Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Wednesday, May 5, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.
As a fourth coronavirus wave that’s been growing for weeks in our state starts to plateau, Gov. Jay Inslee announced Tuesday all 39 Washington counties will remain in their current phases in the state’s COVID-19 reopening plan for at least two weeks.
President Joe Biden continues to work to win over the country’s vaccine skeptics and those unmotivated to get inoculated, and on Tuesday set a new vaccination goal to deliver at least one shot to 70% of adult Americans by the Fourth of July.
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.
Fiji sequesters hospital staff after COVID death
WELLINGTON, New Zealand — The military and police in the Pacific nation of Fiji have surrounded and locked down a major hospital amid concerns of a growing virus outbreak.
Health authorities say they’re quarantining 400 patients, doctors, nurses and staff within the compound until they can determine who had contact with a coronavirus patient who died.
The 53-year-old patient at Lautoka Hospital was just the third person in Fiji to die from the virus but the nation’s leaders are deeply worried that the latest outbreak is spreading, especially after two doctors at the hospital tested positive for the virus.
Dr. James Fong, the permanent secretary for health, said the country was in a war against COVID-19 that posed the greatest-ever test of its health care system. He said the hospital is closed and all medical services are being diverted to other facilities.
Fong said those sequestered in the hospital would be provided with food, bedding and whatever other supplies they needed.
U-18 event in Texas gets attention of Kraken, other NHL teams thanks to other COVID-19 restrictions
One unintended COVID-19 side effect has been a boost to the prestige of the IIHF Under-18 World Hockey Championship tournament playing out in the greater Dallas area.
This newer event of roughly two decades typically lacks the stature of its older U-20 counterpart — also known as the World Junior Championship — because many top players ordinarily would be in their major junior league playoffs and unable to participate. This year, though, the cancellation of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) and abbreviated Western Hockey League (WHL) schedule with no postseason means their players were available.
And that’s great for the Kraken and NHL teams desperate to see prospects eligible for this year’s draft and future ones playing against serious competition after pandemic-related shutdowns.
“Talking to everybody there, they’re just excited to see live games,” said Kraken general manager Ron Francis, part of his team’s seven-member scouting contingent on-hand in Texas last week for preliminary round-robin play. “You do a lot of this work via video and stuff, and to be able to see it live — you can confirm things, or you can look in a different direction on things. So I think it’s valuable from that aspect to be able to see things live.”
Google says 20% of workers will be remote, many more hybrid
MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. — Google says it expects about 20% of ifs workforce to still work remotely after its offices reopen this fall, while some 60% will work a hybrid schedule that includes about three days in the office and two days “wherever they work best.”
The remaining 20% can change their location to a different Google office.
The policy announced Wednesday relaxes the company’s stricter earlier stance.
“The future of work is flexibility,” CEO Sundar Pichai wrote in an email to employees that was also posted on Google’s website. “The changes above are a starting point to help us do our very best work and have fun doing it.”
Most of Google’s 135,000 employees can continue to work from home through September of this year.
For up to 20 days per year, Google employees will also be able to work from any location other than their main office. That’s up from a previous allotment of 10 days.
This new COVID vaccine could bring hope to the unvaccinated world
In early 2020, dozens of scientific teams scrambled to make a vaccine for COVID-19. Some chose tried-and-true techniques, such as making vaccines from killed viruses. But a handful of companies bet on a riskier method, one that had never produced a licensed vaccine: deploying a genetic molecule called RNA.
The bet paid off. The first two vaccines to emerge successfully out of clinical trials, made by Pfizer-BioNTech and by Moderna, were both made of RNA. They both turned out to have efficacy rates about as good as a vaccine could get.
In the months that followed, those two RNA vaccines have provided protection to tens of millions of people in some 90 countries. But many parts of the world, including those with climbing death tolls, have had little access to them, in part because they require being kept in a deep freeze.
Now a third RNA vaccine may help meet that global need. A small German company called CureVac is on the cusp of announcing the results of its late-stage clinical trial. As early as next week, the world may learn whether its vaccine is safe and effective.
Top Glove hopes to resolve U.S. seizure of its rubber gloves
Malaysia’s Top Glove Corp., the world’s largest rubber glove maker with profits that have soared during the pandemic, said Wednesday it had resolved the alleged 11 forced labor claims after one of its shipment was seized at a U.S. port.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection said Tuesday it had seized a shipment of 3.97 million nitrile disposable gloves from Top Glove worth an estimated $518,000 at Cleveland port, Ohio.
This followed its March 29 ban of Top Glove products based on information showing multiple indicators of forced labor including debt bondage, excessive overtime, abusive working and living conditions and retention of identity documents.
Diann Rodriguez, Cleveland area port director, said the action “sends a strong message that CBP will not tolerate imports made by forced labor, which is a form of modern slavery that hurts vulnerable workers and threatens our economy.”
Western Washington University to require students, faculty and staff to get COVID-19 vaccinations for fall quarter
Western Washington University announced Wednesday that it's joining other public colleges in the state and requiring COVID-19 vaccinations for its students, faculty and staff for the fall 2021 quarter.
The school’s Board of Trustees made the decision at a Wednesday meeting because it believes the shots “will protect the health and safety of the community on- and off- campus and speed our return to more normal in-person operations,” according to a statement from WWU President Sabah Randhawa.
“We have made vaccination an urgent priority because we believe a fully vaccinated community is the best way to protect our individual and collective health and safety,” Randhawa said in the statement. “In addition, through widespread vaccination, WWU can more confidently loosen or remove restrictions that have impacted social and mental well-being and increase access to a more enriched in-person campus living and learning experience for more students.”
The school will consider requests for medical, religious or personal exemptions, which is consistent with the policies in place for its measles vaccination requirement, the statement said.
The news follows similar announcements from the University of Washington and Washington State University, which have both said they’ll require students to be vaccinated before returning to campus this fall. A host of other private colleges, including Seattle University and Pacific Lutheran University, have made similar moves.
WSU is also requiring staff to get vaccinated, but the UW has not yet made that decision.
WWU is planning to sponsor a vaccine clinic Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Viking Union Multipurpose Room, where the Johnson & Johnson vaccine will be available for WWU students, employees, eligible family members and the public. Click here for more information about how to register for an appointment.
COVID-19 overshadows independence in key Scottish election
As Scotland holds an election Thursday that could be a stepping stone to the breakup of the United Kingdom, some previous supporters say Britain’s exit from the European Union and the coronavirus pandemic have caused economic upheaval, and that it's not the right time to gamble on independence.
The question of independence overshadows the election for the 129-seat Scottish Parliament. The Scottish National Party, which has led a minority government since 2016, says a big victory will give it the moral right and the political momentum to hold a referendum on whether Scotland should end its three-century union with England.
Scotland voted to remain part of the U.K. in a 2014 independence referendum that was billed at the time as a once-in-a-generation decision. But SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon argues that Brexit has fundamentally changed the situation by dragging Scotland out of the European Union against its will.
State health officials confirm 1,597 new coronavirus cases
The state Department of Health reported 1,597 new coronavirus cases and 11 new deaths on Wednesday.
The update brings the state's totals to 409,933 cases and 5,539 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. Tuesday.
The new cases may include up to 400 duplicates, according to DOH.
In addition, 22,614 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the virus — 58 new hospitalizations. In King County, the state's most populous, state health officials have confirmed a total of 103,863 COVID-19 diagnoses and 1,524 deaths.
Since vaccinations began in mid-December, the state and health care providers have administered 5,642,156 doses and 31.6% 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 48,238 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.
India’s foreign minister out of G-7 meeting over COVID risk
India’s foreign minister pulled out of in-person meetings at a Group of Seven gathering in London on Wednesday and was self-isolating after members of his country’s delegation tested positive for the coronavirus. Talks centered on ways to ensure global access to COVID-19 vaccines and curb a virus that is still ravaging many parts of the world, including India.
Diplomats from the G-7 group of wealthy nations are holding their first face-to-face gathering in two years, with social distancing and other measures in place to curb the spread of the virus.
Indian External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar tweeted that he was “made aware yesterday evening of exposure to possible Covid positive cases. As a measure of abundant caution and also out of consideration for others, I decided to conduct my engagements in the virtual mode.”
Businesses challenge Oregon’s COVID restrictions in suit against governor
A group of businesses has filed a lawsuit against Oregon Gov. Kate Brown over her recent extension of Oregon’s state of emergency because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The group objects to “unfair restrictions” they said Brown has placed upon businesses and public school children, according to the lawsuit, which was filed Tuesday. They asked the court to issue an injunction halting restriction enforcement.
Brown last week extended the state of emergency by 60 days, giving her the authority to issue restrictions on business operations, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported.
Small business COVID-19 relief program runs out of money
The government’s key COVID-19 relief program for small businesses has run out of money.
The Small Business Administration said Wednesday that the Paycheck Protection Program has been exhausted. As of Sunday, the PPP had given out nearly 10.8 million loans worth more than $780 billion since April of last year.
The program, which has run out of cash and refunded by Congress twice before, was scheduled to expire May 31. It’s not yet known if lawmakers will approve another round of funding. The average loan size this year was $46,000, less than half the $101,000 average loan in 2020.
But, while the PPP helped save many companies devastated by the pandemic, the Biden administration has estimated that more than 400,000 U.S. businesses have permanently closed due to the virus.
Brazilian comedian’s COVID-19 death unites nation in grief
Paulo Gustavo, a popular comedian whose character Dona Herminia dealt with everyday family and LGTBQ issues in some of Brazil’s biggest-box office movies and television shows, died of COVID-19, sparking an outpouring of grief across a country polarized by the pandemic.
Conservative President Jair Bolsonaro, who tends to shrug off COVID-19 deaths and has downplayed the disease, tweeted his regret at the death of Gustavo.
Brazil’s Senate held a moment of silence in Gustavo’s memory Wednesday before resuming a hearing into the president’s handling of the pandemic, which has killed more than 400,000 Brazilians.
Gustavo’s death at 42 highlighted how the disease is increasingly affecting younger Brazilians. The country is bitterly split between those urging stepped-up vaccination campaigns and lockdown measures and followers of Bolsonaro, who has denounced such restrictions.
Biden administration commits to waiving vaccine patent protections
The Biden administration supports temporarily lifting intellectual property protections for coronavirus vaccines and will move forward with international discussions to waive them, its top trade negotiator said on Wednesday.
“This is a global health crisis, and the extraordinary circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic call for extraordinary measures. The Administration believes strongly in intellectual property protections, but in service of ending this pandemic, supports the waiver of those protections for COVID-19 vaccines,” U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai said in a statement.
Tai said the United States would participate in negotiations around an international waiver of the protections, cautioning that the discussions would “take time.” The United States had helped block negotiations around the proposal since its October 2020 introduction by Indian and South African officials.
Pfizer reaps hundreds of millions in profits from COVID vaccine
Last year, racing to develop a vaccine in record time, Pfizer made a big decision: Unlike several rival manufacturers, which vowed to forgo profits on their shots during the COVID-19 pandemic, Pfizer planned to profit on its vaccine.
On Tuesday, the company announced just how much money the shot is generating.
The vaccine brought in $3.5 billion in revenue in the first three months of this year, nearly a quarter of its total revenue, Pfizer reported. The vaccine was, far and away, Pfizer’s biggest source of revenue.
Walk-in COVID vaccines at CVS stores starting Wednesday
CVS pharmacies will begin accepting walk-ins for COVID-19 vaccines with no appointment necessary at more than 40 locations in Washington, the company announced Wednesday.
Same-day scheduling is also available.
As of Wednesday, CVS Health had administered 17 million COVID-19 vaccines in more than 8,300 stores across 49 states, Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C. The drug store chain said second dose compliance at its locations was at more than 90 percent.
Washington residents can schedule an appointment or get more information here.
Washington state remains in 4th COVID wave but new numbers are ‘hopeful,’ officials say
Washington health officials are seeing “hopeful numbers” in COVID-19 case and hospitalization data as the state begins its two-week reopening pause.
But they also say that does not negate the fact the state remains in a fourth wave of infection, with a high rate of hospitalizations, often among people younger than those in previous waves.
Modeling as of April 16 showed that immunity from vaccines has lowered transmission, but COVID transmission was still increasing, Shah said. Daily case counts averaged about 1,300 cases in late April, which is higher than counts during the second wave over the past summer.
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.
Judge strikes down CDC’s national moratorium on evictions
A federal judge in Washington, D.C., blocked a nationwide eviction moratorium the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention established as the COVID-19 lockdowns put millions of renters out of work during the past year.
In a ruling on Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich said the agency exceeded its authority by issuing a broad moratorium on evictions across all rental properties. “The CDC order must be set aside,” the judge wrote in a 20-page opinion.
The CDC moratorium, first enacted by President Donald Trump and extended by Joe Biden, was designed to prevent mass evictions in the face of a public health emergency that saw millions of Americans lose their jobs and fall deeper into debt.
Top court orders India’s government to present oxygen plan
India’s government, facing calls for a strict lockdown to slow a devastating surge in coronavirus infections, was ordered by the Supreme Court on Wednesday to submit a plan to meet New Delhi hospitals’ oxygen needs within a day.
The court decided against immediately punishing officials for failing to end a 2-week-old erratic supply of oxygen to overstretched hospitals.
“Ultimately putting officers in jail or hauling officers for contempt will not bring oxygen. Please tell us steps to solve this,” Justice Dhananjaya Yeshwant Chandrachud said.
With 382,315 new confirmed cases on Wednesday, India’s tally has risen to more than 20.6 million since the pandemic began. The Health Ministry also reported 3,780 deaths in the last 24 hours, bringing the total to 226,188. Experts believe both figures are an undercount.
Thailand races to contain COVID-19 surge in Bangkok
Health officials rushed to vaccinate thousands of people in Bangkok’s biggest slum on Wednesday as new COVID-19 cases spread through densely populated low-income areas in the capital’s central business district.
The government of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha is facing mounting criticism for its handling of a surge that began in early April. The country has been reporting about 2,000 cases a day recently, often with double-digit deaths in the third mass outbreak since the pandemic started.
Thailand had managed to control the spread of the virus by closing its borders to almost all travelers and then imposing lengthy mandatory quarantines but life had largely returned to normal before the latest surge, which began in nightclubs and bars in Bangkok.
Canada authorizes Pfizer vaccine for age 12 and older
Canadian health officials said Wednesday they have become the first to approve Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for ages 1as young as 12.
Canada is the first country to authorize Pfizer for that age group. The U.S. and the European Union are also reviewing it.
The vaccine was previously authorized for anyone 16 or older.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is also expected to authorize Pfizer’s vaccine for young people by next week, setting up shots for many before the beginning of the next school year. The announcement comes barely a month after the company found that its shot, which is already authorized for those age 16 and older, also provided protection for the younger group.
Skagit County providers planning to tackle slowing vaccination rate
Demand for the COVID-19 vaccine in Skagit County has trailed off in the weeks since eligibility expanded, forcing health leaders to consider ways to reach those not motivated to get vaccinated.
County spokesperson Laura Han said providers were expecting to see a drop in demand after the most eager residents received their shots, but not to this degree.
In total, about 50% of eligible county residents have initiated vaccination, and 34% are fully vaccinated.
Up until last week, the county was regularly going through its entire weekly allocation of vaccine — about 1,200 doses. On the week of April 26, though, appointments dropped by 40%, and continued to fall this week.
The group health leaders said they need to now target those who haven’t seen the vaccine as a priority.
COVID’s US toll projected to drop sharply by the end of July
Teams of experts are projecting COVID-19’s toll on the U.S. will fall sharply by the end of July, according to research released by the government Wednesday.
But they also warn that a “substantial increase” in hospitalizations and deaths is possible if unvaccinated people do not follow basic precautions such as wearing a mask and keeping their distance from others.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention paper included projections from six research groups. Their assignment was to predict the course of the U.S. epidemic between now and September under different scenarios, depending on how the vaccination drive proceeds and how people behave.
Mainly, it’s good news. Even under scenarios involving disappointing vaccination rates, COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths are expected to drop dramatically by the end of July and continue to fall afterward.
The CDC is now reporting an average of about 350,000 new cases each week, 35,000 hospitalizations and over 4,000 deaths.
Under the most optimistic scenarios considered, by the end of July new weekly national cases could drop below 50,000, hospitalizations to fewer than 1,000, and deaths to between 200 and 300.
Scientists see path for the coronavirus to invade the brain
Scientists experimenting in the lab have found that the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is capable of infecting two types of brain cells — neurons and astrocytes.
Scientists are finding both astrocytes and neurons can be infected with SARS-CoV-2 and that could shed light on a possible reason for the bewildering array of neurological symptoms that follow some COVID-19 survivors even after they recover.
COVID-19 is best known as a respiratory disease, but for many victims, it also triggers an array of problems including memory lapses, fatigue and a certain sluggish, fuzzy feeling often referred to as “brain fog.”
Montana tribe gifts vaccines to neighbors across the border
On a cloudy spring day, hundreds lined up in their cars on the Canadian side of the border crossing that separates Alberta and Montana. They had driven for hours and camped out in their vehicles in hopes of receiving the season’s hottest commodity — a COVID-19 vaccine — from a Native American tribe that was giving out its excess doses.
The Blackfeet tribe in northern Montana provided about 1,000 surplus vaccines last month to its First Nations relatives and others from across the border, in an illustration of the disparity in speed at which the United States and Canada are distributing doses.
While more than 30% of adults in the U.S. are fully vaccinated, in Canada that figure is about 3%.
Some US parents excited over prospect of virus shots for children
After more than a year of fretting over her 13-year son with a rare liver disease, Heather Ousley broke into tears when she learned that he and millions of other youngsters could soon be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine.
“This day is the best day in the history of days!!! I love this day!!!” she texted, joining other parents and educators in welcoming the news that the Food and Drug Administration is expected to authorize Pfizer’s vaccine by next week for children ages 12 to 15.
Ousley, president of the school board for the 27,000-student Shawnee Mission School District in Kansas, plans to get her 13- and 15-year-olds promptly vaccinated and then celebrate with ice cream. They have been learning from home with their younger brother since the start of the outbreak.
Pfizer is also anticipating the FDA will endorse use of its vaccine in even younger children sometime this fall. And results are expected by the middle of this year from a U.S. study of Moderna’s shots in 12- to 17-year-olds.
Catch up on the past 24 hours
Health inspectors have shut down a popular U District hangout over COVID-19 violations. The too-crowded Flowers Restaurant kept racking up complaints about maskless staffers and more, inspectors say.
"Vaccine seating" has arrived, and so has an outcry. Gov. Jay Inslee's plan to allow more people into churches, stadiums and other big venues that offer "vaccinated sections" is raising complaints of discrimination and comparisons to Gestapo Germany. But a clever twist means this plan doesn't stifle freedom — it expands it, columnist Danny Westneat writes. The Tacoma Rainiers will offer those special sections when they open their season tomorrow, and the Mariners apparently aren't far behind.
Washington state has hit the pause button on reopening. No county will move back or forward for at least two weeks because of an "evolving situation" in which COVID-19 trends might be improving … maybe, possibly, fingers crossed.
Use it or lose it, President Joe Biden is telling states that don't use all of the vaccines allocated to them as demand drops. He's shifting the focus away from mass vaccination sites as he launches a new round in this fight.
How much money would persuade you or someone you know to get a vaccine? An experiment is suggesting the right incentives will pay off for the vaccination push.
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