Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Tuesday, November 23, 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 It is no longer being updated.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 Biden administration plans to use $1.5 billion of the COVID-19 aid package to respond to health care worker shortages in underserved communities. The investment will support over 22,700 health providers and comes after a report outlined what the administration could do to address systemic health care inequalities.
Meanwhile, Germany’s health minister said that everyone who remains unvaccinated will have likely caught the virus by the end of winter due to the quick rise in cases — and some will die. The country is expected to surpass 100,000 COVID-19 deaths this week and intensive care units are nearing exhaustion because of the high volume in COVID-19 cases, according to German health officials.
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.
South Korea sets pandemic high with 4,000 new virus cases
New coronavirus infections in South Korea exceeded 4,000 in a day for the first time since the start of the pandemic as a delta-driven spread continues to rattle the country after it eased social distancing in recent weeks to improve its economy.
The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said most of the new 4,116 cases reported Wednesday came from the capital Seoul and its surrounding metropolitan region, where an increase in hospitalizations has created fears about possible shortages in intensive care units.
The country’s death toll is now 3,363 after 35 virus patients died in the past 24 hours. The 586 patients who are in serious or critical conditions also marked a new high.
South Korea is the latest country to see infections and hospitalizations rise after loosening social distancing measures amid high vaccination rates. Cases are also climbing in the United States ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, while Austria entered a major lockdown on Monday as a virus wave spreads across Europe.
It’s the first holiday season with COVID vaccines and boosters. But case rates are climbing
Millions of Americans will return to the Thanksgiving table this week for the first time in two years, with vaccines and boosters in their arms and rapid tests at their disposal.
But as the holiday season kicks off and temperatures approach freezing across much of the nation, families are huddling indoors at a time COVID-19 is accelerating at a disturbing pace. After steadily dropping over the last months, the seven-day national average in new COVID-19 cases has increased by 18%, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said this week.
Cases are surging in the frigid Upper Midwest, with hospitals in Michigan — where infections have increased by 67% in the last two weeks — nearing capacity. Outbreaks are appearing in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont as vaccine immunity wanes. In New Mexico, Santa Fe Public Schools went back to remote learning on Tuesday after an uptick in COVID-19 cases. California is urging residents to not let their guard down despite the state having one of the lowest infection rates in the country.
Just a month ago, Americans were booking travel plans as infection rates across vast swaths of the nation were on a downward trend. Children ages 5 and older became eligible for their shots this month, and the CDC now recommends boosters for all adults. That news was encouraging, but a persistent 30% of the adult population refuses to get vaccinated even as new federal mandates will require it for millions of workers.
CDC moves Germany and Denmark to ‘do not travel’ list
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has moved Denmark and Germany to its highest-risk category for travel as Europe continues to grapple with rising numbers of infections and deaths, leading some countries to reintroduce lockdowns and other restrictions they not long ago considered things of the past.
The countries were given a Level 4 warning, which means the CDC is recommending that Americans avoid traveling there, even if vaccinated. They join other European destinations on the Level 4 list, including some that were added recently — Hungary, Iceland, the Czech Republic and Guernsey last week — and others that have been on the list for months, such as Britain.
Countries and territories in this group have an infection incidence rate of more than 500 new cases per 100,000 people over the past 28 days (or, in places with fewer than 100,000 residents, more than 500 cases cumulatively over the past 28 days).
Vaccines making Thanksgiving easier, but COVID hot spots remain
The U.S. is facing its second Thanksgiving of the pandemic in better shape than the first time around, thanks to the vaccine, though some regions are seeing surges of COVID-19 cases that could get worse as families travel the country for gatherings that were impossible a year ago.
Nearly 200 million Americans are fully vaccinated. That leaves tens of millions who have yet to get a shot in the arm, some of them out of defiance. Hospitals in the cold Upper Midwest, especially Michigan and Minnesota, are filled with COVID-19 patients who are mostly unvaccinated.
Michigan hospitals reported about 3,800 coronavirus patients at the start of the week, with 20% in intensive care units, numbers that approach the bleakest days of the pandemic’s 2020 start. The state had a seven-day new-case rate of 616 per 100,000 people Monday, highest in the nation.
New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Montana and Wyoming also ranked high. Some Colorado communities are turning to mask orders to reduce the risk.
As COVID cases slow, Oregon drops outdoor mask requirement
PORTLAND, Ore. — As COVID-19 cases in Oregon continue to decrease, health officials announced Tuesday they are immediately lifting statewide mask requirements in crowded outdoor settings.
Oregon was the first state in the U.S. to reimplement an outdoor mask mandate for both vaccinated and unvaccinated residents in August as the delta variant spread.
At the time, Oregon was in the midst of its worst surge during the pandemic. Record daily COVID-19 cases were set day after day and hospitalizations overwhelmed the health system. A majority of people hospitalized were unvaccinated.
However, over the past six weeks health officials say Oregon’s daily COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations have steadily declined. Last week, cases decreased by 12% from the previous week.
State health officials confirm 1,055 new coronavirus cases
The state Department of Health (DOH) reported 1,055 new coronavirus cases and 31 new deaths on Tuesday.
The update brings the state's totals to 767,045 cases and 9,177 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, 42,433 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the virus — 63 new hospitalizations. In King County, the state's most populous, state health officials have confirmed a total of 171,692 COVID-19 diagnoses and 2,056 deaths.
Since vaccinations began in mid-December, the state and health care providers have administered 10,544,662 doses and 61.3% 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 35,728 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.
Spanish researchers allow others to make their COVID test
GENEVA — Spanish government researchers have agreed to allow other manufacturers to make their coronavirus antibody test, in a move that could significantly boost testing in poor countries with limited COVID-19 surveillance.
In a statement on Tuesday, the World Health Organization and the U.N.-backed Medicines Patent Pool said the Spanish National Research Council had signed a licensing agreement for its COVID-19 antibody test. It is the first time any manufacturer has allowed its coronavirus test to be included in a technology pool set up by WHO.
The U.N. agency started a COVID-19 pool last year, hoping to convince makers of virus tests, treatments and vaccines to share their licenses so that products could be produced and used globally to stop the pandemic. Until this week, not a single manufacturer had agreed to help.
Social distancing mandatory as Dutch COVID infections spike
THE HAGUE, Netherlands — Dutch coronavirus infection numbers hit a new weekly record Tuesday, climbing 39% while hospital and intensive care unit admissions also rose sharply, prompting the government to make social distancing mandatory again for all adults.
The latest report by the country’s public health institute on a surge in COVID-19 cases came a day after the Dutch government introduced legislation that would clear the way to restrict access for unvaccinated people to indoor venues such as bars, restaurants and museums if infections keep rising.
The legislation would limit the country’s COVID-19 pass system to people who are fully vaccinated or have recovered from a coronavirus infection. People could no longer get the health pass with negative tests. The bill is expected to be debated by lawmakers next week.
The policy “protects unvaccinated people against infection, illness and hospital admission in high-risk locations,” the government said.
But the government did not wait that long to bring back mandatory social distancing, which takes effect Wednesday for everybody 18 and over. The government already strongly advised people to stay 1.5 meters (5 feet) from one another; making it mandatory means businesses will have to enforce the measure and law enforcement can issue fines if people do not comply.
U.S. to require vaccines for all border crossers in January
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden will require essential, nonresident travelers crossing U.S. land borders, such as truck drivers, government and emergency response officials, to be fully vaccinated beginning on Jan. 22, the administration planned to announce Tuesday.
A senior administration official said the requirement, which the White House previewed in October, brings the rules for essential travelers in line with those that took effect earlier this month for leisure travelers, when the U.S. reopened its borders to fully vaccinated individuals.
Essential travelers entering by ferry will also be required to be fully vaccinated by the same date, the official said. The official spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity to preview the announcement.
The rules pertain to non-U.S. nationals. American citizens and permanent residents may still enter the U.S. regardless of their vaccination status, but face additional testing hurdles because officials believe they more easily contract and spread COVID-19 and in order to encourage them to get a shot.
Merck asks EU regulator to authorize its COVID-19 pill
AMSTERDAM — The European Medicines Agency said it has received a request from Merck to authorize its coronavirus antiviral, the first pill shown to treat COVID-19.
In a statement Tuesday, the EU drug regulator said it had started evaluating molnupiravir, made by Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, and that a decision could be made within weeks on whether it might be cleared.
Last week, the EMA issued emergency advice saying that molnupiravir could 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 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.
Earlier this month, Britain became the first country in the world to OK the drug. The U.K. licensed molnupiravir for adults diagnosed with COVID-19 and with at least one risk factor for severe disease.
An antiviral pill that reduces symptoms and speeds recovery could prove groundbreaking, easing caseloads on hospitals and helping to curb explosive outbreaks in conjunction with vaccination campaigns.
German soldiers face vaccine mandate as COVID cases rise
BERLIN — The German military is making coronavirus shots compulsory for troops amid a growing debate in the country about whether to introduce a general vaccine mandate to counter rising infection and hospitalization rates.
The Defense Ministry on Tuesday confirmed a report in the German military blog Augen Geradeaus that officials and soldiers’ representatives agreed late Monday to add the coronavirus shot to the list of vaccines soldiers must get. The measure still needs to be formally added to military regulations, the ministry said in a statement.
There were 1,215 reported active coronavirus cases as of Monday within the military and the ministry’s civilian staff. Two soldiers have died of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic.
The nationwide tally of newly confirmed cases rose by 45,326 in the past 24 hours, the country’s disease control agency said Tuesday. A further 309 deaths from COVID-19 were also reported, taking the total toll since the start of the outbreak to 99,433.
On Monday, the U.S. State Department urged Americans not to travel to Germany because of rising case numbers, and to ensure they are fully vaccinated if they do.
French PM singled out for ire after testing COVID-positive
PARIS — After testing positive for COVID-19, France’s prime minister is being singled out on social media and beyond as an example of what not to do in the pandemic.
Multiple videos are circulating of a maskless Prime Minister Jean Castex vigorously shaking hands with elected officials in an enclosed space at a Paris mayoral congress on Nov. 16. Many people are pointing out that goes against France’s official stance that everyone should keep taking preventative measures, especially as infections surge.
They also noted that Castex, who tested positive Monday, had called the French Caribbean territory of Guadeloupe “irresponsible” in the enforcement of COVID-19 measures when he did not abide by the rules himself.
The prime minister’s office said the issue was being exploited for political ends and that he “tries to respect the rules as much as possible.”
Hey hey, ho ho, it’s off to Emerald City Comic Con we go — finally!
In most years, it would be the largest non-sports event in Seattle, drawing around 100,000 over a four-day event. And while it still may be — given our halting return to normal life in the post-vaccine world, who knows? — it will definitely be a scaled-down version of the usually over-the-top gathering. Fewer tickets sold, fewer celebrities and creators to meet.
And everybody’s OK with that at ReedPop, the company that puts on ECCC and several of the world’s top entertainment gatherings, including Seattle’s PAX West.
After holding five events so far this year, including drawing 150,000 people to New York Comic Con, ECCC event director Kristina Rogers said the company has discovered many people are still afraid to gather in large numbers.
“And so this year’s less about, ‘Oh, we sold out tickets for our biggest show,’ ” said Rogers, who oversees U.S. cons for ReedPop. “It’s more about, ‘We’re going to run a really safe, really fun show.’ And if you’re comfortable coming, come and have a great time. If you’re not comfortable coming, man, we will see you in 2022 when the world is hopefully, knock on wood, back open and everybody’s feeling better.”
All King County-operated vaccine clinics will be closed on Thanksgiving
All COVID vaccination sites operated by King County will be closed on Thanksgiving. Only the Auburn clinic will be open on Friday.
The Auburn vaccination clinic is located within the Auburn Outlet Collection mall, across from Ashley Furniture.
All King County sites will reopen for regular hours on Saturday, according to Public Health - Seattle & King County. There will also be a pop-up clinic on Saturday at Sullivan Center in Tukwila, from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. No appointments are required for the pop-up clinic.
In Seattle, the West Seattle clinic will be closed Friday and resume on Saturday. The vaccination clinic in South Lake Union will be closed on both Saturday and Sunday.
Slovakia proposes lockdown amid record infection surge
BRATISLAVA, Slovakia — Slovakia’s leaders have proposed a national lockdown as hospitals across the European Union country are hitting their limits amid a record surge of coronavirus infections.
Inspired by neighboring Austria, the Slovak government is set to discuss a lockdown for all — vaccinated and unvaccinated alike — at its session Wednesday. Prime Minister Eduard Heger said it’s necessary to act “immediately.” His four-party coalition government was mulling a two or three-week lockdown.
“It’s an unpopular measure, but absolutely unavoidable,” President Zuzana Caputova said Tuesday after visiting a major medical facility in the capital of Bratislava.
Caputova said what she saw at Bratislava University Hospital “was tragic, was horrible.”
“Experts are clear,” she said. “It’s necessary to restrict people’s mobility, we need a lockdown … unfortunately, it’s a measure that has to affect everyone.”
Slovakia reported 9,171 new virus cases on Friday, surpassing the previous record of 8,342 set only a few days earlier.
COVID cases in children spiking sharply, pediatricians say
Coronavirus cases in children in the United States have risen 32% from about two weeks ago, a spike that comes as the country rushes to inoculate children before the winter holiday season, pediatricians said.
More than 140,000 children tested positive for the coronavirus from Nov. 11-18, up from 107,000 in the week ending Nov. 4, according to a statement Monday from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association.
These cases accounted for about a quarter of the country’s caseload for the week, the statement said. Children younger than 18 make up about 22% of the U.S. population.
“Is there cause for concern? Absolutely,” Dr. Sean O’Leary, the vice chair of the academy’s infectious diseases committee, said in an interview Monday night. “What’s driving the increase in kids is there is an increase in cases overall.”
Children have accounted for a greater percentage of overall cases since the vaccines became widely available to adults, said O’Leary, who is also a professor of pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and Children’s Hospital Colorado.
Quarter shortage creates a two-bit black market in coin-operated Seattle
Seattle may style itself the capital of the information economy, but the “bits” that matter most to locals like Heidi Thorsen are the quarters she and her customers have had to scrounge for since the pandemic struck.
In the Before Times, Thorsen’s Lunar Laundry, a coin-only laundromat in Ballard, was what’s known as “quarter positive”: Customers brought in so many of their own coins that Thorsen made twice monthly coin deposits at her bank.
But soon after pandemic restrictions hit last year, Thorsen noticed customers relying more often on her change machine. Then noncustomers — apartment tenants and even some small-business owners — began coming in and surreptitiously draining her change machine.
As Lunar went quarter negative, Thorsen went to her bank to replenish her coin supply. But the bank was so short on change, she could only buy a few $10, 40-quarter rolls, and most often there were none at all. “Where the heck are they going?” says Thorsen, who now spends considerable time moving her shrinking supply of quarters from her washers and dryers back to her change machine. “It’s not like they disappeared.”
Thorsen speaks for many in the local coin-operated economy, a diverse, somewhat old-school community of businesses and consumers that has been in a state of agitation since COVID-19 interrupted the normal cycle of coins.
Catch up on the past 24 hours
Two hundred and twenty-one candles were illuminated at St. James Cathedral, one for each homeless person on record who died in Seattle since last winter. It's one of the highest numbers ever, fueled in part by the pandemic, and within that total are many more stories. (In case you're looking to give back this holiday season, here’s what Seattle-area homeless service organizations need right now.)
A young Seattle man has been charged with stabbing a clerk who told him to mask up at a convenience store last week.
New evidence that COVID could soon be treated with pills is exhilarating. But this alone can't end the pandemic, experts caution. As the U.S. government weighs whether to approve the antiviral pills from Pfizer and Merck, here's what you should know about them.
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