Live: Coronavirus daily news updates, January 3: 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 1: What to know today about COVID-19 in the Seattle area, Washington state and the world

The United States has surpassed a grim tally of 350,000 COVID-19 deaths and 20.4 million cases of the virus.

In Southern California, funeral homes say they must turn away grieving families as they run out of space for the bodies piling up. The head of the state funeral directors association says mortuaries are being inundated.

Throughout Sunday, on this page, we’ll be posting Seattle Times journalists’ updates on the outbreak and its effects on the Seattle area, the Pacific Northwest and the world. Updates from Saturday can be found here, and all our coronavirus coverage can be found here.

The following graphic includes the most recent numbers published by the Washington State Department of Health, reflecting counts as of Wednesday night, Dec. 30.

LIVE

11:42 am

India OKs AstraZeneca and locally made COVID-19 vaccines

India authorized two COVID-19 vaccines on Sunday, paving the way for a huge inoculation program to stem the coronavirus pandemic in the world’s second most populous country.

The country’s drugs regulator gave emergency authorization for the vaccine developed by Oxford University and U.K.-based drugmaker AstraZeneca, and another developed by the Indian company Bharat Biotech.

Drugs Controller General Dr. Venugopal G. Somani said that both vaccines would be administered in two dosages. He said the decision to approve the vaccines was made after “careful examination” by the Central Drugs Standard Control Organization, India’s pharmaceutical regulator.

Volunteers wearing face masks as a precaution against the coronavirus clear the debris left over by tourists at Maidan, the city’s largest open space in Kolkata, India, Sunday, Jan. 3, 2021. India authorized two COVID-19 vaccines on Sunday, paving the way for a huge inoculation program to stem the coronavirus pandemic in the world’s second most populous country. (AP Photo/Bikas Das)

Volunteers wearing face masks as a precaution against the coronavirus clear the debris left over by tourists at Maidan, the city’s largest open space in Kolkata, India, Sunday, Jan. 3, 2021. India authorized two COVID-19 vaccines on Sunday, paving the way for a huge inoculation program to stem the coronavirus pandemic in the world’s second most populous country. (AP Photo/Bikas Das)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi called the vaccine approval a “decisive turning point to strengthen a spirited fight.”

“It would make every Indian proud that the two vaccines that have been given emergency use approval are made in India!” Modi tweeted.

AstraZeneca has contracted Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer, to make 1 billion doses of its vaccine for developing nations, including India. On Wednesday, Britain became the first country to approve the shot.

India, however, will not allow the export of the Oxford University-AstraZeneca vaccine for several months, Adar Poonawalla, Serum Institute’s CEO, said Sunday. The ban on exports means that poorer nations will probably have to wait a few months before receiving their first shots.

The move was made to ensure that vulnerable populations in India are protected and to prevent hoarding, Poonawalla said in an interview with The Associated Press.

Read the full story here.

—The Associated Press

10:13 am

Zimbabwe returns to restrictions amid rise in virus cases

In response to rising COVID-19 numbers, Zimbabwe has reintroduced a night curfew, banned public gatherings, and indefinitely suspended the opening of schools.

“We are being overwhelmed and overrun,” Information Minister Nick Mangwana warned, saying the country’s hospitals are rapidly reaching capacity with COVID-19 patients.

Thousands of people attend a music concert to celebrate New Year’s in the Mbare suburb of Harare, Zimbabwe, early Friday, Jan 1, 2021. Despite a government ban on music concerts and public gatherings due to a surge in COVID-19 infections and the new and more contagious variants of the disease, thousands of people gathered in one of the country’s poorest neighborhoods to celebrate the new year. (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)

Thousands of people attend a music concert to celebrate New Year’s in the Mbare suburb of Harare, Zimbabwe, early Friday, Jan 1, 2021. Despite a government ban on music concerts and public gatherings due to a surge in COVID-19 infections and the new and more contagious variants of the disease, thousands of people gathered in one of the country’s poorest neighborhoods to celebrate the new year. (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)

Zimbabwe recorded 1,342 cases and 29 deaths in the past week, “the highest number recorded so far,” Vice President Constantino Chiwenga said, announcing the strict measures.

Zimbabwe’s 7-day rolling average of daily new cases has risen over the past two weeks from 0.90 new cases per 100,000 people on Dec. 19 to 1.47 new cases per 100,000 people on Jan. 2.

Funerals are now limited to 30 people while other gatherings such as weddings and church services are banned for 30 days. Restaurants and beer taverns have also been closed.

The government has postponed indefinitely the opening of schools for a new term that was supposed to start on Monday, Jan. 4.

Read the full story here.

—The Associated Press

9:57 am

Fauci: Vaccinations are ramping up in a `glimmer of hope’

FILE – In this July 21, 2020, file photo, Darryl Hutchinson, facing camera, is hugged by a relative during a funeral service for Lydia Nunez, who was Hutchinson’s cousin at the Metropolitan Baptist Church in Los Angeles. Nunez died from COVID-19. Southern California funeral homes are turning away bereaved families because they’re running out of space for the bodies piling up during an unrelenting coronavirus surge. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)

FILE – In this July 21, 2020, file photo, Darryl Hutchinson, facing camera, is hugged by a relative during a funeral service for Lydia Nunez, who was Hutchinson’s cousin at the Metropolitan Baptist Church in Los Angeles. Nunez died from COVID-19. Southern California funeral homes are turning away bereaved families because they’re running out of space for the bodies piling up during an unrelenting coronavirus surge. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)

The U.S. ramped up COVID-19 vaccinations in the past few days after a slower-than-expected start, bringing to 4 million the number of Americans who have received shots, Dr. Anthony Fauci said Sunday.

The government’s top infectious-disease expert also said on ABC’s “This Week” that President-elect Joe Biden’s pledge to administer 100 million shots of the vaccine within his first 100 days in office is achievable.

And he rejected President Donald Trump’s false claim on Twitter that coronavirus deaths and cases in the U.S. have been greatly exaggerated.

“All you need to do … is go into the trenches, go into the hospitals, go into the intensive care units and see what is happening. Those are real numbers, real people and real deaths,” Fauci said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

The U.S. death toll has climbed past 350,000, the most of any country, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, while more than 20 million people nationwide have been infected. States have reported record numbers of cases over the past few days, and funeral homes in Southern California are being inundated with bodies.

Experts believe the real numbers of deaths and infections are much higher and that many cases were overlooked, in part because of insufficient testing.

Read the full story here.

—The Associated Press

9:52 am

Nearly 4,000 new cases of COVID-19 and 28 more deaths confirmed in South Carolina

For the third day in a row, more than 3,000 new cases of COVID-19 were confirmed Sunday in South Carolina by the state Department of Health and Environmental Control.

Additionally, health officials said the number of coronavirus patients hospitalized in South Carolina has maintained a record high.

Along with 3,952 new positive tests, 28 more deaths were reported Sunday by DHEC. Health officials said the data reported includes some additional cases and deaths from Dec. 31 and New Year’s Day.

Since testing began in March, 296,093 cases of the coronavirus and 5,042 deaths have been reported in South Carolina, data shows.

Read the full story here.

—The State (Columbia, S.C.)

9:42 am

PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center has COVID-19 outbreak

An outbreak of COVID-19 spread to 30 patients in the past week at PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center in Vancouver, Washington, according to a news release from PeaceHealth on Friday evening.

None of the patients were admitted because of the virus, and none tested positive upon admission, the Columbian reported.

Additionally, six employees who were caring for the patients also tested positive for the virus, and PeaceHealth placed 86 employees in self-quarantine because of the outbreak.

“Our Infection Prevention specialists immediately began conducting a thorough review to understand the root causes of this situation, and to ensure further protection for our patients and caregivers,” said Lawrence Neville, MD, chief medical officer, in the news release.

“This is a highly complex exposure, and we are continuing to look into the situation and have put control measures in place to prevent further exposures.”

Clark County Public Health and PeaceHealth are notifying potentially exposed patients, the news release stated.

“Unfortunately, this is a reminder that COVID remains in our community and can spread very rapidly,” Neville said. “We must all remain vigilant about physical distancing, wearing masks and limiting our gatherings.”

PeaceHealth is a nonprofit Catholic health care organization.

—The Associated Press

8:28 am

In Somalia, COVID-19 vaccines are distant as virus spreads

A woman builds her makeshift shelter in Daynile camp in Mogadishu, Somalia on Thursday Dec. 17, 2020. As richer countries race to distribute COVID-19 vaccines, Somalia remains the rare place where much of the population hasn’t taken the coronavirus seriously. Some fear that’s proven to be deadlier than anyone knows. (AP Photo/Farah Abdi Warsameh)

A woman builds her makeshift shelter in Daynile camp in Mogadishu, Somalia on Thursday Dec. 17, 2020. As richer countries race to distribute COVID-19 vaccines, Somalia remains the rare place where much of the population hasn’t taken the coronavirus seriously. Some fear that’s proven to be deadlier than anyone knows. (AP Photo/Farah Abdi Warsameh)

As richer countries race to distribute COVID-19 vaccines, Somalia remains the rare place where much of the population hasn’t taken the coronavirus seriously. Some fear that’s proven to be deadlier than anyone knows.

“Certainly our people don’t use any form of protective measures, neither masks nor social distancing,” Abdirizak Yusuf Hirabeh, the government’s COVID-19 incident manager, said in an interview. “If you move around the city (of Mogadishu) or countrywide, nobody even talks about it.” And yet infections are rising, he said.

It is places like Somalia, the Horn of Africa nation torn apart by three decades of conflict, that will be last to see COVID-19 vaccines in any significant quantity. With part of the country still held by the al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab extremist group, the risk of the virus becoming endemic in some hard-to-reach areas is strong — a fear for parts of Africa amid the slow arrival of vaccines.

“There is no real or practical investigation into the matter,” said Hirabeh, who is also the director of the Martini hospital in Mogadishu, the largest treating COVID-19 patients, which saw seven new patients the day he spoke. He acknowledged that neither facilities nor equipment are adequate in Somalia to tackle the virus.

Fewer than 27,000 tests for the virus have been conducted in Somalia, a country of more than 15 million people, one of the lowest rates in the world. Fewer than 4,800 cases have been confirmed, including at least 130 deaths.

Some worry the virus will sink into the population as yet another poorly diagnosed but deadly fever.

Read the full story here.

—HASSAN BARISE, The Associated Press

8:19 am

Conservatives push back on Washington’s COVID-19 restrictions with protests and legislation

Conservatives in Washington spent much of 2020 fuming that Gov. Jay Inslee used the broad powers given him by the Legislature to enact restrictions to curb the spread of COVID-19.

And unlike other states where lawmakers held emergency sessions to respond to the pandemic, Inslee and Democratic leaders didn’t call a special session in Washington.

The state Capitol in Olympia has been the site of escalating protests recently, and entrances are barricaded in this Dec. 18, 2020, photo. Activists also plan to protest the fact that the upcoming legislative session will be held primarily remotely.  (Bettina Hansen / The Seattle Times)

The state Capitol in Olympia has been the site of escalating protests recently, and entrances are barricaded in this Dec. 18, 2020, photo. Activists also plan to protest the fact that the upcoming legislative session will be held primarily remotely. (Bettina Hansen / The Seattle Times)

Now, Republican lawmakers are proposing bills to curb the governor’s emergency powers and a constitutional amendment to make it easier for the Legislature to call itself back into session.

With Democrats controlling strong majorities in both the House and Senate, the proposals are not likely to pass, but they pose a philosophical debate over executive power and checks and balances in government.

The legislation comes as conservative organizers plan to protest at the Legislature this month when lawmakers convene, in a session that will take place mostly remotely due to the pandemic.

Read the full story here.

—The Seattle Times

8:00 am

Rising cases of COVID-19 stock scams threaten investors

A sign for Wall Street and American flags in New York, U.S.. Photographer: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg

A sign for Wall Street and American flags in New York, U.S.. Photographer: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg

The popularity of making quick moves via stock-trading apps in 2020 and the string of hopeful headlines relating to COVID-19 vaccines could create a deadly mix for investors who don’t do their homework.

Not surprisingly, it’s prime time for con artists who may push phony stock schemes that are pegged to the pandemic.

The Securities and Exchange Commission has spotted a variety of bad deals, including wild claims that a small, little-known publicly traded company is on the verge of rolling out a cure for COVID-19 or another may be supposedly developing a product or service that can prevent or detect the virus.

Potential victims might spot one of these hot stocks via Facebook, Twitter, an unexpected email or a phone call out of the blue that touts the next sure thing.

In an alert issued Dec. 14, the SEC warned of a “significant uptick in tips, complaints, and referrals involving investment scams.”

Read the full story here.

—Detroit Free Press

7:54 am

AP Interview: India bars company from exporting vaccines

NEW DELHI (AP) — India will not allow the export of the Oxford University-AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine for several months, the head of Serum Institute of India, which has been contracted to make 1 billion doses of the vaccine for developing nations, said Sunday.

With rich nations reserving most of the vaccines that will be made this year, Serum Institute — the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer — is likely to make most of the inoculations for developing countries. The ban on exports, however, means that poorer nations will probably have to wait a few months before receiving their first shots.

The vaccine was granted emergency authorization by the Indian regulator on Sunday, but on the condition that Serum Institute doesn’t export the shots to ensure that vulnerable populations in India are protected, Adar Poonawalla, the company’s CEO, said in a phone interview with The Associated Press.

He said that the company also has been barred from selling the vaccine on the private market.

“We can only give (the vaccines) to the government of India at the moment,” Poonawalla said, adding the decision was also made to prevent hoarding.

Read the full story here.

—The Associated Press


Seattle Times staff & news services