Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Wednesday, November 24, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.
Beginning Jan. 22, the U.S. will require nonresident travelers considered essential, such as truck drivers, government and emergency response officials, to be fully vaccinated to enter the country. U.S. citizens and permanent residents will still be able to enter the country even if they are unvaccinated, but will face additional testing in an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19.
Meanwhile, coronavirus cases among children rose 32% this week from about two weeks ago, accounting for about one quarter of positive cases in the U.S. While children are less likely than adults to become severely ill or experience complications from COVID-19, they still face risks and can spread the virus to adults, health officials warned.
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.
Italy targets unvaccinated with restrictions as cases rise
ROME — The Italian government on Wednesday decided to exclude unvaccinated people from certain leisure activities in a bid to contain rising coronavirus infections and stave off financially crippling lockdowns just as the economy is starting to grow again.
Starting Dec. 6, only people with proof of vaccination or of having recovered from COVID-19 can eat at indoor restaurants, and go to the movies or sporting events, excluding the ability to access such venues with just a negative test.
A new government decree also made vaccinations mandatory for law enforcement, military and all school employees, among others. Previously, vaccines were only required for health care workers and anyone who worked in eldercare homes.
Premier Mario Draghi said the measures were necessary to prevent the “slow but steady” increase in infections from growing while preserving the gains Italy has made in rebooting the European Union’s third-largest economy, which shrank 8.9% last year.
The concern is particularly acute given the upcoming holiday tourism season and the winter wave of infections.
Coronavirus infections hit new record high in Czech Republic
PRAGUE — Coronavirus infections in the Czech Republic soared to a new record high, reaching almost 26,000 daily cases, the Health Ministry said on Wednesday.
The daily tally hit 25,864 on Tuesday, about 3,000 more than the previous record registered on Friday.
The country’s infection rate has risen to 1,061 new cases per 100,000 residents over the past seven days, almost twice as many as two weeks ago.
As infections soar, the government has been considering mandatory vaccination for certain groups of people, including the elderly, medical and military personnel and police officers.
Just over 58% of the Czech population has been fully vaccinated.
Another proposal under consideration is shortening the time between a second shot and a booster from six to five months.
Man sentenced for sending bomb hoax to UK vaccine plant
LONDON — A man who sent a bomb hoax to a U.K. coronavirus vaccine factory and similar parcels elsewhere, including a laboratory in Wuhan, China, was sentenced to more than two years in prison on Wednesday.
About 120 people had to be evacuated from a plant in Wales producing the Oxford-AstraZeneca shots in January after Anthony Collins, 54, sent a suspicious package there. The British army’s bomb disposal unit was called and production of the vaccine was halted, but the batch was salvaged later after bomb experts found no explosives in the parcel.
Detective Inspector Adam Marshall said Collins “was fully aware of the impact his actions would have and chose to impede the vaccine rollout when the program was still in its infancy.”
Authorities also intercepted similar packages Collins sent to Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s office, a laboratory in Wuhan and a U.S. Air Force base in England.
EU says economic recovery threatened by COVID-19 resurgence
BRUSSELS — The massive spike in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks is threatening the European Union’s recovery from the deep economic slump caused by last year’s onset of the pandemic, the bloc’s economy chief said Wednesday.
And medical experts warned that the public health situation could get much worse.
Only two weeks ago the EU executive raised its growth forecast for an economy bouncing back from the worst of the pandemic. But EU Economy Commissioner Paolo Gentiloni said Wednesday the upbeat picture was now in doubt again amid rising infections and with restrictions being reintroduced in a growing number of member states.
The fear is that the fall forecast for 5% growth this year in the 19-nation eurozone could still be hurt by the end-of-year virus crisis.
“Our only message is: Take the situation very seriously,” Gentiloni said, “but without thinking that the economic impact will be the same one as one year ago.”
Booster to be required in Cyprus for some indoor access
NICOSIA, Cyprus — Authorities in Cyprus will deny access to indoor areas such as shopping malls, restaurants and supermarkets to anyone who hasn’t received a third booster shot seven months after being vaccinated against COVID-19, a government official said Wednesday.
Health Minister Michalis Hadjipantela said the measure, which entails the revocation of the SafePass — a vaccination passport — will take effect on Dec. 18 as the east Mediterranean island nation tries to beat back a resurgence of coronavirus infections before the Christmas holidays.
Hadjipantela also announced that as of Dec. 15, only those ages 12 and over who have received at least one shot will be allowed into indoor and outdoor sports stadiums, theaters, cinemas, nightclubs and restaurants.
Mask-wearing in all indoor places including schools will become compulsory for everyone over 6 at the end of the month. Children between 6 and 11 will also have to present a certificate that they’ve either recovered from COVID-19 in the last six months or have underwent a PCR test within the previous week for access to indoor spaces and where people gather in large numbers.
Over 1,000 anti-vaccine protesters rally in Ukraine capital
KYIV, Ukraine — More than 1,000 anti-vaccine demonstrators rallied in the Ukrainian capital Wednesday to denounce coronavirus restrictions, in the second such protest this month.
The protesters, many of them members of radical nationalist groups, gathered outside the parliament building and marched across downtown Kyiv carrying placards reading “Down with anti-constitutional bans!” and “The pandemic of lies!”
The Ukrainian government has required teachers, doctors, government employees and other groups of workers to be fully vaccinated by Dec. 1. It has also begun to require proof of vaccination or negative COVID-19 test results for travel on planes, trains and long-distance buses.
“We are protesting against the compulsory vaccination and demanding (that the government cancels) restrictions,” said Mykola Kokhanivskyi, the protest organizer who leads the OUN Volunteer Movement nationalist group. “The constitution guarantees freedom from medical experiments to every Ukrainian and doesn’t require any COVID certificates.”
Portugal sees jump in COVID-19 cases, eyes restrictions
LISBON, Portugal — Portugal on Wednesday reported its highest number of new daily COVID-19 infections since July amid a surge in cases across Europe, though hospitalizations are rising more slowly in the country where 86% of people are vaccinated.
The Portuguese government is due to announce on Thursday what new pandemic restrictions it is introducing, seven weeks after scrapping almost all of them because of the high vaccination rate and perceived lower threat from the coronavirus.
The General Directorate for Health officially reported 3,773 new cases Wednesday, with 681 in hospitals, 105 in intensive care units and 17 deaths. The number of patients requiring hospitalization was the highest since September.
On Nov. 1, Portugal reported fewer than 500 new infections, 360 people hospitalized, 60 in intensive care and five deaths. Those numbers were similar to those a month earlier.
State health officials confirm 1,118 new coronavirus cases
The state Department of Health reported 1,118 new coronavirus cases and 31 new deaths on Wednesday.
The update brings the state's totals to 768,151 cases and 9,208 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. Tuesday.
In addition, 42,500 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the virus — 67 new hospitalizations. In King County, the state's most populous, state health officials have confirmed a total of 171,847 coronavirus cases and 2,056 deaths.
Since vaccinations began in mid-December, the state and health care providers have administered 10,600,992 doses and 74.3% of eligible 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 34,871 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.
Putin tests experimental nasal vaccine against COVID-19
MOSCOW — President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday he has taken an experimental nasal vaccine against the coronavirus, three days after he received his booster shot.
Russia is facing its worst surge of infections and deaths since the pandemic began and is struggling to overcome widespread vaccine hesitancy.
Putin was vaccinated with Sputnik V, Russia’s domestically developed COVID-19 vaccine, in the spring. On Sunday, he said he received a booster shot of Sputnik Light, the one-dose version of the jab, and said he wanted to take part in testing the nasal version of Sputnik V.
Denis Logunov, deputy director of Russia’s state-funded Gamaleya Center that developed Sputnik V, told Putin on Sunday the nasal vaccine is yet to go through clinical studies and is currently being tested “off-label mostly” — on the center’s staff members.
Despite vaccines, the U.S. has lost more lives to COVID this year than last
This was supposed to be the year vaccines brought the pandemic under control. Instead, more people in the United States have died from COVID-19 this year than died last year, before vaccines were available.
As of Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had recorded 386,233 deaths involving COVID-19 in 2021, compared with 385,343 in 2020. The final number for this year will be higher, not only because there is more than a month left but because it takes time for local agencies to report deaths to the CDC.
COVID-19 has also accounted for a higher percentage of U.S. deaths this year than it did last year: about 13% compared with 11%.
Experts say the higher death toll is a result of a confluence of factors: most crucially lower-than-needed vaccination rates, but also the relaxation of everyday precautions, like masks and social distancing, and the rise of the highly contagious delta variant.
Essentially, public health experts said, many Americans are behaving as if COVID-19 is now a manageable, endemic disease rather than a crisis — a transition that will happen eventually but has not happened yet.
Denmark seeks support to reintroduce face mask use
COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Denmark’s government said Wednesday it would seek support in parliament to reintroduce mandates for wearing face masks in public places amid a rise in coronavirus cases, officials said Wednesday.
The new regulation would cover public transportation, hospitals and medical facilities and shops, among others. It would also expand the use of the country’s COVID-19 digital pass.
Denmark, like many other countries, has seen an uptick in infections, with health authorities saying the numbers of cases and hospitalizations have risen faster than expected.
“The delta variant is far more contagious, and that challenges us,” Health Minister Magnus Heunicke said. “Therefore, we need to use these tools.”
“Although face masks are annoying, we can live with it,” National Board of Health chief Soeren Brostroem said. “It is a pity they have to come back, but they are necessary.”
Earlier this month, Denmark reintroduced a digital COVID-19 pass months after it was ended and restrictions were phased out. The pass now applies to nightclubs, cafes, party buses and indoor restaurants, but also outdoor events where the number of people exceeds 2,000. The government also wants it to be used in public work places, higher education, hairdressers ad tattoo parlors, but that would need approval from lawmakers.
Two actors leave ‘General Hospital’ over vaccine mandate
Two actors have left one of America’s most popular soap operas after declining to comply with an on-set vaccination mandate.
The actors, Steve Burton and Ingo Rademacher, were fixtures of ABC’s “General Hospital,” a long-running daytime drama set in the fictional town of Port Charles, New York.
About 1 in 5 American adults has not received a single dose of a coronavirus vaccine.
Burton and Rademacher were outspoken opponents of a coronavirus vaccine mandate that applied to a part of the set where actors work unmasked, known in the industry as Zone A. The mandate took effect Nov. 1.
“Unfortunately, ‘General Hospital’ has let me go because of the vaccine mandate,” Burton, who tested positive for the virus in August and filmed his last episode Oct. 27, said in an Instagram video Tuesday.
“I did apply for my medical and religious exemptions and both of those were denied — which, you know, hurts,” he said. “But this is also about personal freedom to me. I don’t think anyone should lose their livelihood over this.”
US jobless claims hit 52-year low after seasonal adjustments
WASHINGTON — The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits plummeted last week to the lowest level in more than half a century, another sign that the U.S. job market is rebounding rapidly from last year’s coronavirus recession.
Jobless claims dropped by 71,000 to 199,000, the lowest since mid-November 1969. But seasonal adjustments around the Thanksgiving holiday contributed significantly to the bigger-than-expected drop. Unadjusted, claims actually ticked up by more than 18,000 to nearly 259,000.
The four-week average of claims, which smooths out weekly ups and downs, also dropped — by 21,000 to just over 252,000, the lowest since mid-March 2020 when the pandemic slammed the economy.
Since topping 900,000 in early January, the applications have fallen steadily toward and now fallen below their prepandemic level of around 220,000 a week. Claims for jobless aid are a proxy for layoffs.
Overall, 2 million Americans were collecting traditional unemployment checks the week that ended Nov. 13, down slightly from the week before.
Bayern striker Choupo-Moting tests positive for coronavirus
MUNICH — Bayern Munich striker Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting tested positive for the coronavirus, the club said Wednesday, depriving the team of a valuable backup for Robert Lewandowski.
Choupo-Moting was one of five reportedly unvaccinated Bayern players who were already in isolation over close contact with people suspected of having the coronavirus.
“The FC Bayern forward is self-isolating at home in accordance with the relevant health authorities and doing well under the circumstances,” the club said.
The absence of the Cameroon international, along with injuries and a suspension, left Bayern with a thin squad for its 2-1 win over Dynamo Kyiv in the Champions League group stage on Tuesday. Coach Julian Nagelsmann couldn’t rest key players — with Bayern already through to the knockout stages — and named only four outfield substitutes. Nagelsmann also had to deploy midfielder Leon Goretzka as a makeshift center back late on.
Choupo-Moting is Nagelsmann’s preferred backup for Lewandowski, who has played a full 90 minutes in each of Bayern’s last eight games. Choupo-Moting already had to isolate once before this month as a contact of teammate Niklas Süle, who returned to training in Munich on Wednesday after his own positive test.
Nordstrom shares plunge as labor costs, inventory issues hit sales
Even as many retailers have enjoyed booming sales, Nordstrom watched its share price plunge Tuesday as inventory issues, rising labor costs and missed opportunities led to third-quarter results well below market expectations.
The Seattle-based retailer reported a profit of $64 million for the quarter ending Oct. 30, a 21% improvement over the same quarter in 2020 but barely half of what the company earned in the third quarter in 2019, before the pandemic.
Net sales also disappointed: The $3.5 billion posted for the quarter was about 18% higher than the same quarter a year ago, but 1% below that quarter in 2019.
In a call Tuesday afternoon with analysts, Nordstrom executives pointed to external challenges, such as supply-chain problems and lagging sales in urban markets, where the effects of the pandemic on in-store shopping are more pronounced.
Dutch ICU boss calls for tough lockdown to rein in virus
THE HAGUE, Netherlands — Social distancing became mandatory again across the Netherlands on Wednesday as coronavirus infections soared and the country’s leading intensive care physician called for even tougher measures to rein in the pandemic.
Health Minister Hugo de Jonge said that a press conference on coronavirus measures that had been scheduled for Dec. 3 has been moved forward to Friday.
“The picture is somber and worrying,” De Jonge told reporters in The Hague.
The Netherlands is in the midst of a surge that has seen a string of new daily records for numbers of coronavirus infections in recent weeks. The country’s public health institute last week recorded a 39% spike in infections and said hospital and intensive care unit admissions also rose.
“The turnaround that we want to — have to — see this week … to ensure that pressure on the healthcare system doesn’t get too high, has to come soon otherwise we will have to force it,” De Jonge said.
The government has asked for advice from a panel of experts and “hopes to make decisions Friday,” De Jonge said.
Europe is only region with more COVID, with 11% case rise
GENEVA — The World Health Organization said that coronavirus cases jumped by 11% in Europe in the last week, the only region in the world where COVID-19 has continued to increase since mid-October.
In its weekly assessment of the pandemic released on Tuesday, the U.N. health agency said cases and deaths globally have risen by about 6%, with about 3.6 million new infections and 51,00 new deaths reported in the previous week.
WHO’s Europe director Dr. Hans Kluge warned that without urgent measures taken soon, the continent could see another 700,000 deaths by the spring.
“The European region remains in the firm grip of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Kluge said, calling for countries to increase vaccination and to take other control measures like masking and social distancing to avoid “the last resort of lockdowns.”
Rapid tests can make holiday gatherings COVID-safer. Here’s what you should know about them
LOS ANGELES — Even with vaccinations rising, some public health officials worry that big gatherings this holiday season could lead to big outbreaks of COVID-19. But families looking to reunite have at least one infection-averting tool that they didn’t have last year: rapid at-home testing kits.
The kits aren’t foolproof, and most aren’t as reliable as the lab-based alternative when it comes to detecting infections in their earliest stages. Also, the cost can be high if you have to check a houseful of people.
If used in the right circumstances, however, an at-home test can warn you in a matter of minutes if Cousin Antoine’s cough or Aunt Maggie’s muscle aches are signs of a potentially grave threat to the rest of the family. Even better, the tests can make it easy for your invited guests to check for an active infection before they trundle off to your home.
One other crucial caveat: If you haven’t been fully vaccinated, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cautions against traveling to that holiday get-together. And if you’re determined to travel sans vaccination, the CDC recommends doing so only if you get a negative COVID test one to three days before departure, then quarantining for seven days after arrival (or fewer, if you test negative again).
Germany faces grim COVID milestone with leadership in flux
ESCHWEILER, Germany — Germany is poised to pass the mark of 100,000 deaths from COVID-19 this week, a somber milestone that several of its neighbors crossed months ago but which Western Europe’s most populous nation had hoped to avoid.
Discipline, a robust health care system and the rollout of multiple vaccines — one of them homegrown — were meant to stave off a winter surge of the kind that hit Germany last year.
In practice, Germans faced a confusing array of pandemic rules, lax enforcement and a national election — followed by a drawn-out government transition during which senior politicians dangled the prospect of further lifting restrictions even as the infection rate rose.
“Nobody had the guts to take the lead and announce unpopular measures,” said Uwe Janssens, who heads the intensive care department at the St. Antonius hospital in Eschweiler, west of Cologne.
“This lack of leadership is the reason we are here now,” he said.
Doctors like Janssens are bracing for an influx of coronavirus patients as confirmed cases hit fresh daily highs that experts say is also being fueled by vaccine skeptics.
Catch up on the past 24 hours
Several of Washington's Republican lawmakers are suing Democratic leaders and a House official over COVID-19 rules in the Capitol building.
Where not to travel: The CDC has added two European countries to its no-go list, warning Americans to stay away as infections rise.
Should you go to that gathering? Should you unmask there? We may forever remember this as the first Vaxgiving, and some of the news is encouraging — for example, Oregon is easing COVID rules as cases drop there. But infections are surging in many hot spots, and the U.S. has lost more lives to COVID this year than last. As you weigh the risks, answering a few simple questions can help you navigate safer holiday gatherings.
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