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

Exactly a year after the first COVID-19 case was discovered in Washington state, President Joe Biden on Thursday signed a burst of executive orders aimed to increase vaccinations and testing, prepare for reopening schools and businesses and immediately increase the use of masks.

Public health experts, however, continue to run into vaccine shortages, which they’re blaming in part on the Trump administration’s rush to get states to quickly expand their vaccination drives. In Washington, Gov. Jay Inslee announced Thursday Amazon is partnering with Virginia Mason on a pop-up vaccine clinic they’re hoping will vaccinate 2,000 people this weekend.

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.

A year after Wuhan lockdown, a world still deep in crisis

Workers move stock near lanterns on sale for the upcoming Chinese Lunar New Year in Wuhan in central China’s Hubei province on Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. Life appears to be back to normal on the eve of the anniversary of the 76-day lockdown in the central Chinese city where the coronavirus was first detected. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

Workers move stock near lanterns on sale for the upcoming Chinese Lunar New Year in Wuhan in central China’s Hubei province on Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. Life appears to be back to normal on the eve of the anniversary of the 76-day lockdown in the central Chinese city where the coronavirus was first detected. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

Nearly a year to the day after the Chinese city of Wuhan went into lockdown to contain a virus that had already escaped, President Joe Biden began putting into effect a new war plan for fighting the outbreak in the U.S., Germany topped 50,000 deaths, and Britain closed in on 100,000.

The anniversary of the lockdown Saturday comes as more contagious variants of the coronavirus spread and efforts to vaccinate people against COVID-19 have been frustrated by disarray and limited supplies in some places. The scourge has killed over 2 million people worldwide and over 410,000 in the U.S., which has the world’s highest death toll.

The 76-day Wuhan lockdown began a year ago with a notice sent to people’s smartphones at 2 a.m. announcing the airport and train and bus stations would shut at 10 a.m. It eventually was expanded to most of the rest of Hubei province, affecting 56 million people.

By the time of the lockdown, the virus had spread well beyond China’s borders.

Today, Wuhan has largely returned to normal while elsewhere the pandemic rages.

Read the story here.

—Brian Melley, The Associated Press

12:45 pm

Bond film ‘No Time to Die’ delayed again because of virus

Daniel Craig in his first turn as 007: the 2006 film “Casino Royale.”

Daniel Craig in his first turn as 007: the 2006 film “Casino Royale.”

 It’s still not time for “No Time to Die.”

Producers of the forthcoming James Bond thriller say the film’s release has been delayed again, until the fall of 2021, because of the effects of the coronavirus pandemic

The official 007 Twitter account said late Thursday that the 25th installment in the franchise will now open on Oct. 8.

“No Time To Die” was originally slated to open in April 2020 but was pushed back to November of that year as the virus swept around the world. It was then delayed again to April 2, 2021.

Read more here.

—The Associated Press

12:28 pm

Language barriers, wariness make vaccinating immigrants hard

Hispanic farm workers wait in line to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in Mecca, Calif., Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021. The farmworkers who got their shots are among the millions of immigrants around the United States, who advocacy groups warn may be some of the most difficult people to reach during the largest vaccination campaign in American history. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Hispanic farm workers wait in line to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in Mecca, Calif., Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021. The farmworkers who got their shots are among the millions of immigrants around the United States, who advocacy groups warn may be some of the most difficult people to reach during the largest vaccination campaign in American history. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Migrant workers lined up by the hundreds during a break from picking produce this week to receive the coronavirus vaccine on a Southern California grape farm.

The farmworkers who got their shots are among vulnerable immigrants in the United States — particularly the 11 million in the country illegally — who advocacy groups say may be some of the most difficult people to reach during the largest vaccination campaign in American history.

Some immigrants in the country illegally fear that information taken during vaccinations could be turned over to authorities and so may not seek out vaccines, while those who speak little or no English may find it difficult to access them. Like other groups, some are also hesitant about receiving a newly approved shot — and language barriers may also make it harder to get messages countering misinformation to them.

While these challenges may exist for many vulnerable immigrant groups, they are particularly worrying for Latino immigrants, who make a large portion of the workforce in industries where they have a significant risk of exposure.

“There is anxiety and it’s real … but so is the fear of dying of COVID-19,” said Pablo Alvarado, director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

12:15 pm

Dry January is moist for some at the rocky start of 2021

This Jan. 1, 2021 photo shows a collection of empty beer cans, consumed during the pandemic, at a home in North Andover, Mass. This year’s Dry January came as many people had seen an uptick in their alcohol intake. Addiction treatment experts note that a month of forced sobriety might not have a lasting impact and could lead to binge drinking in February. But others believe the annual show of sobriety can’t hurt. (Mary Schwalm / The Associated Press)

This Jan. 1, 2021 photo shows a collection of empty beer cans, consumed during the pandemic, at a home in North Andover, Mass. This year’s Dry January came as many people had seen an uptick in their alcohol intake. Addiction treatment experts note that a month of forced sobriety might not have a lasting impact and could lead to binge drinking in February. But others believe the annual show of sobriety can’t hurt. (Mary Schwalm / The Associated Press)

A raging pandemic, tumultuous presidential election and deadly Capitol insurrection have combined to make the annual tradition of Dry January more moist than air-tight for some.

Eight-year-old Dry January, which comes at the height of resolution season after the holidays, has brought on the desired benefits for many among the millions participating around the world. They’re losing quarantine weight, experiencing more clarity and sleeping easier.

Others with lockdown time on their hands and round-the-clock access to TV news and the home liquor cabinet are struggling to meet the challenge. Some who have already cheated hoisted a glass on Inauguration Day, Dry January’s surreal New Year’s Eve.

Read the story here.

—Leanne Italie, The Associated Press

11:26 am

UK chief scientist says new virus variant may be more deadly

A man wearing a face mask waits beside a sign informing of a new road layout for social distancing, in London, Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021. The U.K. is under an indefinite national lockdown to curb the spread of the new variant, with nonessential shops, gyms and hairdressers closed, most people working from home and schools offering remote learning. (Frank Augstein / The Associated Press)

A man wearing a face mask waits beside a sign informing of a new road layout for social distancing, in London, Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021. The U.K. is under an indefinite national lockdown to curb the spread of the new variant, with nonessential shops, gyms and hairdressers closed, most people working from home and schools offering remote learning. (Frank Augstein / The Associated Press)

There is some evidence that a new coronavirus variant first identified in southeast England carries a higher risk of death .than the original strain, the British government’s chief scientific adviser said Friday — though he stressed that the data is uncertain

Patrick Vallance told a news conference that “there is evidence that there is an increased risk for those who have the new variant.”

He said that for a man in his 60s with the original version of the virus, “the average risk is that for 1,000 people who got infected, roughly 10 would be expected to unfortunately die.”

“With the new variant, for 1,000 people infected, roughly 13 or 14 people might be expected to die,” he said.

But Vallance stressed that “the evidence is not yet strong” and more research is needed.

In contrast to that uncertainty, he said, there is growing confidence that the variant is more easily passed on than the original coronavirus strain. He said it appears to be between 30% and 70% more transmissible.

Read the story here.

—Jill Lawless, The Associated Press

11:25 am

Ohio legislator who questioned Black hygiene to lead state’s health panel

FILE – In this Oct. 13, 2014 file photo, Republican Sen. Steve Huffman speaks during a rally at Darke County GOP headquarters in Greenville, Ohio.  Huffman, who questioned whether “the colored population” was contracting coronavirus at disproportionate rates because of their hygiene, is drawing new criticism from Black lawmakers on Friday, Jan. 22, 2021 after his appointment to lead the state Senate Health Committee (AP Photo/Al Behrman, File)

FILE – In this Oct. 13, 2014 file photo, Republican Sen. Steve Huffman speaks during a rally at Darke County GOP headquarters in Greenville, Ohio. Huffman, who questioned whether “the colored population” was contracting coronavirus at disproportionate rates because of their hygiene, is drawing new criticism from Black lawmakers on Friday, Jan. 22, 2021 after his appointment to lead the state Senate Health Committee (AP Photo/Al Behrman, File)

A Republican lawmaker and doctor who questioned whether members of “the colored population” were disproportionately contracting the coronavirus because of their hygiene is drawing new criticism from Black lawmakers after his appointment to lead the Ohio Senate Health Committee.

“Could it just be that African Americans – or the colored population — do not wash their hands as well as other groups? Or wear masks? Or do not socially distance themselves?” state Sen. Stephen Huffman asked a Black health expert in June 11 testimony. “Could that just be the explanation of why there’s a higher incidence?”

The comments resulted in calls from Democrats and the ACLU of Ohio for him to resign from the GOP-controlled Senate.

Huffman, of Tipp City, was appointed last week by Senate President Matt Huffman, his cousin, to chair the committee even after he was fired from his job as a Dayton-area emergency room physician for his comments.

In a letter Wednesday, the Ohio Black Legislative Caucus demanded a health committee leader who understands and can respond to the inequities of healthcare in Ohio “without political influence.”

“If the Senate leadership will not replace Sen. Huffman as Chair, then we will expect Sen. Huffman to use his position to improve the health of Ohio’s African-American population by working with OLBC to pass legislation that effectively addresses health disparities in the state of Ohio,” director Tony Bishop said in a news release.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

10:51 am

CDC quietly says virus patients can be switched to another vaccine for 2nd dose in ‘exceptional’ cases

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has quietly changed its recommendations for coronavirus immunizations to allow patients to switch the authorized vaccines between the first and second doses in “exceptional situations,” and to extend the interval between doses to six weeks, even though such changes have not been studied in large clinical trials.

The new guidelines were posted on the agency’s website Thursday with little public notice. With the possibility of vaccine shortages on the horizon and little expectation that supply can be increased before April, the changes may offer a way to vaccinate more people — a high priority for President Joe Biden, who outlined his national COVID-19 strategy Thursday.

A CDC spokeswoman, Kristen Nordlund, said the agency’s “intention is not to suggest people do anything different but provide clinicians with flexibility for exceptional circumstances.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the president’s special adviser for COVID-19, has repeatedly advised against delaying the second dose or making any other changes in vaccination protocol without the data to support them.

Read the story here.

—Sheryl Gay Stolberg, The New York Times

10:45 am

Chicago teachers to start getting vaccinated in mid-February

 Chicago’s school district announced Friday that it plans to start vaccinating teachers for the coronavirus in mid-February, though it remained to be seen if that would be enough to stop the teachers union from voting to defy the district’s order to return to their classrooms next week.

Chicago Public Schools, which is the nation’s third-largest district, said in a statement that its mid-February rollout would be the beginning of a multi-month effort to offer vaccinations to its thousands of teachers and other staff members, who like educators throughout Illinois, will be eligible to receive the shots as of Monday under the state’s plan.

The announcement came a day after the union’s 25,000 members began voting on whether to back its leadership’s resolution to continue teaching from home in defiance of the district’s order for roughly 10,000 K-8 educators to return to school for the first time since March. The union’s vote is set to conclude Saturday.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

10:17 am

Coronavirus guidelines now the rule at White House

Testing wristbands are in. Mask-wearing is mandatory. Desks are socially distanced.

The clearest sign that there’s a new boss at the White House is the deference being paid to coronavirus public health guidelines.

President Joe Biden and first lady Dr. Jill Biden, are joined by Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband Doug Emhoff, as they participate in a virtual Presidential Inaugural Prayer Service in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington on Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021. Behind the Biden’s are other family members. (Doug Mills/The New York Times)

President Joe Biden and first lady Dr. Jill Biden, are joined by Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband Doug Emhoff, as they participate in a virtual Presidential Inaugural Prayer Service in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington on Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021. Behind the Biden’s are other family members. (Doug Mills/The New York Times)

It’s a striking contrast to Donald Trump’s White House, which was the epicenter of no less than three separate outbreaks of COVID-19, their true scale not fully known because aides refused to discuss cases publicly.

While the Trump administration was known for flouting safety recommendations, the Biden team has made a point of abiding by the same strict guidelines they’re urging Americans to follow to stem the spread of the virus.

It’s part of an overall effort from President Joe Biden to lead by example on the coronavirus pandemic, an ethos carried over from his campaign and transition.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

10:15 am

Lebanese hospitals fight exhausting battle against virus

Death stalks the corridors of Beirut’s Rafik Hariri University Hospital, where losing multiple patients in one day to COVID-19 has become the new normal. On Friday, the mood among the staff was even more solemn as a young woman lost the battle with the virus.

A medical staffer looks at a COVID-19 patient at the intensive care unit of the Rafik Hariri University Hospital in Beirut, Lebanon, Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. Hospitals in Lebanon are reaching full capacity amid a dramatic surge in coronavirus cases across the crisis-hit Mediterranean nation even amid strict lockdown. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)

A medical staffer looks at a COVID-19 patient at the intensive care unit of the Rafik Hariri University Hospital in Beirut, Lebanon, Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. Hospitals in Lebanon are reaching full capacity amid a dramatic surge in coronavirus cases across the crisis-hit Mediterranean nation even amid strict lockdown. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)

There was silence as the woman, barely in her 30s, drew her last breath. Then a brief commotion. The nurses frantically tried to resuscitate her. Finally, exhausted, they silently removed the oxygen mask and the tubes — and covered the body with a brown blanket.

The woman was one of 57 victims who died on Friday and more than 2,150 lost to the virus so far in Lebanon, a small country with a population of nearly 6 million that since last year has grappled with the worst economic and financial crisis in its modern history.

In recent weeks, Lebanon has seen a dramatic increase in virus cases, following the holiday season when restrictions were eased and thousand of expatriates flew home for a visit.

Read the story here.

—Fay Abuelgasim, The Associated Press

9:45 am

Venezuela power struggle impedes delivery of COVID vaccine

 Venezuela’s political conflict has claimed another casualty: relief from the coronavirus pandemic.

FILE: Pedestrians and commuters wearing face masks amid the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic crowd a sidewalk near a bus stop in Caracas, Venezuela, Monday, June 1, 2020. Politics with proposals to finance United Nations-supplied vaccines are so far blocking any option from going ahead.. (Ariana Cubillos / The Associated Press)

FILE: Pedestrians and commuters wearing face masks amid the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic crowd a sidewalk near a bus stop in Caracas, Venezuela, Monday, June 1, 2020. Politics with proposals to finance United Nations-supplied vaccines are so far blocking any option from going ahead.. (Ariana Cubillos / The Associated Press)

The socialist government of Nicolás Maduro and the U.S.-backed opposition are accusing each other of playing politics with proposals to finance United Nations-supplied vaccines — so far blocking any option from going ahead.

The cash-strapped government, shut out from western banks by U.S. sanctions, has proposed selling some of the $2 billion in Venezuelan-owned gold ingots sitting frozen in the vaults of the Bank of England. Lawyers for Venezuela’s central bank warn a “humanitarian disaster, and a potentially large loss of life” could result if the U.K. funds aren’t freed up.

But the opposition led by Juan Guaidó opposes that plan — a stance that scuppers any movement until Britain’s Supreme Court decides the thorny question of who is Venezuela’s legitimate president, with oversight of its assets.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

9:13 am

Pfizer to supply 40M COVID-19 shots for poor countries

FILE – In this Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2020 file photo, a droplet falls from a syringe after a health care worker was injected with the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at Women & Infants Hospital in Providence, R.I. (AP Photo/David Goldman, File)

FILE – In this Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2020 file photo, a droplet falls from a syringe after a health care worker was injected with the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at Women & Infants Hospital in Providence, R.I. (AP Photo/David Goldman, File)

Pfizer on Friday committed to supply up to 40 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine this year to a World Health Organization-backed effort to get affordable shots to poor and middle-income countries.

The deal is a boost to the global program known as COVAX, as wealthy nations have snapped up most of the millions of coming shots.

The commitment, announced at a virtual press conference held by the Geneva-based WHO, is seen as important because Pfizer and its partner BioNTech won the first emergency authorization from the influential U.S. Food and Drug Administration in mid-December. That clearance makes it easier for international health groups and poor nations to quickly OK emergency use.

Earlier this week, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus criticized drugmakers for seeking profits from the pandemic and mostly supplying wealthy countries.

Read the story here.

—Linda A. Johnson, The Associated Press

8:48 am

German virus death toll tops 50,000 even as infections sink

FILE – In this Tuesday, May 12, 2020 file photo, Iulian, Romanian worker who stands behind the fence that was set up at the entrance of a housing of Romania slaughterhouse workers in Rosendahl, Germany. Hundreds of the workers were tested positive on the coronavirus and were put on quarantine.More than 50,000 people have died after contracting COVID-19 in Germany, a number that has risen swiftly over recent weeks as the country has struggled to bring down infection figures. (AP Photo/Michael Probst, file)

FILE – In this Tuesday, May 12, 2020 file photo, Iulian, Romanian worker who stands behind the fence that was set up at the entrance of a housing of Romania slaughterhouse workers in Rosendahl, Germany. Hundreds of the workers were tested positive on the coronavirus and were put on quarantine.More than 50,000 people have died after contracting COVID-19 in Germany, a number that has risen swiftly over recent weeks as the country has struggled to bring down infection figures. (AP Photo/Michael Probst, file)

The death toll from the coronavirus in Germany has passed 50,000, a number that has risen swiftly over recent weeks even as infection figures are finally declining.

The country’s disease control center, the Robert Koch Institute, said Friday that another 859 deaths were reported over the past 24 hours, taking the total so far to 50,642.

Germany had a comparatively small number of deaths in the pandemic’s first phase and was able to lift many restrictions quickly.

But it has seen much higher levels of infections in the fall and winter. Hundreds of deaths, sometimes more than 1,000, have been reported daily in the country of 83 million people over recent weeks. Germany hit the 40,000 mark on Jan. 10.

President Frank-Walter Steinmeier will leave a light shining in a window at his Bellevue palace in Berlin every evening starting Friday in memory of the dead and those fighting for their lives, his office said. He encouraged other Germans to do the same.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

8:45 am

Spain to probe whether military top brass jumped jab queue

Spain’s Defense Ministry is launching an internal inquiry to find out if the military top brass dodged coronavirus vaccine protocols by receiving a jab before their turn.

El Confidencial Digital, an online news site, first reported that Chief of Staff Gen. Miguel Ángel Villarroya and several other high-ranking officers in Spain’s Armed Forces had recently received the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

In Spain, top government and other officials have not been granted preferential access to the vaccine — unlike other European countries where they were among the first to get the jab, to encourage members of the public to follow suit.

Nursing home residents and staff, as well as first-line health workers, are currently receiving jabs as priority groups in the national vaccination plan. The rollout is suffering delays due to a shortage of deliveries by Pfizer-BioNTech, currently the main supplier of vaccines.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

8:15 am

It’s a secret: California keeps key virus data from public

California Gov. Gavin Newsom has from the start said his coronavirus policy decisions would be driven by data shared with the public to provide maximum transparency.

But with the state starting to emerge from its worst surge, his administration won’t disclose key information that will help determine when his latest stay-at-home order is lifted.

FILE: Banners advising people to wear masks against the coronavirus hang along Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles. (Damian Dovarganes / The Associated Press)

FILE: Banners advising people to wear masks against the coronavirus hang along Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles. (Damian Dovarganes / The Associated Press)

State officials said they rely on a very complex set of measurements that would confuse and potentially mislead the public if they were made public.

After Newsom, a Democrat, imposed the nation’s first statewide shutdown in March, his administration developed reopening plans that included benchmarks for virus data such as per capita infection rates that counties needed to meet to relax restrictions.

But as cases surged after Thanksgiving, Newsom tore up his playbook. Rather than a county-by-county approach, he created five regions and established a single measurement — ICU capacity — as the determination for whether a region was placed under a stay-at-home order.

Now restrictions are being lifted but it’s a mystery how the state made the decision because the data is not being shared.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

7:45 am

What will decide the fate of the Tokyo Olympics?

A man wearing a protective mask to help curb the spread of the coronavirus walks near a banner of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics at an underpass in Tokyo Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021. The Tokyo Olympics are to open in six months on July 23, but COUVID-19 could still alter its fate. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)

A man wearing a protective mask to help curb the spread of the coronavirus walks near a banner of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics at an underpass in Tokyo Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021. The Tokyo Olympics are to open in six months on July 23, but COUVID-19 could still alter its fate. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)

As the global resurgence in covid-19 cases reignites debate over whether to hold the Olympics this summer, focus has turned to how the fate of the Tokyo games will be decided, and what they will look like if they go ahead.

A resurgence of infections around the world and the emergence of new strains have led organizers to acknowledge that nothing is certain. Although the resumption of professional sports and arrival of vaccines have provided some optimism, leagues around the world are battling outbreaks and inoculation campaigns have been slow. Adding to the headwinds is Japan’s second state of emergency and public opposition toward hosting the event.

Speculation of a possible cancellation intensified Friday after the Times of London reported the Japanese government is seeking a way out of hosting this year. The report, which cited an unidentified member of the ruling coalition, said Japan is focused on securing the games for 2032.

“I want to flatly deny the report,” Manabu Sakai, Japan’s deputy chief cabinet secretary, told reporters in Tokyo. Other officials also rushed to dismiss the report.

“We are determined to stage a safe Games, with thorough precautions,” Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga told parliament on Friday, “as proof that the world has defeated the novel coronavirus and to show the world the recovery from the Great East Japan earthquake.”

Read the story here.

—Bloomberg

7:20 am

Woodland Park Zoo’s new tiger was one of world’s first animals to test positive for coronavirus. She made a full recovery

Azul, a new 5-year old Malayan tiger, just made her public debut at the Woodland Park Zoo after a 30-day quarantine. She came from the Bronx Zoo, which had the first COVID outbreak among animals last spring in its lions and tigers.  (Greg Gilbert / The Seattle Times)

Azul, a new 5-year old Malayan tiger, just made her public debut at the Woodland Park Zoo after a 30-day quarantine. She came from the Bronx Zoo, which had the first COVID outbreak among animals last spring in its lions and tigers. (Greg Gilbert / The Seattle Times)

The Woodland Park Zoo’s newest tiger, Azul, has a dubious claim to fame: She was one of the first animals in the world to be diagnosed with COVID-19 last spring while living at New York’s Bronx Zoo.

Woodland Park isn’t worried that Azul could bring the coronavirus to its animals. She fully recovered last April, along with other tigers and lions that had tested positive.

The 5-year-old Malayan tiger flew to Seattle with her New York City zookeepers in September. She entered the public enclosure this week after a standard 30-day quarantine and time to adjust to her new home.

Azul’s sister Nadia was the first animal in the world to test positive for the coronavirus last spring. Bronx Zoo staff noticed Nadia had a dry cough in late March, and soon several other lions and tigers all showed symptoms.

Four tigers (including Azul) and three lions tested positive. Scientists were still scrambling to ramp up coronavirus testing in New York, the epicenter of the pandemic, and the tests used for the animals were different than those effective on humans, the zoo clarified.

Read the story here.

—Taylor Blatchford, Seattle Times news producer

7:15 am

NFL giving free Super Bowl tickets to 7,500 health workers

 The NFL announced Friday that 7,500 health care workers vaccinated for the coronavirus will be given free tickets to next month’s Super Bowl to be played in Tampa, Florida.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell also said in a news release that attendance at the Feb. 7 game would be limited to those workers and about 14,500 other fans. Raymond James Stadium, home of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, has a capacity of just under 66,000, according to its website.

Most of the health care workers who will get free game tickets will come from the Tampa Bay area and central Florida, Goodell said. But he added that all 32 NFL teams will choose some workers from their cities to attend the game.

“These dedicated health care workers continue to put their own lives at risk to serve others, and we owe them our ongoing gratitude,” Goodell said. “We hope in a small way that this initiative will inspire our country and recognize these true American heroes.”

There will also be what Goodell called “a variety of special moments” to honor health care workers in the stadium during the game and also on the television broadcast by CBS.

Tampa Mayor Jane Castor said the NFL’s decision is a perfect way to honor health care workers at such a high-profile event.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

7:07 am

Biden ordering stopgap help as talks start on big aid plan

President Joe Biden displays his face mask as he talks about his administration’s COVID-19 response plan during an event at the White House in Washington on Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021. President Biden, pledging a “full-scale wartime effort” to combat the coronavirus pandemic, signed a string of executive orders and presidential directives on Thursday aimed at combating the worst public health crisis in a century, including new requirements for masks on interstate planes, trains and buses and for international travelers to quarantine after arriving in the United States. (Doug Mills/The New York Times)

President Joe Biden displays his face mask as he talks about his administration’s COVID-19 response plan during an event at the White House in Washington on Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021. President Biden, pledging a “full-scale wartime effort” to combat the coronavirus pandemic, signed a string of executive orders and presidential directives on Thursday aimed at combating the worst public health crisis in a century, including new requirements for masks on interstate planes, trains and buses and for international travelers to quarantine after arriving in the United States. (Doug Mills/The New York Times)

President Joe Biden plans to take executive action Friday to provide a stopgap measure of financial relief to millions of Americans while Congress begins to consider his much larger $1.9 trillion package to help those affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

The two executive orders that Biden is to sign would increase food aid, protect job seekers on unemployment and clear a path for federal workers and contractors to get a $15 hourly minimum wage.

“The American people cannot afford to wait,” said Brian Deese, director of the White House National Economic Council. “So many are hanging by a thread. They need help, and we’re committed to doing everything we can to provide that help as quickly as possible.”

Deese emphasized that the orders are not substitutes for the additional stimulus that Biden says is needed beyond the $4 trillion in aid that has already been approved, including $900 billion this past December. Several Republican lawmakers have voiced opposition to provisions in Biden’s plan for direct payments to individuals, state and local government aid and a $15 hourly minimum wage nationwide.

Most economists believe the United States can rebound with strength once people are vaccinated from the coronavirus, but the situation is still dire as the disease has closed businesses and schools. Nearly 10 million jobs have been lost since last February, and nearly 30 million households lack secure access to food.

One of Biden’s orders asks the Agriculture Department to consider adjusting the rules for food assistance, so that the government could be obligated to provide more money to the hungry.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

6:08 am

Catch up on the past 24 hours

What to do if you think you qualify for a vaccine: Our Q&A outlines the steps to take, starting with using the state’s online tool and ending with what you should do after your shot.

Looking for a vaccine? Amazon aims to inoculate 2,000 Washingtonians on Sunday, and you can still join the list. But some states are running out of vaccines and canceling appointments. Here’s what you should know about the supply and President Joe Biden’s ability to boost it. Meanwhile, a lucky few people are hitting surprise vaccine jackpots.

Biden has unveiled a “full-scale wartime effort” to battle the virus. The first salvo: executive orders that affect how Americans work, travel and more. 

The Bellevue School District has expanded in-person learning — and taken the teachers union to court. Some teachers called to buildings yesterday didn’t show up as their union opposed plans to bring more students in, saying vaccines should be in place first. A few hours after school started, the dispute landed in court. It’s a possible sign of things to come across the region.

“I would hug my family longer”: A year ago this week, COVID-19 burst into local headlines. Seattle-area residents are sharing their compelling vignettes on what they were doing in a week that seems a lifetime ago, and whether they would have done anything differently if they’d been able to glimpse the future.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, unleashed: He’s suddenly everywhere, feeling liberated as he delivers his message and a pointed observation. “One of the new things in this administration is, if you don’t know the answer, don’t guess. Just say you don’t know the answer.”

The final U.S. county to get the virus is a former leper colony that’s so remote, basic supplies are brought in by barge once a year.

People may get paid to stay home as the U.K. struggles with lockdown violations.

Comedian Dave Chappelle has tested positive and canceled his shows.

—Kris Higginson


Seattle Times staff & news services