Europe is the only region in the world where COVID-19 cases continue to increase. Cases increased in the region for the fifth week in a row, while drops in cases were recorded in other regions including the Middle East, Southeast Asia and Africa.
Amid the rise, thousands of Ukrainians took to the streets to protest COVID-19 vaccination certificates and state-mandated safety restrictions including requirements for teachers, government employees and other groups to be fully vaccinated by next week to keep receiving their salary.
With the recent approval of COVID-19 vaccines for children, Washington state urges families to have patience as they foresee a shortage in the beginning due to high demand for the vaccine. Parents or guardians will need to make an appointment for younger kids and can use a department of health locator tool, but few appointments are available.
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.
Arizona won’t stop using COVID money for anti-mask grants
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey is defying a demand that he stop using federal coronavirus relief money to fund an education grant program that can only go to schools without mask mandates.
The Republican governor also is continuing a program that gives private school vouchers to parents upset that their children’s schools require masks or quarantines after being exposed to COVID-19.
In a letter sent to the U.S. Treasury Department on Thursday, Ducey’s federal grant team manager ignored the department’s demand that he stop using the money. Instead, Jason Mistlebauer said the money was appropriately being used to help students who were harmed by school mask mandates.
“In Arizona, disadvantaged communities bear the brunt of overbearing measures and the state wants to ensure that low-income students are not disproportionately affected by mask mandates rules and school closures,” Mistlebauer wrote.
Penguins coach Mike Sullivan tests positive for COVID-19
Pittsburgh Penguins coach Mike Sullivan is unavailable for Thursday night’s game against Philadelphia after testing positive for COVID-19.
The team made the announcement a few hours before the Penguins were scheduled to take on the Flyers. Assistant coach Todd Reirden will fill in for Sullivan. Reirden said Sullivan is symptomatic, which would indicate he will be out several days under the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol.
“Wish nothing but the best for him and for a speedy recovery here as we go through the process,” Reirden said.
The Penguins have been grappling with a COVID-19 outbreak since training camp opened. Eight players have entered the protocol since mid-September, including captain Sidney Crosby and defensemen Marcus Pettersson, Brian Dumoulin and Chad Ruhwedel this week. All will be unavailable to face Philadelphia.
GOP state officials push back on employer vaccine mandate
Republican state officials reacted with swift rebukes Thursday to President Joe Biden’s newly detailed mandate for private employers to require workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19, threatening a wave of lawsuits and other actions to thwart a requirement they see as a stark example of government overreach.
At least two conservative groups moved quickly to file lawsuits against the workplace safety mandate, and a growing roster of GOP governors and attorneys general said more lawsuits were on the way as soon as Friday. Some Republican-led states had already passed laws or executive orders intended to protect employers that may not want to comply.
“This rule is garbage,” South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson, a Republican, said Thursday through a spokesperson. “It’s unconstitutional and we will fight it.” His state’s governor, Republican Henry McMaster, said he is planning to issue an executive order keeping state agencies from enforcing the rule.
States have been preparing for the requirement since Biden previewed it in September. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration requirements released Thursday call for companies with 100 or more employees to be vaccinated by Jan. 4 or be tested weekly. Failure to comply could result in penalties of nearly $14,000 per violation. Federal officials also left open the possibility of expanding the mandate to smaller employers.
The COVID vaccine for kids ages 5 to 11 has arrived in Washington state. Here’s what to know
The long-anticipated COVID-19 vaccine for younger children has made its way to Washington state. Parents and guardians likely have many questions about what to know and expect.
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gave the final OK this week for children ages 5 to 11 to get kid-sized doses of the Pfizer COVID vaccine.
The free two-dose series will be administered three weeks apart. Each dose is 10 micrograms — one-third of an adult dose.
As parents gear up to get their children vaccinated, or are still deciding if they should, here’s what to know about the COVID shot for kids.
State health officials confirm 2,380 new coronavirus cases
The state Department of Health (DOH) reported 2,380 new coronavirus cases and 40 new deaths on Thursday.
The update brings the state's totals to 735,881 cases and 8,767 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. Wednesday.
In addition, 40,732 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the virus — 95 new hospitalizations. In King County, the state's most populous, state health officials have confirmed a total of 166,165 COVID-19 diagnoses and 2,007 deaths.
Since vaccinations began in mid-December, the state and health care providers have administered 9,860,461 doses and 60.4% 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 26,498 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.
WHO: Europe is the epicenter of pandemic despite vaccines
Top officials at the World Health Organization said Thursday that Europe has seen a more than 50% jump in coronavirus cases in the last month, making it the epicenter of the pandemic despite an ample supply of vaccines.
“There may be plenty of vaccine available, but uptake of vaccine has not been equal,” WHO emergencies chief Dr. Michael Ryan said during a press briefing on Thursday.
He called for European authorities to “close the gap” in vaccinations. However, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said countries that have immunized more than 40% of their populations should stop and instead donate their doses to developing countries that have yet to offer their citizens a first dose.
“No more boosters should be administered except to immuno-compromised people,” Tedros said.
Greek Church urges faithful to get vaccinated as cases spike
Greece’s powerful Orthodox Church Thursday urged members of its congregations to attend services with vaccination or test certificates, as the country’s daily number of confirmed new infections hit a record high for the second time in a few days.
The governing Holy Synod of the church made the recommendations in a directive sent to all parishes in the country. Church officials did not say whether implementation of the guidelines was obligatory.
Religious services were canceled for several months due to the pandemic last year, but the government has refused to mandate vaccinations or tests for church attendance in 2021 — despite having introduced tough access restrictions for other indoor venues including movie theaters and restaurants.
Church leaders routinely urge Greeks to follow medical guidelines but have been reluctant to respond to bishops who are openly skeptical about vaccination or who have even urged public defiance of safety restrictions.
On Wednesday, however, a bishop who presides over parishes on the island of Lesbos, in the eastern Aegean Sea, signed an order to suspend unvaccinated clergymen without pay, starting next week.
Greek public health authorities on Thursday reported 6,808 new COVID-19 infections, the highest daily total since the start of the pandemic. The previous record high was on Tuesday, with 6,700 infections.
Food banks embark on expansions with lessons from COVID
Food banks across the country are pursuing major expansion projects driven in part by their experiences during the pandemic, when they faced an explosion of need.
“So many people who had never had to ask for help found themselves in a position of needing it and not knowing where to go,” said Ginette Bott, president and CEO of the Utah Food Bank. “It was like somebody flipped a switch.”
Even though demand for fresh and packaged provisions has dropped from pandemic peaks, the need remains far above pre-pandemic levels.
Across the country, food banks are expanding their services, and sometimes their structures, to reach more people.
The projects come amid persistent food insecurity in the U.S. despite the country’s slow crawl back from the economic fallout of the pandemic. Feeding America’s food banks provided a record 6.6 billion meals between July 2020 and June 2021, up from 5.2 billion the year before, the organization said.
Florida businesses, cities, schools risk big fines defying DeSantis on pandemic mandates
Ashley Hanna didn’t intend to defy Gov. Ron DeSantis when she offered vaccine-only classes at her yoga studio. But to accommodate clients who were worried about the coronavirus as the delta variant was burning through Florida, she expanded her weekly schedule to include two sessions reserved for people vaccinated against the virus.
“We’re a small business, and there are some clients who, if we didn’t have these classes, we would lose them,” said Hanna, who owns Titanium Yoga in Ponte Vedra Beach, south of Jacksonville. “We wanted to give people a choice.”
That decision put Hanna on a list of more than 100 businesses and local governments reported to the state as violating a Florida law, championed by DeSantis, against vaccine requirements. The governor’s critics say his actions are only empowering aggrieved anti-vaxxers and anti-maskers.
Hanna went from being grateful for the Republican leader’s light touch with shutdowns during the pandemic — he issued a stay-at-home order in April 2020 and ended it after one month — to being concerned and confused. She could face fines of more than $100,000.
“I literally thank God that I opened a business in the state of Florida. If we had to shut down for a long time, we would have never made it,” she said recently. “But I don’t understand this. If I required a vaccine just to walk in the front door, ‘OK, Ashley, you are defying the governor.’ But that’s not what I did; that’s not what I’m doing.”
What’s it like to go on a cruise now? Here’s how COVID changed the onboard experience
The cruise industry suffered its biggest financial blow in decades when the COVID-19 pandemic halted most sailings for months and made nervous cruise fans think twice about booking an ocean voyage.
But cruising is back and all signs point to a turn of the tide for the industry.
Despite the shutdown, the world’s cruise lines have bookings for 2022 in excess of those from 2019 and more than 100 new ships on order to set sail by 2027.
But how have things changed? What are cruise lines requiring of passengers? What's up with boarding, dining and other activities?
For one thing, you won’t be lining up at the buffet for meals. Most self-serve buffets have been modified so that employees serve passengers to avoid unnecessary crowding. Indoor dancing, karaoke and nightclubs are no longer allowed on many ships and on some ships, passengers aren't allowed to try on clothing for sale.
UK authorizes Merck antiviral pill, 1st shown to treat COVID
Britain granted conditional authorization on Thursday to the first pill shown to successfully treat COVID-19 so far. It also is the first country to OK the treatment from drugmaker Merck, although it wasn’t immediately clear how quickly the pill would be available.
The pill was licensed for adults 18 and older who have tested positive for COVID-19 and have at least one risk factor for developing severe disease, such as obesity or heart disease. Patients with mild-to-moderate COVID-19 would take four pills of the drug, known molnupiravir, twice a day for five days.
An antiviral pill that reduces symptoms and speeds recovery could prove groundbreaking, easing caseloads on hospitals and helping to curb outbreaks in poorer countries with fragile health systems. It would also bolster the two-pronged approach to the pandemic: treatment, by way of medication, and prevention, primarily through vaccinations.
Molnupiravir is also pending review with regulators in the U.S., the European Union and elsewhere. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced last month it would convene a panel of independent experts to scrutinize the pill’s safety and effectiveness in late November.
Nintendo’s profit drops from last year’s pandemic boom
Japanese video game maker Nintendo’s profit dropped 19% in the first half of its fiscal year from the previous year, when it received a big lift as people stuck at home by the coronavirus pandemic turned to its products.
Kyoto-based Nintendo Co. reported Thursday a $1.5 billion profit for the April-September period, down from 213 billion yen in the same period the previous year.
Fiscal half sales slipped 19% to $5.5 billion. It did not break down quarterly numbers.
Nintendo, which is behind the Super Mario and Pokemon games, was among the global companies that received a boost from the pandemic by providing at-home entertainment.
A shortage of computer chips caused by the pandemic is hurting production of those machines. Nintendo lowered its forecast for Switch hardware sales for the second fiscal half by 1.5 million units to 24 million.
Ukraine again reports record high daily coronavirus cases
Ukraine on Thursday reported another record high number of new coronavirus infections, part of an infection surge amid widespread reluctance among the population to get vaccinated.
The Health Ministry reported 27,377 new infection cases over the past day, about 500 more than the previous high tallied last week. The ministry said 699 people died, bringing the overall toll to 70,146 deaths and more than 3 million cases in the country of 41 million.
Although four vaccines are available in Ukraine — Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Sinovac — only about 17% of the population has been fully vaccinated, which is Europe’s second-lowest rate after Armenia.
More than a thousand people blocked streets in the center of the capital Kyiv on Wednesday, protesting against COVID-19 vaccine certificates and other measures aimed at halting the spread of the virus.
Germany reports record number of new coronavirus cases
Germany’s disease control agency on Thursday reported the highest number of new coronavirus infections since the outbreak of the pandemic.
The Robert Koch Institute, or RKI, said 33,949 new cases had been registered in the last 24 hours, up from 28,037 daily cases a week ago. The previous record was 33,777 new cases on Dec. 18, 2020.
The all-time high comes as the country’s federal Health Minister Jens Spahn is set to meet with the 16 state health ministers to discuss how to limit the spread of the virus in the winter as intensive care units in the hospitals are starting to fill up again and infections among children are skyrocketing.
On Thursday, the RKI reported 165 deaths, up from 126 a week ago. The overall number of people who have died from a COVID-19 infection in Germany has risen to to 96,192.
Russia sets another COVID-19 daily death record with 1,195
Russia has set another record for daily coronavirus deaths as it struggles through a long surge of infections that has prompted restrictions throughout the country.
The national coronavirus task force on Thursday said 1,195 people died of COVID-19 over the past day, exceeding the 1,189 recorded the previous day. Since late September, Russia has tallied new highs in infections or deaths almost daily.
The task force reported 40,217 new infections, down from the record 40,993 on Oct. 31.
Less than 35% of Russia’s nearly 146 million people have been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, even though Russia approved a domestically developed vaccine against the coronavirus months before most countries.
Russia’s state coronavirus task force has reported more than 8.6 million confirmed coronavirus cases and more than 243,000 deaths during the pandemic.
City of Seattle employees, departments feeling strain from vaccine mandate-related staffing
Seattle’s vaccine mandate has left hundreds of exempted unvaccinated city employees on leave for over two weeks, exacerbating staffing shortages in major departments and drawing criticism from impacted employees.
Mayor Jenny Durkan required all city employees working on-site to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by Oct. 18. While well over 90% of employees got vaccinated and continued to work normally, more than 500 others received or applied for religious or medical exemption and are on leave, hoping for accommodations to keep their jobs.
As of Monday, the departments with the most employees on leave were the Seattle Police Department with 100; Seattle City Light with 82, Seattle Public Utilities with 70, and the Seattle Fire Department with 55.
For departments like SFD, where 5% of its staff is on leave from the mandate, the order is applying new pressure to an already strained department that had 75 vacancies before the mandate.
Washington state warns COVID vaccine doses for younger kids won’t meet demand at first, urges patience as kids 5 to 11 finally get shots
SHORELINE — Ten-year-old Micah Wong wasn’t nervous at all when he sat down inside a brightly lit Shoreline Community College building Wednesday afternoon. He grinned under a baseball cap and took a deep breath as a firefighter took his left arm and gave a shot of a COVID-19 vaccine.
“It just felt like a pinch,” said Wong, whose two younger sisters, ages 5 and 7, also got their first shot Wednesday. “It faded away pretty quick.”
Wong was among 10 of the state’s first 5- to 11-year-olds — most the sons and daughters of UW Medicine doctors and staffers — who waited their turn to get Pfizer’s childhood shot Wednesday, after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officially greenlit them this week.
The vaccination was over in an instant, though it reflected months of anxious waiting for many younger kids and their parents who have been hoping for doses since the vaccines first became available last winter. Some parents said they felt a wave of relief wash over them as they watched their children get vaccinated, but health officials reminded families the state’s supply will be limited at first, urging patience.
Catch up on the past 24 hours
The mad dash to find COVID vaccines for kids: As the first Washington children get their shots, many families are finding appointments hard to come by. State health officials are explaining what parents can expect and offering reassurances that enough doses will eventually arrive for every child age 5 to 11. We've put together a guide on how to look for kids’ vaccine appointments in Washington. Here's what you should know about the pediatric shots and their side effects.
The first pill shown to successfully treat COVID-19 was approved for use today in Britain. The U.S. may soon follow.
Seattle's vaccine mandate has put hundreds of unvaccinated city workers on leave — including 100 people in the police department. The hardest-hit departments are feeling the strain.
More than 28 million extra years of life were lost as the coronavirus spread in 2020, a new study has found. The blow to life expectancy was particularly severe for men in the U.S. And COVID deaths in 2021 are outpacing those of 2020.
What it's like to go on a cruise now: COVID keeps reshaping the experience, from the buffets and dance floors to "bubble tour" shore excursions.
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