As much of the rest of the world continues to struggle with coronavirus vaccine shortages, President Joe Biden this week directed his administration to order another 100 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson shots. He added Friday, however, that the U.S. would join India, Japan and Australia in jointly manufacturing and distributing up to 1 billion doses of the vaccine before the end of next year.
In Washington, Gov. Jay Inslee on Friday directed the state’s school districts to offer at least some in-person instruction to all students by late April, and that he plans to issue an emergency proclamation next week.
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 and the world.
In a pandemic, Navajo community steps up for its vulnerable
TEESTO, Ariz. (AP) — For as long as Raymond Clark has lived alone on this quiet stretch of the Navajo Nation under the watch of the “Praying Mountain,” he has depended on everyone yet no one.
The 71-year-old has no vehicle or running water but is content hitchhiking and carrying jugs down a dusty washboard road to replenish his supply. He works at home in Teesto painting murals and silversmithing, but friends often stop by.
Or at least they did before the pandemic. Now, rides and visits are scarcer in an area with no grocery store or gas station and where homes sit far apart.
The sense of community, though, never faded. With residents urged to stay home, tribal workers, health representatives and volunteers have stepped up efforts to ensure the most vulnerable citizens get the help they need.
—Felicia Fonseca, The Associated Press
Medically vulnerable in US put near end of vaccine line
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — When Ann Camden learned last month that her 17-year-old daughter got exposed to the coronavirus at school and was being sent home, she packed her belongings, jumped in the car and made the two-hour drive to the coast to stay with her recently vaccinated parents.
The 50-year-old mother had been diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer and could not afford to become infected. She also was not yet eligible under North Carolina’s rules to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. So she left her twin daughters with her husband and fled for safety.
Across the United States, millions of medically vulnerable people who initially were cited as a top vaccination priority group got slowly bumped down the list as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention modified its guidelines to favor the elderly, regardless of their physical condition, and workers in a wide range of job sectors.
—Bryan Anderson, The Associated Press
How a Seattle chef lost her James Beard Award-winning restaurant but came out hopeful after an unreal pandemic year
One year ago, chef Maria Hines had been running her James Beard Award-winning Seattle restaurant, Tilth, for nearly a decade and a half. Housed in a charming Wallingford Craftsman, Tilth was only the second certified organic restaurant in the country when it debuted. Hines’ cooking in Tilth’s small kitchen supported the work of local farmers, fishers, foragers and more, while both local and national critics applauded as her ethos helped define a new era of high-end Pacific Northwest cuisine. Lucky regulars and those celebrating alike felt — and tasted — the alchemy happening, clinking innumerable glasses as evenings stretched out deliciously within Tilth’s butter-colored walls. Hines opened two more places along the way, but after the sad closure of one and the sale of the other, she spoke frankly of the difficulty of running restaurants as Seattle grew, of the increasing competition and skyrocketing expense. Tilth, however, she would hold on to — as she said in the Before Times of 2019, “It’s my baby.”
On March 15, 2020, Tilth’s dining room went quiet.
—Bethany Jean Clement
Why common colds might spike when kids return to school
When many students in the United States go back to in-person learning this fall, parents and school administrators may have to contend with an unexpected infectious disease problem: more colds than usual.
That’s the caution coming from researchers in Hong Kong, who published a study last week detailing a spike in common colds after students returned to classrooms in the fall following nearly a year of remote learning. Specifically, the researchers reported almost seven times more large outbreaks of acute upper respiratory infections (involving 20 people or more) compared with those recorded in 2017, 2018 and 2019 combined.
“Normally, we don’t think of them as a real public health challenge,” Benjamin Cowling, one of the study’s authors and a public health researcher and biostatistician at the University of Hong Kong School of Public Health, said of common colds. But it can be tough to distinguish the symptoms of a cold from those of COVID-19, especially in kids. And if colds start spreading through schools in the United States, children may be sent home until they have been tested for the coronavirus. They may even have to return to remote learning.
Here’s what happened to students abroad, and what it might mean for kids in the United States.
—Melinda Wenner Moyer, The New York Times
Lumen Field mass vaccination site opens
What the Seattle mayor's office is calling the largest civilian-run vaccination site in the country opens Saturday at Lumen Field Event Center.
The event center, located between Seattle's two pro sports stadiums downtown, will initially vaccinate about 5,000 people a week, but that could stretch to 150,000 — if supply is available, according to Mayor Jenny Durkan's office.
For the time being, the site will be open two to three days a week. The city of Seattle is running the site, in partnership with Swedish Health Services and First & Goal, the company that oversees Lumen Field and the event center.
Durkan plans to visit patients and volunteers Saturday at the site and answer questions from the press.
Last year, Army soldiers set up a 250-bed field hospital at the site, but it shut down without being used when Washington's projected COVID-19 cases were lower than expected.
ICE has no clear plan to vaccinate thousands of detainees
The coronavirus has been running rampant for months through Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s network of jails holding civil immigration detainees fighting deportation – but the agency has no vaccination program and, unlike the Bureau of Prisons, is relying on state and local health departments to procure vaccine doses. Nobody can say how many detainees have been vaccinated.
The Biden administration says it wants to make every adult in the United States eligible for vaccination by May – and immigration agents have said they would not interfere with efforts to vaccinate undocumented immigrants outside of detention. But lawyers for immigrants who are detained say there is no urgency to vaccinate those in federal custody against a deadly pathogen that can spread fast in confined spaces.
“ICE has no plan to provide vaccines on a systemwide basis,” said Melissa Riess, a staff attorney for Disability Rights Advocates in California, one of several nonprofits that filed a federal lawsuit in California seeking the release of detainees with high-risk health conditions. “That’s having horrendous consequences. It seems like they’re doing nothing.”
—Maria Sacchetti, The Washington Post
Spike in COVID-19 cases recorded on WSU campus
Whitman County reported 30 new positive COVID-19 cases Friday, a day after Washington State University announced an increase in positive cases affecting its Pullman campus.
In a Thursday statement from WSU, 189 students and employees have tested positive for COVID‑19 since Feb. 24. Ninety cases remain active and those individuals are isolated at home or in WSU-provided quarantine locations.
WSU says the risk to the Pullman community is low.
—Moscow-Pullman Daily News
Warp-speed spending and other surreal stats of COVID times
WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. effort in World War II was off the charts. Battles spread over three continents and four years, 16 million served in uniform and the government shoved levers of the economy full force into defeating Nazi Germany and imperial Japan.
All of that was cheaper for American taxpayers than this pandemic.
The $1,400 federal payments going into millions of people’s bank accounts are but one slice of a nearly $2 trillion relief package made law this past week. With that, the United States has spent or committed to spend nearly $6 trillion to crush the coronavirus, recover economically and take a bite out of child poverty.
Set in motion over one year, that’s warp-speed spending in a capital known for gridlock, ugly argument and now an episode of violent insurrection.
How high can you count? At one turn after another, that may be the rhetorical question of these COVID-19 times.
—Calivn Woodward. The Associated Press
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Seattle Times staff & news services