Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Tuesday, May 31, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.

U.S. health officials are reporting over 100,000 COVID-19 cases a day, a rate five times higher than this point last year.

Though studies suggest that the majority of people stop testing positive for COVID-19 within ten days of the onset of their illness, a notable subset of people report testing positive for longer.

While some people may still be infectious, the tests may also be picking up viral debris from people with a waning infection.

But experts said it’s difficult to know how to interpret the results. Some scientists believe the most sound thing to do is continue to isolate, while others disagree and say that prolonged isolation is unnecessary for most people who are otherwise healthy.

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.

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During COVID’s omicron wave in U.S., death rates soared for older people

Despite strong levels of vaccination among older people, COVID killed them at vastly higher rates during this winter’s omicron wave than it did last year, preying on long delays since their last shots and the variant’s ability to skirt immune defenses.

This winter’s wave of deaths in older people belied the omicron variant’s relative mildness. Almost as many Americans 65 and older died in four months of the omicron surge as they did in six months of the delta wave, even though the delta variant, for any one person, tended to cause more severe illness.

While overall per capita COVID death rates have fallen, older people still account for an overwhelming share of them.

“This is not simply a pandemic of the unvaccinated,” said Andrew Stokes, an assistant professor in global health at Boston University who studies age patterns of COVID deaths. “There’s still exceptionally high risk among older adults, even those with primary vaccine series.”

Read the full story here.

—Benjamin Mueller and Eleanor Lutz, The New York Times
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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. Even the vaccinated and boosted now grudgingly accept the virus as a formidable foe that’s here to stay as governments abandon measures to contain it.

As the virus morphs and the scientific understanding of how it operates shifts with each variant, Americans are drawing their own lines for what they feel comfortable doing.

“This time last year, I was so hopeful,” said Margaret Thornton, a 35-year-old Philadelphia researcher preparing to spend her summer socializing mostly outdoors because of her weakened immune system. “Now, I don’t know when it’s going to be over, and I don’t think there is necessarily a light at the end of the tunnel. Or rather, if there is a light, is it an opening to get out? Or is it a train?”

Read the story here.

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

Next Hong Kong leader says city must work harder at COVID-19

Hong Kong’s incoming chief executive, John Lee, said Tuesday the city still has to work hard at controlling the coronavirus and boosting vaccination rates.

Lee, who returned home after meeting with Communist Party officials in Beijing, said Hong Kong needs to control the spread of COVID-19 to create favorable conditions for a resumption of regular travel with mainland China.

“We still have cases of infection, between 200 to 300 cases (daily), and vaccination rates for the second dose have yet to reach 90%,” Lee said to reporters after landing at Hong Kong’s airport.

He said he explained to Chinese Premier Li Keqiang that there have been many requests to resume normal travel between the semi-autonomous city and the mainland.

The city faced its worst COVID-19 outbreak at the beginning of the year, driven largely by the highly transmissible omicron variant.

Over 1 million residents were infected during the outbreak, with daily cases exceeding 30,000 at the peak. Infections have since fallen to about 300 a day, according to authorities.

Read the story here.

—Zen Soo, The Associated Press

Shanghai moves toward ending 2-month COVID-19 lockdown

Shanghai authorities say they will take major steps Wednesday toward reopening China’s largest city after a two-month COVID-19 lockdown that has set back the national economy and largely confined millions of people to their homes.

Full bus and subway service will be restored, as will basic rail connections with the rest of China, Vice Mayor Zong Ming said Tuesday at a daily briefing on the city’s outbreak.

“The epidemic has been effectively controlled,” she said, adding that the city will start the phase of fully restoring work and life on Wednesday.

Schools will partially reopen on a voluntary basis, and shopping malls, supermarkets, convenience stores and drug stores will reopen gradually at no more than 75% of their total capacity. Cinemas and gyms will remain closed.

Read the story here.

—Ken Moritsugu and Emily Wang Fujiyama, The Associated Press
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Hit by pandemic curbs, India’s quarterly growth slows to 4%

India’s economic growth, hit by pandemic curbs and price increases, slowed to 4.1% in the January-March quarter, according to figures released Tuesday by the government.

It was the slowest pace in the financial year that ended in March, following 5.4% growth in the previous quarter.

Overall, India’s economy grew by 8.7% in the 2021-22 financial year, slower than the 8.9% estimated by a government survey in February.

India’s economy, Asia’s third largest, was recovering from a pandemic-induced slump when a surge in omicron-fueled coronavirus cases starting in January prompted authorities to bring back some virus-related restrictions.

A month later, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine pushed up retail inflation, which hit an eight-year high of 7.8% in April.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

Housekeepers struggle as U.S. hotels ditch daily room cleaning

After guests checked out of a corner room at the Hilton Hawaiian Village resort on Waikiki beach, housekeeper Luz Espejo collected enough trash, some strewn under beds, to stuff seven large garbage bags.

She stripped the linens from the beds, wiped built-up dust off furniture and scrubbed away layers of grime on the toilet and bathtub. She even got on her hands and knees to pick confetti from the carpet that a heavy-duty vacuum failed to swallow up.

Like many other hotels across the United States, the Hilton Hawaiian Village has done away with daily housekeeping service, making what was already one of the toughest jobs in the hospitality industry even more grueling.

Industry insiders say the move away from daily cleaning, which gained traction during the pandemic, is driven by customer preferences. But others say it has more to do with profit and has allowed hotels to cut the number of housekeepers at a time when many of the mostly immigrant women who take those jobs are still reeling from lost work during coronavirus shutdowns.

Many housekeepers still employed say their hours have been cut and they are being asked to do far more work in that time.

Read the story here.

—Jennifer Sinco Kelleher and Anita Snow, The Associated Press

German police mount raids in COVID-19 aid fraud probe

Police raided homes and offices in northern and western Germany on Tuesday as part of an investigation into a case involving five men accused of fraudulently applying for 26 million ($28 million) worth of pandemic-linked aid.

The German government drew up a series of aid packages to help businesses withstand the impact of lockdowns and other restrictions at the height of the coronavirus pandemic.

The suspects in this investigation — men aged 26 to 62 — are suspected of making at least 363 aid applications under false pretenses “for their own purposes and for companies that commissioned them,” according to a police statement. It’s believed to have resulted in a loss of several million euros, it added.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press
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We’re stuck with COVID on ‘chronic’ basis, says Fauci

COVID is here to stay, the country’s top infectious disease expert said Sunday.

The persistence of the virus means yearly vaccine booster shots could be in store for everyone, said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the White House chief medical adviser.

“We’re going to be dealing with this virus on a chronic basis,” Fauci said. “We really hope … it will reach a level low enough that it doesn’t disrupt us to the extent that it has over the past couple of years.”

In recent weeks, COVID case numbers have been increasing nationwide. Average daily case numbers have risen about 26% around the country, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Average daily case numbers in New York City have nearly doubled, to 4,214 as of Tuesday, according to the Health Department.

Read the story here.

—Shant Shahrigian, New York Daily News