Live: Coronavirus daily news updates, February 18: What to know today about COVID-19 in the Seattle area, Washington state and the world

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Live: Coronavirus daily news updates, February 18: What to know today about COVID-19 in the Seattle area, Washington state and the world

President Joe Biden on Tuesday offered reassurance to Americans about the availability of the coronavirus vaccines and optimism that his $1.9 trillion relief bill would restore the U.S. economy.

Meanwhile, U.S. diplomats serving in countries with poor medical infrastructure and high virus infection rates are venting frustrations about the way top federal officials are distributing the vaccines.

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.

Dutch opposition lawmakers back new coronavirus curfew law

Key Dutch opposition parties expressed support Thursday for hastily drawn-up legislation underpinning the Netherlands’ coronavirus curfew after a judge ordered the measure scrapped earlier this week.

The lower house of parliament is expected to approve the legislation in a vote later Thursday. That will send the bill to the senate on Friday — the same day that government lawyers go to court to appeal the order banning the 9 p.m.-to-4:30 a.m. curfew.

In this grab taken from video on Monday, Jan, 25, 2021, people use their phones to film items burning on a fire started by rioters, in Haarlem, Netherlands. Groups of youths confronted police in several Dutch cities defying the country’s coronavirus curfew and throwing fireworks.  (Mizzle Media via AP)

In this grab taken from video on Monday, Jan, 25, 2021, people use their phones to film items burning on a fire started by rioters, in Haarlem, Netherlands. Groups of youths confronted police in several Dutch cities defying the country’s coronavirus curfew and throwing fireworks. (Mizzle Media via AP)

The curfew, which sparked rioting last month but is very broadly supported and followed, remains in force pending the outcome of the government’s appeal.

A judge in The Hague banned the curfew, saying the law the government used when it introduced the measure last month can only be wielded in pressing emergencies such as a massive dike breach.

Read the story here.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

1:25 pm

China defends use of Twitter, Facebook in virus campaign

FILE – In this Sept. 1, 2020 file photo, a smartphone records Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying as she speaks during a daily briefing at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing. “I’d like to stress that if the United States truly respects facts, it should open the biological lab at Fort Detrick, give more transparency to issues like its 200-plus overseas bio-labs, invite WHO experts to conduct origin-tracing in the United States,” she said at a January 2021 MOFA press conference that went viral in China. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

FILE – In this Sept. 1, 2020 file photo, a smartphone records Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying as she speaks during a daily briefing at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing. “I’d like to stress that if the United States truly respects facts, it should open the biological lab at Fort Detrick, give more transparency to issues like its 200-plus overseas bio-labs, invite WHO experts to conduct origin-tracing in the United States,” she said at a January 2021 MOFA press conference that went viral in China. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

The Chinese government defended its use of Twitter and Facebook on Thursday, following a report that it had used its growing social media presence to spread disinformation about the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic.

An Associated Press investigation, conducted in collaboration with the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab, found that powerful political figures and allied media in China as well as the U.S., Russia and Iran flooded the globe with disinformation about the virus.

The report, published earlier this week, said that Chinese officials went on the offensive in reaction to a narrative — nursed by former U.S. President Donald Trump among others — that the virus had been manufactured by China. Experts have largely ruled out that possibility.

China’s response, though, was to start spreading rumors that the virus had been created by a U.S. military lab and released during an international competition for military athletes in Wuhan, the Chinese city where the new coronavirus was first detected in late 2019.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

12:42 pm

Massive storms, outages force tough decisions amid pandemic

FILE – In this Feb. 17, 2021, file photo, Joecyah Heath, left, Morning Day, center, and Jenesis Heath rest in recliners at a Gallery Furniture store which opened as a shelter in Houston. Making decisions about risks — large or small — in the pandemic era is fraught enough. But the storms and outages ravaging Texas and other states have added a whole new layer to the process. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip, File)

FILE – In this Feb. 17, 2021, file photo, Joecyah Heath, left, Morning Day, center, and Jenesis Heath rest in recliners at a Gallery Furniture store which opened as a shelter in Houston. Making decisions about risks — large or small — in the pandemic era is fraught enough. But the storms and outages ravaging Texas and other states have added a whole new layer to the process. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip, File)

 Ashley Archer, a pregnant, 33-year-old Texas financial adviser, and her husband have been cautious about the coronavirus. They work from home, go out mostly just to get groceries and wear masks whenever they are in public.

But when a friend lost power amid the winter storms that have left millions of Texans without heat in freezing temperatures, the couple had to make a decision: Should they take on additional risk to help someone in need?

Archer said they didn’t hesitate. They took her husband’s best friend into their suburban Dallas home.

“He’s like family,” she said. “We weren’t going to let him freeze at his place. We figured, ‘OK, we’re willing to accept a little bit of risk because you’re not in our little pandemic group.’”

Weighing the risks in the pandemic era is fraught enough. But the storms and outages that have hit a big swath of the U.S. over the past several days have added a whole new layer of complexity.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

12:10 pm

DIY education: Greek teacher creates TV classes for inmates

An inmate checks a photo before taking online exams for his university exams photography and audiovisual arts course, at Avlona’s prison school, north of Athens, Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2021. With Greece’s schools shut due to the pandemic, all lessons have gone online. But the online world isn’t within reach of everyone _ and particularly not within reach of the students of Avlona Special Youth Detention Center, where internet devices are banned by law from the cells. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

An inmate checks a photo before taking online exams for his university exams photography and audiovisual arts course, at Avlona’s prison school, north of Athens, Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2021. With Greece’s schools shut due to the pandemic, all lessons have gone online. But the online world isn’t within reach of everyone _ and particularly not within reach of the students of Avlona Special Youth Detention Center, where internet devices are banned by law from the cells. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

Setting up a television channel from scratch isn’t the most obvious or easiest thing for a math teacher to do — especially without prior technical knowledge and for use inside a prison.

But that is exactly the task Petros Damianos, director of the school at Greece’s Avlona Special Youth Detention Center, took on so his students could access the lessons that coronavirus lockdowns cut them off from.

The detention center holds nearly 300 young men and the school Damianos founded there follows the national curriculum and awards graduation certificates equivalent to any Greek school or college. But with internet devices banned in their cells, the prison’s students had no way to continue learning when the coronavirus lockdowns canceled classroom lessons.

Desperate for a solution, Damianos had an idea: he could reach his students through the televisions in their cells if he could figure out how to create a dedicated TV channel to broadcast their classes.

“I very quickly realized — and this is the magic of it, too — that this whole thing is essentially DIY,” Karadosidis said. “Do it yourself, with whatever materials you have, with whatever tools you have, to try to do the best you can.”

Read the story here.

—Elena Becatoros, The Associated Press

11:24 am

Answers to working parents’ questions about workplace rights during the pandemic

(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

The phone line pings with heartbreaking stories:

An employee whose boss told him that he would be fired if his child ever appeared on Zoom.

A mother whose crippling anxiety may qualify her for disability accommodations but who has no idea how to file for benefits.

A working parent, having trouble managing her workload, who was told by her supervisor that she should “just find a babysitter.”

These scenarios come in daily to the Center for WorkLife Law, an advocacy group for working parents that is operated out of the University of California Hastings College of Law. Since April, the group — staffed by four lawyers and a handful of law students — has been operating the free legal advice help line around the clock, advising frazzled callers on how to protect their jobs and seek backup help for their families during the COVID-19 crisis.

Read the story here.

—Jancee Dunn, The New York Times

11:12 am

Uber, Lyft rerouted for post-pandemic profitability

Uber and Lyft are taking different routes around the roadblock the virus pandemic dropped on their paths to profitability.

A passer-by walks past a sign offering directions to an Uber and Lyft ride pickup location at Logan International Airport, in Boston, Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2021. Uber and Lyft are taking different routes around the roadblock the virus pandemic dropped on their paths to profitability. The companies have racked up tens of billions of dollars in losses since starting up, and the slump in passenger activity has pushed profitability ever further off into the future.  (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

A passer-by walks past a sign offering directions to an Uber and Lyft ride pickup location at Logan International Airport, in Boston, Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2021. Uber and Lyft are taking different routes around the roadblock the virus pandemic dropped on their paths to profitability. The companies have racked up tens of billions of dollars in losses since starting up, and the slump in passenger activity has pushed profitability ever further off into the future. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

The companies have racked up tens of billions of dollars in losses since starting up, and the slump in passenger activity has pushed profitability ever further off into the future. A mix of cost-cutting and shifting the focus from moving people to delivering food has helped them weather the downturn, while raising investors’ confidence that each could finally make a profit before 2021 ends.

Uber has been the more proactive of the two, expanding its food delivery business heartily. Although it lost nearly $1 billion last quarter, that was Uber’s smallest loss since going public in May of 2019. Meanwhile, rival app Lyft posted a loss of $458.2 million during the same period.

Read the story here.  

—The Associated Press

10:30 am

Italy’s COVID anniversary commemoration nixed by new variant

A Carabinieri officer patrols one of the main access road to Bollate, in the outskirt of Milan, Italy, Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021. Four cities in Lombardy region, including one in the province of Brescia, have been placed under the strictest “red zone” lockdown measures following spikes of infections traced to the highly contagious British variant. Other red zones have been imposed in cities in the central Italian regions of Umbria, Tuscany, Abruzzo and Lazio, sparking calls for another nationwide lockdown from hospital doctors who are once again seeing their ICU beds fill up.  (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

A Carabinieri officer patrols one of the main access road to Bollate, in the outskirt of Milan, Italy, Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021. Four cities in Lombardy region, including one in the province of Brescia, have been placed under the strictest “red zone” lockdown measures following spikes of infections traced to the highly contagious British variant. Other red zones have been imposed in cities in the central Italian regions of Umbria, Tuscany, Abruzzo and Lazio, sparking calls for another nationwide lockdown from hospital doctors who are once again seeing their ICU beds fill up. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

One of this weekend’s main events commemorating the anniversary of the start of Italy’s COVID-19 outbreak was canceled Thursday after a cluster of new infections traced to the British variant forced localized lockdowns in hardest-hit Lombardy and around the country.

Brescia’s public hospital, overwhelmed during the initial outbreak last year, had planned a daylong conference on lessons learned, but the hospital announced it was postponing the event after “considering the rapid evolution of the epidemiological situation.”

Italy’s Superior Institute of Health reported last week that the British variant represented some 18% of all new infections, but predicted that the number would rise quickly as the variant spread.

Read the story here.

—Nicole Winfield, The Associated Press

10:10 am

Palestinian president’s rival promises vaccines for Gaza

Hamas police officers guard a truck containing a shipment of Russian Sputnik V coronavirus vaccines at the Kerem Shalom border crossing, in Rafah, Gaza Strip, Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2021. The Palestinian Authority said Wednesday that it dispatched the first shipment of coronavirus vaccines to the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, two days after accusing Israel of preventing it from sending the doses amid objections from some Israeli lawmakers. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)

Hamas police officers guard a truck containing a shipment of Russian Sputnik V coronavirus vaccines at the Kerem Shalom border crossing, in Rafah, Gaza Strip, Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2021. The Palestinian Authority said Wednesday that it dispatched the first shipment of coronavirus vaccines to the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, two days after accusing Israel of preventing it from sending the doses amid objections from some Israeli lawmakers. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)

The United Arab Emirates is sending 20,000 doses of the Russian coronavirus vaccine to the Gaza Strip, a rival to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas announced Thursday, in a decision that could have repercussions for upcoming elections.

The announcement by Mohammed Dahlan came a day after Abbas’ government managed to deliver 2,000 vaccines to Gaza and appeared to be aimed in part at embarrassing the Palestinian president.

Dahlan, a former senior member of Abbas’ Fatah party, has lived in exile in Abu Dhabi since falling out with the Palestinian president in 2011.

Read the story here.

—Fares Akram, The Associated Press

9:35 am

Experts warn against COVID-19 variants as states reopen

As states lift mask rules and ease restrictions on restaurants and other businesses because of falling case numbers, public health officials say authorities are overlooking potentially more dangerous COVID-19 variants that are quietly spreading through the U.S.

Over the past two weeks, the daily averages for both coronavirus cases and deaths have dropped by about half in the U.S., according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

But experts including Dr. Anthony Fauci and CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky say the downward trend could reverse itself if new variants take hold.

A more contagious and possibly more deadly variant that was first identified in Britain has been found in at least 42 states. The South Africa one is especially worrisome because of evidence it may diminish the effectiveness of the vaccines.

Read the story here.

—Marion Renault, The Associated Press

9:12 am

Anti-vax at the Vatican? You might lose your job

FILE – In this Sunday, Jan. 31, 2021 file photo, people are reflected on a puddle as they walk in St. Peter’s Square, at the Vatican. The Vatican is taking Pope Francis’ pro-vaccine stance very seriously: Any Vatican employee who refuses to get a coronavirus shot without valid medical reason risks being fired.
A Feb. 8 decree signed by the governor of the Vatican City State sparked heated debate Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021 since its provisions go well beyond the generally voluntary nature of COVID-19 vaccinations in Italy and much of the rest of the world. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino, File)

FILE – In this Sunday, Jan. 31, 2021 file photo, people are reflected on a puddle as they walk in St. Peter’s Square, at the Vatican. The Vatican is taking Pope Francis’ pro-vaccine stance very seriously: Any Vatican employee who refuses to get a coronavirus shot without valid medical reason risks being fired.
A Feb. 8 decree signed by the governor of the Vatican City State sparked heated debate Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021 since its provisions go well beyond the generally voluntary nature of COVID-19 vaccinations in Italy and much of the rest of the world. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino, File)

The Vatican is taking Pope Francis’ pro-vaccine stance very seriously: Any Vatican employee who refuses to get a coronavirus shot without a valid medical reason risks being fired.

A Feb. 8 decree signed by the governor of the Vatican city-state says that employees who opt out of vaccination without a proven medical reason could be subject to sanctions up to and including “the interruption of the relationship of employment.”

The decree sparked heated debate Thursday, since its provisions go well beyond the generally voluntary nature of COVID-19 vaccinations in Italy and much of the rest of the world. The Vatican is an absolute monarchy in the heart of Rome that operates independently of Italian law and Italian labor protections.

Read the story here.

—Nicole Winfield, The Associated Press

8:35 am

Zimbabwe starts administering China’s Sinopharm vaccines

Zimbabwean Deputy President Constatino Chiwenga, reacts after getting a shot of China’s Sinopharm vaccine, at local hospital in Harare, Thursday, Feb, 18, 2021. Chiwenga become the first person in the country to receive the jab, marking the first phase of the country’s vaccination campaign.(AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)

Zimbabwean Deputy President Constatino Chiwenga, reacts after getting a shot of China’s Sinopharm vaccine, at local hospital in Harare, Thursday, Feb, 18, 2021. Chiwenga become the first person in the country to receive the jab, marking the first phase of the country’s vaccination campaign.(AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)

Vaccination campaigns are just beginning to be launched across Africa, with jabs being given in just a handful of the continent’s 54 countries.

On Thursday, Zimbabwe started giving COVID-19 vaccinations with Vice President Constantino Chiwenga volunteering for the first jab at a hospital in the capital, Harare.

Zimbabwe received 200,000 doses of Sinopharm on Monday as a donation from China’s government. South Africa, which has approximately 40% of all confirmed infections in Africa, began its vaccination campaign Wednesday using the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Africa has a total population of 1.3 billion people and more than 3.7 million confirmed cases of COVID-19, although that’s believed to be an undercount.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

7:47 am

Pandemic spurs art of the reverse knit

It started with a simple sweater. After Harry Styles wore a color-block patchwork cardigan for a “Today” show rehearsal last February, knitters went into a kind of frenzy trying to reverse-engineer the pattern.

So many TikTok and YouTube users shared their process using the hashtag #harrystylescardigan — racking up tens of millions of views — that the creator of the original cardigan, Jonathan Anderson of the brand JW Anderson, released an official pattern and tutorial video.

Knitters and crocheters have always been a resourceful bunch. But the reverse-engineer-knitting craze unfolding on social media owes much to the current moment.

“Crafts bloom when people are stuck at home,” said Abby Glassenberg, president and co-founder of Craft Industry Alliance.

Read the story here.

—Hannah Wise, The New York Times

7:21 am

Exposed to COVID-19 after vaccination? Meet these 3 criteria and you won’t have to quarantine

What happens if you’re vaccinated and then exposed to COVID-19?

FILE – In this Friday, Jan. 8, 2021 file photo, people wearing protective masks to help curb the spread of the coronavirus walk along pedestrian crossings in the Ginza shipping area of Tokyo. Health officials around the world are racing to vaccinate enough people to stop the spread of COVID-19 — but what qualifies as enough is still an open question. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)

FILE – In this Friday, Jan. 8, 2021 file photo, people wearing protective masks to help curb the spread of the coronavirus walk along pedestrian crossings in the Ginza shipping area of Tokyo. Health officials around the world are racing to vaccinate enough people to stop the spread of COVID-19 — but what qualifies as enough is still an open question. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)

In new guidance, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that once you’re fully vaccinated, you don’t need to quarantine if you’re exposed to someone with COVID-19, as long as you meet certain qualifications.

  • It’s been at least two weeks since you received your second vaccine dose
  • It’s been less than three months since you received your second vaccine dose, and
  • You haven’t experienced any symptoms since your COVID-19 exposure

You must meet all three to forgo a quarantine, according to the CDC.

Read the story here.

—Grace Dickinson, The Philadelphia Inquirer

7:02 am

Working remotely? Some cities, states will pay you to move in

As the coronavirus pandemic spurs a migration of skilled workers out of pricey metro areas, a growing number of cities and states are recruiting new homeowners and even renters the old-fashioned way — by bribing them.

Baltimore, Topeka and Tulsa are among the places paying bounties of up to $15,000 to lure remote workers to town.

Video game designer Tyler Jaggers is one taker. He lived in Silicon Valley for years but feared homeownership was far out of his reach where the typical home fetches more than $1 million.

As the coronavirus pandemic raged and wildfire smoke darkened the skies above California, Jaggers joined an exodus of skilled workers leaving the nation’s most expensive cities.

In October, Jaggers paid just $47,000 for a three-story house with a basement, an attic, a back yard, a firepit, and a garage in Topeka, Kansas.

Sweetening the pot was Choose Topeka, a program that offers up to $10,000 to remote workers who move to town and buy a house or $5,000 to those who rent.

Read the story here.

—Jeff Ostrowski, Bankrate.com

6:17 am

Catch up on the past 24 hours

—Kris Higginson


Seattle Times staff & news services