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caption: People wait for 15 minutes in an observation area after receiving Covid-19 vaccines on Thursday, April 15, 2021, at Lumen Field Event Center in Seattle. As of Thursday, anyone 16 years of age and older is eligible.
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People wait for 15 minutes in an observation area after receiving Covid-19 vaccines on Thursday, April 15, 2021, at Lumen Field Event Center in Seattle. As of Thursday, anyone 16 years of age and older is eligible.
Credit: KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Pandemic blog: Covid-related updates for Seattle and the Northwest (April 26-30)

This post is archived. Read the latest here.

Need a vaccine?

As of Thursday, April 29, the Washington State Department of Health reports:

  • 5,487 Covid-19 related deaths; 372,262 confirmed cases; 29,456 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, 5,248,061 doses (not total number of people) of Covid-19 vaccines have been administered to Washingtonians.

FRIDAY, APRIL 30

Washington state changes how they'll determine the number of vaccine doses sent to counties

6:17 p.m. — The Washington State Department of Health will now determine the number of vaccine doses they send to counties based on demand.

Before, the department sent vaccine doses to counties based on population, not whether vaccine appointments were being filled.

KUOW’s Eilís O’Neill reported on this change, speaking with Lacy Fehrenbach of the state health department.

“We still will be making sure that there’s access to vaccines all across the geography of Washington, but we will be doing this more demand-based system and making sure the vaccines get to communities where they’re needed and where they’re going to be used in the next week or so,” Fehrenbach said.

The new method comes two days after KUOW published a report that the state has one million unused vaccine doses sitting in freezers.

Noel Gasca

Women had abnormal periods after being teargassed by police last summer

6 p.m. — A peer-reviewed study has found that 900 people who were teargassed by police in the protests for civil rights last summer have reported abnormal menstrual cycles.

KUOW’s Liz Brazile reported on this last summer, speaking with several people who said their periods seemed different after they were teargassed. According to The Guardian:

“Nearly 900 people reported abnormal menstrual cycles, including intense cramping and increased bleeding, that began or persisted days after their initial exposure to the teargas. Hundreds of others complained of other negative health impacts, including severe headaches, nausea, diarrhea, and mental health concerns.”

The report says that 900 women reported abnormal periods, leading the researchers to connect the chemical spray to their wellbeing.

—Isolde Raftery

THURSDAY, APRIL 29

Get a vaccine at a Sounders game

2:30 p.m. — What's better than catching a Sounders game? Attending a live game and getting a vaccine.

The Sounders have teamed up with Virginia Mason and city of Seattle to offer the first dose of Moderna and the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine at upcoming home games.

Fans can get vaccinated for free, on a walk-up basis while the game is in play. And if you get a shot, you can get a free hot dog, too.

More details here.

— Dyer Oxley

You're vaccinated. What can you do? What should you do?

Noon — Many people across Washington are celebrating their fully-vaccinated status, but the state Department of Health is cautioning folks about getting overconfident.

DOH said in a recent statement: "The short of it, is that you can resume some of the activities you had stopped because of the pandemic. However, we all need to keep in mind that others are still at risk. Think of it this way: the vaccine protects you. To protect others, you still need to take precautions. That’s because we don’t know how well the vaccine prevents the spread of Covid-19 from one person to another. It’s also important to remember that while the chances are very low, it is still possible to get Covid-19 after being vaccinated."

A person is "fully vaccinated" two weeks after their second dose of Pfizer or Moderna, or two weeks after their single dose of Johnsons & Johnson.

DOH is saying that vaccinated people can do a lot of activities from the before times. But it's still promoting a just in case approach. Basically, just because you can, doesn't mean you should. Because right now, they just don't know how well vaccinated people can spread the virus to unvaccinated people.

DOH says that vaccinated people can hang out with other vaccinated people indoors, without masks or social distancing, in private settings. They can also hang out with unvaccinated people indoors if there is no one at risk of severe Covid-19. Vaccinated people also don't necessarily have to wear a mask outdoors, unless they are in a crowded area, like a stadium or concert. They can also skip the period of quarantine if they have no symptoms after being exposed to a person with Covid.

Despite these allowances, given the odds, DOH still says vaccinated people should look out for unvaccinated folks by wearing masks around them and social distancing.

— Dyer Oxley

WSU to require vaccines for staff and students

10 a.m. — All staff and students wanting to return to any Washington State University campus this fall will need to show proof they've been vaccinated against Covid-19.

University President Kirk Schulz made the announcement Wednesday, saying that some exemptions will be made for people with personal, medical, and religious objections. Students enrolled in strictly online classes are automatically exempt.

Some private universities like Pacific Lutheran University and Seattle University also have a vaccine requirement in place. But WSU is the first state university to require vaccines.

The University of Washington plans to have a decision on vaccine requirements in June. UW is planning for in-person classes in the fall.

— Angela King

Update on Covid in Washington prisons

9 a.m. — There have been four new Covid cases within Washington state run jails and prisons in the past 30 days, according to the new Department of Corrections coronavirus report.

There are 13 active cases among incarcerated people. In total, 6,189 recovered cases have been reported in Washington's prisons and jails. As of February 2021, there are 14,510 people incarcerated in the state.

As for vaccines, 5,407 incarcerated people and 3,667 staff have received one dose of vaccines so far.

The DOC resumed using the single-shot Johnson & Johnson Covid vaccine on Tuesday.

There have been 1,208 total staff cases of Covid in the corrections system.

— Paige Browning

Some counties lag behind on vaccines

8 a.m. — Wide variations are emerging in the Covid vaccine uptake rate among Washington counties.

Statewide in Washington, around 41% of the population has rolled up their sleeve for at least the first shot of Covid vaccine.

But there is a gap between some counties.

Jefferson and San Juan Counties in northern Washington have vaccinated well over 50% of their populations. But in northeast and southeast Washington counties, barely one in four adults has gotten a shot.

"So, we're partnering on communication and outreach strategies," said Assistant state Health Secretary Michelle Roberts. "We're offering mobile teams; all of those pieces. It's going to take time for us in these communities."

Roberts says the state met with the local health department for the rural northeastern counties this week to coordinate additional resources. She says Covid vaccine information is going out with utility bills there and a major disease outbreak may move people off the fence.

— Tom Banse

Don't neglect that second vaccine dose

7 a.m. — Washington state has administered more than 5 million Covid-19 vaccine doses. And the pace of vaccinations is increasing.

It took 53 days to administer the first million shots, and around two weeks to distribute the same number this month. That's according to state Secretary of Health Umair Shah.

"We have the capacity across the state to administer the vaccine and really it's a matter of supply, and it's also a matter of demand, and we want to make sure that our population, when offered, are getting vaccinated," he said.

Several mass vaccination sites have opened around the state since vaccine doses first became available. Earlier this month, eligibility opened to all Washingtonians 16 and older.

More than three million people in Washington have received at least one dose. But health officials are urging people not to forget their second dose if they got a two-dose vaccine.

Roughly 13% of those who got their first dose are overdue for their second by more than a week, according to the state.

— Kate Walters

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 28

Washington is in a 4th wave of Covid-19 cases, even as vaccination efforts continue

5 p.m. — Unvaccinated Washingtonians 65 and older are being hospitalized for Covid-19 at nearly 10 times the rate of those in their age group who have had their shots. That's according to state secretary of health, Dr. Umair Shah. Shah said this underscores why vaccinations are important. "And why we want to make sure that everybody, including and especially those who are still thinking about it… don't hesitate, vaccinate."

Cases and hospitalizations continue to rise statewide, even as vaccination efforts move forward. Washington state has administered more than 5 million Covid-19 vaccine doses. And the pace of vaccinations is increasing.

It took 53 days to administer the first million shots, and 15 days to distribute the same number this month. That's according to the state department of health. Several mass vaccination sites have opened around the state since vaccine doses first became available. Eligibility also opened to all Washingtonians 16 and older earlier this month.

More than 3 million people in the state have received at least one dose. But health officials are urging people not to forget their second dose if they got a two-dose vaccine. Roughly 13 percent of those who got their first dose are overdue for their second by more than a week, according to the state.

— Kate Walters

Inslee echoes new mask guidelines for vaccinated people

11 a.m. — Washington Governor Jay Inslee is echoing the latest CDC guidance stating that vaccinated people can ditch masks while outdoors.

Inslee further tweeted: "While fully vaccinated Washingtonians can safely gather outdoors without masks, it’s still important for everyone to #MaskUp in crowded outdoor settings or indoors – whether or not you’re fully vaccinated."

He encourages anybody who has not received a shot to get one, or encourage any unvaccinated family members to act now.

According to the CDC, it is relatively safe for people who have been vaccinated to gather outdoors. The exception to this rule is large gatherings with strangers, such as concerts and stadiums. You should still wear a mask in those settings.

Also following the CDC's Tuesday announcement, the Washington State Department of Health says it will start following the new guidance..

— Dyer Oxley

King Country braces for possible fallback to Phase 2

9 a.m. — Restaurants, theaters and other businesses in King County are bracing to roll back to Phase 2 of the state's reopening plan. The county is currently under Phase 3 and Phase 2 would impose tighter restrictions.

The director of Public Health Seattle King County told county council members Tuesday that the county is not meeting the two primary metrics needed to stay in Phase 3.

The latest numbers for King County are even higher than they were yesterday. The 14 day case rate (which needs to be below 200) is now up to 229. And there are now 5.5 weekly hospitalizations for every 100,000 people.

If we're moved to Phase 2, indoor capacity at restaurants and gyms will drop from a maximum 50% capacity to 25%.

The state will announce if King County has to fall back on Monday. Snohomish County health officials are also expecting to be pushed back.

— Angela King

PLU requiring students to be vaccinated before returning in fall

7 a.m. — Students at Pacific Lutheran University in Pierce County will need to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19 if they plan on returning to campus in the fall.

PLU President Allan Belton announced Monday that anyone who wants to attend classes in person, live on campus, participate in activities, or receive related services must have already received their shots.

The new rule applies to all undergraduate and graduate students. Although some exceptions will be made for those with medical or religious concerns.

Employees are not required, but are being encouraged to get vaccinated.

Meanwhile, the University of Washington plans to announce by June 1 whether it will have a vaccine requirement for students returning to its campuses.

Washington State University does not have a vaccine requirement, but says the potential for a limited future mandate for some groups is under review.

— Angela King

TUESDAY, APRIL 27

Did you get the Johnson & Johnson vaccine?

Noon — While the Johnson & Johnson option is back on the vaccine menu in Washington state, there are a few people who got the J&J shot before it was paused this month.

Johnson & Johnson is a very small portion of all vaccines given in Washington state so far. Pfizer and Moderna vaccines make up about 94% of all shots given in the state. Before it was paused on April 13, about 90,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine were administered in Washington.

According to a recent statement from the Washington State Department of Health, the blood clotting side effect that prompted the pause is "extremely rare — less than two in a million."

"If you received the vaccine in the last four weeks, continue to monitor your symptoms. Contact your health care provider if you develop severe headaches, abdominal pain, leg pain, or shortness of breath."

As of April 23, 15 people out of 8 million in the United States who received the J&J vaccine experienced a blood clotting issue.

— Dyer Oxley

Mask guidelines relaxed for people who are vaccinated

10 a.m. — About 54% of all adults in the United States have had at least one vaccine shot. Once fully vaccinated, the CDC says it's OK for those people to hang outside without a mask on.

Though, it still says masks are a good idea if you are in a large crowd of strangers, such as packed stadiums and concerts.

"If you are fully vaccinated, things are much safer for you than those who are not fully vaccinated," said CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky in a morning White House briefing on the pandemic.

"There are many situation where fully vaccinated people do not need to wear a mask," she said. "Particularly if they are outdoors ... if you are fully vaccinated and want to attend a small, outdoor gathering with people who are vaccinated and unvaccinated, or dine at an outdoor restaurant with friends from multiple households, the science shows — if you are vaccinated — you can do so safely unmasked."

According to the Associated Press, less than 10% of documented Covid cases were transmitted outdoors.

The CDC currently recommends keeping your mask on while indoors, even if you are vaccinated.

The new guidelines come as Washington state is in a fourth wave of the pandemic, with case numbers and hospitalizations rising. Three counties have slid back into Phase 2 of the state's reopening plan. That places more restrictions on businesses and gatherings that Phase 3 which the rest of the state is in. However, it is possible that King County could move back to Phase 2 as well, since cases continue to rise.

Washington's fourth wave is driven by younger people than previously in the pandemic. Health experts also say the virus' spread is partially driven by more infectious variants.

— Dyer Oxley

Perfect time to schedule vaccine appointment in Seattle

8 a.m. — Right now is the perfect time to schedule an appointment for a vaccine in Seattle.

Mayor Jenny Durkan's Office is noting that there are more than 16,000 open appointments at city-run sites. At the same time, Seattle is getting the largest allotment of doses this week — 52,000. That adds up to better conditions for getting a shot than in the past.

The Rainier Beach and West Seattle sites are taking walk-ups for people 60 and older. And if you bring someone in for their shot, you can get your shot on the spot. That's part of the city's Good Neighbor program.

Also, a new mass vaccination clinic at the Tacoma Dome opens Tuesday. The latest numbers, as of Tuesday morning, show that about half of the available daily appointments were still open at the site. The goal is to administer up to 1,200 shots per day. Both walk up and drive thru appointments are available at the Tacoma Dome.

— Angela King

MONDAY, APRIL 26

Mass vaccination clinic opening at Tacoma Dome this week

11 a.m. — The Pierce County Department of Emergency Management getting ready to host a new mass Covid vaccination clinic at the Tacoma Dome.

It starts Tuesday and will be open seven days a week between noon and 8 p.m. for six weeks.

Recipients will get the Pfizer vaccine which has been approved for people 16 and older.

— Angela King

Bellingham considers pandemic hazard pay

10 a.m. — The Bellingham City Council will become the latest to discuss mandatory hazard pay for some frontline grocery workers at its Monday meeting.

Members are going to hold a public hearing to discuss a proposed $4 an hour increase.

Places like King County have already passed similar measures. The issue will also be up for a vote in Pierce County next month.

— Angela King

Johnson & Johnson vaccine reauthorized a

caption: Pharmacy manager Srawan K Thodupunoori draws out individual doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine on Monday, March 22, 2021, for employee Covid-19 vaccinations at the Safeway Distribution Center in Auburn. KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer
Enlarge Icon
Pharmacy manager Srawan K Thodupunoori draws out individual doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine on Monday, March 22, 2021, for employee Covid-19 vaccinations at the Safeway Distribution Center in Auburn. KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer
Credit: KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

8 a.m. — Governor Jay Inslee has re-authorized the use of the Johnson & Johnson Covid vaccine in Washington state.

The announcement came over the weekend, one day after federal health officials lifted the nationwide pause on the vaccine.

That pause came in response to a rare blood clotting condition discovered in 15 of recipients (out of more than 7 million).

No announcements yet though on when and where the vaccine will be distributed.

Experts at the CDC and the FDA approved the Johnson & Johnson vaccine last week after pausing the vaccine for review. Officials found that the rate or blood clots is seven per million shots among women 18-49, and .9 per million among women 50 and older. No cases have been found in men.

The slew of approvals comes after health authorities in the European Union also reauthorized the Johnson & Johnson vaccine last week, saying. EU health officials said the vaccine's benefits "in preventing Covid-19 outweigh the risks of side effects."

Despite the odds and the benefits, many may have to be persuaded to take the J&J vaccine. According to a Washington Post/ABC poll, 73% of unvaccinated people said they would not accept the single-shot vaccine.

There is also concern emerging around the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, but for entirely different reasons. About 8% of people who got the first dose of the vaccines have not returned to get their second dose. It's that second dose that really kicks the antibodies into gear. That 8% adds up to more than five million people. The fact that these vaccines are two doses, given weeks apart, previously made the single-dose J&J option more appealing (before the pause).

To put this all in perspective, the risk of getting one of these blood clots from the J&J vaccine is lower than being hit by lightning or overdosing on Tylenol. You are also more likely to die from a shark attack (just barely) than from a blood clot from the vaccine. However, your chances of contracting Covid-19 is far higher than any of these rare instances.

— Angela King, Dyer Oxley

Covid cases tick upward in King County; Phase 2 could be coming

7 a.m. — King County's chief health officer says the county is likely to move back to Phase 2 of the state's reopening plan in early May.

That means many businesses (like restaurants and gyms) would be forced to limit their customer capacity.

Over the past two weeks, Covid cases in King County were still ticking up. Cases have been particularly high in Auburn, Enumclaw, South Seattle, and Delridge.

County health officer Dr. Jeff Duchin says he thinks some places have been hit worse because of certain factors, such as people's jobs, their living situations, and their behavior.

"Some people have fewer resources and less ability to telework, don't have a choice about staying home from work when ill and so on," he said. "And then there are things that are more related to people's personal behaviors, social networks, and so on."

Over the past two weeks, more than 1,500 people in the area stretching from North Highline to Auburn have tested positive for the coronavirus. And almost 100 people in the same area have been hospitalized.

— Eilis O'Neill

Read previous updates here