Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Wednesday, November 16, 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 It is no longer being updated.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 COVID-19 misinformation continues to spread across the globe, doctors in Alaska are pushing the State Medical Board to investigate concerns about physicians spreading misinformation about the vaccine and COVID-19 treatments. Nearly 100 doctors have signed a letter calling for the board investigation, which will be submitted on Tuesday.
A Houston hospital temporarily suspended a doctor for spreading false COVID-19 information to patients and on social media. The doctor urged her patients to not vaccinate their children telling them the “vaccine is not working” based on data she collected herself. She also took to social media to denounce vaccine mandates and promote ivermectin despite advice against using the drug to treat COVID-19.
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.
Navigating the pandemic
- How to get a COVID-19 vaccine or booster in Washington state
- Should you still wear a mask after mandates lift? How to tackle that choice
- How to navigate the COVID pandemic in the Seattle area: resources on masks, tests, vaccines and more
Cities are not only tackling COVID, but its pollution, too
The River Thames, the tidal artery that squiggles through central London, holds up a mirror to life on dry land: scraggly remains of fir trees float by after Christmas; in the first days of a fresh year, bobbing Champagne bottles hint at recent revelry.
Lara Maiklem, author of “Mudlark: In Search of London’s Past Along the River Thames,” scours the shoreline for artifacts such as coins, tokens, buckles and potsherds, some dating to the period of Roman rule. Loosed from pockets or heaped as infill, these are the flotsam of centuries lived on London’s streets.
“I find stuff because humans are litterbugs,” Maiklem said. “We’ve always been chucking things into the river.”
But lately Maiklem is encountering a type of garbage she hadn’t seen there before: the remnants of COVID 19-era personal protective equipment (or PPE), particularly masks and plastic gloves bloated with sand and resting in the rubbly silt.
2nd group of states challenges health worker vaccine mandate
A second set of states has filed a federal lawsuit challenging the Biden administration’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for health care workers.
The latest suit was filed this week in Louisiana on behalf of 12 states and comes less than a week after another lawsuit challenging the rule was filed in Missouri by a coalition of 10 states.
“The federal government will not impose medical tyranny on Louisiana’s people without my best fight,” Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry said in a news release announcing the lawsuit.
The Louisiana lawsuit quotes from Friday’s order by the New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals blocking a broader Biden administration vaccine mandate that businesses with more than 100 workers require employees to be vaccinated by Jan. 4 or wear masks and be tested weekly for COVID-19.
Slovakia to restrict the unvaccinated to tame COVID surge
Slovakia is planning new restrictions on unvaccinated people in an effort to tame the latest surge of coronavirus infections that has caused a “critical” situation in the country’s hospitals, the prime minister said Tuesday.
Prime Minister Eduard Heger said his government will vote Thursday on the latest proposals by an advisory group of medical experts that will be effective for three weeks. Among the proposed measures, people who have not been vaccinated will be banned from all non-essential stores, shopping malls, gyms, pools and hotels. They also won’t be allowed to attend any mass public gatherings like sports events
If the situation doesn’t get any better in the next three weeks, the government is ready to impose even more restrictions, the prime minister said.
Cases surge in new COVID hot spots of Michigan, Minnesota
Hospitals in Michigan and Minnesota on Tuesday reported a wave of COVID-19 patients not seen in months as beds were filled with unvaccinated people and health care leaders warned that staff were being worn down by yet another surge.
Michigan had slightly more than 3,000 COVID-19 patients in hospitals this week, the first time it had crossed that threshold since spring, while nearly all hospital beds were occupied in Minnesota. Both held the unflattering rank of national virus hotspots.
It “should be alarming to all of us,” Bob Riney, chief operating officer at Henry Ford Health System in Detroit, said of the hospital crush.
The overall outlook has improved significantly in recent weeks in the U.S., with coronavirus hospitalizations standing at about 40,000, compared with more than 90,000 at the peak of the delta surge. Virus spread has slowed in the South to the point that more locations are doing away with mask restrictions.
State health officials confirm 1,312 new coronavirus cases
The state Department of Health (DOH) reported 1,312 new coronavirus cases and 39 new deaths on Tuesday.
The update brings the state's totals to 756,310 cases and 9,029 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. Monday. Tallies may be higher earlier in the week because new state data isn’t reported on weekends.
In addition, 41,819 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the virus — 96 new hospitalizations. In King County, the state's most populous, state health officials have confirmed a total of 169,752 COVID-19 diagnoses and 2,037 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.
DC to drop most indoor mask requirements next week
The District of Columbia will lift its indoor mask requirement starting next week, as local COVID-19 infection cases continue to trend downward.
Starting Monday, Nov. 22, masks will no longer be required in many indoor spaces. A statement from the city Health Department announced that masks will still be required in certain settings, including schools, libraries, public transportation and group-living facilities like nursing homes, dorms and jails.
The nation’s capital originally lifted its indoor mask requirement for fully vaccinated individuals in May, but reinstated it in late July as cases began to rise again.
Man stabs gas station clerk in Seattle after being asked to mask up, police say
Police are searching for a man who stabbed a gas station clerk Monday evening in Seattle’s Northgate neighborhood after the clerk told him he wasn’t allowed inside without a face covering, police said.
The suspect entered the gas station in the 2100 block of Northgate Way around 7:15 p.m. and was quickly turned away by the clerk because he was not wearing a mask, according to an item in the Seattle Police Department’s online blotter.
The suspect then stabbed the clerk in the chest and abdomen and fled on foot, police said. The clerk was taken to Harborview Medical Center for treatment.
Biden administration to announce purchase of 10 million courses of Pfizer anti-COVID pill
The Biden administration is expected to announce this week it is purchasing 10 million courses of treatment of Pfizer’s COVID pill, a multibillion dollar investment in a medication that officials hope will help change the trajectory of the pandemic by staving off many hospitalizations and deaths, according to two people with knowledge of the transaction.
U.S. officials see this antiviral pill, and another by Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, as potential game-changers to help restore a broader sense of normalcy and are eager to add them to a small arsenal of treatments for Americans who contract the virus. With breakthrough cases rising and 30% of American adults not fully vaccinated, health officials believe the pills will help tame the pandemic because of their ability to thwart the virus’ most pernicious effects.
Pfizer announced earlier this month that its experimental pill, which will be sold under the brand name Paxlovid, reduced the risk of hospitalization and death by 89% in high-risk people when taken within three days of the onset of symptoms. The company said it planned shortly to file an application for emergency use authorization with federal regulators.
Ping-pong ball bounce could determine vaccine mandate’s fate
The fate of President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for private employers could come down to the bounce of a ping-pong ball.
Republican officials in 27 states, employers and several conservative and business organizations filed challenges to the mandate in numerous federal courts shortly after the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration released details of the emergency rule Nov. 4. Several unions also filed challenges in other federal courts, contending it doesn’t go far enough.
The cases are expected to be consolidated under one of the circuit courts in a decision expected as soon as Tuesday.
Which federal court ends up with the case could determine whether the requirement gets tossed out, a reflection of how the judiciary has become politicized in recent years. The New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, where a majority of justices were nominated by Republicans, issued a ruling putting the mandate on hold.
Spanish regions eye COVID-19 passports amid infection surge
Worried by a rise in COVID-19 infections, some of Spain’s regional governments are asking courts to authorize the introduction of virus passports that can help control the pandemic’s spread.
The governments of the Basque Country, Valencia, Navarra and Catalonia say they are ready to be the first autonomous regions of Spain to introduce COVID-19 passports for people to enter nightclubs, bars, restaurants and some public events. But first they need court permission.
The Basque government’s minister of health, Gotzone Sagardui, said Tuesday the administration will file an official petition at court this week. If approved, the measure will apply to people 12 and over who want to enter nightlife establishments featuring music or dancing or restaurants with more than 50 diners.
Drones fly Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine to Africa’s remote villages
Over dense forests and cocoa farms, a fleet of drones hummed en route to Ghana’s central Bosomtwe District. Upon reaching their destination Sunday, the red-and-white aircraft parachuted thermal packages containing cargo that’s long been awaited by the local Kokodei community: vials of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine.
In the days ahead, these drones will shuttle tens of thousands of the shots developed by Pfizer and its partner BioNTech to some of Ghana’s most rugged, remote countryside as part of an effort to provide more equitable access to doses. Every four minutes, from dawn until dusk, drones operated by Zipline will depart from its distribution centers bearing the immunizations. The company has been tasked with bringing doses to 40% of Ghana’s population.
The U.S. government donated the Pfizer shots through the World Health Organization-backed Covax program, and Ghana has turned to Zipline to make the deliveries. In total, the startup will ferry 50,000 doses across nine districts of the Ashanti region — known for gold craftsmanship, cocoa, coffee and palm oil farms, and heavy rainfall — along with other districts further north and west.
Chinese health workers killed a corgi while its owner was in COVID quarantine, sparking widespread anger
The brutal beating of a quarantined person’s pet corgi by health workers in China has led to an outpouring of online outrage amid ongoing debate over whether Beijing’s zero-tolerance attitude toward the coronavirus pandemic has gone too far.
A widely circulated home surveillance video clip posted Friday on Weibo, a Chinese microblogging service similar to Twitter, showed two local health workers sent to disinfect the person’s apartment beating her now-dead dog on the head with metal bars. The pet’s owner, a woman from Shangrao, a city about 280 miles southwest of Shanghai, said that she had been ordered to quarantine that day in a nearby hotel, after a COVID case was detected in her apartment complex.
The woman, whose name was not made publicly available, reportedly said that she was not allowed to quarantine with her pet, but that authorities had said the dog would be unharmed as long as it was leashed during disinfection.
Pfizer asks US officials to OK promising COVID-19 pill
Pfizer asked U.S. regulators Tuesday to authorize its experimental pill for COVID-19, setting the stage for a likely launch this winter of a promising treatment that can be taken at home.
The company’s filing comes as new infections are rising once again in the United States, driven mainly by hot spots in states where colder weather is driving more Americans indoors.
Pfizer’s pill has been shown to significantly cut the rate of hospitalizations and deaths among people with coronavirus infections. The Food and Drug Administration is already reviewing a competing pill from Merck and several smaller drugmakers are also expected to seek authorization for their own antiviral pills in the coming months.
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?”
Pfizer agrees to let other companies make its COVID-19 pill
Drugmaker Pfizer Inc. has signed a deal with a U.N.-backed group to allow other manufacturers to make its experimental COVID-19 pill, a move that could make the treatment available to more than half of the world’s population.
In a statement issued Tuesday, Pfizer said it would grant a license for the antiviral pill to the Geneva-based Medicines Patent Pool, which would let generic drug companies produce the pill for use in 95 countries, making up about 53% of the world’s population.
The deal excludes some large countries that have suffered devastating coronavirus outbreaks. For example, while a Brazilian drug company could get a license to make the pill for export to other countries, the medicine could not be made generically for use in Brazil.
Belgium to make COVID-19 shots mandatory for health workers
Health workers in Belgium who don’t want to get vaccinated against COVID-19 will face losing their jobs.
Amid a surge of coronavirus cases that has led hospitals in Belgium to reserve half of their 2,000 ICU beds for COVID-19 patients, Belgium’s federal government finalized a draft bill late Monday to make vaccinations mandatory for health care workers.
Starting Jan 1, the workers have a three-month window to get their shots. During that period, those who remain unvaccinated will be notified of a suspension of their contract unless they can provide a certificate of recovery from COVID-19 or negative tests on a regular basis, and will be temporarily unemployed. From April, workers without a proper justification for their refusal could be dismissed.
Despite high jab rate, Portugal mulls new COVID-19 measures
Portugal has vaccinated 86% of the country against the coronavirus, but the prime minister warned Tuesday that the latest infection surge across Europe compels the Portuguese government to consider precautionary measures.
“We can’t ignore the signs,” Prime Minister António Costa said of the European Union’s growing number of new confirmed cases. “The later we act, the greater the risk.”
Costa has convened a Friday meeting of health experts to assess what measures may be required. After that, he plans to meet with the leaders of opposition parties.
Florida woman dies after suing hospital to get ivermectin
A 47-year-old Florida teacher hospitalized with COVID-19 has died after her husband sued in an unsuccessful effort to force doctors to treat her with ivermectin.
Tamara Drock died Friday, 12 weeks after being admitted to Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center, Ryan Drock told the Palm Beach Post.
He sued the hospital last month in an attempt to require doctors to administer ivermectin, a drug used to treat conditions caused by parasitic worms. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not approved the drug to treat COVID-19, saying it hasn’t proved effective in pre-clinical trials.
Greece’s tavernas, coffee shops close for pandemic protest
Associations representing restaurants and catering businesses in Greece organized strikes and protests across the country Tuesday, seeking renewed financial relief from the government due to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
Normally busy restaurants, coffee shops, bars, and traditional tavernas in Athens remained closed with chairs flipped onto outdoor tables, including in the Greek capital’s historic Plaka district.
Protesters in the northern city of Thessaloniki placed an empty coffin outside a government building, while marchers carried black balloons in the southern port of Patras. Brief scuffles broke out at a rally in central Athens when police stopped demonstrators blocking traffic near the prime minister’s official residence.
Positive virus tests reach weekly high in the Netherlands
The Netherlands recorded its highest weekly number of positive coronavirus tests over the last seven days, and lawmakers discussed legislation as cases continued to soar Tuesday to limit unvaccinated people from using the country’s COVID pass system.
The country’s public health institute reported Tuesday that the number of positive tests rose by 44% to 110,558, the highest weekly total since the pandemic began. Hospital admissions for COVID-19 patients rose 12% and admissions to intensive care units by 3%, it said.
The institute said 173 people died of COVID-19 during the past week, bringing the Netherlands’ death toll in the pandemic to 18,785.
Catch up on the past 24 hours
"What's really going to change the pandemic" in Washington state: Health officials are urging everyone who's eligible to get booster shots and kids' vaccinations as COVID-19 levels fluctuate. See if you qualify for a booster, and find help getting kids' vaccine appointments.
Lions and tigers and bears are getting COVID vaccines, so why not dogs and cats? Vets are answering a barrage of questions about this. Meanwhile, health workers killed a corgi while its owner was in quarantine, fueling outraged cries that China's zero-tolerance attitude toward the pandemic has gone too far.
The world’s first anti-vaccination movement spread fears of half-cow babies, complete with an illustration that's quite something.
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