Live: Coronavirus daily news updates, February 2: What to know today about COVID-19 in the Seattle area, Washington state and the world

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

As the deadliest month yet of the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S. drew to a close with certain signs of progress, President Joe Biden told Republican senators Monday he’s unwilling to settle on an insufficient aid package after they pitched their slimmed down proposal.

Meanwhile, several counties in Washington, including King County, moved to the second phase of the state’s reopening plan Monday and two mass-vaccination sites opened. But while the state has made some positive steps, problems related to the massive demand for vaccines continue.

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.

Tokyo Olympic organizers reiterate ‘we will hold the games’

FILE – In this March 30, 2020, file photo, a man jogs past the Olympic rings in Tokyo. The president of the Tokyo Olympic organizing committee said Tuesday the games will held no matter what the COVID-19 situation.. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

FILE – In this March 30, 2020, file photo, a man jogs past the Olympic rings in Tokyo. The president of the Tokyo Olympic organizing committee said Tuesday the games will held no matter what the COVID-19 situation.. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

The president of the Tokyo Olympic organizing committee had a simple message Tuesday for fellow members of Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

The games will happen.

“No matter what situation would be with the coronavirus, we will hold the games,” said Yoshiro Mori, who is also a former Japanese prime minister.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

10:35 am

Deadliest virus month piles strain on Portugal’s government

The pressure appears to be getting to Portugal’s government after almost two weeks at the top of the world rankings of daily new COVID-19 cases and deaths by size of population.

A florist prepares wreathes at a funeral agency in Amadora, outside Lisbon, Monday, Feb. 1, 2021. Portugal continues to top the global charts with the worst 7-day rolling average of new daily COVID-19 infections and fatalities per 100,000 residents, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (AP Photo/Armando Franca)

A florist prepares wreathes at a funeral agency in Amadora, outside Lisbon, Monday, Feb. 1, 2021. Portugal continues to top the global charts with the worst 7-day rolling average of new daily COVID-19 infections and fatalities per 100,000 residents, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (AP Photo/Armando Franca)

Recent flubs include mixed government messages on mask types and online teaching, regular pandemic news conferences discontinued without explanation, scant official information on what foreign help is coming and scandals over queue-jumping for vaccines. Then there’s the recent disarray in parliament over which lawmakers will get the jab early, as well as a health chief’s sharp retort that finding fault with government pandemic planning is “criminal.”

In January, Portugal recorded more than 5,000 death — close to half of its official pandemic total so far. Hopes rose, though, Tuesday that the surge’s peak may have passed, as the number of new daily cases fell for a fourth straight day. 

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

10:05 am

Vaccinations resume after not-quite-historic Northeast storm

Coronavirus vaccination sites across the Northeast ramped back up Tuesday after a two-day snowstorm that also shut down public transport, closed schools and canceled flights.

Some officials said that since vaccine supplies were thin to begin with, they didn’t anticipate having big problems getting caught up on distribution after a day or two of cancelled appointments.

Bands of snow were still moving through parts of Maine and Pennsylvania in the morning, but the worst was over, with more than 30 inches in parts of New Jersey and just a few inches in Boston.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

9:33 am

Washington House allocates $2.2 billion in COVID funding; package heads to the Senate

The Washington state House late Monday passed a bill that would allocate $2.2 billion in federal COVID-19 relief funding.

The bill, which advanced from the House by a 61-36 vote, now moves to the Senate.

Over $668 million goes to K-12 schools using a funding formula tied to how many low-income families are in a district. Another big chunk, $618 million, goes into a COVID-19 Public Health Response Account, for efforts such as testing and contact tracing — $68 million of which is earmarked specifically for planning for, preparing and deploying the COVID-19 vaccine.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

9:21 am

Biden moves to provide COVID vaccine to pharmacies

The Biden administration will begin providing COVID-19 vaccines to U.S. pharmacies, part of its plan to ramp up vaccinations as new and potentially more serious virus strains are starting to appear.

The plan was announced Tuesday during the White House COVID-19 Response Team daily briefing.

Initially the government will be shipping limited quantities of vaccine to drug stores around the country, but that’s expected to accelerate as drugmakers increase production. Drug stores have become a mainstay for flu shots and shingles vaccines, and the industry is capable of vaccinating tens of millions of people monthly.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

8:51 am

Capt. Tom Moore, UK veteran who walked for NHS, dies at 100

Capt. Tom Moore, the World War II veteran who walked into the hearts of a nation in lockdown as he shuffled up and down his garden to raise money for healthcare workers has died after testing positive for COVID-19. He was 100.

His family announced his death on Twitter, posting a picture of him behind his walker in a happy moment, ready for an adventure.

“The last year of our father’s life was nothing short of remarkable. He was rejuvenated and experienced things he’d only ever dreamed of,’’ the family’s statement said. “Whilst he’d been in so many hearts for just a short time, he was an incredible father and grandfather, and he will stay alive in our hearts forever.’’

Captain Tom, as he became known in newspaper headlines and TV interviews, set out to raise 1,000 pounds for Britain’s National Health Service by walking 100 laps of his backyard. But his quest went viral and caught the imagination of millions stuck at home during the first wave of the pandemic.

“Please always remember, tomorrow will be a good day,” Moore said in an interview during his walk, uttering the words that became his trademark.

Read the story here.

—Danica Kirka, The Associated Press

8:45 am

Palestinians give first vaccines after Israel shares supply

The Palestinian Authority administered its first known coronavirus vaccinations on Tuesday after receiving thousands of doses from Israel, which launched its own vaccination campaign in December and is on track to vaccinate its entire adult population by the end of March.

A Palestinian official confirmed that a first dose was given to a small number of medical workers. Israel began transferring 5,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine to the Palestinians this week.

It could take several months to vaccinate enough of the more than 4.5 million Palestinians living in Israeli-occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip to bring the outbreak under control .

The WHO has expressed concern about the inequity between Israel, which is leading one of the world’s most successful vaccination campaigns, and the Palestinian territories.

Rights groups say Israel has the obligation as an occupying power to vaccinate Palestinians. Israel says its priority is its own citizens, including Arab citizens and Palestinians living in annexed east Jerusalem.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

8:15 am

WHO team visits animal disease center in Wuhan, China

A World Health Organization team of international experts visited an animal disease center in the Chinese city of Wuhan on Tuesday as part of their investigation into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic.

Further details of the visit were not announced. Intense negotiations preceded the WHO visit to Wuhan, where the first COVID-19 cases were detected in late 2019. China has maintained strict controls on access to information about the virus, possibly to avoid blame for alleged missteps in its early response to the outbreak.

Meeting with key staff in charge of livestock surveillance in Hubei Province. Tour of laboratory facilities & in-depth discussion Q&A. https://t.co/YwyyQIoPck

— Peter Daszak (@PeterDaszak) February 2, 2021

Team member Peter Daszak, a zoologist with the EcoHealth Alliance, tweeted they met with livestock health staff in Hubei province, toured laboratories and had in-depth discussion. Wuhan is the capital of Hubei.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

7:44 am

UK tests house-to-house in hunt for new COVID-19 variant

A man wearing a mask against coronavirus walks past an NHS advertisement about COVID-19 in London, Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2021. British health authorities plan to test tens of thousands of people in a handful of areas of England in an attempt to stop a new variant of the coronavirus first identified in South Africa spreading in the community. The Department of Health says a small number of people in England who had not travelled abroad have tested positive for the strain. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)

A man wearing a mask against coronavirus walks past an NHS advertisement about COVID-19 in London, Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2021. British health authorities plan to test tens of thousands of people in a handful of areas of England in an attempt to stop a new variant of the coronavirus first identified in South Africa spreading in the community. The Department of Health says a small number of people in England who had not travelled abroad have tested positive for the strain. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)

England has begun house-by-house COVID-19 testing in some communities as authorities try to snuff out a new variant of the virus before it spreads widely and undermines a nationwide vaccination program.

Authorities want to reach the 80,000 residents of eight areas where 11 cases of the South African variant have been detected among people who haven’t traveled abroad.

Home testing kits and mobile testing units are being dispatched in an effort to reach every resident of those communities.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

7:09 am

Study: Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine appears safe, effective

Russian scientists say the country’s Sputnik V vaccine appears safe and effective against COVID-19, according to early results of an advanced study published in a British medical journal.

The news is a boost for the shot that is increasingly being purchased by nations around the world who are desperate to stop the devastation caused by the pandemic.

Dr. Estefania Zevrnja gets a shot of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine for COVID-19 at Dr. Pedro Fiorito Hospital in Avellaneda, Argentina, Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2020. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)

Dr. Estefania Zevrnja gets a shot of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine for COVID-19 at Dr. Pedro Fiorito Hospital in Avellaneda, Argentina, Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2020. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)

Researchers say, based on their trial that involved about 20,000 people in Russia last fall, the vaccine is about 91% effective and appears to prevent people from becoming severely ill with COVID-19. The study was published online Tuesday in the journal The Lancet.

Scientists not linked to the research acknowledged that the speed at which the Russia vaccine was made and rolled out was criticized for “unseemly haste, corner cutting and an absence of transparency.”

“But the outcome reported here is clear,” British scientists Ian Jones and Polly Roy wrote in an accompanying commentary. “Another vaccine can now join the fight to reduce the incidence of COVID-19.”

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

7:05 am

China arrests suspects in fake COVID-19 vaccine ring

People wearing a face masks and a face shields to help curb the spread of the coronavirus walk out from the railway station in Beijing, Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021. (Andy Wong / The Associated Press)

People wearing a face masks and a face shields to help curb the spread of the coronavirus walk out from the railway station in Beijing, Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021. (Andy Wong / The Associated Press)

Chinese police have arrested more than 80 suspected members of a criminal group that was manufacturing and selling fake COVID-19 vaccines, including to other countries.

Police in Beijing and in Jiangsu and Shandong provinces broke up the group led by a suspect surnamed Kong that was producing the fake vaccines, which consisted of a simple saline solution, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

The vaccines were sold in China and to other countries, although it was unclear which ones. The group had been active since last September, according to state media.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

7:01 am

Alaska’s Pacific Islanders least likely to get vaccinations

Pacific Islanders and Native Hawaiians have been the groups hit hardest by the coronavirus pandemic in Alaska, but state data show they are also the least likely to be vaccinated.

The state’s online vaccination tracker showed just 143 Alaska residents who identify as Pacific Islanders or Native Hawaiians were vaccinated out of 84,000 Alaska residents as of last Wednesday, Alaska Public Media reported.

The figure indicates those in the islander population are about 10 times less likely to be vaccinated than the general population, while the most recent state data on mortality show Pacific Islanders and Native Hawaiians are 10 times more likely to die of COVID-19.

Health officials said they are working to correct the inequity, but the issue is complex and includes factors such as language.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

6:07 am

Catch up on the past 24 hours

Some Puget Sound-area vaccination sites had to close because of short supply, and others are booked through February. This comes as the region’s move into the second phase of reopening requires people to stay vigilant and then some, health officials say. Here’s our updated guide to getting a vaccine. And local medical systems’ special vaccine access for VIPs may be a thing of the past, after a threat from the state.

• “Groundhog Day” for Seattle-area restaurants: Gov. Jay Inslee’s phased plan allowed restaurants to reopen sit-down dining yesterday at 25% capacity. But the doors are not flying open all over town. While one restaurant owner says it made “total sense” to reopen, another pointed out, “We’re all still not safe.” How will you make your decisions about dining out? We’d like to hear.

Does wearing two masks provide more protection? That depends on how you do it, infectious-disease experts say.

A fast, at-home coronavirus test will be available over the counter this year in the U.S.

COVID-19 may leave a lasting effect: diabetes in patients with no previous history of it. And researchers are racing to figure out whether the virus is spawning an entirely new type of diabetes that might act differently.

The pandemic’s deadliest U.S. month ended with signs of hope: Cases and hospitalizations are plummeting, while vaccinations are picking up speed. The question now is whether the nation can stay ahead of the fast-spreading mutations. Track the pandemic in these graphics.

—Kris Higginson


Seattle Times staff & news services