nationwide. In Seattle, officials are shutting down all but one of the city’s fixed mass-vaccination sites, including the massive Lumen Field Event Center location, next month — a direct response to the ever-shrinking pool of residents not yet vaccinated. As of Wednesday, more than 76% of eligible Seattleites have received at least one shot, and 60% are fully vaccinated.
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.
Heart inflammation after virus is rare in Big Ten athletes
Heart inflammation is rare in Big Ten Conference athletes who’ve had COVID-19 and in most it cases causes no obvious symptoms, according to the first data published from a league registry.
The results from the Big Ten COVID-19 Cardiac Registry show just 37 of nearly 1,600 athletes — a little over 2% — had evidence of heart inflammation on imaging tests. Of these, nine athletes had any chest pain, palpitations or other symptoms, according to the study published Thursday in JAMA Cardiology.
Follow-up testing showed inflammation had disappeared a month later in most of the athletes affected, but about 40% of the 37 had scarring. The researchers said it is uncertain whether these affects pose a substantial health risk, although myocarditis, the medical term for the type of heart inflammation involved, is a leading cause of sudden death in athletes.
Heart inflammation has been found in other COVID-patients and concern that the virus could increase risks for athletes led the league to create the registry last September. That same month, the Big Ten mandated heart screening including imaging tests for athletes with positive COVID-19 tests, before allowing them to return to play. Through December 15, 9,255 athletes had been tested and 2,810 or 30% had tested positive.
Oregon reaches 200,000 confirmed coronavirus cases
PORTLAND, Ore. — Oregon has surpassed 200,000 confirmed coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic, health officials said Thursday.
The state’s death toll is 2,660.
“As we head into the Memorial Day holiday weekend, this milestone is a grim reminder that while case counts are decreasing statewide in large part due to vaccination, there remains a risk of COVID-19 in Oregon, especially for those who are not yet vaccinated,” said Oregon Health Authority Director Patrick Allen. “I urge caution for Oregonians who are not yet vaccinated.”
Oregon’s daily case count, hospitalizations, deaths and positivity rates have been decreasing.
Scientists are figuring out if we will need another coronavirus shot — and which one
U.S. scientists are expanding efforts to evaluate when fully vaccinated people will need booster shots — and, if so, whether people can switch brands — in the latest chapter of the global quest to stop the pandemic.
For people eager to put the health crisis behind them, the relief of being vaccinated is being replaced by a new worry. Is immunity a ticking clock? Should they plan a family wedding this fall? Will everyone need booster shots? When? Are people locked into the same brand or vaccine technology for their next shot?
“As we know, COVID is not going to go away anytime soon, and we know that the antibodies decrease over time, so that a boost will be needed at some juncture. I can’t predict when,” said John Beigel, associate director for clinical research in the Division of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
Beigel is working on a U.S. trial, set to launch this week, that will provide one piece of the answer, testing whether people can mix and match shots when the need arises.
Future pandemics targeted by new Oxford research center
LONDON — Oxford University is launching an effort to bring together academic, industry and government experts from around the world to use the lessons learned from COVID-19 in the fight against future pandemics.
The Pandemic Sciences Centre will unite Oxford researchers in disciplines ranging from immunology and public health to computing and social sciences in an effort to improve the rapid identification of and response to emerging threats, the university said in a statement released Friday.
The center will seek to form partnerships with experts around Britain and in other countries, in hope of avoiding the disjointed policies and international competition that slowed the response to COVID-19.
“The reality is this was a bad pandemic, but it was nowhere near as bad as it could have been,’’ John Bell, the Regius professor of medicine at Oxford University, told the Associated Press. “And I think the imperative to get ourselves better organized for a whole range of potential pandemics is now going to be apparent to everybody.’’
Seattle Public Library reopens more branches, allows browsing
The Seattle Public Library said Thursday that three more branches will soon open to in-building patrons. The Ballard Branch will reopen to visitors June 1, followed by the Douglass-Truth and Rainier Beach branches on June 8. These join the Beacon Hill, Broadview, Lake City and Southwest branches, which reopened earlier this spring.
Starting June 1, all reopened branches will operate at 50% capacity, rather than 25%, and patrons will again be allowed to browse collections as well as use computers, consult with library staff, or simply sit and read, according to SPL. (The first four reopened locations initially did not allow books to be removed from shelves, due to concerns about sanitation.)
All of the reopened libraries will be open 10 a.m.-1:30 p.m. and 2:30-6 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, with the exception of Rainier Beach (which will be open Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays). The midafternoon closure will be used for cleaning. Patrons may still pick up holds during that hour.
Along with the seven reopened libraries, nine branches remain open for curbside pickup. Masks remain a requirement for all patrons and staff, vaccinated or not.
Morocco moves to vaccinate prison inmates 45 and up
About 300 inmates in a prison near the Moroccan capital have been vaccinated against COVID-19, among the latest prisoners to benefit from a vaccination campaign that authorities say reflects a commitment to protect a population considered especially vulnerable.
Inmates age 45 and older lined up Wednesday for AstraZeneca vaccine shots at Al Arjat 1 prison in Sale, where both men and women are incarcerated.
As of Thursday, about 4,400 of the approximately 11,500 inmates eligible had been vaccinated since a national campaign was launched at the beginning of the year, according to prison authorities. The entire prison administration staff also has been inoculated.
According to the General Delegation for Prison Administration, known as the DGAPR, 11 inmates have died from COVID-19 in Morocco and 626 others were infected.
Malaysia buys more vaccine to accelerate virus inoculations
Malaysia has procured more vaccines and aims to accelerate inoculations starting next month, a Cabinet minister said Thursday, as the government struggles to contain a worsening coronavirus crisis.
The health ministry on Thursday reported 7,857 new infections, a new record that pushed the country’s total confirmed cases to 541,224. It was the third straight day in which new cases soared above 7,000.
Science Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said the government has bought an additional 12.8 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine, bringing the total to 44.8 million doses, enough to cover 70% of Malaysia’s population. Malaysia has also approved the Sinovac and AstraZeneca vaccines.
State health officials confirm 1,541 new coronavirus cases
The state Department of Health (DOH) reported 1,541 new coronavirus cases and 13 new deaths on Thursday.
The update brings the state's totals to 433,701 cases and 5,754 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.
In addition, 24,018 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the virus — 78 new hospitalizations. In King County, the state's most populous, state health officials have confirmed a total of 109,157 COVID-19 diagnoses and 1,574 deaths.
Since vaccinations began in mid-December, the state and health care providers have administered 6,814,859 doses and 41.22% 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 46,782 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.
California to offer $116M in coronavirus vaccine prize money
California is giving away the country’s largest pot of vaccine prize money, $116.5 million, in an attempt to get millions more inoculated before the most populous U.S. state fully reopens next month. Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday announced the prizes, which also include the nation’s highest single vaccine prize: $1.5 million.
The state estimates about 12 million Californians 12 and older have not been vaccinated. About 63% of the 34 million eligible have gotten shots, though the pace has slowed markedly in recent weeks as infection rates have plummeted to record lows.
California’s reopening is pegged for June 15, and on that day a drawing will be held to award 10 vaccinated people the top prize .
Another 30 people will win $50,000 each, with those drawings starting June 4. Anyone 12 and older who has received at least one shot will be eligible. And the next 2 million people who get vaccinated will get $50 gift cards.
Production of another COVID-19 vaccine to begin in weeks
Production of another potential vaccine against COVID-19 will begin within weeks, its developers Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline said Thursday as they launched a large trial enrolling 35,000 adult volunteers in the United States, Asia, Africa and Latin America.
The study will test vaccine candidate formulas against the original coronavirus that spread from Wuhan, China, and against the variant first seen in South Africa, the pharmaceutical firms said.
If the trial is successful, regulators could approve the vaccine for use in the last three months of the year, the drugmakers said in a statement.
Earlier this month, the firms said their vaccine candidate 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.
AP FACT CHECK: Biden is off on his vaccine claims
President Joe Biden misstated the record Thursday when he asserted that half of his country has been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus and when he suggested that the U.S. leads the world in protecting its population with the shots.
BIDEN: “Now, 50% of all of America, more than in any other country, is fully vaccinated.” — remarks in Cleveland.
THE FACTS: No, half the U.S. population has not been fully vaccinated. What’s true is that half of the population has received at least one shot, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Also true: Just over half the population aged 18 and above is fully vaccinated.
But of the total population, only 40% have full immunity from the shots, not 50%.
US jobless claims fall to 406,000, a new pandemic low
The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits dropped last week to 406,000, a new pandemic low and more evidence that the job market is strengthening as the virus wanes and economy further reopens.
Thursday’s report from the Labor Department showed that applications declined 38,000 from 444,000 a week earlier. The number of weekly applications for jobless aid — a rough measure of the pace of layoffs — has fallen by more than half since January.
The decline in applications reflects a swift rebound in economic growth. The government separately estimated Thursday that the economy expanded at a strong annual pace of 6.4% in the first three months of this year.
‘A whirlwind’: 1st Ohio vaccine lottery winners speak out
The first winner of Ohio’s first $1 million Vax-a-Million vaccination incentive prize was driving to her family’s home in suburban Cleveland when she received a call about the good news — from Gov. Mike DeWine.
“A whirlwind,” Bugenske, 22, said Thursday morning during a news conference. “It absolutely has not processed yet. I am still digesting it — and I like to say that it feels like this is happening to a different person. I cannot believe it.”
The winner of a full college scholarship was eighth grader Joseph Costello of Englewood near Dayton.
DeWine, a Republican, announced the program May 12 to boost lagging vaccination rates. The number of people in Ohio age 16 and older who received their initial COVID-19 vaccine jumped 33% in the week after the state announced its million-dollar incentive lottery, according to an Associated Press analysis.
China says politics behind US call for virus origin probe
China on Thursday accused the Biden administration of playing politics and shirking its responsibility in calling for a renewed investigation into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic that was first detected in China in late 2019.
Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said at a daily briefing that President Joe Biden’s order showed the U.S. “does not care about facts and truth, nor is it interested in serious scientific origin tracing.”
Biden told U.S. intelligence officials to redouble their efforts to investigate the origins of the pandemic, including any possibility the trail might lead to a Chinese laboratory.
After months of minimizing that possibility as a fringe theory, the Biden administration is joining worldwide pressure on China to be more open about the outbreak, aiming to head off Republican complaints the president has not been tough enough to press China on alleged obstruction.
Republicans, including former President Donald Trump, have promoted the theory that the virus emerged from a laboratory rather than naturally through human contact with an infected animal at a wet market in the central Chinese city of Wuhan.
Can employers make COVID-19 vaccination mandatory?
Can employers make COVID-19 vaccination mandatory?
Yes, with some exceptions.
Experts say U.S. employers can require employees to take safety measures, including vaccination. That doesn’t necessarily mean you would get fired if you refuse, but you might need to sign a waiver or agree to work under specific conditions to limit any risk you might pose to yourself or others.
“Employers generally have wide scope” to make rules for the workplace, said Dorit Reiss, a law professor who specializes in vaccine policies at the University of California Hastings College of the Law. “It’s their business.”
Should kids drop their masks? Yakima health officer rejects hotly debated recommendation
After a tumultuous debate, the Yakima Health District Board of Health recommended to the county’s interim health officer, Dr. Larry Jecha, that masks not be worn by children — a change he said would not happen under his leadership.
The recommendation to Jecha was proposed by county Commissioner Amanda McKinney who said recent studies indicate that the impact of COVID-19 on children may have been exaggerated, and children should not be required to mask even as fully vaccinated adults are able to go unmasked. She moved that the board recommend to Jecha that children not wear masks.
Jecha firmly disagreed with the proposal, which contradicts the state’s mask mandate and the latest advice from the nation’s pediatricians.
“I disagree, completely,” he said. “So you can send me something, but until you have a new health officer, it will stay as the state requirement.”
Under state guidelines, masks are required of all individuals 2 and older who are not fully vaccinated.
Melbourne, Australia, set for 4th lockdown as cluster grows
Australia’s second-largest city was set to enter its fourth lockdown Thursday as concern grew over the rapid spread of infections from a coronavirus variant.
The seven-day lockdown for Melbourne and the rest of Victoria state comes after a new cluster in the city with 10,000 people having had some degree of contact with those already infected.
The new Melbourne cluster was found after a traveler from India became infected while in hotel quarantine in South Australia state earlier this month. The traveler was not diagnosed until he returned home from Adelaide to Melbourne.
Report: Woman drove through vaccination tent to protest
A Tennessee woman accused of driving through a COVID-19 vaccine distribution tent as a form of protest has been charged with seven counts of felony reckless endangerment, according to a police report.
Virginia Christine Lewis Brown, 36, was arrested after a Blount County deputy witnessed her driving through the tent at a vaccine distribution event Monday at Foothills Mall in Maryville, according to news outlets, which cited an incident report. A deputy wrote in the report, “Several victims stated that they thought the driver was going to kill them.”
After the deputy stopped Brown, she told him she drove through the site to protest the vaccine and was only traveling 5 miles per hour, the report said.
Study: Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccines appear safe, effective
Two vaccines made by China’s Sinopharm appear safe and effective against COVID-19, according to a study published in a medical journal.
Scientists had been waiting for more details about the two vaccines, even though they already are being used in many countries, and one recently won the backing of the World Health Organization for emergency use.
The report, published online in the Journal of the American Medical Association, concluded the two vaccines are about 73% and 78% effective, as Sinopharm has previously claimed.
Inslee updates COVID-19 guidance for spectator events, including sports games, horse races and rodeos
Gov. Jay Inslee approved on Wednesday an update to the state's guidance for spectator events — including those at stadiums, racetracks and rodeos, among other locations — to increase occupancy and nix requirements for a separate entrance for vaccinated people, according to a statement from his office.
The updates bring spectator events in line with other occupancy restrictions in Phase 3 of the state's coronavirus reopening plan, and are effective immediately.
Under the new guidance, the occupancy for outdoor venues is increased from 25% to 50%, though the state is keeping its cap of 9,000 occupants in a venue. Vaccinated people at a spectator event will also no longer have to use a separate entrance or exit, the statement said.
Read the full spectator guidance here.
Catch up on the past 24 hours
Immunity to the coronavirus lasts at least a year and possibly a lifetime, according to two new studies. This may have implications for who needs booster shots: If you had COVID-19 and later got immunized, you might be able to skip them. ("We will know very, very soon," one study's leader says.) But it's a different story for vaccinated people who were never infected.
President Joe Biden has a mission for U.S. intelligence agencies: Double down on solving the puzzle of where the virus came from. The abrupt shift reflects a change in some scientists' thinking on whether it may have escaped from a lab in Wuhan, China.
Can employers make vaccination mandatory? Yes, with some exceptions.
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