Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Tuesday, May 4, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.
All Washington restaurant owners working through pandemic-related challenges can now apply for a piece of a relief fund that came into effect under President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan.
Meanwhile, air travel in the country hit its highest mark since COVID-19 took hold more than 13 months ago, while European Union officials are proposing to ease restrictions on visitors to the continent as the vaccine sends new cases and deaths tumbling in more affluent countries.
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.
Gov. Jay Inslee has set a press conference today at 11 a.m. to discuss the state’s ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Rainiers using designated COVID-19 vaccinated sections to increase capacity
The Tacoma Rainiers are the first of the local professional teams to offer incentives for vaccinated fans and increase available seating with the 2021 Minor League Baseball season opening on Tuesday.
While lower levels of minor-league baseball started their season, the Rainiers and most Triple-A teams don’t open their season until Thursday. And when they do, the Rainiers will offer special sections for fans who have received full COVID-19 vaccination.
With Gov. Jay Inslee issuing new guidelines for professional outdoor sporting events, which includes expanded capacity up to 50 percent of the total occupancy if there are designated sections for vaccinated fans, the Rainiers quickly adjusted their ticket sales and seating. They are now offering single-game tickets now on sale for the first homestand that runs from May 6-11. Fans must show proof of vaccination on the day of the game.
“This guidance gives vaccinated fans the chance to safely gather for Rainiers baseball, without distancing, and feel a sense of normalcy that we’ve deeply missed for too long," said Tacoma Rainiers president Aaron Artman.
Major League Baseball sources said the Mariners are in the process of creating similar sections for vaccinated fans to increase capacity. An announcement could come as soon as Thursday.
Health inspectors shut down Flowers bar/restaurant in Seattle’s U-District for repeated COVID-19 operations violations
Public Health Seattle & King County has suspended the license of Flowers Restaurant, a popular U-District hangout, after management defied the state’s social distancing guidelines, seating restrictions and facial coverings order, according to public inspection records. The records also noted how the restaurant’s owner said at one point that he doesn’t care about the state’s safety guidelines.
In a three-page letter dated May 3, health inspectors noted that the bar/restaurant Flowers, located on The Ave, has a history of non-compliance with COVID safety concerns that date back to August 28, 2020, and that the bar continued to rack up complaints as recently as April 30.
Last month, inspectors reported that the bar restaurant was “operating at full capacity” and was crowded at a time when King County food and drink establishments were supposed to keep indoor seating to 50% capacity. The inspector also reported that the restaurant’s staff was “observed serving drinks without wearing face covering.”
The inspector’s report noted that Fadi Hamade, one of the owners, said “multiple times” that he does “not care about people, not care government orders and COVID-19 safety regulations,” according to the report called a “Notice of Permit Suspension.”
Sudden decision to reopen leaves New Yorkers dizzy and divided
The news longed for by so many for so long landed like a jolting boom: New York City is reopening — not someday, not hopefully soon, but in two weeks. Last year’s erasure of the city’s nightlife, culture, dining and shopping — the things that make New York New York — would be suddenly undone.
By Tuesday, a day after Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s announcement, New Yorkers were responding with a mix of joy, did-I-hear-that-right double-takes and doubt. The idea of having so much come back so soon — on May 19, a seemingly random Wednesday around the corner — was, for many, dizzying.
“It doesn’t quite feel real,” said Charlie Cloud, 16, a high school sophomore from Manhattan. “We’ve lived like this for quite a long time, this happened all a little fast.” But that’s not stopping him from making plans to get back to his hangouts: “My favorite place is Bowlmor,” he said.
The reopening coincides with similar measures in Connecticut and New Jersey. From the Kabab King in Queens to Our Hero’s Sandwich Shop in Jersey City to the Atticus Bookstore Cafe in New Haven, Connecticut, people reacted either happily or warily to the news — a moment to be remembered by a generation — as clearly as the one when everything suddenly shut down.
Pandemic fueled a hot hustle: Buying stuff cheap, reselling at a profit
It’s a hustle as old as humankind: Get something on the cheap; persuade someone to take it off your hands for more. After the pandemic shut people in and wiped out jobs, the gig got supercharged.
One couple has sold $12,400 of Walmart instant soup mix since June. Another reseller is peddling boxes of 200 slightly wrinkled dresses for $800.
These freshly minted entrepreneurs managed to bootstrap their own businesses with little or no funding, often starting by selling common consumer products online from their homes and then expanding to warehouses.
“We’ve seen crazy growth,” said Marcus Shen, chief operating officer of B-Stock Solutions, which bills itself as the world’s largest business-to-business online marketplace for the unsold, the surplus, the returned and the liquidated. The Belmont, Calif., company has experienced a 34% increase in new resellers in the last year, he said.
Resellers have gotten some of the blame for big price increases of popular goods in the last year, causing crackdowns by Amazon and eBay. The New York Times famously found an Amazon reseller stuck with 17,700 bottles of hand sanitizer, acquired mainly by driving around and cleaning out retailer shelves in Tennessee and Kentucky.
Oregon extends COVID workplace mask rule indefinitely
PORTLAND, Ore. — Oregon adopted a controversial rule on Tuesday that indefinitely extends coronavirus mask and social distancing requirements in all businesses in the state.
State officials say the rule, which garnered thousands of public comments, will be in place until it is “no longer necessary to address the effects of the pandemic in the workplace.”
“We reviewed all of the comments – including the many comments that opposed the rule – and we gave particular consideration to those comments that explained their reasoning or provided concrete information,” said Michael Wood, administrator of the state’s department of Occupational Safety and Health. “Although we chose to move forward with the rule, the final product includes a number of changes based on that record.”
Oregon, which has been among those with the country’s most stringent COVID-19 restrictions, had previously had a mask rule for businesses, but it was only temporary and could not be extended beyond 180 days. That prompted Wood to create a permanent rule with the intent to repeal it at some point.
Gov. Whitmer, Sen. Romney to be honored for COVID courage by JFK Foundation
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and six other people who risked their own health and safety to help and protect others during the coronavirus pandemic will receive Profile in Courage awards next month, the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation announced Tuesday.
The award is named after Kennedy’s 1957 Pulitzer Prize-winning book, “Profiles in Courage,” about eight U.S. senators who risked their careers by taking principled stands for unpopular positions.
The seven recipients of the COVID-19 courage award will be honored along with U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney during a virtual ceremony that will be aired May 26.
The Utah Republican in March was named the recipient of the annual award for being the only Republican to vote to convict former President Donald Trump during his first impeachment trial. Whitmer faced harsh backlash for her measures to control the coronavirus in her home state, including armed protests at the state capitol and an alleged plot to kidnap and kill her.
State health officials confirm 1,424 new coronavirus cases
The state Department of Health reported 1,424 new coronavirus cases and 21 new deaths on Tuesday.
The update brings the state's totals to 408,607 cases and 5,528 deaths, meaning that 1.4% of people diagnosed in Washington have died, according to the DOH. The data is as of 11:59 p.m. Monday. Tallies may be higher earlier in the week because new state data isn’t reported on Sundays and COVID-19-related deaths aren’t reported on the weekends.
The new cases may include up to 600 duplicates, according to DOH.
In addition, 22,556 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the virus — 84 new hospitalizations. In King County, the state's most populous, state health officials have confirmed a total of 103,351 COVID-19 diagnoses and 1,524 deaths.
Since vaccinations began in mid-December, the state and health care providers have administered 5,587,640 doses and 31.2% of Washingtonians have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to vaccination data, which the state updates on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Providers are giving an average of about 51,039 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.
Detroit educating residents on where, how to get vaccines
Mecca Shabazz has yet to get vaccinated against COVID-19. She doesn’t believe she needs it, despite evidence that the virus disproportionately sickens and kills Black people.
“I just wasn’t pressed to do it. It’s not a big thing to me,” Shabazz said Tuesday as a team sent out by Detroit’s health department knocked on doors in her westside neighborhood to tell residents where to receive free vaccines.
The mostly Black city has been urging people to get vaccinated against the virus that has already killed more than 2,000 Detroit residents. So far, only about 31% of Detroit adults have received at least one dose.
Detroit’s door-to-door campaign is the latest in its efforts to connect residents to vaccination sites across the city.
UK announces plan for ‘quantum leap’ in relations with India
Britain said Tuesday it’s agreed to increase cooperation with India in areas including trade, science and health as Indian authorities battle a surge in coronavirus infections that threatens to overwhelm the nation’s health care system.
Plans for a “quantum leap” in relations between the two countries were released after a video meeting between British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his Indian counterpart, Narendra Modi.
Prior to the meeting, Britain announced 1 billion pounds ($1.4 billion) of trade deals with India, including an investment by the Serum Institute of India that will aid in the development of vaccines against COVID-19 and other diseases.
The two leaders agreed to deepen ties between the U.K. and India over the next decade, including plans to negotiate a free-trade agreement and double the amount of trade between the two over the next decade. A free-trade deal with India, the world’s sixth-biggest economy, would be a coup for Johnson’s government, which is trying to increase its trade with countries outside the European Union following the U.K.’s departure from the bloc.
Indian Premier League suspended after more COVID-19 cases
The Indian Premier League, cricket’s richest and most glitzy competition, was suspended indefinitely after players or staff at three teams tested positive for the coronavirus on Tuesday amid a surge in nationwide infections.
Many of the world’s best players compete in the Twenty20 tournament and were scrambling to find ways to get back to their native countries. Australia, for example, has temporarily barred travelers from India.
The Board of Control for Cricket in India decided to postpone the IPL, which started on April 9, after two staffers at Chennai Super Kings and a player for Sunrisers Hyderabad returned positive tests for COVID-19.
South Korean CEO resigns over virus research scandal
The chairman of one of South Korea’s biggest dairy companies has resigned over a scandal in which his company was accused of deliberately spreading misinformation that its yogurt helps prevent coronavirus infections.
While stepping down as the company’s head, Hong Won-sik and other members of his family will retain their commanding share in Namyang Dairy Products.
Namyang financed research it aggressively promoted through the media and a symposium it funded last month that claimed its Bulgaris yogurt drinks were effective in lowering the risk of coronavirus infections.
Namyang’s stock price rose temporarily before the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety sued the company for false advertising, saying the research was dubious and never involved any animal testing or clinical trials.
UO “disappointed” after large party amid rising COVID cases
The University of Oregon says it is “disappointed” to learn about large crowds gathering for parties during the Ducks spring game as the region weathers a spike in cases of COVID-19 and businesses endure new restrictions.
Lane County, where the university is located, moved back to “extreme risk” on Friday, meaning that bars and restaurants were limited to outdoor dining only and normal social gathering places were off-limits. Capacity at a spring game for the Ducks football team at Autzen Stadium had been set at 15% but the new restrictions meant no spectators or tailgaters were allowed.
Instead, students packed into parties at private homes. Photos and videos of several large parties Saturday circulated on social media, showing people standing shoulder-to-shoulder and without masks, The Register-Guard reported.
The University of Oregon issued a statement late Sunday condemning the behavior but said there was little it could do about parties at private houses off campus.
What would it take to vaccinate the whole world?
More than 600 million people worldwide have been at least partially vaccinated against COVID-19 — meaning that more than 7 billion still have not. It is a striking achievement in the shadow of a staggering challenge.
Half of all the doses delivered so far have gone into the arms of people in countries with one-seventh of the world’s people, primarily the United States and European nations. Dozens of countries, particularly in Africa, have barely started their inoculation campaigns.
As wealthy countries envision the pandemic retreating within months — while poorer ones face the prospect of years of suffering — frustration has people around the world asking why more vaccine isn’t available.
Nationalism and government actions do much to help explain the stark inequity between the world’s haves and have-nots. So, for that matter, does government inaction. And the power of the pharmaceutical companies, which at times seem to hold all the cards, cannot be ignored.
But much of it comes down to sheer logistics.
Immunizing most of humanity in short order is a monumental task, one never attempted before, and one that experts say the world wasn’t ready to confront. They note that things have already moved with unprecedented speed. A year and a half ago, the disease was unknown, and the first vaccine authorizations came less than six months ago.
But there is a long way to go.
Some Black parents say remote learning gives racism reprieve
Before schools shuttered during the pandemic, Ayaana Johnson worried every time she dropped her daughters off at school.
Johnson, a Black woman, says racism is rampant in her predominantly white Georgia town. At her daughters’ school, a student once used racial slurs and told another child he doesn’t play with “brown people.” She says teachers are quick to punish or reprimand Black children and Ku Klux Klan flyers can be found in mailboxes.
“I knew from pregnancy on that this would be something we’d have to deal with,” said Johnson, who asked that the town not be identified because she was concerned about potential fallout. “This is the kind of area we live in, so you can imagine that you’re always going to feel protective of your children.”
As schools reopen across the country, Black students have been less likely than white students to enroll in in-person learning — a trend attributed to factors including concerns about the disproportionate impact of the coronavirus on communities of color, a lack of trust that their schools are equipped to keep children safe, and the large numbers of students of color in urban districts that have been slower to reopen classrooms.
But many Black parents are finding another benefit to remote learning: being better able to shield their children from racism in classrooms.
Coronavirus vaccine skeptics share who, and what, changed their minds
Kim Simmons, a 61-year-old small-business owner in Illinois, vividly remembers the moment she went from vaccine skeptic to vaccine-ready: watching a Johns Hopkins University doctor on C-SPAN make the case for why the shots are safe.
For Lauren Bergner, a 39-year-old homemaker in New Jersey, it was when she realized it would make it easier for her family to attend New York Yankees games, after the team announced fans would need to show proof of a negative coronavirus test or that they had been vaccinated.
And for Elizabeth Greenaway, a 34-year-old communications consultant in Pennsylvania, it was the sudden fear that if she got sick, she wasn’t sure who would take care of her 2-year-old daughter, who has a rare health condition.
They are among the growing number of vaccine skeptics turned vaccinated Americans and their emergence suggests that at least some vaccine-wary Americans are willing to reconsider.
Inslee pauses reopening plan; no Washington counties to roll back for 2 weeks
No county will move back — or forward — in the state’s COVID-19 reopening plan for at least two weeks, Gov. Jay Inslee announced Tuesday.
Pausing the Healthy Washington plan means all 39 counties will remain in their current phases, Inslee said. The counties’ status will be evaluated again after the two-week break.
The pause comes after recent data, including numbers from the past weekend, showing that the fourth wave of infection that had been growing for weeks appears to be at a plateau, Inslee said.
Biden aims for vaccinating 70% of adult Americans by July 4
President Joe Biden is setting a new vaccination goal to deliver at least one dose to 70% of adult Americans by July 4, the White House said Tuesday, as the administration pushes to make it easier for people to get shots and to bring the country closer to normalcy.
The new goal, which also includes fully vaccinating 160 million adults by Independence Day, comes as demand for vaccines has dropped off markedly nationwide, with some states leaving more than half their vaccine doses unordered.
Biden will call for states to make vaccines available on a walk-in basis and will direct many pharmacies to do the same, and his administration is for the first time moving to shift doses from states with weaker demand to areas with stronger interest in the shots.
$100 as a vaccine incentive? Experiment suggests it can pay off
What’s the best way to persuade the millions of Americans who are still unvaccinated against COVID-19 to get their shots?
Reassuring public service announcements about the vaccine’s safety and effectiveness have proliferated. But increasingly, people are realizing that it will take more than just information to sway the hesitant.
In recent randomized survey experiments by the UCLA COVID-19 Health and Politics Project, two seemingly strong incentives have emerged.
Roughly a third of the unvaccinated population said a cash payment would make them more likely to get a shot. This suggests that some governors may be on the right track; West Virginia’s governor, Jim Justice, for example, recently announced the state would give young people $100 bonds if they got an inoculation.
Similarly large increases in willingness to take vaccines emerged for those who were asked about getting a vaccine if doing so meant they wouldn’t need to wear a mask or social-distance in public, compared with a group that was told it would still have to do those things.
Madrid election centers on virus response, rise of far right
Madrid residents voted in droves Tuesday for a new regional assembly in an election that tests the depths of resistance to virus lockdown measures and the divide between left-wing and right-wing parties.
The early election was called by a conservative regional president who is trying to broaden her power base after she dissolved her center-right coalition. Madrid President Isabel Díaz Ayuso has made a name for herself by criticizing the national government’s handling of the pandemic and by resisting the strictest infection-control measures.
Long queues to obey social distancing rules formed outside polling stations in the region’s schools, sports centers and even a bullring, despite concerns due to a high rate of new infections.
More than 28% of the 5 million eligible voters had voted by midday, a 2% increase from a 2019 vote.
Feds: Man used fraudulent PPP loan to buy alpaca farm
The owner of a Massachusetts pizza parlor lied about the number of employees he had to fraudulently obtain more than $660,000 in federal coronavirus relief funds, then used some of the money to buy and stock an alpaca farm in Vermont, federal prosecutors said Tuesday.
Dana McIntyre, 57, of Grafton, Vermont, was arrested Tuesday and charged with wire fraud and money laundering, according to a statement from the U.S. attorney’s office in Boston.
After receiving the loan, prosecutors say McIntyre sold the pizza shop and used the money to purchase and upgrade a farm in Vermont and buy several alpacas, authorities said. He also bought at least two vehicles — including a 1950 Hudson — and weekly airtime for a cryptocurrency-themed radio show that he hosted, prosecutors said.
US to reallocate COVID shots to states with greater interest
The Biden administration will begin shifting how it allocates COVID-19 shots to states, moving doses from states with lower demand to those with stronger interest in vaccines, an administration official said Tuesday.
The change away from a strict by-population allocation comes as demand for the coronavirus vaccines has dropped nationwide, but especially precipitously in some areas, with some states turning down part or all of their weekly dose allotments. The federal government will now shift some of those doses to areas with higher demand, in an effort to speed shots in those areas.
EU delivers vaccine jabs to Balkans after China and Russia
The European Union started delivering EU-funded coronavirus vaccines Tuesday to the Balkans, a region that wants to join the 27-nation bloc but where China and Russia have already been making political gains by supplying the much-needed shots.
The European Commission last month announced that 651,000 Pfizer-BioNTech doses will be delivered to Serbia, Bosnia, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Albania and Kosovo in weekly instalments from May to August. The vaccines are funded from the $85 million package adopted by the Commission in December.
Most of the Balkan countries have struggled to get coronavirus vaccines, except for Serbia, which launched a successful inoculation campaign mainly thanks to millions of doses of China’s Sinopharm and Russia’s Sputnik V vaccines, which have so far not been approved by EU’s drug administrator.
‘Horrible’ weeks ahead as India’s virus catastrophe worsens
COVID-19 infections and deaths are mounting with alarming speed in India with no end in sight to the crisis and a top expert warning that the coming weeks in the country of nearly 1.4 billion people will be “horrible.”
India’s official count of coronavirus cases surpassed 20 million Tuesday, nearly doubling in the past three months, while deaths officially have passed 220,000. Staggering as those numbers are, the true figures are believed to be far higher, the undercount an apparent reflection of the troubles in the health care system.
The country has witnessed scenes of people dying outside overwhelmed hospitals and funeral pyres lighting up the night sky.
Infections have surged in India since February in a disastrous turn blamed on more contagious variants of the virus as well as government decisions to allow massive crowds to gather for Hindu religious festivals and political rallies before state elections.
EU regulators start review of China’s Sinovac vaccine
The European Union’s drug regulator announced Tuesday that it has started a rolling review of China’s Sinovac coronavirus vaccine to assess its effectiveness and safety, a first step toward possible approval for use in the 27-nation bloc.
The European Medicines Agency said Tuesday that its decision to start the review is based on preliminary results from laboratory studies and clinical studies.
“These studies suggest that the vaccine triggers the production of antibodies” that fight the coronavirus “and may help protect against the disease,” the agency said in a statement.
The EMA, which so far has approved four coronavirus vaccines, added that no application seeking marketing authorization for the Sinovac vaccine has been submitted yet. The agency also is conducting rolling reviews of three other vaccines: the one developed by German biotech company CureVac, the American-developed Novavax and Russia’s Sputnik V.
Catch up on the past 24 hours
Metro Transit is planning for a rebound, but not everyone is on board. Metro recently boosted the number of riders allowed on buses. But some pre-pandemic transit users say they're no in hurry to climb up the bus steps again: "I’m just not ready to take a risk like that."
Youth ages 12 to 15 could be getting vaccines next week. The U.S. is expected to authorize Pfizer's vaccine for that age group after a study detailed its effectiveness and side effects.
Take your pick of vaccines: Two Seattle hubs are offering a menu, and you can also choose your jab at tonight's Mariners game. Do you have to get the shot(s) in your arm? Well, no. Here's our complete guide to getting your vaccine.
Which counties will get kicked into reverse in Washington’s reopening plan? The numbers don't look good for King County, although there's a glimmer of hope that the trend may be improving. We'll keep you posted on today's decision in our live updates, and here's a refresher on what you can and can't do in each phase.
UW students need to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by fall, even if they're taking classes entirely online, the university said yesterday. Here's how this will work.
"Re-entry anxiety" is on the rise, particularly when it comes to travel. Mental health and travel experts are sharing guidance for dealing with this. Meanwhile, Europe plans to open to vaccinated American travelers as soon as next month, but there are big questions about proving your vaccination status — and what happens after you arrive.
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