Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Friday, October 22, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.

Millions more Americans can get a COVID-19 booster and choose a different company’s vaccine for that next shot, after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday endorsed an expansion of the nation’s booster campaign.

Certain people who received Pfizer vaccinations months ago are eligible for a booster, and now the CDC says specific Moderna and Johnson & Johnson recipients qualify, too. The agency is allowing the flexibility of “mixing and matching” that extra dose regardless of which type people received first.

The Food and Drug Administration had authorized the booster expansion on Wednesday before a CDC advisory panel and its directed weighed in with endorsements a day later. See if you qualify for a COVID booster shot in Washington state here.

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.


Navigating the pandemic
(Jennifer Luxton / The Seattle Times)

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U.S. pharmacies and states face new challenges on booster rollout

Now that federal regulators have cleared booster shots of all three coronavirus vaccines in use in the United States, state health authorities and pharmacies have begun rolling out plans to get even more shots in arms.

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, on Thursday recommended Moderna and Johnson & Johnson boosters for tens of millions of Americans, a move that came nearly a month after many Pfizer-BioNTech recipients were cleared for boosters of that company’s vaccine.

The CDC also gave a green light to a “mix-and-match” strategy so people eligible for boosters can decide to get a dose of a different type than the one they first received.

And as states, pharmacies and doctors Friday began trying to get these shots into arms, they faced a variety of complex issues — they will have to help people understand whether they are eligible and answer questions about which booster to get.

Read the full story.

—Dan Levin, The New York Times
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UN investigator: North Korea has never been more isolated

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — North Korea has never been more isolated from the international community as a result of its drastic steps to prevent COVID-19, and the ruptured global ties are having “a dramatic impact on the human rights of the people inside the country,” the U.N.’s independent investigator on the reclusive northeast Asian nation said Friday.

Tomás Ojea Quintana told the General Assembly’s human rights committee and an earlier news conference that North Koreans are facing food shortages and collapses in their livelihoods, and the most vulnerable children and elderly people are at risk of starvation. He said he is also “really, really concerned” about the extent of hunger in political prison camps.

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea — the North’s official name — closed its borders to prevent the pandemic, which Ojea Quintana said would have “a devastating impact” on the people’s right to health because the DPRK’s health infrastructure suffers from underinvestment and a critical shortage of supplies caused by underlying human rights issues.

“The draconian steps the government of the DPRK has taken to prevent COVID-19 from entering reportedly include a policy of shooting individuals who attempt to enter or leave the country,” he said.

Read the full story.

—The Associated Press

Boosters for all 3 coronavirus vaccines available in Washington for those eligible

Following recommendations from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, booster doses for all three coronavirus vaccines are now available in Washington state for eligible individuals, the state Department of Health announced Friday.

John Tausaga gets a Pfizer booster shot from nurse Betty Tesfaye on Oct. 11 at Highline College. She and others are there every Monday to provide Johnson & Johnson, Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, as well as booster shots. (Ellen M. Banner / The Seattle Times)

Last month, providers began offering booster doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for older adults at higher risk for severe illness. More than 345,000 doses, including third doses for people with moderately or severely compromised immune systems, have been administered in the state, according to DOH.

Now, health care providers can begin to offer booster doses of Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines as well.

Read the full story.

—Amanda Zhou

The week in fake news: Unvaccinated FEMA workers and other popular but false tales on social media

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:

— — —

Unvaccinated FEMA employees aren’t replacing noncompliant health care workers

CLAIM: Workers with the Federal Emergency Management Agency are not required to be vaccinated against COVID-19, but are being used to replace health care personnel who are refusing to comply with vaccination mandates.

FILE – In this March 24, 2020, file photo, a portable cot with the Federal Emergency Management Agency logo FEMA printed on the backrest, along with other cots, line the basketball court at a makeshift medical facility in a gymnasium at Southern New Hampshire University in Manchester, N.H.  On Friday, Oct. 22, The Associated Press reported on stories circulating online incorrectly claiming FEMA workers aren’t subject to a vaccine mandate, and also falsely asserting that they’re being used to replace health care personnel who refuse to comply with such mandates.  (AP Photo/Charles Krupa, File) NYNN101 NYNN101

THE FACTS: The claims are spreading across social media platforms, gaining thousands of likes and shares, but both assertions are false.

FEMA workers are considered federal employees and are required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by Nov. 8 under an executive order issued by President Joe Biden.

Also, the agency is not sending its workers to replace unvaccinated health care personnel.

Read the full story.

—The Associated Press
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Romania revives restrictions as hospitals struggle, jabs lag

Doctor Petruta Filip, right, and a colleague place an oxygen mask on a man in the COVID-19 section at the University Emergency Hospital in Bucharest, Romania, Friday, Oct. 22, 2021. In Romania, a European Union country of around 19 million, only 35% of adults are fully inoculated against COVID-19 compared to an EU average of 74%.(AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

Doctor Petruta Filip is working 100-hour weeks at a Bucharest hospital which, like hospitals throughout Romania, is struggling under an onslaught of COVID-19 patients in a country with worryingly low vaccination rates.

The European Union country of around 19 million has only 35% of its adults fully inoculated against COVID-19 compared to an EU average of 74%, and is the second-least vaccinated nation in the 27-nation bloc in front of Bulgaria. That’s crippling Romania’s creaking health care system, which is also facing record-high death and infection numbers.

In an attempt Friday to curb the deadly surge and relieve pressure on hospitals, authorities approved tighter restrictions set to take effect on Monday. Vaccination certificates will be required for many day-to-day activities, such as going to the gym, the cinema, or a shopping mall.

For everyone, there will be a 10 p.m. curfew, shops will be shuttered at 9 p.m., bars and clubs will close for 30 days, and schools will close for an additional week over half-term starting Monday. Masks will be mandatory for everyone in public.

“I would bring people (who don’t believe in the virus or vaccines) here for a day, and maybe they’ll change their opinion,” Filip told The Associated Press Friday. She works at the capital’s Bucharest University Emergency Hospital in a COVID-19 ward packed with patients receiving oxygen treatment.

Romania on Tuesday registered record highs of nearly 19,000 infections and 574 deaths. More than 1,800 coronavirus patients are currently receiving intensive care treatment. Data from Romania’s health authorities indicate that more than 90% of those dying of COVID-19 are unvaccinated.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

State health department confirms 2,522 new coronavirus cases and 34 new deaths

The state Department of Health (DOH) reported 2,522 new coronavirus cases and 34 new deaths on Friday.

The update brings the state's totals to 710,511 cases and 8,451 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, 39,280 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the virus — 110 new hospitalizations. In King County, the state's most populous, state health officials have confirmed a total of 161,217 COVID-19 diagnoses and 1,961 deaths.

Since vaccinations began in mid-December, the state and health care providers have administered 9,499,584 doses and 59.6% 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 15,233 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.

—Lewis Kamb

Spanish govt returns fines for breaking virus lockdown rules

All Spanish citizens who paid fines during a nearly three-month state of emergency declared last year to slow the spread of the coronavirus will be remunerated, the country’s Ministry of Territorial Affairs said on Friday.

The move follows a ruling by Spain’s top court earlier this year that declared as unconstitutional the country’s first state of emergency, which sent all but essential citizens to their homes and paralyzed much of the economy between March 14 and June 21. As cases spiked again, central authorities declared another state of emergency from the end of October last year to May this year.

The Interior Ministry said that police had meted out 1.1 million fines to citizens who defied the stay-at-home order and other restrictions, although not all of them had been immediately paid.

Spain has reached nearly 5 million coronavirus cases since the beginning of the pandemic. At least 87,000 recorded deaths have been related to COVID-19.

The 14-day caseload, a variable closely watched by experts and policymakers, is down to 43 new cases per 100,000 residents, the lowest level since July last year. Spain has fully vaccinated 78% of those who are eligible to receive it.

—The Associated Press
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Americans want to share unused vaccines with Mexico, but the White House won’t let them; here’s why

For months, health officials and hospital executives in Southern California watched as coronavirus vaccines neared their expiration dates unused while demand for doses waned.

A small group around San Diego had an idea: It would donate thousands of shots to Mexico, a short drive away, where the vaccine rollout had been much slower and the infection rate remained high.

But as the plan was readied, it was blocked by the White House Vaccine Task Force. The doses were instead discarded.

State and local officials across the country have run into the same problem, as the Biden administration has prevented efforts to donate leftover vaccines to India and other countries suffering from acute outbreaks.

The reason, White House officials say, is that vaccines in the United States are the property of the federal government, not the cities or states in which they are distributed. That means the federal government is liable for their use, and donation efforts must be run out of Washington. The White House runs its own program to donate vaccines, usually through the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development.

The United States has given away more than 200 million vaccine doses abroad, carrying out President Biden’s pledge to be “the arsenal of vaccines for the rest of the world.” But it has denied multiple requests by local or state governments to donate soon-to-expire doses.

Read the story here.

—The Washington Post

Russia’s infections, deaths soar to another record

Coronavirus infections and deaths in Russia climbed Friday to another pandemic record, putting a growing strain on the country’s health care system.

The government coronavirus task force reported 37,141 new infections and 1,064 deaths in the past 24 hours. That brought Russia’s death toll to 228,453, Europe’s highest by far.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has responded to the worsening situation by ordering Russians to stay off work from Oct. 30 to Nov. 7, when the country is already observing an extended holiday.

Russian authorities expect the order to help limit the spread of the virus by keeping them out of offices and off public transportation, where mask mandates have been widely ignored. The government also urged local authorities to tighten their own restrictions during the period.

Asked Friday if the Kremlin could extend the nonworking period nationwide or order a tighter lockdown, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said it would depend on the evolving situation.

Read the story here.

—Vladimir Isachenkov, The Associated Press

Scientists urge UK to prep rapid return of COVID measures

The British government’s scientific advisers urged the government on Friday to ensure coronavirus restrictions can be introduced rapidly, as the rate of new infections continues to grow.

Britain has recorded an average of 47,000 new cases of COVID-19 a day in the past week, up 18% from the week before, according to figures released on Friday. There was an average of 135 deaths a day, a 16% rise from the previous week. Britain has recorded more than 139,000 coronavirus deaths during the pandemic, the highest toll in Europe after Russia.

Many scientists are urging the government to reintroduce some of the measures that it lifted three months ago when more than a year of restrictions ended, including mandatory mask-wearing indoors, social distancing and work-from-home advice.

Read the story here.

—Jill Lawless, The Associated Press
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Why losing our pandemic walks to the rainy season is hitting us hard — and what to do about it

(Illustrations by Jennifer Luxton / The Seattle Times)

Rainy season is here. And most of us know there’s no good in carping about it. But this year, the wet season brings days when it’s going to be hard to go out for that daily walk that many of us have come to rely on during the pandemic.

The walks that, from the start, were one of the few activities approved by Gov. Jay Inslee. The walks that provide a sense of routine and comfort during the constant uncertainty of the pandemic.

It’s just that it seems so cold and wet out there, and it’s nice and warm under the covers, right?

But that's not going to work for a long Seattle rainy season, so we asked Seattle-area psychologists for recommendations on what to do when the last thing you want to do is trudge through the wet.

Read the story here.

—Christine Clarridge

As thousands of kids get sick, and dozens die, scientists study COVID-related inflammation

Dante DeMaino of Danvers, Massachusetts, was diagnosed with MIS-C in March. MIS-C, multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, is a rare but life-threatening complication of COVID in which a hyperactive immune system causes damage throughout the body. (Philip Keith / Kaiser Health News / TNS)

Like most other kids with COVID-19, Dante and Michael DeMaino seemed to have no serious symptoms.

Infected in mid-February, both lost their senses of taste and smell. Dante, 9, had a low-grade fever for a day or so. Michael, 13, had a “tickle in his throat,” said their mother, Michele DeMaino, of Danvers, Massachusetts.

At a follow-up appointment, “the pediatrician checked their hearts, their lungs, and everything sounded perfect,” DeMaino said.

Then, in late March, Dante developed another fever. Two days later, Dante remained feverish, with a headache, and began throwing up. His mother took him to the ER, where his fever spiked to 104.5. In the hospital, Dante’s eyes became puffy, his eyelids turned red, his hands began to swell and a bright red rash spread across his body.

Hospital staffers diagnosed Dante with multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, or MIS-C, a rare but life-threatening complication of COVID-19 in which a hyperactive immune system attacks a child’s body. Symptoms — fever, stomach pain, vomiting, diarrhea, bloodshot eyes, rash and dizziness — typically appear two to six weeks after what is usually a mild or even asymptomatic infection.

More than 5,200 of the 6.2 million U.S. children diagnosed with COVID-19 have developed MIS-C. About 80% of MIS-C patients are treated in intensive care units, 20% require mechanical ventilation, and 46 have died.

Throughout the pandemic, MIS-C has followed a predictable pattern, sending waves of children to the hospital about a month after a COVID-19 surge. Pediatric intensive care units — which treated thousands of young patients during the late-summer delta surge — are now struggling to save the latest round of extremely sick children.

Read the story here.

—Liz Szabo, Kaiser Health News

German governors press to keep nationwide pandemic rules

Germany’s state governors pressed Friday for a nationwide legal framework for coronavirus rules to be kept in place after the outgoing health minister suggested that the current legislation should be allowed to expire next month.

The call came as official figures over several days pointed to an acceleration in new COVID-19 infections. As of Friday, 95.1 cases per 100,000 residents had been reported over the last seven days, up from 68.7 a week ago. Over the past 24 hours, 19,572 new infections were reported.

The German parliament first passed legislation declaring an “epidemic situation of national scope” after the pandemic hit the country in March 2020, and it has been extended several times since. The law has served as a key legal basis for restrictions such as lockdowns.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press
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A jab in each arm: France vaccinates against flu and COVID

Worried that the flu and COVID-19 could trigger a winter-time double-whammy of new infections and deaths, France is forging ahead with a nationwide vaccination and booster-shot program against both diseases, offering simultaneous jabs to millions of at-risk people.

The annual flu vaccination campaign kicked off Friday, four days earlier than initially planned, dovetailing with France’s COVID-19 vaccination program that as well as trying to reach those who remain unvaccinated is also providing booster shots to those in need.

French health authorities, in instructions issued this week, urged doctors, nurses, pharmacists and midwives to “systematically promote both vaccinations” to at-risk people eligible for COVID-19 booster and flu shots. The note said the jabs can be given the same day, one in each arm.

It added that the onset of the winter flu season with the pandemic ongoing “increases the risk of co-infection and the development of serious cases and deaths.”

French health authorities also fear that because there were fewer flu infections in 2020, because of social distancing and coronavirus lockdowns, people could be more vulnerable this winter.

“The flu could be strong this year — I stress ‘could’ — because we had no flu last year and so the population’s immunity is lower,” Health Minister Olivier Veran said on BFM-TV.

Read the story here.

—John Leicester, The Associated Press

Alaska sets coronavirus record while welcoming police fired under lower 48 vaccine rules

Alaska set a record for coronavirus-related hospitalizations and reported 1,024 new COVID-19 cases Thursday, reflecting stubbornly high virus transmission within the state and the ongoing impacts of a surge driven by the highly contagious delta variant.

At the same time, state officials said police officers and prison guards fired due to COVID-19 vaccine requirements in the Lower 48 are welcome to apply to job openings in Alaska.

The Alaska Department of Public Safety and the Alaska Department of Corrections are not recruiting such folks, but both agencies have had problems filling vacancies. In a Wednesday social media message, Gov. Mike Dunleavy said that if a law enforcement officer has been fired after refusing to get vaccinated against COVID-19 or for refusing to say whether they have been vaccinated, they should consider Alaska.The state does not have a vaccination requirement for state employees, and Dunleavy has said he will not impose one.

“Alaska’s law enforcement community invites you to consider the 49th state where we back the blue,” the governor’s social media post said.

On Thursday, there were 235 people hospitalized with COVID-19 around the state — a higher count than at any point during the pandemic, state data showed. The previous hospitalizations record was 223 on Sept. 25.

The new cases bumped Alaska back up to the top spot among U.S. states for seven-day case rates per 100,000 people, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Read the stories here and here.

—Anchorage Daily News, Alaska

EXPLAINER: Is it time to get a COVID-19 booster? Which one?

Millions more Americans just became eligible for COVID-19 boosters but figuring out who’s eligible and when can be confusing — and adding to the challenge is that this time around, people can get a different type of vaccine for that extra dose.

A number of factors, including the vaccine you started with and when your last dose was, help determine when you qualify. Just like the initial shots, boosters are free and will be available at pharmacies, doctor offices and clinics.

Boosters are available for all three vaccines authorized in the U.S. and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Food and Drug Administration. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Food and Drug Administration didn’t recommend that people switch to a different vaccine than they originally received but left open the option.

Read the story here.

—Lauran Neergaard and Mike Stobbe, The Associated Press
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Pfizer says COVID-19 vaccine more than 90% effective in kids

This October 2021 photo provided by Pfizer shows kid-size doses of its COVID-19 vaccine in Puurs, Belgium. The vaccine appear safe and nearly 91% effective at preventing symptomatic infections in 5- to 11-year-olds, according to study details released Friday, Oct. 22, as the U.S. considers opening vaccinations to that age group. (Pfizer via AP)

Kid-size doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine appear safe and nearly 91% effective at preventing symptomatic infections in 5- to 11-year-olds, according to study details released Friday as the U.S. considers opening vaccinations to that age group.

The shots could begin in early November — with the first children in line fully protected by Christmas — if regulators give the go-ahead.

Details of Pfizer’s study were posted online. The Food and Drug Administration was expected to post its independent review of the company’s safety and effectiveness data later in the day.

Advisers to the FDA will publicly debate the evidence next week. If the agency ultimately authorizes the shots, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will make the final decision on who should receive them.

Full-strength Pfizer shots already are authorized for anyone 12 or older, but pediatricians and many parents are anxiously awaiting protection for younger children to stem rising infections from the extra-contagious delta variant and help keep kids in school.

Read the story here.

—Lauran Neergaard and Matthew Perrone, The Associated Press

What is the ‘delta plus’ variant of the coronavirus?

What is the “delta plus” variant? (AP Illustration/Peter Hamlin)

What is the “delta plus” variant?

It’s a relative of the delta variant, identified by British scientists last month.

Because it isn’t a variant of interest or concern, it has not yet been officially named after a letter of the Greek alphabet, like the other worrisome variants.

Scientists are monitoring the delta-related variant — known as AY.4.2. — to see if it might spread more easily or be more deadly than previous versions of the coronavirus. In a recent report, U.K. officials said this variant makes up 6% of all analyzed COVID-19 cases in the country and is “on an increasing trajectory.”

The variant has two mutations in the spike protein, which helps the coronavirus invade the body’s cells. These changes have also been seen in other versions of the virus since the pandemic started, but haven’t gone very far, Francois Balloux, director of the Genetics Institute at University College London.

The delta variant remains “by far the most dominant variant in terms of global circulation” said Maria Van Kerkhove, the World Health Organization’s technical lead on COVID-19, at a public session this week.

“Delta is dominant, but delta is evolving,” she said, adding that the more the virus circulates, the greater chances it has to mutate.

Read the story here.

—Maria Cheng, The Associated Press

Beijing begins offering booster shots ahead of Olympics

BEIJING (AP) — China’s capital Beijing has begun offering booster shots against COVID-19, four months before the city and surrounding regions are to host the Winter Olympics.

Anyone 18 or older who have received two-dose Chinese vaccines and belong to at-risk groups, including those participating, organizing or working on games facilities, would be eligible for the additional shot, state media reported Friday.

The booster has been rolling out in cities across the vast nation since late September, but Beijing authorities have been extra cautious in who receives the extra jab.

The games are set to begin on Feb. 4 with only residents of China allowed in the stands. Indoor events with sliding, skiing and jumping will be held in the suburb of Yanqing and the neighboring city of Zhangjiakou.

China has been largely successful in preventing local transmission through strict requirements on mask wearing, quarantining and contact tracing. Cases continue to pop up however, with 28 new ones reported Friday, including one in the Beijing suburb of Fengtai.

Read the full story.

—The Associated Press
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Catch up on the past 24 hours

Millions more Americans can now get COVID-19 booster shots — and they can choose a different company's vaccine for that next shot, the CDC decided yesterday. See if you qualify for a booster by checking our updated guide.

New estimates show a 50% drop in Washington residents with active COVID-19 infections since last month. But make no mistake, the state says: Cases and deaths are still high, and the holiday season will be crucial.

In some Washington state agencies, hundreds of workers lost their jobs when the vaccine mandate kicked in. In others, nearly everyone was vaccinated. Compare agencies' vaccination rates with our updating tracker.

Even if ex-WSU coach Nick Rolovich wins his lawsuit against the university — which fired him for not getting vaccinated — WSU comes out ahead, Jon Wilner writes.

President Joe Biden botched the numbers behind the vaccine rollout last night as he stretched to take all the credit for the surge of shots, fact-checkers found.

—Kris Higginson