Live: Coronavirus daily news updates, March 29: 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, March 28: What to know today about COVID-19 in the Seattle area, Washington state and the world

The number of total coronavirus cases is rising again in the United States as variants spread and officials ease COVID-19 restrictions in several states.

The New York Times reports that the nation averaged 61,545 infections last week — a figure 11% higher than the average two weeks earlier. The increase in reported cases follows recent declines and plateaus in case counts.

The number of COVID-19 deaths continue to decrease.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the Biden administration’s chief science adviser, said Sunday on the CBS program “Face the Nation,” that the rise in cases cannot solely be blamed on the spread of infections COVID-19 variants. The uptick is also the result of state leaders lifting mitigation measures, and large social interactions, like spring break gatherings in Florida, he said.

Most states have lifted restrictions, including on indoor dining, which Fauci called “premature.”

“The variants are playing a part, but it’s not completely the variants,” Fauci said.

Throughout Monday, on this page, we’ll be posting Seattle Times and out-of-state reports on the outbreak and its effects on the Seattle area, the Pacific Northwest and the world. Updates from Sunday can be found here, and all our coronavirus coverage can be found here.

CDC director has feeling of ‘impending doom’ amid new spike

 The head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention made an impassioned plea to Americans Monday not to let their guard down in the fight against COVID-19, warning of a potential fourth wave of the virus and saying she has a recurring feeling “of impending doom.”

Speaking during a virtual White House briefing, Dr. Rochelle Walensky grew emotional as she reflected on her experience treating COVID-19 patients who are alone at the end of their lives.

Cases of the virus are up about 10% over the past week from the previous week, to about 60,000 cases per day, with both hospitalizations and deaths ticking up as well, Walensky said. She warned that without immediate action the U.S. could follow European countries into another spike in cases and suffer needless deaths.

She appealed to Americans to continue safety measures. “Just please hold on a little while longer.”

Read the story here.

—Zeke Miller, The Associated Press

9:58 am

Merkel faults German ‘perfectionism’ for current virus woes

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has blamed her country’s difficulties during the coronavirus pandemic — from the slow vaccine rollout to the back-and-forth over lockdown rules — partly on “a tendency toward perfectionism” and called for greater flexibility to tackle the latest surge in cases.

In an hour-long television interview with public broadcaster ARD late Sunday, Merkel acknowledged that mistakes were made by her government, including on plans for an Easter lockdown, which had to be reversed.

File – In this Wednesday, March 24, 2021 file photo German Chancellor Angela Merkel answers questions from lawmakers at German parliament Bundestag in Berlin, Germany. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has talked about her country’s difficulties, during the coronavirus pandemic. In a lengthy television interview late Sunday she called for greater flexibility to tackle the latest surge in cases. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

File – In this Wednesday, March 24, 2021 file photo German Chancellor Angela Merkel answers questions from lawmakers at German parliament Bundestag in Berlin, Germany. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has talked about her country’s difficulties, during the coronavirus pandemic. In a lengthy television interview late Sunday she called for greater flexibility to tackle the latest surge in cases. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

The long-time leader also expressed frustration over the actions of some of Germany’s state governors, including members of her own party, who have resisted tougher restrictions they had previously agreed to.

But Merkel, who isn’t running again in September’s national election, said she stands by her pledge to offer every adult a vaccine by the end of the summer, and insisted Germany still compares well with most of its neighbors.

“Perhaps we’re very perfectionist at times and want to do everything right, because obviously whoever makes a mistake always faces quite a lot of public criticism,” Merkel said.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

9:17 am

Pfizer, Moderna vaccines 90% effective in preventing coronavirus infections in U.S. study of essential workers, CDC says

The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines being deployed to fight the coronavirus pandemic are robustly effective in preventing infections in real-life conditions, according to a federal study released Monday that provides reassurance of protection for front-line workers in the United States.

In a study of about 4,000 health-care personnel, police, firefighters and other essential workers, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that the vaccines reduced the risk of infection by 80% after one shot. Protection increased to 90% following the second dose. The findings are consistent with clinical trial results and studies showing strong effectiveness in Israel and the United Kingdom, and in initial studies of health-care workers at the University of Texas and in southern California.

The CDC report is significant, experts said, because it analyzed how well the vaccines worked among a diverse group of front-line working-age adults whose jobs make them more likely to be exposed to the virus and to spread it.

The workers came from eight locations in six states — Arizona, Florida, Minnesota, Oregon, Texas and Utah. They received vaccinations between mid-December, when the doses first became available, to mid-March, a 13-week period that included the deadly winter surge that was killing more than 3,000 people a day by January.

Among 2,479 fully vaccinated people, just three had confirmed infections. Among 477 people who received one dose, eight infections were reported.

Read the story here.

—Lena H. Sun, The Washington Post

8:59 am

Happy Monday? England embarks on major easing of lockdown

People take part in “Boot Camp” exercise class in Springhead Park, following the easing of England’s lockdown to allow far greater freedom outdoors, in Rothwell, England, Monday March 29, 2021. England is embarking on a major easing of its latest coronavirus lockdown that came into force at the start of the year, with families and friends able to meet up in outdoor spaces and many sports permitted once again. Under Monday’s easing, groups of up to six, or two households, can socialize in parks and gardens once more, while outdoor sports facilities can reopen after the stark stay-at-home order, which has seen new coronavirus cases fall dramatically over the past three months, ended.  (Danny Lawson / The Associated Press)

People take part in “Boot Camp” exercise class in Springhead Park, following the easing of England’s lockdown to allow far greater freedom outdoors, in Rothwell, England, Monday March 29, 2021. England is embarking on a major easing of its latest coronavirus lockdown that came into force at the start of the year, with families and friends able to meet up in outdoor spaces and many sports permitted once again. Under Monday’s easing, groups of up to six, or two households, can socialize in parks and gardens once more, while outdoor sports facilities can reopen after the stark stay-at-home order, which has seen new coronavirus cases fall dramatically over the past three months, ended. (Danny Lawson / The Associated Press)

It’s being dubbed Happy Monday, with open-air swimmers donning their wetsuits for the first time in months and rusty golfers doing their best to get their drives down the middle of the fairway.

England has embarked on a major easing of its latest coronavirus lockdown that came into force at the start of the year, with families and friends able to meet up in outdoor spaces and many sports permitted once again.

And, as if right on cue, the weather is turning, with temperatures rising to levels more akin to southern Spain at this time of year.

Under Monday’s easing, groups of up to six, or two households, can socialize in parks and gardens once more, while outdoor sports facilities can reopen after the stark stay-at-home order, which has seen new coronavirus cases fall dramatically over the past three months, officially ended.

After months of being cooped up at home, many people are relishing the prospect of being able to to enjoy their outdoor sport of choice, from tennis to open-air swimming. Organized team sports, such as children’s football clubs, can start up again too.

Read the story here.

—Pan Pylas, The Associated Press

8:21 am

WHO draft report says animals likely source of COVID-19

A joint World Health Organization-China study on the origins of COVID-19 says that transmission of the virus from bats to humans through another animal is the most likely scenario and that a lab leak is “extremely unlikely,” according to a draft copy obtained by The Associated Press.

The findings offer little new insight into how the virus first emerged and leave many questions unanswered, though that was as expected. But the report does provide more detail on the reasoning behind the researchers’ conclusions. The team proposed further research in every area except the lab leak hypothesis.

The report, which is expected to be made public Tuesday, is being closely watched since discovering the origins of the virus could help scientists prevent future pandemics — but it’s also extremely sensitive since China bristles at any suggestion that it is to blame for the current one.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

8:00 am

Indians gather for Holi celebrations as virus cases surge

Indians smeared in color participate in Holi festival celebrations in Gauhati, India, Monday, March 29, 2021. Hindus threw colored powder and sprayed water in massive Holi celebrations Monday despite many Indian states restricting gatherings to try to contain a coronavirus resurgence rippling across the country. (AP Photo/Anupam Nath)

Indians smeared in color participate in Holi festival celebrations in Gauhati, India, Monday, March 29, 2021. Hindus threw colored powder and sprayed water in massive Holi celebrations Monday despite many Indian states restricting gatherings to try to contain a coronavirus resurgence rippling across the country. (AP Photo/Anupam Nath)

Hindus threw colored powder and sprayed water in massive Holi celebrations Monday despite many Indian states restricting gatherings to try to contain a coronavirus resurgence rippling across the country.

Holi marks the advent of spring and is widely celebrated throughout Hindu-majority India. Most years, millions of people throw colored powder at each other in outdoor celebrations. But for the second consecutive year, people were encouraged to stay at home to avoid turning the festivities into superspreader events amid the latest virus surge.

India’s confirmed infections have exceeded 60,000 daily over the past week from a low of about 10,000 in February. On Monday, the health ministry reported 68,020 new cases, the sharpest daily rise since October last year. It took the nationwide tally to more than 12 million.

Daily deaths rose by 291 and the virus has so far killed 161,843 people in the country.

Read the story here.

—Sheikh Saaliq

7:17 am

Hungary first in European Union for vaccinations, and deaths

An employee unloads the newly arrived coronavirus vaccines from Chinese pharmaceutical company Sinopharm at the logistics base set up to in the parking lot of the government office in the 13th district of Budapest, Hungary, Monday, March 29, 2021. (Noemi Bruzak/MTI via AP)

An employee unloads the newly arrived coronavirus vaccines from Chinese pharmaceutical company Sinopharm at the logistics base set up to in the parking lot of the government office in the 13th district of Budapest, Hungary, Monday, March 29, 2021. (Noemi Bruzak/MTI via AP)

Hungary has vaccinated more of its population than any other country in the European Union, according to figures from an EU agency, but it continues to be one of the world’s worst in the number of COVID-19 deaths per capita.

The Central European country has given at least a first dose of a vaccine to 21.6% of its population, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, just ahead of the small island nation of Malta and surpassing the 27-member bloc’s average of 12.3%.

But Hungary’s high vaccination rate, a product of a procurement strategy that secured doses from China and Russia in addition to those provided by the EU, has been unable to slow a surge in the pandemic that has given it the highest two-week mortality rate per capita in the world, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Read the story here.

—Justin Spike, The Associated Press

7:13 am

ICU cases creep toward new peak in French virus surge

Nurse Stephanie Dias tends to a patient affected by COVID-19 virus in the ICU unit at the Ambroise Pare clinic in Neuilly-sur-Seine, near Paris, Friday, March 19, 2021. French Prime Minister Jean Castex announced new coronavirus restrictions as the number of COVID-19 patients in intensive care units spikes. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)

Nurse Stephanie Dias tends to a patient affected by COVID-19 virus in the ICU unit at the Ambroise Pare clinic in Neuilly-sur-Seine, near Paris, Friday, March 19, 2021. French Prime Minister Jean Castex announced new coronavirus restrictions as the number of COVID-19 patients in intensive care units spikes. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)

The number of patients in intensive care in France is fast approaching the worst point of the country’s last coronavirus surge in the autumn of 2020, another indicator of how a renewed crush of infections is bearing down on French hospitals.

The French government count of COVID-19 patients in ICUs and hospital surveillance units climbed to 4,872 on Sunday night. That is just short of the last high-point of 4,919 ICU cases on Nov. 16, when France was also gripped by a virus surge and was locked down in response.

With ICU admissions continuing to increase by double digits on a daily basis, that November peak could be overtaken within days. Doctors are increasingly sounding the alarm that they may have to start turning patients away for ICU care, particularly in the Paris region.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

6:46 am

Catch up on the past 24 hours

Washington state has detected more than 600 cases involving variants that are being closely watched. In some cases, the variants show resistance to vaccines. Here’s what is known, and what isn’t.

Cases are rising again in the U.S., and that’s not completely because of the variants, Dr. Anthony Fauci says.

COVID-19 likely came from animals, not a lab leak, according to a draft of a joint WHO-China study that will soon be released.

Is indoor dining safe if you’re vaccinated? Doctors and disease specialists are talking about what it will take for them to feel comfortable with this.

U.S. “vaccine passports” are on the way as a growing number of companies say they’ll require proof of vaccination before opening their doors. There will be an app for that, but it isn’t easy to develop.

Feeling unsettled? Maybe it’s vaccine envy. Go easy on yourself, experts on envy say as they offer perspective on “the one emotion that everyone is ashamed to admit.”

Has the pandemic forever changed the way you get around, or will you go back to your old commuting ways? We’re exploring how people will use transportation in the months ahead, and we’d like to hear from you.

—Kris Higginson


Seattle Times staff & news services