President Joe Biden on Wednesday encouraged Democratic lawmakers to “act quickly” on his $ 1.9 trillion COVID bailout, but also signaled that he is open to changes in the first test of the government’s ability to cooperate work together with Congress to achieve results.
In the meantime, Americans are looking to the weekend in anticipation of Super Bowl Sunday, despite Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, said Wednesday he feared watch parties could turn into super-spreader events.
We update this page with the latest news about the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on the Seattle area, the US and the world. Click here to see the live updates from the past few days and all other coronavirus reports. Here’s how we are tracking the daily spread in Washington and the world.
The US is rushing to catch up in the race to detect mutant viruses
Despite its world-class medical system and vaunted centers for disease control and prevention, the U.S. fell behind in the race to discover dangerous coronavirus mutations. And it is only now starting to catch up.
The problem wasn’t a lack of technology or expertise. Rather, scientists say there is a lack of national leadership and coordination, and a lack of funding and supplies, for overstretched laboratories trying to balance diagnostic tests with the search for genetic changes.
Viruses are constantly mutating. To stay one step ahead of the threat, scientists analyze samples and pay close attention to mutations that could make the coronavirus more contagious or deadly.
But such tests were scattershot.
Less than 1% of positive samples in the US are sequenced to see if they have mutations of concern. Other countries are doing better – the UK is sequencing around 10% – which means they can spot threats faster. This gives them a greater opportunity to slow down or stop the problem, whether through more targeted contact tracing, possible adjustments to the vaccine, or public warnings.
CDC officials say variants didn’t trigger recent spikes in U.S. cases overall. However, experts fear what happens to variants isn’t clear, saying the nation should have been more aggressive with sequencing earlier in the epidemic that has now killed over 450,000 Americans.
Read the story here.
-The Associated Press
Kitsap County says regional approach is unfair and is asking to return to county-by-county reopenings
Kitsap County wants to revert to county-to-county COVID-19 rules and asks Governor Jay Inslee to reconsider the regional approach.
In a letter to Inslee this week, the Kitsap County Board of Commissioners announced that case rates are falling in their county, but they cannot move to Phase 2 due to events in the other counties in their region.
The metric that uses decrease in cases and hospital stays as a reopening criterion is unfair to counties that have never seen COVID-19 fluctuations.
The regional approach “may inappropriately punish districts that manage to fight the virus based on the condition of others,” the commissioners’ letter said.
As of that week, Kitsap County had reported a total of 5,176 cases and 71 deaths.
If the state maintains the regional approach, commissioners are calling for Kitsap County to be added to the Puget Sound region, which includes counties of Snohomish, King, and Pierce, in place of the Northwest region which includes Clallam, Jefferson, and Mason.
Kitsap County has stronger economic and regional ties with Counties King, Snohomish and Pierce, the commissioners said.
“However, we have been grouped separately and cannot be reopened at short notice,” they wrote. “This decision appears arbitrary and unfair to Kitsap governments, citizens and businesses.”
– Christian Clarridge
The WHO team in Wuhan says discussions are open and meetings are open
World Health Organization investigators looking for clues to the emergence of the coronavirus in the central Chinese city of Wuhan said the Chinese side had shown a great deal of cooperation, but warned not to expect immediate results from the visit.
Zoologist and team member Peter Daszak praised Wednesday’s meetings with staff from Wuhan’s main virology institute, including Shi Zhengli, a virologist who worked with Daszak to track down the origins of SARS, which originated in China and 2003 led to the outbreak.
“Today an extremely important meeting with employees of the WIV, including Dr. Shi Zhengli. Frank, open discussion. Important questions asked and answered. “Daszak tweeted.
Today extremely important meeting with employees of the WIV, including Dr. Shi Zhengli. Frank, open discussion. Important questions asked and answered. https://t.co/68Ake5gMuW
– Peter Daszak (@PeterDaszak) February 3, 2021
-The Associated Press
Protect yourself from scammers: Don’t put your COVID-19 vaccination card online
Don’t post your vaccination card on social media, no matter how excited you are about the vaccination, the Better Business Bureau will warn you.
The not-for-profit consumer protection agency’s warning is based on encouragement from health care providers and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to post personal vaccination messages to encourage others.
“Do you have your COVID-19 vaccine? Well done! However, do not share a photo of your vaccination card on social media. The self-identifying information leaves you vulnerable to identity theft and can help scammers create false versions, ”the office said on its website last week.
Read the story here.
– Christian Clarridge
Trident Seafoods had a doctor on duty at its huge Akutan facility when COVID-19 broke out
An urgent job advertisement from a company hired to provide medical care at the Trident Seafoods plant in the tiny Alaskan village of Akutan on a hard-to-reach island spoke to the wilderness lover:
“Are you interested in an Alaskan ADVENTURE? Seasonal positions available! If you are energetic, professional and interested in a remote environment, this assignment might be the place for you! “
In reality, the job was to work as the sole nurse at North America’s largest seafood processing facility, which has been shut down since mid-January due to a coronavirus outbreak that infected nearly half of its 700 workers. Trident officials say they had nothing to do with the ad.
As of Tuesday, 307 of the 706 workers at the Aleutian plant had tested positive for COVID-19, Trident officials say. They declined to say how many had to be hospitalized as of this week. At least three infected employees had to be medically evacuated last month.
An employee died at the plant last weekend, Trident confirmed on Tuesday. No additional information was available.
Read the story here.
– Zaz Hollander, Anchorage Daily News
An airlift, 50 days in a Seattle hospital, and an “incredible” COVID-19 recovery
Nastasia Xavier, a 33-year-old mother of two, fell ill in her small Alaska town in November. She was hospitalized the day after her brother died from COVID-19, and her organs were soon failing.
Doctors put Xavier in a medically induced coma for weeks. When she finally opened her eyes on January 7th, she thought she was still in Alaska. “When they told me I was in Seattle, I said ‘holy cow’,” she said with a laugh. “I’ve never been to Seattle.”
Today she is finally leaving the hospital.
– Elise Takahama
Find out about the last 24 hours
• • Is a Super Bowl Gathering Safe? What if you had the vaccine or if it’s outside? While Dr. Anthony Fauci warns Americans not to make the Super Spreader Bowl out of it, health experts describe what decisions they would make and why.
• • Can you take pain medication before or after the vaccination? Some might interfere with exactly what the vaccine is trying to do.
• • Trying to get vaccines for your parents can be a full time job. Sons and Daughters in the US are skipping sleep, clicking and scrolling anytime, and all of that goes for the first dose. Then there is the problem of finding someone else. Here is our guide to updating a vaccine in Washington state.
• • Teachers don’t need vaccines to start schools. said the head of the CDC yesterday when the Biden government was pressured from all sides.
• • “Imagine if we were in a war that killed 400,000 Americans.” Lawrence Wright, Pulitzer Winner of The Plague Year, shares the mistakes made in fighting COVID-19 and what we can do to prevent another pandemic.
– Kris Higginson
Seattle Times staff and news services