Live: Coronavirus daily news updates, January 27: 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 27: What to know today about COVID-19 in the Seattle area, Washington state and the world

As Americans worry over coronavirus vaccine availability, the Biden administration said Tuesday it was on the cusp of securing an additional 200 million doses of the two vaccines authorized for emergency use in the United States. Biden is also calling up the nation’s top scientists and public health experts to regularly brief the public about the pandemic.

In Washington, Gov. Jay Inslee announced this week that the federal government is increasing the weekly allotment of COVID-19 vaccines to states, including ours, by 16% for the coming weeks.

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.

Cyprus to start loosening COVID-19 lockdown next month

A man wears a face mask on his bicycle in central capital Nicosia, Cyprus, Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2021. Cyprus’ health minister Constantinos Ioannou said that the first to re-open as of Feb. 1st will be hair and beauty salons followed a week later by retail stores, shopping malls and elementary schools. Students in their final year of high school will also go back to classes on Feb. 8. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)

A man wears a face mask on his bicycle in central capital Nicosia, Cyprus, Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2021. Cyprus’ health minister Constantinos Ioannou said that the first to re-open as of Feb. 1st will be hair and beauty salons followed a week later by retail stores, shopping malls and elementary schools. Students in their final year of high school will also go back to classes on Feb. 8. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)

 A steady decrease in new coronavirus infections three weeks into Cyprus’ nationwide lockdown is allowing for the start of the gradual, targeted lifting of closures and restrictions, the country’s health minister said Wednesday.

Constantinos Ioannou said that the first places to reopen as of Feb. 1 will be hair and beauty salons followed a week later by retail stores, shopping malls and elementary schools. Students in their final year of high school will also go back to classes on Feb. 8, while places of worship will again permit a maximum attendance of 50 faithful. The number of people allowed to visit family at home is capped at four people as of Feb. 8

Ioannou said twice-a-day excursions requiring text message approval remain in effect for now because authorities want to avoid “hasty, high-risk actions” that would undermine efforts for a speedy return to normality.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

9:04 am

Cantwell to ask for vaccine priority for those who get food moving

With the nomination of Pete Buttigieg for transportation secretary now headed to the full Senate, after passing the Commerce Committee with a bipartisan 21-3 vote, Washington’s Sen. Maria Cantwell is planning to ask President Joe Biden and Buttigieg, if confirmed, to prioritize vaccines for workers helping to move food products.

In a statement released Wednesday, Cantwell said, I plan on asking President Biden, and hopefully Secretary Buttigieg, what they are going to do to help prioritize vaccines to those critical transportation workers who are moving food product.”

She said the world is now seeing significant challenges getting food from its sources to markets and tables.

“I want to make sure that our transportation infrastructure workers are prioritized to get those vaccines, and we can continue to move product through the United States,” Cantwell said.

—Christine Clarridge

7:45 am

States lift restrictions gradually amid fears of new variant

Several states are loosening their coronavirus restrictions on restaurants and other businesses because of improved infection and hospitalization numbers but are moving gradually and cautiously, in part because of the more contagious variant taking hold in the U.S.

While the easing could cause case rates to rise, health experts say it can work if done in a measured way and if the public remains vigilant about masks and social distancing.

FILE – In this Nov. 24, 2020, file photo, Debbie Biga, center, and her husband Joe, both of Port Huron, enjoy a meal together while keeping social distance from other customers at Woodchips BBQ in Lapeer, Mich. Several states are loosening their coronavirus restrictions on restaurants and other businesses because of improved infection and hospitalization numbers but are moving cautiously, in part because of the more contagious variant taking hold in the U.S. (Jake May/The Flint Journal via AP, File)

FILE – In this Nov. 24, 2020, file photo, Debbie Biga, center, and her husband Joe, both of Port Huron, enjoy a meal together while keeping social distance from other customers at Woodchips BBQ in Lapeer, Mich. Several states are loosening their coronavirus restrictions on restaurants and other businesses because of improved infection and hospitalization numbers but are moving cautiously, in part because of the more contagious variant taking hold in the U.S. (Jake May/The Flint Journal via AP, File)

“If the frequency goes up, you tighten it up. If the frequency goes down, you loosen up. Getting it just right is almost impossible,” said Dr. Arnold Monto, a public health professor at the University of Michigan. “There’s no perfect way to do this.”

As Michigan’s coronavirus rate dropped to the nation’s fifth-lowest over the last two weeks, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said bars and restaurants can welcome indoor customers next week for the first time in 2 1/2 months. But they will be under a 10 p.m. curfew and will be limited to 25% of capacity, or half of what was allowed the last time she loosened their restrictions, in June.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

7:21 am

Health workers become 1st to get COVID-19 vaccine in Nepal

Nepalese health workers observe a minute of silence in memory of people who died due to COVID-19 before administering vaccine at Teaching Hospital in Kathmandu, Nepal, Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2021. Thousands of health workers lined up across Nepal to get the coronavirus vaccine Wednesday as the Himalayan nation began its campaign to get the population vaccinated within three months. Neighboring India gifted Nepal 1 million doses of the AstraZeneca-Oxford University vaccine manufactured under license by the Serum Institute of India. (AP Photo/Niranjan Shrestha)

Nepalese health workers observe a minute of silence in memory of people who died due to COVID-19 before administering vaccine at Teaching Hospital in Kathmandu, Nepal, Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2021. Thousands of health workers lined up across Nepal to get the coronavirus vaccine Wednesday as the Himalayan nation began its campaign to get the population vaccinated within three months. Neighboring India gifted Nepal 1 million doses of the AstraZeneca-Oxford University vaccine manufactured under license by the Serum Institute of India. (AP Photo/Niranjan Shrestha)

Thousands of health workers lined up across Nepal to get the coronavirus vaccine Wednesday as the Himalayan nation began a three-month vaccination campaign.

At the Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital in Kathmandu, doctors were encouraging hesitant colleagues to get the vaccine.

Nepal received as a gift from neighboring India 1 million doses of the AstraZeneca-Oxford University vaccine manufactured under license by the Serum Institute of India.

It’s aiming to get 72% of its 30 million people vaccinated within three months and is making the two-dose vaccine free to citizens.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

7:14 am

Shoah survivors to get vaccine on Auschwitz liberation day

File – In this Sunday, Jan. 27, 2019 file photo, a man walks through the gate of the Sachsenhausen Nazi death camp with the phrase ‘Arbeit macht frei’ (work sets you free) during International Holocaust Remembrance Day in Oranienburg, about 30 kilometers (18 miles), north of Berlin, Germany. Hundreds of Holocaust survivors in Austria and Slovakia are getting vaccinated against the coronavirus exactly 76 years after the liberation of the Nazi’s Auschwitz death camp. More than 400 Austrian survivors were invited to get the vaccine at Vienna’s biggest mass vaccination center on International Holocaust Remembrance Day on Wednesday Jan. 27, 2021. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber, file)

File – In this Sunday, Jan. 27, 2019 file photo, a man walks through the gate of the Sachsenhausen Nazi death camp with the phrase ‘Arbeit macht frei’ (work sets you free) during International Holocaust Remembrance Day in Oranienburg, about 30 kilometers (18 miles), north of Berlin, Germany. Hundreds of Holocaust survivors in Austria and Slovakia are getting vaccinated against the coronavirus exactly 76 years after the liberation of the Nazi’s Auschwitz death camp. More than 400 Austrian survivors were invited to get the vaccine at Vienna’s biggest mass vaccination center on International Holocaust Remembrance Day on Wednesday Jan. 27, 2021. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber, file)

 Hundreds of Holocaust survivors in Austria and Slovakia were poised to get their first coronavirus vaccination Wednesday, acknowledging their past suffering with a special tribute 76 years after the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp, where the Nazis killed more than 1 million Jews and others.

“We owe this to them,” said Erika Jakubovits, the Jewish Community of Vienna organizer of the vaccination drive. “They have suffered so much trauma and have felt even more insecure during this pandemic.”

More than 400 Austrian survivors, most in their 80s or 90s, were expected to get their first coronavirus shot at Vienna’s largest vaccination center set up in the Austrian capital’s convention center.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

7:11 am

Tensions rise as AstraZeneca, EU hold vaccine delivery talks

FILE  – In this Monday, Jan. 4, 2021 file photo, 82-year-old Brian Pinker receives the Oxford University/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine from nurse Sam Foster at the Churchill Hospital in Oxford, England. The European Union’s dispute with AstraZeneca has intensified with the Anglo-Swedish drugmaker denying the EU’s assertion that it had pulled out of talks on vaccine supplies. AstraZeneca said that it still planned to meet with EU officials in Brussels later in the day.  The talks will be the third in as many days. AstraZeneca says the figures in its contract with the EU were targets that couldn’t be met because of problems in rapidly expanding production capacity.  (Steve Parsons/Pool Photo via AP, File)

FILE – In this Monday, Jan. 4, 2021 file photo, 82-year-old Brian Pinker receives the Oxford University/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine from nurse Sam Foster at the Churchill Hospital in Oxford, England. The European Union’s dispute with AstraZeneca has intensified with the Anglo-Swedish drugmaker denying the EU’s assertion that it had pulled out of talks on vaccine supplies. AstraZeneca said that it still planned to meet with EU officials in Brussels later in the day.  The talks will be the third in as many days. AstraZeneca says the figures in its contract with the EU were targets that couldn’t be met because of problems in rapidly expanding production capacity. (Steve Parsons/Pool Photo via AP, File)

The European Union’s dispute with AstraZeneca over vaccine supplies intensified Wednesday as the drugmaker defended itself against claims that it had reneged on contractual commitments and the two sides sparred over plans for further talks.

AstraZeneca Chief Executive Pascal Soriot addressed the dispute for the first time, rejecting the EU’s assertion that the company was failing to honor its commitments to deliver coronavirus vaccines. Soriot said delivery figures in AstraZeneca’s contract with the EU were targets, not firm commitments, and they couldn’t be met because of problems in rapidly expanding production capacity.

“Our contract is not a contractual commitment,’’ Soriot said in an interview with the Italian newspaper La Repubblica. “It’s a best effort. Basically we said we’re going to try our best, but we can’t guarantee we’re going to succeed. In fact, getting there, we are a little bit delayed.”

After the interview was published, an EU spokeswoman said AstraZeneca had pulled out of talks Wednesday about problems with vaccine supplies, which AstraZeneca immediately denied. Hours later, the EU said talks were back on.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

7:05 am

Quarantine corner: Diversions to get you through the day

Where to romp with your dog: These three Seattle parks will make you and your furry friend happy.

We dare you to keep a straight face during a virtual session of laughter yoga, which is helping people breathe away the stress even when things don’t feel funny. 

Curl up in your coziest chair with one of these three new memoirs — including the heart-rending “Dog Flowers” — or check out our top streaming picks.

—Kris Higginson

6:16 am

Help us find answers

Some coronavirus vaccine sites offer a wait list. Some don’t. Online scheduling tools differ among sites. Hospitals are struggling to manage a wave of phone calls. The state’s own hotline couldn’t keep up on Monday.

There has been widespread confusion, and state officials have acknowledged that some appointments will have to be canceled due to spotty supply.

Help The Seattle Times answer questions about the vaccine rollout by filling out the form below if you or someone you know has gotten the vaccine, or if you’re still trying.

—The Seattle Times

6:11 am

Catch up on the past 24 hours

Can’t find a vaccine? Many more are on the way, according to President-elect Joe Biden. He says he’s boosting the flow of vaccines next week, which is “really great news” for Washington’s ability to vaccinate residents, Gov. Jay Inslee says. Here’s our guide to getting your vaccine, but pack your patience: The coming weeks are still expected to hold plenty of disappointments.

Overlake Medical Center’s major donors got a special invitation for vaccine appointments, even though the public-facing registration site was fully booked. The appearance of favoritism was a mistake, an Overlake leader says, but it’s raising questions about who gets a better shot at the vaccine under the state’s messy system. Read the Times Watchdog story.

Who’s doing the vaccines right, Washington or Oregon? You be the judge in this clash over who’s really essential in a society, writes columnist Danny Westneat — who sees a possible way around the dilemma.

Schools should return kids to classrooms as soon as possible, CDC researchers said yesterday, explaining that it can be safe if proper precautions are taken — and if those measures extend beyond school walls. This came on the same day some Bellevue students headed back to buildings after a week of feuding between the district and teachers union.

Bill Gates says we must prepare for the next pandemic like we prepare for war. He’s mapped out what he sees as a better battle plan for next time, but it won’t be cheap.

An outbreak is hitting a Seattle-based company’s seafood processing plant hard. Workers have been evacuated by ship and air from Trident Seafoods’ plant in remote Akutan, Alaska, where 135 have tested positive.

—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