As more people are vaccinated and case numbers decline across much of the country, more attention is turning to life in whatever follows the coronavirus pandemic. Spanx are making a comeback, people are finding creative ideas for what to do with masks and plans for fully in-person school in the fall are taking shape.
But vaccine hesitancy remains an issue, so much so that many states are reducing their orders and the national vaccine stockpile is growing.
And the manifold toll of COVID-19 continues, with newly discovered impacts — such as that the disease is triggering diabetes in some people who contract it — that will echo far into the future.
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.
Tearful reunions mark second Mother’s Day under pandemic
Last Mother’s Day, they celebrated with bacon and eggs over FaceTime. This time, Jean Codianni of Los Angeles flew to New Jersey to surprise her 74-year-old mother, now that both have been vaccinated against the disease that has stolen uncountable hugs and kisses around the world.
“You forget how your mom smells, how she looks. It’s like, she never looks as beautiful as the last time you saw her,” Codianni said. “We understand how privileged we are, how lucky we are. Hundreds of thousands of people don’t get to celebrate Mother’s Day, or are celebrating it under a veil of grief.”
Joyous reunions among vaccinated parents and children across the country marked this year’s Mother’s Day, the second one celebrated during the coronavirus pandemic. Some families separated by worries of transmitting the virus saw each other for the first time in more than a year, emboldened by their vaccinations, as many others grieved for mothers lost to the virus.
For Pam Grimes, Mother’s Day last year remains a fuzzy yet “scary and depressing” memory, blurred together with the rest of the pandemic’s early months. In contrast, when her vaccinated adult grandchildren gathered at her Panama City, Florida, home to celebrate this year, they hugged and laughed and teased each other.
“The whole world felt better,” Grimes said.
Slovakia eyes using Russia’s Sputnik V; waits for results
BRATISLAVA, Slovakia (AP) — Slovakia’s government is set to discuss possible use of Russia’s Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine with Moscow after it was successfully tested in a Hungarian lab.
Slovakian Health Minister Vladimir Lengvarsky said he will talk with his country’s experts and “the Russian side about further developments on this issue.”
Hungary offered Slovakia assistance in inspecting the Russian-made vaccine after the Slovak State Institute for Drug Control said it had not received enough information about the Russian jab from its producer to be able to assess its benefits and risks.
The regulator also said the doses it received from Russia differed from those under review by the European Union’s medicines authority.
The Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), which markets Sputnik V abroad, called the findings “fake news.” It said Slovakia’s drug regulator had tested the vaccine in a laboratory that is not part of the EU’s official network of approved labs.
The RDIF welcomed the results of the Hungarian tests and said it asked the Slovak drug regulator to apologize “for spreading incorrect information about Sputnik V.”
In the meantime, Russian experts have also been also testing doses of the Sputnik V vaccine it delivered to Slovakia. Lengvarsky said he was waiting for the results of those tests and Russian approval for its use before he makes any further decisions.
Street parties celebrate end of Spain’s state of emergency
BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Impromptu street celebrations erupted across Spain as the clock struck midnight on Saturday, when a six-month-long national state of emergency to contain the spread of coronavirus ended and many nighttime curfews were lifted.
In Madrid, police had to usher revelers out of the central Puerta del Sol square, where the scenes of unmasked dancing and group singing mimicked pre-pandemic nightlife.
Teenagers and young adults also poured into central squares and beaches of Barcelona to mark the relaxation of restrictions.
Statewide survey sheds light on vaccine hesitancy among Alaskans
The results of a statewide survey conducted by Alaska’s health department in March offer some insight into Alaskans’ attitudes related to COVID-19 vaccines and will be used to inform public messaging, state health officials said this week.
The results, which were published Thursday in a report compiled by the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, indicated about a 36% vaccine hesitancy rate — meaning they were unsure or undecided about whether to get vaccinated — among the more than 1,000 survey respondents with Alaska area codes who answered questions via text.
The survey data showed that over half of Alaskans who fell into the “vaccine hesitant” category were open to learning more about the vaccines before deciding whether to get vaccinated.
No vaccine, no desk: Firms weigh whether to make COVID shots mandatory
Mondelez International Inc., the maker of Ritz Crackers and Trident gum, wants to start welcoming workers back to office this summer, though with a caveat: They must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
It’s a thorny issue for many companies as some workers are hesitant about getting the shots, and Mondelez hasn’t finalized its plan. Yet for Chief Executive Officer Dirk Van De Put, vaccines are a way to ensure safety while restoring workplace culture and camaraderie.
“We want to create an environment where you feel comfortable and it’s like it used to be at the office,” he said in a Bloomberg Television interview April 28. “We can only do that if everybody’s vaccinated.”
Vaccines loom large as U.S. companies dial up plans to bring more workers back to the office and cities ease COVID-19 restrictions, with New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio vowing a full reopening of the nation’s largest metropolis by July 1. The New York Stock Exchange has begun opening further for traders who can prove they’re fully vaccinated and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. has formulated a plan to get U.S. employees to return to the office next month now that shots are widely available.
Some employers are pulling out all the stops for their workers to get vaccinated by offering incentives or holding inoculation drives at corporate facilities. Surveys indicate that a significant number of companies are at least considering vaccine requirements as a condition of returning to the office, but few have publicly committed to that approach amid concerns over the potential backlash from employees, implementation headaches and legal risks that could accompany a mandate.
Regulator shares discredited conspiracy theories about COVID
PHOENIX (AP) — An elected Arizona utility regulator has shared discredited conspiracy theories while trying to persuade energy and power providers not to require their employees to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.
Arizona Corporation Commission member Jim O’Connor said during an interview that the government and the news media are covering up the shots causing numerous deaths and people becoming “human vegetables,” but there’s no evidence of such problems, the Arizona Republic reported Saturday.
O’Connor, a Republican, was elected last November to his statewide office as one of five commission members. He served as a presidential elector for then-GOP nominee Donald Trump during his successful campaign in 2016.
O’Connor said one source of his information was Ryan Cole, an Idaho physician who has made false and controversial statements about COVID-19.
The Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania debunked several of Cole’s claims about COVID-19 vaccines on its website.
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has determined that the vaccines are safe. Besides mild side effects such as soreness and fever, the only serious side effects so far are very rare blood clots associated with one of the three vaccines and even rarer allergic reactions.
Vax Live concert raises $302 million, exceeds vaccine goal
LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Global Citizen fundraising concert advocating the importance of vaccine equity has pulled in $302 million, exceeding the goal for the organization’s campaign.
Global Citizen announced Saturday that the funds raised helped procure more than 26 million doses at the “Vax Live: The Concert to Reunite the World.” The organization said money was garnered through several philanthropic and corporate commitments.
President Joe Biden, Prince Harry and Jennifer Lopez were among the big names who took part in the event, which was recorded May 2 and aired Saturday. ABC, ABC News Live, CBS, YouTube and iHeartMedia radio stations will broadcast the concert staged at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California.
Selena Gomez hosted the show, which was attended by several thousand fully-vaccinated concertgoers who cheered on performances by Eddie Vedder, Foo Fighters, J Balvin, H.E.R. and Lopez, who enjoyed a duet with her mom.
In the shadow of Mt. Everest, a business boom goes bust, spoiled by COVID-19
On Sept. 1, 2019, four months before researchers in China identified a novel coronavirus, KC Krishna opened his first business in the heart of Namche Bazaar, the tourism hub of Nepal’s Mt. Everest region.
Krishna had moved to the boomtown for work 12 years prior. He spent more than a decade managing another lodge before opening his own, Thawa Lodge & Bakery Cafe, along with Sherpa Bar & Steak House on the floor below. Finally, he seemed poised to capitalize on the postmillennial rush of tourists to the highest mountain on Earth — a boom there seemed no reason to doubt would continue.
“If the business goes well,” Krishna remembers thinking, “my future, my kids’ future, my wife’s future — everything will be better.”
Less than two years later, Krishna — like so many other new business owners in the region — finds himself buried in debt mounting as high as the nearby peaks. With virtually zero income and no relief in sight, he does not know if his business can survive a third consecutive tourism season spoiled by COVID-19.
Recent media coverage of the Solukhumbu region has focused on the Nepalese government’s questionable decision to allow climbers to return to Mt. Everest, and the infusion of tourist dollars this will bring. But for most locals — many of whom took out high-interest loans to build businesses in the years leading up to the pandemic — this will be too little, too late.
As cases grow, India’s vaccination campaign falters
BENGALURU, India (AP) — Since India opened vaccinations to all adults this month, hoping to tame a disastrous coronavirus surge sweeping across the country, the pace of administering the shots has dropped with states saying they only have limited stock to give out.
Cases meanwhile are still rising at record pace in the world’s second-most populous nation. Alongside a slowdown in vaccinations, states have gone to court over oxygen shortages as hospitals struggle to treat a running line of COVID-19 patients.
On Sunday, India reported 403,738 confirmed cases, including 4,092 deaths. Overall, India has over 22 million confirmed infections and 240,000 deaths. Experts say both figures are undercounts.
After court nixes eviction ban, race is on for federal help
BOSTON (AP) — The recent court ruling striking down a national eviction moratorium has heightened concerns that tenants won’t receive tens of billions of dollars in promised federal aid in time to avoid getting kicked out of their homes.
A federal judge on Wednesday found the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention exceeded its authority when it imposed the moratorium last year. Housing advocates believe the ban saved lives and not only should continue, but be extended past its initial June 30 deadline.
For now, the moratorium remains: A judge stayed the court’s order following an appeal from the Justice Department.
Without the moratorium, advocates say, the only thing standing between many tenants and eviction is the nearly $50 billion allocated by Congress for rental assistance. Advocates say very few tenants have received any of the money — which is up to individual states to distribute — and they fear it won’t get to the neediest people in time if the moratorium is scrapped.
As Pac-12 bet on rapid coronavirus tests to play football, UW debate boiled behind the scenes, records show
Desperate to save its pandemic-delayed football season last fall, the Pac-12 made a wager.
Rapid antigen tests — a new technology for detecting the coronavirus — had hit the market in recent months, offering results in 15 minutes. The Pac-12, and other athletic conferences, wanted to try an unproven use: to screen healthy athletes daily for the coronavirus.
Conference Commissioner Larry Scott brokered a deal with Quidel, a prominent test manufacturer, and hailed the tests as a “game-changer.”
But behind the scenes, a debate raged over whether the tests could live up to their promise.
Vaccine deserts: Some countries have no COVID-19 jabs at all
N’DJAMENA, Chad (AP) — At the small hospital where Dr. Oumaima Djarma works in Chad’s capital, there are no debates over which coronavirus vaccine is the best.
There are simply no vaccines at all.
Not even for the doctors and nurses like her, who care for COVID-19 patients in Chad, one of the least-developed nations in the world where about one third of the country is engulfed by the Sahara desert.
“I find it unfair and unjust, and it is something that saddens me,” the 33-year-old infectious diseases doctor says. “I don’t even have that choice. The first vaccine that comes along that has authorization, I will take it.”
While wealthier nations have stockpiled vaccines for their citizens, many poorer countries are still scrambling to secure doses. A few, like Chad, have yet to receive any.
To mask or not to mask?
When David Díaz went for a recent 5-mile run in Iowa City, he took along a partner he has depended on for more than a year: his face mask.
Díaz, 29, knew he did not have to. He’s fully vaccinated, and recent federal guidance says unmasked, outdoor exercise is safe. At first, he wore the mask around his neck. But after passing people one block later, he pulled it up – and then began wondering why. Was he posturing? Was he showing concern for others? Was he worried passersby would view him as an anti-masker? Was he actually being anti-science?
“At what point are you doing more harm than good and letting fear or something rule your life?” Díaz, a data analytics consultant, said days later. “It’s still a thing I’m trying to work through.”
Some Americans never fully embraced face masks, those swaths of fabric that became one of the seminal flash points of the U.S. coronavirus pandemic. But for many across the nation who did, rising vaccination rates and shifting public health advice are forcing a recalibration of a relationship with an accessory that has served as a shield against a deadly pathogen, a security blanket during a crisis, and a symbol – of regard for the common good, liberal politics or belief in science.
Now, after months of advising Americans to wear masks and stay six feet from most others, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says vaccinated people can, among other things, gather unmasked indoors and that everyone can exercise outdoors with household members – and with faces bared to the world. Suddenly, in the spring of 2021, donning a mask for a solo stroll outside, where scientists have found scant evidence of transmission, has become the unscientific approach.
4 tales of joyous post-vaccine reunions from around the Seattle area
This time last year, COVID-19 retracted social circles almost overnight. Adult children waved to parents in assisted-living facilities through windows. First-time parents brought home newborns without family support.
But with the increased availability of vaccines, folks are counting down the days to that first hug and that postponed visit with family, or a happy reunion with friends.
Here are a few stories of what that looks like, from a grandchild’s first visit with her grandparents to an unconventional 100th birthday party and a return of in-person dance classes at a community senior center.
Q&A: Why even with vaccines, COVID will always be with us
The road to eliminating COVID-19 is long and paved with uncertainty. Many countries are counting on vaccines to build sufficient immunity in their populations so that SARS-CoV-2 isn’t able to find susceptible people to infect, causing transmission of the coronavirus to slow and eventually stop. But even with the rollout of highly effective vaccines, immunization coverage may not reach that level — the so-called herd immunity threshold — anytime soon. For one thing, it’s not known what level of immunity is required. There’s also the threat of emerging coronavirus variants that may weaken the effectiveness of immunizations.
1. Can COVID-19 be eradicated?
No. So far, only one human disease — smallpox — has been officially eradicated; that is, reduced to zero cases and kept there long-term without continuous intervention measures. Smallpox was stamped out thanks to a highly effective vaccine and the fact that humans are the only mammals that are naturally susceptible to infection with the variola virus that causes the disfiguring, sometimes deadly disease. Humans are the only known reservoir of polio virus, yet it still spreads in a few countries, causing paralyzing disease, despite the widespread use of effective immunizations and a 32-year-old global eradication effort. SARS-CoV-2 is thought to exist in nature in horseshoe bats, and has been known to infect minks, cats, gorillas and other animals. Wiping out the virus would require banishing it from every susceptible species, which isn’t feasible. In countries that have successfully suppressed COVID-19 cases, disease elimination has been proposed instead.
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