Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Saturday, May 8, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.
Some frustrated Pierce County Democrats have joined colleagues across the aisle in threatening to hold a special legislative session in response to Washington Gov. Jay Inslee’s reopening plan that put a pause on Pierce County, keeping it in a phase with tighter COVID-19 restrictions.
Eight Democrats in the House and Senate and four House Republicans signed a letter stating that although they don’t dispute the case numbers in Pierce County, the decision to pause reopening in some counties while allowing more business activity in others “damages both our confidence and communities.”
In Mexico City, officials are breathing a small sigh of relief as the public health hospital network announced its lowest occupancy rate since the pandemic began and more than three months after infections peaked.
The World Health Organization on Friday authorized one of China’s Sinopharm vaccines for emergency use. Developed in Beijing, the Sinopharm vaccine is the only Chinese vaccine to be approved by the U.N. health agency. In receiving the coveted authorization, the vaccine joins others made by Pfizer-BioNTech, Johnson & Johnson, Moderna, AstraZeneca, and a version of the AstraZeneca vaccine made by the Serum Institute of India.
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.
Merkel hopeful on Europe summer travel even without vaccine
BERLIN — Europeans can look forward to traveling this summer, if coronavirus cases keep declining further on the continent, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Saturday.
While the European Union is developing a vaccine certificate valid throughout the 27-nation bloc, summer vacations abroad should be possible again even for people who haven’t had their shots against the coronavirus, she said.
“If you look at the low incidence (of COVID-19) that some of our European partner countries already have,…then I’m very hopeful that we can also generally afford to do what was possible last summer, too,” Merkel said.
She cited the sharp drop in COVID-19 cases in Portugal in recent months after the country imposed a drastic lockdown.
Portugal had one of the highest infection rates worldwide in January, but by Friday the seven-day rolling average of daily new cases stood at 3.3 per 100,000 inhabitants – about a quarter of the rate in the United States.
Read the whole story here.
'Vaccine pasport,' other precautions required to get into some parties, clubs
Partying and clubbing in the emerging post-coronavirus world involves new precautions and documentation in some places.
Vaccinated-only parties have started to pop up across the country, especially in and around New York City, where anyone over 16 has been eligible for vaccination since April 6.
Bar and club owners in New York are not required to check for vaccine cards, but there are benefits to doing so. On May 3, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that places where proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test is required can operate at a greater capacity.
Although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now advises that fully vaccinated people can gather indoors without masks (and stand closer than 6 feet apart), one New York City ballroom took extra precaution, per state guidelines: Each group was assigned to a designated area marked off by white tape. But within each group, it felt like old times: Patrons were dancing, singing at the top of their lungs and smooching on the dance floor.
Read the whole story here.
What to do with masks accumulated over a year-plus of pandemic?
After 14 months of reliance on the mask for protection, its twilight appears to be in sight in certain parts of the world. In late April, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new guidelines stating that fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear masks outdoors unless they are in crowds. Already, the CDC had said that small groups of fully vaccinated people — more than 1.2 billion doses have been administered worldwide — could safely gather indoors unmasked.
As bare faces become more common, what will become of masks? Some people remain uncertain about giving them up just yet, either because they are awaiting vaccination or holding on to fears — of infection, judgment by others for not wearing a mask, or both. (And, masks are still required in most indoor settings.) People who have stopped wearing them daily may still keep their masks; that way when flu season or another pandemic arrives, they’ll be prepared. Clearly, however — judging by the litter on city sidewalks and in parks — many are tossing them.
But designers, DIY-ers, curators and environmentalists have plenty of other ideas, aimed at memorializing and reinvigorating the abundant artifacts of our pandemic year.
Read the whole story here.
Puyallup uses COVID relief money to grow outdoor seating for downtown businesses
Puyallup used $18,000 in federal relief funds to grow outdoor dining for downtown businesses as they face Phase 2 restrictions.
Seven restaurants and bars have been given a small patio space the size of a parking space, known as a “parklet.” The parklets are placed in a parking space outside the restaurant or bar with tables and chairs for outside dining.
The small patio space is part of a city effort to increase outside dining and retail options for businesses impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. The Open Air Pilot Program launched in June 2020 as a response to COVID-19 and its impacts on the downtown business community.
Read the whole story here.
In India’s surge, a religious gathering attended by millions helped COVID spread
NEW DELHI – As coronavirus cases in India shot upward last month, millions of people converged on the Ganges River to bathe at a holy spot offering a chance at salvation.
When the pilgrims returned to their homes across the country, some brought the virus with them.
The precise role of the Hindu religious festival – the Kumbh Mela – in India’s raging outbreak is impossible to know in the absence of contact tracing. But the event was one source of infections as cases skyrocketed, according to local officials, religious leaders and media reports.
More than 414,000 new cases were reported in India on Friday, a global record. About 4,000 people are dying a day, but such figures are an undercount. Experts believe the number of fatalities will rise in coming days, since deaths from COVID-19 lag behind new cases.
Dozens of nations, including the United States, have sent aid to India as it combats a surge that has overwhelmed hospitals and led to shortages of oxygen. Several Indian cities and states have announced lockdowns to stem the spread of infections.
The combination of an enormous wave of coronavirus cases and one of the biggest mass gatherings on the planet has fueled criticism that India’s government should have curtailed the religious event or canceled it altogether. Last year, when India had just several hundred coronavirus cases, the government swiftly imposed a nationwide lockdown.
Two pandemics clash as doctors find that COVID spurs diabetes
When Ziyad Al-Aly’s research team told him how often diabetes appeared to strike COVID-19 survivors, he thought the data must be wrong, so he asked his five colleagues to crunch the numbers again.
Weeks later, they returned the same findings after sifting through millions of patient records. By then Al-Aly had also gone digging into the scientific literature and was starting to come to terms with an alarming reality:COVID-19 isn’t just deadlier for people with diabetes, it’s also triggering the metabolic disease in many who didn’t previously have it.
“It took a while to convince me,” said Al-Aly, who directs the clinical epidemiology center at the Veterans Affairs St. Louis Health Care System in Missouri. “It was hard to believe that COVID could be doing this.”
Among COVID-19’s many ripple effects, the worsening of the global diabetes burden could carry a heavy public-health toll. The underlying mechanisms stoking new-onset diabetes aren’t clear, though some doctors suspect the SARS-CoV-2 virus may damage the pancreas, the gland that makes insulin which is needed to convert blood-sugar into energy. Sedentary lifestyles brought on by lockdowns could also be playing a role, as might late diagnoses after people avoided doctors’ offices. Even some children’s mild coronavirus cases can be followed by the swift onset of diabetes, scientists found.
Washington state health officials confirm 1,484 new coronavirus cases
The state Department of Health (DOH) reported 1,484 new coronavirus cases on Saturday.
The update brings the state's totals to 413,980 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. Friday. New COVID-related deaths aren’t reported on the weekends.
The new cases may include up to 300 duplicates, according to DOH.
In addition, 22,798 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the virus — 99 new hospitalizations. In King County, the state's most populous, state health officials have confirmed a total of 104,963 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 32.5% 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.
West Virginia factory is center stage in supply chain crisis as U.S. economy seeks to rebound from COVID
PRICHARD, W.Va. – Whenever the Sogefi plant here runs out of resin or computer chips or cardboard boxes or wooden pallets or really anything at all, it’s Randy Simpkins’s problem. And whenever one of Sogefi’s customers howls about a late shipment, that’s Simpkins’s problem, too.
These days, Simpkins has plenty of problems.
The 42-year-old logistics manager is smack in the middle of a global supply chain crisis that reaches from factories in Europe to giant cargo ships anchored off the Atlantic coast, all the way to this rural hamlet of fewer than 300 residents.
The waves of economic disruption unleashed by the pandemic – including an unexpected shortage of workers – have made supply issues a constant preoccupation for the entire management team at this auto parts plant. But Simpkins seems to get the worst of it.
“No issue is ever solved these days, just managed,” he said. “It’s an exercise in how flexible you can be in an inflexible world.”
As life returns, so does Spanx
Angela Williams has purged her closet of high heels, underwire bras and other fashion remnants that don’t serve the comfort-first mind-set she embraced during the pandemic. The Spanx stayed, though.
With in-person meetings and summer weddings creeping back onto her schedule, she expects her shapewear collection to grow. “I have to admit: I’m kind of excited about it,” the 46-year-old Boston-area finance professional said. “I’m excited about getting dressed up and smoothing out the bumps and lumps and rolls and looking good.”
Shapewear sales, which tumbled early in the pandemic as clothing choices became decidedly casual, are climbing again as Americans spring for waist-cinchers, bodysuits, tank tops and slimming panties in hopes of compressing, lifting and squeezing their way back into their pre-pandemic forms.
Shapermint, an online retailer that pulls in nearly 20% of U.S. shapewear sales, says its revenue in the category has doubled in the last month, driven by demand for high-waisted shaper panties and shorts. Kim Kardashian West’s Skims, which hit shelves in late 2019 shortly before the coronavirus crisis disrupted business and social life, has sold more than 4 million pieces and grown into a $1.6 billion brand, catapulting the reality TV star onto the Forbes billionaires list. And Spanx, the industry’s biggest success story, is seeing dramatic sales spikes, particularly for its maximum-sculpting OnCore line.
“Normal life is slowly returning and as people venture out into the world, they are looking for a little hug,” said Sara Blakely, the company’s founder and chief executive.
States scale back vaccine orders as interest in shots wanes
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — States asked the federal government this week to withhold staggering amounts of COVID-19 vaccine amid plummeting demand for the shots, contributing to a growing U.S. stockpile of doses.
From South Carolina to Washington, states are requesting the Biden administration send them only a fraction of what’s been allocated to them. The turned-down vaccines amount to hundreds of thousands of doses this week alone, providing a stark illustration of the problem of vaccine hesitancy in the U.S.
More than 150 million Americans — about 57% of the adult population — have received at least one dose of vaccine, but government leaders from the Biden administration down to the city and county level are doing everything they can to persuade the rest of the country to get inoculated.
U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy said Friday that the federal government has dedicated $250 million for community organizations to promote vaccinations, make appointments and provide transportation.
He cited examples such as holding conversations with small groups of people in minority communities in St. Louis and asking Rhode Island churches to contact community members and offer them rides to vaccination sites. He also noted that a global Hindu American organization has turned temples into vaccination centers, making it easier for elderly members to get shots in a familiar setting. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway has added a vaccination site in which people can get their shots in a Formula 1 garage near the race tunnels.
The Biden administration announced this week that if states don’t order all the vaccine they’ve been allotted, the administration will shift the surplus to meet demand in other states.
After lull, cases spread in Vietnam’s cities, provinces
HANOI, Vietnam — After over a month with no local infections, Vietnam has recorded 176 confirmed coronavirus cases from several outbreaks that have spread to 19 provinces during the past 10 days, the Health Ministry said.
The National Hospital of Tropical Diseases in Hanoi, which has been on the frontline treating COVID-19 patients, has been sealed off after a doctor, two nurses and more than 20 patients tested positive earlier this week.
Meanwhile, the city’s K hospital, which is designated to treat cancer patients, also closed Friday after 11 cases of COVID-19 were found.
“The situation is alarming because we are having multiple outbreaks scattered across the country with unclear sources of transmission and multiple variants of the virus,” Health Minister Nguyen Thanh Long said during a government meeting broadcast on national television VTV on Friday evening.
In the 19 provinces and cities with COVID-19 cases, schools have been closed and classes moved online.
In Hanoi, authorities urged people to refrain from gathering while city parks and food stalls were closed. In southern Ho Chi Minh City, gatherings of more than 30 people were banned starting this weekend. The city has also closed bars, clubs, gyms and buffet restaurants.
According to the ministry, over 700,000 people including health workers, contact tracing officials, police and army officers have been inoculated with the AstraZeneca shots, the only vaccine in use in Vietnam.
Washington state updates COVID rules for farmworker housing, adds allowances for vaccinated workers
The state Department of Labor & Industries and Department of Health filed new emergency rules Friday regarding COVID-19 protections for farmworkers living in temporary housing.
The rules were first issued in May of last year. This third update will go into effect Sunday.
Many of the requirements stayed intact, including 50% housing capacity and allowing use of bunk beds only if employers maintain cohort groups that work, travel and live together.
The update addresses vaccinated workers for the first time. Vaccinated workers are allowed to share common areas if they maintain physical distancing and mask use. Vaccinated workers can also be transported in the same vehicle as long as they wear a face covering.
Other updates include ending a requirement for a licensed health care provider to make twice-daily visits to workers in isolation due to COVID-19 exposure. Employers are now only required to have a health care provider check in daily, either in person or through telemedicine.
The update comes more than two weeks after a Yakima County Superior Court judge issued an order to end enforcement of several rules, namely those concerning medical care and access by community workers.
Amid the climb out of COVID rules, restaurants worry about new plastics restrictions in Washington state
While it continues to reel from the COVID-19 pandemic, Washington’s restaurant industry is worried about legislation it fears could significantly increase the cost of takeout, which has become the primary — and for some, the only — type of business.
Starting in January, restaurants would be limited in their ability to provide single-use plastic forks, spoons, knives or straws unless a customer asks for them. By mid-2023, the foam containers made of a type of plastic known as expanded polystyrene, such as the “clam shell” takeout boxes, would be banned.
Sen. Mona Das, a Kent Democrat and self-described “single-use plastics warrior,” sponsored the bill as a way to continue the state’s reduction in plastic waste in the environment.
“Washington is a leader in sustainability and particularly on plastic pollution and recycling,” Das said. “We should continue to protect the planet and consumers.”
Restaurant operators worry they might be forced to bear an unfair share of that effort.
A landlord, a tenant and the battle for 1042 Cutler St. in upstate New York
SCHENECTADY, N.Y. — The landlord had highlighted the first of the month on his office calendar and marked it as “Pay Day,” but now the first had come and gone, the one-week grace period was ending, and for the 13th consecutive month, Romeo Budhoo had collected less than half of his total rent. “Time to try begging for it,” he said, and he grabbed his booklet of receipts and walked out to his car.
He drove through the low-income neighborhoods of Schenectady, stopping at a half-dozen small homes that accounted for most of his income and all of his family’s savings. He cajoled $75 in cash from a laid-off hairdresser who owed him more than $7,000. “Thanks for at least trying to work with me,” he wrote on the rental receipt. He collected $200 from a renter who was $1,600 behind. “I’ll come back tomorrow,” Budhoo said, and then he continued up the street to his oldest property, a three-story home that had helped lift him into the middle class and was now sending him closer to bankruptcy.
Budhoo parked in front and flipped through his receipts. The tenant owed more than $12,000, and on the porch Budhoo saw a pile of warnings and eviction notices dating back almost a year.
“No more grace periods,” read one from last fall. “Pay now or leave.”
In the COVID economy of 2021, the federal government has created an ongoing grace period for renters until at least July, banning all evictions in an effort to hold back a historic housing crisis that is already underway. More than 8 million rental properties across the country are behind on payments by an average of $5,600, according to census data. Nearly half of those rental properties are owned not by banks or big corporations but instead by what the government classifies as “small landlords” — people who manage their own rentals and depend on them for basic income, and who are trapped between tenants who can’t pay and their own mounting bills for insurance, mortgages and property tax. According to government estimates, a third of small landlords are at risk of bankruptcy or foreclosure as the pandemic continues into its second year.
Washington schools are carefully planning to welcome all students back to buildings this fall
With about a month left to go in the school year, some Washington public school districts are signaling to parents that they intend to offer a fully in-person school year this fall for students in all grades.
While taking his oath of office on Monday, Seattle Public Schools’ new interim superintendent, Brent Jones, alluded to “district plans for a full-time return to school this fall,” and said that the city’s schools “have an opportunity to come back stronger than before by centering the perspectives and needs of our students and families in our decision-making.”
Tacoma, Everett, Bellevue, Lake Washington and Highline have also announced their intention to return to 100% in-person classes this fall. And a spokesman for the state’s Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction said it is the agency’s “expectation that all students will be provided the opportunity to attend full-time in-person learning in the fall.”
Still up in the air: Whether the state could require a COVID-19 vaccination for children who are old enough to receive it. Some schools are encouraging students to get vaccinated as soon as they are eligible. Several state public and private universities recently announced that their fall plans include requiring students to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination.
Vote no and take the dough? It’s a proud conservative tradition
Recently when the first federal mass vaccination site opened in Washington state, in Yakima, one of the dignitaries to hail it was naturally the local congressman.
“The COVID-19 vaccine is now available at the State Fair Park in Yakima!” announced Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Sunnyside, exclamation point his.
He attached a press blurb about what was being called a pilot community vaccination center.
On the same day, though, he soon returned to his more regularly scheduled program: ripping the recently passed American Rescue Plan as a wasteful mess.
“President Biden’s $1.9 trillion debt-financed COVID-19 ‘rescue plan’ ignores the needs of communities like ours and spends far too many taxpayer dollars on unrelated priorities,” Newhouse wrote — dubbing it an “American recession plan.”
You can probably guess what’s coming next: The mass vaccination site, which has since given out 27,800 shots, was paid for by this same rescue plan, according to the office of U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell. The act boosted FEMA funding by $50 billion, in part to pay for sites to help low-vaccination counties such as Yakima, with mobile units to reach underserved areas.
This has been happening all over the country: Republicans who voted en masse against the coronavirus relief effort then hailing or highlighting its spending provisions in their own districts. “Republicans promote pandemic relief they voted against,” read an Associated Press headline this past week.
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