Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Monday, November 15, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.
A new state mandate goes into effect on Washington today for large events, requiring guests show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test. Read more about it here.
The Seattle Times recently spoke to Gov. Jay Inslee on his handling of the latest phase of the pandemic, especially as it pertains to vaccine requirements. Nearly 92% of state workers subject to Inslee’s mandate are verified as vaccinated, with an additional 3% having gotten accommodations to keep them in a role away from the public. Inslee has not made a choice on whether to require vaccines for kids but added, “We are going to watch closely the uptick rate in our schools.”
In Colorado, COVID-19 is spreading unlike ever before. Health officials in the state estimate 1 in every 48 people in the state are infected and the current surge of patients is overwhelming local hospitals, leaving fewer available ICU beds than at previous peaks in December 2020. The majority of patients are young and unvaccinated.
As for the new normal, Dr. Robert Wachter, professor of the department of medicine at the University of California San Francisco, told NPR, “I think for the next, at least, several years, COVID’s here to stay.” Wachter foresees a future cycle of ‘rollercoaster’ waves of infection rising and falling, causing people to have to recalibrate what personal risk to take in socializing and traveling.
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.
Florida GOP moves to combat vaccine mandates, virus rules
Florida lawmakers on Monday began debating a package of bills to combat coronavirus vaccine mandates, continuing Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis’ fight against virus rules.
The weeklong special legislative session in the GOP-controlled statehouse includes proposals to let workers opt out of COVID-19 vaccine mandates and allow parents to sue schools with masking requirements.
DeSantis has become one of the highest-profile Republican governors in the country through his vocal opposition to lockdowns, mask rules and vaccine mandates. That has helped elevate his stature within the Republican party as he runs for reelection and eyes a potential 2024 bid. He called the special session amid continued public sparring with the administration of Democratic President Joe Biden over federal vaccine mandates.
The Republican measures would bar private businesses from having coronavirus vaccine mandates unless they allow exemptions for medical reasons, religious beliefs, proof of immunity based on a prior COVID-19 infection, regular testing and an agreement to wear protective gear. Employers would be subject to fines up to $50,000 for firing a worker without offering the exemptions. Another provision bars COVID-19 vaccine mandates for public school and government workers in Florida.
Audit: Governor improperly used COVID funds for salaries
A state audit report on government spending released Monday accused Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds of using nearly $450,000 in federal coronavirus relief funds to pay salaries for 21 staff members for three months last year and concealing the spending by passing it through the state Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.
State Auditor Rob Sand said a review of the state’s payroll system shows the money was used to pay the Republican governor’s office staff, but it’s unclear why she had to take federal money to pay the salaries.
“What is not clear, is why these salaries were not included in the governor’s budget set prior to the fiscal year and prior to the pandemic,” he said in the audit report. “Based on this information, we conclude that the budget shortfall was not a result of the pandemic.”
Sand said he had asked Reynolds’ office twice for documentation to support the spending and was told the governor’s staff members during March, April, May and June of 2020 were fully focused on responding to COVID-19 and protecting Iowa but never provided proof of the expenditure on the COVID response.
The vaccine tore her family apart. Could a death bring them back together?
Her text messages with links to medical research had gone unanswered. Her halting pleas at the kitchen table had failed. And by the time Laurel Haught pulled into her driveway to find her daughter Sam’s car newly adorned with an Infowars bumper sticker, she could only conclude that her campaign to persuade her child to get the coronavirus vaccine was going nowhere.
Laurel was vaccinated. Sam was not. They lived together, along with Laurel’s vaccinated husband and Sam’s unvaccinated boyfriend, in a tumbledown chalet above an artificial lake outside Charleston. It was a home with creaking floorboards, bulging photo albums and a fireplace that had burned through three decades of Thanksgiving nights and Christmas mornings. It was a home the Haughts had always cherished, and it was about to come apart.
“Y’all got to move out,” Laurel, then 57, told her daughter. But Sam, then 32, appealed to her father, who didn’t share his wife’s alarm about the risk of contracting the virus. The eviction was overruled. So Laurel decided there was only one thing left to do: She moved out herself.
She drove just eight miles away, finding refuge with another daughter, this one inoculated. But across that short distance was a rift that is dividing households across America.
May auld pandemics be forgot: New Year’s Eve celebration returning to Times Square for 2022
It’s the least likely venue for social distancing, but city officials say they are going ahead with plans to ring in the New Year the old fashioned way — with crowds in Times Square to watch the ball drop.
After the COVID-19 pandemic forced party planners to cancel the 2021 celebration, organizers are bringing the blowout back, complete with crowds, carousing and a big crystal ball.
“We want to have a great New Year’s Eve celebration in this city,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said Monday. “This city has been through so much, but this has been a heroic city, fighting through COVID. We’re turning the corner. We’ve got a lot to celebrate. So, it’s going to be a big moment in Times Square on New Year’s Eve.”
De Blasio promised more specifics on just how the city plans to safely squeeze thousands of people behind barricades to safely kick off yet another year under the shadow of a global pandemic that still has the city in its grip.
Why don’t we have a COVID vaccine for pets?
Over the past year, coronavirus vaccines have gone into billions of human arms — and into the fuzzy haunches of an ark’s worth of zoo animals. Jaguars are getting the jab. Bonobos are being dosed. So are orangutans and otters, ferrets and fruit bats, and, of course, lions and tigers and bears (oh, my!).
Largely left behind, however, are two creatures much closer to home: domestic cats and dogs.
Pet owners have noticed.
“I get so many questions about this issue,” Dr. Elizabeth Lennon, a veterinarian at the University of Pennsylvania, said. “Will there be a vaccine? When will there be a vaccine?”
State health officials confirm 1,522 new coronavirus cases
The state Department of Health (DOH) reported 1,522 new coronavirus cases and 56 new deaths on Monday.
The update brings the state's totals to 755,011 cases and 8,990 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. Sunday. Tallies may be higher earlier in the week because new state data isn’t reported on weekends.
Data for COVID-like illness was incomplete due to the RHINO system being down, according to DOH.
In addition, 41,723 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the virus — 214 new hospitalizations. In King County, the state's most populous, state health officials have confirmed a total of 169,593 COVID-19 diagnoses and 2,033 deaths.
Since vaccinations began in mid-December, the state and health care providers have administered 10,285,730 doses and 61% 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 30,825 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.
Texas hospital suspends doctor for false COVID information
A Houston hospital has temporarily suspended a doctor for spreading false information about COVID-19 to her patients and on social media.
Dr. Mary Talley Bowden, an ear, nose and throat specialist who runs a private practice in River Oaks, had been granted provisional privileges at Houston Methodist Hospital within the last year.
The hospital revoked Bowden’s hospital privileges on Friday citing “unprofessional behavior,” including vulgar language on social media, as the main reason for suspension, the Houston Chronicle reported.
On her Twitter account, Bowden repeatedly decried vaccine mandates and promoted the unproven benefits of ivermectin, the anti-parasitic drug that federal health officials advise against using to treat the virus.
The world’s first anti-vaccination movement spread fears of half-cow babies
In the early 19th century, British people finally had access to the first vaccine in history, one that promised to protect them from smallpox, among the deadliest diseases of the era. Many Britons were skeptical of the vaccine, however, with fears extending well beyond the fatigue and sore arm that go along with many modern shots. The side effects they dreaded were far more terrifying: blindness, deafness, ulcers, a gruesome skin condition called “cowpox mange” — even sprouting hoofs and horns.
With that, the world’s first anti-vaccination movement was born.
Just as quickly as doctors heralded Edward Jenner’s revolutionary 1796 discovery that the deadly smallpox virus could be prevented with a cowpox vaccine, some Brits met the news with a superstitious distrust that bordered on hysteria. Opposition to vaccination would grow and evolve over the next 100 years to become one of the largest mass movements of 19th-century Britain. People refused the vaccine for medical, religious and even political reasons — plunging the nation into a debate that would rage for generations and foreshadow current coronavirus vaccine conspiracy theories.
Some antidepressants may lower risk of death or hospitalization from COVID-19, studies say
A common antidepressant appears to reduce the risk of death in patients admitted to the hospital with severe COVID-19, according to a study published in the JAMA Network Open journal.
About 9.8% of the 470 COVID-19 patients in the study who were taking fluoxetine, also sold under the brand name Prozac, died. That’s compared to over 13% of patients with similar characteristics not receiving any antidepressants.
A recent trial in Brazil showed fluvoxamine, another antidepressant, may reduce the risk that a patient with COVID-19 ends up in the hospital. The antidepressant was chosen to be studied as a potential treatment for COVID-19 due to its anti-inflammatory properties. It’s also cheaper than Merck’s new antiviral for COVID-19.
Racial disparities in U.S. kids’ vaccinations are hard to track
The rollout of COVID-19 shots for elementary-age children has exposed another blind spot in the nation’s efforts to address pandemic inequalities: Health systems have released little data on the racial breakdown of youth vaccinations, and community leaders fear that Black and Latino kids are falling behind.
Only a handful of states have made public data on COVID-19 vaccinations by race and age, and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not compile racial breakdowns, either.
Despite the lack of hard data, public health officials and medical professionals are mindful of disparities and have been reaching out to communities of color to overcome vaccine hesitancy. That includes going into schools, messaging in other languages, deploying mobile vaccine units and emphasizing to skeptical parents that the shots are safe and powerfully effective.
Employers eye shifting health care needs during pandemic
Health care costs rise every year, but the nation’s biggest employers still see insurance coverage as an important benefit to provide.
They just struggle getting the health care system to deliver what their workers need, according to Elizabeth Mitchell, CEO of the Purchaser Business Group on Health.
Big companies also are adjusting to how those needs have changed during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mitchell’s nonprofit coalition is helping to sort all this out by working with some of the country’s largest employers — think Walmart and Boeing — on the benefits they provide.
Alaska doctors seek COVID-19 misinformation investigation
Alaska doctors plan to ask the State Medical Board to investigate concerns about the spread of misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines and treatments by other physicians.
Merijeanne Moore, a private practice psychiatrist, said she drafted the letter out of concern over an event about COVID-19 treatments that featured prominent vaccine skeptics in Anchorage last month, the Anchorage Daily News reported.
Moore said Saturday that nearly 100 doctors had signed the letter and more could before she plans to submit the letter on Tuesday.
“We are writing out of concern that medical misinformation about the COVID-19 vaccine and treatment is being spread in Alaska, including by physicians,” the letter stated.
New York City clears way for all adults to get COVID booster shots
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration cleared the way Monday for all adults in the city to receive a booster shot of COVID-19 vaccine as colder weather threatens to bring a wave of new infections.
With the city’s COVID-19 case count already on the upswing, city Health Commissioner Dave Chokshi said he’s issuing an official advisory instructing all health care providers in the five boroughs to offer the extra booster dose to any adult who wants one.
“There should be no barriers to accessing a booster shot, provided that someone is an adult, meaning 18 or older,” Chokshi said. “We don’t want anyone turned away from a booster dose, and we want to prioritize those whom we know will most benefit from it.”
Cyprus to offer booster shots to all adults 18 and over
Cyprus said on Monday it will offer COVID-19 vaccination booster shots to all adults 18 and over.
The decision comes less than two weeks after the east Mediterranean island nation expanded its booster shot drive to include everyone over 50.
Italy: Police move against violent anti-vaccine activists
Police conducted searches across Italy on Monday against 17 anti-vaccine activists who were allegedly affiliated with a Telegram chat that espoused violence against government, medical and media figures for their perceived support of COVID-19 restrictions.
Police in Turin said the “Basta Dittatura” (Enough of the Dictatorship) chat had tens of thousands of members and was a prime forum for organizing protests against Italy’s health pass.
Like many European countries, Italy requires people to show their so-called Green Pass to dine indoors, visit museums and cinemas and for long-distance public transport. The pass shows proof of vaccination, a recent negative test or having been cured of COVID-19.
Belgium expedites decision on COVID-19 measures to Wednesday
Belgium’s government is bringing forward a meeting to decide on tighter measures to control the spread of COVID-19 amid a rapid increase in infections and hospital admissions in the nation.
The meeting, which was originally set for Friday, was moved up to Wednesday so that any measure approved midweek could be operational by the weekend, the government said Monday.
Hospital admissions are shooting up 30% on a weekly basis, and the number of patients in intensive care have risen to more than 500, putting ever more strain on hospitals in the nation of 11 million.
Cambodia reopens 2 weeks early, buoyed by high vaccine rates
Cambodia reopened its borders to fully vaccinated travelers on Monday, two weeks earlier than originally planned, as it emerges from a lengthy lockdown bolstered by one of the world’s highest rates of immunization against COVID-19.
The program allows visitors to skip quarantine measures if they are fully vaccinated, test negative 72 hours before they enter the country and test negative upon their arrival.
Prime Minister Hun Sen decided to move up the opening from Nov. 30 to Nov. 15 to start revitalizing the country’s economic and social activity as soon as possible, buoyed by the fact that 88% of Cambodians are now fully vaccinated.
How to Host Thanksgiving With Unvaccinated Friends and Family
In addition to the big, juicy turkey on the table, there’s also an elephant lurking in the room this Thanksgiving: the vaccination status of your guests.
It’s a tricky thing to talk about. Do you ask your aunt if she received the COVID vaccine after she RSVPs? What if she says no? Do you endure another scaled-back celebration, like last year? Or should you serve up a bunch of precautions?
According to a Marist Poll published in September, most Americans (nearly 80%) say they have gotten or will get a COVID vaccine, but nearly 20% still say they do not intend to be vaccinated.
That doesn’t sit well with some of the people who have already rolled up their sleeves. A recent Harris Poll found that half of the more than 1,400 vaccinated respondents were either “extremely” or “considerably” hesitant to spend the holidays with unvaccinated family members or friends.
Large events in Washington state now require proof of COVID vaccination or a recent negative test
Concerts, sporting matches and other large events will now require proof of vaccination or a recent negative COVID-19 test for indoor events with 1,000 people or more, or for outdoor events with more than 10,000 people.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee’s mandate goes into effect Monday. Inslee announced the mandate last month after worries about rising COVID rates and specifically the impact of the more-contagious delta variant that threatened to overwhelm local hospitals.
The order applies to everyone 12 and older. The requirement covers ticketed or registered events with defined entrances, not venues like shopping malls, museums or grocery stores that are open to the public.
Catch up on the past 24 hours
Starting today, you'll need proof of vaccination or a negative test to get into concerts, games and other large events in Washington state. Here are the new rules and how to show your proof using the state's online tool.
More vaccine orders may be ahead in Washington, including a possible requirement for schoolchildren and new rules for private businesses. Have Gov. Jay Inslee's orders worked so far? Washington residents are among the most vaccinated in the nation, and the COVID death rate has been among the lowest. But the existing measures have taken a toll.
One of Europe's hardest-hit countries is taking a drastic step: ordering millions of unvaccinated people into lockdown. Police will be on the streets, checking people for proof, and the fine for scofflaws is steep.
How to host Thanksgiving when not everyone is vaccinated: It's a tricky thing to talk about, but talk we must, medical experts say. Their ideas for making Thanksgiving safer for everyone start with asking one crucial question for each family: “What is the likelihood that we will get very sick from COVID-19?”
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