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caption: A health worker shows to the media how she prepares a dose of the Janssen vaccine by Johnson & Johnson, during a COVID-19 vaccination campaign at the Vela vaccination center, near Tor Vergata hospital in Rome, Saturday, April 24, 2021.
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A health worker shows to the media how she prepares a dose of the Janssen vaccine by Johnson & Johnson, during a COVID-19 vaccination campaign at the Vela vaccination center, near Tor Vergata hospital in Rome, Saturday, April 24, 2021.
Credit: (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

Blog: Pandemic news for the NW (April 19-23)

This post is archived. Read the latest here.

Need a vaccine?

As of Wednesday, April 21, the Washington State Department of Health reports:

  • 5,428 Covid-19 related deaths; 363,840 confirmed cases; 27,999 probable cases; and a 1.4% death rate among positive cases.
  • Compared to white people and Asian people, the rate of Covid cases is nearly three times higher for Black people, and nearly seven times higher for Latino/x people and Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders.
  • So far, 4,765,270 doses (not total number of people) of Covid-19 vaccines have been administered to Washingtonians.


CDC advisory panel gives thumbs up to Johnson & Johnson vaccine

3 p.m. — The Johnson & Johnson Covid vaccine may soon be available once again in the United States.

An advisory panel at the CDC voted to approve the vaccine, again, after health officials paused its use. Experts wanted to look into rare blood clots that emerged in people who took the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

The FDA has also ended its recommended pause on the Johnson & Johnsons vaccine. The company has already agreed on warning language to be included with doses.

NPR reports that the rate of blood clot cases is seven per one million shots among women 18-49, and .9 per million among women 50 and older. No cases have been found in men.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine was paused in Washington state 10 days ago, after the CDC and FDA recommended that states refrain from using it until incidents of rare blood clots could be reviewed.

The advisory panel did not recommend that a warning be placed on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine for fears it would increase vaccine hesitancy. CDC and FDA officials will now consider reauthorizing the vaccine for use.

The European Union also paused the Johnsons & Johnson Covid vaccine. It has since authorized it for use with a warning about the rare blood clots. EU health officials said the vaccine's benefits "in preventing Covid-19 outweigh the risks of side effects."

— Dyer Oxley

Bumbershoot too return in 2022

9 a.m. — While the region is currently in poor pandemic shape with rising Covid cases, the organizers of Bumbershoot are anticipating better days in the year ahead and are therefore planning to bring the festival back.

The Seattle Times reports that Bumbershoot will return in 2022. That means there will be no Bumbershoot this year.

Officials also say that they are using the two-year hiatus to remodel the festival so that when it does return, it won't be the same Bumbershoot. What that exactly means is unknown, other than they want a different kind of festival moving forward.

— Dyer Oxley

Current King County case rates fail Phase 3 metrics

8 a.m. — We're now 10 days away from a statewide re-evaluation of new Covid cases and hospitalizations. If evaluated today, King County would likely fall back to Phase 2, with more limitations.

King County's latest 14-day new case rate stands at 213.7 per every 100,000 people. That number needs to be below 200 for counties to stay in Phase 3.

And when it comes to the hospitalizations, King County is reporting 4.9 new cases per week. That figure needs to be below 5.

And according to the latest numbers listed online for Snohomish County, it also would likely have to fall back.

Pierce County would also have to remain in Phase 2; there's even talk it could fall back to Phase 1. Pierce County's 14-day case rate is 215.

The next evaluation happens on May 3.

— Angela King

Vaccine push as fourth wave hits Washington

7 a.m. — Governor Jay Inslee says Washington state has now entered a fourth wave of Covid infections.

The wave hits as the state has administered nearly five million doses of vaccine.

But while some people are being placed on wait lists in Seattle and Tacoma, other cities have plenty of open appointment slots. Lacy Fehrenbach, deputy director of the state's health department, says that one reason for that is some people have double booked.

"One you get your appointment and get your dose we want to encourage you to cancel those other appointments because another challenge we're seeing in some communities is a lot of no shows, and we do believe that's because people have booked multiple appointments and then forget to cancel," Fehrenbach said.

Another problem is the federal government is sending vaccines to specific providers and some locations are winding up with more doses than expected.

— Paige Browning


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention investigating death of Oregon woman who received Johnson & Johnson vaccine

5:34 p.m. -- Health authorities are investigating the death of an Oregon woman this week, after she was immunized with the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine.

The unidentified woman was an Oregon resident, in her 50s, and had received the Covid-19 vaccine before its use was paused April 13.

Dr. Shimi Sharief with the Oregon Health Authority said Thursday that the woman developed a rare blood clot within two weeks of being inoculated.

“This is still extremely rare. So even the case count that we’re aware of so far is only about seven cases in a total of 7.5 million vaccinated across the country," Sharief said.

The Centers for Disease Control is investigating. Until that's complete, officials cannot say if the death is related to the vaccine or coincidental.

The OHA continues to encourage Oregonians to get vaccinated with either the Pfizer or Moderna.

Federal regulators paused use of the J&J vaccine after reports some recipients developed rare blood clotting disorders.

Read more here.

— Reporting by Kristian Foden-Vencil, Oregon Public Broadcasting

Beware of 'unusual' Covid-testing operations, King County health officials warn

4:39 p.m. — Local health officials are warning folks to avoid suspicious Covid testing operations during a time rife with fraud. Public Health — Seattle & King County says the department was alerted about questionable testing sites in Seattle and door-to-door solicitors in Auburn falsely claiming to be offering Covid tests on behalf of government agencies.

Public Health says the testing sites in question, operated by a business called Community Wellness America, have been reported in Capitol Hill, Ballard, Gas Works Park, and Green Lake Park.

The department reports that people operating the testing sites have been observed falsely claiming to be with "public health," not using proper personal protective equipment, collecting personal information in an insecure manner, and advertising the testing as "free" but mentioning potential billing in paperwork.

Officials say no positive test results from the Community Wellness America sites have been forwarded to Public Health — Seattle & King, and caution that the sites could be reporting inaccurate results to patients.

Public health says it has filed formal complaints about the matter with the Washington State Department of Health and the Consumer Division of the Washington State Attorney General’s Office.

Liz Brazile

Gov. Jay Inslee says fourth wave of Covid cases has started in Washington

3:34 p.m. -- A new wave of coronavirus cases has started in Washington state according to Governor Jay Inslee.

Speaking to reporters Thursday, Inslee said the state is seeing the beginning of a fourth wave as he displayed data of rising cases. Inslee said more hospitalizations could be close behind.

"We are starting unfortunately at a higher level than where other waves have started from -- that's bad," he said.

That level is 1,200 new cases per day, based on the past week's average. The previous wave started closer to 1,000 daily cases.

Inslee said coronavirus variants are making up a larger portion of cases, with B.1.1.7, the variant that spread quickly across the United Kingdom, as the leading variant.

This, even as Covid-vaccines are available to all adults in Washington. More than half of Washington adults have received at least the first dose.

— Paige Browning

Pregnant women face 20 times higher mortality rate if infected with Covid-19

2:30 p.m. — Women who contracted Covid-19 while pregnant were 20 times more likely to die from the virus. That's according to a study out of UW Medicine and Oxford that was published in JAMA.

“The No. 1 takeaway from the research is that pregnant women are no more likely to get Covid-19, but if they get it, they are more likely to become very ill and more likely to require ICU care, ventilation, or experience preterm birth and preeclampsia," said Dr. Michael Gravett.

Gravett is a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Washington School of Medicine.

The study considered 2,100 patients, from low-, middle-, and high-income countries.

Of the mothers who tested positive for Covid, 11.5% of babies also tested positive for the virus.

— Dyer Oxley

Not enough people vaccinated yet to slow spread of virus in Washington

2 p.m. — The latest statewide situation report for Washington states that despite more people getting vaccinated, it's not yet enough to slow transmission.

“Vaccination is working, but immunity isn’t high enough yet to combat increasing disease levels," said State Health Officer Scott Lindquist. "All of us, including people who are fully vaccinated, need to keep taking steps to slow the spread while we vaccinate more people."

About 26.8% of Washingtonians have some level of immunity from Covid-19. That's not enough to slow the spread of the virus.

Estimations of the rate of spread of Covid, as of April, are 1.72, meaning that each infected person spreads the virus to 1.72 people. With 26.8% of people vaccinated, that estimated number only drops down to 1.29. It needs to be brought under 1.

In other words, more people need to be vaccinated to stop, or even slow, the spread of the virus.

The report also notes that the estimate of people with active Covid infections doubled between March and April. It is currently estimated that .28% of the population had an active infection, or about 21,400 people.

— Dyer Oxley

Variants of concern continue to grow in Washington state

1:30 p.m. — Variants of concern are complicating efforts to slow the pandemic.

Washington's most recent pandemic situation report states that, as of April 20, 50-60% of cases in Washington state are from the B.1.17 variant (first identified in the UK), and 30-35% of cases were from the B.1.429, B.1.427 and P.1 variants.

Over the past week, there was a 32% increase in variant cases across Washington. These variants are much more infectious, and therefore spread far more easily and cause more severe illnesses. Antibodies and vaccines also may be less effective against them.

— Dyer Oxley

60 and older can walk up to 2 Seattle vaccine sites

1 p.m. — People 60 and older no longer need an appointment to get their Covid vaccination shots at Seattle's West Seattle or Rainier Beach clinics.

Both locations are now accepting walk-ups for those 60 and older and who live and work in King County.

All others need to keep scheduling their appointments.

— Angela King

Vaccine gender gap in Washington state

Noon — Health officials say there's a gender gap when it comes to Covid vaccinations in Washington state. Women have received 57% of available vaccine doses, while 42% have gone to men.

"Women are traditionally the health care decision makers in families and are more likely to seek out health care on a routine basis across a lot of different preventative types of health care," said Michele Roberts is with the state Department of Health.

Roberts says the state is working with health care providers to reach out to their male patients and encourage them to get vaccinated.

If they contract Covid, men are more likely to die than women.

— Eilis O'Neill

New mass vaccination site to open at Tacoma Dome

11 a.m. — The Pierce County Department of Emergency Management is going to open a new mass Covid vaccination clinic at the Tacoma Dome next week.

It will be open everyday from noon to 8 p.m. for six weeks starting on April 27.

The goal is to vaccinate nearly 1,200 people each day.

And since it'll be using the Pfizer vaccine, the clinic will be open to those 16 and older.

Pierce County is one of three counties that was forced to fall back to Phase 2 of the state's reopening plan after it failed to meet the statewide thresholds for new Covid cases and hospitalizations.

— Angela King

Popup vaccine clinic Sunday in Central District

9 a.m. — Another Covid vaccination popup is happening in Seattle on Sunday April 25, aiming to serve communities of color.

The clinic will be open 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Sunday at Emerald City SDA Church. Nurses will administer the Pfizer vaccine.

Click here to book an appointment, or call 206-461-6910 x211.

— Paige Browning

Teen mental health during the pandemic

8 a.m. — Medical professionals are seeing a rise in mental health issues among teens during the pandemic.

Alysha Thompson is clinical director of the psychiatry and behavioral medicine unit at Seattle Children’s Hospital. She is recommending parents talk to teens about how they’re feeling.

She says it’s OK to ask if they’re thinking about suicide — it’s not going to give them ideas.

“Kids are having more thoughts of hurting themselves and more thoughts of killing themselves than we have before," Thompson said. "And it’s important for us to check in on that and see how are you doing? Are you having any thoughts of hurting or killing yourself? Have you been feeling more sad, down, depressed, that kind of thing?”

Thompson says some teens may not open up right away. One way to have a conversation is to go for a drive.

“When you’re not sitting face-to-face or when you have something to look at, it’s a little bit easier to get people talking.”

Thompson also recommends taking steps to make your home safer. That includes locking up medications and guns.

For anyone having thoughts of suicide, the number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255.

— Ruby de Luna


UW study reveals evidence of Covid-19 among dogs in Washington state

5:54 p.m. — A series of tests performed by researchers at the University of Washington points to exposure to the novel coronavirus among a group of dogs.

The 23 samples collected by the researchers tested positive for antibodies for the virus, marking the first confirmed cases of Covid among pets in Washington, though others have been confirmed in the U.S. However, both the CDC and state agriculture department assert that animals are not believed to play a large role in the spread of the disease among humans.

“These detections are not a surprise given the other cases reported across the country,” said Washington State Veterinarian Dr. Brian Joseph. “While there is no significant public health risk, we would advise pet owners who are Covid-positive to take measures to protect their pets from the virus.”

The Washington State Department of Health recommends that people sick with Covid-19 avoid direct contact with pets. In instances where a Covid-positive person must care for a pet, health officials say the person should wear a mask and wash their hands both before and after interacting with the animal.

Liz Brazile

Washington aims to double vaccine rate

1 p.m. — As variants of concern continue to spread, Washington health officials say they want to double the rate of vaccination throughout the state.

The Seattle Times reports that Washington state now aims to provide 90,000 vaccines per day.

That's double the goal the state previously set for itself when vaccines first arrived in winter — 45,000. But state health officials now say that a more robust vaccine infrastructure is in place to get the job done.

— Dyer Oxley

King County's new mobile vaccine effort

Noon — The percentage of people getting their Covid vaccine shots in King County is on a steady rise. But some residents aren’t able to leave home for a variety of reasons to get a shot.

Executive Dow Constantine says, now, the county can come to you.

"If you have a condition that makes it difficult to leave home, if it would be very, very difficult to get to a place where vaccines are being offered, we can come to you," Constantine told KUOW. "The people with the greatest challenges will be prioritized first, but the service is now available."

The number to call for a mobile shot is 206-477-3977.

Meanwhile, Constantine says King County could drop back to Phase 2 restrictions if the number of cases continues to rise. State health officials will make that decision on May 3.

— John O'Brien

Snohomish, King Counties on verge of Phase 2

10 a.m. — Health officials are warning this morning that Snohomish County is on track to fall back to Phase 2 of the state's reopening plan if Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations continue to rise in the county.

Right now, Snohomish County has a two week average of 205 new cases per every 100,000 people. That number needs to be below 200 in order to stay in Phase 3.

And the county's chief health officer says he expects hospitalizations will have surpassed the state benchmark when they're re-evaluated on May 3.

Meanwhile, King County is also at risk of falling back to Phase 2. It has a two-week new case rate of 201. And King County's hospitalization rate is 4.2. Health officials say the rise in cases is among young people and is likely prompted by a sense of confidence among those who are only partially vaccinated.

— Angela King

US-Canada border to remain closed

8 a.m. — The US-Canada border will remain closed to non-essential travel for at least another month.

The current closure was supposed to expire Wednesday, but now it's been extended until May 21.

Places like Toronto are dealing with another surge in Covid cases right now. Many tied to variants that first emerged in the UK and Brazil.

School districts and nearly all non-essential businesses in Toronto and across the Ontario Province are shut down.

The CDC is also warning travelers to avoid the country.

— Dyer Oxley


Insurance must cover health care PPE in Washington

Noon — Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has signed a measure that requires health benefit plans to reimburse health care providers a set amount for personal protective equipment (PPE) for the duration of the coronavirus pandemic.

Some providers in the state, including dentists, have been billing insurance for the extra protective equipment they've had to use during the pandemic. But not all insurers cover the fee, which means the extra cost falls to patients.

The new law requires that providers who bill insurance for protective gear as a separate expense to be reimbursed $6.57 per in-person patient encounter.

The measure takes effect immediately and will end when the pandemic does.

— Ruby de Luna

New mobile vaccine program for King County

11 a.m. — Public Health Seattle King County is launching a new vaccination program for people 16 and older who can't leave their homes.

If you're suffering from an injury, developmental disability, or medical condition that makes it hard for you to leave home, someone will come to your place and give you a Covid vaccine shot.

The mobile vaccine program is a partnership between fire departments, medical providers, and pharmacies in King County.

Call 206-477-3977 to schedule an appointment or click here fore more details.

— Angela King

Pierce County Covid cases continue upward

9 a.m. — Covid trends are still heading in an upward direction in Pierce County.

County health officials are reporting a second weekend in a row with more than 400 new Covid cases.

And the county's cases remain over the two metrics set by the state that moved the region back to Phase 2 last week.

— Angela King

New mass vaccination site open in Lynnwood

7 a.m. — Snohomish County is opening another mass vaccination site.

The new site is at a Community Transit hub at the Ash Way Park and Ride in Lynnwood.

It will be open Wednesday through Sunday, and will take walk-up and drive-thru appointments from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

— Angela King


Marshawn Lynch sits down with Dr. Fauci

11 a.m. — Since his time with the Seattle Seahawks, Marshawn Lynch has hunted down a wild hog with Bear Grylls and travelled to Scotland for Skittles. More recently, he chatted with director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Dr. Anthony Fauci.

The doctor and Lynch candidly talk about vaccine hesitancy and the reasons behind why some people are skeptical of medicine.

"What are some of the reasons you are reluctant?" Fauci said of people who are hesitant. "You could say, 'Well, the vaccine was developed too quickly; most vaccines take years to develop. You guys did it in less than a year. What is that? ... are you putting something over on us? Is this something that is reckless? Are you taking chances with us?'"

"Well the answer to that is that the speed is really the reflection of an incredible amount of research that took place for decades before the vaccine was actually developed," he said. "So even though it was developed in less than a year to put into people, it took decades of work to get to that point ... it wasn't reckless and it's safe because we tested it in tens of thousands of people, including African Americans and Hispanics."

Dr. Fauci notes that African Americans and Hispanic people have disproportionately been affected by the pandemic, with higher case, hospitalization, and death rates.

— Dyer Oxley

Older students return to in-person classes

9 a.m. — Today's the day all middle and high school students in Washington state can start heading back to their physical classrooms. Governor Jay Inslee set a deadline of April 19 for all districts to offer older students some sort of in-person learning option.

It is an option though — families can stick with virtual learning.

Middle and high schoolers in Seattle Public Schools, for example, can now get two afternoons each week of in-person support from their teachers. Students must wear face masks and compete a daily health screening prior to class.

According to data from the Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, 54% of students across all grades are already getting weekly in-person instruction as of March 29.

— Angela King

Rainier Beach, West Seattle sites into full-time vaccine locations

8 a.m. — Starting Monday, the city-run Covid testing sites in Rainier Beach and West Seattle will become full-time vaccination locations.

The full-time status is so the region can respond to the increased demand for vaccines now that everyone 16 and older in Washington state are eligible for a shot.

Today is also the national deadline that President Biden set for making the vaccine available to all adults.

— Angela King

Covid cases remain highest in South King County

7 a.m. — Washington state and local health officials and reminding folks to continue to guard against Covid-19.

Public Health Officer Dr. Jeff Duchin said Friday that incidents are still trending upward for all age groups except for those 65 and older.

"Overall, Covid incidents remain highest in south King County, Covington, Enumclaw, Kent, Auburn, Federal Way, Burien, Renton, SeaTac, and Tukwila. And over the past 14 days, these areas are experiencing double to triple the number of cases of hospitalizations and deaths compared to central, north Seattle, Shoreline, the eastside and Vashon Island."

King County is still in Phase 3 of the state's reopening plan, but barely. The county is reporting a two week average of 198.5 cases per every 100,000 people. If that number surpasses 200 and the hospitalization rate continues to grow, then King County could be forced back to Phase 2 when counties are re-evaluated on May 3.

The highest rate of cases is among ages 18-34, followed by 34-49.

At the same time, weekly deaths have fallen dramatically. About 1-2 people died each day over the past two weeks, compared to nine daily deaths during the winter peak.

— Angela King


Don't forget: You can still catch Covid in-between vaccine shots

12:30 p.m. — You can catch Covid after your first vaccine dose. It's important to wait until the full vaccine process is over before taking any risks.

University of Washington infectious disease expert Paul Pottinger was recently quoted in the Huffington Post about the potential of infection between vaccine doses.

“It definitely can and does happen,” Pottinger said. “Remember, we even see Covid-19 infections in patients who’ve been fully immunized, meaning a solid two to five weeks after their second dose of either of or mRNA immunizations.”

After getting the first Pfizer shot, people need to wait about three weeks before getting the second shot. People who get the Moderna shot need to wait four weeks between their first and second shots. Then, everyone has to wait two weeks after the second show before they are considered fully immunized.

It's something that public figure and radio host Gee Scott recently learned. He has publicly told of his experience coming down with Covid after receiving his first vaccine shot.

It's important to be aware of the timeline as Washington monitors more and more breakthrough cases — people who are infected with Covid-19 after being fully vaccinated (read more about that below in Wednesday's blog posts). Washington has recently reported 217 breakthrough cases, which adds up to .01% of everyone vaccinated in the state.

— Dyer Oxley

King County reaches vaccination milestone

Noon — King County Public Health Director Patty Hayes says to date, 50% of the adult population has received at least one dose of the Covid vaccine.

“A cheer is in order here, this is a great milestone," Hayes said.

But she adds there’s still more work ahead. Hayes points out that racial disparities persist among vaccine rates. Black and Latinx communities lag behind when it comes to vaccination.

Also, the county continues to see rising Covid cases.

Health Officer Dr. Jeff Duchin says that a King County resident is hospitalized for Covid every hour and 45 minutes. And many them are younger adults.

“There were more 20-39 year olds hospitalized than there were 70 and older," Duchin said.

Duchin notes that the hospitalization surge is due to a combination of factors: increased activities when the county reopened under Phase 3, and rising variant cases.

— Ruby de Luna

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