April 18, 2024

First Washington News

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Live: Coronavirus daily news updates, May 16: What to know today about COVID-19 in the Seattle area, Washington state and the world

Live: Coronavirus daily news updates, May 16: What to know today about COVID-19 in the Seattle area, Washington state and the world

U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Seattle, has tested positive for COVID-19 and is planning to isolate until she tests negative, her office said Sunday. The U.S. has reached another grim milestone in the pandemic, with one million lives lost to the virus.

As North Korea struggles to contain its first reported COVID-19 outbreak, leader Kim Jong Un on Monday blasted his country’s response.

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.

It’s not just elderly still dying from COVID in Tri-Cities, weekly death report shows

Three more residents of the Tri-Cities area have died from complications of COVID-19, and it is not only the elderly who are dying.

The deaths announced this week by the Benton Franklin Health District were of two men in their 40s and a man in his 50s.

They come as the death toll from COVID in the nation reaches 1 million people.

The latest Tri-Cities deaths were despite low rates of confirmed disease in Benton and Franklin counties and low numbers of hospital patients with COVID.

Although numbers are low, they have increased over the past month.

Read the full story here.

—Annette Cary, Tri-City Herald

Shanghai says lockdown to ease as virus spread mostly ends

Most of Shanghai has stopped the spread of the coronavirus in the community and fewer than 1 million people remain under strict lockdown, authorities said Monday, as the city moves toward reopening and economic data showed the gloomy impact of China’s “zero-COVID” policy.

Vice Mayor Zong Ming said 15 out of Shanghai’s 16 districts had eliminated virus transmission among those not already in quarantine.

“The epidemic in our city is under effective control. Prevention measures have achieved incremental success,” Zong said at a news briefing.

Supermarkets, malls and restaurants were allowed to reopen Monday with limits on the numbers of people and mandated “no contact” transactions. But most of the city’s 25 million people remain under some form of restriction, movement around the city is highly limited and the subway train system remains closed for now.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

How often can you be infected with the coronavirus?

A virus that shows no signs of disappearing, variants that are adept at dodging the body’s defenses and waves of infections two, maybe three times a year — this may be the future of COVID-19, some scientists now fear.

The central problem is that the coronavirus has become more adept at reinfecting people. Already, those infected with the first omicron variant are reporting second infections with the newer versions of the variant — BA.2 or BA2.12.1 in the United States, or BA.4 and BA.5 in South Africa.

Those people may go on to have third or fourth infections, even within this year, researchers said in interviews. And some small fraction may have symptoms that persist for months or years, a condition known as long COVID.

“It seems likely to me that that’s going to sort of be a long-term pattern,” said Juliet Pulliam, an epidemiologist at Stellenbosch University in South Africa.

“The virus is going to keep evolving,” she added. “And there are probably going to be a lot of people getting many, many reinfections throughout their lives.”

Read the story here.

—Apoorva Mandavilli, The New York Times

The pandemic was hard on office suck-ups. Now they’re back and ready to schmooze

Daniel Distant didn’t register it right away. All the software engineer knew was that three or four times a day, a director or senior engineer would walk outside, and “the next thing you know, no one’s at their desks,” he says. “I’m like, ‘What’s going on here?’”

He started to notice that he was out of the loop on team-project developments and that assignments and promotions were going to people who disappeared every few hours while he stayed at his station plugging away. Then it dawned on him.

“Folks would go outside and smoke cigarettes, and they would have these talks that were high-level — what directions projects were taking, who would be entitled to what kind of work,” explains Distant. “Some things are more fun to work on; others are more challenging or might look better on your résumé. I noticed more and more that those positions were going to the folks who were outside smoking with the directors.”

He’s talking, of course, about the office suck-ups — the employees who succeed at business without really working.

In a just world, the shift to remote work over the last two years would reward productivity and expose the slackers. But as corporations have been returning to business as usual, guess who can’t wait to get back to the office? Suck-ups, the co-workers we love to hate.

For millions of employees, 2022 means a return of the commute, the cubicle — and the suck-up.

Read the story here.

—Roxanne Roberts and Ashley Fetters Maloy, The Washington Post

Where WA long-term care facilities stand, 2 years into COVID and amid a ‘whole new crisis’

Inside a Bellingham nursing home, life feels a bit closer to normal compared to the past two years, even as workers at the 122-bed facility still feel like they’re in crisis mode.

North Cascades Health and Rehabilitation Center is no longer on lockdown, so visitors can come inside and see their loved ones. Residents having a hard night can stay in the nurses station and do arts and crafts. There’s weekly coronavirus testing, and workers only have to wear surgical masks.

But there is still a frantic energy in the building, said Shelly Hughes, a certified nursing assistant. She wonders: What if there’s another COVID-19 outbreak, like the brutal one they experienced this winter? With turnover so high, will there be enough staff for the week? What’s going to happen tomorrow?

“The level of frustration is high, in workers and residents,” Hughes said. “We feel like we are past the pandemic in a lot of ways, but we have this whole new crisis.”

Few environments in Washington witnessed the devastation of the pandemic quite as severely as the state’s 4,760 long-term care facilities.

Washington’s nursing homes, assisted-living facilities and adult family homes account for 30{cfdf3f5372635aeb15fd3e2aecc7cb5d7150695e02bd72e0a44f1581164ad809} of all COVID deaths over two years, but just 3{cfdf3f5372635aeb15fd3e2aecc7cb5d7150695e02bd72e0a44f1581164ad809} of total cases, according to the Washington State Department of Health. Because of visitor restrictions, even residents who survived the virus were still susceptible to the mental and physical effects of isolation. Workers experienced high rates of burnout amid low pay and an ongoing threat of illness.

Read the story here.

—Paige Cornwell

Meatpackers misled public and influenced Trump administration during COVID-19, report says

The country’s largest meatpackers successfully lobbied the Trump administration in the early months of the coronavirus pandemic to keep processing plants open despite knowing the health risks to their workers, according to a congressional report released Thursday.

The report, prepared by a select House committee, describes the extent of the meat industry’s influence on the administration’s response to the pandemic: Companies stoked “baseless” fears of an imminent meat shortage in an effort to prevent plant closures. The legal department of Tyson Foods drafted the initial version of an executive order that President Donald Trump issued in April 2020 declaring processing plants “critical infrastructure.” And industry concerns prompted the government to adjust its federal recommendations on worker safety at a meatpacking plant.

Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., chair of the committee, said the findings underlined the companies’ interest in prioritizing production over the health of their workers.

“The shameful conduct of corporate executives pursuing profit at any cost during a crisis and government officials eager to do their bidding regardless of resulting harm to the public must never be repeated,” he said in a statement.

Read the full story here.

—Linda Qiu, The New York Times

‘Another unequal burden’: working with long COVID-19

After graduating in the spring of 2020, Clare Banaszewski landed her dream job as a nurse practitioner in a maternity ward at a hospital in Omaha, Nebraska.

That winter, Banaszewski, 24, contracted the coronavirus. It was a mild case, and she bounced back after two weeks. But it wasn’t long before she started feeling new symptoms: She was overcome with fatigue, struggling to make it through her 12-hour shifts, which used to fly by. She felt heart palpitations, suffered from cognitive problems and had severe headaches — telltale symptoms of a condition known as “long COVID.”

She took three months of medical leave and started back with shortened, six-hour shifts. Even those were too much. Her manager was understanding, but she eventually told Banaszewski that the hospital would need to hire a replacement. Banaszewski resigned six months ago. She has been unemployed since.

“It’s scary,” she said. “I have a lot of student loans I’m trying to figure out how I’m going to pay off. I don’t really have much to fall back on.”

Banaszewski is one of at least 7 million people in the United States, by one estimate, who are unable to work full time or who have had to scale back their work because of long COVID-19, which is defined as when COVID symptoms persist weeks, months or even years after the initial onset of an infection.

Read the full story here.

—Jenny Gross, The New York Times

US deaths from COVID hit 1 million, less than 2 1/2 years in

The U.S. death toll from COVID-19 hit 1 million on Monday, a once-unimaginable figure that only hints at the multitudes of loved ones and friends staggered by grief and frustration.

The confirmed number of dead is equivalent to a 9/11 attack every day for 336 days. It is roughly equal to how many Americans died in the Civil War and World War II combined. It’s as if Boston and Pittsburgh were wiped out.

“It is hard to imagine a million people plucked from this earth,” said Jennifer Nuzzo, who leads a new pandemic center at the Brown University School of Public Health in Providence, Rhode Island. “It’s still happening and we are letting it happen.”

Some of those left behind say they cannot return to normal. They replay their loved ones’ voicemail messages. Or watch old videos to see them dance. When other people say they are done with the virus, they bristle with anger or ache in silence.

“’Normal.’ I hate that word,” said Julie Wallace, 55, of Elyria, Ohio, who lost her husband to COVID-19 in 2020. “All of us never get to go back to normal.”

Read the story here.

—Carla K. Johnson, The Associated Press

South Africa in new surge of COVID from versions of omicron

South Africa is experiencing a surge of new COVID-19 cases driven by two omicron sub-variants, according to health experts.

For about three weeks the country has seen increasing numbers of new cases and somewhat higher hospitalizations, but not increases in severe cases and deaths, said Professor Marta Nunes, a researcher at Vaccine and Infectious Diseases Analytics at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital in Soweto.

South Africa’s new cases have gone from an average of 300 per day in early April to about 8,000 per day this week. Nunes says the actual number of new cases is probably much higher because the symptoms are mild and many who get sick are not getting tested.

Read the full story here.

—Andrew Meldrum, The Associated Press

Kim blasts pandemic response as North Korean outbreak surges

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un criticized officials over slow medicine deliveries and mobilized the military to respond to a surge in suspected COVID-19 infections, as his nation struggled to contain a fever that has reportedly killed dozens and sickened nearly a million others in a span of three days.

North Korean health authorities said Monday that eight more people died and an additional 392,920 were newly found to have feverish symptoms. That brings the death toll to 50 and illnesses to more than 1.2 million, respectively. It’s a sharp jump from six dead and 350,000 sick reported last Friday, a day after the North said that it found that an unspecified number of people in capital Pyongyang tested positive for the omicron variant.

Kim has acknowledged that the fast-spreading fever, highly likely driven by COVID-19, is causing “great upheaval” in the country, and outside experts say the true scale of the outbreak is likely much bigger than what’s described in the state-controlled media.

Some suspect that North Korea has understated its fatalities or illnesses to shield Kim’s leadership from criticism. The North likely lacks test kits and other tools to detect virus carriers with no or mild symptoms, which means that several million might already have been infected.

“When people die, North Korean authorities will say they’ve died of overwork or from natural deaths, not because of COVID-19,” said Nam Sung-wook, a professor at Korea University in South Korea. Nam said the North is likely understating the death toll to protect “the dignity of its supreme leader.”

While neighboring South Korea and China have offered to send medical supplies and other help, experts say it’s too late to inoculate the North’s 26 million people, and that the only realistic outside help would be offering limited supplies of vaccines to reduce deaths among high-risk groups, including the elderly and people with preexisting conditions.

Read the story here.

—Kim Tong-Hyung and Hyung-Jin Kim, The Associated Press