Coronavirus daily news updates, February 21: 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 Monday, February 21, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.
Last week, Washington State announced its indoor mask mandate will lift for most places on March 21. While King County will continue its face covering requirement for now, Washington’s move comes as many other states loosen similar measures. Alaska’s largest school district recently announced that mask-wearing will become optional for students and staff.
While the omicron surge appears to be slowing in much of the world, scientists with the World Health Organization said they are still watching the omicron subvariant, BA.2, which has become the dominant strain in some countries.
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.
For more than a year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has collected data on hospitalizations for COVID-19 in the United States and broken it down by age, race and vaccination status. But it has not made most of the information public.
Two full years into the pandemic, the agency leading the country’s response to the public health emergency has published only a tiny fraction of the data it has collected, several people familiar with the data said.
Kristen Nordlund, a spokesperson for the CDC, said the agency has been slow to release the different streams of data “because basically, at the end of the day, it’s not yet ready for prime time.” She said the agency’s “priority when gathering any data is to ensure that it’s accurate and actionable.”
Another reason is fear that the information might be misinterpreted, Nordlund said.
Read the full story here.
As people across the world grapple with the prospect of living with the coronavirus for the foreseeable future, one question looms large: How soon before they need yet another shot?
Not for many months, and perhaps not for years, according to a flurry of new studies.
Three doses of a COVID vaccine — or even just two — are enough to protect most people from serious illness and death for a long time, the studies suggest.
“We’re starting to see now diminishing returns on the number of additional doses,” said John Wherry, director of the Institute for Immunology at the University of Pennsylvania. Although people who are over 65 or at high risk of illness may benefit from a fourth vaccine dose, it may be unnecessary for most people, he added.
Read the full story here.
If you’re planning to travel abroad, you’ve probably already spent hours researching the testing requirements for your flight or cruise. But have you thought yet about finding a hotel with coronavirus testing and quarantine facilities at your destination?
The rules are pretty simple for traveling back to the U.S. You have to either take a rapid test a day before your return trip or show documentation that you’ve recovered from COVID-19 in the past 90 days, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Meaning that if you get infected while you’re on vacation or can’t get a test in time, you’ll be extending your stay — whether you like it or not. 
“You have to schedule a test for your return trip as soon as possible,” advises Joe Cronin, CEO of International Citizens Insurance, which provides insurance to expats, global travelers and digital nomads. “Testing centers often book up quickly, especially just before the weekend when there are large numbers of people scheduled to check out all at the same time.”
Despite the recent omicron surge, this summer will be a busy one for international travel. And many Americans will leave without giving much thought to testing or quarantine facilities at their destination.
“A common misconception among travelers is that most hotels will offer COVID testing,” says Christine Petersen, CEO of smarTours, a tour operator. “While COVID testing is common at resorts, particularly in the Caribbean, it isn’t common at a regular hotel. You need to do your homework.”
Read the full story here.
The mountain gorillas that live in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park have frequent encounters with humans. On any given day, the animals might come across smartphone-toting tourists, fecal-sample-swiping biologists or antibiotic-administering veterinarians.
So when the coronavirus started spreading around the world in early 2020, experts worried that people might unwittingly pass the virus to the endangered apes, which are known to be vulnerable to a variety of human pathogens.
“In the past, other human viruses have caused respiratory illness in the gorillas,” said Dr. Kirsten Gilardi, executive director of Gorilla Doctors, an international team of veterinarians that provides care for wild gorillas.
“We were on pins and needles wondering, OK, if this virus gets into the mountain gorillas, what’s it going to do?” Gilardi said.
Read the full story here.
LONDON — Queen Elizabeth II has continued with her duties as the British head of state despite having COVID-19, sending a message of condolence to the Brazilian president.
The 95-year-old monarch has been self-isolating at Windsor Castle, but will be free starting Thursday after Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced an end to the legal requirement to isolate after a positive test.
Johnson sent the queen a get well soon message in the Commons, saying: “I know the whole House will join me in sending our best wishes to Her Majesty the Queen for a full and swift recovery.”
He said her diagnosis is “a reminder that this virus has not gone away.”
Those with COVID-19 will still be advised to stay at home for at least five days, but will not be obliged to under law as part of the “living with COVID” plans subject to parliamentary approval.
Continuing with light duties despite suffering from mild symptoms likened to a cold, the queen sent her message of condolence on Monday after the flooding in the Brazilian city of Petropolis.
Read the full story here.
With more businesses now returning to the office, the use — and especially the reuse — of N95 and KN95 masks is set to be a popular choice for many.
Last month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its mask guidance to recommend the use of these respirators after previous supply shortages recovered. The government also began distributing free N95 masks along with free at-home tests to combat the omicron surge.
Masking is a critical public health tool for preventing spread of the coronavirus, and while all masks and respirators provide some level of protection, properly fitting respirators provide the highest level of protection, the CDC said. The center recently released a new study that found respirators are significantly more effective than cloth or surgical masks.
To help protect the condition of respirators to function correctly, it’s important to store them well. Here’s what you can do to maximize the use and reuse of your N95 or KN95.
Baker recommends rotating through different masks during the week, if you can. If you own two masks, rotate their use daily. At the end of two or three weeks, toss them out and start over with two fresh masks.
Until needed, store your masks indoors in their original packaging, in a place where they will not be crushed or distorted.
Read the full story here.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Monday emergency powers are still needed despite police ending border blockades and the occupation of the nation’s capital by truckers and others angry over Canada’s COVID-19 restrictions.
“The situation is still fragile, the state of emergency is still there,” Trudeau said.
Lawmakers in Parliament will vote Monday night whether to allow police to continue to use emergency powers. Opposition New Democratic Party leader Jagmeet Singh said his party will support it, ensuring Trudeau should have enough votes.
Read the full story here.
A study that looked at health records of more than 153,000 U.S. veterans published this month in Nature Medicine found that their risk of cardiovascular disease of all types increased substantially in the year following infection, even when they had mild cases.
The population studied was mostly White and male, but the patterns held even when the researchers analyzed women and people of color separately.
Read the full story here.
Stringent anti-virus controls that ban public gatherings in Hong Kong of more than two people might be tightened to stop a surge in infections, the territory’s top health official said Sunday, as 14 deaths and more than 6,000 new cases were reported.
Health Secretary Sophia Chan, speaking on a radio program, gave no details of possible new restrictions and called on the public to stay at home.
Hong Kong already is operating under its strictest curbs on travel, business and public activity since the pandemic began. In place since Feb. 10, they also prohibit gatherings of more than two households. Restaurants, hair salons and religious sites were ordered closed.
The territory had 6,067 confirmed cases in the previous 24 hours. That was close to Thursday’s 6,116 cases, its highest daily total yet.
Read the full story here.
Average daily COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are continuing to fall in the U.S., an indicator that the omicron variant’s hold is weakening across the country.
Total confirmed cases reported Saturday barely exceeded 100,000, a sharp downturn from around 800,850 five weeks ago on Jan. 16, according to Johns Hopkins University data.
Read the full story here.
International tourists and business travelers began arriving in Australia with few restrictions on Monday, bringing together families in tearful reunions after separations of two years or longer forced by some of the most draconian pandemic measures of any democracy in the world.
Australia closed its borders to tourists in March 2020 in a bid to reduce the local spread of COVID-19, but on Monday removed its final travel restrictions for fully vaccinated passengers.
Read the full story here.
LONDON (AP) — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is scrapping the last domestic coronavirus restrictions in England, including the requirement for people with COVID-19 to self-isolate, even as he acknowledged Monday the potential for new and more deadly variants of the virus.
Johnson told lawmakers in the House of Commons that the country was “moving from government restrictions to personal responsibility” as part of a plan for treating COVID-19 like other transmissible illnesses such as flu.
He said it marked an end to “two of the darkest, grimmest years in our peacetime history.”
“Today is not the day we can declare victory over COVID, because this virus is not going away,” Johnson said at a televised news conference. “But it is the day when all the efforts of the last two years finally enabled us to protect ourselves whilst restoring our liberties in full.”
Read the full story here.


Leave a Comment