Live: Coronavirus daily news updates, February 22: 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 22: What to know today about COVID-19 in the Seattle area, Washington state and the world

The United States is approaching a mark almost unimaginable last year — 500,000 lives lost to COVID-19 — at the same time as the nation’s top infectious disease expert offers words of hope. On Sunday, Dr. Anthony Fauci said American life may reach “a significant degree of normality” by fall. He cautioned, though, that Americans may still have cause to wear masks outside their homes a year from now.

In Washington, a handful of high school athletes have resumed football and soccer games. And the nation’s vaccine effort is expected to speed up after winter storms temporarily stalled distribution over the past few weeks.

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.

Hamas-ruled Gaza launches coronavirus vaccination drive

A Palestinian medic prepares a shot of the Russian-made Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine, in Gaza City, Monday, Feb. 22, 2021. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

A Palestinian medic prepares a shot of the Russian-made Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine, in Gaza City, Monday, Feb. 22, 2021. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

The Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip began its coronavirus vaccination drive on Monday following the arrival of the first vaccines to the blockaded coastal area.

Former health ministers and several medical workers were inoculated with Russia’s Sputnik V jabs in front of dozens of cameras. More medical workers and patients with chronic diseases are to start receiving injections on Tuesday.

The area has received just 22,000 doses of vaccines, a tiny fraction of what is needed to immunize the strip’s 2 million people, including some 1.4 million people over age 18.

The shortage of vaccines in both the Gaza Strip and the West Bank stands in stark contrast to Israel, which is on pace to immunize almost all of its adult population in the coming weeks. Already, roughly one-third of Israel’s 9.3 million people have received two doses of the Pfizer vaccine. The disparity has drawn attention to the worldwide inequity in vaccine distribution between rich and poor nations.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

1:01 pm

Germany reopens some schools amid fears pandemic may rebound

Pupils attend a lesson at the ‘Russee’ elementary school in Kiel, northern Germany, Monday, Feb. 22, 2021. Elementary schools and kindergartens in more than half of Germany’s 16 states reopened Monday after two months of closure due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The move comes despite growing signs that the decline in case numbers in Germany is flattening out again and even rising in some areas.
(Gregor Fischer/dpa via AP)

Pupils attend a lesson at the ‘Russee’ elementary school in Kiel, northern Germany, Monday, Feb. 22, 2021. Elementary schools and kindergartens in more than half of Germany’s 16 states reopened Monday after two months of closure due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The move comes despite growing signs that the decline in case numbers in Germany is flattening out again and even rising in some areas.
(Gregor Fischer/dpa via AP)

Elementary students in more than half of Germany’s 16 states returned to school Monday after more than two months at home, the first major relaxation of the country’s pandemic measures since before Christmas.

Kindergartens also reopened their doors for pre-school children, giving much-anticipated relief to stressed parents trying to juggle working from home and childcare during the lockdown.

The move was agreed at a meeting between German Chancellor Angela Merkel and state governors two weeks ago, and stuck to despite signs that the decline in case numbers seen in the country is flattening out again and even rising in some areas.

Education Minister Anja Karliczek has defended the decision to reopen schools, saying younger children in particular benefit from learning together in groups.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

12:30 pm

People who wear glasses less likely to catch COVID-19, new study suggests

People who wear glasses could be up to three times less likely to get coronavirus, according to a new study conducted in India.

The preliminary study suggests that glass-wearers may have the extra protection because they tend to touch their eyes less frequently than most people.

“Touching and rubbing of the eyes with contaminated hands may be a significant route of infection” for COVID-19, the authors wrote in a report published on medRxiv, a website that compiles medical studies before they are peer-reviewed.

The new study found that the risk of infection was two to three times lower among those who wear glasses for “long periods of time,” meaning at least eight hours a day, according to the report.

Indian researchers described the findings as “statistically significant.”

Read the full story here.

—By Nelson Oliveira, New York Daily News

11:32 am

Dubai’s Emirates seeks key role in global vaccine delivery

An Emirates Airlines Boing 777 arrives from Brussels to deliver Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 coronavirus vaccines shipment at Dubai International Airport in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, early Sunday, Feb. 21, 2021. As the coronavirus pandemic continues to clobber the aviation industry, Emirates Airlines, the Middle East’s biggest airline is seeking to play a vital role in the global vaccine delivery effort. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)

An Emirates Airlines Boing 777 arrives from Brussels to deliver Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 coronavirus vaccines shipment at Dubai International Airport in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, early Sunday, Feb. 21, 2021. As the coronavirus pandemic continues to clobber the aviation industry, Emirates Airlines, the Middle East’s biggest airline is seeking to play a vital role in the global vaccine delivery effort. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)

The belly of the Emirates plane that touched down in Dubai early Sunday from Brussels was stuffed with precious cargo: tens of thousands of doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

The arrival was part of an effort by the Middle East’s biggest airline to pivot from shuttling people to shipping cargo — and grabbing a central role in the global vaccine delivery race.

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to clobber the aviation industry, the disaster has hit long-haul carriers like Emirates hardest. So the airline is ferrying around the very substance it hopes will get passengers back into its seats and revive the flagging travel sector.

Read the story here.

—Malak Harb, The Associated Press

11:16 am

False claims tying coronavirus vaccines to infertility drive doubts among women of childbearing age

Niharika Sathe, a 34-year-old internal medicine physician in New Jersey, first heard the fertility rumor from another doctor.

The friend confided that she would decline the coronavirus vaccine because of something she’d seen online — that the shot could cause the immune system to attack the placenta, potentially leading to miscarriage and infertility. Sathe, who was early in her pregnancy at the time but had not told anyone, spent the next few weeks scrutinizing information from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine and calling trusted experts to investigate the report.

In the end, she determined the rumor had no basis in fact, and both she and her friend wound up getting the vaccine. But the experience left her rattled.

“That kind of misinformation is really scary,” Sathe said, adding, “It has enough science to sound potentially plausible.”

As the rollout of the coronavirus vaccine ramps up across the United States, women of childbearing age have emerged as a surprising roadblock to efforts to halt the pandemic by achieving herd immunity.

Officials have encountered hesitancy among other groups, including some Black and Hispanic adults and those who believe the pandemic is a hoax. But the reluctance of women in their 20s and 30s — largely around disinformation spread on Facebook, Twitter and other social media — has been more unexpected. With such women making up a large share of the health-care workforce, vaccine uptake at nursing homes and hospitals has been as low as 20 to 50 percent in some places — a far cry from the 70 to 85 percent population target that health officials say may be needed to stop the virus.

“I’m worried, frankly,” said Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health. “There are stories out there on the internet about how vaccination can lead to infertility. There’s absolutely nothing to that. But when we look at people who are expressing hesitancy, in many instances those are women of childbearing age.”

Click here to read the full story.

—By Ariana Eunjung Cha, The Washington Post

10:37 am

FDA says vaccines adapted for new variants won’t need lengthy clinical trials

The Food and Drug Administration said Monday that vaccine developers would not need to conduct lengthy randomized controlled trials to evaluate vaccines that have been adapted to target concerning coronavirus variants.

The recommendations, which call for small trials more like what’s required for annual flu vaccines, would greatly accelerate the review process at a time when scientists are increasingly anxious about how the variants might slow or reverse progress made against the virus.

The guidance was part of a slate of new documents the agency released Monday, including others addressing how antibody treatments and diagnostic tests might need to be retooled to respond to the virus variants. Together, they amounted to the federal government’s most detailed acknowledgment of the threat the variants pose to existing vaccines, treatments and tests for the coronavirus and come weeks after the FDA’s acting commissioner, Dr. Janet Woodcock, said the agency was developing a plan.

“We want the American public to know that we are using every tool in our toolbox to fight this pandemic, including pivoting as the virus adapts,” Woodcock said in a statement Monday.

Click here to read the full story.

—The New York Times

10:32 am

Shops, haircuts return in April as UK lifts lockdown slowly

FILE – In this Friday, Jan. 15, 2021 file photo, Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during a media briefing on COVID-19, in Downing Street, London. Johnson is setting out a road map for lifting one of Europe’s strictest national lockdowns — but millions of Britons longing for a haircut or an evening out still face a long wait. Johnson is announcing plans Monday, Feb. 22, 2021 to ease restrictions in increments, starting by reopening schools in England on March 8. People will be allowed to meet one friend or relative for a chat or picnic outdoors from the same day. Three weeks later, people will be able to meet outdoors in groups of up to six outdoors. But restaurants, pubs, gyms and hairdressers are likely to remain closed until at least April. (Dominic Lipinski/Pool via AP, File)

FILE – In this Friday, Jan. 15, 2021 file photo, Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during a media briefing on COVID-19, in Downing Street, London. Johnson is setting out a road map for lifting one of Europe’s strictest national lockdowns — but millions of Britons longing for a haircut or an evening out still face a long wait. Johnson is announcing plans Monday, Feb. 22, 2021 to ease restrictions in increments, starting by reopening schools in England on March 8. People will be allowed to meet one friend or relative for a chat or picnic outdoors from the same day. Three weeks later, people will be able to meet outdoors in groups of up to six outdoors. But restaurants, pubs, gyms and hairdressers are likely to remain closed until at least April. (Dominic Lipinski/Pool via AP, File)

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a slow easing of one of Europe’s strictest pandemic lockdowns on Monday, saying children will return to class and people will be able to meet a friend outside for coffee in two weeks’ time.

But those longing for a haircut, a restaurant meal or a pint in a pub have almost two months to wait, and people won’t be able to hug loved ones that they don’t live with until May at the earliest.

Johnson said the government’s plan would move the country “cautiously but irreversibly” out of lockdown.

Britain has had Europe’s deadliest coronavirus outbreak, with more than 120,000 deaths. Faced with a dominant virus variant that scientists say is both more transmissible and more deadly than the original virus, the country has spent much of the winter under a tight lockdown. Bars, restaurants, gyms, schools, hair salons and nonessential shops are closed, people are urged not to travel out of their local area and foreign holidays are illegal.

That will begin to change, slowly, on March 8, when schools reopen and people are allowed to meet one friend or relative for a chat or picnic outdoors. Three weeks later, people will be able to meet in small groups outdoors for sports or relaxation.

Read the story here.

—Jill Lawless and Danica Kirka, The Associated Press

9:32 am

UN to rich nations: Don’t undermine COVAX vaccine program

The head of the World Health Organization pleaded with rich countries on Monday to check before ordering additional COVID-19 vaccine shots for themselves whether that undermines efforts to get vaccine shots to poorer nations.

Wealthy nations have snapped up several billion vaccine doses while some countries in the developing world have little or none.

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, right, and Director General of the World Health Organization Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, left on the screen, brief the media on a virtual joint news conference at Bellevue Palace in Berlin, Germany, Monday, Feb. 22, 2021. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, right, and Director General of the World Health Organization Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, left on the screen, brief the media on a virtual joint news conference at Bellevue Palace in Berlin, Germany, Monday, Feb. 22, 2021. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said some rich countries’ approaches to manufacturers to secure more vaccines are “affecting the deals with COVAX, and even the amount that was allocated for COVAX was reduced because of this.”

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

8:36 am

CDC study: Teachers key to COVID-19 infections in 1 district

ATLANTA (AP) — A new study finds that teachers may be more important drivers of COVID-19 transmission in schools than students.

The paper released Monday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention studies nine COVID-19 transmission clusters in elementary schools in the Atlanta suburb of Marietta in December and January, That included one cluster where 16 teachers, students and relatives of students at home were infected.

In only one of the nine clusters was a student clearly the first documented case, while a teacher was the first documented case in four clusters. In another four, the first case was unclear. Of the nine clusters, eight involved probable teacher-to-student transmission. Two clusters saw teachers infect one another during in-person meetings or lunches, with a teacher then infecting other students.

“Educators were central to in-school transmission networks,” the authors wrote.

Click here to read the full story.

—By Jeff Amy, The Associated Press

8:33 am

Look to refugee schools for lessons on teaching kids after COVID, some experts say

“I think our kids are amazing. We need to give them hope,” says Washington state Rep. My-Linh Thai, who came to the United States as a teenager from Vietnam. Educators concerned about learning loss during the COVID-19 pandemic are looking to the refugee experience for guidance in how to help students.  (Ellen M. Banner / The Seattle Times)

“I think our kids are amazing. We need to give them hope,” says Washington state Rep. My-Linh Thai, who came to the United States as a teenager from Vietnam. Educators concerned about learning loss during the COVID-19 pandemic are looking to the refugee experience for guidance in how to help students. (Ellen M. Banner / The Seattle Times)

Eleventh-grader My-Linh Thai sat with her guidance counselor at Federal Way High, Vietnamese-English dictionary in her bag. “I want to go to the University of Washington and become a doctor,” she said.

“That’s not possible,” the counselor said. 

Thai had entered the state school system near the end of 10th grade, part of a wave of Southeast Asian refugees who came to Washington between 1975 and the early 1980s. She didn’t know English, and although Thai was at the top of her class in her home country, her small town had no library, the school was so crowded it had to take kids in shifts, and the power cut out at 6 o’clock.

Now she was an English-language learner who couldn’t stay after school for tutoring because she had to work. The culture shock was like plunging into an ice bath on a steamy day. Kids called teachers by their first names!

Still, Thai dreamed of being a doctor. She asked the counselor to write down exactly what she needed to do to graduate and go to university.  

“I completed everything on that list,” said Thai, now a Washington state legislator. “It was possible.”   

It’s hard to feel hopeful right now as we read terrifying stories about the amount of learning students might be losing during the pandemic, and it’s doubly crushing when we know how incredibly hard teachers, parents and children are working.

Even so, educators who work with refugee students say children who come to this country at a disadvantage in every way — recovering from trauma, struggling to parse a new language, behind academically — can catch up to their peers and even excel, if they’re given the right support.

That bodes well for the millions of children who have been left behind by COVID-19. 

Read the story here.

—Danielle Dreilinger, Special to The Seattle Times

7:32 am

An uptick in eating disorders is another side effect of the COVID-19 pandemic

To say that things have felt a little out of control for the past year or so is a bit of an understatement.

If you have a lot of inner resilience, you may be doing just fine, even in the face of pandemic fatigue. But many people are not doing fine. The effects of our lingering collective uncertainty may be especially harsh for people who struggle with disordered eating. Disordered eating may manifest as anything from restrictive dieting to stress/emotional eating to orthorexia (an unhealthy obsession with eating healthy) to clinical eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia and binge eating.

Research on the impact of COVID-19 on eating disorders began almost as soon as COVID-19 did. A July 2020 article in the journal Eating Disorders warned that people with eating disorders would be disproportionately affected by quarantine. A study published in November in the International Journal of Eating Disorders that surveyed participants in the U.S. and the Netherlands found that many individuals with anorexia reported restricting their eating more, while those with bulimia and binge eating disorder reported more bingeing. 

Read the story here.

—Carrie Dennett, Special to The Seattle Times

7:28 am

India sees new lockdowns as coronavirus cases rise again

People crowd Juhu beach in Mumbai, India, Friday, Feb. 19, 2021. Health officials have detected a spike in COVID-19 cases in several pockets of Maharashtra state, including in Mumbai, the country’s financial capital. (Rafiq Maqbool / The Associated Press)

People crowd Juhu beach in Mumbai, India, Friday, Feb. 19, 2021. Health officials have detected a spike in COVID-19 cases in several pockets of Maharashtra state, including in Mumbai, the country’s financial capital. (Rafiq Maqbool / The Associated Press)

Cases of COVID-19 are increasing in some parts of India after months of a steady nationwide decline, prompting authorities to impose lockdowns and other virus restrictions.

Infections have been plummeting in India since September, and life has already returned to normal in large parts of the country. In many cities, markets are bustling, roads are crowded and restaurants are nearly full.

But experts have been warning that the reasons behind India’s success aren’t really understood, and that the country of nearly 1.4 billion people can’t afford to let its guard down.

The spike has been most pronounced in the western state of Maharashtra, where nearly 7,000 cases were detected in the past 24-hours, accounting for almost half of India’s over 14,000 cases confirmed on Monday. The weekly average for infections has nearly doubled to 5,229 in the state in the past two weeks.

Lockdowns have been reimposed in some parts of the state and authorities have banned all religious or cultural programs.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

7:22 am

Russia’s COVID-19 vaccination drive slowly picking up speed

Elderly residents of Ikhala were relieved when they heard that doctors were finally bringing a few doses of the coronavirus vaccine to their remote, snowy village in the Russian region of Karelia, near the border with Finland.

The village of wooden houses — carved out of a dense forest of fir trees about 12 miles from the Finnish border and 60 miles north of St. Petersburg — is one of several in the Karelia region where Russia’s vaccination campaign has arrived in recent weeks.

More than 18,000 people have gotten their first dose of the Sputnik V vaccine in the region of 600,000 with the highest rate of COVID-19 cases in Russia as a whole.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

6:08 am

Catch up on the past 24 hours

—Kris Higginson

6:04 am

How is the pandemic affecting you?

What has changed about your daily life? What kinds of discussions are you having with family members and friends? Are you a health care worker who’s on the front lines of the response? Are you a COVID-19 patient or do you know one? Whoever you are, we want to hear from you so our news coverage is as complete, accurate and useful as possible. If you’re using a mobile device and can’t see the form on this page, click here.


Seattle Times staff & news services