COVID updates: Hundreds of educators vaccinated over the weekend
The state Department of Health says there have been nearly 329,000 confirmed coronavirus cases in Washington, and 5,123 people have died from the virus statewide. The state says 2,267,958 doses of vaccine have been administered. Check below for more updates.
Washington state is currently in Phase 1B, tier 1, of vaccine distribution, which means the vaccine is available to anyone 65 and older, and people 50 and older who live in a multigenerational household, in addition to those populations eligible during Phase 1A. As of March 2, educators and child care workers have been added to Phase 1B-1.
Sunday, March 14
6:05pm – Hundreds of educators received a dose of vaccine for COVID-19 over the weekend. KIRO 7 reports teachers and staff who work for the Snohomish School District got a shot at the Snohomish High School gym. With help from the Kusler’s Compounding Pharmacy, about 1,100 doses were administered to staff. KIRO 7 reports the district shared leftover doses and extended the clinic to the Everett and Mukilteo school districts.
Meanwhile, in Seattle KOMO 4 reports Seattle Public Schools and city of Seattle officials hosted a vaccine clinic at the Rainier Beach Community Testing and Vaccination Site for educators and child care providers. The clinic expected to administer about 1,000 single-dose Johnson & Johnson shots.
9:42am – Dr. Anthony Fauci said Sunday he wishes former President Donald Trump would use his popularity among Republicans to persuade his followers to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
In a round of interviews on the morning news shows, the government’s top infectious disease expert lamented polling showing that Trump supporters are more likely to refuse to get vaccinated, saying politics needs to be separated from “commonsense, no-brainer” public health measures.
Fauci said it would be a “game changer” for the country’s vaccine efforts if the former president used his “incredible influence” among Republicans. Read more from AP.
Saturday, March 13
6:05pm – Health officials say there have been 328,975 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Washington state, and 5,123 deaths since the outbreak began last year. Over 2.2 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in Washington state.
12:45pm – Americans will begin to get their $1,400 stimulus checks through direct deposit this weekend, according to the Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service. The IRS says you can begin tracking the status of your payment on Monday on the IRS website. Check “GetMyPayment” for an update.
8:38am – Lumen Field Event Center in Seattle opens on Saturday as a mass vaccination site.
Swedish Health Services and First & Goal are collaborating with the city to open what Gov. Inslee called the largest civilian-led mass vaccination site in the country.
If enough vaccine is available, organizers say the site is capable of administering doses to about 20,000 people per day.
Friday, March 12
5:14pm – Health officials say there have been 328,166 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Washington state, and 5,123 cases since the outbreak began. The state says over 2.2 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered.
3:09pm – Starting Saturday, March 13, Link light rail trips will be free to passengers traveling to or from appointments at vaccination sites along the Link routes, including the sites at Lumen Field and Rainier Beach, as well as local pharmacies and medical facilities. Passengers may be asked to show proof of their appointment.
Free light rail service will also be available to vaccination site volunteers who provide documentation that they are working a shift that day, such as an official email verifying their shift.
1:30pm – With the state moving into Phase 3 of reopening, many nightclubs and music venues appear as though they will remain closed for the foreseeable future. Read more.
11:30am – Gov. Jay Inslee announced Friday that he is issuing an emergency proclamation requiring school districts to offer all K-12 students a hybrid in-person/remote learning model by mid-April. Read more.
9:31am – Gov. Jay Inslee will be delivering another press conference Friday at 11:30 a.m., this time to provide new details on reopening schools. You can watch it live on TVW here.
8:19am – Oktoberfest fans will have to keep those lederhosen at home, with Leavenworth canceling the yearly event over ongoing concerns related to the pandemic.
The announcement came in prior to Gov. Inslee’s Thursday announcement that the state would be relaxing restrictions placed on large outdoor events, but so far, the event is still called off.
6:55am – Several weeks ago, the City of Seattle mandated that large grocery stores pay its employees a $4 an hour hazard pay during the COVID pandemic. Now, the King County Council has passed a similar ordinance that will impact unincorporated King County. Read more.
5:13am – On Thursday, President Biden set a May 1 target to have all adults in the United States eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine. In order to accomplish that goal in Washington state, Gov. Jay Inslee said that the federal government “will need to come through with increased doses and infrastructure.”
Inslee noted that the state’s current priority for vaccine distribution is to get vaccinations to the elderly, as well as those working in congregate settings like grocery stores, correctional facilities, and more.
Once those people are taken care of, “then we will turn our attention to the broader population consistent with the president’s announcement.”
“Continued close partnership between the state and the Biden administration will be essential, and I look forward to talking to them about this and explore ways it will be done,” he described. “The day is coming soon when all Washingtonians who want a vaccine can get one.”
Thursday, March 11
10:48pm – Health officials say there have been 327,672 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Washington state, and 5,107 deaths since the outbreak began.
5:54pm – The Washington State Department of Health says today’s dashboard updates are delayed due to data processing issues. The dashboards will be updated later tonight.
4:58pm – Starting Wednesday, March 17, everyone in Phase 1B, tier 2, will be eligible for their COVID vaccine. This includes workers in agriculture, food processing, grocery stores, public transit, firefighters, and law enforcement, among others. It also includes people over the age of 16 who are pregnant or have a disability that puts them at high risk for severe illness.
Those who are eligible now in the earlier phases will remain eligible.
3:00pm – On March 22, every county in the state of Washington will move to Phase 3 of the reopening plan. Phase 3 allows up to 50% occupancy for indoor spaces, such as restaurants and retail, and up to 400 people for indoor and outdoor activities, as long as physical distancing and masking are enforced.
Outdoor events at facilities with permanent seating — including T-Mobile Park for Mariners games — can have up to 25% capacity for fans who physically distance and wear masks. That same capacity is allowed at high school sports, motorsports, rodeos, and other similar events. Read more.
1:56pm – Washington health officials delivered a briefing Thursday, declaring that the state is now entering into the next phase of its pandemic response efforts. Read more.
11:49am – President Biden has officially signed his $1.9 trillion COVID relief package into law, opting to do so a day earlier than he had originally intended.
Biden is expected to speak at 5 p.m. Thursday, to summarize the last year and outline the next steps for the nation’s response efforts.
10:04am – All the news this week has been about the COVID relief bill, but there’s another bill that some Republicans find even more terrifying, says KIRO Radio’s Dave Ross. Read more.
8:17am – The New York Times published a lengthy feature report on Seattle’s success in managing the pandemic Thursday, detailing how local leaders responded in the early days in March 2020, and how it has progressed since.
You can read the full report here.
6:34am – People are being asked not to go see the University of Washington’s famed cherry trees in bloom this spring, over concerns brought on by the ongoing pandemic. Instead, the UW’s social media sites will be providing pictures and live streams online.
In the past, the university has announced when the trees will be in full bloom, but that will not be the case this year.
5:11am – With Congress approving President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package, Washington state is set to receive a significant portion of aid for schools, child care, transit, emergency rental assistance, and more.
Counties and cities struggling with budget shortfalls brought on by the pandemic will also get a cut of the pie: Seattle will get $239 million, Spokane is set to receive $84.4 million, and Tacoma will get $63 million. Other cities like Kent, Yakima, Auburn, Olympia, and Bremerton, among others, will get anywhere between $10 million and $30 million.
Meanwhile, K-12 schools will get $1.9 billion in aid, with another $655 set aside for higher education.
Wednesday, March 10
5:51pm – There have been 327,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the state and 5,100 deaths, as reported by the Washington State Department of Health. More than 2.1 million vaccine doses have been given statewide.
5:37pm – The new federal stimulus bill should mean no disruption to the extra unemployment money being sent to people in Washington. The state’s Employment Security Commissioner says the fine print is still being examined, but the additional $300 a week provided by the federal government is expected to continue with no gap. That benefit had been set to run out on Saturday.
3:25pm – After a year (more or less) of closures, Tacoma’s Museum District is reopening with new exhibitions starting in April. The Washington State History Museum, Museum of Glass, and America’s Car Museum will be the first to open on April 2. The Children’s Museum is expected to open April 12, followed by the Tacoma Art Museum on April 16.
2:28pm – The Lumen Field Event Center in Seattle will open as a mass vaccination site on Saturday. At peak capacity, the site will be the largest civilian-run clinic of its kind in the country. Read more.
11:32am – The U.S. House of Representatives officially approved President Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package.
The vote hewed closely to party lines, with Republicans in both the House and Senate unanimously opposing the proposal.
“Help is here,” Biden tweeted moments after the roll call ended.
9:39am – NBC News reports President Biden will soon announce that the federal government will be buying 100 million Johnson & Johnson vaccine doses.
8:05am – The end of the pandemic also marks the end of Zooming in sweatpants and finding a comfortable spot on the sofa, and not everyone is happy about that. Read more.
6:44am – Congress is poised to approve a landmark $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill, placing President Joe Biden on the cusp of an early triumph that advances Democratic priorities and showcases the unity his party will need to forge future victories. Read more from the Associated Press.
5:09am – With Maryland becoming the latest state to allow businesses and restaurants to open at full capacity, leaders at the UW’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation are warning other states not to follow suit.
In order to safely reopen to full capacity, “we would want to see the case rates in that community be really low,” IHME Director Dr. Chris Murray told CNN’s Anderson Cooper. And while the “signs look really good” in terms of progressing toward that goal, Murray warns that “we’re a good ways away from that.”
“I think there’s a real risk that transmission can plateau for quite awhile and even go back up if people increasingly stop wearing masks and have large gatherings,” he clarified.
Tuesday, March 9
5:09pm – There have been 326,404 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with 5,077 deaths statewide, as reported by the Washington State Department of Health. There are an additional 19,999 probable cases.
3:40pm – Appointments open Wednesday at 9 a.m. for the new community vaccination center at Bellingham Technical College. Shots will start being administered at the clinic on Saturday, March 13.
3:02pm – The King County Council voted 8-1 Tuesday to establish a hazard pay requirement for additional compensation of $4 per hour for grocery employees working in the unincorporated area of King County. Read more.
1:54pm – After the pandemic hit, Caitlin Braam’s long-time dream of opening a cider bar was dashed. Instead, she opened Yonder Bar out of her garage in Seattle’s Greenwood neighborhood, selling cans and growlers to go.
Three weeks ago, despite enormous support from the neighborhood, Yonder Bar was forced to close its physical space. But a new bill, sponsored by Seattle Councilmember Dan Strauss, wants to put Braam back in business, and make other existing home businesses legal for the next year. Read more.
11:32am – Seattle Public Schools and the city’s teachers’ union announced Tuesday that they’ve reached an agreement to delay the return of in-person classes to late March. Read more.
8:39am – Washington’s Secretary of Health Dr. Umair Shah testified in front of Congress on Tuesday, sharing observations from the state about the path forward to end the pandemic.
Dr. Shah opened by pointing out that “this pandemic is far from over,” emphasizing the need to “stay the course” with mask mandates and other precautions, increasing distribution of vaccines, and working toward “safely reopening schools and businesses.”
You can read his full opening remarks here.
6:41am – Washington state’s school district leaders are saying 3 feet, not 6 feet, should be the distance required between students in the classroom. Read more.
5:07am – The Washington Department of Health reported a major milestone Monday, with the state now having administered over 2 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.
“We are grateful to have reached this milestone, made possible by everyone working persistently to put an end to this pandemic,” the DOH said. “Thank you WA for your patience as we continue to make more progress.”
Monday, March 8
5:55pm – There have been 325,931 confirmed COVID-19 cases with 5,063 deaths statewide, as reported by the Washington State Department of Health. More than 2 million vaccine doses have been given.
3:52pm – Seattle-based Brown Paper Tickets is being ordered to refund money to everyone who purchased tickets to events canceled by the pandemic, and pay all money it owes to organizers of past events. State Attorney General Bob Ferguson says the company will be contacting ticket holders to arrange their refunds.
2:16pm – In a partnership to bring more vaccine appointments to eligible individuals, QFC and the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce will hold a clinic at the T-Mobile offices in Bellevue on March 10-11.
“This week’s clinic is a great example of our business community working together on the urgent task of vaccination. QFC’s donation of professional services at vaccination sites and scheduling support, along with Comcast’s support of on-site services and T-Mobile hosting the clinic, will make it possible for 900 people in King County to get their first dose of the vaccine this week,” said Rachel Smith, president and CEO of the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce.
Eligible individuals may sign up while appointments are available here.
12:51pm – Now that there are three COVID vaccines and the United States is starting to see infection rates go down, and as some states are relaxing restrictions, how will we know when the pandemic is over? Mercer Island MD Dr. Gordon Cohen joined Seattle’s Morning News to discuss. Read more.
11:07am – Seattle city officials say that community vaccination hubs in Rainier Beach and West Seattle both have hundreds of available appointment slots for residents who are 65 years older and above, between Monday, March 8, and Saturday, March 13.
“Right now, South Seattle and West Seattle have some of the lowest vaccination rates for older adults in all of King County,” the city said Monday. “It’s critically important that we vaccinate the oldest members of our community, who are most at risk of hospitalization or death.”
If you’re eligible, you can register through forms linked out here.
9:46am – The COVID-19 pandemic and related closures have had a major impact on bars and restaurants, and bars in Seattle have certainly not been immune. One Wallingford bar had been in the process of moving locations when the pandemic hit, forcing it to remain closed longer than expected. Read more.
8:33am – The CDC released new guidance Monday, stating that those who are fully vaccinated can gather without masks with those “at low risk” for COVID-19.
It still recommends everyone — regardless of whether or not they’re vaccinated — wear masks in public.
7:15am – School districts across Western Washington are returning to the classroom Monday. But in Seattle, Sunday brought another day of bargaining without any agreement. Read more.
5:27am – With declines in COVID-19 cases and deaths now slowing, the UW’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation believes the increased spread of the more infectious B.1.1.7 strain of the virus may be to blame.
Despite that, the IHME’s Dr. Ali Mokdad believes that “declining seasonality and rising vaccination will reduce transmission to counteract the increases in transmission associated with the spread of B.1.1.7.” That potential progress could also be threatened by the lifting of mandates in Texas and Mississippi, especially as people begin traveling across the country more in the months ahead.
Read last week’s updates here.