As state governors across the country scramble to accelerate their vaccination efforts, the Washington Secretary of Health on Wednesday announced new vaccination levels and an updated schedule, confirming that our state will be next for people aged 70 and over or those aged 50 and over to be in living in a multi-generational household will give priority.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continues to research the mutated variant of the novel coronavirus, which was first observed in the UK, and said Wednesday that it is likely to be present in much of the US.
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.
Japan declares the emergency for the Tokyo region as a top case
Japan declared a state of emergency on Thursday in Tokyo and three nearby areas as the number of coronavirus cases continues to rise after the end of the year and the New Year, reaching a daily record of 2,447 in the capital.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga made the statement to the government’s task force on coronavirus. It runs from Friday through February 7th and revolves around asking restaurants and bars to close at 8 p.m. and people to stay home and not mingle with the crowd.
Read the story here.
-The Associated Press
CDC expects a highly contagious strain of virus to spread in the United States
The mutated variant of the novel coronavirus, which was first observed in the UK, is likely present in much of the US. Although the variant has so far only been detected in a very small proportion of the infections, it is showing signs of spreading and could be significantly more common in the coming weeks, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Infectious Disease Experts.
The cases so far have been largely isolated: one in New York, one in Florida, one in Georgia, and two in Colorado. The exception was California, and specifically San Diego County, where a robust surveillance operation has so far found 32 cases of the variant. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, told the Washington Post on Wednesday, “I would be surprised if this doesn’t grow so fast.”
There is no evidence that the variant, recently discovered in more than 30 countries, carries a higher risk of serious illness or death. However, the emergence of coronavirus variants, including another mutation-laden variant that has emerged in South Africa, poses a challenge for any country to fight the pandemic.
Read the story here.
– Joel Achenbach and Ben Guarino, The Washington Post
The football season will start in February, says the WIAA, which is reorganizing the sports calendar
The Washington Interscholastic Activities Association revamped their high school sports calendar Wednesday as they continue to seek to bring sports to the field this academic year.
The WIAA board of directors, made up of 13 school administrators from across the state, decided that the traditional fall sports season could begin with training on February 1st. These sports include soccer, girls ‘soccer, volleyball, cross-country skiing, and girls’ swimming and diving.
The fall season, which the WIAA refers to as Season 1, is planned for seven weeks and ends on March 20th. Winter sports and spring sports are still TBD.
Of course, any teams out in the field next month will be dependent on government guidelines on coronavirus protocols.
The changes come after Governor Jay Inslee announced new guidelines for the state on Tuesday that use new metrics that the WIAA will use to return to the game.
Read the story here.
– Nathan Joyce
A quarantine nightmare: three weeks in a hotel if you can find one
Before flying to Hong Kong for a new job last month, Tanja Cunz made sure that she had met all of the government’s strict entry requirements. Cunz, a 34-year-old museum curator from Switzerland, took a coronavirus test, paid for two weeks of quarantine in a government-designated hotel, and stole himself without fresh air for half a month.
When their plane landed in Hong Kong on Christmas morning, an announcement came over the loudspeaker: The government had extended the quarantine period overnight from two weeks to three and was effective immediately. Passengers would have to secure a third week in their hotel before they could leave the airport.
Cunz was stunned. Not only would she have to pay an additional week of quarantine, but she would also have to postpone her start of work by a week, which also means a loss of salary.
“All of your plans are just falling apart,” said Cunz on a phone call from her hotel room, where she can see her future office in Victoria Harbor.
The government acknowledged the chaos and announced last week that it was “very concerned” about reports of hotel price cuts. Still, politicians have defended it as necessary to prevent the spread of a highly contagious variant of the virus. Hong Kong has largely managed to avoid the kind of mass outbreaks that have crippled most of the rest of the world, aided in part by its strict quarantine regime.
Read the story here.
Vivian Wang, the New York Times
Find out about the last 24 hours
• • When can you get a vaccine? Washington will next prioritize vaccinating people who are 70 years of age and older, or those over 50 who live in a multi-generational household. The state yesterday set the priorities for the next four months of vaccinations.
• • The US is flying blind Scientists are warning when it comes to tracking the new variant of the virus that is spreading across the UK. They fear it could explode here in the next few weeks.
• • Quarantine nightmare: When travelers are faced with a patchwork of ever-changing rules, imagine spending three weeks in a hotel – but none are to be found.
– Kris Higginson
The US is blind to contagious new virus variants, scientists warn
Experts warn that without a robust system for identifying genetic variations of the coronavirus, the United States will be ill-equipped to track down a dangerous new mutant and will leave health officials blind as they attempt to combat the grave threat.
The variant that is now on the rise in the UK and is burdening hospitals with new cases is currently rare in the US. But it could explode in the next few weeks, putting new pressure on U.S. hospitals, some of which are already on the verge of rupture.
The United States does not have a nationwide system of checking the coronavirus genome for new mutations, including those carried by the new variant. About 1.4 million people test positive for the virus every week, but researchers only perform genome sequencing – a method that can definitely detect the new variant – on fewer than 3,000 of these weekly samples. And that work is done by a patchwork of academic, government, and commercial laboratories.
Click here to read the full story.
– From Carl Zimmer, the New York Times
Seattle Times staff and news services