Coronavirus daily news updates, April 26: 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 Tuesday, April 26, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.
White House officials are warning that the U.S. will lose COVID-19 vaccines and treatments if Congress fails to provide additional COVID-19 response funding.
Other countries, including Japan and Vietnam, have already placed orders for COVID-19 treatments and vaccines that U.S. officials cannot commit to without the additional funding. The federal government has already had to curtail free COVID-19 treatments for people without health insurance and ration monoclonal antibody supplies due to dwindling funds.
Meanwhile, researchers are looking into improving COVID-19 vaccines, testing combination shots and nasal drops to keep up with the mutating virus, though it’s unclear if changes are necessary.
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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A seafood processing plant has been fined $56,000 in connection with a 2021 COVID outbreak that left one employee dead.
The Department of Labor and Industries announced the fine against Shining Ocean Inc. on Monday, Northwest News Network reported.
According to the agency, a 65-year old employee of the Sumner company died after contracting COVID at a company staff meeting on November 4, 2021. During the meeting, the investigation found most of the 23 people in attendance did not wear masks. Sixteen workers contracted COVID, including the man who later died.
In May 2021, L&I issued updated workplace masking guidelines. Under those rules, fully vaccinated employees were not required to wear masks. However, masks were still mandated for unvaccinated employees.
Read the full story here.
As COVID-19 engulfed U.S. hospitals in wave after wave in 2020, families were often cut off from their hospitalized loved ones, or visitation was severely limited, especially in the beginning of the pandemic.
Now, whether their beloveds lived or died, a majority of the family members themselves are showing signs of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a new study has found.
Of 330 family members surveyed three months after their kin had been hospitalized for COVID, 64% scored highly on tests measuring PTSD symptoms, the researchers found. While pre-pandemic PTSD among family members of ICU patients was about 30%, COVID more than doubled that.
The patients in question were admitted to the ICU between Feb. 1 and July 31, 2020. They were hospitalized at 12 hospitals in Colorado, Washington, Louisiana, New York and Massachusetts, said the research team led by Dr. Timothy Amass, an assistant professor in medicine and pulmonary sciences and critical care at the University of Colorado School of Medicine.

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Turkey on Tuesday lifted one of its last remaining COVID-19 restrictions, the wearing of masks in crowded indoor locations.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced the relaxation in a televised meeting of the scientific board that has guided Turkey through two years of the pandemic. He said the board would not reconvene unless “extraordinary” circumstances arose.
“The obligation to use masks in closed spaces … has been completely removed,” Erdogan said from Ankara. “Mask application will be continued for a while only on public transport vehicles and in health institutions until the number of (daily) cases falls below 1,000.”
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Newly infected COVID-19 patients have two treatment options that can be taken at home. But that convenience comes with a catch: The pills have to be taken as soon as possible once symptoms appear.
The challenge is getting tested, obtaining a prescription and starting the pills in a short window.
U.S. regulators authorized Pfizer’s pill, Paxlovid, and Merck’s Lagevrio late last year. In high-risk patients, both were shown to reduce the chances of hospitalization or death from COVID-19, although Pfizer’s was much more effective.
A closer look:
WHO SHOULD TAKE THESE PILLS?
The antiviral pills aren’t for everyone who gets a positive test. They are intended for those with mild or moderate COVID-19 who are more likely to become seriously ill. That includes older people and those with other health conditions like heart disease, cancer or diabetes that make them more vulnerable.
Read the full story here.

Albanian authorities have decided to lift all remaining COVID-19 restrictions before the summer vacation season.
The Technical Committee of Experts, the country’s highest executive body during the pandemic, said Tuesday that coronavirus-related measures will end in Albania as of May 1.
The decision means masks no longer will be required indoors and nightclubs won’t be subject to an 11 p.m. curfew Proof of vaccination or a negative PCR test for the virus won’t be needed at border crossings.
Read the story here.
When the federal mandate requiring masks to be worn on planes and other public transportation crumbled last week, it was not because of lobbying by established trade organizations, or the strident calls of Republican lawmakers, or even a determination by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that masks were no longer necessary.
Instead, the mask mandate’s demise was brought about by an unlikely confluence of individuals: Leslie Manookian, a former Wall Street analyst living in Idaho who had founded an anti-COVID-regulation nonprofit; two Florida women who said their anxiety prevented them from wearing masks and, therefore, traveling; and a Trump-appointed federal judge whom the American Bar Association said was too inexperienced to be appointed to the bench.
Within 24 hours of Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle’s ruling on April 18 that the federal government had overstepped its authority by requiring masks, which the Justice Department has since appealed, flight attendants, pilots and passengers were free to fly without masks, and public transit systems across the country were no longer requiring them. Even people who had been closely watching efforts to overturn the rule were surprised.
“It was a shocking event,” said Zane Kerby, the president of the American Society of Travel Advisors, which represents more than 14,000 people who work in the travel industry.
Dr. Georges C. Benjamin, the executive director of the American Public Health Association, called the ruling “unimaginable,” not only because of the abrupt way it ended the mandate — prompting announcements midflight — but because the judge’s interpretation of the law could permanently diminish the government’s ability to respond in public health emergencies.
The peculiar back story of Mizelle’s decision offers a window into the sometimes capricious way public health policy in the United States gets made, in which a lawsuit filed by a little-known organization that opposes masks and vaccine mandates can upend a rule crafted by doctors and scientists.

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What do we know about the new omicron mutant?
It’s a descendent of the earlier super-contagious “stealth omicron” and has quickly gained ground in the United States.
BA.2.12.1 was responsible for 29% of new COVID-19 infections nationally last week, according to data reported Tuesday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And it caused 58% of reported infections in the New York region.
The variant has been detected in at least 13 other countries, but the U.S. has the highest levels of it so far. Scientists say it spreads even faster than stealth omicron.
Cases are rising in places with increasing levels of the BA.2.12.1 variant, such as central New York, suggesting something about it is causing it to out-compete others, says Eli Rosenberg of New York state’s health department.
It appears a similar pattern will likely play out nationally, says Kirsten St. George, director of virology at New York state’s Wadsworth Center Laboratory.
Scientists are trying to figure out other aspects of BA.2.12.1, including whether vaccines are as effective against it as previous variants.

Read the story here.
Three out of every four U.S. children have been infected with the coronavirus, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention researchers estimated in a report Tuesday.
The researchers examined blood samples from more than 200,000 Americans and looked for virus-fighting antibodies made from infections, not vaccines. They found that signs of past infection rose dramatically between December and February, when the more contagious omicron variant surged through the U.S.
The most striking increase was in children. The percentage of those 17 and under with antibodies rose from about 45% in December to about 75% in February.
For Americans of all ages, about 34% had signs of prior infection in December. Just two months later, 58% did.
“I did expect it to increase. I did not expect it to increase quite this much,” said Dr. Kristie Clarke, co-leader of a CDC team that tracks the extent of coronavirus infections.
The older people were, the less likely they had evidence of past infections, the study found. For those 65 and older, 19% had signs of prior infection in December and 33% did in February. That may be because older adults have higher vaccination rates and they may be more likely to take other COVID-19 precautions, such as wearing masks and avoiding crowds, Clarke said.

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The common perception that nearly everyone in the U.S. seemed to have been infected with the omicron variant in the winter might not have been far from the truth. By February, nearly 60% of the population had been exposed to the coronavirus, almost double the proportion seen in December 2021, according to data released Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“By February 2022, evidence of previous COVID-19 infections substantially increased among every age group,” Dr. Kristie Clarke, the agency researcher who led the study, said at a news briefing.
Infections rose most sharply during the omicron surge among children and adolescents, perhaps because many people in those age groups were still unvaccinated. The increase was smallest among adults 65 or older, who have the highest rate of vaccination and may be the most likely to take precautions.
The new research suggests that three out of four children and adolescents in the United States had been exposed to the coronavirus by February 2022, compared with one-third of older adults.

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U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden tested positive Tuesday for COVID-19, his office said, as the virus continues to circulate among lawmakers and policymakers in the nation’s capitol.
The Oregon Democrat tested positive during a routine screening and is experiencing mild symptoms, his office said in a statement.
Wyden, 72, is the latest U.S. political figure in Washington, D.C. to announce a positive test.

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Vice President Kamala Harris tested positive for COVID-19 on Tuesday, the White House announced, underscoring the persistence of the highly contagious virus even as the U.S. eases restrictions in a bid to return to pre-pandemic normalcy.
Harris press secretary Kirsten Allen said neither President Joe Biden nor first lady Jill Biden was considered a “close contact” of Harris in recent days. Harris had been scheduled to attend Biden’s Tuesday morning Presidential Daily Brief but was not present, the White House said. Because of their travel schedules, the last time Harris saw Biden was Monday, April 18.
The vice president returned on Monday from a weeklong trip to the West Coast.
Harris tested positive on both rapid and PCR tests but “has exhibited no symptoms,” the White House said. She will isolate at her residence but continue to work remotely, and will return to the White House only when she tests negative for the virus.
Harris, 57, received her first dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine weeks before taking office and a second dose just days after Inauguration Day in 2021. She received a booster shot in late October and an additional booster on April 1. Fully vaccinated and boosted people have a high degree of protection against serious illness and death from COVID-19, particularly from the most common and highly transmissible omicron variant.

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Cambodia is lifting its mask mandate for open public places, Prime Minister Hun Sen announced Tuesday.
He cited a large decline in coronavirus cases and a high level of vaccinations in dropping the requirement nationwide.
He said in an audio message on his Facebook page that it is still mandatory to wear masks in indoor public areas, especially air-conditioned buildings and crowded places such as theaters. He said it was up to individuals to decide whether they want to wear masks outdoors.

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Novak Djokovic will be allowed to defend his title at Wimbledon, despite not being vaccinated against COVID-19, because the shots are not required to enter Britain, All England Club chief executive Sally Bolton said Tuesday.
Djokovic, a 34-year-old Serb who is ranked No. 1, missed the Australian Open in January after being deported from that country because he was not vaccinated against the illness caused by the coronavirus that has led to the deaths of millions during the pandemic that began in 2020.
During the annual spring briefing ahead of Wimbledon, which starts on June 27, Bolton said that “whilst, of course, it is encouraged” that all players get vaccinated, “it will not be a condition of entry to compete” at the grass-court Grand Slam tournament this year.
Djokovic, in addition to being unable to defend his championship at Melbourne Park after an 11-day legal saga over whether he could remain in Australia, had to sit out tournaments at Indian Wells and Miami because he couldn’t travel to the United States as a foreigner who is unvaccinated.

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President Joe Biden’s administration is taking steps to expand availability of the life-saving COVID-19 antiviral treatment Paxlovid, as it seeks to reassure doctors that there is ample supply for people at high risk of severe illness or death from the virus.
Paxlovid, produced by Pfizer, was first approved in December. Supply of the regimen was initially very limited, but as COVID-19 cases across the country have fallen and manufacturing has increased it is now far more abundant. The White House is now moving to raise awareness of the pill and taking steps to make it easier to access.
The White House said Tuesday it is stepping up outreach to doctors, letting them know they shouldn’t think twice about prescribing the pill to eligible patients. It is also announcing that the drug will now be distributed directly to pharmacies, in addition to existing distribution channels run by states. That is expected to boost the number of sites from 20,000 to more than 30,000 next week and eventually to 40,000 locations.
The administration believes the pharmacy channel, which it used to boost availability of COVID-19 vaccines more than a year ago, will similarly make the antiviral pills more available to people.

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Workers put up fencing and police restricted who could leave a locked-down area in Beijing on Tuesday as authorities in the Chinese capital stepped up efforts to prevent a major COVID-19 outbreak like the one that has all but shut down the city of Shanghai.
People lined up for throat swabs across much of Beijing as mass testing was expanded to 11 of the city’s 16 districts.
Another 22 cases were found in the last 24 hours, Beijing health officials said at a late afternoon news conference, bringing the total to 92 since the outbreak was discovered five days ago. That is tiny in comparison to Shanghai, where the number of cases has topped 500,000 and at least 190 people have died. No deaths have been reported from the still-nascent outbreak in Beijing.

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