Since there are not enough genetic sequences in the US to detect new variants of the coronavirus, experts say such mutations are likely to multiply quickly and undetected.
In Washington, the variant first found in Great Britain was discovered in the counties of Snohomish and Pierce – and on Friday local health authorities confirmed that they had also found the variant in King County. Here’s what you should know about strain B.1.1.7.
We update this page with the latest news about the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on the Seattle area, the US and the world. Click here to see the live updates from the past few days and all other coronavirus reports. Here’s how we are tracking the daily spread in Washington and the world.
The fishing vessel arrived from Seattle, Alaska. 20 crew members tested positive for COVID-19
A factory trawler joined a growing list of fish processors and vessels in Alaska’s Aleutian Islands that have recently experienced COVID-19 outbreaks.
Twenty members of the 40-person crew of the factory trawler Araho, belonging to O’Hara Corp. Heard tested positive for the virus on Friday, according to the city of Unalaska.
Upon arriving in Unalaska from Seattle Wednesday night, some crew members reported symptoms of COVID-19, according to Erin Reinders, Unalaska’s city manager, who said the tests began with the ship’s arrival.
Five cases were confirmed Thursday among workers on another ship – the Island Enterprise, a catcher processor from Trident Seafoods.
In addition to ship breakouts, several land processors in the Aleutian Islands have also been shut down, including North America’s largest fish processing facility.
Read more here.
– Morgan Krakow, Anchorage Daily News
He is Israel’s “Prince of the Torah”. But for some, he’s the king of COVID.
Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, 93, cannot use the phone. He seldom leaves his house. His family say he has never successfully made a cup of tea. His closest associates believe they do not know the name of the Israeli prime minister. He studies, gives or takes the Torah 17 hours a day.
Despite his apparent detachment from worldly life, this spiritual leader of hundreds of thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews has become one of the most momentous and controversial people in Israel today.
He is at the center of tensions over the coronavirus between the Israeli mainstream and its growing ultra-Orthodox minority.
Twice, during the first and second waves of the Israeli pandemic, he rejected government-imposed anti-virus protocols and did not order his followers to close their independent religious schools in yeshiva, where students gather in confined spaces to study Jewish scriptures.
“God forbid!” he exclaimed. If anything, he said, the pandemic made prayer and learning even more important.
During the pandemic, Israeli authorities argued with the ultra-Orthodox over their resistance to antivirus protocols, particularly their early refusal to close schools or limit crowds at religious events. Similar conflicts have taken place in the New York area.
Although Israel has led the way in vaccinating its population, the recent emergence of infectious variants has overwhelmed its hospitals and exacerbated the conflict between the politically powerful ultra-religious minority and the mostly non-religious majority.
Read more here.
– Patrick Kingsley, New York Times
10,000 doses of COVID vaccine were used in pharmacies. Now Idaho is bringing them back
Several thousand doses of COVID-19 vaccine shipped to Idaho were reserved for a federal public-private partnership – and then not used.
More than 10,000 of the doses will be returned to state control this weekend for inspection in future vaccination clinics.
A large portion of the coronavirus vaccine doses in Idaho (33,150) were earmarked for a program that hired Walgreens and CVS pharmacies to run vaccination clinics in nursing homes and assisted living facilities.
But pharmacies had only administered 6,186 of those 33,150 doses by Jan. 19 and had not yet reached more than 80 facilities that had signed up for the program. Walgreens had fired 4,490 shots and CVS had fired 1,696.
The vaccination count rose by a few thousand over the next week and a half. CVS and Walgreens had administered a total of 10,433 doses to long-term care facilities in Idaho by Jan. 28, according to federal data. That left more than 20,000 unused at the time.
A Walgreens spokesperson said Idaho nursing homes and assisted living facilities had overestimated the number of doses needed.
Read more here.
– Audrey Dutton, the Idaho statesman
CDC requires face masks on airlines and public transportation
Starting next week, travelers on airplanes and public transport such as buses and subways will have to wear face masks to help contain the spread of COVID-19.
The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention late Friday enacted a mask-wearing rule based on an order announced by President Joe Biden on Jan. 21.
The 11-page CDC order takes effect just before midnight on Monday evening. Refusing to wear a mask is against federal law enforced by the Transportation Security Administration and other federal, state, and local agencies.
The rule applies to passengers on planes, trains, subways, buses, taxis, and carpooling. It is said that travelers must wear a mask that covers their nose and mouth while driving and getting on and off. The order extends to waiting areas such as airports, train platforms and subway stations.
The CDC said some face coverings are not good enough to comply with the rule, including: face shields, bandanas, masks with exhalation valves, and masks that are too large or otherwise do not fit properly.
Read more here.
-The Associated Press
Racial Differences in US Vaccinations
An Associated Press analysis reveals a racial gap that has opened in the country’s COVID-19 vaccination drive, with black Americans lagging behind whites in many places when they are shot.
An early look at the 17 states and two cities that published racial breakdowns as of January 25, found that blacks in all locations are being vaccinated at levels below their proportion of the total population, in some cases well below that.
Even if they make up an oversized percentage of the country’s health care workers who were on the front lines for shots when the campaign began in mid-December.
Experts say several factors could fuel emerging inequality, including black Americans’ deep distrust of the medical establishment because of a history of discriminatory treatment; insufficient access to vaccine in black quarters; and a digital divide that can make it difficult to get important information. Vaccination registrations are largely carried out online.
Hispanics also lagged behind when it came to vaccinations, but their scores were slightly closer to expectations in most of the locations studied. Hispanics are, on average, younger than other Americans, and vaccinations have yet to be opened to young people.
However, some states where Hispanic communities have been particularly hard hit by COVID-19 have not yet reported data, notably California and New York.
Read more here.
– Carla K. Johnson, Angeliki Kastanis, and Kat Stafford of the Associated Press
Seattle Times staff and news services