Coronavirus daily news updates, April 28: 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 Thursday, April 28, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.
While the Justice Department is set to appeal a district judge’s ruling to end mask mandates on mass transit and airplanes, flight attendants shared their elation and anxieties about no longer having to enforce the mandate.
The country’s top infectious-disease expert said the U.S. is “out of the pandemic phase,” noting the decline in reported COVID-19 cases and deaths, but pointed out that on the global scale, the pandemic remains.
Meanwhile, Pfizer officials asked the Food and Drug Administration to authorize its COVID-19 booster shot for children ages 5 to 11 on an emergency basis to provide children with additional protections against COVID-19.
The company submitted data to the agency showing that a booster shot given about 6 months after the second vaccine dose provided a strong immune 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.
Merck soared past first-quarter expectations, helped by sales of its long-standing blockbuster cancer drug Keytruda and a new COVID-19 treatment that also topped forecasts.
The drugmaker raised its 2022 forecast Thursday after its coronavirus treatment molnupiravir brought in almost $3.2 billion in sales in the quarter.
Analysts were expecting $2.54 billion from the drug, which debuted late last year under the brand name Lagevrio.
Merck has said it expects the capsules to bring in sales of $5 billion or more this year. But analysts are starting to wonder whether all the treatment courses Merck makes will get used.
Read the full story here.
Scott Rivkees, the first Florida surgeon general appointed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, does not seem to agree with recent guidance from the department he once ran.
The Department of Health, which is now run by Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo, issued guidance in March discussing the potential dangers of giving healthy children COVID-19 vaccines. This month, the Department of Health put out a statement advising against social transition or gender affirming surgery for transgender children.
Rivkees — who has since left the state to take a job at Brown University — publicly disputed both of those stances recently.
In a March column in Time titled “Setting the Record Straight about COVID-19 Vaccines for Children,” Rivkees wrote that healthy children should get vaccinated.
Read the full story here.
The Washington Supreme Court on Thursday unanimously rejected an effort to recall Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
The justices upheld a Thurston County Superior Court decision that the charges made against Inslee did not provide factually or legally sufficient grounds to support a recall campaign.
The recall petition was brought by a citizen group called Washingtonians to Recall Insleee. It alleged that the governor’s orders limiting activities and gatherings during the pandemic interfered with their rights.
For example, the petition argued, Inslee violated the separation of powers by banning landlords from suing tenants for overdue rent; violated constitutional rights of assembly and to petition the government for redress of grievances by prohibiting public agencies from holding in-person meetings; and violated the right to assemble by limiting the size of in-person gatherings.
Read the full story here.
This year’s NFL draft prospects reluctantly recall their personal COVID-19 experiences.
Some consider them inspirational reminders of obstacles already overcame. Others sound more reminiscent of old war stories. And while the stories change, each comes with unforgettably vivid detail and heartfelt emotion about a challenging two-year battle to pursue their dreams.
Pandemic protocols prevented Alabama receiver John Metchie III from seeing his Canadian family for two years. South Dakota State running back Pierre Strong played 24 games in 10 months. Minnesota tackle Daniel Faalele tipped the scales at 405 pounds after opting out of the 2020 season. Kentucky guard Darian Kinnard worked out by flipping logs while his mother tended to hospitalized patients and UConn defensive tackle Travis Jones dealt with the cancellation of an entire season.
None of it was easy.
“I’m glad my family was staying safe and all,” Metchie said in March. “Not seeing my mom for two years was tough. I knew, eventually, I’d see her again. Of course, technology nowadays helps. It’s not the same as seeing them in person or being around them in person, but it definitely helps.”
This draft class arrived on campus with the exuberant expectation of a traditional college experience and instead wound up using video calls to socialize, isolation to continue playing and pure grit to cope with constantly evolving rules, regulations and restrictions.
It lost the 2020 spring football schedule and planned individual workouts with whatever they could find nearby. Even when they did return to campus, uncertainty remained. In some cases, the physical and mental toll came with a high cost.

Read the story here.
South Africa is seeing a rapid rise in COVID-19 cases driven by yet another version of the coronavirus, health experts say.
Cases had been dropping in the country since February. But a new omicron subvariant that scientists call BA.4 began pushing up cases last week and they have risen rapidly since, said Salim Abdool Karim, who previously advised the government on its COVID-19 response.
So far, there has been only a slight rise in hospitalizations and no increase in deaths, said Abdool Karim, who is a public health expert at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.
South Africa is recording just over 6,000 COVID-19 cases a day, up from a few hundred just a few weeks ago. The proportion of positive tests jumped from 4% in mid-April to 19% Thursday, according to official figures. Wastewater surveillance has also shown increases in coronavirus spread.
Read the full story here.
 In a blockbuster ruling last week, federal judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle struck down a requirement that people wear masks on public transportation, including planes, to limit the spread of COVID-19.
But that wasn’t the first time decisions in the fierce debate over pandemic safety regulations have come out Tampa’s federal courthouse.
In three separate cases, veteran U.S. District Judge Steven Merryday — who was nominated by President George H.W. Bush and has been on the bench since 1992 — weighed in on cruise ship regulations and vaccine mandates, ruling each time against the COVID-19 requirements.
In June, Merryday issued a 124-page decision throwing out the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s safety rules for cruise ships as they readied to begin carrying passengers from Florida again. In granting a preliminary injunction in Florida’s legal challenge to the cruise rules, the judge said the CDC hadn’t adequately justified the need for the regulations on how cruises could restart.
In December, Merryday issued a preliminary injunction blocking President Joe Biden’s vaccine requirement for federal contractors.
In February, Merryday issued an injunction allowing military members who did not want to be vaccinated to continue serving without punishment. The ruling came after a Navy commander and a Marine lieutenant colonel testified before Merryday about their religious reasons for resisting the military’s COVID-19 vaccine requirement.
Read the story here.

Beijing is closing all city schools in a further tightening of COVID-19 restrictions, as China’s capital seeks to prevent a wider outbreak.
The city of 21 million has already ordered three rounds of mass testing this week, with the third coming Friday.
On Thursday, the city’s Education Bureau ordered all schools to end classes from Friday and said it hadn’t determined when they would resume.
It also wasn’t clear whether schools would be able to offer classes online or allow students facing crucial exams to return to class.
Beijing announced 50 new cases on Thursday, two of them asymptomatic, bringing its total in the latest wave of infections to around 150.
Students make up more than 30% of total cases, with clusters linked to six schools and two kindergartens in Chaoyang.

Read the story here.
As they begin to plan their summer vacations, travelers don’t just want flexibility, they need it. That includes Katy Kassian. She doesn’t know where she’s going yet, but she knows how she’ll get there and where she’ll stay.
“I’m going to drive, because it gives me the most flexibility,” says Kassian, a small-business consultant from Max, Neb. “We can stop when we want and go when we want. Yes, it can take a little longer, but the comfort and perks are worth it.”
Kassian avoids hotel chains, which have already begun tightening their cancellation policies as travel restrictions ease. Instead, she prefers independent hotels. “Many are generous with last-minute cancellations,” she says.
Experts say travelers are looking for policies like this as they plan their vacations.
“Flexibility is no longer a luxury,” says Jeffrey Galak, associate professor of marketing at Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business. “It’s a requirement.”

For the first time in years, maybe even decades, the travel industry wants to be as accommodating as possible. Galak, the Carnegie Mellon professor, suspects the travel industry’s unprecedented flexibility is a limited-time offer. But although he believes policies will tighten again as summer approaches, he doubts they will return to their pre-pandemic rigidity.
“Consumers simply won’t stand for it,” he says.

Read the story here.
Climate change will result in thousands of new viruses spread among animal species by 2070 — and that’s likely to increase the risk of emerging infectious diseases jumping from animals to humans, according to a new study.
This is especially true for Africa and Asia, continents that have been hotspots for deadly disease spread from humans to animals or vice versa over the last several decades, including the flu, HIV, Ebola and coronavirus.
Researchers, who published their findings Thursday in the journal Nature, used a model to examine how over 3,000 mammal species might migrate and and share viruses over the next 50 years if the world warms by 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), which recent research shows is possible.
They found that cross-species virus spread will happen over 4,000 times among mammals alone. Birds and marine animals weren’t included in the study.
Researchers said not all viruses will spread to humans or become pandemics the scale of the coronavirus but the number of cross-species viruses increases the risk of spread to humans.
The study highlights two global crises — climate change and infectious disease spread — as the world grapples with what to do about both.

Read the story here.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency may have been double-billed for the funerals of hundreds of people who died of COVID-19, the Government Accountability Office said in a new report Wednesday.
The GAO identified 374 people who died and were listed on more than one application that received an award from the COVID-19 Funeral Assistance fund. That amounts to about $4.8 million in assistance that could have been improper or potentially fraudulent payments, the report said.
FEMA spokesperson Jaclyn Rothenberg said Wednesday that this was not an example of large-scale fraud and the amount of funeral assistance identified as at-risk was relatively small, with FEMA’s “multi-layered internal quality controls and fraud controls” resulting in improper payments of less than 1%.
“Unfortunately, fraud, particularly identity theft, is common. FEMA has controls in place to detect instances and can and will prosecute anyone who would apply for assistance fraudulently,” Rothenberg said in a statement.
Read the full story here.
Taiwan, which had been living mostly free of COVID-19, is now facing its worst outbreak since the beginning of the pandemic with over 11,000 new cases reported Thursday.
Cases have been on the upswing since late March. In April, the island’s central authorities announced that they would no longer maintain a “zero-COVID” policy like the Chinese government’s in which they would centrally quarantine positive cases.
Instead, the government is asking people to quarantine at home if they test positive, unless they show moderate to severe symptoms.
Chen Shih-chung, the island’s health minister, announced Thursday they had found 11,353 new cases, along with two deaths. During the daily press briefing held by the Central Epidemic Command Center, he said 99.7% of the cases in the current outbreak either had no symptoms or had mild symptoms.
Read the story here.
Sharmy Aldama has spent the majority of her career enforcing mask rules on airplanes. The Miami-based flight attendant, who works for a budget carrier and spoke on the condition that her employer not be named so she could talk freely, started the job in late 2018. After the pandemic began, getting passengers to follow masking rules became an everyday struggle.
“I definitely got to a point where I was showing up to work ready to be argued with and bickered with and having to defend myself,” she said.
But since a federal judge struck down the mask mandate for planes and other transportation settings last week, she has noticed a lighter mood among passengers and crew and has felt a personal sense of relief. “Being able to just show up [to work] and give people what they need and not have to be on guard all the time has been so refreshing,” she said.
Flight attendants are among the public-facing employees who have been tasked with enforcing health and safety requirements during the pandemic, and they have faced hostile and even violent interactions with passengers as a result. Through Tuesday, there have been 1,272 unruly passenger incidents this year, according to the Federal Aviation Administration, with 807 of those related to masks.
Read the story here.
Moderna on Thursday asked U.S. regulators to authorize low doses of its COVID-19 vaccine for children younger than 6, a long-awaited move toward potentially opening shots for millions of tots by summer.
Frustrated families are waiting impatiently for a chance to protect the nation’s littlest kids as all around them people shed masks and other public health precautions — even though highly contagious coronavirus mutants continue to spread.
Moderna submitted data to the Food and Drug Administration that it hopes will prove two low-dose shots can protect babies, toddlers and preschoolers — albeit not as effectively during the omicron surge as earlier in the pandemic.

Now, only children ages 5 or older can be vaccinated in the U.S., using rival Pfizer’s vaccine, leaving 18 million younger tots unprotected.
Moderna’s vaccine isn’t the only one in the race. Pfizer is soon expected to announce if three of its even smaller-dose shots work for the littlest kids, months after the disappointing discovery that two doses weren’t quite strong enough.

Read the story here.
Immediately after Beijing said it had detected a new coronavirus outbreak, officials hurried to assure residents there was no reason to panic. Food was plentiful, they said, and any lockdown measures would be smooth. But Evelyn Zheng, a freelance writer in the city, was not taking any chances.
Her relatives, who lived in Shanghai, were urging her to leave or stock up on food. She had spent weeks poring over social media posts from that city, which documented the chaos and anguish of the monthlong lockdown there. And when she went out to buy more food, it was clear many of her neighbors had the same idea: Some shelves were already cleaned out.
“At first, I was worried about Shanghai, because my family is there, and there was no good news from any of my friends,” Zheng said. “Now, Beijing is starting, too, and I don’t know when it will land on my head.”
Anger and anxiety over the Shanghai lockdown, now in its fourth week, has posed a rare challenge for China’s powerful propaganda apparatus, which is central to the Communist Party’s ability to stifle dissent. As the omicron variant continues to spread across the country, officials have defended their use of widespread, heavy-handed lockdowns. They have pushed a triumphalist narrative of their COVID response, which says that only the Chinese government had the will to confront, and hold back, the virus.
Read the full story here.


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