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COVID updates: ‘Majority of cases’ in Washington associated with variants of concern

Social distancing and mask requirements remain in place across Washington. (MyNorthwest photo)

The state Department of Health says there have been over 382,000 confirmed coronavirus cases in Washington, and 5,564 people have died from the virus statewide. The state says 5,750,348 doses of vaccine have been administered. Check below for more updates.

As of April 15, everyone in Washington state age 16 or older is now eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine. Anyone who was eligible in an earlier phase or tier remains eligible.

Find a vaccine location near you or call 800-525-0127 to get help finding an appointment.

Confirmed coronavirus cases across Washington state

Sunday, May 9

3:35pm – The more people are vaccinated, the less vulnerable the community will be as a whole to future surges and severe outbreaks, says Dr. Jeff Duchin, health officer for Public Health — Seattle & King County. Read more.

11:09am – Many colleges and universities in the state, both public and private, have announced that the COVID-19 vaccine will be required for students when they return to campus in the fall. Is this legal? If it is, under what authority? Former state Attorney General Rob McKenna explains. Read more.

7:48am – In Pierce County, 600 vaccine appointments a day are unfilled at the Tacoma Dome. The county is one of three that had been moved to Phase 2 of the reopening plan and remains there, so there’s a big incentive to get people vaccinated.

Saturday, May 8

5:54pm – There have been 382,578 confirmed COVID-19 cases statewide and 5,564 deaths, as reported by the state Department of Health.

1:35pm – The Washington Hospitality Association has started a petition asking Governor Inslee to put a plan in place to fully reopen the state and to actually set a date. The head of the association says Washington and Hawaii are the only two states that don’t have a plan to move forward. Read more.

6:44am – Included as part of a new report the Washington State Department of Health released on Friday is a finding that the “vast majority of cases in the state are now associated with variants of concern.” As of May 6, the report from the DOH estimates over 80% of cases in Washington were likely due to the B.1.1.7 variant, and about 10% due to the P.1 variant.

The state DOH also says there are signs that case counts are starting to flatten, but says it’s too early to tell if this trend will continue. Disease activity still remains high — “meaning vaccination efforts and behavior like wearing masks, keeping physical distance and gathering outdoors are still critical.”

Friday, May 7

5:31pm – There seems to be hope on the horizon this week in terms of COVID-19 case and hospitalization trends in Washington, particularly in King County. Read more.

4:29pm – Add Seattle Pacific University to the list of schools requiring COVID vaccinations for students this fall. The school says a decision about vaccinations for staff will be made at a later date.

4:05pm – There have been 381,299 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 5,564 deaths statewide since the start of the pandemic, as reported by the Washington State Department of Health. More than 5.7 million doses of vaccine have been given out in Washington.

3:37pm – Health experts say a rumor spreading online that thousands of deaths are linked to the COVID-19 vaccine is completely untrue. King County Health Officer Dr. Jeff Duchin says the data being cited comes from a self-reporting system where any deaths that happened to come after the vaccine were attributed to it.

“People die, particularly older people, every day,” Duchin said. “Simply having died after receiving the vaccine in no way indicates that the vaccine was responsible.”

He says death rates have dropped in older adults who are vaccinated because the shot works.

2:35pm – Eastern Washington University might be the only state university that won’t require students to be vaccinated before returning to campus in the fall.

“We know that the decision to get vaccinated is not one that we can make for you. There are good reasons, religious, medical, and philosophical, why someone may choose not to be vaccinated,” the school posted on its website.

However, the university is asking students to “take responsibility and choose to be vaccinated before coming back to campus.” It added that there might be some areas of campus or activities where a vaccination requirement is implemented. Some restrictions may also be eased for students who have been vaccinated. Read the university’s full statement here.

1:52pm – Moderna reported on Thursday that its vaccine is 96% effective in 12 to 17-year-olds and will submit its findings to the Food and Drug Administration for approval by the end of May, reports Forbes.

Authorization is expected as soon as next week for Pfizer in its approval request for vaccine that it says is 100% effective for children aged 12 to 15.

12:03pm – The World Health Organization gave emergency use authorization Friday to a COVID-19 vaccine manufactured by China’s Sinopharm, potentially paving the way for millions of the doses to reach needy countries through a U.N.-backed program rolling out coronavirus vaccines. Read more from the Associated Press here.

10:27am – The Seattle Mariners announced Friday that it will be now be offering special seating for vaccinated fans, or those between ages of 2-16 who show proof of a negative COVID-19 test.

Seats will be priced as low as $10, situated in the Centerfield Bleachers for all games, and in Sections 306-310 and Sections 149-151 “for select games.”

Vaccinated fans will also have exclusive access to the T-Mobile ‘Pen, dedicated entry lanes, 20% off food and beverages, and an “exclusive Mariners #SeaUsRise t-shirt.”

9:01am – Restaurants in Washington have declined the option to provide vaccinated only sections, but hotels and event centers are open to the possibility.

“On the lodging side and the events side, there is a conversation going on,” Washington Hospitality Association Head Anthony Anton said.

Anton notes that they’re “still not sure how it’s going to work,” but logistics are still being discussed.

6:48am – While Washington state fights slowing COVID-19 vaccine demand and tries to fill the gap between those fully vaccinated and the threshold for herd immunity, people who do not go back for their second dose are creating another challenge. Read more

5:27am – Still looking to get vaccinated? Seattle-King County Public Health is offering a $10 gift card to Dave and Busters to the first 250 people to get a dose after 2 p.m. at the Auburn Outlet mall vaccination site.

Appointments are not needed, as walk-ins are welcomed.

Thursday, May 6

5:43pm – The head of the Washington Hospitality Association is pushing for the state to fully reopen by June 15, which is the same day as California’s promised full reopening. Read more.

4:24pm – There have been 380,109 confirmed COVID-19 cases with 5,553 deaths statewide since the start of the pandemic, as reported by the Washington State Department of Health. More than 5.6 million vaccine doses have been given out in Washington.

3:39pm – Western Washington University in Bellingham and Central Washington University in Ellensburg will require students, staff, and faculty to be vaccinated against COVID-19 when in-person classes begin this fall.

Western University President Sabah Randhawa made the announcement Wednesday, The Bellingham Herald reported. Read more from AP.

3:07pm – New unemployment claims in Washington state were down almost 10% from the week prior. Total claims decreased 1%. The state Employment Security Department says new claims are 90% below what we were seeing last year at this time.

2:26pm – Washington has seen an increase in hospitalizations for COVID-19 across the state in recent week, though there could be hope on the horizon as numbers seem to be starting to plateau.

Cassie Sauer, president and CEO of the Washington State Hospital Association, says the fourth wave that’s already started in the area can still be turned around if people get vaccinated and keep taking precautions to limit the spread of COVID-19. Read more.

1:09pm – There will be a pop-up vaccine clinic in Bellevue run by a Bellevue Fire Department mobile team on Friday at Downtown Park from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. The clinic is available for walk-ups for anyone 18 or older. Moderna first or second shots and Johnson & Johnson shots will be offered.

Seattle Fire’s mobile team will be on “The Ave” in Seattle’s University District on Friday for a walk-up clinic open to anyone who would like a vaccine. Big Time Brewery and Alehouse will give 10% off to all customers who receive their vaccination at the pop-up on Friday and show their vaccination card, and Sweet Alchemy Ice Cream is offering $1 off for those vaccinated at the Friday clinic through a coupon.

11:54am – Seattle Councilmember Kshama Sawant has now introduced an updated version of a rent control proposal she first unveiled in 2019, citing the ongoing pandemic as one of the driving reasons behind the need to pass the measure. Read more

10:18am – Thurston County has 800 expiring vaccines it’s hoping to distribute by the end of the week. Read more

8:31am – The number of Americans seeking unemployment aid fell last week to 498,000, the lowest point since the viral pandemic struck 14 months ago, and a sign of the job market’s growing strength as businesses reopen and consumers step up spending. Read more from the Associated Press here.

6:46am – Gov. Inslee announced Tuesday that he is pausing all phase rollbacks in Washington for two weeks. Three weeks ago, Pierce County failed to meet the metrics to remain in Phase 3 and had to move back, but when King County failed to meet the same metrics, there’s now a pause. Lakewood Mayor Don Anderson sent a letter to KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson Show explaining why he thinks that’s unfair. Read more

5:09am – Pfizer announced Wednesday that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration will soon approve the use of the company’s COVID-19 vaccine for children between the ages of 12 of 15.

The decision is expected to come down by next week, and would mark the first COVID vaccine available to children. Pfizer’s vaccine is also the only one authorized for those as young as 16. Both Moderna and Johnson & Johnson’s vaccines are authorized for anyone ages 18 and up.

Wednesday, May 5

5:29pm – The Seattle Storm announced that a limited number of fans will be allowed to attend the home opener on May 15 at the Angel of the Winds Arena in Everett, and the next three home games after that. There will be vaccinated sections available. Read more.

4:40pm – There have been 379,100 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 5,539 deaths statewide, as reported by the Washington State Department of Health. The total number of vaccine doses given in Washington is now at 5,642,156.

2:51pm – After Gov. Inslee announced that he is pausing any more phase rollbacks in Washington, at least for the next two weeks, Pierce County Executive Bruce Dammeier expressed his frustration, and wrote on Twitter that “treating different counties differently is not science.” Read more.

1:43pm – Thurston County has about 800 doses of the Pfizer vaccine that are set to expire by the end of the week. South Puget Sound Community College is hosting a drive-through clinic Wednesday and Sunday, and there will be a walk-up clinic at Thurston County’s Public Health and Social Services building in Olympia on Thursday. No appointment is needed for any of these three clinics.

11:32am – Seattle’s Flowers Restaurant had its operations suspended by Seattle-King County Public Health this week, over multiple documented instances of flouting the state’s COVID-19 restrictions.

Public Health cites a handful of complaints where people observed large groups sitting in close proximity, capacity that exceeded existing 50% limits, and servers not wearing face coverings. One complaint also claimed the owner said he does “not care about people” or “government orders” regarding COVID safety rules.

9:41am – The Washington Department of Health delivered its weekly briefing on Wednesday, covering the state’s ongoing efforts to distribute COVID-19 vaccines.

“In less than five months, we’ve administered more than 5.5 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine in Washington,” Assistant Secretary of Health Michele Roberts said.

Of those 5.5 million doses, the state’s mass vaccination sites have distributed 263,000 of them, while more than half of all eligible Washingtonians have now had their first dose.

8:19am – Reaching herd immunity has long been discussed an unofficial finish line for the pandemic, both in Washington and the United States. But could we actually start seeing restrictions relaxed before we reach that threshold? Georgetown virologist Dr. Angela Rasmussen believes so. Read more

6:56am – Pierce County Council passed an ordinance enacting an additional $4 an hour in hazard pay for grocery workers on Tuesday night, with County Executive Bruce Dammeier stating his intention to veto the measure not long after. Read more.

5:14pm – As of Tuesday, both the Mariners and the Sounders are now both offering COVID-19 vaccinations at all home games.

The Sounders’ vaccination program at Lumen Field started on Sunday, with the Seattle Fire Department helping vaccinate 83 people during the team’s 3-0 victory over the Los Angeles Galaxy. Doses will be distributed at home games for the duration of the season at the West Field Plaza outside of section 140 and the East Main Concourse outside of section 104.

The Mariners began vaccinating fans at T-Mobile Park on Tuesday night, as part of a partnership with Virginia Mason Franciscan Health and the City of Seattle. Doses will continue to available when gates open two hours before first pitch at three locations in the ballpark: Edgar’s Home Run Porch, near Section 105, and at the Rooftop Boardwalk on the View Level.

Tuesday, May 4

5:58pm – Pierce County could become the next region to offer hazard pay for grocery workers. Councilmembers will vote on the plan during Tuesday’s meeting. If passed, workers would get an extra $4 an hour. This falls in line with hazard pay laws enacted in Seattle, Bellingham, Olympia, and parts of King County.

4:16pm – There have been 378,225 confirmed COVID-19 cases with 5,528 deaths statewide, as reported by the state Department of Health.

3:46pm – President Joe Biden on Tuesday set a new vaccination goal to deliver at least one shot to 70% of adult Americans by July 4th as he tackles the vexing problem of winning over the “doubters” and those unmotivated to get inoculated.

Demand for vaccines has dropped off markedly nationwide, with some states leaving more than half their available doses unordered. Aiming to make it easier to get shots, Biden called for states to make vaccines available on a walk-in basis and he will direct many pharmacies to do likewise. Read more from the Associated Press.

2:15pm –  The Seattle Mariners will offer COVID-19 vaccines to fans attending home games, starting on Tuesday. To be eligible, you must be 18 or older and must not have received your first dose yet. Fans will have the choice between the single-dose Johnson & Johnson or the first dose of Moderna. Read more.

12:38pm – Is giving fully vaccinated Washingtonians added privileges discrimination, or simply the freedom we’ve all been wanting for the last year? Read more

11:09am – Gov. Jay Inslee announced Tuesday that the state will be enacting a two-week pause on rollbacks for all counties.

This comes in place of what was expected to be an announced rollback for several Washington counties. Now, those plans will be put on hold, with the state set to “evaluate the situation” again after two weeks. Read more.

9:50am – Gov. Inslee is expected to announce a rollback to Phase 2 of reopening for several Washington counties on Tuesday. Tune into KIRO Radio at 11 a.m. to listen live.

8:26am – While some mask rules have been relaxed for fully vaccinated people nationwide, Dr. Helen Chu with the University of Washington warns that face coverings aren’t likely to go away entirely for the foreseeable future.

“I envision our new normal to be continued masking in indoor spaces, rapid testing in schools and workplaces, and continued circulation of new variants with yearly booster shots,” Dr. Chu said on Twitter. “The key missing pieces are overcoming vaccine hesitancy, global vaccine rollout, and vaccines in kids.”

6:44am – According to a report from the Washington State Department of Health updated at the end of April, there have been 182 reported COVID-19 outbreaks in K-12 schools statewide between Aug. 1, 2020, and March 31, 2021. Read more.

5:11am – A new vaccination clinic in partnership with Kaiser Permanente has been opened in Federal Way.

While Kaiser Permanente will be helping run the clinic, the site will be open to everyone, regardless of whether or not they are a member with Kaiser. You can make an appointment at the new site — or any of their vaccine locations — here.

Monday, May 3

5:00pm – There have been 377,019 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 5,507 deaths statewide, as reported by the Washington State Department of Health. More than 5.5 million vaccine doses have been given across the state.

4:47pm – In-person visitation will resume Sunday at state Department of Corrections’ facilities after being suspended since March 2020 for safety reasons and to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Visitations can be scheduled once a month for up to an hour. Visitors must pass an in-person COVID-19 screening and temperature check at the facility prior to the visit.

3:14pm – The Lumen Field Event Center, Rainier Beach, and West Seattle vaccination sites are now accepting people without an appointment, for those seeking a first or second dose, as part of Seattle’s ongoing effort to make it easier to get vaccinated. Those receiving their first dose will be scheduled for a second once they register. Patients receiving a second dose must provide proof of immunization via their vaccine card or immunization record.

Beginning May 5, the Lumen Field site will only offer Pfizer, while the other two sites will offer all three approved vaccines. Find more information or book an appointment on the city’s website.

2:40pm – Thurston County’s health department reports it has at least 500 Pfizer doses that need to be used Monday, or they will be wasted.

You can sign up for a shot on the county health department’s website here.

2:17pm – Gov. Inslee issued new guidance Monday for spectator events and religious and faith-based organizations that allows increased capacity by adding sections for vaccinated attendees. Read more.

1:35pm – The University of Washington is the latest college to require students on campus to be vaccinated against COVID-19 before autumn quarter. Read more.

11:14am – Seattle Fire Department staff vaccinated 83 fans at Sunday’s Sounders FC match at Lumen Field.

Vaccinations will be available at Sounders home matches for the foreseeable future, outside of section 140 and in the East Main Concourse outside of section 104.

10:35am – Experts now say that reaching nationwide herd immunity may be unlikely, according to a new report from the New York Times.

The prevailing belief is that because of more-infectious variant strains — and a growing hesitancy among many to get vaccinated — achieving the 70-80% vaccination rate needed for herd immunity could ultimately prove impossible for the United States.

Combined with varying rates of vaccinations on a city-to-city basis, fully quashing outbreaks becomes that much more difficult.

8:46am – Gov. Jay Inslee is scheduled to announce rollbacks to Phase 2 for several Washington counties on Tuesday. That’s an approach King County Councilmember Reagan Dunn argues isn’t consistent with how the state should be approaching the pandemic at this stage. Read more

7:01am – A local high school is offering students nearly half of their required community service hours to get the coronavirus vaccine. Read more

5:12am – Despite the prevalence of COVID-19 trending up in states like Washington and Oregon, the United States as a whole is beginning to see a nationwide decline in cases and deaths.

“The combination of increasing vaccination and declining seasonality is driving a decline in the epidemic,” said Dr. Ali Mokdad with the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.

That said, transmission is increasing in 11 states, making increased vaccination rates “critical to avoid a further surge,” he notes.

Check last week’s updates.

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