Live: Coronavirus daily news updates, April 1: What to know today about COVID-19 in the Seattle area, Washington state and the world

0
57
Live: Coronavirus daily news updates, April 1: What to know today about COVID-19 in the Seattle area, Washington state and the world

After a year of hunkering down through the COVID-19 pandemic, and months of deciphering complicated tiers and phases for who in Washington can get a vaccine, Gov. Jay Inslee on Wednesday simplified things: everyone 16 years and older can go for a dose starting April 15. The announcement is a dramatic expansion of vaccine eligibility, and it came the same day that roughly two million Washingtonians, including manufacturing and food service workers, first became eligible for doses of their own.

Delta Air Lines said Wednesday that it would sell middle seats on flights starting May 1, more than a year after it decided to leave them empty to promote distancing, The New York Times reported. Other airlines had blocked middle seats early in the pandemic, but Delta held out the longest by several months and is the last of the four big U.S. airlines to get rid of the policy.

Russia has registered the world’s first coronavirus vaccine for dogs, cats, minks, foxes and other animals, the country’s agriculture safety watchdog said Wednesday. Citing Russia’s Tass News Agency, The Washington Post reported the vaccine, called Carnivak-Cov, was developed by scientists at the Federal Service for Veterinary and Phytosanitary Surveillance, also known as Rosselkhoznadzor. While many scientists say the virus causing COVID-19 initially jumped from bats to humans, perhaps through another intermediary, infections have since been reported worldwide in animals, from zoos to mink farms.

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.

Palin confirms COVID-19 diagnosis, urges steps like masks

Former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, seen in 2017,  says she tested positive for COVID-19 and is urging people to take steps to guard against the coronavirus, including wearing masks in public. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson, file)

Former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, seen in 2017, says she tested positive for COVID-19 and is urging people to take steps to guard against the coronavirus, including wearing masks in public. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson, file)

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin says she tested positive for COVID-19 and is urging people to take steps to guard against the coronavirus, such as wearing masks in public.

“Through it all, I view wearing that cumbersome mask indoors in a crowd as not only allowing the newfound luxury of being incognito, but trust it’s better than doing nothing to slow the spread,” Palin, the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee, told People magazine.

“And history will show we Masked Singer visitors were masked before being masked was cool,” she said in her statement, referring to the TV show on which she once appeared.

It was not clear when Palin, 57, tested positive. She told the magazine that other members of her family tested positive as well.

She said her case shows “anyone can catch this.”

“I strongly encourage everyone to use common sense to avoid spreading this and every other virus out there,” Palin said, in urging vigilance but not fear.

Read the full story here.

—The Associated Press

1:25 pm

Merkel: ‘A quiet Easter’ needed to counter rising infections

People line up in front of the vaccination center at the Arena Treptow in Berlin, Germany, Wednesday, March 31, 2021. This vaccination center in the German capital’s Treptow district has used only the Pfizer vaccine since it was opened. German health officials agreed on Tuesday to restrict the use of AstraZeneca’s vaccine in people under 60. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

People line up in front of the vaccination center at the Arena Treptow in Berlin, Germany, Wednesday, March 31, 2021. This vaccination center in the German capital’s Treptow district has used only the Pfizer vaccine since it was opened. German health officials agreed on Tuesday to restrict the use of AstraZeneca’s vaccine in people under 60. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

BERLIN — German Chancellor Angela Merkel asked citizens Thursday to consider the strain that nurses and doctors are under as they care for a rising number of COVID-19 patients and help them by respecting social distancing and other rules over Easter.

Germany’s disease control agency reported 24,300 newly confirmed cases in the past day, and 201 deaths. The head of the Robert Koch Institute has warned that the country is seeing a third surge in infections fueled by more contagious virus variants that have come to dominate the outbreak in Germany.

“There needs to be a quiet Easter festival,” Merkel said in a video address. “I urgently ask you to refrain from all non-urgent travel (and) that we all consistently follow the rules.”

Germany has recorded more than 2.8 million COVID-19 cases and 76,543 deaths since the start of the outbreak, fewer than most other large European countries. But there has been frustration about the slow pace of its vaccination program, with only about 11.6% of the population having received at least one shot by Wednesday.

In contrast, Britain has given one vaccine shot to 46% of its people.

Merkel said she understood the disappointment felt by many Germans that they face celebrating another Easter without friends or family, but insisted that the vaccine campaign will pick up this month.

Read the full story here.

—Frank Jordans, The Associated Press

1:21 pm

US draws close to 100M vaccinations as baseball resumes

Spectators wait on a security line outside Yankee Stadium before an opening day baseball game against the Toronto Blue Jays, Thursday, April 1, 2021, in the Bronx borough of New York. Fans are back at the ballpark in limited numbers after they were shut out completely during the regular season last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.(AP Photo/John Minchillo)

Spectators wait on a security line outside Yankee Stadium before an opening day baseball game against the Toronto Blue Jays, Thursday, April 1, 2021, in the Bronx borough of New York. Fans are back at the ballpark in limited numbers after they were shut out completely during the regular season last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.(AP Photo/John Minchillo)

The U.S. moved closer Thursday toward vaccinating 100 million Americans in a race against an uptick in COVID-19 cases that is fueling fears of another nationwide surge just as the major league baseball season starts and thousands of fans return to stadiums.

More than 99 million people have received at least one dose of the vaccine, and more than 56 million people — 17% of the nation’s population — have been fully vaccinated, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A total of 154 million vaccines had been administered as of Thursday. President Joe Biden’s new goal is to give 200 million vaccine doses during his first 100 days in office.

But coronavirus infections are inching up again, and officials have warned that they could ban fans from ballparks if the numbers continue to rise. Even before the baseball season got underway, an opening game was postponed after a player tested positive for the coronavirus.

Read the story here.

—By Olga R. Rodriguez, The Associated Press

1:00 pm

US jobless claims rise to 719,000 as virus still forces layoffs

WASHINGTON (AP) — The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits rose by 61,000 last week to 719,000, signaling that many employers are still cutting jobs even as more businesses reopen, vaccines are increasingly administered and federal aid spreads through the economy.

The Labor Department said Thursday that the number of claims increased from 658,000 the week before. Though the pace of applications has dropped sharply since early this year, they remain high by historical standards: Before the pandemic flattened the economy a year ago, jobless claims typically ran below 220,000 a week.

Still, the four-week average of claims, which smooths out week-to-week gyrations, fell by 10,500 to 719,000 — the fewest since mid-March 2020, just before the pandemic began to cause widespread layoffs.

All told, 3.8 million people were collecting traditional state benefits during the week ending March 20. If you include federal programs that are meant to help the unemployed through the health crisis, 18.2 million people were receiving some type of jobless aid in the week that ended March 13. That’s down from 19.7 million in the previous week.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

12:27 pm

Ontario imposes provincewide restrictions amid third wave

TORONTO (AP) — The leader of Canada’s most populous province announced Thursday what he calls a provincewide shutdown for four weeks because of a third surge of coronavirus infections fueled by more contagious virus variants.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford said they are fighting a new pandemic with the variants and said the virus is spreading faster. The measures ban indoor public events and gatherings except for retail and grocery stores. Schools will also remain open.

There will be a 25% capacity limit in retail stores and 50% in supermarkets.

Hair salons will be closed and there will be no indoor or patio dining.

“We’re now fighting a new enemy. The new variants are far more dangerous than before. They spread faster and they do more harm than the virus we were fighting last year. Young people are ending up in hospital,” Ford said.

Ontario is reporting more than 2,500 new cases on Thursday and record numbers in intensive care this week.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

12:18 pm

McConnell urges fellow Republicans to get COVID-19 vaccines

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell urged his fellow Republicans to be vaccinated against COVID-19 during a visit to a western Kentucky hospital Thursday.

“As a Republican man, I wasn’t reluctant to get it when I was eligible and I would encourage everybody to do that,” he said. “The sooner we can get to 75%, to herd immunity, and get our economy up and open, the better.”

Flanked by Owensboro Health Regional Hospital administrators, the senator also discussed COVID-19 relief and the state’s vaccine distribution.

While the supply of vaccines has increased significantly since the end of last year, some public health experts have expressed concern that some Americans may be less likely to sign up for a shot because of their political beliefs.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

11:56 am

Poll: US economic outlook rises after relief law

WASHINGTON (AP) — Views of the nation’s economy are the rosiest they’ve been since the pandemic began more than a year ago, buoyed by Democrats feeling increasingly optimistic as President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion relief package is distributed across the country.

A new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs finds 46% of Americans overall now view the economy as good, up from the 37% who felt that way last month. Views of the economy had tanked at the onset of the pandemic in April last year, when 29% said it was in good shape.

Fifty-eight percent of Democrats now describe economic conditions as good, compared with 35% of Republicans. Democratic sentiments about the economy improved after Biden replaced Donald Trump in the White House, with optimism increasing even further after he signed his landmark relief package into law.

Just 15% of Democrats felt positive about the economy in December, but 41% did in February. Among Republicans, positive views plummeted from 67% in December to 35% by February.

Americans might yearn for cooperation between Republicans and Democrats, but they also acknowledge the persistent divide as the economy has begun to heal from the coronavirus.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

11:20 am

Belgium police clash with partiers amid virus restrictions

BRUSSELS (AP) — Belgian police clashed with a large crowd Thursday in one of Brussels’ biggest parks after thousands of revellers gathered for an unauthorized event despite coronavirus restrictions.

Brussels police told The Associated Press that four people were arrested and three police officers were injured. Clashes started after police ordered the crowd to disperse toward the end of the afternoon. An AP reporter saw people throwing bottles and other projectiles at police, who used water cannons and tear gas to disperse the crowd.

The festival, dubbed “La Boum” (“the party”), had been advertised on social media and police had warned it was a fake event on April Fool’s Day. According to Brussels police, up to 2,000 people still showed up in the Bois de la Cambre to attend.

Belgium has reported over 882,000 confirmed coronavirus cases and more than 23,000 virus-related deaths. Hospitalizations due to COVID-19 have risen in recent weeks and health authorities have warned that intensive care units could reach a critical level by April 10 if the pace of new infections and hospitalizations does not slow down.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

10:48 am

Hospital workers despair as France’s virus strategy flails

A medical worker moves a patient affected with the COVID-19 in the Amiens Picardie hospital Tuesday, March 30, 2021 in Amiens, 160 km (100 miles) north of Paris. France is now facing a deadly new surge of the virus that is overwhelming many hospitals, as critics accuse the government of ignoring warning signs and favoring political concerns over public health. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)

A medical worker moves a patient affected with the COVID-19 in the Amiens Picardie hospital Tuesday, March 30, 2021 in Amiens, 160 km (100 miles) north of Paris. France is now facing a deadly new surge of the virus that is overwhelming many hospitals, as critics accuse the government of ignoring warning signs and favoring political concerns over public health. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)

AMIENS, France (AP) — As France battles a new virus surge that many believe was avoidable, intensive care aide Stephanie Sannier manages her stress and sorrow by climbing into her car after a 12-hour shift, blasting music and singing as loud as she can.

“It allows me to breathe,” she says, “and to cry.”

People with COVID-19 occupy all the beds in her ICU ward in President Emmanuel Macron’s hometown hospital in the medieval northern city of Amiens. Three have died in the past three days. The vast medical complex is turning away critically ill patients from smaller towns nearby for lack of space.

With France now Europe’s latest virus danger zone, Macron on Wednesday ordered temporary school closures nationwide and new travel restrictions. But he resisted calls for a strict lockdown, instead sticking to his “third way” strategy that seeks a route between freedom and confinement to keep both infections and a restless populace under control until mass vaccinations take over.

The French government refuses to acknowledge failure, and blames delayed vaccine deliveries and a disobedient public for soaring infections and saturated hospitals. Macron’s critics, in turn, blame arrogance at the highest levels. They say France’s leaders ignored warning signs and favored political and economic calculations over public health — and lives.

Read the story here.

—By Angela Charlton, The Associated Press

10:26 am

WHO: Europe’s vaccination program is “unacceptably slow”

LONDON (AP) — European nations’ immunization campaigns against COVID-19 are “unacceptably slow” and risk prolonging the pandemic, a senior World Health Organization official said Thursday.

Dr. Hans Kluge, WHO’s regional director for Europe, said vaccines “present our best way out of this pandemic,” but noted that to date, only 10% of Europe’s population has received one dose and that only 4% have been fully protected with two doses.

Even those numbers hide the true scope of the problems facing the European Union’s 27 nations, where only about 5.6% of its people have had a first vaccine shot, according to the bloc. In Britain, that figure is 46% of its population.

Kluge warned European governments against having “a false sense of security” for having started their immunization campaigns. He noted that Europe remains the second-most affected region in the world in terms of new coronavirus infections and deaths.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

9:25 am

US allows 2 more over-the-counter COVID-19 home tests

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. health officials have authorized two more over-the-counter COVID-19 tests that can be used at home to get rapid results.

The move by the Food and Drug Administration is expected to vastly expand the availability of cheap home tests that many experts have advocated since the early days of the outbreak. The announcement late Wednesday comes as U.S. testing numbers continue to slide, even as the number of new coronavirus infections is rising again.

The FDA said Abbott’s BinaxNow and Quidel’s QuickVue tests can now be sold without a prescription. Both tests were first OK’d last year but came with conditions that limited their use, including prescription requirements and instructions that they only be used in people with symptoms.

The home tests allow users to collect a sample themselves with a nasal swab that is then inserted into a test strip. Results are usually available in 10 to 20 minutes. Most other COVID-19 tests require a swab sample taken by a health worker at a testing location.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

8:41 am

Pandemic raises risk for pregnant women and their babies

A pregnant woman waits in line for groceries with others in need due to the COVID-19 virus outbreak, at St. Mary’s Church in Waltham, Mass., last year. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa, file)

A pregnant woman waits in line for groceries with others in need due to the COVID-19 virus outbreak, at St. Mary’s Church in Waltham, Mass., last year. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa, file)

Pregnant women and their babies are suffering worse outcomes during the COVID-19 pandemic, and researchers are sounding the alarm for immediate action to avoid rolling back decades of global investment in safe maternity care.

Data from an analysis of 40 studies published during the last year across 17 countries found rates of stillbirth and maternal mortality increased by a third. Outcomes were worse in low- and middle-income countries, according to a report Wednesday in The Lancet medical journal.

The increases may be driven by the pressure COVID-19 put on health systems rather than measures aimed at limiting the spread of the virus, such as lockdowns, the researchers said. Studies from individual countries suggested pregnant woman reduced their care-seeking because of the fear of infection, as well as reduced provision of maternity services.

Read the story here.

—By Jill R. Shah, Bloomberg

8:01 am

Groups rush to get Florida farmworkers vaccinated

In this March 24, 2021 photo, farmworkers load a truck with tomatoes harvested at a farm in Delray Beach, Fla. Many U.S. health centers that serve agricultural workers across the nation are receiving COVID-19 vaccine directly from the federal government in a program created by the Biden administration. But in some states, farmworkers are not yet in the priority groups authorized to receive the shots. (AP Photo/Cody Jackson)

In this March 24, 2021 photo, farmworkers load a truck with tomatoes harvested at a farm in Delray Beach, Fla. Many U.S. health centers that serve agricultural workers across the nation are receiving COVID-19 vaccine directly from the federal government in a program created by the Biden administration. But in some states, farmworkers are not yet in the priority groups authorized to receive the shots. (AP Photo/Cody Jackson)

MIAMI (AP) — It’s a race against time for nonprofits, organizations and officials who are trying to vaccinate thousands of farmworkers who were denied priority access in Florida but now have to travel north to harvest crops in other regions.

Farmworker advocates are asking officials to quickly mobilize to areas such as Homestead, south of Miami, and Immokalee, east of Naples, and to be more lenient when requiring proof of residency now that the state has lowered the vaccine eligibility age. They say many farmworkers are in the country illegally and don’t have a driver’s license or other documents required as an alternative.

Top officials with Miami-Dade County told activists and farmworkers Wednesday at a virtual roundtable on vaccine distribution not to worry about the documents and focus instead on outreach and gathering groups of farmworkers ready to get the shot.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

7:30 am

India fights virus surge, steps up jabs amid export row

FILE- In this Monday, March 1, 2021, file photo, a health worker displays a COVISHIELD vaccine before administering it to an elderly person in Gauhati, India. Experts say there is a pressing need for India to bolster vaccination, which started sluggishly in January. The country is expanding its drive to include everyone over 45 from Thursday, April 1. Spotlight on Serum Institute of India – the world’s largest maker of vaccines and key global supplier – to cater to cases at home has resulted in delays of global shipments of up to 90 million doses under the U.N.-backed COVAX program, an initiative devised to give countries access to vaccines regardless of their wealth. (AP Photo/Anupam Nath, file)

FILE- In this Monday, March 1, 2021, file photo, a health worker displays a COVISHIELD vaccine before administering it to an elderly person in Gauhati, India. Experts say there is a pressing need for India to bolster vaccination, which started sluggishly in January. The country is expanding its drive to include everyone over 45 from Thursday, April 1. Spotlight on Serum Institute of India – the world’s largest maker of vaccines and key global supplier – to cater to cases at home has resulted in delays of global shipments of up to 90 million doses under the U.N.-backed COVAX program, an initiative devised to give countries access to vaccines regardless of their wealth. (AP Photo/Anupam Nath, file)

NEW DELHI (AP) — There isn’t any room at Sion Hospital in India’s megacity, Mumbai – approximately all 500 beds reserved for COVID-19 patients are occupied. And with new patients coming in daily, a doctor said the hospital is being forced to add beds every second day.

Waiting lists in some hospitals in the city are so unreasonable that “numbers can’t define the burden on hospitals,” said Dr. Om Shrivastava, an infectious diseases expert.

Scenes like this were common last year, when India looked set to become the worst affected country with daily cases nearly crossing 100,000. For several months, infections had receded, baffling experts, then since February, cases have climbed faster than before with a seven-day rolling average of 59,000. On Thursday, India reported more than 72,000 cases, its highest spike in six months.

Experts say there is a pressing need for India to bolster vaccinations, which started sluggishly in January. The country is expanding its drive to include everyone over 45 years from Thursday.

India has exported more vaccines, 64 million doses, than it has administered its own population at 62 million doses, official data showed.

But scaling up vaccinations in India has implications beyond its borders. Spotlight on Serum Institute of India – the world’s largest maker of vaccines and key global supplier – to cater to cases at home has resulted in delays of global shipments of up to 90 million doses under the U.N.-backed COVAX program, an initiative devised to give countries access to vaccines regardless of their wealth. Serum Institute declined to comment.

This could have negative consequences worldwide, setting back supplies in developing countries reliant on Indian exports. But some health experts argue that India’s rising caseload is a global public health problem too.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

7:11 am

Russia unveils world’s first coronavirus vaccine for dogs, cats and other animals

Russia has registered the world’s first coronavirus vaccine for dogs, cats, minks, foxes and other animals, the country’s agriculture safety watchdog said Wednesday.

Called Carnivak-Cov, the vaccine was developed by scientists at the Federal Service for Veterinary and Phytosanitary Surveillance, also known as Rosselkhoznadzor, Russia’s Tass News Agency said.

While many scientists say the virus causing COVID-19 initially jumped from bats to humans, perhaps through another intermediary, infections have since been reported worldwide in animals, from zoos to mink farms.

It remains unclear how easily the virus can move between animals and humans. But after repeated outbreaks among minks at farms in Denmark and elsewhere in Europe, millions of the furry animals were killed precautionarily to cut any further transmission. Scientists have been particularly worried about mutated variants of the virus developing in minks and other animals going on to infect humans.

Russia has already approved three coronavirus vaccines for use in humans on an emergency basis. Rosselkhoznadzor deputy head Konstantin Savenkov said Wednesday that this would be the world’s first authorized for widespread animal inoculations.

The vaccine could be mass produced as soon as April, although the agency did not say when it would be on the market.

Read the story here.

—The Washington Post

7:05 am

Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine batch fails quality check

A batch of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine failed quality standards and can’t be used, the drug giant said Wednesday.

The drugmaker didn’t say how many doses were lost, and it wasn’t clear how the problem would impact future deliveries.

A vaccine ingredient made by Emergent BioSolutions — one of about 10 companies that Johnson & Johnson is using to speed up manufacturing of its recently approved vaccine — did not meet quality standards, J&J said.

J&J said the Emergent BioSolutions factory involved had not yet been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to make part of the vaccine. Emergent declined to comment.

J&J had pledged to provide 20 million doses of its vaccine to the U.S. government by the end of March, and 80 million more doses by the end of May. Its statement on the manufacturing problem said it was still planning to deliver 100 million doses by the end of June and was “aiming to deliver those doses by the end of May.”

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

7:02 am

Biden launches community corps to boost COVID vaccinations

WASHINGTON (AP) — Seeking to overcome vaccine hesitancy, the Biden administration is unveiling a coalition of community, religious and celebrity partners to promote COVID-19 shots.

The Department of Health and Human Services’ “We Can Do This” campaign features television and social media ads, but it also relies on a community corps of public health, athletic, faith and other groups to spread the word about the safety and efficacy of the three approved vaccines. The campaign comes amid worries that reluctance to get vaccinated will delay the nation’s recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

Vice President Kamala Harris and Surgeon General Vivek Murthy will meet with the more than 275 inaugural members of the community corps on Thursday to kick off the effort.

The focus on trusted validators stems from both internal and public surveys showing those skeptical of the vaccines are most likely to be swayed by local, community and medical encouragement to get vaccinated, rather than messages from politicians.

The coalition includes health groups like the American Medical Association and the National Council of Urban Indian Health, sports leagues like the NFL and MLB, rural groups, unions and Latino, Black, Asian-American Pacific Islander and Native American organizations as well as coalitions of faith, business and veterans leaders.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

6:59 am

Madrid slows down vaccine jabs over Easter despite govt plea

People wearing face masks to protect against the spread of coronavirus walk in downtown Madrid, Spain, Wednesday, March 31, 2021. Spain is bracing for another potential sharp increase in coronavirus cases. And with the vaccine rollout being outpaced by the new more contagious variant of the virus, authorities are asking for citizens to intensify their precautions to “buy time” for the shots to arrive. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)

People wearing face masks to protect against the spread of coronavirus walk in downtown Madrid, Spain, Wednesday, March 31, 2021. Spain is bracing for another potential sharp increase in coronavirus cases. And with the vaccine rollout being outpaced by the new more contagious variant of the virus, authorities are asking for citizens to intensify their precautions to “buy time” for the shots to arrive. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)

MADRID (AP) — Spain’s Madrid region halted COVID-19 vaccinations Thursday at health centers for four days so medical staff can rest over the Easter holiday, despite pleas from the national government not to halt the fight against surging infections.

The shutdown came as the country scrambles to make up for lost time in its national vaccination plan due to supply shortfalls.

Health Minister Carolina Darias last week urged regional authorities to keep vaccinating over the Easter break, saying it was “very important” to keep up the inoculation program. Spain, like other European Union nations, has had a surprisingly slow vaccine rollout that authorities blame on vaccine shortages.

In response to criticism from political opponents, which came about a month before a regional election, the Madrid regional government said its health centers stepped up vaccinations earlier this week to compensate for the closures.

It also noted that vaccine shots will still be administered at a city hospital and a city soccer stadium over the traditional Easter break.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

6:51 am

Pope opens final Holy Week services, skips Last Supper rite

Cardinals attend a Chrism Mass celebrated by Pope Francis inside St. Peter’s Basilica, at the Vatican, Thursday, April 1, 2021. During the Mass the Pontiff blesses a token amount of oil that will be used to administer the sacraments for the year. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini, pool)

Cardinals attend a Chrism Mass celebrated by Pope Francis inside St. Peter’s Basilica, at the Vatican, Thursday, April 1, 2021. During the Mass the Pontiff blesses a token amount of oil that will be used to administer the sacraments for the year. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini, pool)

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis opened the solemn final days of Holy Week with a morning Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica but planned to skip the traditional Thursday afternoon service that commemorates Jesus’ Last Supper with his apostles.

The Vatican didn’t explain why the dean of the College of Cardinals, Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, would preside instead over the Vatican’s main Holy Thursday afternoon service.

Francis, who is 84 and suffers frequent bouts of sciatica nerve pain, may have opted to delegate the service given his busy liturgical schedule over the coming days that culminates with Easter Sunday Mass. In other years, Francis traveled to a prison or refugee center for the Holy Thursday service, which usually involves a foot-washing ritual that is meant to symbolize Jesus’ willingness to serve.

For the second year in a row, the foot-washing ceremony was canceled due to coronavirus health restrictions. And all the Vatican’s Holy Week events were being celebrated before limited numbers of masked faithful to respect COVID-19 health and social distancing norms.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

6:46 am

World trade body chief says vaccine inequity ‘unacceptable’

GENEVA (AP) — The head of the World Trade Organization called Thursday for expanded capability in developing countries to manufacture vaccines, saying the gaping imbalance in access to coronavirus vaccines that mostly favors rich, developed countries was unacceptable.

WTO Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said she supports the creation of a framework that would give developing countries “some automaticity and access to manufacture vaccines with technology transfer” during future pandemics, decrying the “vaccine inequity” of the current one.

“The idea that 70% of vaccines today have been administered only by 10 countries is really not acceptable,” Okonjo-Iweala told reporters while hosting French Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire at WTO’s Geneva headquarters.

Scores of the trade body’s member nations have backed efforts led by South Africa and India to get the WTO to grant a temporary waiver of its intellectual property pact to help boost COVID-19 vaccine production at a time of insufficient supplies.

Some wealthier countries and those with strong pharmaceutical industries oppose the idea, saying it would crimp future innovation.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

5:53 am

Catch up on the past 24 hours

All Washington adults will be eligible for vaccines starting April 15, Gov. Jay Inslee announced yesterday. That doesn’t mean everyone will score a shot right away, of course, but here’s the hoped-for timeline. To help meet demand, Seattle has opened a new vaccine site (this map shows all four). A few more helpful resources: our guide to getting your vaccine, a quick visual look at who’s eligible when, and advice on managing the side effects. 

So … why this has taken longer than in other states? As vaccine envy grows, Washington is still one of the best states in the country at one piece of the vaccination process. The vaccine leader here, who’s been working 18-hour days, is talking about what the state is doing to ease frustration.

The Seattle area is tops in the nation for people who are itching to get vaccinated. FYI Guy looks into how attitudes have changed here, and why. Many health care workers still seem reluctant to get shots, though. If you’re one of them, we’d like to hear from you.

Yes, you could still spread the virus after vaccination. Virus specialists are explaining why “we still have to be cautious.”

When will kids get vaccines? That day, crucial for ending the pandemic, is coming closer as the youngest Americans bear some of COVID-19’s heaviest burdens.

—Kris Higginson


Seattle Times staff & news services