Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Friday, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.
The number of reported COVID-19 cases are on a continuous decline across the globe, except in the Americas and Western Pacific, the World Health Organization said in its latest weekly pandemic assessment.
COVID-19 deaths have decreased or remained stable in most regions, except in the Middle East, where a 30% increase was reported, according to the health agency’s assessment.
Meanwhile, the omicron subvariant dominant in the U.S. spreads more quickly and has the potential to cause more serious illness than its omicron predecessors because it combines properties of both the omicron and delta variants, according to health experts.
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 rest of our coronavirus coverage and here to see how we track the daily spread across Washington.
Why we need better COVID vaccines this fall
New research by a team of San Francisco scientists is raising questions about the usefulness of a new omicron-specific COVID vaccine for next fall, as the virus quickly evolves and the risk of illness is likely to soar.
The study, published in the journal Nature, offers growing evidence that federal policymakers must make a tough choice: Should today’s vaccine be changed — and, if so, how?
Time is tight, so a decision is planned next month. It comes as the nation is in the midst of a new wave of infections related to new omicron variant subtypes, averaging more than 105,000 new cases a day, the highest since February. An estimated 58% of all new U.S. cases are linked to the hyper-transmissible BA.2.12.1 omicron variant, which is quickly spreading among both the vaccinated and previously infected.
Dr. Charles Chiu, an infectious disease specialist and microbiologist at UC San Francisco who contributed to the study, said he doubted an omicron vaccine would be useful against emerging variants. “We shouldn’t be playing ‘Whac-A-Mole.’ ”
Beijing detains COVID lab staff it blames for worsening outbreak
Beijing police detained 17 employees of a COVID-19 lab for failing to test samples properly, blaming the infractions for worsening the outbreak that’s enveloped China’s capital for a month.
Workers at the lab diluted samples to the point that infections may not have been detectable, officials said at a briefing on Friday. It led to cases not being found and spawned the risk of further spread, said Li Ang, an official with the Beijing Municipal Health Commission. The city will tighten supervision over labs, including daily inspections.
Mass testing has been a hallmark of China’s COVID Zero approach, and officials have mobilized a legion of private diagnostic companies to help with the process. But inaccurate results produced by some firms have led to uninfected people with false positive results being sent to makeshift hospitals in Shanghai and infections not being detected in a timely manner in Beijing.
People aren’t reporting at-home COVID results; Puyallup will test wastewater instead
There’s a new way health officials can detect COVID-19 infections, and it starts in Puyallup residents’ homes — more specifically, their bathrooms.
The Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department recently announced its partnership with the state Department of Health as well as local wastewater facilities to test for COVID in untreated wastewater. The state Department of Health is funding the program, TPCHD spokesperson Kenny Via said via email.
Doing this may help the health department identify when COVID infections increase or decrease, according to an announcement from the TPCHD. Test sampling began at the Puyallup Water Pollution Control Plant this week.
“Many of you have taken COVID-19 tests at home … But not everyone reports test results. This leads to an undercount of cases,” TPCHD’s COVID Project Manager Jennifer Thompson wrote in the announcement.
Shanghai lockdown: Residents demand release, and some get it
On a balmy Sunday night, residents of an upscale Shanghai compound took to the streets to decry lockdown restrictions imposed by their community. By the following morning, they were free to leave.
The triumphant story quickly spread on chat groups across the Chinese city this week, sparking one question in the minds of those who remained under lockdown: Shouldn’t we do the same?
By the end of the week, other groups of residents had confronted management in their complexes, and some had won at least a partial release.
While it’s unclear how widespread they are, the incidents reflect the frustration that has built up after more than seven weeks of lockdown, even as the number of new daily cases has fallen to a few hundred in a city of 25 million people.
They also are a reminder of the power of China’s neighborhood committees that the ruling Communist Party relies on to spread propaganda messages, enforce its decisions and even settle personal disputes. Such committees and the residential committees under them have become the target of complaints, especially after some in Shanghai and other cities refused to allow residents out even after official restrictions were relaxed.
More than 21 million people in Shanghai are now in “precaution zones,” the least restrictive category. In theory, they are free to go out. In practice, the decision is up to their residential committees, resulting in a kaleidoscope of arbitrary rules.
Some are allowed out, but only for a few hours with a specially issued pass for one day or certain days of the week. Some places permit only one person per household to leave. Others forbid people to leave at all.
I used a $150 device to track my COVID risk. I got COVID anyway
My boyfriend wasn’t feeling well. Then again, that wasn’t too surprising.
We had just spent a weekend at New Orleans’ annual jazz festival, where we spent long days baking in 90 degree weather and drinking plenty of beer to stay cool. But hangovers and heatstroke weren’t the only potential culprits.
The risk of COVID was everywhere. I knew that because for weeks I had been carrying around a palm-sized, $150 carbon dioxide monitor that assesses exactly that.
Then Jesse told me that he couldn’t smell anything. A bright pink line soon confirmed the answer I’d been dreading. He had COVID. Three days later — after two years of avoiding it — I tested positive, too.
Carbon dioxide monitors can assess how COVID-risky a space is because they help tell you whether you’re breathing in clean air. They measure the concentration of carbon dioxide, which people exhale when they breathe, along with other things like, potentially, virus particles. The more well-ventilated a space, the lower the reading on my monitor’s screen — meaning not only less carbon dioxide but also less of the stuff like COVID that might make people sick.
I had been testing out the device because I was curious how helpful technology like this might be in the midst of a global pandemic as we all make decisions about which aspects of pre-pandemic life to resume and where to still practice caution. I also wanted to see what it might reveal about the safety of the places I spend my time. More often than not, I found that the number on the screen of my monitor was high — too high.
College enrollment drops, even as the pandemic’s effects ebb
The ongoing enrollment crisis at U.S. colleges and universities deepened in spring 2022, raising concerns that a fundamental shift is taking place in attitudes toward the value of a college degree — even as the coronavirus pandemic has disrupted operations for higher education.
The latest college enrollment figures released Thursday by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center indicated that 662,000 fewer students enrolled in undergraduate programs in spring 2022 than a year earlier, a decline of 4.7%. Graduate and professional student enrollment, which had been a bright spot during the pandemic, also declined 1% from last year.
Doug Shapiro, the center’s executive director, noted small gains in first-year, first-time students. However, he suggested that the numbers and the breadth of the declines indicate an underlying change, as students question whether college is the ticket to the middle class and a good-paying job.
“That suggests it’s more than just the pandemic to me; it’s more than just low-income communities that are primarily served by community colleges,” Shapiro said during a conference call with reporters. “It suggests that there’s a broader question about the value of college and particularly concerns about student debt and paying for college and potential labor market returns.”
Terry W. Hartle, senior vice president of the American Council on Education, a major industry association, urged caution in interpreting the data. “The numbers are disappointing and troubling, but I am reluctant to read any major implications into enrollment changes in one spring semester during a pandemic,” Hartle said.
Overall, total undergraduate enrollment has dropped by nearly 1.4 million — or 9.4% — during the pandemic. Even before the pandemic, college enrollment had been dropping nationally.
Widespread disbelief over N. Korea’s tiny COVID death rate
According to North Korea, its fight against COVID-19 has been impressive: About 3.3 million people have been reported sick with fevers, but only 69 have died.
If all are coronavirus cases, that’s a fatality rate of 0.002%, something no other country, including the world’s richest, has achieved against a disease that has killed more than 6 million people.
The North’s claims, however, are being met with widespread doubt about two weeks after it acknowledged its first domestic COVID-19 outbreak. Experts say the impoverished North should have suffered far greater deaths than reported because there are very few vaccines, a sizable number of undernourished people and a lack of critical care facilities and test kits to detect virus cases in large numbers.
North Korea’s secretiveness makes it unlikely outsiders can confirm the true scale of the outbreak. Some observers say North Korea is underreporting fatalities to protect leader Kim Jong Un at all costs. There’s also a possibility it might have exaggerated the outbreak in a bid to bolster control of its 26 million people.
“Scientifically, their figures can’t be accepted,” said Lee Yo Han, a professor at Ajou University Graduate School of Public Health in South Korea, adding that the public data “were likely all controlled (by the authorities) and embedded with their political intentions.”
‘That’s just part of aging’: Long COVID symptoms are often overlooked in older adults
Nearly 18 months after getting COVID-19 and spending weeks in the hospital, Terry Bell struggles with hanging up his shirts and pants after doing the laundry.
Lifting his clothes, raising his arms, arranging items in his closet leave Bell short of breath and often trigger severe fatigue. He walks with a cane, only short distances. He’s 50 pounds lighter than when the virus struck.
Bell, 70, is among millions of older adults who have grappled with long COVID — a population that has received little attention even though research suggests older adults are more likely to develop the poorly understood condition than younger or middle-aged adults.
Long COVID refers to ongoing or new health problems that occur at least four weeks after a COVID infection, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Much about the condition is baffling: There is no diagnostic test to confirm it, no standard definition of the ailment, and no way to predict who will be affected. Common symptoms, which can last months or years, include fatigue, shortness of breath, an elevated heart rate, muscle and joint pain, sleep disruptions, and problems with attention, concentration, language, and memory — a set of difficulties known as brain fog.
Ongoing inflammation or a dysfunctional immune response may be responsible, along with reservoirs of the virus that remain in the body, small blood clots, or residual damage to the heart, lungs, vascular system, brain, kidneys, or other organs.
Only now is the impact on older adults beginning to be documented. In the largest study of its kind, published recently in the journal BMJ, researchers estimated that 32% of older adults in the U.S. who survived COVID infections had symptoms of long COVID up to four months after infection — more than double the 14% rate an earlier study found in adults ages 18 to 64. (Other studies suggest symptoms can last much longer, for a year or more.)
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