Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Sunday, May 2, as the day unfolded. It is no longer being updated. Click here to see all the most recent news about the pandemic, and click here to find additional resources.
Seattle’s May Day March on Saturday showed the annual event’s usual sense of spirit in fighting for immigrant and worker rights, but also the peculiar, painful moment of a pandemic that has affected every aspect of life. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic’s disproportionate impact on essential workers, attendees marched for the rights of the most vulnerable workers.
May Day events were mostly peaceful, but the Seattle Police Department said it arrested 14 people — most on Capitol Hill — for investigation of crimes including obstruction, property destruction and assault.
Throughout the state, fully vaccinated residents in long-term care facilities will return to a sense of normalcy, following Gov. Jay Inslee’s guidance Friday. Residents can now meet with one another and participate in group activities without masks.
Meanwhile, King County is likely to return to Phase 2 of Gov. Jay Inslee’s reopening plan soon, said a health department official Friday. Should an assessment take place on Monday, changes including a reduction from 50% to 25% in indoor capacity for bars, restaurants, retail stores and gyms would take effect Friday.
The state Department of Health (DOH) reported 1,653 new coronavirus cases on Saturday.
We’re updating this page with the latest news about the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects on the Seattle area, the U.S. and the world. Click here to see previous days’ live updates and all our other coronavirus coverage, and here to see how we track the daily spread across Washington and the world.
Many police officers spurn coronavirus vaccines as departments avoid mandates
Police officers were among the first front-line workers to gain priority access to coronavirus vaccines. But their vaccination rates are lower than or about the same as those of the general public, according to data made available by some of the nation’s largest law enforcement agencies.
The reluctance of police to get the shots threatens not just their own health but the safety of people they’re responsible for guarding, monitoring and patrolling, experts say.
At the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, 39% of employees have gotten at least one dose, officials said, compared to more than 50% of eligible adults nationwide. In Atlanta, 36% of sworn officers have been vaccinated. Twenty-eight percent of those employed by the Columbus Division of Police – Ohio’s largest police department – report having received a shot.
—The Washington Post
Pfizer to ship 4.5 million vaccine doses to South Africa by June
Pfizer Inc. will ship 4.5 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccines to South Africa by June helping the nation ramp up its inoculation drive.
The first 325,260 doses will arrive Sunday night, Zweli Mkhize, South Africa’s health minister said in a statement. The government also expects Johnson & Johnson to release stock from the Aspen Pharmacare Holdings Ltd.’s plant in the nation by the middle of May following a verification process with regulators, according to the statement. Aspen is making the J&J vaccines under license.
Coronavirus vaccines aren’t perfect. They’re still very, very effective
A rising number of people who’ve been vaccinated are getting infected with the coronavirus. But is that surprising, and should it be cause for concern?
The short answer, according to local researchers: No.
It was already clear from the clinical trials that the current vaccines weren’t perfect. No vaccine is. But the rate of infection among the immunized has been extremely low, with COVID-19 hospitalization and death even less likely.
Public health officials are tracking these so-called COVID-19 breakthrough cases: fully vaccinated people who’ve become infected.
“The fact that there are breakthroughs is not a red flag,” said Dennis Burton, an immunologist at Scripps Research. “Breakthrough infections are to be expected, and the very small number indicates how very well the vaccines are providing protection.”
—By Jonathan Wosen at The San Diego Union-Tribune
Belgian police detain 132 in virus restrictions protest
Police have detained 132 people among 2,000 revelers and protesters who took part in an illegal party in a Brussels park to protest COVID-19 restrictions, Belgian authorities said Sunday.
Police used water cannons and tear gas to disperse them.
About 15 people, including protesters and police, were injured in clashes.
—The Associated Press
Indoor events bring COVID-19 outbreak in Republic, hitting 10% of population
About 10% of the population of Republic, a small city in north-central Washington, has tested positive for COVID-19 in an outbreak traced to large indoor events last month at the local Fraternal Order of Eagles hall.
Ferry County Memorial Hospital officials have confirmed more than 100 cases, with one reported death, since the April 9-11 events, including a membership drive that featured dinner, live music and a 1980s-themed karaoke night. Some patients have had to be transferred to Wenatchee and Yakima because of a lack of capacity at the 25-bed hospital — the only hospital in a 50-mile radius — and other closer facilities.
“In Ferry County especially, we’re seeing really sick young people showing up in the emergency room to get care,” Northeast Tri County Health Officer Dr. Sam Artzis.
—By The Associated Press
In Indonesia, lab workers arrested, accused of reusing swabs in coronavirus tests
Five laboratory workers were arrested in the Indonesian city of Medan and accused of reusing nasal swabs in administering as many as 20,000 tests.
Authorities said they were investigating whether any people were infected with the coronavirus as a result of the contaminated tests given at an airport testing site operated by Kimia Farma, a giant state-owned company.
They were also investigating how many people received tainted test results as they prepared to board flights at Kualanamu International Airport, one of the nation’s busiest.
—By Richard C. Paddock at The New York Times
Nepal Runs Out of Hospital Beds as India’s Outbreak Spills Across Border
The coronavirus outbreak in India has spilled across the border into Nepal, where health officials have warned that hospital beds are unavailable, vaccines are running short and the number of new infections is rising faster than overwhelmed clinics can record them.
The situation is so dire in Nepal that the Health Ministry in the Himalayan nation issued a statement Friday in which, in effect, it threw up its hands.
“Since coronavirus cases have spiked beyond the capacity of the health system and hospitals have run out of beds, the situation is unmanageable,” the ministry said after the government recorded 5,657 new infections Friday, the highest daily total since October.
—By Bhadra Sharma at The New York Times
A fourth COVID-19 surge in Oregon is less deadly but hits younger people
While new known cases and hospitalizations have been declining in the United States as a whole, Oregon now finds itself as an outlier, even though about 30% of residents are now fully vaccinated.
Oregon cases are up roughly 30% and hospitalizations 40% in the past two weeks. Both have roughly tripled since the lows of early March.
Officials at the Oregon Health Authority suspect Oregon’s relatively low rate of infections for most of the rest of the pandemic have left a larger proportion of the population more susceptible to the virus. On top of that, the much more contagious B.1.1.7 variant – now the dominant strain in Oregon and the nation as of early April – is allowing the virus to transmit with greater ease.
Whatever the reason, Oregon’s spring surge so far has been far less devastating than the fall and winter – with daily cases averaging a little over half of their earlier highs. And deaths are just a fraction of the December peak.
Gov. Kate Brown said Friday that while fewer seniors are being hospitalized thanks to their higher rates of vaccination, the proportion of hospitalized patients who are between the ages of 18 and 34 has grown by almost 50% recently.
A fourth wave in Washington state is similarly affecting a greater number of younger people.
More detail here on the Oregon surge.
—by Aimee Green at oregonlive.com
U.K. appears very close to ‘turning the corner’ on Covid-19
The U.K. is close to being able to ease most Covid-19 restrictions following a successful vaccination program and a drop in infections, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said, suggesting a handful of safeguards will remain by mid-year.
“We are very close now to really turning the corner and I think we still need to be careful as we go,” Raab said. “We don’t want to see the gains lost and the sacrifices that have been made undone. I know that people are hankering just to go a bit faster but actually we, I think, feel vindicated that taking steady steps out of the lockdown is the smart way to go.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government is resisting calls from members of his ruling Conservative Party to speed up the easing of rules that have been in place for much of the past 13 months as the U.K. emerges from its third coronavirus lockdown.
Two fully vaccinated adults from different households still aren’t allowed to hug.
—By Alex Morales, Bloomberg
COVID outbreak at Oregon church highlights question of oversight at houses of worship
Sherry Zetzman, 43, from Albany, Ore., tested positive for the deadly strain of coronavirus after attending services at the Apostolic Life Center in Albany, one of several cases that spiked among members of that congregation in late March and early April.
The outbreak is raising questions about the oversight of COVID-19 social distancing guidelines at faith-based institutions. Some churches argue that it is government overreach to tell them how to worship, while others counter that it falls to churches to provide safe spaces to worship.
On Tuesday, Zetzman’s family made the difficult decision to take her off the life support that had been keeping her stable. Her mother, Terry Bushnell, says that her daughter died a short while afterward.
It could not be confirmed whether Zetzman contracted the disease during a church service, as a result of being around church members at a different event or through exposure unconnected with the church.
—by Troy Shinn Albany at the Democrat-Herald, Ore.
Indian court urges government action as hospitals cry help
With Indian hospitals struggling to secure a steady supply of oxygen, and more COVID-19 patients dying amid the shortages, a court in New Delhi said it would start punishing government officials for failing to deliver the life-saving items.
With the government unable to maintain a steady supply of oxygen, several hospital authorities sought a court intervention in the Indian capital where a lockdown has been extended by a week to contain the wave of infections.
“Water has gone above the head. Enough is Enough,” said New Delhi High Court, adding it would start punishing government officials if supplies of oxygen allocated to hospitals were not delivered.
“We can’t have people dying,’’ said Justices Vipin Sanghi and Rekha Patil.
—By Ashok Sharma at The Associated Press
With 600 Pfizer doses about to expire, Snohomish County officials urge residents to make a Sunday appointment
About 600 soon-to-expire doses of Pfizer vaccine are available Sunday at the Ash Way Park & Ride vaccination clinic in Lynnwood for anyone 16 and older, and health officials are urging residents who haven’t yet received a shot to come by to prevent vaccine waste.
The vaccine clinic is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, and it offers both drive-thru and walk-up appointments, according to the Snohomish Health District. Residents are encouraged to register online, but on-site registration is also available.
—By Paige Cornwell, Seattle Times staff reporter
The political vaccine divide in Washington state is widening — and COVID rushes in
In the old gold-mining town of Republic, out in northeastern Washington, they’ve tried it all to get people to vaccinate for the coronavirus. From running radio spots to mailing reminders in utility bills to outreach in the churches.
It’s now down to pleading.
“We are better than what we have demonstrated so far,” exhorted Rob Slagle, the town’s retired pharmacist and a volunteer firefighter, in an open letter to the timber-country town of 1,000.
“Please ignore the white noise that comes from social media and spreads in an instant with just a mouse click,” he wrote. “Please get vaccinated.”
What’s happening in Republic is like a cautionary saga during what are supposed to be the last days of the pandemic.
Danny Westneat reports on why we may struggle more than expected to reach herd immunity.
—Danny Westneat, Seattle Times columnist
Celebrities are endorsing COVID vaccines. Does it help?
Pelé, Dolly Parton and the Dalai Lama have little in common apart from this: Over a few days in March, they became the latest celebrity case studies for the health benefits of COVID-19 vaccines.
“I just want to say to all of you cowards out there: Don’t be such a chicken squat,” Parton, 75, said in a video that she posted on Twitter after receiving a vaccine in Tennessee. “Get out there and get your shot.”
But do the star-studded endorsements really work? Not necessarily.
Epidemiologists say there are plenty of caveats and potential pitfalls — and little scientific evidence to prove that the endorsements actually boost vaccine uptake.
—By Mike Ives at The New York Times
Global Virus Cases Reach New Peak, Driven by India and South America
Worldwide, the number of new coronavirus cases has more than doubled in two months. For the past two weeks, new global cases have exceeded their previous high point in early January.
The increase in cases is largely being driven by the uncontrolled outbreak in India, where more than 3,000 people are now dying every day — and analysts say this grim number may be undercounted.
The surge has left Indian hospitals overwhelmed.
Another region seeing a surge is South America, where early research has indicated that the P.1 variant, first identified in the Brazilian city of Manaus late last year, might be more transmissible and more deadly than earlier forms of the virus.
Uruguay, currently experiencing the world’s highest cases per capita, is adding almost 3,000 cases per day — a staggering number in a country of just 3.5 million people.
In addition to Uruguay, Paraguay, Brazil, Peru, Argentina and Colombia all rank among the top 20 nations in the world for COVID deaths per capita as of Thursday.
For detail, read here.
—By Alexandria Symonds and Lazaro Gamio at The New York Times
Seattle Times staff & news services