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COVID updates: Adjusting to new mask guidance

The state Department of Health says there have been over 389,000 confirmed coronavirus cases in Washington, and 5,622 people have died from the virus statewide. The state says 6,152,091 doses of vaccine have been administered. Check below for more updates.

As of May 12, everyone in Washington state age 12 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 16

1:48pm – The head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Sunday defended the decision to ease mask-wearing guidance for fully vaccinated people, stressing that increasing political pressure had nothing to do with the abrupt shift in guidelines.

“I’m delivering the science as the science is delivered to the medical journals. And it evolved,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said on FOX News on Sunday. “I deliver it as soon as I can when we have that information available.” Read more from the Associated Press.

8:06am – Beginning Monday, Starbucks will not require masks for fully vaccinated customers in its stores, unless required by law. Gov. Inslee said on Thursday that masks are optional indoors and outdoors for people who are fully vaccinated.

In its announcement, Starbucks did not address whether this applies to its employees.

Saturday, May 15

5:40pm – Health officials say there have been 389,882 cases of coronavirus in Washington state, and 5,622 deaths since the outbreak began. That’s 796 new cases since Friday. The state says 6,152,091 doses of vaccine have been administered.

8:59am – Public health authorities say a broadband call center in Vancouver, Washington, has been temporarily closed because of a COVID-19 outbreak that has resulted in 29 confirmed and two possible cases. Read more from the Associated Press.

Public Health spokeswoman Marissa Armstrong said in an email late Friday that the first case at the Spectrum Communications office was reported in mid-April, with the most recent case reported Friday, The Columbian reported.

7:47am – On Capitol Hill, lawmakers have to keep wearing masks on the House floor, according to a memo from the Office of the Attending Physician, Dr. Brian Monahan.

“The present mask requirement and other guidelines remain unchanged until all Members and Floor staff are fully vaccinated,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a memo to her Democratic colleagues. “Returning the Capitol to the welcoming and safe venue that it has been requires us to not only secure it physically but to make it safe from the virus.”

Recent surveys suggest that about one in four House lawmakers are not fully vaccinated. Read more from the Associated Press.

Friday, May 14

5:11pm – A group of Washington state representatives and senators sent a letter to Gov. Inslee on May 10 asking him to fully reopen the state on June 15.

In response to Gov. Inslee’s June 30 reopening date announced this week, Senate Republican Leader John Braun and House Republican Leader J.T. Wilcox released a statement saying they still believe June 15 is a reasonable deadline. Read more.

3:59pm – There have been 389,086 confirmed COVID-19 cases with 5,622 deaths statewide, as reported by the Washington State Department of Health. More than 6.1 million doses of vaccine have been given.

2:03pm – Gov. Inslee said during a news conference on Thursday that he wanted to look into getting travel across the border between Washington and British Columbia opened back up soon.

Since March 2020, the entire U.S./Canadian border has been open to essential traffic only, a measure meant to halt the spread of COVID-19. The current border closure is set to expire May 21, but each time the closure has expired over the past 14 months, it has been extended. Read more.

1:47pm – Despite updated guidance from the CDC and Gov. Inslee regarding mask wearing for those who are fully vaccinated, Fred Meyer, QFC, Safeway, and Albertson’s are still requiring masks from all customers at this time.

Kroger, which owns Fred Meyer and QFC stores, tells KIRO Radio that the company is looking at safety practices, CDC guidance, and getting feedback from employees before taking any next steps. Safeway and Albertson’s are also taking a pause to speak with state and federal agencies. Read more.

12:32pm – Washington state is relaxing its mask guidelines to fall in line with recommendations from the CDC, allowing anyone who’s been fully vaccinated to no longer be required to wear a face covering in most public places.

But while the move has been widely praised as a necessary step toward reopening, there are concerns it could lead to businesses having to shoulder the burden of enforcing these new rules. Read more

11:14am – A Tacoma tavern’s liquor license is suspended for six months because of dozens of COVID violations. Read more. 

9:32am – KIRO Radio traffic reporter Chris Sullivan tells us about his recent experience with COVID-19, alongside a message to get vaccinated as soon as possible. Read more

8:06am – Still need to get vaccinated? Figurehead Brewing and Burke-Gilman Brewing are both offering $1 beers for anyone who gets their shot on Friday.

Both breweries will be offering doses on-site courtesy of the Seattle Fire Department. For more details, head to this link.

6:38am – Gov. Inslee announced Thursday that Washington state will follow the updated guidance about masks from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for fully vaccinated people. Read more.

5:09am – Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan affirmed Gov. Jay Inslee’s plan to fully reopen the state in a month and a half, noting that “our new normal is coming in June, and it’s because of our shared commitment to getting vaccinated.”

“The home stretch is here,” she said on Twitter.

Thursday, May 13

5:03pm – As Pierce County looks to boost its COVID-19 vaccination rate, county health leaders are focusing on a certain demographic: rural areas. The News Tribune found that in many rural areas, vaccination rates remain below 25%, so the health department is working to make the shots more accessible and turning to trusted members of the community to promote the vaccines.

3:52pm – According to the Washington State Department of Health’s data dashboard, there have been 386,903 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 5,626 deaths statewide since the start of the pandemic. More than six million vaccine doses have been administered in Washington.

3:07pm – Gov. Inslee said Thursday that Washington is on track for a full reopening by June 30. That full reopening could come even sooner, Inslee says, if 70% or more of Washington residents 16 and older have at least initiated their vaccination before then.

The governor also said starting Tuesday, every county will have the opportunity to be in Phase 3, including those that had been rolled back and are currently in Phase 2. Read more.

2:31pm – A Tacoma tavern’s liquor license is suspended for six months because of dozens of COVID-19 violations. The state Liquor and Cannabis Board says An American Tavern has repeatedly broken pandemic safety rules and the board will work to permanently pull its liquor license.

Four bars or restaurants in our state have now had liquor licenses suspended temporarily for ignoring COVID-related operation rules.

12:23pm – Gov. Jay Inslee will be delivering a press conference on Thursday at 2:30 p.m., with an update on the state’s ongoing COVID-19 response efforts. You can stream it live on TVW here.

10:58am – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday will ease indoor mask-wearing guidance for fully vaccinated people, allowing them to safely stop wearing masks inside in most places, according to a person briefed on the announcement. Read more

9:42am – The Washington Department of Health released new requirements for K-12 schools on Thursday, pushing for them to return with “full time in-person education for all interested students” for the 2021-2022 school year. Read more

8:20am – Of Seattle’s four major professional sports franchises, the Seahawks have been the only one to have not played in front of fans since the start of the pandemic last year. That will likely change when the team’s season kicks off this fall. Read more. 

6:53am – President Joe Biden announced that by Thursday, the country will have distributed 250 million total COVID-19 vaccine shots since he took office. Of those, 6 million have been administered in Washington state.

“It’s truly a remarkable achievement for the nation,” he said.

5:12am – With the Western States Scientific Review Workgroup having approved the Pfizer vaccine for 12 to 15 year-olds, Washington can now further expand its vaccination efforts.

According to the Seattle Times, that process has already begun, with the Lumen Field site distributing doses to over 200 kids between the ages of 12 and 15 on Wednesday.

State officials note that parents still need to give consent for their children to receive the vaccine, but “don’t have to be present” at the time doses are administered.

Wednesday, May 12

10:13pm – The Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup has completed its review of the federal process and unanimously found Pfizer vaccine safe for 12-15 year olds.

“We are very pleased that teens can now be vaccinated,” Gov. Inslee said in a statement. “We have seen an increase in cases among this age group, and we can now make sure they are protected with the vaccine. This will further help us bring an end to the Covid-19 pandemic.”

4:14pm – There have been 385,762 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Washington and 5,614 deaths, as reported by the state Department of Health. More than six million doses of vaccine have been administered statewide.

1:43pm – A CDC panel has now signed off on the Pfizer vaccine for children ages 12-15, but it will still have to be approved by the Western States Scientific Review Panel before it’s used in Washington. Once that panel approves, some 370,000 kids in the state will immediately be eligible.

12:51pm – In addition to premium seating, faster entry, and a free pass for the ‘Pen and Trident Deck at T-Mobile Park for vaccinated fans in the next homestand, May 13-19, those who can show proof of vaccination will also be eligible for random giveaways. Prizes include T-Mobile devices, Alaska Airlines roundtrip travel, Microsoft Xbox game consoles, Costco gift cards, and Nordstrom gift cards.

Anyone who gets a shot at the stadium during one of these game days will also be entered to win.

11:37am – King County residents can now find their closest location with vaccine doses available by texting their zip code to 438-829 (or GET VAX). Spanish-speakers can text 822862 (or VACUNA).

9:56am – A threat prompted vaccine clinics in Thurston County to relocate this week.

The county is temporarily moving this week’s drive-thru vaccination clinics from South Puget Sound Community College to the Thurston County Fairgrounds.

On Monday evening, clinic administrators received a threat against the college campus, which they is unrelated to the county’s vaccination efforts.

You can drive to the Fairgrounds with or without an appointment Wednesday, Friday, and this weekend.

8:39am – Snohomish County health experts are feeling hopeful, with a fourth wave of cases and hospitalizations appearing to have leveled off. Read more

6:53am – The Olympia School District set up a vaccine clinic anticipating the Food and Drug Administration authorization for children 12-15 to get the Pfizer vaccination. But the appointment system used by the vaccine provider’s vendor did not yet allow students in that age range to sign up. Read more. 

5:14am – Seattle will be hosting a series of neighborhood pop-up vaccination clinics this week.

Two clinics will take place on Thursday in Fremont and Ballard, running from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., respectively. The third clinic will land in West Seattle on Saturday between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m.

The clinic in Fremont will be partnering with the Fremont Coffee Company to offer free coffee “and a treat” to the first 50 customers who receive their vaccine Thursday. In Ballard, Salt & Straw is offering free ice cream to the first 50 vaccinations. West Seattle’s Husky Deli will also be offering free ice cream at Saturday’s pop-up.

For more information on each clinic head to this link.

Tuesday, May 11

5:58pm – Seattle City Councilmember Dan Strauss introduced legislation Monday to extend the city’s café streets pilot program for another year. The program has allowed Seattle restaurants and other retail storefronts to use the streets in front of their businesses for outdoor dining and displays. Read more.

4:14pm – The Seattle Opera will officially return to the theater this fall with its 2021-22 season. The upcoming season will include safety protocols in accordance with the state’s performing arts reopening plan for large venues in place at the time of each performance, and masks will be required regardless of vaccination status.

3:55pm – There have been 384,929 confirmed COVID-19 cases with 5,593 deaths statewide since the start of the pandemic, as reported by the state Department of Health.

2:06pm – The Pacific Northwest Ballet announced that its September 2021 through June 2022 season will be live at Seattle’s McCaw Hall. It includes performances of Swan Lake, Romeo and Juliet, and The Nutcracker.

Masks will be required and seating will be socially distanced, with subscribers getting priority.

1:24pm – Seattle is close to having administered 200,000 vaccines. To keep that number climbing, the Seattle Fire Department is setting up pop-up clinics with the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines. This week, the pop-ups will be in Ballard, Fremont, and West Seattle.

Fremont Pop-Up:

Date & Time: Thursday, May 13, 10 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
Location: 462 N 36th St, Seattle, WA 98103 (U-Park parking lot next to Roxys Diner)
Small Business Partner: Fremont Coffee Company

Ballard Pop-Up:

Date & Time: Thursday, May 13, 3:30 – 5:30 p.m.
Location: Marvin’s Garden, 5400 Ballard Ave NW, Seattle, WA 98107
Small Business Partner: Salt & Straw

West Seattle Pop-Up:
Date & Time: Saturday, May 15, 10 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Location: Junction Parking Lot, 4501 42nd Ave SW Seattle 98116
Small Business Partner: Husky Deli

Anyone who chooses the Moderna vaccine will be scheduled for their second dose at either the Rainier Beach or West Seattle vaccination hubs.

11:29am – Fewer Americans are reluctant to get a COVID-19 vaccine than just a few months ago, but questions about side effects and how the shots were tested still hold some back, according to a new poll that highlights the challenges at a pivotal moment in the U.S. vaccination campaign. Read more from the Associated Press here.

9:37am – Yakima’s Community Vaccination Center at the State Fair Park has new hours as of Tuesday, now remaining open Monday through Wednesday and Friday/Saturday between 12 p.m. and 6 p.m.

The site will be open between 12 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Thursdays and Sundays.

8:11am – KIRO Radio’s Dave Ross pronounced his first unmasked encounter with a stranger a success, thanks to four magic words. Read more. 

6:27am – As more people get vaccinated against COVID-19 and cases in many areas start to flatten or trend downward, there’s expected to be a boost in summer travel. Read more

5:10am – While the FDA expanded emergency use authorization for Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine to include 12-15 year-olds on Monday, the approval process isn’t over yet in Washington.

Next, the Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup will convene to make its own recommendations to its West Coast member states, including Washington, California, Oregon, and more.

“We will wait to hear their recommendations before we share additional info,” the state DOH said Monday.

Monday, May 10

5:06pm – Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, many restaurants have struggled to keep their doors open while dealing with the changing restrictions. Now there’s a push by the Washington Hospitality Association for the governor to fully reopen Washington state by June 15.

The head of the association says setting a reopening date would provide security for restaurant and hotel employees “and a chance to move forward.” Read more.

4:32pm – Snohomish County Emergency Management says it appears COVID cases have stopped climbing, but this peak is the third highest since the outbreak began last year. According to the image alone, it appears a 4th wave may not be as severe as the third during the fall-winter months.

3:51pm – There have been 384,099 confirmed COVID-19 cases with 5,586 deaths statewide, as reported by the Washington State Department of Health. More than 5.9 million vaccine doses have now been administered in Washington.

2:23pm – The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Monday expanded the emergency use authorization for the Pfizer vaccine to include 12-15 year-olds.

The vaccine is a two-dose regimen administered three weeks apart. It’s also the same dosage for those 16 years and older. Read more from the FDA.

“The FDA’s expansion of the emergency use authorization for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine to include adolescents 12 through 15 years of age is a significant step in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock, M.D. “Today’s action allows for a younger population to be protected from COVID-19, bringing us closer to returning to a sense of normalcy and to ending the pandemic. Parents and guardians can rest assured that the agency undertook a rigorous and thorough review of all available data, as we have with all of our COVID-19 vaccine emergency use authorizations.”

The FDA says that there have been 1.5 million COVID-19 cases in teens from 11 to 17 years of age reported to the Centers for Disease Control from March 1, 2020 to April 30, 2021.

The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices will review and make recommendations on Wednesday, according to Dr. Jeff Duchin, health officer with Seattle-King County Public Health.

1:59pm – The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is expected to authorize emergency use of Pfizer’s vaccine this week for children 12 to 15 years old. And UW Medicine hopes to be administering doses to that age group.

“We’re expecting approval from the federal government any day now,” she said. “I’m hearing a ton of buzz (about this) with employees and other parents in the community about getting their children in.”

Once approval is granted, interested parents and guardians will be able to schedule appointments online or by calling UW Medicine’s Contact Center (206.520.5000).

12:47pm – “We are seeing a plateau of cases, we are not seeing a decline,” said Washington State Hospital Association CEO Cassie Sauer on Monday.

She encourages all Washingtonians to get vaccinated and continue social distancing, and notes that the fourth wave is totally stoppable if we keep taking precautions to limit the spread.

11:38am – The Seattle Fire Department’s mobile vaccination unit will be distributing vaccines at Dick’s Drive-In locations in Lake City, Queen Anne, and Wallingford Monday until 1 p.m. Anyone who receives a vaccine from SFD at those sites will also get a free Dick’s burger.

9:55am – Six hundred coronavirus vaccine appointments a day are going unfilled at the Tacoma Dome alone. Read more

8:13am – President Joe Biden is plunging into the next phase of his administration with the steady approval of a majority of Americans, according to a new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. The survey shows Biden is buoyed in particular by the public’s broad backing for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic. Read more from the Associated Press here.

6:27 am – A new study from the University of Washington could help develop better treatments for COVID-19.

Dr. Eric Morrell says this study compared patients sick with COVID-19 and patients sick with other respiratory illnesses, like pneumonia. They found that COVID patients had less damage to the blood vessels than the non-COVID patients. That could prove crucial for treatments down the road.

This is the first study to compare critically ill patients, those with COVID and those without. In the beginning of the pandemic, the only comparisons were with healthy people.

5:09am – A new pilot program at Sea-Tac Airport is up and running, allowing travelers to save a spot in the TSA line prior to arriving. The next time you book a flight on Delta or Alaska at Sea-Tac, you’ll have access to their new “no touch” technology. The goal, of course, to cut down on germs that could spread things like COVID-19.

There’s no need to sign up or pay for the program, and the pilot runs through August.

Check last week’s updates.

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