skip to main content
caption: People wait for 15 minutes after receiving the first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine on Sunday, January 24, 2021, during a one-day pop up Covid-19 vaccine clinic at Amazon's headquarters in Seattle.
Enlarge Icon
People wait for 15 minutes after receiving the first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine on Sunday, January 24, 2021, during a one-day pop up Covid-19 vaccine clinic at Amazon's headquarters in Seattle.
Credit: KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Pandemic updates: Covid-19 in the Northwest (January 19-24)

This post is archived. Read the latest here.

As of Friday, January 22, the Washington State Department of Health reports:

  • 4,114 Covid-19 related deaths; 287,031 confirmed cases; 13,167 probable cases; and a 1.4% death rate among positive cases.
  • 17,129 people have been hospitalized with Covid-19 in Washington state. According to the most recent data and NPR's ICU monitor: King County has 69% of hospital beds taken, with 24% occupied by Covid-19 patients; Pierce County has 83% of beds taken, with 13% occupied by Covid-19 patients; and Snohomish County has 61% of beds taken with 17% occupied by Covid-19 patients.
  • 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, 391,195 Washingtonians have been vaccinated against Covid-19.

Get the latest coronavirus news and other local stories delivered straight to your inbox every weekday with KUOW's Today So Far newsletter. Sign up here.

SUNDAY, JANUARY 24

New Covid-19 variant discovered in two Snohomish County residents

10 a.m. — Scientists have discovered the first Washington state cases of the new Covid-19 strain from the United Kingdom, the Washington State Department of Health announced on Saturday.

The UW Medicine Virology Lab found the B.1.1.7 variant — which scientists believe spreads more easily — in specimens collected from two Snohomish County residents.

The lab screened 1,035 samples between Dec. 25 2020, and Jan. 20, 2021, in an effort to locate the mutations associated with the new variant. So far, data suggests a low incidence of the variant in western Washington.

“We thought this variant of concern was here and now we know it’s here,” said Dr. Alex Greninger, assistant professor of the Clinical Virology Lab at UW Medicine. The lab developed several new rapid tests to detect the variant, Greninger added.

In Snohomish County, where the Covid-19 variant was discovered, containment protocols will remain the same, said Dr. Chris Spitters, Health Officer for the Snohomish Health District. Currently, there's an investigation to learn more about the cases and people who tested positive for the new strain.

Read more here.

—KUOW staff

FRIDAY, JANUARY 22

Having trouble finding a vaccine appointment in Seattle? You’re not alone

4:23 p.m. — This week, people across the region are contending with glitchy websites, full schedules, and an uncertain wait. Getting an appointment is some combination of tech-savvy, fortitude and luck…And even then you can’t be sure to find a dose.

Some places you can book ahead; other places you can’t.

Some places have a waitlist; other places don’t.

And at a lot of places, the phone lines are full or the website just crashes.

Washington state and health care providers say they only get one week’s notice about how many doses they’re getting. Short and unpredictable supply, coupled with a crushing demand is causing frustration for people newly eligible to receive vaccine doses.

Joy Twentyman leaned into her millennial tech skills on Tuesday to help her mother, who is over 80, secure a dose at the University of Washington.

“You sign up, you pick a time, and then you click to finish your registration," she said. "And then it pops up an error message that’s like ‘Oh you need to try again, that spot’s no longer available.”

So she opened multiple windows in different web browsers, she said. It was like trying to get concert tickets to see Brandi Carlile, or the popular Korean boy-band, BTS.

“You have to click again and again and keep refreshing the page until hopefully eventually you can get a spot,” Twentyman said.

Read more here.

—Anna Boiko-Weyrauch

Health officials warn that a surge of new Covid variant cases are coming to Washington

2:57 p.m. — It’s been a year since Covid-19 was first discovered in Washington state. Now, health officials say it's only a matter of time before a new strain detected in 20 other states lands here.

King County Public Health Officer Dr. Jeff Duchin warns the strain is more contagious and spreads faster.

“We need to expect the coronavirus equivalent of a Mount St. Helens-like eruption at some time in the next few months," he said.

He urges people to be even more vigilant in taking precautions.

“Wear a well-made — and that means two layers or more — snug fitting mask whenever around people outside your household.”

Covid-19 cases have been falling since January 9. Still, Duchin says this is no time to drop your guard.

— Ruby de Luna

Recovered from Covid-19, tiger moves to Woodland Park Zoo

12:30 p.m. — Woodland Park Zoo has a new resident who you may recall from pandemic headlines.

In April 2020, it was reported that Azul the tiger was one of the first animals to be diagnosed with Covid-19.

Azul was among seven big cats who tested positive for the virus at the Bronx Zoo. Her sister Nadia was the first animal in the world to test positive after zoo staff noticed she had a dry cough.

Azul and the other tigers made a full recovery last April. She tested negative before her journey to the Pacific Northwest late last month. She then spent 30 days in quarantine at the Seattle zoo.

Woodland Park Zoo hopes the 5-year-old female tiger will get along well enough with its other tiger resident, Bumi, to make cubs. For now, the two tigers will share the same habitat at the zoo, though they will not be in it at the same time.

Azul is a Malayan tiger. There are only about 200 Malayan tigers in the wild, which is why zoos have made an effort to breed them and preserve the species. The last time Woodland Park Zoo had tiger cubs was in 2006.

— Katie Campbell

Lake Washington schools push back start date for in-person classes

Noon — The Lake Washington School District has decided to push back its start-date for in-person learning. Kindergarten and first graders who were supposed to return on February 4.

Those students will now head back to the classroom February 18.

Second through fifth graders will return sometime in March.

— Angela King

Amazon + Virginia Mason = 2,000 vaccinations in a day

11:30 a.m. — Amazon and Virginia Mason are teaming up to hold a Covid-19 vaccine clinic on Sunday from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Amazon meeting center on 7th Avenue in downtown Seattle.

The clinic will have 2,000 doses for people age 65 and older, and others who are currently eligible to receive the vaccine.

The vaccine is free, but people have to put their name on this wait list.

Amazon says this clinic will be the first of several it plans to organize in the coming weeks.

People who do get their first shot this weekend at the Amazon / Virginia Mason clinic will get scheduled to receive their second dose before they leave.

— Angela King

Washington aims for more mass vaccination sites

11 a.m. — Seattle's Swedish Hospital recently opened a mass vaccination clinic at Seattle University. It's vaccinating more than 300 people per hour.

The state is also going to dole out vaccines in Spokane, Wenatchee, the Tri-Cities, and Vancouver. The announcement made earlier this week has caused a scramble — hundreds of calls and people showing up at the Benton-Franklin fairgrounds. Surprised county governments and facility managers say they were given no warning by the state of this plan.

“When things move fast, nothing is perfect there are always impediments," said Dr. Umair Shah who leads the state Department of Health.

The state says the vaccines will be available to groups 1A and 1B which is mostly seniors. Officials have promised more details over the weekend.

More details here.

— Anna King

Update on Rep. Jayapal's Covid condition

10:30 a.m. — US Representative Pramila Jayapal says she's nearly recovered from Covid-19, after a diagnosis more than a week ago.

The Seattle representative set out for a walk in Washington D.C. Friday, recording a video message along the way.

"Oh my goodness it feels to good to be outside," she said. "This is my first walk after getting out of isolation, and it's cold but I can't tell you how fabulous it is."

Jayapal is the second Washington Congress member to have Covid-19, after Republican Dan Newhouse fought it off late last year.

Her diagnosis was widely publicized with her blaming House Republicans who refused to wear masks while they were sheltered in place during the mob attack on January 6.

— Paige Browning

Business and public health interests debated in Olympia

10 a.m. — Washington Governor Jay Inslee is defending his two-phase reopening plan despite backlash from business owners. The plan determines when businesses like restaurants can reopen and at what levels.

At a Thursday news conference, Inslee warned the state is still facing the threat of a more contagious version of the coronavirus which is expected to arrive in the coming months.

“We are very concerned about this mutant virus," Inslee said. "It’s 50-60% more transmittable. We’ve been told that we’re two to three months away potentially of being in London’s position, if it ends up here in numbers. So this is a concerning time. So we think we’re in the right spot.”

Inslee further said that there has been a recent rise in Covid-19 cases.

“And if we deviate from that course, we will have thousands more deceased Washingtonians in the months to come," he said. "...We are better than 45 other states and we think that’s a pretty good position to defend and continue on our course.”

Inslee is pushing for more relief money for distressed businesses.

So far, no regions outlined in the governor's Healthy Washington plan can move into phase two.

Republicans in the state Legislature, along with business-friendly Democrats, have introduced a proposal calling to move the state immediately into the next phase of reopening. That would loosen restrictions around things like indoor dining.

State Secretary of Health Dr. Umair Shah has backed up Inslee's argument, saying the risk is too great.

"Unfortunately, we have enough transmission that is occurring in our state," Shah said. "What we don’t want to have happen is then try to dial back, but now it's too late because we've already had the transmission increase already occur."

The state trade association for restaurants argues the precautions previously in place would be enough to prevent the virus from spreading in dining rooms.

— Andy Hurst, Austin Jenkins

Milestone for vaccine effort in Washington

9:30 a.m. — The Washington State Department of Health says it has just finished administering the first round of coronavirus vaccines to people living in nursing homes across the state.

The department is still working to vaccinate everyone in long-term care facilities.

But officials say this is a major milestone given how vulnerable these patients are to the virus.

The announcement comes as Washington state just surpassed 4,000 Covid-19 deaths.

— Angela King

Seattle Council considers hazard pay bill

9 a.m. —Seattle City Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda has introduced new legislation to get grocery workers hazard pay.

Members of the Finance and Housing Committee will start talking about the legislation today.

Council Bill 119990 calls for grocery employees in the city of Seattle to receive $4 an hour in hazard pay during the pandemic.

“Grocery store workers have been on the frontlines of this pandemic, interacting with many customers each day in hazardous conditions to ensure Seattle residents can put food on the table," Mosqueda said in a statement. "Grocery workers are also experiencing extreme hardships during the COVID economic downfall, losing housing, childcare and more. It’s also not lost on me that the dangers of working in grocery stores during the pandemic are felt especially by our BIPOC communities, as employees of color are overrepresented in the retail frontline workforce and those communities are disproportionately impacted by COVID-19."

Seattle joins a range of other local governments (mostly in California) that have proposed similar measures requiring hazard pay during the pandemic, such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, West Hollywood, Berkeley, Oakland, and Los Angeles County.

Mayor Jenny Durkan has also issued a statement of support for Mosqueda's bill.

“Grocery workers have served our community daily through each surge of the virus in our city. In the initial months of COVID-19, many grocery workers received hazard pay recognizing the essential yet hazardous conditions facing employees. Too many employees have stopped receiving this critical payment, which is why cities across the country and Seattle must implement this important proposal,” said Mayor Jenny A. Durkan.

— Angela King

330 shots per hour at this Seattle vaccination site

8 a.m. — Washington state aims to vaccinate 45,000 people per day as it ramps up its vaccine efforts. That begs the question: How?

The state is organizing mass vaccination sites as it works through groups of people. One such site is in the Campion Ballroom at Seattle University. KUOW's Anna Boiko-Weyrauch visited the the site recently as health workers were vaccinating 330 people an hour.

More sites are coming to Washington state. Read more details here.

— Dyer Oxley

THURSDAY, JANUARY 21

Seattle 'vaccine' peddler arrested for selling untested Covid-19 drug after multiple warnings

7:45 p.m. Johnny T. Stine, the Seattle man who advertised a supposed Covid-19 "vaccine" he admitted to creating in his personal lab, was arrested Thursday on misdemeanor federal charges of introducing misbranded drugs into interstate commerce.

Stine, 56, could face up to one year in prison if convicted.

Stine came onto the radar of federal authorities in early March 2020, around the time he publicly advertised injections of the supposed vaccine for $400 on his personal Facebook page, according to the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Washington. At that time, there was no authorized Covid-19 vaccine on the market.

Stine wrote in his Facebook post that it wasn’t the first time he had “crossed some major lines," adding that he previously created “personalized tumor vaccines for people who wish to actually fight for their life with legitimate tools, knowledge, and skills that I’ve acquired over the years."

He also faces charges related to peddling those untested "vaccines."

Stine told KUOW last May that he had downloaded the coronavirus’s genome sequences from a Chinese database to create the substance. Doing so "literally took half a day to design,” he said.

Read more here.

—Liz Brazile

Unemployment spiked after last month's pandemic restrictions

12:45 p.m. — The unemployment rates in Washington and Oregon jumped in December thanks to the pandemic and Covid-19 related restrictions.

The latest readings on the unemployment rates represent sharp reversals from the prior seven straight months of improvement in this key indicator.

Washington's Employment Department pegged the state's jobless rate in December at 7.1%. That's a big jump from November's 5.7%. In Oregon, the same set of numbers are 6.4% unemployment last month, up from a flat 6% in November.

Both states saw heavy jobs losses in the leisure and hospitality sector as bars, restaurants and entertainment venues laid off workers amid the worsening Covid-19 pandemic.

There were other sectors that actually added jobs — notably retail, package delivery and warehousing and parts of the health care industry.

— Tom Banse

Business owners and health care workers disagree at hearing in Olympia

Noon — Business owners had a lot to say during Wednesday's hearing on a bill that would speed up the Washington state's reopening. The owners far outnumbered the health officials and frontline workers who disagreed with their comments.

Jane Hopkins is a registered nurse who opposes the bill. She says healthcare workers are exhausted and fear conditions will get worse if people ease up on social distancing.

“They’re scared," Hopkins said. "They’re thinking, every day, of their coworkers who have gotten sick, and even died from Covid. They wonder if their families will be next."

Under the current recovery Phase 1, many restaurants are still take-out only. Lorri Jones of Blazing Onion says that's taking its toll.

“We’ve survived one month," Jones said. "Now, somehow we’ve survived two and we cannot go on any longer.”

Under the proposal, all businesses would be moved to Phase 2, with indoor dining at 25% capacity.

Future decisions on business opening and restrictions would be up to the Legislature.

— Ruby de Luna

Bellevue district moves ahead despite union objections

10 a.m. — Bellevue teachers will be making a stand Thursday as hundreds of second graders return for in-person learning.

Members of the teachers union voted to stay home if the district refused to wait for all of them to get vaccinated before bringing students back. They also voted to stop live online instruction Thursday and Friday if the district didn't back down.

But the district has opted to bring in substitutes.

The superintendent says there's been zero transmission of the coronavirus as it has began serving, in-person, hundreds of special instruction students in September.

Read more details here.

— Angela King

caption: Second-grade student Nelly, second from left, watches a video about social distancing and other safety precautions along with her classmates on Thursday, January 21, 2021, as second-grade students returned to in-person learning at Somerset Elementary School in Bellevue.
Enlarge Icon
Second-grade student Nelly, second from left, watches a video about social distancing and other safety precautions along with her classmates on Thursday, January 21, 2021, as second-grade students returned to in-person learning at Somerset Elementary School in Bellevue.
Credit: KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Second grade students return to in-person class in Bellevue

9:30 a.m. -- Bellevue School District reopened buildings to second graders Thursday despite a vote by teachers and other school staff to stay home due to Covid safety concerns. “Many families that we surveyed want the in-person services,” said Superintendent Ivan Duran in an interview. “We are opening.”

The district has already been serving hundreds of students in buildings, Duran said, and planned to expand in-person classes first to more than 775 second-graders Thursday, then first-graders and kindergarteners over the next two weeks.

That plan did not sit well with the Bellevue Education Association, which voted in a general membership Tuesday night not to return more staff to buildings until they can be vaccinated.

Community Covid transmission rates are too high to feel safe expanding face-to-face instruction, said BEA President Allison Snow, especially given what she said are unresolved safety questions regarding the district’s plan.

--Read more reporting from Ann Dornfeld here.

caption: Second grade student Camille watches a video about social distancing and other safety precautions in Ms. Gagne's classroom on Thursday, January 21, 2021, as second-grade students returned to in-person learning at Somerset Elementary School in Bellevue.
Enlarge Icon
Second grade student Camille watches a video about social distancing and other safety precautions in Ms. Gagne's classroom on Thursday, January 21, 2021, as second-grade students returned to in-person learning at Somerset Elementary School in Bellevue.
Credit: KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Mass vaccination site could be coming to Kent

9 a.m. — The city of Kent and King County are talking about turning the Showare Center into a Covid-19 vaccination site.

Officials plan to sign off on the agreement in the coming days.

They hope to vaccinate 500 people daily at the site, and could increase that number if the state gets more vaccine doses.

The location is open by appointment only.

This comes as Washington Governor Jay Inslee announced Monday that the state is creating more mass vaccination sites so it can increase the number of daily doses administered from approximately 15,000 to 45,000.

— Angela King

2 western Washington restaurants remain defiant of pandemic restrictions

8 a.m. — The Tacoma News Tribune reports a couple of restaurants in western Washington have now racked up $780,000 in fines for failing to follow statewide Covid-19 restrictions.

Spiffy’s, in Lewis County, and the Farm Boy Drive-In in Thurston County continue to offer indoor dining service.

— Angela King

WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 20

Amazon offers to help Biden administration with vaccine distribution

1 p.m. — President Biden has promoted a goal to vaccinate 100 million Americans within his first 100 days in office. Amazon is now offering its employees and resources to help with that goal.

Dave Clark, CEO with the Seattle-based online retailer, sent President Biden a letter Wednesday, informing his administration that "Amazon stands ready to assist you in reaching your goal of vaccinating 100 million Americans in the first 100 days of your administration."

In his letter, Clark proposes to get the vaccine to Amazon workers on the front lines: As the nation’s second largest employer, Amazon has over 800,000 employees in the United States, most of whom are essential workers who cannot work from home .... The essential employees working at Amazon fulfillment centers, AWS data centers, and Whole Foods Market stores across the country who cannot work from home should receive the Covid-19 vaccine at the earliest appropriate time. We will assist them in that effort.

Clark further writes that the company has already has contracted with a "licensed third-party occupational health care provider" to administer the vaccine at Amazon facilities. He adds that Amazon is also "prepared to leverage our operations, information technology and communications capabilities and expertise to assist your administration’s vaccination efforts."

— Dyer Oxley

UW has vaccinated 36K people, used 76% of supply

12:45 p.m. — UW Medicine has scheduled more than 10,000 people to get a vaccine. The medical center is currently vaccinating people in group 1B. That phase includes ages 65 and older and people 50 and older who live in multigenerational homes.

“We’re really excited that this week we started vaccinating patients in the UW Medicine system,” says Lisa Brandenburg, president of UW Medicine Hospitals & Clinics.

UW Medicine reports less than 1% waste from its vaccine rollout. It has vaccinated more than 36,000 people so far, and has used 76% of its vaccine supply.

— Dyer Oxley

Pierce County to open 3 mass vaccination sites, 8 mobile teams

Noon — The Pierce County Council has voted to fund three mass Covid-19 vaccination sites and eight mobile teams.

It's still not clear where they will be located, but the mobile teams will focus on vaccinating those in assisted living facilities and adult family homes.

The price tag for the effort is estimated at $4 million. County officials hope state and the federal governments will reimburse it for the costs.

The county hopes to have them up and running by the end of the month.

— Angela King

Bellevue teachers refuse to return to class

10:45 a.m. — Bellevue school staff who’ve been called back to campus this week say they won’t go.

The teachers union voted Tuesday night to call on the district to pause its plan to start in-person learning for the youngest students, starting Thursday with second-graders.

Bellevue Education Association President Allison Snow said the union has lots of safety concerns from the amount of space between desks to how the district will deal with staff who move from building-to-building.

“We call on the district to come back to the negotiating table and address that, and to pause all that expansion until vaccines are fully available," Snow said.

If the district doesn't agree to pause its reopening plans, the union voted to not add any new staff to buildings and to stop live online instruction Thursday and Friday.

But the union said its members will keep serving students with special needs who are already learning in-person.

The district had planned to bring back first-graders and kindergarteners over the next two weeks.

School district officials were not immediately available for comment.

— Ann Dornfeld

Bells ring in Seattle as nation mourns Covid-19 death toll

Bells ring in Seattle in honor of 4K who have died of Covid-19 in Washington

10 a.m. — On the same day the United States' Covid-19 death toll reached 400,000, Seattle joined a nationwide vigil. It was an emotional moment for people across the nation, including many in Washington state.

On Tuesday, a huge bell rang through an otherwise silent and empty Seattle Center — 40 rings honoring the 4,000 people in Washington state who have died from Covid-19 as well as the 400,000 from across the country.

White lights also lit up several local landmarks including the Great Wheel, Lumen Field, and T-Mobile Park.

“Together we can create change to address this pandemic," said Esther Lucero with the Seattle Indian Health Board.

Lucero was one of the bell ringers Tuesday. She’s pleased with the Biden administration’s plan to ramp up vaccinations, but wants to see more effort locally.

“We are both in need of a community response and a public health response and government entities are here to serve us.”

The Indian Health Board was one of the first clinics to receive the Moderna vaccine. Lucero hopes vulnerable communities like indigenous tribes continue to get priority vaccinations.

— Casey Martin

Constantine comments on vaccine availability

8 a.m. — King County officials are sharing people's frustration about the lack of Covid-19 vaccine availability.

"This is the American healthcare system," King County Executive Dow Constantine told KUOW. "You need to fight, and scratch and scrap and get your appointment. That is not how it should be, and we are working just in the context of these vaccines, to make sure that that is not going to be the case as more vaccines arrive in King County."

Constantine says the county does not yet have nearly enough doses to get to everyone who is eligible. That includes people 65 and older, and healthcare workers as of this week. The county will open mass vaccination clinics as soon as it has enough doses to do so.

Constantine says to sign up for a vaccine, call your doctor's office first. If that's not an option, check out the Phase Finder website to find a site.

— Paige Browning

TUESDAY, JANUARY 19

Hospitals want more certainty about vaccine delivery before scheduling appointments

6:45 p.m. —Washington state hospitals say they don’t know how many vaccine doses they’re getting until the last minute.

But Governor Jay Inslee said Monday that hospitals should schedule clinics anyway — even if those clinics have to get cancelled later.

“We just have to get these appointments made so that we can have the logistics if the dosage arrives,” Inslee said. “And we're going to have to accept, if you make an appointment with your provider and it turns out that the dosage didn't get there in time, or they were able to get a few less dosages out of one vial, we're gonna have to accept that.”

Hospitals say that’s a bad idea.

“I believe the public outrage at having a vaccine appointment scheduled and then cancelled will be extreme, and will really undermine the confidence in the vaccine delivery system,” said Cassie Sauer, the CEO of the Washington State Hospital Association.

Administrators don’t want to tell patients their vaccination appointments are cancelled, and they don’t want to pull nurses into staffing clinics that don't materialize. Besides, they say, the choke point isn’t scheduling appointments.

“We’re not sitting on vaccine,” said Dr. Chris Dale, part of Swedish Hospital’s senior leadership team. “As soon as we get it, we can almost in real time book the appointments.”

Dale said that if the state wants Swedish and other providers to schedule clinics further in advance, then the state should tell hospitals how many vaccine doses they can count on.

Eilis O'Neill

Seattle joins nationwide covid vigil as deaths hit 400,000

4:45 p.m. The original event page on the Seattle Center’s Facebook said The Kobe Friendship Bell would be rung 38 times for every 10,000 people who have died in the United States from covid-19. By Tuesday morning that increased to 40. Forty rings honoring the 4,000 people in Washington who have died from the disease – and the 400,000 from across the country.

A small group stood socially distanced on the grass nearby as five people from Seattle each rang the bell eight times. The bell ringers included Esther Lucera, CEO of the Seattle Indian Health Board, one of the first community clinics to receive the Moderna vaccine last month.

“Together we can create change to address this pandemic,” Lucero said Tuesday after the ceremony.

The forty bell strikes lasted about twenty minutes as organizers wanted each ring to carry through the air without being interrupted. No speeches were made and the ceremony concluded with a moment of silence.

Lucero says she is pleased with the incoming Biden administration’s plan to ramp up vaccinations, and hopes vulnerable communities like indigenous tribes continue to get prioritized.

“American Indian/ Alaskan Native communities have been hit with devastating impacts of covid,” she said, “and that's the reason it was very important to be here today.”

This week Washington made the vaccine available to anyone 65 years and older.

Casey Martin

King County wants more vaccine doses

3:30 p.m. — King County is pointing fingers at state health officials for not providing enough vaccine doses.

The county’s public health officer Jeff Duchin said King County is faster than the rest of the state at getting vaccine doses into arms — about twice as fast.

But, he said, many health care workers here remain unvaccinated, because the county has received less than a quarter of Washington’s vaccine doses so far, even though it has nearly half the state’s health care workers and long-term care residents and staffers.

“Proportionally, we haven’t received the amount of vaccine that we would expect to be able to offer it to all of the eligible health care providers,” Duchin said. “The way the vaccine allocation decisions have been made should be really a question answered by our colleagues at the state, who are making those decisions.”

The Washington state Department of Health said in an email that they aren’t making decisions based on which counties have more or fewer health care workers; they send out vaccine doses based on provider requests and that, “due to limited vaccine, we cannot fulfill all requests.”

Eilis O'Neill

There's an app to check when you can get a vaccine

2:15 p.m. — Vaccines in Washington state are currently being administered to a select group of frontline health workers and vulnerable populations. The vaccine will be opened up to more and more people in the months ahead.

So Washington state health officials have launched an app to help people find out when they can get their shots.

An online tool called Phase Finder helps people know if they are currently eligible for a vaccine. If not, people can leave their information and sign up to be notified by email or text when they are up.

KUOW's Ruby De Luna reports more details here.

— Dyer Oxley

No in-person spring classes at UW

1 p.m. — The University of Washington will not be holding most in-person spring quarter classes. The university does expect to bring more students back to campus in the fall, however.

In an email sent to staff and faculty, UW President Ana Mari Cauce notes that Covid-19 cases continue to spread at alarming rates in the region. She says that even with vaccines currently being distributed, she does not expect conditions to get better by the time spring quarter begins on March 29.

Cauce writes: As a result, during spring quarter we plan to continue most courses online, similar to winter quarter, while at the same time planning to offer more in-person student services and activities as the quarter progresses and as state and local health guidelines allow. Depending on health guidelines, instructors will also have the flexibility to offer optional, in-person, class-related activities, such as physically distanced advising, so long as students taking those courses remotely are not disadvantaged.

A few classes will meet in-person to some degree, such as labs, performance-based courses. and health and science classes.

"...based on projections from health experts we are looking forward to welcoming students back to campus for an autumn quarter with largely in-person classes," Cauce writes. "Summer session courses will likely be a mix of remote and in-person courses, as health guidelines allow. We are also in active discussions about ways in which we can safely and appropriately recognize those who will graduate this year, because we know how meaningful these events are to graduates and their families."

— Dyer Oxley

New vaccine clinic at Seattle University

11 a.m. — A new community Covid-19 vaccine clinic has opened on the Seattle University Campus. It's run by Swedish Hospital. The hope is to vaccinate more than 2,500 people there every day.

Currently, recipients must be part of the Phase 1A group. They also have to make an appointment. Check here for more details.

The Clinic is doling out both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines and operates Monday through Saturday.

— Angela King

Covid-19 still too severe in Washington to ease restrictions

10 a.m. — Washington's coronavirus outbreak remains too severe for any areas of the state to loosen regulations this week.

Washington is still trying to get out of a spike in cases that started two months ago. A total of 1,800 cases were diagnosed on Saturday. Of those, 260 are in King County.

In the hospitals, about 20% of ICU beds are occupied by coronavirus patients, far above the state's goal of 10% — that would help loosen regulations.

In order for regions in the state to move into Phase 2, they will need to reduce hospitalizations, deaths, and the number of cases.

— Paige Browning

Washington's latest plans for vaccine distribution

9 a.m. — More Washingtonians are now eligible to get vaccinated against Covid-19.

On Monday, Governor Jay Inslee unveiled the latest plan for Phase B1 of the vaccine rollout. It now covers anyone 65 and older, and those 50 and older who live in multigenerational homes. Previously, that group included those 70 years or older.

“This is a massive effort and it takes everybody pulling on the rope to do this, because 2021 is the year to get vaccinated in the state," Inslee said.

The state plans to open mass vaccination sites as early as next week with the goal of inoculating 45,000 people per day. Right now, that number's closer to 14,000.

Pharmacies and clinics will also dole out the shots. In addition to getting help from the Washington National Guard, the state will partner with companies like Starbucks, Microsoft, Costco, and Kaiser Permanente for logistic, analytical and technical support.

Microsoft is also offering up its Redmond campus as a mass vaccination site.

Read more details here.

— Angela King

Kindergartners back in class in Tacoma

8 a.m. — Some kindergarteners in the Tacoma Public School District are heading back to the classroom Tuesday. And while many parents are looking forward to this, the president of the Tacoma Education Association has some concerns.

Association President Shannon Ergun told KING 5 News she'd like to see more uniformity in the district's Covid-19 prevention protocols.

"Some schools are saying you can take your mask down, take a bite, then put it back up, and others are saying you can remove your mask for the lunch period. Some schools are saying during recess, you’re going to be able to remove your mask, others are saying no. Some are providing for the cleaning of equipment between periods. Some aren’t."

But in a statement, the superintendent says they're ready for this and have consistent protocols and PPE in place.

Kindergartners will be in the classroom for only two days a week. That could eventually increase to four days a week.

The same for preschoolers when they return next Monday, Jan, 25. First and second graders will also follow the same steps when they come back in early February.

— Angela King

Read previous updates here.