Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Friday, November 12, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.
The World Health Organization released data this week showing that COVID-19 deaths in Europe amounted to more than half of the 48,000 deaths reported globally during the first week of November. The region also accounted for about two-thirds of the 3.1 million cases across the globe during that same week. Officials are considering placing new restrictions to contain outbreaks as the winter nears.
Meanwhile in the U.S., a San Francisco police officer died from COVID-19 complications after being placed on administrative leave for refusing to comply with the vaccine mandate. Several police departments and public agencies across the country continue to struggle with enforcing vaccination requirements for public employees.
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.
King County judge upholds Port of Seattle’s vaccine mandate against lawsuit from unions
A King County Superior Court judge upheld a mandate issued by the Port of Seattle for all Port employees to be vaccinated by Nov. 15 as a condition of employment.
Judge Samuel Chung denied the motion for a preliminary injunction against the mandate that was brought forth by two unions representing Port employees in a lawsuit last month.
“The pandemic continues to be one of the unvaccinated,” said Steve Metruck, the Port’s executive director, in an email to Port employees on Friday. “… I want everyone to stay safe, healthy … and remain here at the Port.”
So far, 90% of Port employees have been fully vaccinated, according to a Port spokesperson. The other 10% have until 5 p.m. Monday to prove they are vaccinated. They can also submit an exemption request for medical or religious reasons, or request an extension demonstrating they have received at least one dose and intend to receive a second, the spokesperson said.
Messonnier, Birx detail political interference in last year’s coronavirus response
The Trump administration repeatedly interfered with efforts by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last year to issue warnings and guidance about the evolving coronavirus pandemic, six current and former health officials told congressional investigators in recent interviews.
One of those officials, former CDC senior health expert Nancy Messonnier, warned in a Feb. 25, 2020, news briefing that the virus’ spread in the United States was inevitable — a statement that prompted anger from President Donald Trump and led to the agency’s media appearances being curtailed, according to interview excerpts and other documents released Friday by the House select subcommittee on the pandemic.
The new information, including statements from former White House coronavirus coordinator Deborah Birx, confirms prior reporting and offers additional detail on how the pandemic response unfolded at the highest levels of government.
“Our intention was certainly to get the public’s attention about the likelihood … that it was going to spread and that we thought that there was a high risk that it would be disruptive,” Messonnier told the panel in an Oct. 8 interview. But her public warning led to private reprimands, including from then-Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, she said.
Federal appeals court halts Biden administration’s vaccine requirement, delivering policy a major blow
A federal appeals court in New Orleans has halted the Biden administration’s vaccine or testing requirement for private businesses, delivering another political setback to one of the White House’s signature public health policies.
A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, helmed by one judge who was appointed by President Ronald Reagan and two others who were appointed by President Donald Trump, issued the ruling Friday, after temporarily halting the mandate last weekend in response to lawsuits filed by Republican-aligned businesses and legal groups.
Calling the requirement a “mandate,” the court said the rule, instituted through the Labor Department, “grossly exceeds OSHA’s statutory authority,” according to the opinion, written by Judge Kurt D. Engelhardt and joined by Judges Edith H. Jones and Stuart Kyle Duncan.
“Rather than a delicately handled scalpel, the Mandate is a one-size fits-all sledgehammer that makes hardly any attempt to account for differences in workplaces (and workers) that have more than a little bearing on workers’ varying degrees of susceptibility to the supposedly ‘grave danger’ the Mandate purports to address,” they wrote.
Read the full story here.
California, Colorado and NM expand virus booster access
California is among three U.S. states now allowing coronavirus booster shots for all adults even though federal health officials recommend limiting doses to those considered most at risk.
The nation’s most populous state, along with Colorado and New Mexico, instituted their policies to try to head off a feared surge around the end-of-year holidays when more people are gathering inside.
Colorado and New Mexico have among the nation’s highest rates of new infections, while California — lowest in the nation earlier this fall — now joins them in the “high” tier for transmission, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed an executive order Friday expanding eligibility for COVID-19 booster shots. Her state health department’s acting secretary, Dr. David Scrase, said rising case numbers have some hospitals in New Mexico overwhelmed.
CDC shifts pandemic goals away from reaching herd immunity
Since the earliest days of the pandemic, there has been one collective goal for bringing it to an end: achieving herd immunity. That’s when so many people are immune to a virus that it runs out of potential hosts to infect, causing an outbreak to sputter out.
Many Americans embraced the novel farmyard phrase, and with it, the projection that once 70% to 80% or 85% of the population was vaccinated against COVID-19, the virus would go away and the pandemic would be over.
Now the herd is restless. And experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have set aside herd immunity as a national goal.
State health officials confirm 2,254 new coronavirus cases, Washington administers 10 million doses of vaccine
The state Department of Health (DOH) reported 2,254 new coronavirus cases and 77 new deaths on Friday.
The update brings the state's totals to 750,477 cases and 8,934 deaths, meaning that 1.2% of people diagnosed in Washington have died, according to the DOH. The data is as of 11:59 p.m. Thursday.
The new tally may be higher than normal on an average day because DOH did not update the dashboard on November 11 in observance of Veteran's Day.
In addition, 41,509 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the virus — 279 new hospitalizations. In King County, the state's most populous, state health officials have confirmed a total of 168,735 COVID-19 diagnoses and 2,030 deaths.
Since vaccinations began in mid-December, the state and health care providers have administered 10,122,392 doses and 60.8% 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 29,785 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.
VIRUS DIARY: Thwarted at the finish line, but finding luck
There it was, the finish line, beckoning me to cross it.
There I was, running at top speed, eager to be over it.
I’d been on my best behavior since March 2020, when the pandemic reached the United States. Twenty months of not setting foot inside a restaurant or getting on a plane or seeing my 88-year-old father-in-law on the other side of the country. Twenty months of eyeing people who wore their masks dangling off one ear (or not at all), or packing together for birthday parties, baby showers and weddings. I’d lost co-workers to COVID-19. Earlier this year, I lost a beloved aunt.
We spent last Thanksgiving at home, just the four of us. Same for Christmas. My husband and I juggled our full-time jobs while trying to get our two sons through remote learning, me editing stories while cursing under my breath as I coached my 10-year-old through long division.
Seattle pair charged with stealing $1 million in jobless benefits, small business loans
Two Seattle residents have been charged with stealing more than $1 million in jobless benefits and federal small business loans during the pandemic.
Bryan Alan Sparks, 40, and Autumn Gail Luna, 22, were charged Wednesday with stealing at least $500,000 in jobless benefits from the state Employment Security Department (ESD) and $520,000 Small Business Administration loans, according to a 16-count indictment filed in U.S. District Court.
The jobless benefits charge appears to be the largest uncovered so far, in dollar terms, arising from the $650 million wave of unemployment fraud that struck Washington last year.
The pair were arrested June 22 in Washington, D.C., with cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Seattle.
Prosecutors say that from March 2020 through at least January 2021, the pair used stolen Social Security numbers and other personal information to file fraudulent jobless claims and apply for federal Economic Injury Disaster Loans.
Disease center urges Germans to cancel or avoid big events
Germany’s disease control center is calling for people to cancel or avoid large events and to reduce their contacts as the country’s coronavirus infection rate hits the latest in a string of new highs.
The center, the Robert Koch Institute, said Friday that Germany’s infection rate climbed to 263.7 new cases per 100,000 residents over seven days, up from 249.1 the previous day.
Germany reported 48,640 new cases Friday, a day after the daily total topped 50,000 for the first time. Another 191 COVID-19 deaths brought Germany’s total in the pandemic so far to 97,389.
While the infection rate isn’t yet as high as in some other European countries, its relentless rise in Germany has set off alarm bells.
Russia: New pandemic restrictions to take effect in February
Some of the new pandemic restrictions prepared by Russian authorities go into effect next year, a top government official said Friday, reiterating the need for vaccine-hesitant Russians to get immunized against the coronavirus.
Two bills outlining the measures were introduced in parliament on Friday. They would restrict access to many public places, as well as domestic and international trains and flights, to those who have been fully vaccinated, have recovered from COVID-19 or are medically exempt from vaccination.
COVID-19 infections and deaths in Russia remain at all-time highs. The state task force on Thursday reported 40,123 new confirmed cases and 1,235 deaths — both numbers only slightly lower than the record daily tallies of 41,335 infections and 1,239 deaths recorded earlier this month.
Get ready for another child tax credit payment before Thanksgiving
It’s time to check those mailboxes and bank accounts for the next round of advance payments for the child tax credit.
If you haven’t already, mark Monday, Nov. 15, on the calendar as the day when families should start seeing extra cash via direct deposit or a check in the mail.
We’re looking at the second from the last monthly advance payment for the current child tax credit program.
Next month, Dec. 15 is the date to watch for the final round of payments in 2021.
Consumers need to understand that all this extra money each month won’t be there in January or later next year — unless Congress acts on an extensive package that includes extending the child tax credit for at least one year.
And you will need to take these payments into account when you file your 2021 tax return next year. In some cases, the advance payments now could lead to a lower tax refund or higher tax bill for some families who are doing better than they were in 2020.
German leader Merkel says people have duty to get vaccinated
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Friday that people have a duty to get vaccinated against the coronavirus to protect others.
She spoke as Germany grapples with a new surge of infections, which reached a record daily high of 50,000 on Thursday.
“You have the right to get vaccinated,” Merkel said. “But, to a certain extent, you also, as a member of society, have the duty to be vaccinated to protect yourself and to protect others.”
Japan adding more hospital beds in plan for next virus surge
The Japanese government’s preparations for the next virus surge include adding thousands more hospital beds to avoid a situation like last summer when many COVID-19 patients were forced to stay home, even while dependent on oxygen deliveries.
Even though Japan has a reasonable health insurance system and the world’s largest number of beds per capita, small private hospitals have been reluctant to accept COVID-19 patients, citing insufficient expertise to handle infectious diseases, lack of staff or the cost.
Virus measures are seen as key to new Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s success after public dissatisfaction with his predecessor’s virus response precipitated the change in government.
Austria announces regional lockdowns for the unvaccinated
Austria is implementing a lockdown for unvaccinated people in two hard-hit regions next week and looks poised to move forward with similar measures nationwide, Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg said Friday.
Starting Monday, unvaccinated people in the regions of Upper Austria and Salzburg will only be allowed to leave home for specific necessary reasons, such as buying groceries or going to the doctor.
Austria has faced a worrying trend in infections in recent weeks. The country reported 11,798 new cases on Friday, up from 9,388 a week ago. The 7-day infection rate stands at 760.6 new cases per 100,000 inhabitants, up from 528.8 a week ago and 316.4 two weeks ago.
All Czech students to be tested to curb surge in virus cases
The Czech government is requiring children to get tested for COVID-19 as part of efforts to curtail a recent steep rise in cases.
All elementary and high schools are required to test the country’s 1.4 million students in two waves on Nov. 22 and Nov. 29, Education Minister Robert Plaga said.
Medical experts recommended the mass testing. Firefighters will distribute rapid test kits across the country, officials said.
Not out of the woods: COVID cases rising in Western Europe
Nearly two years into a global health crisis that has killed more than 5 million people, infections are again sweeping across parts of Western Europe, a region with relatively high vaccination rates and good health care systems but where lockdown measures are largely a thing of the past.
The World Health Organization said coronavirus deaths rose by 10% in Europe in the past week, and an agency official declared last week that the continent was “back at the epicenter of the pandemic.” Much of that is being driven by spiraling outbreaks in Russia and Eastern Europe — where vaccination rates tend to be low — but countries in the west such as Germany and Britain recorded some of the highest new case tolls in the world.
Dr. Bharat Pankhania, senior clinical lecturer at Exeter University College of Medicine and Health, says that the large number of unvaccinated people combined with a widespread post-lockdown resumption of socializing and a slight decline in immunity for people who got their shots months ago is driving up the pace of infections.
Latvia bans unvaccinated lawmakers from meetings
Latvia on Friday banned unvaccinated lawmakers from attending in-person and remote parliament meetings as of Monday when the monthlong lockdown ends. Their wages also will be suspended if they are not able to work at the parliament.
The law, approved by the Saeima assembly in a 62-7 vote with two abstentions and 29 absent lawmakers, requires members of parliament and local government members to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
Latvian television said 91 of the 100 Saeima’s members have a certificate, as do 696 out of 758 local government members.
2 athletes COVID-19 positive in Beijing Games warmup events
Organizers of February’s Winter Olympics in Beijing said Friday that two foreign athletes had tested positive for COVID-19 in ongoing test events for the Games.
The two who tested positive are among 1,500 competitors and staff who have come into the country since the test events began in early October, said Huang Chun, the deputy director general of the pandemic prevention office for the Games.
He didn’t identify them or their country, but said they had come on a chartered plane for luge training and the World Cup. Neither showed symptoms and both were allowed to train, but they had to stay in a quarantine hotel and eat their meals alone.
China has among the strictest COVID prevention policies in the world. Entry to the country is restricted, and virtually everyone who does must quarantine in a hotel for at least two weeks, even if they are vaccinated and test negative.
Catch up on the past 24 hours
Booster shots for all adults? Senior health officials in the Biden administration are pressing urgently to offer vaccine booster shots to all adults. But support for the renewed push is not unanimous.
Worrisome sign for winter: COVID-19 is moving north and west for the winter as people head indoors, close their windows and breathe stagnant air. “Delta and waning immunity — the combination of these two have set us back,” said Ali Mokdad, a UW professor of health metrics sciences.
Coronavirus deaths in Europe rose 10% in the first week of this month and made up more than half of the 48,000 coronavirus deaths reported globally in that time, according to World Health Organization figures. Officials in hard-hit countries are weighing new restrictions to try to quell the outbreaks as winter approaches.
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