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COVID-19 updates: UW modeler says we could see herd immunity by end of summer

In this Jan. 24, 2021, file photo, people work near refrigerators used to store the Pfizer vaccine for COVID-19, as patients who have received the shot sit in an observation area during a one-day vaccination clinic set up in an facility in Seattle and operated by Virginia Mason Franciscan Health. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

The state Department of Health says there have been over 321,000 confirmed coronavirus cases in Washington, and 4,956 people have died from the virus statewide. The state says 1,500,485 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.

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Confirmed coronavirus cases across Washington state

Sunday, Feb. 28

4:59pm – The Seattle Fire Department administered its 10,000th COVID-19 vaccine this weekend, as the city continues to ramp up its distribution.

11:52am – One year ago this weekend, on Leap Day 2020, what was then the nation’s first known coronavirus death was announced here in the Puget Sound. Read more.

8:15am – Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation Director Dr. Chris Murray spoke to CNN over the weekend, addressing two potential futures for the U.S. in its journey toward herd immunity.

“There’s the rosy future, which says 80% of Americans will get vaccinated, there won’t be the spread of the Brazilian or South African variants we’re all worried about, we could get to herd immunity in that case by the end of the summer or early fall,” he predicted.

In a scenario where vaccines are less effective against those variants, though, “it becomes pretty hard to get to herd immunity,” which could in turn lead to a “surge next winter.”

Saturday, Feb. 27

8:08pm – Health officials say there have been 321,079 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Washington, and 4956 deaths since the outbreak began.

4:03pm – The U.S. is getting a third vaccine to prevent COVID-19, as the Food and Drug Administration on Saturday cleared a Johnson & Johnson shot that works with just one dose instead of two. Read more.

12:19pm – Before the COVID-19 pandemic, one in 10 people in Washington state faced food insecurity. By the end of 2020, experts estimated that figure doubled, with up to 20% of people in the state going hungry. Food banks around Washington are also reporting double the number of people lining up for food, but thanks to the efforts of one local group, some of those hungry families are now getting fresh bread. Read more.

8:06am – UW’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation delivered its weekly briefing Friday, finding that despite a nationwide decrease in deaths from the virus, COVID-19 was still the leading cause of mortality in the United States over the last week.

The country saw just over 14,000 deaths this week, followed by heart disease at over 10,700 deaths, and lung cancer in a distant third at over 3,900.

Friday, Feb. 26

5:22pm – Health officials say there have been 320,317 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Washington state, and 4,956 deaths since the outbreak began.

3:57pm – King County Health Officer Dr. Jeff Duchin struck an optimistic tone Friday, predicting that the region could have the worst of the pandemic behind it in a matter of months, if not weeks. Read more.

2:12pm – An FDA panel unanimously recommended Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose COVID-19 vaccine Friday, as the latest key milestone toward getting full approval for distribution across the U.S.

12:39pm – One year ago this weekend was when the first known U.S. death from COVID-19 was announced in King County. The man had died of coronavirus at Kirkland’s EvergreenHealth Medical Center on Feb. 29, 2020. Since then, nearly 5,000 Washingtonians have died from the virus. Nationwide, the death toll is more than 500,000.

11:10am – An elementary school in Fife — Discovery Primary School — has suspended in-person learning yesterday and today after a staff member tested positive for COVID-19 this week. In a statement, Superintendent Kevin Alfano said the staff member who tested positive will not return for 10 days, which matches the guidance the district is following.

“The silver lining is we are proud of the system and we believe at this time we avoided an ‘outbreak’ scenario,” Alfano said.

9:15am – With Seattle hoping to avoid wasting any doses of COVID-19 vaccine, the city is offering a way for people to put themselves on “standby” status should there be any extra doses available at the end of the day. Read more.

7:46am – When it comes to reopening public schools across the United States, Washington is near the bottom of the list. The Washington Policy Center says the state ranks 47th in the nation for in-person learning with just 19.2% of the state’s students spending time in the classroom.

The only states with fewer kids in school are Oregon, California, and Maryland.

6:04am – The state could be doling out a third COVID-19 vaccine by next week, if the FDA grants an emergency use authorization for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. That authorization could come as soon as Friday.

“Washington will be allocated 60,900 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine next week,” said the state Department of Health’s Michele Roberts, if the EUA is granted.

Unlike Pfizer and Moderna, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine only requires one dose, making it ideal for some groups. State Secretary of Health Dr. Umair Shah says they’re working with the federal government to determine who exactly would be best suited to the new vaccine. The state said the weekly supply of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines is also increasing.

Thursday, Feb. 25

5:42pm – Health officials say there have been 319,498 cases of coronavirus in Washington state, and 4,942 deaths since the outbreak began.

4:14pm – Gov. Inslee announced Thursday that all 39 Washington counties will remain in Phase 2 of reopening for at least the next two weeks. Read more.

2:48pm – King County libraries will start reopening in-building services starting in March, allowing residents to browse collections, use computers, access the internet, and more.

That plan will begin with six locations at reduced capacity in Fall City, Kent, Muckleshoot, Skykomish, Tukwila, and Woodmont.

“The health and safety of staff and visitors remains our top priority as we take the next step in reopening,” KCLS Executive Director Lisa Rosenblum said in a written release. “While KCLS continues to serve our communities both online and in person, we have been carefully planning for your return into library buildings, and we are looking forward to welcoming you back.”

1:18pm – Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan joined a bipartisan coalition of 400 mayors Thursday, “calling on Congress to take immediate action” on passing President Biden’s proposed COVID-19 relief package.

“Your quick action on President Biden’s plan is a crucial step to making meaningful progress in one of the most challenging moments in our country’s history,” an open letter addressed to Congress reads.

11:42am – The Washington State Department of Health and the Institute for Disease Modeling released a new report on Wednesday, the fourth in a series that explores how to minimize COVID-19 cases in schools and what can be done to mitigate the spread of the virus. Read more.

10:08am – In a briefing with members of the Washington State Department of Health on Thursday, the state Secretary of Health Dr. Umair Shah said that as of Feb. 22, more than 1.4 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been given out in Washington state.

“That is remarkable, and it’s a significant jump from where we stood in January,” Shah said.

The state is n ow administering more than 75-80% of the vaccine it has received, but Dr. Shah says there is more work ahead of us.

He added that while the vaccines provide protection against severe infection and deaths, everyone in the general public can help reduce transmission by being continuing to wear well-fitting masks, even around people we see regularly. Additionally, we should all keep washing our hands, watching our distance, and limiting time with others outside of our household as much as possible.

8:16am – Washington Senator Maria Cantwell is demanding a crackdown by the Federal Trade Commission on counterfeit personal protective equipment. Earlier this month, up to two million counterfeit N95 masks were delivered to dozens of hospitals in the state.

5:52am – This week, Snohomish County is expected to receive its largest shipment of vaccine doses so far. KIRO 7 TV reports that health officials say 30,000 doses are being delivered — 10,000 will be for first shots, and 20,000 will be for people getting their second and final dose. To make the most of those doses, the county says several of its four mass vaccination sites will likely be open through the weekend.

Wednesday, Feb. 24

9:57pm – A real-world test of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine in more than half a million people confirms that it’s very effective at preventing serious illness or death, even after one dose.

Wednesday’s published results, from a mass vaccination campaign in Israel, give strong reassurance that the benefits seen in smaller, limited testing persisted when the vaccine was used much more widely in a general population with various ages and health conditions.

The vaccine was 92% effective at preventing severe disease after two shots and 62% after one. Its estimated effectiveness for preventing death was 72% two to three weeks after the first shot, a rate that may improve as immunity builds over time. Read more from AP.

5:19pm – Health officials say there have been 318,510 cases of coronavirus in Washington state, and 4,912 deaths since the outbreak began.

3:40pm – A King County Superior Court judge upheld a trio of Seattle pandemic eviction protection ordinances Wednesday, in the face of a legal challenge levied by a coalition of local landlords. Read more.

2:14pm – As many school districts across the state are starting to return to in-person learning or making plans for a return, KIRO Radio’s Gee & Ursula Show opened the phone lines for parents to share how they feel about what’s happening in their kids’ district. Read more.

12:17pm -Virologist Dr. Angela Rasmussen believes that if more people are vaccinated in the coming weeks and months, if the public continues to take precautions to limit the spread of COVID-19, and if cases keep trending downward, a relaxation of the restrictions could come as soon as late spring or early summer. Read more.

10:11am – The grace period for people having trouble paying electric and natural gas bills during the pandemic is extended to July 31. The previous state order preventing investor-owned energy companies from disconnecting customers was set to expire at the end of April.

Utilities must also continue to waive late fees and deposits.

8:49am – The King County Library System used part of the CARES Act funding distributed to KCLS by the Washington State Library to install or improve external Wi-Fi access points at 44 library locations while the buildings remain closed to the public. No library card or password is required to access the free wireless network, which will operate 24 hours a day.

7:03am – Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose vaccine protects against COVID-19, according to an analysis by U.S. regulators Wednesday that sets the stage for a final decision on a new and easier-to-use shot to help tame the pandemic.

The Food and Drug Administration’s scientists confirmed that overall the vaccine is about 66% effective at preventing moderate to severe COVID-19. The agency also said J&J’s shot — one that could help speed vaccinations by requiring just one dose instead of two — is safe to use.

That’s just one step in the FDA’s evaluation of a third vaccine option for the U.S. On Friday, the agency’s independent advisers will debate if the evidence is strong enough to recommend the long-anticipated shot. Armed with that advice, FDA is expected to make a final decision within days. Read more from the Associated Press.

5:40am – Some Tacoma public school employees are staging a sick-out on Wednesday. The group “Safe Return Tacoma,” which claims to be nearly 100 members of the Tacoma teachers union, posted about the sick out on social media. They say it will have a minimal negative impact on students due to Wednesday’s asynchronous late-state. According to KIRO 7 TV, employees demand that they only return to in-person learning when the entire community has had access to vaccinations.

The Tacoma School District says they’re ready for staff and students to return to school, and have followed the guidance of the state and local health department, as well as the CDC.

Tuesday, Feb. 23

4:55pm – Health officials say there have been 317,805 cases of coronavirus in Washington state, and 4,881 deaths since the outbreak began.

3:30pm A new tool developed by the University of Washington is allowing Seattle city officials to pinpoint neighborhoods most affected by the pandemic, and then direct mobile teams, pop-up clinics, and vaccination efforts toward those areas.

The hope is to use the tool to better prioritize the parts of the city that are most in need of vaccines.

“This tool is critical to ensure our limited supply goes to communities who have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19,” Mayor Jenny Durkan said in a written release.

1:12pm – While limitations imposed to reduce the spread of COVID-19 have continued to burden Americans, a ramping up of vaccine distribution by the end of spring could have the country on its way to a return to some semblance of normal life. Read more.

11:28am – The Washington State Department of Health, along with Public Health — Seattle & King County and the UW Medicine Virology Lab, announced that the B.1.351 variant of SARS-CoV-2 has been detected in King County. This is a variant that originated in South Africa. Read more.

9:09am – If you live in a more crowded urban county, it may be tougher to get an appointment for a COVID-19 shot, only because there’s more eligible people than available doses at this point.

“The urban counties — they’re not behind because they are slow, they’re behind because they have gotten less vaccine in proportion to their population,” said Cassie Sauer, Washington State Hospital Association CEO on Monday.

However, hospitals across the state are starting to get the vaccines that were delayed due to last week’s bad weather. Sauer says most providers will be able to catch up on missed shots by the end of this week.

7:41am – Dr. Keith Jerome, head of the UW Virology Lab, told KIRO Radio’s Dave Ross that we should expect to hear more news about variants in the coming weeks. But the good news is that we know the vaccines we have now do protect against variants in general. Read more.

6:32am – Pierce County’s Health Department will open registration Tuesday at noon for a vaccine clinic in DuPont this week. You must be in Phase 1A, or 1B, Tier 1, and preferably work or live in the county.

5:15am – After a year that has darkened doorways across the U.S., the pandemic surpassed a milestone Monday that once seemed unimaginable, a stark confirmation of the virus’s reach into all corners of the country and communities of every size and makeup.

“It’s very hard for me to imagine an American who doesn’t know someone who has died or have a family member who has died,” said Ali Mokdad, a professor of health metrics at the University of Washington in Seattle. “We haven’t really fully understood how bad it is, how devastating it is, for all of us.”

Experts warn that about 90,000 more deaths are likely in the next few months, despite a massive campaign to vaccinate people. Read more from the Associated Press.

Monday, Feb. 22

5:43pm – The Washington Department of Health is now reporting 317,223 confirmed COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic, along with 4,857 deaths.

3:29pm – Seattle Public Schools announced Monday that it will be delaying its in-person start date for preschool, kindergarten, first grade, and Pathway students for at least one more week. Read more.

2:04pm – Washington Rep. Pramila Jayapal expressed confidence on Sunday that a plan to raise the national minimum wage to $15 an hour will remain in the current COVID-19 relief package being considered in Congress. Read more.

11:47am – Most of the COVID-19 vaccines that got stuck in transit because of ice and snow should make it to Washington state by Wednesday. It will essentially be, as Washington State Hospital Association CEO Cassie Sauer said, a “double-delivery” of last week’s vaccine doses and this week’s doses.

“I’m actually quite confident that on the hospital side, we are going to be able to work through our vaccine doses for both last week and this week quite quickly,” Sauer said.

10:25am – The Snohomish School District will be part of a COVID-19 testing project with researchers at the University of Washington to gain new insights into the transmission of the virus at schools. Students in kindergarten through second grade can participate. Enrollment is voluntary and will start Monday.

The study is also available to staff working with in-person students in special education, and those in kindergarten through sixth grade. Staff who have been vaccinated are encouraged to participate.

9:06am – COVID-19 cases are continuing on a steady path downward in King County, but Health Officer Dr. Jeff Duchin is warning residents to remain vigilant, especially as a more infectious variant strain becomes more and more prevalent. Read more.

8:41am – Costco is offering COVID vaccines in several states, including in Washington. The Issaquah-based warehouse giant is taking part in the federal retail pharmacy program. If you’re eligible, Costco is asking that you sign up online for appointments and not contact the pharmacy directly.

7:34am – With most children out of school for nearly a year, a Washington state senator is proposing that districts swap spring break with summer break. Read more.

6:05am – The University of Washington in Seattle made national headlines after a large group of students on Greek Row gathered for a snow party during the recent winter storm.

“A large group of students, including many from the Greek community, flagrantly disregarded state, local and UW health guidance and restrictions with a large, outdoor gathering,” writes the university in a letter to Seattle students. “Social media posts and formal complaints from other students show hundreds of students packed together, without face coverings, for extended periods.”

Those who attended the party have been banned from classes until the end of the month. The UW says students who do not follow the order will be suspended. The students are also strongly advised to quarantine for 14 days.

Check for last week’s updates.

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