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

As Washington state battles lagging coronavirus vaccine distribution, Gov. Jay Inslee announced Monday his plan to speed up the process by creating new vaccination sites, mobilizing thousands of workers and making everyone 65 and over immediately eligible.

Meanwhile, the director of the World Health Organization said Monday that the world is on the brink of a “catastrophic moral failure” if wealthier nations don’t ensure the equitable distribution of vaccines to combat the coronavirus 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.

The Presidential Inaugural Committee is hosting a memorial at 2:10 p.m. today to remember and honor the lives lost to COVID-19.
Watch here:

Hospital leaders worry about outrage at canceled vaccine appointments

Washington hospital leaders said they worry part of Gov. Jay Inslee’s plan to accelerate vaccinations, announced Monday, will lead to canceled appointments that will outrage the public.

Inslee said vaccination providers will have to shift strategy as the state attempts to meet a goal of vaccinating 45,000 people a day, including people 65 and over who are now immediately eligible. Instead of waiting for vaccines to arrive before making appointments, providers should operate on the assumption that more supplies are coming and cancel if necessary, Inslee said.

“We have really serious concerns about this idea,” said Washington State Hospital Association CEO Cassie Sauer at a Tuesday briefing with several other leaders. Nurses would be pulled away from other work for vaccinations that might not happen. And, Sauer said, I believe the public outrage at having a vaccine appointment scheduled and then canceled will be extreme and will really undermine the confidence in our vaccine delivery system.”

Emotions are running high at vaccination sites, said June Altaras, a senior vice president of MultiCare Health System. Some people are so joyous they burst into tears, she said, adding she couldn’t imagine canceling appointments.

As an alternative, Sauer suggested the state tell vaccination sites, which currently have no idea from one week to the next how many doses they will receive, at least a minimum number they could expect.

Many people are already frustrated by confusion over when and how to get vaccinated, all the more so after a new Phase Finder website launched by the state crashed Monday. The Seattle Times was inundated with calls and emails. Also problematic, said Mandee Olsen, chief quality officer of Kittitas Valley Health in Ellensburg, is another Department of Health (DOH) website that lists county-by-county vaccination sites.

“That site isn’t accurate,” said Olsen. Some sites listed in Kittitas County are not offering vaccinations, while others that are do not appear on the site.

DOH has not yet responded to questions about the site or concern over potentially canceled appointments. Inslee, in a news conference Monday, urged the public to be patient as the state works to vaccinate all 1.5 million now eligible while receiving, at the moment, only 100,000 doses a week.

—Nina Shapiro

1:35 pm

To-go coffee from the Blue Moon Tavern? PBS looks at how Seattle bar is surviving pandemic

In happier, pre-pandemic times, the Blue Moon Tavern hosted events such as Opera On Tap in 2019 as part of the historical bar’s 85th anniversary celebration. But the coronavirus pandemic has kept the bar shuttered. The Blue Moon Tavern is featured in PBS’ “American Portrait” series, which tells the story of how its owner is trying to figure out different ways to keep the bar going. (Dean Rutz / The Seattle Times, file)

In happier, pre-pandemic times, the Blue Moon Tavern hosted events such as Opera On Tap in 2019 as part of the historical bar’s 85th anniversary celebration. But the coronavirus pandemic has kept the bar shuttered. The Blue Moon Tavern is featured in PBS’ “American Portrait” series, which tells the story of how its owner is trying to figure out different ways to keep the bar going. (Dean Rutz / The Seattle Times, file)

The producers of the crowdsourced docuseries “PBS American Portrait” gave Emma Hellthaler, owner of Seattle’s Blue Moon Tavern, a fairly straightforward task when they asked her to share her experiences through video: Tell us about your life.

Turns out, that wasn’t so easy as the world swirled about Hellthaler and the Blue Moon Tavern during a year that was beyond chaotic, even by 2020 standards.

“They did a good job of cleaning up a very messy story,” Hellthaler said. “I had a lot going on this year, so I told the producers straight up, I was like, ‘Man, like, I would not accept this if it were a screenplay. I feel like this plot is too messy. There’s too much going on.’

“Life was just too life-y.”

There are a lot of gripping moments in the four-part series that documents Americans in the moment in these turbulent times, to be sure. But there’s a palpable energy woven through Hellthaler’s segment, which airs at 9 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 19, on PBS and then will be available to stream.

They chronicle her life as she simultaneously tries to save her bar (she took ownership in — cue ominous music — October 2019), take care of her husband (he suffered a traumatic brain injury in a fall in early 2020) and raise two preteen children during the coronavirus pandemic.

Hellthaler’s installment ends at a pivotal moment as she installs an espresso machine in an attempt to reopen the Blue Moon. As you might expect, things don’t go as planned.

Read the story here.

—Chris Talbott, Special to The Seattle Times

1:25 pm

Teen returns home after month in Cayman Islands prison for breaking COVID quarantine rules

After spending more than a month in a Cayman Islands prison for breaking COVID-19 quarantine rules, a metro Atlanta teenager is back home, according to Channel 2 Action News.

Skylar Mack, 18, of Loganville, arrived at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport on Friday, where she reunited with her mother, the news station reported.

Mack and her boyfriend, Vanjae Ramgeet, were charged after Mack broke the county’s strict 14-day quarantine rules to watch Ramgeet, 24, participate in a water sports competition. She removed a location tracking device from her wrist in order to attend the November event.

The duo was initially sentenced to pay a $2,600 fine and complete 40 hours of community service after their violations, but an appeals judge issued a stricter sentence. Mack and Ramgeet, who both pleaded guilty, were sentenced to four months in prison, which was later reduced.

Read the story here.

—Zachary Hansen, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

12:58 pm

Couple celebrates 73rd wedding anniversary with vaccinations

A northern Kentucky couple celebrated their 73rd wedding anniversary by getting their first coronavirus vaccine shot.

Noel “Gene” Record, 93, and Virginia Record, 91, were among the first patients in Cincinnati to be vaccinated Tuesday under Ohio’s Phase 1B, WLWT-TV reported. Initial vaccinations went to health care workers.

The couple traveled from northern Kentucky to University of Cincinnati Health’s drive-thru vaccination site and they will return in three weeks to get the second vaccine dose.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

12:16 pm

‘We know this is real’: New clinics aid virus ‘long-haulers’

COVID-19 came early for Catherine Busa, and it never really left.

Catherine Busa takes a walk around her neighborhood as part of her recovery from COVID-19 in New York, Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021. The 54-year-old New York City school secretary didn’t have any underlying health problems when she caught the coronavirus in March and recovered at her Queens home. But some symptoms lingered. After eights months of suffering, she made her way to Jamaica Hospital Medical Center — to a clinic specifically for post-COVID-19 care. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Catherine Busa takes a walk around her neighborhood as part of her recovery from COVID-19 in New York, Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021. The 54-year-old New York City school secretary didn’t have any underlying health problems when she caught the coronavirus in March and recovered at her Queens home. But some symptoms lingered. After eights months of suffering, she made her way to Jamaica Hospital Medical Center — to a clinic specifically for post-COVID-19 care. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

The 54-year-old New York City school secretary didn’t have any underlying health problems when she caught the coronavirus in March, and she recovered at her Queens home.

But some symptoms lingered: fatigue she never experienced during years of rising at 5 a.m. for work; pain, especially in her hands and wrists; an altered sense of taste and smell that made food unappealing; and a welling depression. After eights months of suffering, she made her way to Jamaica Hospital Medical Center — to a clinic specifically for post-COVID-19 care.

“I felt myself in kind of a hole, and I couldn’t look on the bright side,” Busa said. She did not feel helped by visits to other doctors. But it was different at the clinic.

“They validated the way I felt,” she said. “That has helped me push through everything I’m fighting.”

The clinic is one of dozens of such facilities that have cropped up around the U.S. to address a puzzling aspect of COVID-19 — the effects that can stubbornly afflict some people weeks or months after the infection itself has subsided.

Read the story here.

—Jennifer Peltz, The Associated Press

12:00 pm

US virus death toll tops 400,000 in Trump’s final hours

Artist Suzanne Brennan Firstenberg walks in October among thousands of white flags planted in remembrance of Americans who have died of COVID-19 near Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium in Washington. The U.S. death toll from the coronavirus has eclipsed 400,000 in the waning hours in office for President Donald Trump. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)

Artist Suzanne Brennan Firstenberg walks in October among thousands of white flags planted in remembrance of Americans who have died of COVID-19 near Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium in Washington. The U.S. death toll from the coronavirus has eclipsed 400,000 in the waning hours in office for President Donald Trump. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)

The U.S. death toll from the coronavirus eclipsed 400,000 on Tuesday in the waning hours in office for President Donald Trump, whose handling of the crisis has been judged by public health experts a singular failure.

The running total of lives lost, as compiled by Johns Hopkins University, is nearly equal to the number of Americans killed in World II. It is about the population of Tulsa, Oklahoma; Tampa, Florida; or New Orleans.

And the virus isn’t finished with the U.S.: A widely cited model by the University of Washington projects the death toll will reach nearly 567,000 by May 1.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

11:24 am

What Washingtonians want Biden to do first

Ruth Jacobson has a list of things she wants Joe Biden to do once he’s sworn in as the nation’s 46th president. She wants him to reinstate and bolster environmental protections; restore the nation’s standing in the global community; and to implement kinder, more humane, immigration policies.

But a first step toward all those things, she said, is getting the coronavirus pandemic under control.

“I just suspect having a more rational approach to presenting and solving problems will help, will get us started on the road,” Jacobson said. “At least if everybody’s on the same page and people are not prevented from saying what is clearly true.”

As the nation prepares for a Biden presidency, Washington residents have a lot on their agendas for what they want to see him tackle first. Though that list is varied, one issue many have in common: fighting the spread of the coronavirus.

Read the story here.

—Maya Leshikar and David Gutman

11:14 am

Plunged into virus ‘dark winter,’ Biden must lead US out

 President-elect Joe Biden predicted he would take office amid a “dark winter,” and the outlook is only getting bleaker.

No matter his first acts in the White House, the raging coronavirus pandemic could take another 100,000 American lives in his first month as president after crossing the grim marker of 400,000 deaths this week. He inherits a country weary from 10 months of lockdowns and business closures, divided by attacks on public health professionals and tantalized by the promise of widespread vaccination that will take months to have much effect.

Yet at noon on Wednesday, the virus, and the nation’s response to it, will be Biden’s responsibility.

“We’re inheriting a huge mess here,” incoming White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain bluntly told CNN Sunday. “The virus is going to get worse before it gets better,” he warned. “The virus is the virus. What we can do is act to control it.”

The effort to “control” the outbreak will likely be the defining test for the new administration: Biden has pledged to bring competence to a crisis that has made the U.S. exceptional for the wrong reasons — the most confirmed infections and deaths in the world.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

10:43 am

King County Council to consider vaccine legislation Tuesday

The King County Council could vote to approve legislation to broaden access to the COVID-19 vaccine on Tuesday.

The meeting, at 1 p.m., will be livestreamed on KCTV.

The proposal would require County Executive Dow Constantine to create a “detailed and robust plan to deliver the vaccines countywide, lower barriers to access, and have most King County residents vaccinated by June, with priority for older people and others at higher risk of death,” according to a statement issued by the council.

The legislation is being introduced by King County Councilmembers Rod Dembowski, Jeanne Kohl-Welles, Reagan Dunn and Pete Von Reichbauer.

Watch the council meeting here.

—Christine Clarridge

9:45 am

A new COVID-19 challenge: Mutations rise along with cases

The race against the virus that causes COVID-19 has taken a new turn: Mutations are rapidly popping up, and the longer it takes to vaccinate people, the more likely it is that a variant that can elude current tests, treatments and vaccines could emerge.

The coronavirus is becoming more genetically diverse, and health officials say the high rate of new cases is the main reason. Each new infection gives the virus a chance to mutate as it makes copies of itself, threatening to undo the progress made so far to control the pandemic

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said a new version first identified in the United Kingdom may become dominant in the U.S. by March. Although it doesn’t cause more severe illness, it will lead to more hospitalizations and deaths just because it spreads much more easily, said the CDC, warning of “a new phase of exponential growth.”

So far, vaccines seem to remain effective, but there are signs that some of the new mutations may undermine tests for the virus and reduce the effectiveness of antibody drugs as treatments.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

9:15 am

Dutch govt to beef up lockdown amid fears about new variants

The Dutch government said Tuesday it needs to beef up lockdown measures “as soon as possible” to rein in the spread of the coronavirus amid fears about more transmissible variants.

A family watches as the father get a nose an throat swab as residents of Bergschenhoek, Netherlands, take part in a mass test of all of the municipality’s 62,000 inhabitants starting Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021, following a cluster of COVID-19 cases at an elementary school, including about 30 cases of the British coronavirus variant. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)

A family watches as the father get a nose an throat swab as residents of Bergschenhoek, Netherlands, take part in a mass test of all of the municipality’s 62,000 inhabitants starting Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021, following a cluster of COVID-19 cases at an elementary school, including about 30 cases of the British coronavirus variant. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)

Health Minister Hugo de Jonge said in a letter to parliament that the government will announce extra measures on Wednesday afternoon.

The Netherlands has been in a tough lockdown for a month and will remain that way at least until at least Feb. 9, but the slow decrease in the number of new infections and the threat posed by new variants have prompted the government to consider a tightening that is expected to include a curfew for the first time since the pandemic began.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

8:45 am

India’s homegrown vaccine developer warns some to avoid shot

Shimray Wungreichon, 43, looks at the nurse administering her the COVID-19 vaccine at the District Hospital in Ukhrul, in the northeastern Indian state of Manipur, Saturday, Jan. 16, 2021. “I am very positive about it,” said Wungreichon, a nurse for 14 years who described getting vaccinated as a “normal routine” for her. (AP Photo/Yirmiyan Arthur)

Shimray Wungreichon, 43, looks at the nurse administering her the COVID-19 vaccine at the District Hospital in Ukhrul, in the northeastern Indian state of Manipur, Saturday, Jan. 16, 2021. “I am very positive about it,” said Wungreichon, a nurse for 14 years who described getting vaccinated as a “normal routine” for her. (AP Photo/Yirmiyan Arthur)

India’s homegrown coronavirus vaccine developer Bharat Biotech on Tuesday warned people with weak immunity and other medical conditions including allergies, fever or a bleeding disorder to consult a doctor before getting the shot — and if possible avoid the vaccine.

The company said those receiving vaccinations should disclose their medical condition, medicines they are taking and any history of allergies; severe allergic reactions among vaccine recipients may include difficulty breathing, swelling of the face and throat, rapid heartbeat, body rashes, dizziness and weakness.

India on Jan. 4 approved the emergency use of two vaccines, one developed by Oxford University and U.K.-based drugmaker AstraZeneca, and the other by Bharat Biotech. The regulator took the step without publishing information about the Indian vaccine’s efficacy.

Tens of thousands of people have been given the shot in the past three days after India started inoculating health care workers last weekend in what is likely the world’s largest coronavirus vaccination campaign. India vaccinated 148,266 people on Monday, taking its total to 381,305, the health ministry said.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

8:15 am

AP-NORC poll: Virus, economy swamp other priorities for US

Containing the coronavirus outbreak and repairing the economic damage it has inflicted are the top priorities for Americans as Joe Biden prepares to become the 46th president of the United States, according to a new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

Overall, 53% of Americans name COVID-19 as one of the top five issues they want the government to tackle this year, and 68% mention in some way the economy, which is still reeling from the outbreak.

In an open-ended question, those priorities far outpace others, like foreign affairs, immigration, climate change or racial inequality. The findings suggest Biden’s political fate is riding on his administration’s response to the pandemic.

FILE — President-elect Joe Biden during a news conference in Wilmington, Del., Dec. 4, 2020. The president-elect is rolling out a large spending package aimed at helping battle the virus and alleviate the economic toll it has taken. (Kriston Jae Bethel/The New York Times)

FILE — President-elect Joe Biden during a news conference in Wilmington, Del., Dec. 4, 2020. The president-elect is rolling out a large spending package aimed at helping battle the virus and alleviate the economic toll it has taken. (Kriston Jae Bethel/The New York Times)

The poll was taken in December.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

7:53 am

Quarantine corner: Diversions to get you through the day

—Kris Higginson

7:27 am

College Board is scrapping SAT’s optional essay and subject tests

Two major stress points in the grueling rituals of college admission testing are vanishing this year: the optional essay-writing section of the SAT and the supplementary exams in various fields known as SAT subject tests.

The College Board announced Tuesday it will discontinue those assessments. Citing the coronavirus crisis, officials said the pandemic has “accelerated a process already underway at the College Board to simplify our work and reduce demands on students.”

The testing organization, based in New York, also revealed the launch of a process to revise the main SAT, aiming to make the admission test “more flexible” and “streamlined” and enable students to take the exam digitally instead of with pencil and paper.

The pandemic, which shuttered schools last March and continues to disrupt all levels of education, has created unprecedented turmoil for the SAT and the rival ACT admission test. Many college-bound students have struggled since last spring to find testing centers available at the right time and place.

With some exceptions, colleges and universities have ended or temporarily suspended testing requirements. 

Read the story here.

—Nick Anderson, The Washington Post

7:22 am

Will standardized testing in Washington schools survive the pandemic?

When Diane DeBacker worked as state education commissioner in Kansas, educators talked often and openly about their schools’ standardized test scores.

Then, in 2018, she moved to Seattle, where everything was different. 

“We didn’t stand in front of a board and talk about how our schools did,” said DeBacker, who worked as Seattle Public Schools’ top academic officer until earlier this month. “I was like, huh, we don’t lead with assessments in Seattle. That’s kind of comforting.”

Now, with the nation’s education system rocked by a pandemic that led to the pause of a broad swath of standardized tests, some education leaders say it’s time to rethink testing. They are questioning what the tests measure, and whether they should continue to be used as a primary way to determine success and failures in public schools.

Last year, for the first time since the No Child Left Behind Act passed, federal law didn’t require states to administer standardized tests, which means there’s no way to conclusively know how students are doing. 

Because a major national test, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), was suspended, this year’s state tests would provide the first quantitative answer — if they proceed. Some local and state leaders don’t want the state tests to resume this year, in part because they will be challenging to administer remotely. It’ll be up to the Biden administration to decide.

Read the story here.

—Joy Resmovits

7:20 am

Thai leader threatens punishment for false vaccine news

Passengers wearing face-masks to reduce spread of the coronavirus, ride a canal ferry in Bangkok, Thailand, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021. Thailand planned to expand testing to thousands of factories in a province next to Bangkok as it reported over 300 new virus cases around the country on Wednesday and one new death, an official said. (AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe)

Passengers wearing face-masks to reduce spread of the coronavirus, ride a canal ferry in Bangkok, Thailand, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021. Thailand planned to expand testing to thousands of factories in a province next to Bangkok as it reported over 300 new virus cases around the country on Wednesday and one new death, an official said. (AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe)

Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha warned Tuesday that his government will prosecute anyone who shares false information about coronavirus vaccines in social or mass media.

The government already has the power to impose punishments under a state of emergency that was declared last March to deal with the health threat.

Prayuth’s warning was an apparent reaction to charges that his government has done too little to acquire adequate supplies of vaccines. The criticism took on a sharp political tinge after a popular politician aired such allegations in an internet broadcast Monday night.

“Do not blame me for threatening legal action,” Prayuth said. “I need to keep people’s confidence and trust in government.”

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

6:10 am

Catch up on the past 24 hours

Everyone 65 and older eligible is eligible for a vaccine now — but patience may be needed. Gov. Jay Inslee plans to speed the shots into Washingtonians’ arms by creating new vaccination sites, mobilizing thousands of workers and making everyone 65 and over immediately eligible. But his goal of 45,000 vaccinations a day outstrips the supply from the feds, and we’re already seeing glitches, including the crash of the new tool that’s supposed to tell you when you can be vaccinated. Here’s how the new plan should work, and how to find a vaccine near you.

Virus mutations are rapidly popping up, with another new one ripping through Northern California. The new variants make the vaccination sprint more urgent: The longer it takes to vaccinate people, the more likely it is that a variant that can elude current vaccines could emerge.

People in adult family homes are a vaccination priority in Washington state, but many of the 19,000 residents and 17,000 workers have no clear path to getting shots.

Twins Kimberly and Kelly Standard shared nearly everything for 35 years. One exception: their experience of COVID-19, which hit Kimberly far harder. That amazed scientists, who hope identical twins like the Standards will help them untangle the disease’s genetic roots.

How do you establish COVID-19 boundaries for a first date? Dating columnist Marina tackles this, the Seattle Freeze and more.

—Kris Higginson

6:08 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