Coronavirus daily news updates, February 22: 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, February 22, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.
With many COVID-19 precautions ramping down across the U.S., including in Washington state, scientists with the World Health Organization said they are still watching an even more contagious subvariant of omicron, called BA.2. The new BA.2 variant is quickly becoming the dominant strain in several Asian countries. Denmark was the first nation to report that BA.2 had overtaken BA.1, the omicron version that first swept through the world.
At the same time, the U.S. is reporting significant declines in average daily COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. On Saturday, the Associated Press reported the total number of confirmed cases in the U.S. barely exceeded 100,000 compared to around 800,000 cases reported just five weeks ago on Jan. 16. As cases fall, Washington state announced last week that it will lift its indoor mask mandate for most places on March 21.
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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Local and federal agencies are preparing for possible traffic disruptions in the nation’s capital region related to plans inspired by the self-styled “Freedom Convoy” that occupied downtown Ottawa for more than three weeks protesting vaccine mandates.
Multiple convoy spinoffs have popped up on social media apps such as Facebook and Telegram, encouraging Americans to mobilize and head to the nation’s capital to protest vaccine mandates. There are many evolving plans, including one man saying he is leading a protest to the Beltway as soon as Wednesday; a permit filed to rally near the Washington Monument on March 1; and other organizers claiming to kick off a trip from California on Wednesday before arriving to their final destination in the D.C. area on March 5.
But extremist researchers say it is still unclear when or if these protests will happen or whether it is social media posturing.
With competing convoy organizers, routes and dates, much is unknown about the details. If plans do materialize, it’s not clear where D.C.-area demonstrations would take place, how many people would be coming, what exactly they would do or how long they would stay.
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.
The Washington state Senate will allow some members of the public back to watch floor debates in person beginning Friday as the COVID-19 surge brought on by the omicron variant wanes.
Senate and House officials had planned for more in-person possibilities for this year’s legislative session, after the 2021 session was held almost completely remote by teleconference amid the pandemic.
But officials rolled those plans back in January, shortly before the start of this year’s session, as the omicron variant pushed cases and hospitalizations due to COVID to new levels.
On Tuesday, lawmakers in the Senate Facilities & Operations Committee voted to reopen the north gallery — which overlooks the Senate floor — to six members of the public at a time. Those entering buildings also have to wear masks.
Read the full story here.
COVID-19 vaccines are unlikely to trigger a rare inflammatory condition linked to coronavirus infection in children, according to an analysis of U.S. government data published Tuesday.
The condition, formally known as multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, involves fever plus symptoms affecting at least two organs and often includes stomach pain, skin rash or bloodshot eyes. It’s a rare complication in kids who have had COVID-19, and very rarely affects adults. The condition often leads to hospitalization, but most patients recover.
First reported in the United Kingdom in early 2020, it is sometimes mistaken for Kawasaki disease, which can cause swelling and heart problems. Since February 2020, more than 6,800 cases have been reported in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
As part of COVID-19 vaccine safety monitoring, the CDC and U.S. Food and Drug Administration added the condition to a list of several potential adverse events of special interest. A few cases reported in people with no detectable evidence of coronavirus infection prompted researchers at the CDC and elsewhere to undertake the new analysis, which was published Tuesday in The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health.
Read the full story here.
With the capital’s streets cleared of the heavy trucks and cars that made some of them impassable for three long weeks of protest, Canadian authorities are turning their scrutiny to the finances of those behind the chaos.
The protesters may have been routed, Michael Duheme, deputy commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police for federal policing, told reporters after Ottawa’s streets were reclaimed over the weekend, but police need to “continue to choke off financial support.”
When Prime Minister Justin Trudeau decided a week ago to invoke his country’s Emergencies Act for the first time in Canadian history to quell the unrest, it gave police sweeping new powers to go after the finances of protesters. Some may now face long-term consequences.
But for one protest organizer who was arrested last week, the effect was more immediate.
Read the full story here.
WELLINGTON, New Zealand — One protester drove a car toward a New Zealand police line, narrowly avoiding officers, while other protesters sprayed officers with a stinging substance, police said Tuesday, as they tightened a cordon around a convoy that has been camped outside Parliament for two weeks.
The clashes in the capital of Wellington came a day after police reported that some of the protesters had thrown human feces at them.
Police Assistant Commissioner Richard Chambers told reporters the actions of some of the protesters, who oppose coronavirus vaccine mandates, were unacceptable and would be dealt with assertively.
“Our focus remains on opening the roads up to Wellingtonians and doing our absolute best to restore peaceful protest,” Chambers said. “The behavior of a certain group within the protest community is absolutely disgraceful.”
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said protesters had taken things too far and needed to return home.
“What’s happening in Wellington is wrong,” she said.
Read the full story here.
GENEVA — The number of new coronavirus cases around the world fell 21% in the last week, marking the third consecutive week that COVID-19 cases have dropped, the World Health Organization said Tuesday.
In the U.N. health agency’s weekly pandemic report, WHO said there were more than 12 million new coronavirus infections last week. The number of new COVID-19 deaths fell 8% to about 67,000 worldwide, the first time that weekly deaths have fallen since early January.
The Western Pacific was the only region that saw an increase in COVID-19 cases, with a 29% jump, while the number of infections elsewhere dropped significantly. The number of new deaths also rose in the Western Pacific and Africa while falling everywhere else. The highest number of new COVID-19 cases were seen in Russia, Germany, Brazil, the U.S. and South Korea.
WHO said omicron remains the overwhelmingly dominant variant worldwide, accounting for more than 99% of sequences shared with the world’s biggest virus database. It said delta was the only other variant of significance, which comprised fewer than 1% of shared sequences.
Read the full story here.
TEMPE, Ariz. — Early in the pandemic, when shops along Mill Avenue in downtown Tempe closed their doors and students at nearby Arizona State University were asked to go home, the roar of construction continued to fill the air. Now, gleaming in the sunlight and stuffed with amenities, towering glass office buildings have sprouted up all over the Phoenix metropolitan area.
Arizonans are about to have new next-door neighbors. And they include some of the technology industry’s biggest names.
DoorDash, the food delivery company, moved into a new building on the edge of a Tempe reservoir in the summer of 2020. Robinhood, the financial trading platform, rented out a floor in an office nearby. On a February morning, construction workers were putting the finishing touches on a 17-story Tempe office building expected to add 550 Amazon workers to the 5,000 already in the area.
The frenetic activity in the Phoenix suburbs is one of the most visible signs of a nationwide recovery in commercial office real estate fueled by the tech industry, which has enjoyed unchecked growth and soaring profits as the pandemic has forced more people to shop, work and socialize online.
Read the full story here.
NEW YORK (AP) — Fox News host Neil Cavuto has returned to work after surviving a bout of COVID-19 and pneumonia that he says included time in an intensive care unit and some “touch-and-go” periods.
Cavuto, who hosts the 4 p.m. Eastern hour on Fox News Channel and a two-hour program at noon on the Fox Business Network, was back on the air Monday after being off since the week of Jan. 10.
Cavuto, 63, is a cancer survivor who has multiple sclerosis and said he was vulnerable to the coronavirus despite being vaccinated. It was his second case of COVID-19.
“It really was touch-and-go,” Cavuto said. “Some of you who’ve wanted to put me out of my misery darn near got what you wished for.”
Cavuto said doctors told him that if he had not been vaccinated, he would not have survived, because it provided some defense.
Read the full story here.
Five months after being infected with the coronavirus, Nicole Murphy’s pulse rate is going berserk. Normally in the 70s, which is ideal, it has been jumping to 160, 170 and sometimes 210 beats per minute even when she is at rest – putting her at risk of a heart attack, heart failure or stroke.
No one seems to be able to pinpoint why. She’s only 44, never had heart issues, and when a cardiologist near her hometown of Wellsville, Ohio, ran all of the standard tests, “he literally threw up his hands when he saw the results,” she recalled. Her blood pressure was perfect, there were no signs of clogged arteries, and her heart was expanding and contracting well.
Murphy’s boomeranging heart rate is one of a number of mysterious conditions afflicting Americans weeks or months after coronavirus infections that suggest the potential of a looming cardiac crisis.
A pivotal 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. When experts factor in the heart damage probably suffered by people who put off medical care, more sedentary lifestyles and eating changes, not to mention the stress of the pandemic, they estimate there may be millions of new onset cardiac cases related to the virus, plus a worsening of disease for many already affected.
Read the full story here.
OTTAWA, Ontario (AP) — A judge has denied bail to one of the leading organizers behind protests against COVID-19 restrictions and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Ontario Court Justice Julie Bourgeois said Tuesday she believed there was a substantial likelihood Tamara Lich would reoffend if released.
Lich has been a key organizer of the protest that paralyzed the streets around Parliament Hill for more than three weeks. The trucker protest also grew until it closed a handful of Canada-U.S. border posts. They have since ended.
Lich was arrested last Thursday and charged with counselling to commit mischief and promised during a bail hearing on Saturday to give up her advocacy of the protest and return to Alberta.
Ottawa protesters who vowed never to give up are largely gone, chased away by police in riot gear in what was the biggest police operation in the nation’s history.
Read the full story here.
LONDON — 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.”
Johnson confirmed that mandatory self-isolation for people with COVID-19 will end starting Thursday and the routine tracing of infected people’s contacts will stop. People will still be advised to stay home if they are sick — but will no longer get extra financial support.
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.
In March 2020, in an effort to safeguard the animals, Rwanda temporarily closed Volcanoes National Park. When the park reopened a few months later, it had strict new precautions in place, including requiring tourists and researchers to wear masks and keep their distance from the gorillas. These rules, plus a general drop-off in tourism, mean that the park’s gorillas have had relatively few close encounters with humans during the pandemic, Gilardi said.
Read the full story here.
HONG KONG — Hong Kong will test its entire population of 7.5 million people for COVID-19 in March, the city’s leader said Tuesday, as it grapples with its worst outbreak driven by the omicron variant.
The population will be tested three times in March, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam said.
She said testing capacity will be boosted to 1 million a day or more.
“Since we have a population of some 7 million people, testing will take about seven days,” she said.
Hong Kong has reported about 5,000 new daily infections since Feb. 15, with the cases threatening to overwhelm its healthcare system. Since the current surge began at the beginning of the year, the city has recorded nearly 54,000 cases and 145 deaths.
Read the full story here.
Nearly two years after COVID-19 shut down Portland’s core, new data indicates that large numbers of visitors and workers still haven’t returned to downtown Portland.
The number of downtown visitors is off by 40% compared to prepandemic times, and the number of people working downtown is two-thirds lower. That’s according to a study issued Wednesday by the Portland Business Alliance, which drew on aggregated smartphone location data.
The numbers suggest Portland has significant work ahead in rebuilding downtown’s appeal after the upheaval of 2020, rise of homelessness, and a spike in shootings and murders in the city’s core.
“Downtowns everywhere were disproportionately impacted by remote work and people not coming in,” said John Tapogna of the research firm ECONorthwest, which compiled the data on behalf of the business alliance. Tapogna said the numbers show the pandemic and its aftermath have hit Portland harder than other places.
“It does appear, through this data at least, that Portland has some additional challenge in what is generally a challenging environment for downtowns all over the United States,” he said.
Read the full story here.
Washington congressional candidate Loren Culp is promoting unproven treatments for COVID-19, advising supporters to send a few hundred dollars to a Florida telemedicine clinic that dispenses drugs medical researchers say are ineffective and potentially dangerous.
Culp, a Republican endorsed by Donald Trump in his effort to unseat U.S. Rep. Dan Newhouse, says he knows several people who have recently gotten sick with COVID and been hospitalized, including a few who died.
“I want to make sure you and your family have everything available to combat this virus if you or someone you love gets it,” Culp wrote in a Feb. 9 email to supporters, with the subject line, “A Personal Message about the Chinese Virus.”
Culp said he recently paid the Florida clinic for drugs including ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine. Most doctors won’t prescribe them, he wrote, because of “lies coming from Big Pharma, the US Government, the media, and of course Dr. Fauci.”
In reality, most doctors do not prescribe those drugs because — despite being hyped by vaccine skeptics — they have not proven effective in the prevention or treatment of COVID-19 and may harm patients, according to medical experts and federal and state public health authorities.
Read the full story here.
As people 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, a flurry of new studies suggest.
To help protect the condition of N95 and KN95 respirators, it’s important to store them well. Here’s what you can do to maximize the use and reuse of your masks.
Canadian lawmakers voted Monday night to extend the emergency powers that police can invoke to quell any potential restart of blockades by those opposed to COVID-19 restrictions.
Queen Elizabeth II has continued with her duties as the British head of state despite having COVID-19. 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.

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