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COVID-19 updates: First cases of UK COVID-19 strain found in Washington

A pharmacist prepares a syringe of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine Friday, Jan. 8, 2021, at Queen Anne Healthcare, a skilled nursing and rehabilitation facility in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

The state Department of Health says there have been more than 287,000 confirmed coronavirus cases in Washington, and 4,114 people have died from the virus statewide. The state says 391,195 doses of vaccine have been administered. Check below for more updates.

We are currently in Phase 1B tier 1 of vaccine distribution, which means the vaccine is available to anyone 65 and older, and all people 50 and older who also live in a multigenerational household.

Vaccine Phase Finder allows you to see if you’re eligible for a vaccine.
Find a vaccine location near you.

Confirmed coronavirus cases across Washington state

Sunday, Jan. 24

3:37pm – Two cases of the U.K. COVID-19 strain were announced to have been found in Washington, detected in Snohomish County, on Saturday. The state confirmed a third case Sunday in Pierce County.

7:48am – Straining under record numbers of COVID-19 patients, hundreds of the nation’s intensive care units are running out of space and supplies and competing to hire temporary traveling nurses at soaring rates. Many of the facilities are clustered in the South and West.

An Associated Press analysis of federal hospital data shows that since November, the share of U.S. hospitals nearing the breaking point has doubled. More than 40% of Americans now live in areas running out of ICU space, with only 15% of beds still available. Read more from the AP.

Saturday, Jan. 23

6:02pm – There are 287,031 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 4,114 deaths, as reported by the state Department of Health. The state reports an additional 13,167 probable cases, bringing the total cases to 300,198. The DOH does not update deaths over the weekend.

4:29pm – The Washington State Department of Health along with the Snohomish Health District and the UW Medicine Virology Lab have found the first cases of the B.1.1.7 variant of COVID-19 — first detected in the UK — in testing samples from the state. The UW lab detected two known cases of the variant in specimens collected from two Snohomish County residents. Read more.

3:50pm – House and Senate Democrats on Friday released a plan that looks to spend $2.2 billion in federal aid money on COVID-19 relief efforts in Washington state. Read more from the AP.

7:37am – Four mass COVID-19 vaccination sites are expected to open next week in Washington. The state Department of Health says it’s partnering with local health care systems in Clark, Benton, Chelan, and Spokane counties to deliver tens of thousands of vaccines. King County is looking at a February opening for its sites.

The announcement comes after Gov. Jay Inslee expanded eligibility for vaccination and set a goal of vaccinating 45,000 people a day. The state is currently administering an average of 15,500 doses per day. The state’s current vaccination Phase — Phase 1B, tier 1 — includes anyone 65 and older and anyone 50 or older who lives in a multigenerational home.

Friday, Jan. 22

5:30pm – There are 285,187 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 4,114 deaths statewide, as reported by the state Department of Health. The department reports an additional 13,062 probable cases, bringing the total cases for the state to 298,249. The number of vaccine doses given statewide is now at 391,195.

5:07pm – Pierce County is offering two drive-thru community events next week for those currently eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in Washington state. The clinics are available by appointment only. Find out if you’re eligible online here.

The first clinic will be at Clover Park Technical College in Lakewood on Jan. 26, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Register online here.

The second will be at the Washington State Fair Events Center in Puyallup on Jan. 28, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Register here.

3:33pm – The Washington State Department of Health announced that based on Gov. Inslee’s Roadmap to Recovery phased reopening plan, all eight regions will remain in Phase 1 until at least Feb. 1, 2021.

The DOH also launched a new Roadmap to Recovery dashboard online here, in partnership with Microsoft AI for Health, which provides an overview of the metrics used for measuring regional progress that help determine if it’s safe for a region to enter a new phase of reopening.

2:52pm – As the state has moved into Phase 1B of its COVID-19 vaccine rollout, Gov. Jay Inslee and his wife Trudi were eligible to receive the vaccine. They got the first of two doses on Friday.

“This is the most precious thing in life to me, is Trudi. And I would not have her get this vaccine if it wasn’t totally safe. Me, I’m expendable,” Gov. Inslee said Friday.

1:17pm – In a weekly update from King County health officer Dr. Jeff Duchin, he said the main challenge in the county’s vaccination efforts remains a limited supply of doses. It’s difficult to know what to expect week to week, he explained, when the allocations have varied, ranging from 12,000 to 73,000 in a week. Washington state is still receiving limited doses, and allocation as a state doesn’t line up with the current needs, so the problem extends beyond just a county level.

Phase 1B-1 added over 300,000 newly eligible people in the county, and Dr. Duchin says 38,000 first doses have been received, which is enough for only one in eight of those eligible. Moving forward, the county does have plans to expand access to vaccinations, but what they can implement depends on the supply of doses in the weeks and months ahead. For example, the mass vaccination sites will start at 500 doses per day, but Duchin says they could administer thousands per day if the supplies were adequate.

In the meantime, Duchin emphasized the importance of continuing protections we know work to limit the spread of the virus, especially as more contagious variants are expected to show up in the state soon.

“We are used to living with real volcanos in the Pacific Northwest, and right now we’re also living in the shadow of a COVID-19 volcano,” he said. “And we need to expect the coronavirus equivalent of a Mount St. Helens-like eruption at some time in the next few months. That’s because a more transmissible strain can cause a viral eruption in infections, hospitalizations, and deaths that can overwhelm our hospitals.”

11:04am – King County Health Officer Dr. Jeff Duchin will be delivering a briefing Friday at 12:30 p.m., to provide “updates on trends in COVID-19 cases and outbreaks,” as well the latest information on efforts to expand vaccinations. You can stream the briefing live here.

8:52am – It was over a month ago when Rod Samuelson, owner of Spiffy’s Restaurant in Chehalis, made quite a stir after telling KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson Show that he was going to stay open in defiance of the state’s shutdown order for restaurants. Now, just after the restaurant’s 50th anniversary on Jan. 1, Spiffy’s has closed its doors for indoor dining after facing $400,419 in total fines from the state. Read more

7:14am – It’s been one year now since Dr. George Diaz treated the first U.S. COVID-19 patient at Providence Regional Medical Center in Everett, Washington. Today, he finds it hard to believe that in the United States, with all its advantages, the number of COVID cases has been doubling every three months – more than anyplace else. Read more.

5:28am – Over 26,000 vaccine doses have been handed out in the last 24 hours, the Washington Department of Health reported.

That marks “another record-setting day,” bringing the state to over 362,000 vaccine doses distributed.

“We’re on our way,” the DOH said.

Thursday, Jan. 21

5:39pm – There have been 283,188 confirmed cases with 4,065 deaths statewide due to COVID-19, as reported by the Washington State Department of Health. An additional 12,899 probable cases brings the total cases in the state to 296,087.

A note from the state DOH says that the high number of new deaths is due to a data processing backlog cleared today from Jan. 14-20, 2021.

4:13pm – Dr. George Diaz is an infectious disease specialist with Providence Regional Medical Center in Everett. He treated the very first confirmed coronavirus patient in the United States, isolating him with the hospital’s strictest Ebola precautions and using a robot for examinations.

Exactly a year later, he joins KIRO Radio’s Dave Ross and reporter Aaron Granillo on the “COVID-19: Seattle” podcast to reflect on those earliest days of the pandemic, and make predictions for the year ahead. Listen here

3:58pm – School districts, architects, and other designers are working together to strategize how classrooms can be laid out to ensure maximum social distancing among students and teachers.

One classroom furniture company believes it can help with the effort. VS America’s furniture can be found throughout a number of local school districts, including Issaquah, Puyallup, Mercer Island, Federal Way, Mukilteo, Northshore, Central Kitsap, Edmonds, and Stanwood-Camano. Read more.

3:06pm – Amazon is establishing this pop-up clinic in partnership with Virginia Mason. It will be held on Sunday, Jan. 24, in Seattle, with a goal to reach 2,000 vaccinations in one day. This clinic is available to anyone eligible for vaccinations in the state’s Phase 1A or Phase 1B, tier 1. At the pop-up, patients will then be scheduled for their second shots. Read more.

12:53pm – With a burst of executive orders, President Joe Biden served notice Thursday that the nation’s COVID-19 response is under new management and he’s demanding progress to reduce infections and lift the siege Americans have endured for nearly a year.

The 10 orders signed by Biden are aimed at jump starting his national COVID-19 strategy to increase vaccinations and testing, lay the groundwork for reopening schools and businesses, and immediately increase the use of masks — including a requirement that Americans mask up for travel. Read more from the Associated Press.

12:06pm – Some teachers in the Bellevue School District say they will not go back to the classroom until they have been vaccinated, even as the district moves forward with plans to bring second graders back to the classroom Thursday. Read more.

10:38am – Health care workers and local businesses are divided over a proposal that would move Washington from Phase 1 to Phase 2 of reopening. Read more. 

8:52am – Was $1,800 worth of stimulus checks enough to keep Americans afloat during the pandemic? Not even close, according to a new report by the Economic Roundtable, which estimates that 600,000 Americans could become homeless because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Read more. 

7:08am – The City of Kent is in discussions to host King County’s first mass vaccination site.

The city says that “final details are still being negotiated,” and that a contract has yet to be signed. For the time being, the tentative plan is to set the site up at Kent’s ShoWare Center arena.

The site will be able to provide upwards of 500 vaccinations a day, six days a week. That number could increase too if supplies begin to come in faster.

5:24am – As part of his Day 1 agenda, President Joe Biden signed an executive order mandating masks be worn at all times on federal property.

“Wearing masks isn’t a partisan issue — it’s a patriotic act that can save countless lives,” Biden said Wednesday. “It’s time to mask up, America.”

Wednesday, Jan. 20

5:00pm – There are 281,258 confirmed cases and 3,940 deaths due to COVID-19 in Washington since the start of the pandemic, according to the state Department of Health. The state DOH also now reports the number of vaccine doses given, which is currently at 335,836.

The deaths were not updated today, but the state DOH says it expects to be able to make a full report of deaths on Thursday, Jan. 21.

4:41pm – As part of a series of changes intended to accelerate COVID vaccinations statewide, Gov. Inslee said Monday that there will be flexibility in later vaccination tiers to avoid wasting any doses.

The Washington State Department of Health clarified that the guidance does allow for flexibility in combining worker groups in Phase 1B, tiers 2 and 4, “if prioritizing and vaccinating people in Tier 2 ONLY creates severe inefficiencies or might result in unused doses.” Read more.

2:39pm – Mercer Island MD Dr. Gordon Cohen told Seattle’s Morning News that he was “sort of fluish” after receiving the second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, but says that’s been a common report from other patients and an average reaction. Read more.

1:25pm – UW Medicine’s vaccine clinics have scheduled more than 10,000 appointments as Washington state starts Phase 1B of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout. Phase 1B includes those 65 and older as well as people 50 and older who live in multigenerational households.

“We’re really excited that this week we started vaccinating patients in the UW Medicine system,” says Lisa Brandenburg, president of UW Medicine Hospitals & Clinics.

According to a release from UW Medicine, it has vaccinated more than 36,000 individuals, used 76% of its inventory, and has an overall waste rate of less than 1% to date.

12:23pm – A Chehalis restaurant that previously refused to honor the state’s indoor dining ban faced the judge again on Tuesday. Read more.

10:08am – The Washington Department of Health’s weekly COVID briefing — which typically takes place every Wednesday — has been moved to Thursday at 9 a.m.

8:31am – In his first hours as president, Joe Biden will aim to strike at the heart of President Donald Trump’s policy legacy, signing a series of executive actions that will reverse his predecessor’s orders on immigration, climate change, and handling of the coronavirus pandemic. Read more from the Associated Press.

6:56am – Some of the largest hospitals in Washington state say they won’t follow Governor Inslee’s suggestion to try to speed up coronavirus vaccinations by making appointments then canceling them if there’s a supply problem or they don’t have enough doses. Read more.

5:25am – Washington lawmakers voted this week to continue an ongoing suspension of a job search requirement for those out of work until the state’s pandemic state of emergency is declared over.

That means those seeking jobless benefits can continue to answer “no” to the job search question on weekly unemployment claims for the foreseeable future.

Washington’s state of emergency can end either by declaration of Gov. Jay Inslee or through legislative action.

Tuesday, Jan. 19

5:52pm – The Washington State Department of Health, in partnership with Microsoft AI for Health, is now displaying COVID-19 vaccine data on its data dashboard to share the progress being made statewide as more people get vaccinated. Read more.

5:00pm – There have been 279,421 confirmed cases and 3,940 deaths due to COVID-19 statewide, according to the Washington State Department of Health. The state reports 12,568 probable cases as well, bringing the total cases for the state to 291,989.

Data note from the state DOH for Jan. 19, 2021: “Negative test results data from November 21-30, and January 2 through today, are incomplete. Thus, percent positivity (Testing tab) should be interpreted with caution.

Today’s data on hospitalizations is incomplete due to an interruption in the data reporting processes. Therefore, hospitalization data should be interpreted with caution. We expect to be able to make a full update tomorrow (January 20, 2021).”

3:19pm –  At a memorial for the lives taken by COVID-19, President-elect Joe Biden is calling on Americans to remember those lost to the coronavirus and to begin to heal. Biden said Tuesday night, on the eve of his inauguration, that although it’s “hard sometimes to remember,” it’s “how we heal.”

Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, speaking before him, emphasized a similar note of unity. While Americans have been grieving alone for most of the pandemic, Harris said, “Tonight we grieve, and begin healing, together.”

The remembrance ceremony was held at the Lincoln Memorial’s reflecting pool, which was lit up with 400 lights in honor of the 400,000 Americans who have died from the virus. Read more from the AP.

2:54pm – The Washington State Department of Health’s online phase finder lets you know if you’re currently eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, and now goes a step further by sharing locations near you that have doses of the vaccine.

“Based on that, the individual can make contact with that provider — whether it’s a clinic, a hospital, a pharmacy — and they can call and schedule their appointment,” said State Secretary of Health Dr. Umair Shah.

Dr. Shah says many health care providers also plan to reach out to existing eligible patients to make vaccination appointments.

1:41pm – In King County, health officer Dr. Jeff Duchin said Tuesday that cases have dropped slightly from the high rate after the holidays — as have deaths per week and hospitalizations — but the county is still seeing 400 cases diagnosed and recorded each day. The main hotspots in King County are Auburn, Kent, and Federal Way.

In terms of the county’s vaccination efforts, Duchin says at least 2/3 of the 200,000 doses that the county has received from the state’s allocation have been administered, with expectations that the number could be higher as some of the doses may have gone to non-residents or weren’t yet recorded.

“There is light at the end of the tunnel and these vaccines represent it,” Dr. Duchin said. “But the tunnel has gotten longer.”

12:33pm – The race to vaccinate is on across the country, and about nine million Americans have already rolled up their sleeves so far. Dr. Angela Rasmussen, virologist with Georgetown University’s Center for Global Health Science & Security, and weekly guest of KIRO Radio’s Gee and Ursula Show, says the vaccines do provide hope, but it’s not the end of the pandemic just yet. Read more.

11:10am – President-elect Joe Biden predicted he would take office amid a “dark winter,” and the outlook is only getting bleaker. Read more from the Associated Press.

9:31am – A handful of Tacoma students will return to in-person learning this week, with up to 15 kindergartners allowed in each classroom.

Students will spend two days on campus in classrooms, and learn from home for the rest of the week.

Tacoma preschoolers are scheduled to return on Jan. 25, while 1st and 2nd graders are set for February.

8:03am – UW’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation released its latest estimates for the percentage of state populations infected with COVID-19, as of mid January.

Leading the country is Mississippi, where over 35% of its residents are estimated to have COVID as of Jan. 11. That’s followed by Arizona, Louisiana, South Dakota, Massachusetts, and New Jersey, where between 30 and 34% of residents are infected.

Washington state boasts one of the lower rates in the nation, sitting between 10 and 15%.

6:47am – One Republican senator had strong words for the Employment Security Department during a committee vote on the governor’s unemployment proposal. Read more.

5:05am – Seattle will be joining cities across the nation on Tuesday in a memorial to those lost to COVID-19 over the last year.

That will see buildings, monuments, and bridges illuminated in amber, the color of candlelight. That will begin at 5:30 p.m., as the Washington State Convention Center, T-Mobile Park, and Climate Pledge Arena light up to begin the night.

Additionally, six people will ring Seattle Center’s Kobe Bell as part of a live ceremony at 2:25 p.m. The bell was gifted to the city by the city of Kobe as part of the 1962 World’s Fair.

Monday, Jan. 18

5:36pm – Local cities will be part of Tuesday’s national memorial for those lost to coronavirus as buildings, monuments, and bridges will be illuminated in amber, the color of candlelight.

Among the Seattle locations participating will be the Washington State Convention Center, T-Mobile Park, and Climate Pledge Arena.

4:58pm – In observance of Martin Luther King holiday, there will not be any COVID-19 dashboard updates on Jan. 18, 2021, from the state Department of Health. The department’s data dashboard says it will resume normal updates on Tuesday, Jan. 19.

4:05pm – Gov. Inslee announced a series of changes to COVID-19 vaccine distribution in Washington state on Monday, including an immediate move to Phase 1B of vaccinations. All Washingtonians 65 years and older are now eligible to be vaccinated in the first tier of Phase 1B, which is in line with recent guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The governor also unveiled a public-private partnership to accelerate vaccine distribution. Read more.

1:44pm – A third person at Stafford Creek Corrections Center in Aberdeen has died due to COVID-19. The virus has been moving quickly through the population at the prison with more than a third of inmates falling ill just in the last month.

Statewide, the Department of Corrections says eight inmates and two employees have died from coronavirus. More than 5,000 inmates and nearly 1,000 staff members have tested positive.

12:50pm – As President-elect Joe Biden continues to plan his administration’s COVID-19 response, he reiterated a series of promises he’s been making in the lead-up to Inauguration Day.

“Our Administration will lead with science and scientists — with a CDC and NIH that are free from political influence, a Surgeon General who is independent and speaks directly to the people, and an FDA whose decisions are based on science and science alone,” Biden tweeted Monday.

10:26am – Some doses of the COVID-19 vaccine are being wasted because the state isn’t telling health care providers to use them up.

According to KIRO 7 TV, some providers have extra doses, but not enough people eligible to receive them. So, the leftover doses are thrown away.

The state doesn’t track the waste. The head of the Washington State Hospital Association, Cassie Sauer, says no vaccine dose should ever be wasted. She says that if there’s a choice between vaccinating anyone or throwing a dose away, we should always be vaccinating someone.

8:38am – Gov. Jay Inslee will be delivering a press conference Monday at 3 p.m., joined by the Secretary of Health Dr. Umair Shah, Microsoft President Brad Smith, Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson, and more.

The governor plans to unveil a new “public-private partnership for the state’s vaccine distribution plan” as part of the briefing.

6:42am – In past years, the idea of a bill expanding sports betting in Washington state passing has been a tough sell in Olympia. But with COVID driving down state revenues, there’s belief among many that this time around, things might be different. Read more

5:19am – A new report from The New York Times indicates that Washington has been among the nation’s leaders in limiting COVID-19 deaths.

Despite the first COVID cases in the United States appearing in the state, it currently ranks 44th in deaths per capita. If the rest of the country had a similar rate of deaths, roughly 220,000 fewer people would be dead.

“This did not happen by accident,” Gov. Jay Inslee said. “It happened because of Washingtonians’ sound, scientific and responsible actions for which they can deservedly take some measure of pride.”

Check updates from last week.

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