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

The United States will likely deliver enough coronavirus vaccine shots for all adults by the end of May — two months earlier than anticipated — President Joe Biden announced Tuesday, adding that states should aim to get at least one shot into the arms of teachers by the end of March to hasten school reopenings.

Following suit, Gov. Jay Inslee announced teachers and licensed child care workers will be able seek COVID-19 vaccines immediately, assenting to new directions from the federal government. The Biden directive, however, causes concerns for other groups of frontline workers in Washington, as they see their position moved down in the list.

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.

Plan to Ditch the Mask After Vaccination? Not So Fast.

A mask required sign is displayed on the entrance to a business  March 2 in Dallas. (LM Otero / The Associated Press)

A mask required sign is displayed on the entrance to a business March 2 in Dallas. (LM Otero / The Associated Press)

With 50 million Americans immunized against the coronavirus, and millions more joining the ranks every day, the urgent question on many minds is: When can I throw away my mask?

It’s a deeper question than it seems — about a return to normalcy, about how soon vaccinated Americans can hug loved ones, get together with friends, and go to concerts, shopping malls and restaurants without feeling threatened by the coronavirus.

It seems clear that small groups of vaccinated people can get together without much worry about infecting one another. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is expected shortly to issue new guidelines that will touch on small gatherings of vaccinated Americans.

But when vaccinated people can ditch the masks in public spaces will depend on how quickly the rates of disease drop and what percentage of people remain unvaccinated in the surrounding community.

Why? Scientists do not know whether vaccinated people spread the virus to those who are unvaccinated. While all of the COVID-19 vaccines are spectacularly good at shielding people from severe illness and death, the research is unclear on exactly how well they stop the virus from taking root in an immunized person’s nose and then spreading to others.

Read the story here.

—Apoorva Mandavilli, The New York Times

2:11 pm

New Mexico corrections officer sues over vaccination mandate

A corrections officer is suing a New Mexico county over a requirement that first responders and other employees be vaccinated, setting up another legal fight during a pandemic that is testing local and federal public health laws.

Isaac Legaretta says in a complaint filed Feb. 26 in federal court that a directive forcing Dona Ana County employees to take vaccines that are not yet fully approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration violates federal law.

Legaretta is facing termination for declining a vaccination. His attorney, N. Ana Garner, is seeking an injunction to keep the county from firing or disciplining the officer before a ruling is issued. The attorney said that while she’s not aware of a similar lawsuit in the U.S., she would be surprised if there was none.

The complaint centers on the FDA’s authorization of the vaccines for emergency use, noting that the clinical trials, which officials will rely on to ultimately decide whether to license vaccines, are still underway. It could take two years to collect adequate data to determine safety and efficacy, the complaint said.

Read the story here.

—Susan Montoya Bryan, The Associated Press

1:14 pm

Alaska expands eligibility for COVID-19 vaccinations

An all-female medical crew from Alaska’s Maniilaq Health Center took a sled to deliver vaccine to the isolated village of Shungnak in December. (Katrina Bengaard).

An all-female medical crew from Alaska’s Maniilaq Health Center took a sled to deliver vaccine to the isolated village of Shungnak in December. (Katrina Bengaard).

 A state vaccine task force on Wednesday vastly expanded eligibility for people to receive COVID-19 vaccinations in Alaska, adding those 55 to 64 and people 16 and older who meet certain criteria.

That criteria includes being considered an essential worker, living in a multigenerational household, being at or at possible high risk for severe illness from COVID-19 or living in communities lacking in water and sewer systems, the state health department said in a release.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

1:03 pm

Lessons learned at Life Care Center: Lake Washington Insitute of Technology students remember pandemic’s first days

A little bit of a virus was going around, so the dining room was closed and the patients were eating in their rooms.

“Nothing was unusual, nothing was concerning,” Ruth Gelbach remembered. “Until later in the day.”

That’s when staffers at the Life Care Center in Kirkland started to rush around. Nurses and physicians who were scheduled to speak with Gelbach and seven other Lake Washington Institute of Technology (LWIT) students were suddenly unavailable. Through the window that overlooked a courtyard, and on the other side of the building, Gelbach could see nurses gathered around certain patients.

“Everyone was running around,” Gelbach remembered. “The staff was trying really hard to be there for the patients. We could tell something was going on.”

After a day of helping a nurse get patients up, dressed, fed and cleaned, Gelbach and the other students gathered around 2 p.m. for a debrief with one of their teachers. That’s when an administrator pulled the teacher aside.

“You should not come back next week,” the administrator said.

That was Friday, February 28, 2020. The following morning, news would break that the novel coronavirus had arrived in the United States — at Life Care Center, where Gelbach had just spent the day.

In a matter of days, Gelbach would test positive for the virus.

Read the story here.

—Nicole Brodeur

11:26 am

Majority of small businesses not requiring vaccines, tests

A majority of small businesses are not requiring their employees to get tested for the new coronavirus or get any COVID-19 vaccines, though the health care and hospitality industries are ahead of the curve on this requirement, according to a report released this week by the U.S. Census Bureau.

The bureau’s most recent Small Business Pulse Survey, taken in February, showed 70% of the small businesses surveyed said “no” when asked if they had required employees to test negative for COVID-19 before coming to work in the last week.

Of the small businesses, two sectors, health care and accommodations/ food service had higher rates than the national average.

When asked if employees would be asked to have proof of COVID-19 vaccination in the past week, 2.2% of the small businesses answered “yes” and 78.4% answered “no,” with 19.4% saying it wasn’t applicable, according to the survey. Of small businesses in the health care industry, 62% said they were requiring a vaccine, the survey said.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

10:31 am

Fans from abroad unlikely for postponed Tokyo Olympics

A giant five-ring Olympic symbol reappeared on Dec. 1, 2020 at Odaiba Marine Park in Tokyo’s Minato Ward. (Japan News-Yomiuri).

A giant five-ring Olympic symbol reappeared on Dec. 1, 2020 at Odaiba Marine Park in Tokyo’s Minato Ward. (Japan News-Yomiuri).

The new president of the Tokyo Olympic organizing committee stopped short of saying there would be no foreign fans at this year’s games, but she certainly hinted at it Wednesday after online talks with IOC President Thomas Bach and others.

“If the situation is tough and it would make the (Japanese) consumers concerned, that is a situation we need to avoid from happening,” organizing committee president Seiko Hashimoto said.

The newspaper report came just before Hashimoto’s meeting with Bach. She said a decision on foreign fans will come by the end of the month, and she wants one by March 25, when the torch relay begins from northeastern Japan.

The Olympics are scheduled to open on July 23.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

10:07 am

Western state vaccine experts declare J&J vaccine safe, says Inslee

The Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup, with experts from Washington, California, Oregon and Nevada, has given its approval to the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, Gov. Jay Inslee said Wednesday on Twitter.

The one-dose J&J vaccine was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Saturday, giving the nation three approved vaccine options.

The Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup was established to independently review and assess data on COVID-19 vaccines available in the United States.

The Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup has approved the J & J vaccine. It includes vaccine experts from Washington, California, Oregon and Nevada, and reviews the data and analysis to ensure the safety and efficacy of all COVID vaccines. https://t.co/bhsdGrkE1j

— Governor Jay Inslee (@GovInslee) March 3, 2021

In the U.S., the two-dose Pfizer and Moderna shots were 95% protective against symptomatic COVID-19. J&J’s one-dose effectiveness of 85% against severe COVID-19 dropped to 66% when moderate cases were rolled in.

But the Pfizer and Moderna research finished before concerning variants began spreading while J&J’s study spanned three continents, including countries such as South Africa, where the variants of most concern are in play.

The FDA said J&J’s vaccine offers strong protection against what matters most: serious illness, hospitalizations and death.

—Christine Clarridge

9:35 am

Czechs turns to other nations to treat its COVID-19 patients

With hospitals in some parts of the Czech Republic filled up, the country turned to Germany and other European countries with a request for help.

The Czech Republic, one of the hardest-hit European Union countries, has been facing a surge of new cases attributed to a highly infectious coronavirus variant that is believed to originate in Britain.

Interior Minister Jan Hamacek said on Wednesday Germany, Switzerland and Poland may be able to offer beds.

After the day-to-day increase of new confirmed cases reached 16,642 on Tuesday, the fourth highest since the start of the pandemic, a record of more than 8,000 COVID-19 patients needed hospitalization.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

8:54 am

Waiting list for extra shots open to Shoreline, Bothell, Kenmore and Lake Forest Park residents

Residents of Shoreline, Lake Forest Park, Bothell and Kenmore who are over 65 years old may be able to get a spur-of-the-moment vaccine shot by leaving contact information with a COVID-19 vaccination hotline.

The pop-up opportunities are centered on the extra doses sometimes available once the fire department has administered all vaccines scheduled in a day, the Shoreline Area News reported this week.

On occasion, Shoreline officials said, “The Fire Department has called us with extra supply of the Moderna vaccine, between 5 and 30 shots a day.”

These are not guaranteed appointments, but a chance to possibly receive one of those extra shots.

Call 206-785-9426 if you qualify and leave your information.

—Christine Clarridge

8:45 am

Tactical shift: Europe seeks vaccine ‘overdrive’ to catch up

Slow off the blocks in the race to immunize its citizens against COVID-19, Germany faces an unfamiliar problem: a glut of vaccines and not enough arms to inject them into.

A worker cleans cabins for the start of corona vaccinations at the Rhein-Main-Congress-Centrum in Wiesbaden, Germany, Dec. 7, 2020. (Boris Roessler / The Associated Press)

A worker cleans cabins for the start of corona vaccinations at the Rhein-Main-Congress-Centrum in Wiesbaden, Germany, Dec. 7, 2020. (Boris Roessler / The Associated Press)

Like other countries in the European Union, its national vaccine campaign lags far behind that of Israel, Britain and the United States. Now there are growing calls in this country of 83 million to ditch the rulebook, or at least rewrite it a bit.

Germans watched with morbid fascination in January as Britain trained an army of volunteers to deliver coronavirus shots, then marveled that the U.K. — hit far worse by the pandemic than Germany — managed to vaccinate more than half a million people on some days.

Hans-Martin von Gaudecker, a professor of economics at the University of Bonn, said, “What normally makes German bureaucracy stolid and reliable becomes an obstacle in a crisis and costs lives.”

Read the story here.

—Frank Jordans, The Associated Press

8:40 am

Lake City to hold vaccination event for North King County BIPOC residents

A vaccination event for Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) who are residents of North King County will be held on Saturday, March 13, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The vaccines are for those who are members of the BIPOC communities, which have been disproportionally affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and who are in in Phase 1A, Tiers 1 and 2; and Phase B, Tier 1.

The event will be held in Lake City and the location will be sent out once an appointment has been confirmed, according to Lake City officials.

To sign up, send an email to [email protected] or call 206-208-9899 and leave a message with your name, phone number, age and language. That information will not be shared with anyone except the Fire Department.

Read more here.  

—Christine Clarridge

8:05 am

After a tough year, Seattle-area bowling alleys have cautiously reopened under COVID-19 guidelines

A bowler knocks down all the pins, called a strike. 

Spin Alley Bowling in Shoreline is reopening under the state’s COVID-19 guidelines after a tough year for bowling alleys in Washington.

A bowler knocks down all the pins, called a strike.

Spin Alley Bowling in Shoreline is reopening under the state’s COVID-19 guidelines after a tough year for bowling alleys in Washington.

On a recent Friday night, the scene at Spin Alley Bowling in Shoreline looked almost … pre-COVIDian. 

All 16 lanes were occupied with bowlers who were knocking down pins, knocking back drinks and laughing. There was a lot of laughing, even if you couldn’t see the smiles behind masks.

“I’m happy to be here,” said Scott Andresen, whose son, Paddy, was busy racking up frames as fast as he could. “I’m happy to just be with other people.”

Washington state’s bowling alleys rolled out the balls again on Feb. 1 in accordance with Gov. Jay Inslee’s phased reopening after losing most of the winter to lockdown. Like most businesses, bowling centers are now restricted to 25% occupancy in Phase 2 and have rules on sanitizing equipment and ensuring social distancing. They must also follow bar and restaurant rules if they serve food and alcohol.

Read the story here.

—Chris Talbott, Special to The Seattle Times

7:21 am

COVID-19 vaccine deliveries to African nations pick up speed

More African countries received the long-awaited first deliveries of COVID-19 vaccines on Wednesday, with Kenya and Rwanda benefiting from the global COVAX initiative that aims to ensure doses for the world’s low-and middle-income nations.

African and other health officials have been frustrated with the sight of a handful of rich countries rolling out vaccines after snapping up large amounts for themselves.

“We will be known as the continent of COVID” if Africa doesn’t quickly reach its target of vaccinating 60% of its population of 1.3 billion people, the director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, John Nkengasong, said last week.

So far Ghana, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Angola and Congo also have received their first vaccine doses via COVAX, with several other countries including Mali, Senegal, Malawi and Uganda set to receive them this week.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

7:14 am

Dolly Parton, who helped fund Moderna vaccine, gets ‘dose of her own medicine’

Dolly Parton in 2019 in Los Angeles. The Grammy-winning singer, actor and humanitarian posted a video on Tuesday of her singing just before getting her COVID-19 vaccine shot. Parton donated $1 million to Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee for coronavirus research. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP, file)

Dolly Parton in 2019 in Los Angeles. The Grammy-winning singer, actor and humanitarian posted a video on Tuesday of her singing just before getting her COVID-19 vaccine shot. Parton donated $1 million to Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee for coronavirus research. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP, file)

The melody was familiar but the words were written for the moment: “Vaccine, vaccine, vaccine vaccine. I’m begging of you please don’t hesitate.”

Dolly Parton, country music legend and beloved philanthropist, was in Tennessee on Tuesday to get the Moderna vaccine that she helped fund.

Amid swaths of vaccine skepticism in the United States, prominent politicians and celebrities have received their shot publicly to encourage others to sign up. The video came as President Joe Biden said the country would have enough vaccine doses for every adult by the end of May, up from July as previously announced, bringing with it the promise of a more normal summer.

In February the singer told USA Today that she wouldn’t “jump the line” to get vaccinated.

On Tuesday, it was Parton’s turn, and she had a message for others.

“I just want to say to all of you cowards out there, don’t be such a chicken squat. Get out there and get your shot,” the 75-year-old said in a video on Instagram.

—The Washington Post

7:08 am

California clinics: More vaccines going to rich than at-risk

Edward Muro gets a shot of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine at the Families Together of Orange County Community Health Center, Friday, Feb. 26, 2021, in Tustin, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

Edward Muro gets a shot of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine at the Families Together of Orange County Community Health Center, Friday, Feb. 26, 2021, in Tustin, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

Teresa Parada is exactly the kind of person equity-minded California officials say they want to vaccinate: She’s a retired factory worker who speaks little English and lives in a hard-hit part of Los Angeles County.

But Parada, 70, has waited weeks while others her age flock to Dodger Stadium or get the coronavirus shot through large hospital networks. The place where she normally gets medical care, AltaMed, is just now receiving enough supply to vaccinate her later this month.

Parada said TV reports show people lining up to get shots, but “I see only vaccines going to Anglos.”

“It’s rare that I see a Latino there for the vaccine. When will it be our turn?” she said.

Officials at community health centers that are considered the backbone of the safety net for the poor in the U.S., focused on health equity, say they are not receiving enough doses for their patients — the very at-risk residents the state needs to vaccinate.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

6:09 am

Catch up on the past 24 hours

Washington’s teachers and child care workers can now get vaccines. Gov. Jay Inslee jumped them higher in line under new federal directions that could speed students’ return to classrooms. 

The U.S. will have enough vaccines for “every adult American” by the end of May, President Joe Biden said yesterday after two rival drugmakers joined forces to produce the shots. Here’s what we know about the weeks ahead, and how to find your vaccine. A substantial number of people, though, are refusing the shots.

People were dying, staff were risking their lives, and there was nothing to be done. After a devastating year at Washington nursing homes, fears are diminishing but the grief is raw. “It’s like there’s no closure,” says one woman who still can’t have a funeral for her mom.

“Texas is OPEN 100%. EVERYTHING,” the governor tweeted yesterday as he ended the mask mandate and other restrictions. But freaked-out health officials there and in Mississippi — which took similar steps — have a starkly different message. 

There’s a new outbreak in the land, a pandemic of preening over who slayed the COVID-19 monster the best. But hold on: Washington may be a bigger sitting duck for a major outbreak than almost any other state, columnist Danny Westneat writes.

Seattle-area bowling alleys have rolled out the balls again with new rules. Take a look inside, and catch up on which activities you can and can’t do across the state these days.

We won’t have to wear masks on planes forever. But maybe we should, health experts say.

A coronavirus variant by any other name … please. The strings of letters, dots and numbers are getting simpler names, and everyone has ideas — some of them weirder than others.

—Kris Higginson

9:45 pm, Mar. 2, 2021

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Seattle Times staff & news services