Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Wednesday, November 19, 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 It is no longer being updated.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 virus surge across the Upper Midwest region of the U.S. is worsening even as booster shots are made more available to people in a growing number of locations. Massachusetts and Utah recently approved booster shots for anyone aged 18 and over.
Meanwhile, The European Union’s drug agency is evaluating a new drug to treat COVID-19 patients who don’t need extra oxygen but have an increased risk of developing severe COVID-19 symptoms.
As COVID-19 case rates continue to rise in several European countries, Russia hit another record high for COVID-19 deaths for a second consecutive day. The country reported that 1,251 people had died from COVID-19 on Thursday, breaking the record high set the day before, when officials reported 1,247 COVID-19 deaths.
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.
Rioting erupts in Rotterdam over coronavirus restrictions
Police fired warning shots, injuring an unknown number of people, as riots broke out Friday night in downtown Rotterdam at a demonstration against plans by the government to restrict access for unvaccinated people to some venues.
Police said in a tweet that “there are injuries in connection with the shots” during the violent unrest. Riot police used a water cannon in an attempt to drive hundreds of rioters from a central street in the port city.
Video from social media shown on Dutch broadcaster NOS appeared to show a person being shot in Rotterdam, but there was no immediate word on what happened.
Police said in a tweet that it was “still unclear how and by whom” the person was apparently shot.
Russia reports record COVID deaths for 3rd straight day
Russian authorities on Friday reported a record number of coronavirus deaths for the third day in a row.
Russia’s state coronavirus task force reported 1,254 virus deaths, up 1,251 on Thursday and 1,247 on Wednesday.
The task force also reported 37,156 new confirmed cases. The daily new infections in recent weeks appear to have taken a downward trend but still remain higher than during previous surges of the virus.
The latest surge in infections and deaths comes amid low vaccination rates and lax public attitudes toward taking precautions. Fewer than 40% of Russia’s nearly 146 million people have been fully vaccinated, even though the country approved a domestically developed COVID-19 vaccine months before most of the world.
Disease control chief: “All of Germany is one big outbreak”
Germany has entered a “nationwide state of emergency” because of surging coronavirus infections, the head of the country’s disease control agency said Friday.
Lothar Wieler, the head of the Robert Koch Institute, said regular medical care cannot be guaranteed anymore in some parts of the country because hospitals and intensive care wards are overstretched.
The German air force confirmed a report by daily Bild that it was preparing to help transfer patients to clinics with free beds.
“All of Germany is one big outbreak,” Wieler told reporters in Berlin. “This is a nationwide state of emergency. We need to pull the emergency brake.”
Nearly 300 workers at Hanford nuclear reservation sue to stop COVID vaccine mandate and save their jobs
About 285 Hanford nuclear reservation workers have filed a lawsuit in federal court, asking that a COVID-19 vaccine mandate be immediately overturned.
Because of requirements that about 11,000 Hanford workers be vaccinated or have an exemption approved, the lawsuit claims the Hanford site will not have enough workers, including Hanford guards, to do the minimum work needed to keep the site safe and secure.
Nearly a third of the Hanford workers named as plaintiffs in the lawsuit are with the Hanford Patrol, including officers, a supervisor, a K-9 handler and an instructor.
The Department of Energy has not made the size of its Hanford Patrol workforce public, considering it a security matter.
State health officials confirm 1,652 new coronavirus cases
The state Department of Health (DOH) reported 1,652 new coronavirus cases and 24 new deaths on Friday.
The update brings the state's totals to 762,118 cases and 9,110 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.
In addition, 42,087 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the virus — 32 new hospitalizations. In King County, the state's most populous, state health officials have confirmed a total of 170,858 COVID-19 diagnoses and 2,047 deaths.
Since vaccinations began in mid-December, the state and health care providers have administered 10,412,672 doses and 61.2% 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 33,217 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.
This week in fake news: Social-media claims that failed the truth test
A roundup of some of the most popular but completely untrue stories and visuals of the week. None of these are legit, even though they were shared widely on social media. The Associated Press checked them out. Here are the facts:
Myocarditis is often mild, contrary to online claims
Claim: Myocarditis causes irreversible damage to the heart. Within five years of diagnosis, the death rate from myocarditis is 50%.
The facts: Myocarditis, inflammation of the heart muscle, is a mild, temporary condition in the vast majority of cases, according to experts. Some social media users have been falsely claiming otherwise in recent weeks by misrepresenting the scientific literature on the condition.
“Myocarditis is irreversible. Once the heart muscle is damaged, it cannot be repaired by the body,” states one widely shared Facebook post. “Myocarditis has a 20% fatality rate after 2 years and a 50% fatality rate after 5 years,” it continues.
How to get a COVID-19 vaccine or booster in Seattle, King County and Washington state
Now, all people 5 years of age or older are eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine.
Additionally, the U.S. government on Nov. 19 moved to open up COVID-19 booster shots to all adults, expanding efforts to get ahead of rising coronavirus cases that experts fear could lead to a winter surge.
Since vaccines became available in December 2020, Washington state has shuffled its eligibility tiers, opening them up to more people as the supply of vaccines increased. Now, more than 10 million doses have been administered in the state and over half of Washingtonians are fully vaccinated.
So what’s the best way to find an appointment?
Austria announces COVID-19 vaccine mandate, crossing a threshold for Europe
Austria on Friday became the first Western democracy to announce that it would mandate COVID-19 vaccinations for its entire adult population as it prepared for a nationwide lockdown starting Monday.
The extraordinary measure by Austria, which only days ago separated itself from the rest of Europe by introducing a lockdown for the unvaccinated, who are driving a surge of infections, made for another alarming statement about the severity of the fourth wave of the coronavirus in Europe, now the epicenter of the pandemic.
But it also showed that increasingly desperate governments are losing their patience with vaccine skeptics and shifting from voluntary to obligatory measures to promote vaccinations and beat back a virus that shows no sign of waning, rattling global markets at the prospect that still tentative economic recoveries will be undone.
Some European countries — including Germany, which once seemed a model of how to manage the virus — are facing their worst levels of infections in the nearly two years since the pandemic began.
Canada approves Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for kids
Canada’s health regulator approved Pfizer’s kid-size COVID-19 shot on Friday and announced it will allow Canadians returning from short trips abroad to use a quicker, less-expensive test for the coronavirus.
Health Canada authorized the shots for children ages 5 to 11. And as in the U.S., the doses will be just a third of the amount given to teens and adults.
But Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization has suggested that the country’s provinces, which administer health care in the country, offer the two doses at least eight weeks apart.
Research links COVID-19 in pregnancy with stillbirths
Pregnant women with COVID-19 face increased chances for stillbirths compared with uninfected women, and that risk spiked to four times higher after the delta variant emerged, new government data show.
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report Friday that examined 1.2 million deliveries in 736 hospitals nationwide from March 2020 through September 2021.
Stillbirths were rare overall, totaling 8,154 among all deliveries. But the researchers found that for women with COVID-19, about 1 in 80 deliveries resulted in stillbirth. Among the uninfected, it was 1 in 155.
Among those with COVID-19, stillbirths were more common in people with chronic high blood pressure and other complications, including those in intensive care or on breathing machines.
Scientists mystified, wary, as Africa avoids COVID disaster
Earlier this week, Zimbabwe recorded just 33 new COVID-19 cases and zero deaths, in line with a recent fall in the disease across the continent, where World Health Organization data show that infections have been dropping since July.
When the coronavirus first emerged last year, health officials feared the pandemic would sweep across Africa, killing millions. Although it’s still unclear what COVID-19’s ultimate toll will be, that catastrophic scenario has yet to materialize in Zimbabwe or much of the continent.
Scientists emphasize that obtaining accurate COVID-19 data, particularly in African countries with patchy surveillance, is extremely difficult, and warn that declining coronavirus trends could easily be reversed.
But there is something “mysterious” going on in Africa that is puzzling scientists, said Wafaa El-Sadr, chair of global health at Columbia University. “Africa doesn’t have the vaccines and the resources to fight COVID-19 that they have in Europe and the U.S., but somehow they seem to be doing better,” she said.
EU says Merck’s COVID pill can be taken in emergencies
The European Medicines Agency has issued emergency use advice for Merck’s COVID-19 pill, even though the oral medicine has not yet been authorized.
The Amsterdam-based European Union regulator said the antiviral pill, known as molnupiravir, can be used to treat adults infected with the coronavirus who don’t yet need extra oxygen and are at increased risk of developing severe disease.
The agency said in a statement that the drug should be given as soon as possible after COVID-19 has been diagnosed and within five days of symptoms starting. It is intended to be taken twice a day for five days.
Americans are eager for air travel this holiday season, but is the system ready for them?
U.S. airlines are about to confront their biggest test since the beginning of the pandemic.
Twenty months into the health crisis, travelers are eager for in-person celebrations far from home with family and friends. The number of people expected to fly this Thanksgiving holiday season will approach pre-pandemic levels, airline officials say. But their journeys are in the hands of an industry still struggling to recover from the depths of the pandemic, when thousands of workers were sidelined as nearly empty planes crisscrossed the country.
Traveling during the holidays has always been challenging – given the sheer volume of passengers and unpredictability of weather – but the pandemic has thrown in an added layer of uncertainty. Despite receiving billions of dollars from government rescue packages to ensure airlines were ready when demand returned, carriers are struggling to rebuild their operations.
Norway tightens entry rules, urges dropping handshake
Norwegian officials said Friday the country is introducing stricter controls at border crossings, requiring everyone to register before entering the country, in a bid to tackle the rise in COVID cases.
Norwegian Justice Minister Emilie Enger Mehl said the move that enters into force Nov. 26, is “to get a better grip on who comes in.” Norway has, like other European countries, seen a recent rise in COVID-19 cases with more hospitalizations.
All people aged 16 and over, both Norwegian nationals and foreigners, are supposed to register on a government website at least three days before entering the country. There, they will get a confirmation that authorities can ask for at border checkpoints. People without it can be refused entry.
US expands COVID boosters to all adults, final hurdle ahead
U.S. regulators on Friday moved to open up COVID-19 booster shots to all adults, expanding the government’s campaign to shore up protection and get ahead of rising coronavirus cases that may worsen with the holidays.
Pfizer and Moderna announced the Food and Drug Administration’s decision after at least 10 states already had started offering boosters to all adults. The latest action stands to simplify what until now has been a confusing list of who’s eligible by allowing anyone 18 or older to choose either company’s booster six months after their last dose — regardless of which vaccine they had first.
But there’s one more step: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention must agree to expand Pfizer and Moderna boosters to even healthy young adults. Its scientific advisers were set to debate later Friday.
Catch up on the past 24 hours
Don't expect Washington state to pile more vaccine mandates on top of President Joe Biden's federal one. Gov. Jay Inslee says he's decided not to make the rules stricter here, so this is what Biden's mandate will mean for workers in our state and the rest of the nation if courts allow it to go into effect.
The U.S. plans to pay Pfizer $5 billion for "another critical tool" against COVID-19: a new pill shown to cut hospitalizations and deaths sharply in high-risk adults. But first, the pill would need federal approval.
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