A peer-reviewed study published in the journal Nature is raising questions over the usefulness of developing a new omicron-specific COVID-19 vaccine for the upcoming fall as the virus continues to mutate and evolve rapidly.

Meanwhile, police in Beijing detained 17 COVID-19 lab employees for not testing samples properly, making infections not detectable and increasing the risk of community spread, according to officials.

At the same time, widespread disbelief has resulted from North Korea’s report that 3.3 million people have been reported sick with COVID-19 and only 69 have died from the virus. Experts say the death toll is likely much higher due to the number of undernourished people, lack of vaccines, critical care facilities and COVID-19 test kits.

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.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom tests positive for COVID-19

California Gov. Gavin Newsom tested positive for COVID-19 on Saturday, a day after meeting with New Zealand's prime minister, who had tested positive for the virus earlier in May.

Newsom has mild symptoms and will remain in isolation until he tests negative, his office said in a statement. The 54-year-old Democrat governor will start a five-day regimen of the Paxlovid antiviral. He is vaccinated and received his second booster shot this month.

Newsom and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern met on Friday in San Francisco to announce a climate change partnership. Ardern tested positive for the virus earlier in May.

The governor’s office said it does not know how Newsom contracted the virus.

Other public officials have recently announced testing positive for the virus, including Washington Gov. Jay Inslee on Wednesday and Vice President Kamala Harris last month.

Read the full story here.

—The Associated Press

Testing positive and using the ‘backdoor’ to get into the U.S.

Michelle Fishman calls it the “worst-case scenario that you don’t really think through.”

After a three-week vacation in Greece, the 52-year-old hotel art consultant from Miami and her husband took pre-departure coronavirus tests required to fly home from overseas. She tested positive, he did not.

Although coronavirus travel restrictions have eased across many parts of the world, the United States still requires all international air passengers to present a negative test taken within one day of departure. And according to guidance issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Fishman should have isolated and delayed travel for 10 days, but she said she had to get home earlier to officiate at a wedding.

Instead, she took advantage of a quirk in the rules to head home after five days (the mandatory self-isolation period required by the Greek government) via a “backdoor” — crossing into the United States by land, which does not require a coronavirus test, rather than by air. Because Canada does not require a test for entry, the couple first flew to Toronto and, after spending a night there, Fishman and her husband drove across the border into Buffalo, New York, and caught a flight home.

Read the story here.

—Ceylan Yeginsu, The New York Times

Q&A: Surgeon general warns of ‘crisis’ level health care burnout during Atlanta visit

During a visit to Grady Memorial Hospital this week, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy sounded the alarm over burnout among health care workers reeling after more than two years of caring for patients suffering from an ever-changing and often mystifying virus.

The physical and emotional toll has been immense, and many health care workers are quitting their jobs.

Murthy said the strain brought by COVID also explains why 1 in 5 doctors and 2 in 5 nurses say they plan to leave the profession. Murthy said he hears the word “trauma” used, again and again, to describe the past two years for health workers.

“I think this is not just about supporting the health workforce to make health care more available. It’s a question of living up to our moral responsibility to take care of people who have been there to take care of us,” said Murthy during an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Read the story here.

—Helena Oliviero, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

After pandemic delays, a new dilemma: disinviting wedding guests

Brissa Ortega and Devin Joll haven’t decided on the best way to inform some 35 of their friends, relatives and co-workers that they are no longer invited to the couple’s wedding in November.

Ortega, 33, a product marketing analyst at software security company Synopsys, and Joll, 34, at first planned to marry in August 2020. They had invited about 80 guests via phone and word-of-mouth before postponing the event because of the pandemic, telling any who asked that they planned to reschedule.

After considering new dates in August 2022, as well as in April 2023, the couple settled on Nov. 27. While replanning their wedding, they noticed “a spike in prices” charged by many vendors, Ortega said. To reduce their expenses, she and Joll, who live in Santa Clara, California, whittled down their guest list to around 45 people before booking their venue, a resort in California’s Napa Valley, earlier this month.

Now that they have secured a location, they face a conundrum: how to inform the uninvited — or whether to tell them at all. 

Read the story here.

—Sarah Lyon, The New York Times

COVID was vanishing last Memorial Day. Cases are 5 times higher now.

For the third year, Americans are greeting the unofficial start of summer shadowed by the specter of the coronavirus amid rising COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations across the country.

The United States is recording more than 100,000 infections a day – at least five times higher than this point last year – as it confronts the most transmissible versions of the virus yet. Immunity built up as a result of the record winter outbreak appears to provide little protection against the latest variants, new research shows. And public health authorities are bracing for Memorial Day gatherings to fuel another bump in cases, potentially seeding a summer surge.

It’s a far cry from a year ago, with predictions of a “hot vax summer” uninhibited by COVID concerns. Back then, coronavirus seemed to teeter on the brink of defeat as cases plummeted to their lowest levels since spring 2020 and vaccines became widely available for adults.

Read the story here.

—Fenit Nirappil, Maureen O'Hagan and Craig Pittman The Washington Post

Japan to welcome back tourists after 2-year pandemic shutdown

After closing to foreign tourists for more than two years, Japan will allow a wide range of leisure travelers back in next month – with conditions.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida announced Thursday that starting June 10, the nation will welcome visitors on guided package tours, which include transportation and accommodations. Tourists from 98 countries with low coronavirus infection rates will be permitted; the United States is in that group. June’s larger reopening follows a small trial that allowed about 50 people on organized tours to visit 12 prefectures, starting this week.

“Step by step we will aim to accept [tourists] as we did in normal times, taking into consideration the status of infections,” he said.

Read the story here.

—Hannah Sampson and Julia Mio Inuma, The Washington Post

Med-spa doctor sent to prison in COVID ‘cure’ smuggling attempt

Dr. Jennings Staley was particularly enamored with the promise of hydroxychloroquine, and its money-making power, in the early days of the pandemic.

The anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine had been touted by President Donald Trump, conservative outlets and some medical professionals as a possible antidote to COVID-19, and he wanted to be able to sell it to patients at his Skinny Beach Med Spa locations around Southern California.

But the controversial drug — a “miracle cure,” he told an undercover agent — wasn’t easy to come by.

Desperate to obtain it, the San Diego physician agreed with a Chinese supplier’s suggestion to mislabel a 26-pound shipment as “yam extract” to get around customs authorities.

On Friday, Staley, 47, was sentenced in San Diego federal court to one month in prison, followed by one year of home confinement, for the deceit.

Read the story here.

—Kristina Davis, The San Diego Union-Tribune

Gov. Inslee to visit Tri-Cities. Is it too soon after he tested positive for COVID?

Gov. Jay Inslee is scheduled to visit the Tri-Cities on Thursday, for the grand opening of the LIGO Exploration Center and a briefing on Hanford site environmental cleanup.

But plans were made before he tested positive for COVID-19 this week, on Wednedsay, and had what he described as “very mild symptoms.”

His staff has pointed out that the guidance for the governor’s office allows employees to return to work five full days after a positive test if their symptoms are improving and they have no fever for 24 hours.

That is in line with recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

But the CDC also recommends that people who have tested positive for COVID-19 not travel in the U.S. until a full 10 days after their symptoms started.

Read the story here.

—Annette Cary, Tri-City Herald

The week in fake news: COVID-19 vaccines didn’t cause monkeypox outbreak

Claim: The chimpanzee adenovirus vector used in AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine is causing the monkeypox outbreak.

The facts: Adenoviruses and poxviruses are unrelated, and monkeys and chimpanzees are different species.

While the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine uses a harmless, weakened chimp adenovirus to trigger an immune response, the strain has been altered so it cannot infect humans, nor could it cause monkeypox.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

Prevention techniques, treatment helping keep COVID hospitalizations down in WA

COVID-19 continues to spread across Washington, and quickly.

But with prevention techniques like masking, treatment like Paxlovid, and vaccines and boosters, health officials are not concerned yet of hospitals becoming overwhelmed.

COVID-19 hospitalizations have not reached a point yet where hospitals are again struggling to find intensive care unit beds or to deliver normal care, said Dr. Dan Getz, chief medical officer at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center.

“It’s really a slow rise,” he said. “That’s the whole point of the measures we implemented.”

Those measures include things like getting vaccinated and boosted when eligible. Department of Health officials on Wednesday also recommended masking indoors, though they are not implementing a mask requirement yet.

“This is the time for us to remind ourselves that this pandemic is not over,” said Secretary of Health Dr. Umair Shah.

Read the story here.

—Laurel Demkovich, The Spokesman-Review

How the pandemic vintage car boom priced collectors out

Budget-minded vintage car collectors, competing with Americans who took an interest in the vehicles as a pastime over the past couple of years, have found themselves increasingly priced out of the market for cars that were once considered cheap fun and are now in high demand.

Undeterred, however, many buyers are determined to find the next best thing. Enter the principle of substitution.

It is a financial term that has been appropriated and somewhat inaccurately applied by entry-level vintage car shoppers — those with about $25,000 to spend. It is a tongue-in-cheek response to the question of what to buy when a coveted car has appreciated beyond reach, an all-too-frequent occurrence during this period of wild appreciation in their hobby. The median value of a collector car in good condition soared 20% in January from a year earlier and 4% more in the first three months of this year, according to Hagerty, a specialty insurer.

Read the story here.

—Rob Sass, The New York Times

Lawsuit demanding access to COVID vaccines in WA state prisons is dismissed

A class-action lawsuit from last year demanding COVID-19 vaccines be immediately provided to all people incarcerated in Washington state prisons was dismissed Friday, as the bulk of the lawsuit’s demands have been met.

Ruling from the bench Friday, Thurston County Superior Court Judge James Dixon said that the state Department of Corrections had essentially complied with the lawsuit’s two chief demands.

The lawsuit, filed in March 2021 by Columbia Legal Services, a legal aid group, demanded that people in state prisons be offered the vaccine “immediately” and that unvaccinated staff be banned from contact with incarcerated people.

Read the story here.

—David Gutman