Live: Coronavirus daily news updates, February 26: 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 26: What to know today about COVID-19 in the Seattle area, Washington state and the world

Coronavirus infection numbers continue to decrease in Washington, and on Thursday, Gov. Jay Inslee announced none of the eight regions of the state’s COVID-19 reopening plan will be going backward toward more restrictions any time soon.

Meanwhile, President Joe Biden is planning to distribute millions of face masks to Americans in communities hard-hit by the virus beginning next month — part of his efforts to ensure “equity” in the government’s response to the pandemic.

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.

Vaccine roll-out gaps a core concern for G-20 countries

Indian villagers carry their belongings on their heads and walk towards their village on the outskirts of Hyderabad, India, Friday, Feb. 19, 2021. (AP Photo/Mahesh Kumar A.)

Indian villagers carry their belongings on their heads and walk towards their village on the outskirts of Hyderabad, India, Friday, Feb. 19, 2021. (AP Photo/Mahesh Kumar A.)

The uneven distribution of vaccines between wealthier and poorer countries is a key concern of Group of 20 nations as leaders consider how to create even footing for recovery from the pandemic both in economic and health terms, Italy’s economic minister said Friday.

Daniele Franco told a virtual news conference after the meeting of finance ministers and central bank chiefs of the G-20 economies that a core priority for the group is “to grant equitable access” to safe vaccines.

“We will not get back to our normal lives until the virus is eradicated in all countries,” Franco said. He added that the ministers and governors agreed on the necessity of a “bold and global response aimed at curbing the virus diffusion everywhere.”

Read the story here.

—Colleen Barry, The Associated Press

1:08 pm

UN urges warring parties to halt fighting for vaccinations

The U.N. Security Council unanimously approved a resolution Friday demanding that all warring parties immediately institute a “sustained humanitarian pause” to enable the unhindered delivery of COVID-19 vaccines and the vaccination of millions of people in conflict areas.

The British-drafted resolution, cosponsored by 112 countries, reiterated the council’s demand last July 1 for “a general and immediate cessation of hostilities” in major conflicts on the Security Council agenda, from Syria and Yemen to Central African Republic, Mali and Sudan and Somalia.

It expressed concern that an appeal for cease-fires in all conflicts to tackle the coronavirus pandemic, which was first made by U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on March 23, 2020, “was not fully heeded.”

Britain’s U.N. Ambassador Barbara Woodward, the current council president, announced the result of the email vote because the council has been meeting virtually, saying the resolution “will help bring vaccines to 160 million people in conflict areas or displaced by conflict.”

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

1:03 pm

Ivory Coast 2nd country to receive COVID vaccines via COVAX

A shipment of COVID-19 vaccines distributed by the COVAX Facility arrives in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, Friday Feb. 25, 2021. Ivory Coast is the second country in the world after Ghana to receive vaccines acquired through the United Nations-backed COVAX initiative with a delivery of 504,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine made by the Serum Institute of India. (AP Photo/ Diomande Ble Blonde)

A shipment of COVID-19 vaccines distributed by the COVAX Facility arrives in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, Friday Feb. 25, 2021. Ivory Coast is the second country in the world after Ghana to receive vaccines acquired through the United Nations-backed COVAX initiative with a delivery of 504,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine made by the Serum Institute of India. (AP Photo/ Diomande Ble Blonde)

Ivory Coast on Friday became the second country in the world to receive a shipment of COVID-19 vaccines from the global COVAX initiative, with 504,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine made by the Serum Institute of India.

The vaccines arrived in the commercial capital of the African nation as part of the first wave of COVID-19 vaccines sent by COVAX, which was created to ensure that low- and middle-income countries have fair access to doses.

The first COVAX shipment was sent to Ghana on Wednesday, marking the beginning of the largest vaccine procurement and supply operation in history, according to the World Health Organization and UNICEF.

The COVAX initiative has been hampered by the severely limited global supply of doses as well as logistical problems that set vaccinations behind globally. Some 24 other countries are expected to start receiving vaccines via COVAX next week, according to WHO Africa.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

12:35 pm

US urges Tanzania to embrace COVID-19 vaccines, share data

The United States praised Tanzania on Friday for finally acknowledging the resurgence of COVID-19 after claiming for months it had defeated the pandemic through prayer. But the U.S. urged the country to share infection data and accept vaccines.

“It has become clear that the virus variant has arrived in Tanzania,“ U.S. Ambassador Donald Wright, who is also a doctor, said in a statement. “I’ve been encouraged by recent statements from the Ministry of Health acknowledging COVID-19 as a public health priority in Tanzania and urging citizens to take basic precautions.“

Tanzania is one of Africa’s most populous countries, with some 60 million people, and during its long COVID-19 denial the director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned that if the continent isn’t united, “it’s doomed.”

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

12:05 pm

Could pandemic further erode the New England town meeting?

FILE – In this March 5, 2002, file photo, citizens vote to support a resolution concerning redistricting during the annual town meeting in Woodbury, Vt. The COVID-19 pandemic is disrupting New England town meetings in 2021, a tradition where citizens gather to debate and decide on local issues. (AP Photo/Toby Talbot, File)

FILE – In this March 5, 2002, file photo, citizens vote to support a resolution concerning redistricting during the annual town meeting in Woodbury, Vt. The COVID-19 pandemic is disrupting New England town meetings in 2021, a tradition where citizens gather to debate and decide on local issues. (AP Photo/Toby Talbot, File)

The town meeting, for centuries, was a staple of New England life — but the coronavirus pandemic could accelerate the departure from the tradition where people gather to debate everything from the purchase of local road equipment to multimillion-dollar budgets to pressing social issues.

The basis of the town meeting is to bring everyone together in the same room — sometimes a literal town hall, sometimes a school gymnasium — where voters will hash out local issues until a decision is made.

The restrictions on in-person gatherings imposed by the pandemic make that impossible and some worry the temporary workarounds could remain even after life returns to normal.

“I’d be very disappointed if people think that this is a new model…” said former Vermont Gov. Jim Douglas, who served for 33 years as moderator in his hometown of Middlebury.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

11:46 am

Highlights of the COVID-19 relief bill advancing in Congress

The House is expected to pass a $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package late Friday that includes $1,400 checks for most Americans and billions of dollars for schools, state and local governments and businesses.

Republicans are overwhelmingly against the bill, raising concerns that the spending is vastly more than necessary and designed to advance policy priorities that go beyond helping Americans get through the pandemic. Democrats and President Joe Biden counter that a robust aid package is necessary to prevent a long and painful recovery from the pandemic.

The Democrats’ goal is to have COVID-19 relief approved by mid-March, when extra unemployment assistance and other pandemic aid expires. The Senate, which Democrats control by a single vote, will consider the bill next.

Read the story here for highlights of the legislation.

—The Associated Press

11:24 am

It’s a smash hit! Chinese return big-time to movie theaters

The thrills and chills of the big screen are back big-time in the world’s largest film market.

People wearing face masks to help curb the spread of the coronavirus chat each other as the watch a film at Poly Cinema in Beijing on Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. With coronavirus well under control in China and cinemas running at half capacity, moviegoers are smashing China’s box office records, setting a new high mark for ticket sales in February, with domestic productions far outpacing their Hollywood competitors. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

People wearing face masks to help curb the spread of the coronavirus chat each other as the watch a film at Poly Cinema in Beijing on Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. With coronavirus well under control in China and cinemas running at half capacity, moviegoers are smashing China’s box office records, setting a new high mark for ticket sales in February, with domestic productions far outpacing their Hollywood competitors. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

With the coronavirus well under control in China and cinemas running at half capacity, moviegoers are smashing China’s box office records, with domestic productions far outpacing their Hollywood competitors.

February marked China’s all-time biggest month for movie ticket sales, which have so far totaled $1.7 billion.

China overtook the U.S. as the world’s biggest market for movie ticket sales last year as the American box office took a massive hit from the closure of cinemas because of the pandemic.

Chinese theaters were able to reopen by midyear and have seen steady audience growth since then. Local movies have also benefited from periodic unofficial “blackout” periods, when only domestic productions are allowed to be screened. A dearth of major Hollywood blockbusters over recent months appears to have also boosted the market for Chinese films.

Read the story here.

—Andy Wong, The Associated Press

11:02 am

Belgium prolongs major restrictions as virus cases rise

The Belgian government will not approve new COVID-19 relaxations for at least another week after health authorities warned Friday that the number of coronavirus infections is rising, probably due in part to the fast-spreading variant first found in Britain.

Until a few days ago, expectations were that Belgium would finally start scaling down major virus-control measures. But the uptick in new confirmed cases and especially an increase in hospital admissions persuaded Prime Minister Alexander De Croo to call for at least a one-week delay.

“The figures are rising everywhere,” De Cross said. “We are calling a one-week timeout to avoid taking decisions that would waste our gains of the past weeks.”

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

10:03 am

Japan partly ending pandemic emergency, keeps it for Tokyo

The state of emergency Japan set up to curb the spread of the coronavirus will be lifted in six urban areas this weekend and remain in the Tokyo area for another week, a government minister said Friday.

Partially lifting the emergency, and just a week early, underlines Japan’s eagerness to keep business restrictions to a minimum to keep the economy going.

The emergency, which began in January, centers around asking restaurants, bars and other businesses to close at 8 p.m. Japan has never had a mandatory lockdown, but has managed to keep infections relatively low, with deaths related to COVID-19 at about 7,700 people.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

9:30 am

US hospitalizations plunge, but still high

The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 in the U.S. has dropped by 80,000 in six weeks, and nearly 17% of the nation’s adult population has gotten at least one dose of a vaccine.

The U.S. has seen a dramatic turnaround since December and January, when hospitals were teeming with patients after holiday gatherings and pandemic fatigue caused a surge in cases and deaths.

Health officials acknowledge the improvement but point out that hospitalizations are still at about the same level as earlier peaks in April and July and right before the crisis worsened in November.

Deaths are still persistently high, though much lower than the peak in early January, when they sometimes exceeded 4,000 per day.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

9:04 am

Canadian regulator authorizes AstraZeneca vaccine

Passengers are screened and get a COVID-19 test as they enter Canada from the United States at the land border crossing in Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle, Quebec, on Monday, Feb. 22, 2021. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press via AP)

Passengers are screened and get a COVID-19 test as they enter Canada from the United States at the land border crossing in Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle, Quebec, on Monday, Feb. 22, 2021. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press via AP)

Canadian regulators on Friday authorized AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine.

It is the third COVID-19 vaccine given the green light by Canada, following those from Pfizer and Moderna.

Health Canada approved the vaccine for use in people 18 and over. Some countries, including France, have authorized the AstraZeneca vaccine only for use in people under 65, saying there is not enough evidence to say whether it works in older adults.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

8:30 am

Biden marks 50M vaccine doses in first 5 weeks in office

Days after marking a solemn milestone in the pandemic, President Joe Biden is celebrating the pace of his efforts to end it.

On Thursday, Biden marked the administration of the 50 millionth dose of COVID-19 vaccine since his swearing-in. The moment came days after the nation reached the devastating milestone of 500,000 coronavirus deaths and ahead of a meeting with the nation’s governors on plans to speed the distribution even further.

“We’re halfway there: 50 million shots in 37 days,” Biden said. “That’s weeks ahead of schedule.”

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

8:05 am

Briton jailed for breaking Singapore quarantine order

British citizen Nigel Skea, right and his defense lawyer Agatha Maghesh Eyamalai, left,  walk into the State Courts in Singapore, Friday, Feb. 26, 2021. The Briton man was sentenced to two weeks in jail and fined 1,000 Singapore dollars ($753) for breaking a coronavirus quarantine order in Singapore. (AP Photo/Annabelle Liang)

British citizen Nigel Skea, right and his defense lawyer Agatha Maghesh Eyamalai, left, walk into the State Courts in Singapore, Friday, Feb. 26, 2021. The Briton man was sentenced to two weeks in jail and fined 1,000 Singapore dollars ($753) for breaking a coronavirus quarantine order in Singapore. (AP Photo/Annabelle Liang)

A British citizen was sentenced to two weeks in jail and fined 1,000 Singapore dollars ($753) on Friday for breaking a coronavirus quarantine order in Singapore.

Nigel Skea is the first Briton to be jailed for flouting coronavirus rules in the city-state. A handful had their work passes revoked and paid fines.

Skea left his room at The Ritz-Carlton, Millenia Singapore on three occasions last September without a mask. On one of the occasions, he climbed an emergency stairwell and entered a room that his Singaporean fiancée had booked.

Skea, who pleaded guilty to two charges of flouting the rules, arrived at the State Courts on Friday with Agatha Maghesh Eyamalai, whom he has since married.

Read the story here.

—Annabelle Liang, The Associated Press

7:34 am

Seattle creates COVID-19 vaccine standby list for certain residents; here’s who can get on the list and how

Kristine Gill, with Seattle Fire Department’s Mobile Vaccination Teams, prepares doses of the Moderna vaccine outside an adult family home in Seattle on Jan. 21. The city has set up a standby list to notify certain residents 65 and older when there are doses left at the end of the day that need to be used. (Erika Schultz / The Seattle Times)

Kristine Gill, with Seattle Fire Department’s Mobile Vaccination Teams, prepares doses of the Moderna vaccine outside an adult family home in Seattle on Jan. 21. The city has set up a standby list to notify certain residents 65 and older when there are doses left at the end of the day that need to be used. (Erika Schultz / The Seattle Times)

The city of Seattle has created a standby list for some residents 65 and older who can spring into action and travel to get a COVID-19 vaccine.

The city said the Seattle Fire Department’s Mobile Vaccination Teams sometimes have one or two doses left after holding daily vaccination events for Seattle’s most vulnerable people.

Those doses left at the end of the day, usually two or three, must be used immediately.

Read the story and find out where to sign up here.

—Christine Clarridge

7:31 am

Canada Pension Plan CEO resigns after travelling for vaccine

The chief executive of the fund that manages Canada Pension Plan investments has resigned after it was revealed that he had traveled to the United Arab Emirates, where he was vaccinated against COVID-19.

CPP Investments said Friday Mark Machin tendered his resignation to the board Thursday night.

Canadian officials have advised against all nonssential travel and the vast majority of Canadians have not yet been vaccinated.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

6:14 am

Catch up on the past 24 hours

Washington state expects more than 60,000 doses of Johnson & Johnson’s one-dose coronavirus vaccine next week, and the state is working on who should get them and how. This all hangs on the vaccine’s federal approval, which may come this weekend. Today, an advisory committee to the FDA is voting on whether the vaccine is safe and effective. So which vaccine should you get? Don’t be too picky, experts say. Here’s our guide to getting your shot.

Do people with allergies need to worry about reactions to the vaccines? And how safe are the shots, anyway? Our FAQ Friday digs into those questions with experts’ help.

No part of Washington will have to go backward on reopening, Gov. Jay Inslee said yesterday, because “we’ve made incredible progress” against the virus. Here’s the latest on what you can and can’t do across the state. 

• Band practice in bright-green COVID-19 bubbles: This is how bizarre the return to high school looks in Central Washington.

Millions of Americans would get $1,400 direct payments in a COVID-19 relief package that Democrats are aiming to push through the House today. But a minimum-wage boost looks like a no-go. Here’s what made it in, and where to find updates.

Nobody knew what a Covidiot was, or how to deal with maskne, at this time last year. Look at how dramatically our vocab has changed.

When the USS Nimitz sailed away from Bremerton 10 months ago, George Floyd was alive, Donald Trump was president and the pandemic’s death toll was a fraction of what it is today. In the days ahead, an anxious crew will return to a home country that’s become “completely different, and we don’t know what we are coming home to.”

—Kris Higginson


Seattle Times staff & news services