Live: Coronavirus daily news updates, February 8: 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 8: What to know today about COVID-19 in the Seattle area, Washington state and the world

While the Tampa Bay Buccaneers routed the Kansas City Chiefs in the Super Bowl, companies served up dueling ads that presented vastly different ideas of what marketing would resonate with consumers in a world reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic and social upheaval.

The more-contagious variant of the coronavirus first found in Britain is spreading rapidly in the United States, doubling roughly every 10 days, a new study found. In South Africa, the government suspended plans to inoculate front-line health care workers with the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine after a small clinical trial called into question its effectiveness in preventing the dominant variant in the country.

And in Washington state, dozens of hospitals are learning that N95 masks they believed were from manufacturer 3M are in fact knockoffs. The Washington State Hospital Association estimates that the counterfeit masks could range from hundreds of thousands to more a million.

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.

New cases see steep drop, vaccines gain speed, but maskless fans fuel worries

People enter a socially distanced line to get their COVID-19 vaccinations at Gillette Stadium, Monday, Feb. 8, 2021, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

People enter a socially distanced line to get their COVID-19 vaccinations at Gillette Stadium, Monday, Feb. 8, 2021, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

The drive to vaccinate Americans against the coronavirus is gaining speed and newly recorded cases have fallen to their lowest level in three months, but authorities worry that raucous Super Bowl celebrations could fuel new outbreaks.

More than 4 million more vaccinations were reported over the weekend, a significantly faster clip than in previous days, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Nearly one in 10 Americans have now received at least one shot. But just 2.9% of the U.S. population has been fully vaccinated, a long way from the 70% or more that experts say must be inoculated to conquer the outbreak.

Newly confirmed infections have declined to an average of 117,000 a day, the lowest point since early November. That is a steep drop from the peak of nearly 250,000 a day in early January.

But the sight of fans, many without masks, celebrating the Super Bowl in the streets, in sports bars and at game-watching parties has sparked worries of new outbreaks.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

1:01 pm

Italy teachers balk at AstraZeneca vaccine plans

A medical staff member administers a dose of the Pfizer-Biotech vaccine to an over eighty-year-old, in the Santa Maria della Pieta hospital in Rome, Monday, Feb. 8, 2021. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

A medical staff member administers a dose of the Pfizer-Biotech vaccine to an over eighty-year-old, in the Santa Maria della Pieta hospital in Rome, Monday, Feb. 8, 2021. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

Italy’s main teachers’ union is balking at plans for educators under age 55 to receive the AstraZeneca vaccine rather than jabs it believes provide better protection, evidence that lobbying groups are vying to get specific shots as the virus and its variants spread across Europe.

The CISL School union said in a statement Monday that it wanted a meeting with Italy’s government scientific committee. It complained that it hadn’t been consulted about the decision to start up the vaccine drive for teachers ahead of schedule, with some of the first 250,000 AstraZeneca doses that arrived over the weekend.

The Italian government rejiggered its vaccination plans last week after Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna reduced vaccine deliveries and Italy’s pharmaceutical agency gave “preferential use” for AstraZeneca shots for people aged 18 to 55. The government is now directing its Pfizer and Moderna shots to inoculate people over age 80 while designating the AstraZeneca jabs for younger, at-risk workers.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

12:30 pm

Russia updates statistics on virus-linked deaths in 2020

People walk towards the main building of the Moscow State University in Moscow, Russia, Monday, Feb. 8, 2021. Students of Moscow’s Universities returned to continued their studies on site. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)

People walk towards the main building of the Moscow State University in Moscow, Russia, Monday, Feb. 8, 2021. Students of Moscow’s Universities returned to continued their studies on site. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)

 Russia’s updated statistics on coronavirus-linked deaths show that 162,429 people with COVID-19 had died in the pandemic last year, a number much higher than previously reported by government officials.

The state statistics agency, Rosstat, released figures for December on Monday. December accounted for the highest number of deaths since April — 44,435 — according to Rosstat.

The agency’s count is much higher than the 77,068 deaths that have been reported by the Russian government’s coronavirus task force so far, including deaths that occurred in January and February.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

11:35 am

Tampa mayor frustrated by maskless fans after Super Bowl

Fans cheer during the first half of the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

Fans cheer during the first half of the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

So much for the mayor’s order requiring masks at Super Bowl parties. Throngs of mostly maskless fans took to the streets and packed sports bars as the clock inside Raymond James Stadium ticked down on a hometown Super Bowl win for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Some 200,000 masks were handed out ahead of the game, and “a majority” of people and businesses followed the rules, she said.

To meet coronavirus protocols, the NFL capped the crowd at under 25,000 in a stadium that normally holds some 66,000 fans, and required masks.

But outside the stadium, crowds of fans who weren’t wearing masks or practicing social distancing could be seen celebrating the Buccaneers’ 31-9 win over the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday night. Folks cheered, crammed into bars and hugged in several hotspots around the city — and swarmed the streets — all without masks.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

11:32 am

Inslee to cut unemployment insurance tax, boost jobless benefits amid COVID-19

Gov. Jay Inslee on Monday is set to put his signature on a bill that slashes a scheduled hike in unemployment insurance for businesses and also expands jobless benefits and protections amid the pandemic.

The legislation is one of several bills lawmakers are quickly moving in order to help Washington residents and businesses hurt by the COVID-19 outbreak and ensuing restrictions on commerce and daily life.

The governor is scheduled to sign Senate Bill 5061 at an 11:30 a.m. news conference. 

Read the story here.

—Joseph O’Sullivan

10:32 am

UN: ‘Concerning news’ vaccines may not work against variants

The head of the World Health Organization said Monday the emergence of new COVID-19 variants has raised questions about whether or not existing vaccines will work, calling it “concerning news” that the vaccines developed so far may be less effective against the variant first detected in South Africa.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a media briefing that South Africa’s decision on Sunday to suspend its vaccination campaign using the AstraZeneca vaccine is “a reminder that we need to do everything we can to reduce circulation of the virus with proven public health measures.”

He said it was increasingly clear that vaccine manufacturers would need to tweak their existing shots to address the ongoing genetic evolution of the coronavirus, saying booster shots would most likely be necessary, especially since new variants of the virus are now spreading globally and appear likely to become the predominant strains.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

9:49 am

Super Bowl featured a streaker in a neon pink Borat thong

The streaker at Sunday’s Super Bowl wasn’t naked. It was much, much worse.

This being Florida and 2021, the streaker at the 55th Super Bowl was wearing a pink Borat-style swimsuit, shorts and sneakers, obviously. One needs to be able to run.

It’s a choice to wear both the shorts and the full torso thong. Why not commit to the swimwear? As pictures show, the heavily tattooed man attempted to pull the shorts down at one point. A brave streaker would have started without the shorts.

Of course, you didn’t see the streaker on TV because you never see streakers on TV. They don’t want to encourage the behavior.

But it’s unlikely too many people — at least too many people who haven’t been drinking vodka and Red Bull for the last 10 hours — would look to emulate this fellow, who stripped partially naked during a global pandemic and exposed the world to his tattooed and the security staff to possibly COVID.

Unless of course this guy was one of those vaccinated healthcare heroes. In which case, I guess, go for it?

Whoever he is, he definitely got a couple yard.

See the story here.

—Lizzy Acker, oregonlive.com

9:21 am

New variants raise worry about COVID-19 virus reinfections

This 2020 electron microscope image made available by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows SARS-CoV-2 virus particles which cause COVID-19. According to research released in 2021, evidence is mounting that having COVID-19 may not protect against getting infected again with some of the new variants. People also can get second infections with earlier versions of the coronavirus if they mounted a weak defense the first time. (Hannah A. Bullock, Azaibi Tamin/CDC via AP)

This 2020 electron microscope image made available by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows SARS-CoV-2 virus particles which cause COVID-19. According to research released in 2021, evidence is mounting that having COVID-19 may not protect against getting infected again with some of the new variants. People also can get second infections with earlier versions of the coronavirus if they mounted a weak defense the first time. (Hannah A. Bullock, Azaibi Tamin/CDC via AP)

Evidence is mounting that having COVID-19 may not protect against getting infected again with some of the new variants. People also can get second infections with earlier versions of the coronavirus if they mounted a weak defense the first time, new research suggests.

How long immunity lasts from natural infection is one of the big questions in the pandemic. Scientists still think reinfections are fairly rare and usually less serious than initial ones, but recent developments around the world have raised concerns.

In South Africa, a vaccine study found new infections with a variant in 2% of people who previously had an earlier version of the virus.

In Brazil, several similar cases were documented with a new variant there. Researchers are exploring whether reinfections help explain a recent surge in the city of Manaus, where three-fourths of residents were thought to have been previously infected.

In the United States, a study found that 10% of Marine recruits who had evidence of prior infection and repeatedly tested negative before starting basic training were later infected again. That work was done before the new variants began to spread, said one study leader, Dr. Stuart Sealfon of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York.

“Previous infection does not give you a free pass,” he said. “A substantial risk of reinfection remains.”

Read the story here.

—Marilynn Marchione, The Associated Press

9:15 am

Texas GOP Rep. Ron Wright is first member of Congress to die of COVID-19.

U.S. Rep. Ron Wright of Arlington, Texas, died Sunday night after a battle with COVID-19. He was 67.

Rep. Ron Wright, R-Texas, seen in 2018, had battled health challenges over the past year including lung cancer treatment. He died Sunday more than two weeks after contracting COVID-19, his office said Monday.  He was 67.  (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, file)

Rep. Ron Wright, R-Texas, seen in 2018, had battled health challenges over the past year including lung cancer treatment. He died Sunday more than two weeks after contracting COVID-19, his office said Monday. He was 67. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, file)

His family and spokesperson confirmed Wright’s death Monday morning. The congressman, who was reelected in November, had been battling cancer.

Wright is the first member of Congress to die of COVID-19.

According to a statement released by Wright’s office, Wright had been keeping a vigorous work scheduled before contracting the virus. Two weeks ago Wright and his wife, Susan, were admitted to Baylor hospital in Dallas because of COVID-19.

Read the story here.

—Gromer Jeffers Jr., The Dallas Morning News

9:03 am

In Dubai’s COVID vaccine scramble, Sikhs serve doses to all

A man receives a Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine from a medical staffer at the Guru Nanak Darbar Sikh Temple, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Monday, Feb. 8, 2021. With the coronavirus pandemic surging to new heights in the UAE, the Sikhs of Dubai have traded their traditional fare of free meals for free COVID-19 vaccines. The city’s Sikh temple is administering 5,000 shots made by state-backed Chinese firm Sinopharm to those who may otherwise struggle to be vaccinated. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)

A man receives a Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine from a medical staffer at the Guru Nanak Darbar Sikh Temple, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Monday, Feb. 8, 2021. With the coronavirus pandemic surging to new heights in the UAE, the Sikhs of Dubai have traded their traditional fare of free meals for free COVID-19 vaccines. The city’s Sikh temple is administering 5,000 shots made by state-backed Chinese firm Sinopharm to those who may otherwise struggle to be vaccinated. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — In normal times, the crowds of young Southeast Asian workers jostling for a place in line outside the Sikh temple in Dubai would mean one thing: free meals.

A core tenet of the world’s fifth-largest religion with over 50,000 adherents in the United Arab Emirates is “langar,” the practice of serving hot, home-cooked vegetarian food to anyone in need. It can be a lifeline in Dubai, where millions of low-paid workers from Asia, Africa and elsewhere power the service-heavy economy.

But over the past few days, the Sikhs of Dubai have traded their spiced rice and dal for what has become a coveted prize: 5,000 shots of the Chinese-made vaccine offered to people of all ages and backgrounds. As the coronavirus pandemic surges to previously unseen heights in the UAE, residents are scrambling to get vaccines in the world’s second-fastest inoculation drive.

“We found a lot of people who wanted to take the vaccine but faced difficulty,” Surender Singh Kandhari, the temple’s chairman said.

Kandhari said many front-line medical workers who failed to get vaccinated elsewhere due to shortages and new restrictions were lining up for jabs in the temple’s parking garage Monday. “This is the only way we can serve the community,” he said.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

8:46 am

Lobster biz braces for Chinese New Year impacted by pandemic

America’s lobster exporters recovered from the Trump-era trade war with China to have a good 2020. But the industry is approaching one of the most critical times of the year with trepidation because of the coronavirus.

Chinese New Year is typically one of the busiest parts of the calendar for America’s lobster shippers, who send millions of dollars worth of the crustaceans to China every year. This year the holiday is Feb. 12, and industry members said the Year of the Ox won’t necessarily be the Year of the Lobster.

Business would normally be booming right now, but has ground to a halt because shipping is complicated this winter by the threat of the virus, said Mike Marceau, vice president of The Lobster Company in Arundel, Maine.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

7:30 am

Brazil’s wealthy cause a stir trying to score quick vaccines

Brazilian marketing executive Eduardo Menga is extra cautious when it comes to his health. During the pandemic, he consulted a slew of doctors to ensure he was in good shape and uprooted his family from Rio de Janeiro to a quiet city in the countryside where he works remotely. His wife Bianca Rinaldi, an actress, hasn’t worked since March.

Menga and Rinaldi are among a minority of Brazilians who will pay for a COVID-19 vaccine if an association of private clinics can close a deal to bring 5 million shots to Latin America’s most unequal country. President Jair Bolsonaro, under fire for his government’s handling of the pandemic, has promised not to interfere.

“When I go to a restaurant and I pay for my own food, I’m not taking anyone else’s food,” the 68-year-old Menga said from his home in Jundiai in Sao Paulo state. “I don’t think getting a vaccine from a private clinic will take it from someone else waiting in the public system. It could be an alternative line, and those who have the chance should take it.”

Amid the government’s stumbling vaccine rollout, many moneyed Brazilians want to find a swift path to vaccination, sparking backlash from some public health experts and igniting debate on social media, editorial pages and talk shows

Brazil stands apart because maneuvering isn’t only done in the shadows. Some is out in the open, with the prosperous coordinating efforts that the government endorses, according to Roberto DaMatta, an emeritus anthropology professor at the University of Notre Dame.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

7:28 am

Austria warns against travel to Tyrol, eases virus curbs

A woman with a mask is at a hairdresser after lock down in Vienna, Austria, Monday, Feb. 8, 2021. Photographed through a pane of glass. The Austrian government has moved to restrict freedom of movement for people, in an effort to slow the onset of the COVID-19 coronavirus. (AP Photo/Ronald Zak)

A woman with a mask is at a hairdresser after lock down in Vienna, Austria, Monday, Feb. 8, 2021. Photographed through a pane of glass. The Austrian government has moved to restrict freedom of movement for people, in an effort to slow the onset of the COVID-19 coronavirus. (AP Photo/Ronald Zak)

Austria on Monday issued a warning against travel to its Tyrol province amid concerns over cases of a coronavirus variant first discovered in South Africa, even as the country eased its third lockdown by reopening schools, shops, hairdressing salons, museums and zoos.

Officials have been discussing for days whether extra restrictions are required in Tyrol, a popular skiing destination. Federal authorities say 293 infections with the more contagious variant first discovered in South Africa have been confirmed in Tyrol.

The regional government on Monday drew up a list of measures that included calls for people to avoid nonessential travel, more police checks on mask-wearing and social distancing, and a requirement for negative antigen tests before people can use cable cars and ski lifts.

A little later, the federal government urged Austrians to refrain from nonessential travel to Tyrol, which borders Germany, Italy and Switzerland.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

6:27 am

Catch up on the past 24 hours

Trang Tu sings with her mother, Anna Nguyet Dang, in the Seattle home they share Monday, February 1, 2021.  Trang helped form a collective that encouraged the state to add people 55 and over in homecare to be prioritized in Phase 1B1. She has been caring for her mother with dementia for five years.  Now that the program has been rolled out, she and others in the refugee and immigrant community say that BIPOC elders are facing many challenges in accessing vaccines. (Ellen M. Banner / The Seattle Times)

Trang Tu sings with her mother, Anna Nguyet Dang, in the Seattle home they share Monday, February 1, 2021. Trang helped form a collective that encouraged the state to add people 55 and over in homecare to be prioritized in Phase 1B1. She has been caring for her mother with dementia for five years. Now that the program has been rolled out, she and others in the refugee and immigrant community say that BIPOC elders are facing many challenges in accessing vaccines. (Ellen M. Banner / The Seattle Times)

Trang Tu sings with her mother, Anna Nguyet Dang, in the Seattle home they share. Tu cares for her mother, who is 90 and has advanced dementia. When she learned that older adults being cared for at home were not high on the state’s COVID-19 vaccine priority list, she organized people to advocate on behalf of immigrant and refugee communities, for whom at-home care of elders is particularly cherished. They’ve made some progress but still face some frustrations. Here’s our updated guide to how to get your vaccine.

There’s lots of talk about equity in distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, but is it just talk? Columnist Naomi Ishisaka wonders whether we’re doomed to repeat the early failures of the pandemic, which disproportionately targeted Black, Indigenous and people of color.

Hospitals around Washington state are scrambling to figure out if some of the N95 masks they bought to protect staffers are actually fakes.

A handful of Washington school districts are successfully teaching most of their students in-person. They have a secret weapon that’s effective but not cheap.

With COVID-19 restrictions beginning to ease, Seattle’s live music venues could open their doors, so why aren’t they? “It’s just not really realistic for us,” says one owner.

South Africa is changing its plans after learning that the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine it had planned to give to front-line workers isn’t effective against a virus variant found there.

Just when many expected travel to pick up again, virus variants are leading to another season of vacations canceled or put on hold.

If you are going somewhere, particularly abroad, you may need proof of a negative coronavirus test. There’s no single standard, though.

The coronavirus is putting a huge damper on Chinese New Year again this year, and that will be felt on the coast of Maine as well.

The heartbreaking scenarios of patients dying behind plexiglass and having only video chats with loved ones have prompted an upsurge in at-home deaths, both from coronavirus and from other causes.

Chicago and its teachers reached a tentative deal to reopen schools with COVID-19 safety measures.

—Julie Hanson

6:20 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.


The Seattle Times Staff & News services