Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Friday, May 7, 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 It is no longer being updated.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 the state makes its way through its fourth coronavirus wave, scientists at the University of Washington recently found that nearly 7 million people worldwide have died from COVID-19, more than double the official death toll. Still, the American public’s willingness to get a COVID vaccine is reaching a saturation point, a new national poll suggests.
Meanwhile, the number of Americans seeking unemployment aid recently dropped to the lowest it’s been since the pandemic started — a sign of the job market’s growing strength as businesses reopen and consumers step up spending.
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.
UK to ease holiday travel ban yet keeps most quarantines
Britain announced a “first tentative step” Friday toward resuming international travel, saying U.K. citizens will be able to travel to countries including Portugal, Iceland and Israel later this month without having to quarantine upon their return.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the country’s current blanket ban on overseas vacations will be replaced on May 17 by a traffic-light system classifying countries as low, medium or high risk.
The “green list” of 12 low-risk territories also includes Gibraltar, the Faroe Islands and the Falkland Islands — but not major vacation destinations for Britons such as France, Italy, Spain and Greece, which are on the “amber” list. Britons traveling to those countries, and many others including the United States and Canada, will have to self-isolate for 10 days when they return.
How anti-vaccine activists mine CDC data to spread doubt about coronavirus shots
Once, getting vaccinated was all but routine. But since the heightened public awareness around the new COVID-19 vaccines, it’s a different story. Now, it means check-ins with family and friends about possible arm soreness or mild symptoms.
Through an early warning system known as the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration keep tabs on signals of possible side effects from vaccines. The federal agencies have maintained the system since 1990 as part of a transparent way to ensure vaccine safety.
Federal officials are not the only ones keeping an eye on the reports. Over the years, anti-vaccine proponents have seized on the publicly available data to sow doubt about vaccines from falsehoods that they cause autism to even death.
But the reporting tool does not offer official proof that the vaccines caused any of the events listed despite what anti-vaccine advocates may say.
California man accused of selling fake vaccination cards
The owner of a Northern California bar was arrested on suspicion of selling fake COVID-19 vaccination cards to several undercover state agents for $20 each.
After receiving a tip, undercover agents with the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control went to Old Corner Saloon in the city of Clements several times in April and bought fake laminated vaccination cards, officials said.
They returned to the small-town bar this week and saw others buy the phony cards and arrested the bar’s owner, supervising agent Luke Blehm told Sacramento news station KTXL-TV.
It wasn’t immediately known if the bar owner, Todd Anderson, has an attorney who can speak on his behalf. No one answered the phone at the bar Friday.
Asian American health workers fight virus and racist attacks
Medical student Natty Jumreornvong has a vaccine and protective gear to shield her from the coronavirus. But she couldn’t avoid exposure to the anti-Asian bigotry that pulsed to the surface after the pathogen was first identified in China.
Psychiatry patients have called her by a racist slur for the disease, she said. A bystander spat at the Thai-born student to “go back to China” as she left a New York City hospital where she’s training.
And as she walked there in scrubs Feb. 15, a man came up to her, snarled “Chinese virus,” took her cellphone and dragged her on a sidewalk, said Jumreornvong, who reported the attack to police. The investigation is ongoing.
For health care workers of Asian and Pacific Islander descent, “it seems like we’re fighting multiple battles at the same time — not just COVID-19, but also racism,” says Jumreornvong, a student at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.
Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have faced a tide of harassment and attacks in many settings during the pandemic. But those in health care are feeling the particular, jarring anguish of being racially targeted because of the virus while toiling to keep people from dying of it.
Norwegian Cruise Line threatens to skip Florida ports
Norwegian Cruise Lines is threatening to steer clear of Florida after the governor signed an order banning businesses from requiring that customers show proof of vaccination against COVID-19.
The company says the order by Gov. Ron DeSantis is at odds with guidelines from federal health authorities that would let cruise ships sail in U.S. waters if nearly all passengers and crew members are vaccinated.
“It is a classic state-versus-federal-government issue,” says Frank Del Rio, CEO of parent Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, who told analysts during the company’s quarterly earnings call that if the company can’t operate in Florida, it can go to other states or the Caribbean.
Last month, DeSantis signed an order banning businesses from requiring customers to show proof of vaccination and prohibiting state agencies from issuing so-called vaccine passports that document COVID-19 vaccinations and test results.
Chinese in Iraq blocked from flying home after virus cases
Employees of two Chinese state-owned companies in Iraq are blocked from returning to China for two months after 14 coworkers flew home with the coronavirus, Beijing’s embassy in Baghdad said Friday.
China has repeatedly suspended the rights of airlines to fly certain routes after infections were found among their passengers. But a decision to target Chinese citizens working for state-owned companies abroad is unusual.
The 14 employees who flew home with the virus in April worked for China Power Construction Corp. in Rumaila and for the China Machinery Engineering Corp. in Basra, the Chinese Embassy said on its social media account.
Doctors in Nepal warn of major crisis as virus cases surge
Across the border from a devastating surge in India, doctors in Nepal warned Friday of a major crisis as daily coronavirus cases hit a record and hospitals were running out of beds and oxygen.
Nepal reported 9,070 new confirmed cases on Thursday, compared to 298 a month ago. The number of fatalities also reached its highest with 58 on Wednesday and 54 on Thursday, for a total of 3,529.
State health officials confirm 1,424 new coronavirus cases
The state Department of Health (DOH) reported 1,424 new coronavirus cases and 11 new deaths on Friday.
The update brings the state's totals to 412,483 cases and 5,564 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, 22,699 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the virus — 35 new hospitalizations. In King County, the state's most populous, state health officials have confirmed a total of 104,573 COVID-19 diagnoses and 1,532 deaths.
Since vaccinations began in mid-December, the state and health care providers have administered 5,750,348 doses and 44.6% 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 42,877 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.
WTO chief: Vaccine waiver helpful, not key for virus fight
The head of the World Trade Organization said Friday the U.S. administration’s call to remove patent protections on COVID-19 vaccines could help expand fair access to vaccines but might not be the most “critical issue,” as officials in Europe increasingly insisted that more vaccine exports are the more pressing priority.
WTO Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said the trade body aimed to find a “pragmatic solution that assures access to developing countries to deal with vaccine inequity, whilst at the same time making sure we don’t disincentivize research and innovation.”
Activists and humanitarian institutions cheered the American reversal in policy Wednesday and urged others to follow suit in order to remove the intellectual property protections on the COVID-19 vaccines. The decision ultimately is up to the 164-member WTO, and if just one country votes against a waiver, the idea will fail.
While many world leaders welcomed the U.S. step, few see any waiver as the only or even best way to expand access to vaccines and end the pandemic — and they’ve taken the U.S. to task for not sharing more of the vaccines that already exist with the rest of the world.
Clark County has a memorial for people of color lost to COVID-19
When Karen Morrison envisions a memorial, she thinks about the permanence of plants and trees, and how nature can outlive humans.
That’s why Morrison worked with Watershed Alliance of Southwest Washington to create a memorial for Clark County people of color who have died of COVID-19.
In all, 41 trees have been planted in a clearing along the Burnt Bridge Creek Trail to honor the lives lost. Twelve more people of color have died since the trees were planted, which means that 53 deaths, or 20% of Clark County’s 261 COVID-19 deaths, have been people of color.
The plantings can be viewed from the Burnt Bridge Creek Trail, as it follows along the greenway just west of Andresen Road.
COVID forces families to rethink nursing home care
At 86, Diane Nixon, living in an apartment at the back of a daughter’s house, no longer drives and has trouble getting around.
When her health worsened last year before the coronavirus pandemic, she and all four of her daughters talked about whether a nursing home would be the next step. She worried that she had become a burden to her children.
But as infections began to tear through nursing homes across the country, killing tens of thousands of residents last year, Nixon and her family realized a group home was no longer a viable choice — especially after most of them barred visitors to help contain outbreaks.
“Not to be able to see her was not an option for us,” said Jill Cooper, one of her daughters, so the family contacted a local home health agency to hire someone to help her during the day.
“It made us look at an alternative that we might not have looked at as hard,” she said.
Mexico City exhales as COVID-19 infections fall
More than three months after COVID-19 infections peaked in Mexico City, the local government announced Friday that the public hospital network dedicated to fighting the disease is experiencing its lowest rate occupancy of the pandemic.
City officials placed occupancy rate in public hospitals dedicated to COVID-19 care at 16%, a welcome change from January, when a surge following the holiday season pushed some hospitals to their limits.
There have been more than 42,000 test-confirmed COVID-19 deaths in the city of 9 million, though due to the limited availability of testing the real number is believed to be much higher.
WHO panel OKs emergency use of China’s Sinopharm vaccine
The World Health Organization gave emergency use authorization Friday to a COVID-19 vaccine manufactured by China’s Sinopharm, potentially paving the way for millions of the doses to reach needy countries through a U.N.-backed program rolling out coronavirus vaccines.
The decision by a WHO technical advisory group — a first for a Chinese vaccine — opens the possibility that Sinopharm’s offering could be included in the U.N.-backed COVAX program in coming weeks or months and distributed through UNICEF and the WHO’s Americas regional office.
The Beijing Sinopharm vaccine will join ones made by Pfizer-BioNTech, Johnson & Johnson, Moderna, AstraZeneca, and a version of the AstraZeneca vaccine made by the Serum Institute of India, in receiving the coveted authorization from the U.N. health agency.
Why the world’s most vaccinated country is seeing an unprecedented spike in coronavirus cases
As the Seychelles began to offer free coronavirus vaccinations early this year, President Wavel Ramkalawan told reporters that the country was planning to reach herd immunity within weeks.
It was an ambitious target for a small, geographically isolated island nation in the Indian Ocean. But with its economy heavily reliant on tourism, the country called in favors to attain a vaccine supply from regional allies, including India and the United Arab Emirates.
The effort initially seemed to be a success. The Seychelles stands as the most vaccinated nation on Earth, with more than 60% of its population fully vaccinated, more than other vaccine giants such as Israel and Britain, and almost twice the United States’ rate of vaccination.
But that success has been undermined this week as the Seychelles has found itself with its largest number of new coronavirus cases per capita, and has been forced to reinstate a number of restrictions.
Though the number of new cases is relatively low — peaking at an average of just over 100 new cases a day — they are a big deal in a country with a population of less than 100,000. On a per capita basis, the Seychelles outbreak is worse than India’s raging surge.
NYC still storing COVID-19 victims in refrigerated trucks
New York City is still using refrigerated trucks to store bodies of coronavirus victims, more than a year after they were first set up as temporary morgues as deaths surged at at the height of the pandemic.
The city’s medical examiner’s office said Friday that 750 bodies are being kept in long-term storage in refrigerated trailers at a Brooklyn pier. Family members are sorting out plans for some of the victims' final resting places while other bodies held at the 39th Street Pier could end up buried in the city’s potter’s field on Hart Island.
Packed trains, drinking: Japanese impatient over virus steps
Trains packed with commuters returning to work after a weeklong national holiday. Frustrated young people drinking in the streets because bars are closed. Protests planned over a possible visit by the Olympics chief.
As the coronavirus spreads in Japan ahead of the Tokyo Olympics starting in 11 weeks, one of the world’s least vaccinated nations is showing signs of strain, both societal and political.
The government — desperate to show a worried public it is in control of virus efforts even as it pushes a massive sporting event that a growing number of Japanese oppose hosting in a pandemic — on Friday announced a decision to expand and extend a state of emergency in Tokyo and other areas through May 31.
Pressure rises for India lockdown; surge breaks record again
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi faced growing pressure Friday to impose a strict nationwide lockdown, despite the economic pain it will exact, as a startling surge in coronavirus cases that has pummeled the country’s health system shows no signs of abating.
Many medical experts, opposition leaders and even Supreme Court judges are calling for national restrictions, arguing that a patchwork of state rules is insufficient to quell the rise in infections.
The situation is so dramatic -- with a death toll of over 3,000 per day -- that among those calling for a strict lockdown are merchants who know their businesses will be affected but see no other way out.
Senior CDC official who met Trump’s wrath for raising alarm about COVID-19 to resign
Nancy Messonnier, a senior health expert at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention who was the first U.S. official to warn Americans last year that a looming pandemic would change their lives forever, will resign from her position with the agency, she told colleagues in an email Friday morning.
Messonnier survived President Donald Trump’s rage after she contradicted the White House’s reassuring message last year with her now-famous Feb. 25, 2020, announcement that the United States should prepare for an unprecedented health crisis, which tanked stock markets worldwide.
“It’s not a question of if this will happen, but when this will happen, and how many people in this country will have severe illnesses,” she said then. “Disruptions to everyday life may be severe, but people might want to start thinking about that now.”
Pfizer first to seek full approval for COVID-19 vaccine in U.S.; here’s what that would change
Pfizer and its partner BioNTech have asked U.S. regulators for full approval of their covid-19 vaccine, a milestone in their effort to make the shot a sustainable revenue source that goes well beyond its current standing as an emergency product.
On Friday, the companies became the first covid-19 vaccine makers to submit a biologics license application to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Their vaccine is one of three — along with shots made by Moderna and Johnson & Johnson — that hold an emergency use authorization in the U.S., a designation that can be revoked at any time and lasts only as long as the state of emergency itself.
If cleared, the companies would be able to begin marketing the product to the general public. The full approval would also allow more employers to begin mandating vaccination.
Lawmakers take Inslee to task over Pierce County COVID reopening pause, threaten special legislative session
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee is receiving criticism from lawmakers in his own party over his shifting economic reopening plan, with a group of Pierce County Democrats threatening the possibility of a special legislative session following the governor’s recent implementation of a pause that left their county stuck in a phase with tighter COVID-19 restrictions.
The letter, sent Thursday afternoon, was signed by eight Democrats in the House and Senate and four House Republicans.
The letter states that while they don’t dispute the rising numbers in Pierce County that have only recently started to level out, the decision to pause Pierce and three other counties with more restrictions while allowing counties that were set to roll back to continue to have more business activity “damages both our confidence and communities.”
Amazon postpones Prime Day sale in Canada, India because of COVID-19
Amazon.com is pausing plans for its annual sale Prime Day in Canada and India over concerns about COVID-19, the company confirmed Thursday. The pause won’t affect Prime Day in the United States, which is scheduled for an undisclosed day in June, according to an email reviewed by Bloomberg.
“Based on the increasing impact of Covid-19 in Canada, and the importance we place on protecting the health and safety of our employees and customers, we will pause plans for Prime Day 2021 in Canada,” said the email, sent to Amazon sellers Thursday. The Seattle-based company, in an email, confirmed Prime Day would also be postponed in India, which was reported earlier by CNBC.
Catch up on the past 24 hours
Has your doctor been vaccinated? Can you ask the question, and do health care workers have to answer? Most did indeed get their shots, but the percentage of workers who skipped them nationwide is higher than you might think. Our FAQ explains the rules around finding out.
The real COVID-19 death toll is more than double the official tally, a new UW analysis suggests. The scientists count nearly 7 million people worldwide, and in Washington state, more than the entire population of Normandy Park or North Bend. As you might expect, there's some disagreement on the numbers.
The Oregon church fought COVID-19 restrictions, and people gathered there without masks. Now at least 74 have fallen ill.
The end of the pandemic lockdown is closer than Seattleites think, columnist Jon Talton writes. As states and cities across the country start to reopen, Seattle needs to prepare for re-entry.
Ruckus in the skies: More and more unruly passengers are refusing to wear masks on planes, and the physical and verbal abuse endured by flight attendants is "way off the charts." Fines for the bad behavior are sky-high, too.
One vaccine clinic in Seattle has sacred ambience you won’t find at your local drugstore. Close your eyes inside this cathedral and you might think you're at a wedding as Mozart sonatas float out of a 3,944-pipe organ (although the jab would certainly puncture that notion). Enjoy the photos.
The world’s most vaccinated country is seeing an unprecedented spike in coronavirus cases.
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