Coronavirus daily news updates, February 11: What to know today about COVID-19 in the Seattle area, Washington state and the world – The Seattle Times

Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Friday, February 11, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.
The Biden administration has purchased enough of a yet-to-be approved antibody drug to treat 600,000 COVID-19 patients after two leading monoclonal antibody treatments in the U.S. turned out to be ineffective against the omicron variant, which now accounts for nearly all COVID-19 cases in the country.
Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean will soon drop their mask mandates, relaxing their coronavirus protocols while the omicron-variant-fueled surge that tore through the cruise industry for months continues an overall decline. Royal Caribbean will allow its latest mask requirement to expire Feb. 14, returning to a pre-omicron policy in which passengers could go without face coverings in areas designated for fully vaccinated people. Norwegian said in an update to its Sail Safe guidance that it will nix masking rules for all departures starting March 1, but will continue to enforce mask requirements on European sailings depending on local government rules.
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 the rest of our coronavirus coverage and here to see how we track the daily spread across Washington.
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California would mandate that all businesses require their employees and independent contractors to receive the COVID-19 vaccine under legislation announced Friday by Democratic state lawmakers that was immediately criticized by Republicans as government overreach.
Employees or contractors who qualify for medical or religious exemptions would have to be regularly tested under a planned amendment to the bill. New employees would have to get at least one dose by the time they start work and the second dose within 45 days of being on the job.
Assemblywoman Buffy Wicks introduced her bill months after delaying an original proposal last fall. The previous version would have allowed workers to submit to weekly testing as an alternative to getting vaccinated, but that is not an option in her new proposal.
Vaccines mandates are highly controversial and there have been many rallies at the state Capitol in Sacramento opposing such requirements.
Read the full story here.
A roundup of some of the most popular but completely untrue stories and visuals of the week. None of these are legit, even though they were shared widely on social media. The Associated Press checked them out. Here are the facts:
Claim: Half of the police officers in Canada’s capital city resigned on Monday in support of protests against vaccine requirements.
The facts: On the contrary, no Ottawa police officers have resigned in support of a convoy of truckers against vaccine mandates in the city, both the Ottawa Police Service and a union representing its members told The Associated Press. A protest advocate named Patrick King made the false claim in a livestreamed Facebook video Sunday night. Social media users seized on the clip, sharing it across Twitter, TikTok and other platforms with captions declaring it meant that Ottawa truckers were “WINNING” and that police were “siding with the protesters.” But this is “in no way accurate,” according to Matt Skof, president of the Ottawa Police Association, who said his organization represents all of the Ottawa Police Service with the exception of about 50 senior officers and four police executives. Constable Amy Gagnon, a spokeswoman for the Ottawa Police Service, also confirmed the claims were false, saying all available Ottawa police officers were working and there had been “no resignations due to the demonstration.” The rumor “is simply not factual,” said Patrick Champagne, press secretary to Ottawa’s mayor, Jim Watson, adding that no resignations had been reported to the mayor’s office. King did not respond to an emailed request for comment.
Read the full story here.
U.S. health regulators on Friday authorized a new antibody drug that targets the omicron variant, a key step in restocking the nation’s arsenal against the latest version of COVID-19.
The Food and Drug Administration said it cleared the Eli Lilly drug for adults and adolescent patients with mild-to-moderate cases of COVID-19. Lilly announced work on the treatment late last year after testing revealed that its previous antibody therapy was ineffective against the dominant omicron variant.
The Biden administration has purchased 600,000 doses before the authorization and will begin shipping initial supplies to state health authorities for distribution.
It’s “an important step in meeting the need for more tools to treat patients as new variants of the virus continue to emerge,” said Dr. Patricia Cavazzoni, FDA’s drug center director.
Read the full story here.
U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy says he can imagine a future where Americans don’t have to contend with mask requirements. But pulling back safeguards too quickly, Murthy warns, risks more avoidable suffering, especially for people with weakened immune systems or other vulnerabilities.
In an interview this week with The Associated Press, Murthy also shared his concerns about the pandemic’s impact on the mental wellbeing of youth. He’s the father of two young children. Growing up, he witnessed the toll of unresolved mental health problems.
Some of Murthy’s comments:
A FUTURE WITHOUT MASKS
“I can imagine that future. I can’t tell you if it’s coming in a couple of months or in six months or in 12 months.
Read the full story here.

Belgium will ease a slew of COVID-19 measures from next week, with restaurants and bars allowed to open for full hours and children under 12 no longer forced to use face masks, as authorities anticipate a further decline in infections.
The government announced Friday that the nation of 11 million will go from code red, the toughest for virus measures, to code orange as of Feb. 19.
Beyond the full expansion of bar and restaurant opening hours, that means that customers will no longer have to wear masks. Nightclubs and dancing venues will also be allowed to reopen.

Read the story here.

The state Department of Health (DOH) reported 15,042 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday and 5,801 on Thursday. It also reported 122 more deaths over those days.
The update brings the state’s totals to 1,410,596 cases and 11,316 deaths, meaning that .8% of people diagnosed in Washington have died, according to the DOH. The data is as of 11:59 p.m. Thursday. New state data is reported on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
Data systems reporting cases, hospitalizations and deaths are experiencing substantial slowdowns due to the current surge in reported COVID-19 cases, according to DOH. The agency did not have an estimate for duplicate cases on Friday.
In addition, 56,800 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the virus — 586 new hospitalizations. In King County, the state’s most populous, state health officials have confirmed a total of 360,956 COVID-19 diagnoses and 2,417 deaths.
Since vaccinations began in late 2020, the state and health care providers have administered 12,871,473 doses and 66% of Washingtonians have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to vaccination data, which the state updates on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Providers are currently giving an average of about 14,793 vaccine shots per day.
The DOH says its daily case reports may also include duplicate test results, results assigned to the wrong county, results that are reported for today but are actually from a previous day, occasional false positive tests and other data discrepancies. Because of this, the previous day’s total number of cases plus the number of new daily cases does not add up to the new day’s total number of cases. State health officials recommend reviewing the dashboard’s epidemiologic curves tab for the most accurate representation of the state’s COVID-19 spread.
For a country determined to keep out the virus that first emerged within its borders, bringing in more than 15,000 people from all corners of the world was a serious gamble. It appears to be working.
One week into the 17-day event, China seems to be meeting its formidable COVID-19 Olympic challenge with a so-called “bubble” that allows Beijing Games participants to skip quarantine but tightly restricts their movement so they don’t come in contact with the general population. There have been 490 confirmed cases — many of them positive tests on symptomless visitors — and no reports of any leaking out to date.
Inside the bubble, Olympic organizers are employing a version of the government’s zero-tolerance approach. Everyone is tested daily for the virus, and anyone who tests positive is rapidly isolated to prevent any spread. Athletes and others are required to wear N95 face masks when not competing.

Read the story here.
Health authorities in Denmark said Friday that they were considering “winding down” the country’s coronavirus vaccination program in the spring and see no reason now to administer a booster dose to children or a fourth shot to anymore residents at risk of severe COVID-19.
The Danish Health Authority said in a statement outlining its reasoning that the third infection wave in the European nation was waning “due to the large population immunity.”
Last month, the Danish government said it was offering a fourth vaccine dose to older adults and other vulnerable citizens. But the Health Authority assessment concluded that three shots had provided good protection and it was unnecessary to provide additional shots right now.
Read the story here.
The $1.9 million in pandemic aid would have gone a long way in Cochise County, a rural borderland where a winter of infections swamped hospitals. There was money for tracking cases. Testing in remote ranching towns. Funds fortifying the Arizona county’s strained health department.
But the county’s Republican-controlled board of supervisors stunned many residents and health care workers by voting last month to reject the federal money, becoming one of the rare places in America to turn down COVID-19 assistance from Washington.
“We’re done,” said Peggy Judd, one of two Republican supervisors who voted against accepting the money. “We’re treating it like the common cold.”

Read the story here.
U.S. regulators on Friday put the brakes on their push to speed Pfizer’s COVID-19 to children under 5, creating major uncertainty about how soon the shots could become available.
The Food and Drug Administration had urged Pfizer and its partner BioNTech to apply for authorization of extra-low doses of its vaccine for the youngest children before studies were even finished — citing the toll the omicron variant has taken on children.
Next week, FDA advisers were supposed to publicly debate if youngsters should starting getting two shots before it’s clear if they’d actually need a third.
But Friday, the FDA reversed course and said it had become clear it needed to wait for data on how well that third shot works for this age group. Pfizer said in a statement that it expected the data by early April.
FDA’s vaccine chief Dr. Peter Marks said he hoped parents would understand that the decision to delay was part of the agency’s careful review and high scientific standards.

Read the story here.
An early look at the performance of COVID-19 booster shots during the recent omicron wave in the U.S. hinted at a decline in effectiveness, though the shots still offered strong protection against severe illness.
The report, published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday, is considered an early and limited look at the durability of booster protection during the omicron surge that exploded in December and January but has been fading in recent weeks.
“COVID-19 vaccine boosters remain safe and continue to be highly effective against severe disease over time,” said Kristen Nordlund, a CDC spokesperson.

Read the story here.
Sharon Jodock-King wanted to fly.
Jodock-King, who was born with cerebral palsy and used a wheelchair and communication devices, traveled to several states, including Alaska. For her 80th birthday, she planned to go ziplining, but pandemic restrictions got in the way. One of her poems, titled “I would fly,” begins:
Oh/If I could fly/I would fly/Oh yes/ would fly/The edges of a cliff/Looking over a deep/Crevasse with no bottom.
Sharon Marie Jodock-King, an artist, educator and longtime advocate for people with disabilities in Seattle and beyond, died Jan. 27 at her Shoreline home. She was 81.
She died from melanoma and complications from COVID-19, according to her sister Norma Christensen of Ferndale.
Read the full story here.
Vaccinated travelers can enter Britain without taking any coronavirus tests starting Friday, after the government scrapped one of the final restrictions imposed over the past two years in response to COVID-19.
British residents and visitors who have had at least two doses of an approved coronavirus vaccine now only need to fill out a passenger locator form before traveling to the U.K. Unvaccinated people still have to take tests both before and after arriving but no longer need to self-isolate until they get a negative result.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the U.K. “now has one of the most free-flowing borders in the world — sending a clear message that we are open for business.”
Airlines and other travel firms hailed the change as a lifeline after two years of severely constricted travel. Andrew Flintham, managing director of travel group Tui UK, said there was “a huge pent-up demand for international travel,” and people were rushing to book getaways for the February school break and April’s Easter holiday.

Read the story here.

Several thousand New York City public workers could lose their jobs Friday if they don’t show they’ve complied with the city’s mandate requiring they receive at least two shots of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Though they represent about 1% of the 370,000-person city workforce, including teachers, firefighters and police officers, the mass firings will mark a new line in the sand for the nation’s largest city, which has imposed some of the most sweeping vaccine mandates in the country.
, speaking about the looming firings at a news conference last week, noted that city workers largely complied with the mandate.
“Living in a city as complex like this, there must be rules. We must follow them. The rule is to get vaccinated if you’re a city employee. You have to follow that,” said New York City Mayor Eric Adams.

Read the story here.
Protesters angry over pandemic restrictions drove toward Paris in scattered convoys of camper vans, cars and trucks Friday in an effort to blockade the French capital, despite a police ban.
From the Mediterranean coast to the northern city of Lille, the protesters organized their “freedom convoys” online, galvanized in part by truckers who have blockaded Canada’s capital and blocked border crossings. The French action has no single leader or goal, and comes as months of protests against French government vaccination rules have been waning.
Paris region authorities deployed more than 7,000 police officers to tollbooths and other key sites to try to prevent a blockade. They threatened heavy fines and other punishments for those who defy the protest ban, which authorities said was necessary to prevent “risk to public order.”
Railing against France’s vaccination pass required to enter restaurants and many other venues, protesters waved French flags from their car windows and honked at onlookers. The convoys sought to avoid police detection by traveling local roads instead of the major highways leading into Paris.

Read the story here.
Authorities in Canada headed for court Friday in an attempt to break the bridge blockade by truckers protesting the country’s COVID-19 restrictions as parts shortages rippled through the auto industry on both sides of the U.S.-Canadian border.
The mayor of Windsor, Ontario, planned to seek an injunction at an afternoon hearing against members of the self-proclaimed Freedom Convoy who have used scores of pickup trucks to bottle up the Ambassador Bridge connecting the city to Detroit. The standoff entered its fifth day Friday.
Federal, provincial and local authorities have hesitated to forcibly remove the protesters there and elsewhere around the country, reflecting apparently a lack of manpower by local police, Canada’s reverence for free speech, and fear of a violent backlash. Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens warned earlier this week that some of the truckers are “willing to die.”
But the pressure to reopen the bridge appeared to be mounting, with Ford, General Motors, Toyota and Honda closing auto plants or canceling shifts because of parts shortages, and the Biden administration urging Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government to use its federal powers to end the blockade.
Read the story here.
Several conservative media figures in the U.S. have taken up the cause of Canadian truckers who have occupied parts of Ottawa and blocked border crossings to protest COVID-19 restrictions and vaccine mandates.
Fox News Channel’s Sean Hannity cheered the truckers on while showing three live reports from Ottawa this week, while Tucker Carlson’s online store is selling “I (heart) Tucker” t-shirts edited to say “I (heart) Truckers.”
“Please tell these truckers that the American working people, people in this country, stand in solidarity with what they are doing and for the freedom movement that they’re leading,” Hannity told reporter Sara Carter on his show Wednesday. She delivered his message to protesters in Ottawa.
In a bulletin to local and state law enforcement officers, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security warned that it has received reports of similar protests being planned in the United States.

Read the story here.
A day before she was due to be evicted in November from her Atlanta home, Shanelle King heard that she had been awarded about $15,000 in rental assistance. She could breathe again.
But then the 43-year-old hairdresser got a letter last month from her landlord saying the company was canceling her lease in March —- seven months early — without any explanation.
King, whose work dried up during the pandemic and who now worries about finding another apartment she can afford. “Here I am back up against the wall with no where to stay. I don’t know what I am going to do.”
Although the $46.5 billion Emergency Rental Assistance Program has paid out tens of billions of dollars to help avert an eviction crisis, some tenants, like King, who received help are finding themselves threatened with eviction again — sometimes days after getting federal help. Many are finding it nearly impossible to find another affordable place to live.
“It is a Band-Aid. It was never envisioned as anything more than a Band-Aid,” Erin Willoughby, director of the Clayton Housing Legal Resource Center Atlanta, said of the program.
“It’s not solving the underlying problem, which is a lack of affordable housing. People are on the hook for rents they cannot afford to pay,” she said. “Simply finding something cheaper is not an option because there is not anything cheaper. People have to be housed somewhere.”

Read the story here.
When Minnesota and Utah health officials started using race as a factor to determine who would get scarce COVID-19 treatments, they were hailed for their efforts to bridge the pandemic’s deadly racial divide.
Now those officials are center stage of the nation’s latest battle over race, identity and equity, after they rolled back their policies under pressure from conservatives and a group led by Stephen Miller, a top adviser to former president Donald Trump.
Miller’s fledgling group, America First Legal, also is suing New York in federal court to get it to remove race as one of many selection criteria for outpatient antiviral treatments, saying the state’s policy discriminates against white people despite data showing that most of the medicines go to people in that group. On Monday, the group filed legal papers seeking to declare all non-Hispanic white people in New York a legal class facing urgent harm from the state’s health guidance.
Misinformation about these policies — relayed in Miller’s lawsuit, Trump’s remarks at a recent rally and on Tucker Carlson’s show on Fox News — has energized the conservative base and contributed to the cancellation of some of the policies, experts said.

Read the story here.
Vulnerability is an art form.  
And inside a seven-story office building in Renton, the art form is practiced daily from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. every night as teenagers respond to calls and texts from other teens throughout King County. Started in 1993, Teen Link is a program of the nonprofit Crisis Connections, offering hotlines for youth, veterans, people experiencing mental health crises, and anyone wanting help. 
Without their typical in-person support systems at school or via sports or church, students and young adults are continuing to face challenges as they prepare to enter a third year of the COVID-19 pandemic. This past December, Teen Link received a little over 300 calls and texts from youth seeking help. 
But even before the virus, young people in the Seattle area were facing enormous stress: balancing school, friends and family; planning for college and how to pay for it; navigating relationships; and building their future in a landscape where youth are also leaders in sociopolitical movements for racial equity, climate solutions and gun violence reform. 
Read the story here.
Two years into the pandemic Jackie Hansen still left home only for doctor visits, her immune system so wrecked by cancer and lupus that COVID-19 vaccinations couldn’t take hold.
Then Hansen got a reprieve — scarce doses of the first drug that promises six months of protection for people with no other way to fend off the virus.
“This is a shot of life,” Hansen said after getting injections of Evusheld at a University of Pittsburgh Medical Center clinic. She can’t wait to “hug my grandkids without fear.”
Up to 7 million immune-compromised Americans have been left behind in the nation’s wobbly efforts to get back to normal. A weak immune system simply can’t rev up to fight the virus after vaccination like a healthy one does. Not only do these fragile patients remain at high risk of severe illness and death from COVID-19, they can harbor lengthy infections that can help spark still more variants.
With more of the country now abandoning masks and other precautions as the omicron wave ebbs, how to keep this forgotten group protected is taking on new urgency.
Read the story here.
Should you still wear a mask, if and when it’s no longer required? As Washington state ditches one mandate and maps out a timeline to drop others, public health experts recommend deciding with these factors in mind. 
Hospitalizations are so high in Washington, the state is turning to 10 long-term care facilities to treat hundreds of would-be hospital patients who don’t have COVID-19. 
Ahoy, travelers: Two major cruise lines are dropping their mask mandates. And it’s getting easier to travel to Britain, which today scrapped some of the last restrictions for vaccinated and unvaccinated travelers.
A man fuming over mask mandates called in a bomb threat, aiming to distract police in a city wracked by protests. But it seems he didn’t check his geography first.

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