Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Friday, May 28, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.
While scientists figure out if we’ll need another coronavirus shot — and if so, which one — production of another potential vaccine against COVID-19 will begin within weeks, according to its developers.
Meanwhile, in Washington, Gov. Jay Inslee continues to slowly ease virus guidance ahead of June 30, the day he’s said he’d lift broad restrictions. This week, Inslee approved an update to the state’s recommendations 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.
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.
Costco brings back popular food samples, another sign that life is returning to pre-pandemic normal
Shoppers go to Costco for the low prices, the selection — and the food samples.
The box-box chain’s popular perk has been gone for the past year, due to COVID-19 precautions, but now it’s about to make a comeback.
The retailer announced it is “beginning a phased return to full sampling” in June, Costco chief financial officer Richard Galanti said Thursday on an earnings call.
“As you all know, we eliminated our popular food sampling and demo activities in our warehouses last March at the onset of the pandemic,” Galanti said on the call, reports The Kansas City Star. “I’m happy to report that over the next couple of weeks we will be beginning a phased return to full sampling.”
Food samples will return early in June at about 170 Costco locations, before spreading to the rest of the company’s 560 U.S. outlets by the end of the month.
Travel numbers climb as Americans hit the road for holiday
Americans hit the road in near-record numbers at the start of the Memorial Day weekend, as their eagerness to break free from coronavirus confinement overcame higher prices for flights, gasoline and hotels.
More than 1.8 million people went through U.S. airports Thursday, and the daily number was widely expected to cross 2 million at least once over the long holiday weekend, which would be the highest mark since early March 2020.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas warned people to expect long lines at airports and appealed for travelers to be patient.
The rise in travel appears to be fueled by an increase in COVID-19 vaccinations as well as an improving economy. The U.S. Commerce Department said consumer spending increased in April, although not as much as in March, showing how consumers are driving a recovery from last year’s pandemic recession.
Biden’s renewed focus on COVID origins ramps up pressure on WHO for more aggressive investigation
The World Health Organization is facing renewed demands for an answer to a key question about the coronavirus pandemic: How did it begin?
President Biden set a 90-day deadline this week for U.S. intelligence agencies to come “closer to a definitive conclusion” on the origins of the coronavirus, and made a new call for an ambitious global investigation, amid a surge in interest in theories that the virus could have leaked from a lab.
The U.S. initiative was partly a response on dismissive remarks about an investigation made by a Chinese official at a WHO event on Tuesday, officials said.
The WHO, an overstretched United Nations agency responsible for coordinating the international response to the pandemic, is feeling the pressure. But it has few powers to investigate on its own.
70% COVID vaccination rate may be in reach, new U.S. poll suggests
A new poll suggests the United States could be on track to vaccinate at least 70% of the adult population against COVID-19 by this summer.
In the latest survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation, 62% of respondents said they had received at least one dose of a vaccine, up from 56% in April. At the same time, about a third of those categorized as “wait and see” reported that they had already made vaccine appointments or planned to do so imminently.
Dr. William Schaffner, medical director of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases and a vaccine expert, found the results encouraging.
“I think there are many people who were on the fence who were worried about things moving too rapidly and about possible side effects, but those concerns are being allayed as they see more of their friends and acquaintances celebrating getting vaccinated,” said Schaffner, who was not involved in the monthly survey, the COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor.
Last year, Manitoba had virus under control. Now it’s a continental hotspot.
Last year, the Canadian province of Manitoba seemed to be a model of how to handle a pandemic: Its case numbers were low compared to Europe and the United States, and deaths were rare.
But now the coronavirus is spreading faster in Manitoba than in any other province or state in Canada, the United States or Mexico, with Indigenous people and people of color hit disproportionately hard.
At a time when Canada’s vaccination program is hitting its stride after a slow rollout, with many provincial governments laying out plans for gradual reopenings into the fall, Manitoba is in crisis mode with twice as many new cases per day than the next-highest state or province.
The situation is a remarkable reversal. Manitoba once stood out as an example of the effectiveness of tight restrictions, like closing its borders to the rest of Canada, to curb the spread of the virus.
South Africa starts jabs for elderly as virus surge looms
South Africans aged 60 and over gathered this week at a government health clinic outside Johannesburg to get their COVID-19 shots.
“You are about to receive a vaccine to protect against COVID-19. It is the Pfizer vaccine and it requires two doses,” said a nurse, speaking the Zulu language to the group at the Orange Farm township clinic, near Johannesburg. She described what they should do about possible side effects.
“Amen,” she said in closing, and the vaccine recipients murmured the same response, as if in church.
South Africa is in a race against time to vaccinate as many people as possible amid signs the virus may be surging again with the approach of winter in the Southern Hemisphere, when people spend more time indoors, typically allowing for more spread of disease. It is also a critical front in the fight against the virus in Africa, with South Africa recording 40% of the continent’s COVID-19 deaths.
State health officials confirm 1,088 new coronavirus cases
The state Department of Health (DOH) reported 1,088 new coronavirus cases and 11 new deaths on Friday.
The update brings the state's totals to 434,783 cases and 5,765 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. Thursday.
In addition, 24,075 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the virus — 240 new hospitalizations. In King County, the state's most populous, state health officials have confirmed a total of 109,156 COVID-19 diagnoses and 1,577 deaths.
Since vaccinations began in mid-December, the state and health care providers have administered 6,908,004 doses and 41.98% 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 41,196 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.
Coronavirus cases rise among ICE detainees; robust vaccination effort needed, say critics
Hundreds of immigrants in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention centers tested positive for the coronavirus this week, compared with just 60 inside the much-larger Bureau of Prisons, a stark discrepancy that comes as lawyers and lawmakers are urging the Biden administration to swiftly vaccinate all detainees.
Infections in ICE detention have risen from 370 in mid-March to nearly 1,500 this week because more migrants are crossing the U.S.-Mexico border and many are arriving infected, federal officials said. But the American Civil Liberties Union says ICE has failed to create the type of robust vaccination program that helped the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) drive down infections, and it told the Department of Homeland Security in a letter Thursday that detention centers have been “among the most dangerous” places during the pandemic.
“This is ICE’s clear failure to provide for the health and safety of people in their custody,” Eunice Cho, senior staff attorney at the ACLU National Prison Project, said in an interview, calling the disparity between the agencies’ figures “stunning.”
“There should be no one in detention who wants a vaccine and is unable to get it.”
Hungary donates COVID-19 jabs amid slowing vaccination drive
Hungary’s prime minister on Friday urged Hungarians to register for their COVID-19 jabs, following a sharp drop in what was until recently one of the strongest vaccination drives in the 27-nation European Union.
“The fact is that this is a virus that will not go away … Sooner or later, it will find everyone,” Orban warned Friday.
Amid the slowdown, Viktor Orban’s government said 100,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine will be donated to Cape Verde, a small island nation off west Africa, and 41,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine will be lent to the Czech Republic.
Hungary has provided at least a first dose to 52.3% of its full population, the second-highest rate in the EU thanks to vaccines from Russia and China in addition to those procured through the EU.
US agency loosens mask guidance for summer campers
Kids at summer camps can skip wearing masks outdoors, with some exceptions, federal health officials said Friday.
Children who aren’t fully vaccinated should still wear masks outside when they’re in crowds or in sustained close contact with others – and when they are inside, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. Fully vaccinated kids need not wear masks indoors or outside, the agency said.
The guidelines open the door to a more conventional camp experience and came out in the nick of time, just before camps start opening in some parts of the country, said Tom Rosenberg, president of the American Camp Association.
The guidance is the first in a wave of updates that will incorporate the CDC’s recent decisions on masks and social distancing. Earlier this month, the agency said Americans don’t have to be as cautious about masks and distancing outdoors, and that fully vaccinated people don’t need masks in most situations.
UK authorizes use of J&J vaccine as virus cases edge up
British government regulators on Friday authorized the single-dose coronavirus vaccine made by Johnson & Johnson for use in the U.K. amid concerns about rising COVID-19 cases as a variant of the virus first identified in India spreads around the country.
The authorization takes the number of vaccines in the U.K.’s armory to four following earlier approvals for the two-dose regimens developed by Pfizer/BioNTech, AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford, and Moderna.
The U.K. has seen a modest uptick in new cases in recent days as a result of the variant identified in India.
NJ to give beachgoers COVID shots over Memorial Day weekend
Beachgoers at three popular Jersey Shore spots will be able to get vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus over the Memorial Day weekend.
Gov. Phil Murphy on Friday announced the “Shots At The Shore” campaign that will offer free vaccinations Saturday and Sunday at Sandy Hook, Long Branch and Asbury Park.
The announcement came on the day that New Jersey dropped its indoor mask mandate, which Murphy called “one of the biggest steps we can take to move forward with our recovery.”
“We’re going to make it possible for beachgoers to get some sun and at the same time get their first shot,” the Democratic governor said.
Future pandemics targeted by new Oxford research center
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.
Oxford hopes to raise $710 million from philanthropists, industry and governments over the next few months to fund the center.
“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.’’
How does prom work with virus protocols? Here’s how it went in Clark County
Jamie Ueda wasn’t about to miss a time-honored high school tradition of prom — even if a mask concealed her carefully applied makeup and no high heels were allowed on Fort Vancouver High School’s gymnasium floor.
“I wanted to come for the experience," the senior said.
That experience is prom with an asterisk, COVID-19-style. Some Clark County school districts did not permit traditional proms this spring for a second consecutive year because of COVID-19 safety restrictions. Others forged ahead, doing modified events or parent-driven pop-up proms not sponsored by schools.
How it got pulled off at Fort Vancouver started with plenty of planning and contingency planning. The two-hour event inside Fort’s gymnasium was limited to 400 guests and tailored around COVID-19 safety protocols: temperature checks and attestation forms at the door, DJ-played songs promoting socially distanced line dancing and an outdoor entertainment area featuring various games and activities for those wanting fresh air.
Idaho governor returns to state, nixes lieutenant governor’s mask-mandate ban
Calling it a “irresponsible, self-serving political stunt," Idaho Gov. Brad Little on Friday issued an executive order repealing a 24-hour-old mask-mandate prohibition put in place while he was out of the state by the lieutenant governor.
The Republican governor said the Republican Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin's actions were a tyrannical abuse of power. He has up to now had been reserved in his comments about McGeachin, a member of the far-right who has worked to undermine Little’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
McGeachin last week announced her run for governor, challenging the first-term incumbent Little.
Her executive order Thursday banning mask mandates in schools and public buildings is widely seen as part of that campaign. And she is already using her nullified executive order in fundraising efforts.
Little has never issued a statewide mask mandate, though he has worn a mask and encouraged others to do so to slow the spread of the virus.
In visions of post-pandemic life, Roaring ’20s beckon again
As hopes rise that the pandemic is ebbing in the United States and Europe, visions of a second “Roaring Twenties” to match last century’s post-pandemic decade have proliferated. Months of lockdown and restrictions on social life have given way to dreams of a new era of frivolity and decadence. For some, it feels like party time.
In many parts of the world, such thoughts are unthinkable. India is engulfed in crisis. The virus is raging in South America. Japan is grappling with a punishing new wave of cases. And even in places where cases are falling and vaccinations are expanding, deep wounds remain from more than a year of death, illness and isolation. COVID-19 won’t disappear. More infectious variants are circulating. Herd immunity may be elusive. Long-term health effects will linger. There will be no Hollywood ending.
But a coming summer and a soaring stock market have lifted optimism and fueled predictions of a new Roaring Twenties. This time, Bill Maher has suggested, we do it without “the Depression at the end of it.”
European regulators OK Pfizer vaccine for children 12-15
The European Medicines Agency on Friday recommended that the use of the coronavirus vaccine made by Pfizer and BioNTech be expanded to children ages 12 to 15, a decision that offers younger and less at-risk populations across the continent access to a COVID-19 shot for the first time during the pandemic.
The recommendation follows similar decisions by regulators in Canada and the United States last month.
Royal-backed Thai institute to import Chinese vaccine
A Thai research agency associated with the country’s royal family said Friday that it will purchase and import a coronavirus vaccine made by China’s Sinopharm, expanding the country’s options at a time when the government is facing criticism for the pace of its inoculation campaign.
The Chulabhorn Royal Academy said Beijing-based Sinopharm had committed to delivering an initial shipment of 1 million doses in June at cost to organizations in the public and private sectors.
So far, the government has secured just 7 million vaccine doses in total and only 3.3% of the country’s roughly 69 million people have received at least one vaccine dose.
US, Britain seek new WHO look into COVID origins in China
The United States and Britain are stepping up calls for the World Health Organization to take a deeper look into the possible origins of COVID-19, including a new visit to China where the first human infections were detected.
WHO and Chinese experts issued a first report in March that laid out four hypotheses about how the pandemic emerged. The joint team said the most likely scenario was that the coronavirus jumped into people from bats via an intermediary animal, and the prospect that it erupted from a laboratory was deemed “extremely unlikely.” But the results were not conclusive.
Late Thursday, the U.S. diplomatic mission in Geneva called for a “timely, transparent, evidence-based and expert-led Phase 2 study, including in the People’s Republic of China.”
The push came a day after President Joe Biden instructed the U.S. intelligence community to redouble their efforts to get closer to a definitive conclusion on the virus’ origins.
Japan extends virus emergency with safe Olympics at stake
Japan extended a coronavirus state of emergency in Tokyo and other areas for 20 more days on Friday, with infections still not slowing as it prepares to host the Olympics in just over 50 days.
Cases remain high and medical systems in Osaka, the hardest-hit area in western Japan, are still overburdened, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said.
The current state of emergency in the capital and eight other metropolitan areas was to end next Monday, but hospitals are still overflowing with COVID-19 patients and serious cases have recently hit new highs.
Costco’s quarterly profit jumps by nearly half
Costco said Thursday its net income for the latest quarter was $1.2 billion, a 45.6% increase from 2020’s third quarter.
Net sales rose 21.7%, to $44.38 billion, with e-commerce leading the way in growth as the pandemic continued to limit in-store shopping in much of the nation.
The Issaquah-based discount warehouse giant said online sales have surged, growing 38.2% for the latest quarter and 63.6% over nine months compared to the prior periods.
Malaysia imposes near-total lockdown after virus cases soar
Malaysia’s prime minister announced on Friday a near-total coronavirus lockdown in the country, with social and economic activities to be halted for two weeks to contain a worsening outbreak.
Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said the decision to implement the lockdown starting June 1 came after new infections breached 8,000 on Friday for the first time, sparking fears the disease could spiral out of control. New infections have climbed since the recent Muslim Eid festival, crossing 6,000 on May 19 for the first time and soaring to 8,290 on Friday.
Malaysia’s total cases and deaths have jumped nearly five-fold compared to all of last year.
Catch up on the past 24 hours
The Seattle area is getting a nearly $1 billion shot in the arm to aid in its pandemic recovery, thanks mostly to federal money. We broke down where the money will go.
No, half the U.S. population has not been fully vaccinated. Fact-checkers have a bone to pick with President Joe Biden.
Three more Seattle library branches are reopening to allow patrons inside, and all reopened branches will swing the doors open wider to let more people in.
America’s first vaccine millionaire, age 22, "thought it was a prank call" when she was car-shopping and her phone rang, with Ohio's governor on the other end. (She's still getting the used car.) Meanwhile, California is dangling the biggest prizes in the nation to get people vaccinated.
Washingtonians will soon be able to go to Disneyland again. Here's what travelers need to know as Disneyland and Disney California Adventure start admitting out-of-state visitors.
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