Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Tuesday, November 9, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.
In an attempt to get the vaccine mandate for private employers back on track after it was halted by a federal court, the Biden administration said the mandate was a matter of life and death. Blocking the mandate would only prolong the pandemic and lead to the loss of more lives, the administration said in its filing in response to the court-ordered pause.
Meanwhile, health officials in Japan reported no COVID-19 deaths on Sunday for the first time in 15 months. As COVID-19 cases in the country continue to decline, officials eased entry restrictions for fully-vaccinated foreign students, employees and business travelers.
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.
APEC finds agreement on vaccines, carbon but tensions remain
Making coronavirus vaccines more accessible and reducing carbon emissions were two key pledges that Pacific Rim senior officials could agree to Wednesday.
But what went unstated were the deep tensions that run through the unlikely group of 21 nations and territories that include the U.S., China, Taiwan, Russia, and Australia. Those tensions have raised questions about who can join a Pacific trade deal and whether the U.S. will get to host a future round of meetings.
Trade ministers met online over two days as part of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum. It is being hosted by New Zealand in a virtual format due to the pandemic. The officials highlighted areas where they could find agreement ahead of a leader’s meeting later in the week.
New Zealand Trade Minister Damien O’Connor said after the meeting that the members had committed, as they did last year, to jointly fighting the pandemic.
Moderna and U.S. at odds over vaccine patent rights
Moderna and the National Institutes of Health are in a bitter dispute over who deserves credit for inventing the central component of the company’s powerful coronavirus vaccine, a conflict that has broad implications for the vaccine’s long-term distribution and billions of dollars in future profits.
The vaccine grew out of a four-year collaboration between Moderna and the NIH, the government’s biomedical research agency — a partnership that was widely hailed when the shot was found to be highly effective. The government called it the “NIH-Moderna COVID-19 vaccine” at the time.
The agency says three scientists at its Vaccine Research Center — Dr. John R. Mascola, the center’s director; Dr. Barney S. Graham, who recently retired; and Dr. Kizzmekia S. Corbett, who is now at Harvard — worked with Moderna scientists to design the genetic sequence that prompts the vaccine to produce an immune response, and should be named on the “principal patent application.”
Moderna disagrees. In a July filing with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, the company said it had “reached the good-faith determination that these individuals did not co-invent” the component in question. Its application for the patent, which has not yet been issued, names several of its own employees as the sole inventors.
Unvaccinated Texans 40 times more likely to die of COVID in 2021, study says
A vast majority of Texans who have died of COVID-19 since the beginning of the year were unvaccinated, according to a grim new Texas health department report released Monday.
The report from the Texas Department of State Health Services examined data from Jan. 15 to Oct. 1 and found that unvaccinated people were much more likely to get infected and die of the coronavirus than those who got their shots.
Of the nearly 29,000 COVID-linked fatalities in Texas during that period, more than 85% were unvaccinated individuals. Nearly 7% of the deaths were among partially vaccinated people, while nearly 8% were fully vaccinated.
The figures highlight just how much more at risk the unvaccinated population has been this year: In all age groups, the state’s unvaccinated were 40 times more likely to die than fully vaccinated people. The study also found that the unvaccinated in all age groups were 45 times more likely to have a coronavirus infection than fully vaccinated people.
Whistleblowers to play key role in enforcing vaccine mandate
To enforce President Joe Biden’s forthcoming COVID-19 mandate, the U.S. Labor Department is going to need a lot of help. Its Occupational Safety and Health Administration doesn’t have nearly enough workplace safety inspectors to do the job.
So the government will rely upon a corps of informers to identify violations of the order: Employees who will presumably be concerned enough to turn in their own employers if their co-workers go unvaccinated or fail to undergo weekly tests to show they’re virus-free.
What’s not known is just how many employees will be willing to accept some risk to themselves — or their job security — for blowing the whistle on their own employers. Without them, though, experts say the government would find it harder to achieve its goal of requiring tens of millions of workers at companies with 100 or more employees to be fully vaccinated by Jan. 4 or be tested weekly and wear a mask on the job.
Debbie Berkowitz, a former OSHA chief of staff who is a fellow at Georgetown University’s Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor, said OSHA will have to "rely on workers and their union representatives to file complaints where the company is totally flouting the law.’’
State health officials confirm 1,488 new coronavirus cases
The state Department of Health (DOH) reported 1,488 new coronavirus cases and 31 new deaths on Tuesday.
The update brings the state's totals to 744,364 cases and 8,858 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. Tallies may be higher earlier in the week because new state data isn’t reported on weekends.
In addition, 41,216 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the virus — 106 new hospitalizations. In King County, the state's most populous, state health officials have confirmed a total of 167,673 COVID-19 diagnoses and 2,023 deaths.
Since vaccinations began in mid-December, the state and health care providers have administered 10,035,244 doses and 60.7% 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 31,155 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.
Bulgaria sees record COVID-19 deaths amid low vaccinations
Bulgaria had 334 COVID-19 patients die in a single day in its count Tuesday, the country’s highest daily toll since the start of the pandemic.
Bulgarian health authorities also reported 5,286 newly confirmed cases of coronavirus over the past 24 hours.
Despite rising virus-related deaths, many Bulgarians remain skeptical of vaccines. The Balkan country of 7 million remains the least vaccinated in the 27-nation European Union, with less than one-third of its adults fully vaccinated.
German political parties agree on rules to tackle ‘pandemic of unvaccinated’
The three parties in talks to form the next German government agreed on a package of measures they could deploy to tackle a record surge in COVID-19 cases which seeks to avoid sweeping restrictions like school closures and curfews.
The legislation, which the SPD, Greens and FDP want to push through parliament next week, is designed to provide a nationwide framework while giving regions room to tighten restrictions in coronavirus hot spots, and will replace a law that expires on Nov. 25. The measures — many of which are already being used — include distancing and hygiene rules, obligatory mask wearing and some restrictions for public events and travel.
Lawmakers from the three parties decided to let the existing legislation lapse and draw up a new framework due to concerns that some of the previous measures interfered too severely with citizen rights.
Cases are surging across Europe with Germany’s seven-day incidence rate climbing to a record 213.7
Health Minister Jens Spahn described the latest situation as “a massive pandemic of the unvaccinated.” As of Monday, just over 67% of the population were fully inoculated.
Biden to continue FEMA virus aid for states until April 1
President Joe Biden is extending the federal government’s 100% reimbursement of COVID-19 emergency response costs to states, tribes and territories through April 1, 2022, the White House is announcing Tuesday.
On a conference call Tuesday morning, White House COVID-19 coordinator Jeff Zients informed governors that Biden is approving the extension of Federal Emergency Management Agency support to help continue FEMA-backed efforts like vaccination clinics and public education campaigns surrounding the shots.
The extension also continues 100% federal reimbursement for National Guard personnel deployed to help combat the virus, including those tasked with assisting local hospitals treating coronavirus cases.
The extension into early 2022 is an indication that after premature declarations of victory over the pandemic in July, the Biden administration is preparing for continued COVID-19 disruptions well into next year.
Pfizer asks FDA to OK COVID-19 booster shots for all adults
Pfizer asked U.S. regulators Tuesday to allow boosters of its COVID-19 vaccine for anyone 18 or older, a step that comes amid concern about increased spread of the coronavirus with holiday travel and gatherings.
Older Americans and other groups particularly vulnerable to the virus have had access to a third dose of the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine since September. But the Food and Drug Administration has said it would move quickly to expand boosters to younger ages if warranted.
Pfizer is submitting early results of a booster study in 10,000 people to make its case that it’s time to further expand the booster campaign.
While all three vaccines used in the U.S. continue to offer strong protection against severe COVID-19 illness and death, the shots’ effectiveness against milder infection can wane over time.
Pfizer’s new study concluded a booster could restore protection against symptomatic infection to nearly 96%, even as the extra-contagious delta variant was surging. Side effects were similar to those seen with the company’s first two shots.
Pandemic sparks union activity where it was rare: Bookstores
Britta Larson, a shift leader at Half Price Books in Roseville, Minnesota, has been with the store for nearly 12 years but only recently thought about whether she wanted to join a union.
“With the pandemic going on, we all were just weary of the constant dismissals we got when we raised concerns about staffing and workload to upper management,” said Larson, noting that the staff had been reduced when the store shut down for a time and was “stretched extremely thin” once it opened again.
“Before the pandemic, I’d say we would have kind of just thought ‘Things aren’t great’ because it was all we had ever known. The pandemic forced us to do some things differently and we learned from that.”
Labor action has surged in many industries over the past two years, including in bookselling, a business where unions had been rare. Since 2020, employees have unionized or are attempting to do so everywhere from Printed Matter in New York City to Elliott Bay Book Company in Seattle and Bookshop Santa Cruz in California. In Minnesota, workers at four Half Price Books stores have announced plans to affiliate with locals of the United Food and Commercial Workers union.
“I think COVID-19 was a rude awakening for bookstore workers, and really anyone who works with the public,” says Owen Hill, a buyer at Moe’s Books in Berkeley, California, which unionized earlier this year. “We were given no say regarding safe working conditions, even though we were risking our health by showing up for work. We had to organize in order to be a part of the conversation around worker safety.”
Despite reopening, the US is still closed to many in world
The U.S. says that it’s inviting the global community to visit now that the government has ended the ban on travelers from 33 countries.
In reality, however, it will still be difficult — if not impossible — for much of the globe to enter the country and experts say it will take years for travel to fully recover.
For starters, half the world isn’t vaccinated and therefore doesn’t meet the U.S. requirement for visiting foreigners. So while many Europeans may now be able to come in, people from poorer countries where vaccines are scarce remain cut off, with limited exceptions.
In addition, the vaccines must be those authorized by the Food and Drug Administration or emergency use by the World Health Organization. And potential visitors now face a six-month visitor visa appointment backlog.
Inside the fast-food workers’ season of rebellion
Dustin Snyder was tired of the low wages, the 60-hour workweeks and the impossible-to-please customers, and so in early September the assistant general manager at a McDonald’s in Bradford, Pennsylvania, drafted a petition that laid bare months of building anger and frustration.
“We are all leaving,” his petition threatened, “and hope you find employees that want to work for $9.25 an hour.” Nearly all of his two dozen employees had signed it. A few added their own flourishes.
Dustin, 21, could feel his heart pounding in his chest as he fed the petition into the fax machine in the McDonald’s office, punched in the number for his bosses 80 miles away in Buffalo and hit send. Another low-wage worker rebellion in a season full of them.
A once-in-a-lifetime pandemic, a debilitating recession and trillions in government aid had caused something to shift in the world’s largest economy. Hourly wages for fast food workers rose nearly 14% last year, the fastest growth on record. All over America people were quitting jobs at record rates. Even in a place such as Bradford, with its shrinking population and 30% poverty rate, low-wage service workers sensed that they finally had a little power.
Dustin and most of his co-workers quit that night after a regional supervisor said employees had been on the verge of getting a raise but would not due to the petition. Many found better paying jobs at a local lumbermill or competing fast food outfits.
About six weeks after the walkout, Dustin noticed that the owner of the McDonald's had changed the sign on the restaurant’s marquee. “Hiring starting at $10,” it now read.
In shift, UK to require COVID vaccination for health workers
The British government says all health care staff who work with the public will have to be vaccinated against the coronavirus starting in April, despite concerns the move could drive thousands of people to quit their jobs.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid said Tuesday that 90% of staff in the state-funded National Health Service have already received two doses of a vaccine. But that leaves more than 100,000 health workers unvaccinated.
Javid told lawmakers in the House of Commons that, while vaccination is not compulsory for most people, health workers “carry a unique responsibility” because they are in contact with those most vulnerable to illness. The change applies in England. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland set their own health rules.
Ukraine hits another record for daily coronavirus deaths
The Ukraine on Tuesday hit another record for daily coronavirus deaths amid a spike in infections fueled by public reluctance to get a vaccine.
The Health Ministry reported 833 coronavirus deaths over the past day, surpassing the previous high of 793 over the weekend and bringing the country’s total confirmed COVID-19 deaths to 73,390. The nation of 41 million people also registered 18,988 new daily infections in the last day.
Although four vaccines are available in Ukraine — Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Sinovac — only 18% of the population has been fully vaccinated. That is Europe’s second-lowest rate after Armenia.
In an effort to speed up vaccine uptake, the authorities required teachers, government employees and other workers to get fully vaccinated by Nov. 8 or have their salaries suspended. The government also ordered workers of state-controlled companies to get vaccinated by Dec. 1. and is now requiring proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test results for people boarding planes, trains and long-distance buses.
California sea otters being given vaccines at Monterey Bay Aquarium
When Dr. Mike Murray’s needle was ready, the scene gave a new definition to “vaccine hesitant.” There was wriggling and squirming, even with four assistants wearing thick, bite-proof gloves holding the patient on a mat with a duffel bag filled with foam.
“Buzz saw in a fur coat,” Murray joked after administering the shot into a patch of thick fur.
It was over in 10 seconds, with no selfies, stickers or lollipops. And California’s latest COVID-19 vaccine recipient was ready to head back into the tank that serves as her temporary home at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
The aquarium has begun vaccinating sea otters, a species that is still on the endangered list, in an effort to reduce the risk of a devastating outbreak among the fuzzy, beloved mascots of California’s central coast.
The program, believed to the first in the nation to vaccinate sea otters, is being closely watched by other aquariums and zoos, which are likely to follow suit.
“There’s a lot of evidence that this family of animals — ferrets, mink, otters — are susceptible,” said Murray, the aquarium’s chief veterinarian. “We have an obligation to protect the animals’ health.”
A Vermont college blames Halloween parties for COVID outbreak
Officials at a college in Colchester, Vermont, are blaming Halloween parties for a COVID outbreak, which comes as Vermont has reported a record number of coronavirus cases over the past week.
The virus is surging in Vermont as more people gather inside to avoid the cold weather. Experts warn that holiday gatherings could lead to more cases this winter.
New daily cases have increased by 51% over the past two weeks, according to a New York Times database. Hospitalizations are also trending up, fueling anxiety about the state’s hospital capacity as winter approaches.
At Saint Michael’s College, a liberal arts school north of Burlington, reported that 77 students tested positive for the virus this week and last week, according to the college’s COVID-19 dashboard. In letters to the school, Lorraine Sterritt, the college president, said that Halloween parties fueled the outbreak.
Doctor-turned-senator opposes vaccine mandates. His weapon of choice? Natural immunity
Roger Marshall, physician turned U.S. senator, is waging a battle in Congress against vaccine mandates.
Last week, he signed onto an effort to overturn the new rule issued by President Joe Biden’s administration requiring most private employers to have their workers vaccinated or tested weekly by Jan. 4. He pledged not to vote on a bill to fund the government unless it contains a provision that would nullify the mandate. He filed an amendment to guarantee that anyone who doesn’t comply with the military’s vaccine mandate must be honorably discharged.
The Kansas senator is vaccinated and he recommends that people do the same. But in fighting mandates, Marshall has repeatedly raised the concept of “natural immunity” — immunity that results from being infected with the virus— as a reason why people should be able to turn down the vaccine.
He’s among many Republicans in Congress pushing the Centers for Disease Control to relax vaccination rules for those who have already been sick. That includes exempting them from the White House workplace mandate.
People ‘unvaccinated by choice’ in Singapore will no longer receive free COVID-19 treatment
Eighty-five percent of people in Singapore eligible for coronavirus vaccines are fully vaccinated, and 18% have received booster shots.
But the Singaporean government said Monday that it will no longer cover the medical costs of people “unvaccinated by choice,” who make up the bulk of remaining new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in the city-state.
“Currently, unvaccinated persons make up a sizable majority of those who require intensive inpatient care, and disproportionately contribute to the strain on our health care resources,” the Ministry of Health said in a statement Monday. “COVID-19 patients who are unvaccinated by choice may still tap on regular health care financing arrangements to pay for their bills where applicable."
The government currently foots the bill for any Singaporean citizen, permanent resident and holder of a long-term work pass who is sick with COVID-19, unless they tested positive shortly after returning from overseas.
Catch up on the past 24 hours
All adults may soon be eligible for COVID-19 booster shots. Pfizer is expected to seek and gain federal approval for wide use of its booster, according to officials familiar with the situation. Public health experts didn't see this as necessary a few months ago, but newer data is changing the picture. See if you already qualify for a booster.
Hundreds of Seattle’s youngest students got their first vaccine dose yesterday as their families clapped and cheered. Vaccination events at schools across the region have been quickly running out of doses, but more clinics are planned. Here's how to find them and more tips on locating shots for kids.
A Redmond startup's study on breakthrough infections has found that patients who got the Johnson & Johnson vaccine have a bigger chance of being hospitalized than those who received other vaccines. Truveta pooled its data from 20 health systems in 42 states.
Richard Soliz nearly died of COVID in Seattle. Then he returned to Harborview Medical Center to apologize to the staff for not being vaccinated, saying, “It all could’ve been avoided.”
Only one-third of pregnant women are vaccinated against COVID-19, but they're especially vulnerable to it, experts say. This Q&A outlines what pregnant people should know.
A lawmaker who fell ill with COVID had to miss his anti-vaccine rally.
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