Coronavirus daily news updates, January 31: 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, January 31, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.
Thousands of protesters gathered in Canada’s capital on Saturday to protest vaccine mandates, masks and lockdowns. Some parked on the grounds of the National War Memorial and danced on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, others carried signs and flags with swastikas and some used the statue of Canadian hero Terry Fox to display an anti-vaccine statement, sparking widespread condemnation.
Bellevue-based T-Mobile US will fire corporate employees who are not fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by April 2, according to a memo to staff obtained by Bloomberg News. In the email to U.S. employees, the wireless carrier’s human resources chief also said that office employees who haven’t received the first dose of a vaccine by Feb. 21 will be placed on unpaid leave. 
In Lynnwood, a pirate-themed bar has lost staff, bands and customers — over a show with advertised discounted prices for people sick with COVID-19. The Vessel Taphouse posted on Facebook on Jan. 21 that people should “Come see the show, maybe catch the virus or just stay home and whine.”
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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Police in Canada’s capital said Sunday they are investigating possible criminal charges after anti-vaccine protesters urinated on the National War Memorial, danced on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and used the statue of Canadian hero Terry Fox to display an anti-vaccine statement.
Thousands of protesters gathered in Ottawa Saturday to protest vaccine mandates, masks and lockdowns. Some travelled in truck convoys and parked on the streets around Parliament Hill, blocking traffic.
Many remained on Sunday.
Ottawa Police said officers are also investigating threatening behavior to police and others.
Read the full story here.
An Illinois-based COVID-19 testing company, with at least 13 sites in Washington, faked or delayed test results (or provided none at all), lied to patients and failed to properly store test samples, according to a lawsuit filed Monday by Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson.
The lawsuit, filed in King County Superior Court, describes how the company, Center for COVID Control, expanded to about 300 locations throughout the United States and allegedly took advantage of residents at a time when frequent testing was in high demand as a “critical tool in the fight against COVID-19.”
“Center for COVID Control contributed to the spread of COVID-19 when it provided false negative results,” Ferguson said in a statement. “These sham testing centers threatened the health and safety of our communities. They must be held accountable.”
The suit also alleges the Center for COVID Control stored tests in garbage bags for more than a week — rather than properly refrigerating them — backdated sample-collection dates so stale samples would still be processed and instructed its employees to “lie to patients on a daily basis” when Washingtonians asked about delayed results.
Read the full story here.
Washington state on Monday reopened its website that allows residents to order COVID-19 rapid tests, after running out of supplies and closing the site less than a day after its initial launch.
The state Department of Health has received hundreds of thousands more at-home tests, and anticipates delivering tests to another 120,000 homes with the new batch, according to a DOH statement.
The state first introduced the website, sayyescovidhomettest.org, on Jan. 21, allowing Washingtonians to get up to five free tests shipped to their homes — but within eight hours, all 1.4 million available tests had been snatched up. About 340,000 homes received tests then, according to DOH.
The state at the time blamed the quick depletion of tests on national supply chain shortages, which have created challenges in securing kits from local pharmacies and finding appointments at testing sites.
Read the full story here.
Tokyo’s population shrank last year for the first time in a quarter century, as more businesses turned to remote work amid the pandemic.
The population of Japan’s capital dropped by about 48,600 people to just under 14 million at the start of 2022, the first decline since 1996, the metropolitan government reported Monday.
Japan has been trying for years to revive its regional economies and stop Tokyo from gobbling up more and more of the nation’s shrinking population. Now, the coronavirus appears to have done what no government policy could: stem the flow of people into the crowded city.
As the pandemic heads into its third year, shifting attitudes about remote work are one reason for the change. Another is companies like Pasona, the staffing and placement services giant, which in 2020 announced it would decentralize its headquarter functions away from Tokyo.
Read the full story here.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom is facing new criticism for shedding his face mask in public, rekindling a politically sensitive issue that has shadowed the Democratic governor since he was caught without a face covering at a 2020 party that defied his own pandemic safety orders.
The latest scrutiny came after basketball legend Earvin “Magic” Johnson tweeted a photo of himself with the governor at the NFC championship game Sunday at SoFi Stadium near Los Angeles — both beaming smiles without masks.
Earlier this month, California health officials extended the state’s indoor mask mandate through Feb. 15, as omicron cases surged. At the stadium, regulations allow people to remove masks only when they are eating and drinking.
Newsom told reporters Monday in Los Angeles that he removed his mask only briefly for the photo with Johnson and was otherwise “very judicious” about keeping it in place. He indicated he also removed it occasionally to sip water.
Read the full story here.
Books aren’t the only thing you can get at the library. A limited number of free coronavirus rapid tests and masks are available at certain King County Library System branches.
People are limited to two test kits and two masks per household on a first-come, first-served basis during scheduled service hours.
As of Saturday, eight branches offering tests are:
Read the full story here.
The omicron wave is receding in states where the extremely contagious variant arrived later, and some governors are saying it’s time for pandemic-fatigued Americans to try to restore a sense of normalcy.
The United States remains in a precarious position, with hospitals overstretched and daily deaths above 2,500 and rising. While case counts are declining nationally and in some states — including Arizona, Utah, Colorado, North Dakota, Louisiana and Mississippi — where omicron swept through more recently, they remain far higher than in any other period of the pandemic. And the spread of an omicron subvariant that appears to be even more contagious has some experts warning that it could take longer than expected for the wave to wane.
The daily average of U.S. cases remains around 519,000 — more than double the worst statistics from last winter. Hospitalizations, which lag cases, seem to have topped out nationally, though they remain higher than last winter’s peak. Deaths, which lag more, are also at record levels in some states.
In a few states, like Washington and Montana, cases are still rising. And on Monday, Gov. Brad Little of Idaho activated the National Guard in his state to help keep hospitals functioning when many medical workers are out sick.
Despite all of this, some state leaders said that while new variants and, inevitably, another surge remained a threat, omicron had brought the country closer to the endemic stage of the virus.
Read the full story here.
The state Department of Health (DOH) reported 19,776 new coronavirus cases on Friday, 17,148 on Saturday and 9,156 cases on Sunday. It also reported 77 more deaths over those days.
The update brings the state’s totals to 1,339,743 cases and 10,776 deaths, meaning that 0.8% of people diagnosed in Washington have died, according to the DOH. The data is as of 11:59 p.m. Sunday. New state data is reported on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
In addition, 54,147 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the virus — 184 new hospitalizations. In King County, the state’s most populous, state health officials have confirmed a total of 345,785 COVID-19 diagnoses and 2,301 deaths.
Since vaccinations began in late 2020, the state and health care providers have administered 12,713,303 doses and 65.8% of Washingtonians have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to vaccination data, which the state updates on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Providers are currently giving an average of about 22,159 vaccine shots per day.
The DOH says its daily case reports may also include duplicate test results, results assigned to the wrong county, results that are reported for today but are actually from a previous day, occasional false positive tests and other data discrepancies. Because of this, the previous day’s total number of cases plus the number of new daily cases does not add up to the new day’s total number of cases. State health officials recommend reviewing the dashboard’s epidemiologic curves tab for the most accurate representation of the state’s COVID-19 spread.
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — As school systems across the U.S. struggle to keep classrooms open amid the pandemic, New Orleans is set to become the nation’s first major district to mandate COVID-19 vaccinations for children 5 and up, though state regulations will allow parents to opt out easily.
Ahead of Tuesday’s deadline, many schools in the city have been holding vaccination events, including one at KIPP Believe school.
One by one, dozens of children presented their signed permission slips, pushed up the sleeves of their pale yellow school uniform shirts and — often wincing, but rarely with tears — received a shot. Then they got candy.
Read the full story here.
Couples traditionally vow to stay together for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health. Rarely do they mention for 24 hours a day, for seven days a week, for every single meal, for so much streaming, for two blasted, interminable years.
So imagine what the pandemic has been like for a throuple, three individuals in a loving, committed relationship. Also one that’s moved seven times since early 2020, including driving nearly 1,300 miles from Denver to Chattanooga in one car with three cats.
Cody Coppola, 31, and Maggie Odell, 28, have been together for six years, and married for four. Janie Frank, 26, is Cody’s girlfriend of more than five years. She is also Maggie’s. They all work in the construction and design.
They are all vaccinated and boosted. No one has gotten sick. But in the past two years while living through the pandemic, Maggie says, they have “experienced every single stressor that you can put on a relationship”: loss of employment, money issues, change of jobs, moving, home renovation, moving and moving again.
Read the full story here.
HOUSTON — The El Campo Impact 13-and-under girls volleyball team was down by one point in their opening tournament of the year. It was Kamryn Thompson’s turn to serve, and it was a winner. Cheers and screams rose from the packed crowd of hundreds of maskless coaches, parents and siblings in a mid-January gathering that felt as if the coronavirus had never hit.
About 15 miles away, Gabriela Hernandez was trapped behind a glass partition in a pediatric intensive care unit jammed with severely ill children battling COVID-19. Her daughter, Kimberly, who is immunocompromised, had tested positive for the virus, and now her body was going haywire. Hernandez and the hospital’s medical teams were frustrated about the choices that have helped propel the virus’ spread and put vulnerable people like Kimberly at risk.
The split-screen reality of American life amid a pandemic has never been as stark as at this moment, in the 23rd month of a crisis that people had expected would long be over.
“I know people who have died because of this and people don’t believe it,” Hernandez said. “You have to believe it. You have to know that this is happening.”
Read the full story here.
LONDON (AP) — Prime Minister Boris Johnson apologized Monday after an inquiry found that Downing Street parties while Britain was in lockdown represented a “serious failure” to observe the standards expected of government or to heed the sacrifices made by millions of people during the pandemic.
But Johnson brushed off calls to quit over the “partygate” scandal, promising to reform the way his office is run and insisting that he and his government can be trusted.
“I get it, and I will fix it,” he said in Parliament after senior civil servant Sue Gray published interim findings on several gatherings in 2020 and 2021 while the U.K. was under government-imposed restrictions to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Gray found that “failures of leadership and judgment” allowed events to occur that “should not have been allowed to take place.”
Read the full story here.
White House officials have grown so frustrated with top health official Xavier Becerra as the pandemic rages on that they have openly mused about who might be better in the job, although political considerations have stopped them from taking steps to replace him, officials involved in the discussions said.
Top White House officials have had an uneasy relationship with Becerra, the health and human services secretary, since early in President Joe Biden’s term. But their dissatisfaction has escalated in recent months as the omicron variant has sickened millions of Americans in a fifth pandemic wave amid confusing and sometimes conflicting messages from top health officials that brought scrutiny to Biden’s strategy, according to three senior administration officials and two outside advisers with direct knowledge of the conversations.
The frustration with Becerra comes as top White House and health officials face growing criticism for health messaging missteps, as well as controversial policies about coronavirus testing and isolation. The administration has also struggled in the face of a tsunami of cases that has overwhelmed hospitals and shuttered some schools and businesses because so many workers became infected.
White House and HHS officials denied those tensions and pointed to the administration’s work on delivering vaccines, as well as new COVID treatments and diagnostic tests, as evidence of a productive working relationship.
Read the full story here.
TORONTO (AP) — Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Monday he has tested positive for COVID-19, but is “feeling fine″ and will continue working remotely.
The announcement came in a tweet in which he urged everyone to “please get vaccinated and get boosted.″
Trudeau said on Thursday that he was going into isolation for five days after finding out the previous evening he had been in contact with someone who tested positive. He told The Canadian Press on Friday that person was one of his three children.
Read the full story here.
WASHINGTON (AP) — Moderna announced Monday that U.S. health regulators granted full approval to its COVID-19 vaccine, a shot that’s been given to tens of millions of Americans since its emergency authorization over a year ago.
The action by the Food and Drug Administration means the agency has completed the same rigorous, time-consuming review of Moderna’s shot as dozens of other long-established vaccines.
The decision was bolstered by real-world evidence from the more than 200 million doses administered in the U.S. since the FDA cleared the shot in December 2020. The FDA granted full approval of Pfizer’s vaccine last August.
Read the full story here.
BEIJING (AP) — People across Asia prepared Monday for muted Lunar New Year celebrations amid concerns over the coronavirus and virulent omicron variant, even as increasing vaccination rates raised hopes that the Year of the Tiger might bring life back closer to normal.
The Lunar New Year is the most important annual holiday in China and falls on Tuesday, Feb. 1. Each year is named after one of twelve signs of the Chinese zodiac in a repeating cycle. The Year of the Tiger follows the Year of the Ox.
This will be the third new year in a row celebrated in the shadow of the pandemic. It was two days before the holiday in 2020 that China locked down Wuhan — a city of 11 million people — following the detection of the coronavirus there.
Some 85% of Chinese are now fully vaccinated, according to Our World in Data, and more Chinese have been traveling domestically this year, despite government warnings. 
Read the full story here.
Right before winter break, schools in Seattle experienced an uptick in threats of violence that rattled the community, heightened student anxiety and resulted in criminal charges for a teenager. 
The string of threats in Seattle Public Schools could have been set off by a highly publicized Michigan school shooting that resulted in the deaths of four students; experts say there are often threat spikes in the aftermath of school shootings.
But something else may also be at play. District officials say the increase in threats has been an issue since students returned to in-person school full time. The pandemic may be fueling some of the threats, they say.
“We have a pandemic that we’re already kind of depleted from somewhat and now you layer back on what we’ve always struggled with these past 20 years with school shootings and violence on campuses,” said Erin Romanuk, a student-support-services manager at Seattle Schools. 
Read the full story here.
COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — Finland will end all COVID-19 restrictions next month, Prime Minister Sanna Marin said Monday.
Marin said her Social Democratic-led government would negotiate with the other parties in parliament the timetable for the removal of the restrictions.
At the same time, border controls at the internal borders between Finland and the other Schengen countries end Monday. That restriction was introduced at the end of December to slow down the spread of the omicron variant. Travelers coming from outside the EU will continue to meet border controls at least until Feb. 14. February, Finnish broadcaster YLE said.
In neighboring Denmark, restrictions were to be scrapped Tuesday, including allowing Danes to enjoy free access to restaurants, cafes, museums and nightclubs, while mask use will cease to be mandatory.
The restrictions were originally introduced in July but were removed about 10 weeks later after a successful vaccination drive. They were reintroduced when infections soared.
Read the full story here.
NEW YORK (AP) — Following protests of Spotify kicked off by Neil Young over the spread of COVID-19 vaccine misinformation, the music streaming service said that it will add content advisories before podcasts discussing the virus.
In a post Sunday, Spotify chief executive Daniel Ek laid out more transparent platform rules given the backlash stirred by Young, who on Wednesday had his music removed from Spotify after the tech giant declined to get rid of episodes of “The Joe Rogan Experience,” which has been criticized for spreading virus misinformation.
“Personally, there are plenty of individuals and views on Spotify that I disagree with strongly,” wrote Ek. “It is important to me that we don’t take on the position of being content censor while also making sure that there are rules in place and consequences for those who violate them.”
Ek said that the advisories will link to Spotify’s fact-based COVID-19 hub in what he described as a “new effort to combat misinformation.” It will roll out in the coming days, Ek said. He did not specifically reference Rogan or Young.
Rogan responded to the fallout on Sunday, saying in a video on Instagram that he was only seeking to have conversations on his podcast with people who have “differing opinions.”
“I’m not trying to promote misinformation, I’m not trying to be controversial,” Rogan said. “I’ve never tried to do anything with this podcast other than to just talk to people.”
Read the full story here.
More than a year after a bout with COVID-19, Rebekah Hogan still suffers from severe brain fog, pain and fatigue that leave her unable to do her nursing job or handle household activities.
Long COVID has her questioning her worth as a wife and mother.
“Is this permanent? Is this the new norm?’’ said the 41-year-old Latham, New York, woman, whose three children and husband also have signs of the condition. “I want my life back.’’
More than a third of COVID-19 survivors by some estimates will develop such lingering problems. Now, with omicron sweeping across the globe, scientists are racing to pinpoint the cause of the bedeviling condition and find treatments before a potential explosion in long COVID cases.
Could it be an autoimmune disorder? That could help explain why long COVID-19 disproportionately affects women, who are more likely than men to develop autoimmune diseases. Could microclots be the cause of symptoms ranging from memory lapses to discolored toes? That could make sense, since abnormal blood clotting can occur in COVID-19.
As these theories and others are tested, there is fresh evidence that vaccination may reduce the chances of developing long COVID.
Read the full story here.
Call this America’s split-screen pandemic: Many families are resuming their lives even as hospitals are overwhelmed, and the contrast has never been so stark — particularly for a vaccinated teen who wound up in intensive care. The very personal perspectives are playing out as cases fall but deaths keep rising nationwide.
A UW expert just called the end of the pandemic. Why is nobody celebrating? Viewpoints vary, and it turns out the end of past pandemics didn’t have much to do with science, columnist Danny Westneat writes as he looks back at what happened in Seattle in 1918.
Omicron is amping up concerns about long COVID and its causes, as momentum builds around a few key theories. And then there are the many people for whom omicron isn’t mild in the first place.
Two Long Island nurses made $1.5 million selling fake vaccination cards, prosecutors say.
A man with a “ticking time bomb” faced a stark choice: Get a vaccine, or lose out on a lifesaving transplant. “I was born free, I’ll die free,” the 38-year-old decided.

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