Coronavirus daily news updates, Oct. 14: What to know today about COVID-19 in the Seattle area, Washington state and the world – The Seattle Times

Doctors in the United States are bracing for a “twindemic” of flu and coronavirus spikes.

In countries with relatively high vaccination rates such as the United States and many countries in Europe, it could get tricky this winter for the immunized to tell a nasty cold from a breakthrough case of COVID. It’s also hard to predict how bad this flu season will be after last year’s historically low flu rates during lockdowns.

In preparation, Germany has purchased extra flu vaccines and tens of thousands of people in Britain are looking up “worst cold ever” on search engines.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization has announced it will sponsor a new group of scientists from around the world to look into the origins of COVID-19, as well as the potential for other breakthrough novel viruses.

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.

Gov. Jay Inslee has set a press conference today at 2:30 p.m. to discuss the state’s ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Watch here:

11:34 am

FDA panel debates lower-dose Moderna COVID shots for booster

U.S. health advisers are debating if millions of Americans who received Moderna vaccinations should get a booster shot — this time, using half the original dose.

Already millions who got their initial Pfizer shots at least six months ago are getting a booster of that brand. Thursday, advisers to the Food and Drug Administration evaluated the evidence that Moderna boosters should be offered, too — and on Friday, they’ll tackle the same question for those who got Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine.

U.S. officials stress that the priority is to get shots to the 66 million unvaccinated Americans who are eligible for immunization — those most at risk as the extra-contagious delta variant of the coronavirus has burned across the country.

“It’s important to remember that the vaccines still provide strong protection against serious outcomes” such as hospitalization and death from COVID-19, said FDA vaccine chief Dr. Peter Marks.

But Marks said it’s also become clear there is some waning of protection against milder infections with all three of the coronavirus vaccines used in the U.S. And he encouraged the advisory panel to consider if the evidence backs similar booster recommendations for all of them as well, since that would “create the least confusion” for the public.

Moderna is seeking FDA clearance for a booster used just like Pfizer’s: For people 65 and older, or adults with other health problems, jobs or living situations that put them at increased risk of serious coronavirus — once they are at least six months past their last dose.

Read the story here.

—Lauran Neergaard and Matthew Perrone, The Associated Press


11:07 am

Russia continues to battle pandemic high of infections, deaths

Russia on Thursday recorded the highest daily numbers of coronavirus infections and deaths since the start of the pandemic, a rapidly surging toll that has severely strained the nation’s health care system.

The government’s coronavirus task force reported 31,299 new confirmed coronavirus cases and 986 deaths in the last 24 hours.

The country has repeatedly marked record daily death tolls over the past few weeks as infections surged amid a slow vaccination rate and lax enforcement of measures to protect against the coronavirus.

Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin said Tuesday that about 43 million Russians, or just about 29% of the country’s nearly 146 million people, were fully vaccinated.

Read the story here.

—Vladimir Isachenkov, The Associated Press

10:00 am

Two Alaska lawmakers test positive for COVID-19, including senator banned from flying Alaska Airlines over mask mandate

Alaska state Sen. Lora Reinbold, an Eagle River Republican, in January holds a copy of the Alaska Constitution during a committee hearing in Juneau. Reinbold has tested positive for COVID-19 and is quarantining at home. (Becky Bohrer / The Associated Press, file)

Alaska state Sens. Lora Reinbold, R-Eagle River, and David Wilson, R-Wasilla, have tested positive for COVID-19 and are quarantining at home, away from the state Capitol.

The Alaska Legislature began a special session Oct. 4, with lawmakers called by Gov. Mike Dunleavy to create a new annual formula for the Permanent Fund dividend.

Speaking Tuesday evening, Senate President Peter Micciche, R-Soldotna, said senators’ absence — whether for illness or for previously scheduled travel — has contributed to the Senate’s inability to advance negotiations.

Reached by text message, Reinbold said she is resting and improving quickly using a variety of products, including vitamins, a Vicks steamer and the antiparasitic medication ivermectin. Ivermectin is not authorized for prevention or treatment of COVID-19 — federal health agencies and the drug’s manufacturer have warned against its use for such purposes, especially as many people have turned to formulations designed for animals, not humans — but it has gained traction on social media among vaccine skeptics and among conservative public figures.

The Eagle River senator has opposed COVID-19 vaccine mandates by sponsoring legislation to prohibit businesses and local governments from requiring vaccinations. She has also been a consistent critic of mask requirements.

She unsuccessfully fought the Capitol’s mask mandate and was banned by Alaska Airlines for her refusal to comply with that company’s mask policy. More recently, she appeared at an Anchorage Assembly meeting where she opposed a proposed citywide mask ordinance. At least two top city officials who attended that meeting, and other Assembly meetings where most of the people in attendance weren’t wearing masks, have since tested positive for COVID-19.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

9:30 am

Study: People who received J&J vaccine may be better off with Moderna or Pfizer booster

People who received a Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine may be better off with a booster shot from Moderna or Pfizer, according to preliminary data from a federal clinical trial published Wednesday.

That finding, along with a mixed review of Johnson & Johnson’s booster data from the Food and Drug Administration released earlier in the day, could lead to a heated debate about whether and how to offer additional shots to the 15 million Americans who have received the single-dose vaccine.

The agency’s panel of vaccine advisers will meet Friday and vote on whether to recommend that the agency authorize the company’s application for boosters for recipients of its vaccine.

Despite these questions about the strength of J&J boosters, some experts anticipated that the agency would clear the shots anyway to meet the public’s demand. Once the agency authorized a booster from Pfizer last month, “the die was cast,” said John Moore, a virus expert at Weill Cornell Medicine.

In a study conducted by the National Institutes of Health, researchers organized nine groups of roughly 50 people. Each group received one of the three authorized vaccines, followed by a booster. In three groups, volunteers received the same vaccine for a boost. In the other six, they switched to a different one.

Read more about the study here.


9:04 am

San Francisco hasn’t approved any vaccine waiver for workers

About 800 San Francisco city workers have asked for medical or religions exemptions to avoid a looming deadline for them to get vaccinated or lose their jobs, but so far the city has not approved a single request, a human resources official said Wednesday.

About 1,900, or 5.5% of the city’s 35,000-employee workforce, have not complied with the mandate to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Nov. 1, said Mawuli Tugbenyoh, chief of policy at San Francisco’s Department of Human Resources.

Police officers, firefighters and other employees who work in high-risk settings were expected to be vaccinated by Wednesday. However, among that group 260 police, fire and sheriff’s employees sought religious or medical waivers, he said.

Even if waivers are accepted, unvaccinated employees could still be reassigned to another role, put on leave, asked to work from home or let go from their jobs if they continue to refuse the shot, the human resources department said.

About 120 police officers face termination because they didn’t meet Wednesday’s deadline, said Tom Saggau, a spokesman for the San Francisco Police Officers’ Association.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

8:05 am

Film TV workers union says strike to start next week

A woman walks past a poster advocating union solidarity in front of a Costume Designers Guild office building, Monday, Oct. 4, 2021, in Burbank, Calif. The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) overwhelmingly voted to authorize a strike for the first time in its 128-year history. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)

The union representing film and television crews says its 60,000 members will begin a nationwide strike on Monday if it does not reach a deal that satisfies demands for fair and safe working conditions.

A strike would bring a halt to filming on a broad swath of film and television productions and extend well beyond Hollywood, affecting productions in Georgia, New Mexico and other North American shoots.

International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees International President Matthew Loeb said Wednesday that the strike would begin at 12:01 a.m. Monday unless an agreement is reached on rest and meal periods and pay for its lowest-paid workers.

A strike would be a serious setback for an industry that had recently returned to work after long pandemic shutdowns and recurring aftershocks amid new outbreaks.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

7:33 am

Tuberculosis deaths rise for 1st time in years, due to COVID

The number of people killed by tuberculosis has risen for the first time in more than a decade, largely because fewer people got tested and treated as resources were diverted to fight the coronavirus pandemic, the World Health Organization said.

In its yearly report on TB released on Thursday, the U.N. health agency said 1.5 million people worldwide died of the bacterial disease last year, a slight rise from the 1.4 million deaths in 2019. Evidence of the ancient disease has been found in Egyptian mummies and it’s believed to have killed more people in history than any other infectious illness; TB routinely kills more people every year than AIDS and malaria.

The WHO also said far fewer people were newly diagnosed with TB in 2020; 5.8 million versus 7.1 million in 2019. The agency also estimates that about 4 million people suffer from TB but have yet to be diagnosed, a rise from 2.9 million people the previous year.

The disease is caused by a bacterium that often infects the lungs and is highly transmissible when those sickened by it cough or sneeze. About one quarter of the world’s population has a latent TB infection, meaning they carry the bacterium, but haven’t become ill and can’t transmit it. Those who harbor the bacterium have a 5 to 10% chance of eventually developing TB.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press


7:16 am

Women left behind: Gender gap emerges in Africa’s vaccines

Rose Jatta pulls her boat into the estuary waters as she looks for fish traps she had set up earlier in the mangrove of the Gambia river in Serrekunda, Gambia, Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021. As health officials in Gambia and across Africa urge women to be vaccinated, they’ve confronted hesitancy among those of childbearing age. Although data on gender breakdown of vaccine distribution are lacking globally, experts see a growing number of women in Africa’s poorest countries consistently missing out on vaccines. Jatta fears the vaccine against COVID-19 could make her ill, leaving her two children without food on the dinner table. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)

As health officials in Gambia and across Africa urge women to be vaccinated, they’ve confronted unwillingness among those of childbearing age.

Many women worry that current or future pregnancies will be threatened, and in Africa, the success of a woman’s marriage often depends on the number of children she bears. Other women say they’re simply more afraid of the vaccine than the virus: As breadwinners, they can’t miss a day of work if side effects such as fatigue and fever briefly sideline them.

Their fears are hardly exceptional, with rumors proliferating across Africa, where fewer than 4% of the population is immunized.

Although data on gender breakdown of vaccine distribution are lacking globally, experts see a growing number of women in Africa’s poorest countries consistently missing out on vaccines. Officials who already bemoan the inequity of vaccine distribution between rich and poor nations now fear that the stark gender disparity means African women are the least vaccinated population in the world.

Read the story here.

—Krista Larson and Maria Cheng, The Associated Press

6:17 am

Catch up on the past 24 hours

A reason to celebrate (carefully): Coronavirus cases in Washington are down across all age groups, including school-age children, state health leaders said. They left residents with guidance for Halloween and Thanksgiving.

Redmond firefighters on the front lines of the nation’s first known COVID-19 outbreak are now refusing vaccines and asking the city to keep them on the job.

Today is a big day for booster shots as advisers to the FDA decide whether to support a Moderna booster. Tomorrow they’ll consider a Johnson & Johnson booster, although a new study indicates people who got J&J’s vaccine may be better off with another maker’s booster shot.

Is it the “worst cold ever,” the flu or COVID-19? This Q&A walks through what to know before winter about illnesses, breakthrough infections and more.

Seattle schools may seek a statewide vaccine mandate for all students, and the state board of health is open to considering this. The push comes as the coronavirus has hit every school in the district.

—Kris Higginson