Coronavirus daily news updates, May 13: 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 Friday, May 13, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.
The White House’s COVID-19 coordinator warned that the country will be increasingly vulnerable to the virus this fall if Congress fails to approve additional funding for COVID-19 vaccines and treatments.
Immune protections against COVID-19 are waning as the virus continues to adapt and become more contagious, highlighting the need for booster doses, Dr. Ashish Jha warned.
At the same time, President Joe Biden ordered flags lowered to half-staff to mark the “tragic milestone” of 1 million lives lost in America to COVID-19 and called on world leaders to take on a renewed commitment to attack the virus.
Meanwhile, the first factory in South Africa to produce COVID-19 vaccines may close within weeks due to a lack of orders. A senior World Health Organization official called this a “failure” in attempts to reach vaccine equity.
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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North Korea on Saturday reported 21 new deaths and 174,440 more people with fever symptoms as the country scrambles to slow the spread of COVID-19 across its unvaccinated population.
The new deaths and cases, which were from Friday, increased total numbers to 27 deaths and 524,440 illnesses amid a rapid spread of fever since late April. North Korea said 243,630 people had recovered and 280,810 remained in quarantine. State media didn’t specify how many of the fever cases and deaths were confirmed as COVID-19 infections.
The country imposed nationwide lockdowns on Thursday after confirming its first COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic. It had previously held for more than two years to a widely doubted claim of a perfect record keeping out the virus that has spread to nearly every place in the world.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during a meeting on anti-virus strategies on Saturday described the outbreak as a historically “huge disruption” and called for unity between the government and people to stabilize the outbreak as quickly as possible.
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As the rest of the world learns to live with COVID-19, China’s top leader, Xi Jinping, wants his country to keep striving to live without it — no matter the cost.
China won a battle against its first outbreak in Wuhan, Xi said last week, and “we will certainly be able to win the battle to defend Shanghai,” he added, referring to the epicenter of the current outbreak in China.
But pressure is mounting for a change to the zero-COVID-19 strategy that has left Shanghai at a standstill since March, kept hundreds of millions of Chinese citizens under lockdown nationwide and is now threatening to bring Beijing to a halt.
This week, the World Health Organization called China’s current pandemic strategy “unsustainable.” An economist summarized it as “zero movement, zero GDP.” Multinational companies have grown wary of further investments in the country.
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A new report shows routine childhood immunization rates have decreased during the pandemic, dropping by 13% in 2021 when compared to pre-pandemic levels, according to Washington state health officials.
The Washington State Department of Health said Thursday that in response, the Department of Health, health care providers and other agencies are working with people to catch up and remain current on routine immunizations.
“The pandemic has been difficult for everyone. Disruptions to schooling, childcare and in-person health care made it hard for some families to stay up to date on their shots,” said Dr. Tao Sheng Kwan-Gett, the state’s chief science officer. “We encourage parents and caregivers to schedule their well-child visits as soon as possible, to make sure their kids are happy, healthy, meeting developmental milestones, and ready for school.”
The report, compiled by the Department of Health, compares routine childhood vaccination rates in Washington from 2021 to averages from 2015-2019.
Rates were found to have declined the most in younger children, with vaccinations decreasing 9.6% in the 19-to-35-month age group. They decreased 3.9% in those ages 4 to 6 and decreased 3.6% for those ages 11 and 12.

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 Shanghai will try again to reopen in a few days after it has eliminated COVID-19 transmission among the general population as the outbreak in China’s largest city subsides, an official said Friday.
The strict lockdown of the city — now in its seventh week, but lifted and reinforced at times to the frustration of residents — is part of the ruling Communist Party’s “zero-COVID” policy that has exacted a mounting economic toll and that even the World Health Organization says may be unsustainable.
The goal in Shanghai is to achieve “elimination in society,” meaning any new cases would only be in people already in isolation, Vice Mayor Wu Qing said at a news conference. That would allow an “orderly opening, limited (population) flow, and differentiated management,” Wu said.
No exact date beyond the middle of the month was given, nor did Wu say how the reopening would occur except that the city intends to gradually restore industrial production, education and medical services.
Shanghai officials have made similar assurances in the past, only for restrictions to return even as cases wane in the city of 25 million people.

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Before acknowledging its first domestic COVID-19 cases, North Korea spent 2 1/2 years rejecting outside offers of vaccines and steadfastly claiming that its superior socialist system was protecting its 26 million people from “a malicious virus” that had killed millions around the world.
Its surprise admission this week has left many outsiders wondering just how bad things really are, and there’s rising worry that it could cause a major humanitarian crisis in a country with one of the world’s worst public medical infrastructures.
Because the North has been shut up tight since early 2020, with no reporters, aid workers or diplomats regularly going in, reading the situation is something of a guessing game, and the North has been vague with its state media descriptions of widespread fevers. But there are some worrying facts: no reported vaccines, very limited testing capability, a terrible medical system and widespread poverty.
Without immediate outside aid shipments, some experts say North Korea could face massive fatality and infection rates. Others, however, say North Korea is using its admission of an outbreak to rally the public against the virus and boost its control of its people.

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America’s commercial fishing industry fell 10% in catch volume and 15% in value during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, federal regulators said Thursday.
The 2020 haul of fish was 8.4 billion pounds, while the value of that catch was $4.8 billion, officials with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said. The early months of the pandemic posed numerous challenges for the U.S. fishing industry, which has remained economically viable despite the difficult year, NOAA officials said.
“It was fishery closures, boats not going out due to COVID, border closings due to COVID, lots of disruption in the flow of goods and services,” said Michael Liddel, NOAA’s commercial fishery statistics branch chief.
NOAA made the announcement as it unveiled its “Status of the Stocks” report, which provides details about the health of the nation’s commercial fishing industry.
The report said there were 51 fish stocks on the federal government’s “overfished list” in 2021. That list includes stocks that have been depleted by excessive fishing and the number was an increase of two from the previous year.
Bering Sea snow crabs were among the stocks added to the overfished list. The snow crab fishery, based in Alaska, is one of the most valuable in the country, and was worth more than $100 million at the docks in 2020. Climate factors appear to be playing a role in the decline of Bering Sea snow crabs.

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China on Wednesday defended sticking to its strict “zero-COVID” approach, calling critical remarks from the head of the World Health Organization “irresponsible.”
The response from the Foreign Ministry came after WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said he had been discussing with Chinese experts the need for a different approach in light of new knowledge about the virus.
“When we talk about the ‘zero-COVID,’ we don’t think that it’s sustainable, considering the behavior of the virus now and what we anticipate in the future,” Tedros said.
Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said at a daily briefing Wednesday, “We hope that relevant people can view China’s policy of epidemic prevention and control objectively and rationally, get more knowledge about the facts and refrain from making irresponsible remarks.”
“The Chinese government’s policy of epidemic prevention and control can stand the test of history, and our prevention and control measures are scientific and effective,” Zhao said. “China is one of the most successful countries in epidemic prevention and control in the world, which is obvious to all of the international community.”
Earlier Wednesday, deputy director of Shanghai’s Center for Disease Control Wu Huanyu reaffirmed the approach’s importance in eliminating a waning outbreak. He told reporters that while progress has been made, relaxing prevention and control measures could allow the virus to rebound.

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A federal judge hears arguments Friday on whether the Biden administration can lift pandemic-related restrictions on immigrants requesting asylum later this month.
Migrants have been expelled more than 1.8 million times since March 2020 under federal Title 42 authority, which has denied migrants a chance to request asylum under U.S. law and international treaty on grounds of preventing the spread of COVID-19.
The administration’s plan to end the Title 42 authority was announced by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced April 1. The plan has drawn criticism from Republicans and some Democrats fearing a flood of new migrants.
Louisiana, Arizona and Missouri quickly sued and were later joined by 18 other states in the legal challenge being heard Friday. Texas sued independently.

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More than 107,000 Americans died of drug overdoses during the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic, setting another tragic record in the nation’s escalating overdose epidemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated Wednesday.
The provisional 2021 total translates to roughly one U.S. overdose death every 5 minutes. It marked a 15% increase from the previous record, set the year before. The CDC reviews death certificates and then makes an estimate to account for delayed and incomplete reporting.
Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, called the latest numbers “truly staggering.”
The White House issued a statement calling the accelerating pace of overdose deaths “unacceptable” and promoting its recently announced national drug control strategy. It calls for measures like connecting more people to treatment, disrupting drug trafficking and expanding access to the overdose-reversing medication naloxone.
U.S. overdose deaths have risen most years for more than two decades. The increase began in the 1990s with overdoses involving opioid painkillers, followed by waves of deaths led by other opioids like heroin and — most recently — illicit fentanyl.
Last year, overdoses involving fentanyl and other synthetic opioids surpassed 71,000, up 23% from the year before. There also was a 23% increase in deaths involving cocaine and a 34% increase in deaths involving meth and other stimulants.
There were about 3,900 so-called deaths of despair from drug overdoses, alcohol use and suicide in Washington state the first year of the pandemic, according to data from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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As a stealth wave of COVID-19 makes its way across the U.S., those who have so far evaded the virus are now falling ill — while others are catching COVID-19 for a second, third or even fourth time.
Several factors have conspired to make the state of the pandemic harder than ever to track. The rise of at-home tests, which rarely make it into official case numbers, have made keeping accurate count of positive cases impossible. Additionally, many U.S. states and jurisdictions are now reporting COVID-19 data only sporadically to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Earlier this week, Washington, D.C., reported case data to the agency for the first time since April.
This has happened just as new, more contagious subvariants of omicron are making their way through the U.S. population, leading not only to rising first-time COVID-19 cases but also frequent reinfections.
The latest versions of the virus appear particularly adept at evading the body’s immune response from both past COVID-19 infections and vaccines. Studies suggest most reinfection cases aren’t even being reported, giving little insight into how often they occur.
All this makes it especially difficult to gauge what percentage of the population is presently vulnerable to COVID-19 — and how the pandemic might evolve.

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 White House COVID-19 coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha has issued a dire warning that the U.S. will be increasingly vulnerable to the coronavirus this fall and winter if Congress doesn’t swiftly approve new funding for more vaccines and treatments.
In an Associated Press interview Thursday, Jha said Americans’ immune protection from the virus is waning, the virus is adapting to be more contagious and booster doses for most people will be necessary — with the potential for enhanced protection from a new generation of shots.
His warning came as the White House said there could be up to 100 million infections from the virus later this year — and as President Joe Biden somberly ordered flags to half-staff to mark 1 million deaths.
“As we get to the fall, we are all going to have a lot more vulnerability to a virus that has a lot more immune escape than even it does today and certainly than it did six months ago,” Jha said. “That leaves a lot of us vulnerable.”
Jha predicted that the next generation of vaccines, which are likely to be targeted at the currently prevailing omicron strain, “are going to provide a much, much higher degree of protection against the virus that we will encounter in the fall and winter.” But he warned that the U.S. is at risk of losing its place in line to other countries if Congress doesn’t act in the next several weeks.
Speaking of a need to provide vaccination assistance to other nations, Jha cast the urgency in terms of the benefits to Americans, even if they never travel overseas.
“All of these variants were first identified outside of the United States,” he said. “If the goal is to protect the American people, we have got to make sure the world is vaccinated. I mean, there’s just no ‘domestic-only’ approach here.”

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