Coronavirus daily news updates, June 17: What to know today about COVID-19 in the Seattle area, Washington state and the world

Table of Contents 9:00 pm, Jun. 17, 2021 Amid the pandemic, people crave connection. The

Editor’s note: This is a live account of COVID-19 updates from Thursday, June 17, 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 It is no longer being updated.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.

As much of the country emerges from masking and social distancing, undervaccinated pockets in the United States still threaten to bring the virus roaring back. According to recent analyses, less than 25% of the population is fully vaccinated in at least 482 counties.

On the bright side, however, Americans will soon be cleared to start traveling to to Europe again, though national governments will have authority to require test results or vaccination records and to set other entry conditions.

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 previous days’ live updates and all our other coronavirus coverage, and here to see how we track the daily spread across Washington and the world.

Gov. Jay Inslee has set a press conference today at 10:30 a.m. to discuss the state’s ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic.


Amid the pandemic, people crave connection. The Seattle-area introvert-turned-‘Internet’s Dad’ provides it

Rob Kenney has created comforting, viral DIY YouTube videos that have provided a connection that people have craved during the coronavirus pandemic. (Allison Fann).

Rob Kenney has created comforting, viral DIY YouTube videos that have provided a connection that people have craved during the coronavirus pandemic. (Allison Fann).

Curled up in the fetal position on his bed in Seattle, Rob Kenney was crying out for God. His YouTube channel, “Dad, how do I?,” went viral in May last year, thrusting the 57-year-old introvert into an overwhelming world of excitement and panic.

Kenney released his first video shortly after the coronavirus pandemic was declared. He wanted to provide practical advice (“How to fix most running toilets”) and emotional support (“I am proud of you!”).

But in a time defined by isolation and loneliness, his messages resonated with far more than the 30 or 40 subscribers he expected as the world craved connection. Less than two months after his first post, he surpassed 1 million subscribers.

—The Washington Post

Jobless Washingtonians brace for snafus as state rechecks benefits eligibility

Last November, tens of thousands of Washingtonians were told to repay millions of dollars in federal unemployment benefits after the state botched a process for verifying eligibility. 

Now, Washington is taking another run at the verification process, which state officials say has been improved to avoid earlier glitches. But much still depends on whether those many thousands can be persuaded to answer questions about unemployment benefits that may have been received, and spent, months ago.  

On Friday, the state Employment Security Department began sending notices to roughly 105,000 current and former claimants asking them to verify their eligibility. 

Verification is required by the federal government, which won’t pay federal pandemic benefits to unemployed workers who are eligible instead for regular state unemployment benefits. 

But despite efforts to smooth out the verification process, ESD officials acknowledged that the process was complicated and potentially confusing. 

Read the full story here.

—Paul Roberts

Here’s who won the second $250,000 prize in Washington’s COVID-19 vaccine lottery

Another week of the state’s vaccine lottery has passed, and this time, a Yakima resident claimed the $250,000 prize, Washington’s Lottery announced Thursday.

The winner, identified as Dillon T., claimed their prize Thursday at the Lottery’s regional office in Yakima, according to a statement from the Lottery. While Dillon T. isn’t available for media inquiries, they’re considering sharing a written statement soon. 

Of the 251 prizes available in Tuesday’s “Shot of a Lifetime” drawing, 116 have been claimed as of Thursday, the statement said. They include the $250,000 cash prize, a set of four Seattle Sounders FC tickets and an autographed jersey, a set of two Seattle Storm tickets for the last six games of the season, 41 Microsoft Xboxes, two Nintendo Switches, six Amazon Echo Dots, 49 Discover Passes, eight state Parks camping gift cards and seven Fish & Wildlife “Wild Bucks.”

The rest of the June drawings will take place every Tuesday, with the drawing for the big $1 million jackpot scheduled for July 13.

Read the full story here.

—Elise Takahama

Lisbon ringed off at weekends as Portugal fights virus surge

FILE – In this Jan. 18, 2021, file photo, a sign shows the way to the COVID-19 emergency ward at the Santa Maria hospital in Lisbon. (AP Photo/Armando Franca)

FILE – In this Jan. 18, 2021, file photo, a sign shows the way to the COVID-19 emergency ward at the Santa Maria hospital in Lisbon. (AP Photo/Armando Franca)

Travel in and out of the Lisbon metropolitan area is to be banned over coming weekends as Portuguese authorities respond to a spike in new COVID-19 cases in the region around the capital, officials announced Thursday.

Portugal is witnessing a spike in new daily cases not seen since February. Authorities reported that 804 of the 1,233 new cases detected on Thursday were in the Lisbon region.

Experts believe there is community transmission of the highly contagious delta variant in the Lisbon region.

Read the story here.

—Barry Hatton, The Associated Press

In poorest countries, surges worsen shortages of vaccines

KAMPALA, Uganda (AP) — Hati Maronjei once swore he would never get a COVID-19 shot, after a pastor warned that vaccines aren’t safe.

Now, four months after the first batch of vaccines arrived in Zimbabwe, the 44-year-old street hawker of electronic items is desperate for the shot he can’t get.

A sense of dread is growing in some of the very poorest countries in the world as virus cases surge and more contagious variants take hold amid a crippling shortage of vaccine.

The crisis has alarmed public health officials along with the millions of unvaccinated, especially those who toil in the informal, off-the-books economy, live hand-to-mouth and pay cash in health emergencies. With intensive care units filling up in cities overwhelmed by the pandemic, severe disease can be a death sentence.

Africa is especially vulnerable. Its 1.3 billion people account for 18% of the world’s population, but the continent has received only 2% of all vaccine doses administered globally. And some African countries have yet to dispense a single shot.

Read the story here.

—Rodney Muhumuza and Farai Mutsaka, The Associated Press

State health officials report 494 new coronavirus cases

The state Department of Health (DOH) reported 494 new coronavirus cases and 9 new deaths on Thursday.

The update brings the state’s totals to 446,124 cases and 5,810 deaths, meaning that 1.3% of people diagnosed in Washington have died, according to the DOH. The data is as of 11:59 p.m. Wednesday.

In addition, 24,930 people have been hospitalized in the state due to the virus — 19 new hospitalizations. In King County, the state’s most populous, state health officials have confirmed a total of 111,382 COVID-19 diagnoses and 1,610 deaths.

Since vaccinations began in mid-December, the state and health care providers have administered 7,528,340 doses and 47.5% 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 30,677 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.

US to spend $3.2B on treatments for COVID-19, other viruses

The United States is devoting $3.2 billion to speed development of antiviral pills to treat COVID-19 and other dangerous viruses that could turn into pandemics.

The new program will invest in “accelerating things that are already in progress” for COVID-19 but also would work to come up with treatments for other viruses, said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert. He announced the investment Thursday at a White House briefing.

Some drugmakers are testing such medications, but initial results aren’t expected for several more months. The new funds will speed those tests and support private sector research, development and manufacturing.

Last week, the U.S. said it would purchase 1.7 million doses of an experimental antiviral pill from Merck, if it is shown to be safe and effective. Early research suggests the drug may reduce the risk of hospitalization if used shortly after infection by stopping the coronavirus from quickly reproducing. Several other companies, including Pfizer, Roche and AstraZeneca, are also testing antiviral pills.

Read the story here.

—Matthew Perrone and Zeke Miller, The Associated Press

COVID vaccine manufacturer in Spokane to add 200 jobs with $92M expansion

Spokane pharmaceutical manufacturer Jubilant HollisterStier is adding 200 more jobs as part of a $92 million expansion.

The company, a subsidiary of India’s Jubilant Pharma Limited, also has reached a deal to produce a new COVID-19 vaccine candidate for U.S. and Canadian markets.

Under an agreement with Pennsylvania-based biopharmaceutical company Ocugen, it will manufacture Covaxin, a COVID-19 vaccine developed by Bharat Biotech in India, Jubilant said.

The company is reportedly the only pharmaceutical manufacturer of COVID-19 vaccines and therapeutics in the state of Washington, capable of producing up to 500,000 doses per day.

Read the story here.

—Greg Mason, The Spokesman-Review, Spokane, Wash.

US locks down embassy in Afghanistan amid COVID-19 surge

The U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan ordered a near-complete lockdown Thursday because of a massive spike in coronavirus cases among employees.

Already on uncertain footing due to the imminent withdrawal of American forces from the country, the embassy in Kabul ordered remaining staffers into virtual isolation to prevent the spread of COVID-19, which has already killed at least one person, sent 114 into quarantine and forced several people to be medically evacuated.

The embassy said restrictions would remain in place until the chain of transmission is broken and violators will be removed from the country on the next available flight. The notice said 95% of the cases involved people who have not been vaccinated or fully vaccinated against the virus and urged all staff to take advantage of available vaccines at the embassy.

Read the story here.

—Matthew Lee, The Associated Press

UK records over 10,000 virus cases for first time since Feb

A woman takes a phone picture of her drink in Soho, London, on the day some of England’s coronavirus lockdown restrictions were eased by the British government in April. (AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali)

A woman takes a phone picture of her drink in Soho, London, on the day some of England’s coronavirus lockdown restrictions were eased by the British government in April. (AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali)

The U.K.’s latest surge in coronavirus infections gathered pace Thursday with new confirmed cases rising above 10,000 for the first time in nearly four months as a result of the spread of the more contagious delta variant.

Government figures showed another 11,007 cases were reported. That’s the highest daily number since Feb. 19, when 12,027 cases were recorded, and cements talk that the country with Europe’s highest virus-related death toll is in the midst of a third wave of the pandemic.

The delta variant, first identified in India and considered by scientists to be between 40% to 80% more transmissible than the previous dominant strain, accounts for around 95% of all new cases in the U.K.

—Pan Pylas, The Associated Press

Black community has new option for health care: The church

In this May 9, 2021, photo, Rev. Joseph Jackson Jr. talks to his congregation at Friendship Missionary Baptist Church in Milwaukee during a service. He is president of the board of directors for Milwaukee Inner City Congregations Allied for Hope, which along with Pastors United, Souls to the Polls and the local health clinic Health Connections, is working to get vaccination clinics into churches to help vaccinate the Black community. He’s also been urging his congregation during Sunday services to get vaccinated. (AP Photo/Carrie Antlfinger)

In this May 9, 2021, photo, Rev. Joseph Jackson Jr. talks to his congregation at Friendship Missionary Baptist Church in Milwaukee during a service. He is president of the board of directors for Milwaukee Inner City Congregations Allied for Hope, which along with Pastors United, Souls to the Polls and the local health clinic Health Connections, is working to get vaccination clinics into churches to help vaccinate the Black community. He’s also been urging his congregation during Sunday services to get vaccinated. (AP Photo/Carrie Antlfinger)

Every Sunday at Friendship Missionary Baptist Church, the Rev. Joseph Jackson Jr. praises the Lord before his congregation. But since last fall he’s been praising something else his Black community needs: the COVID-19 vaccine.

“We want to continue to encourage our people to get out, get your shots. I got both of mine,” Jackson said to applause at the church in Milwaukee on a recent Sunday.

Members of Black communities across the U.S. have disproportionately fallen sick or died from the virus, so some church leaders are using their influence and trusted reputations to fight back by preaching from the pulpit, phoning people to encourage vaccinations, and hosting testing clinics and vaccination events in church buildings.

Some want to extend their efforts beyond the fight against COVID-19 and give their flocks a place to seek health care for other ailments at a place they trust — the church.

Choose Healthy Life, a national initiative involving Black clergy, United Way of New York City and others, has been awarded a $9.9 million U.S. Department of Health and Human Services grant to expand vaccinations and and make permanent the “health navigators” who are already doing coronavirus testing and vaccinations in churches.

Read the story here.

—Carrie Antlfinger, The Associated Press

Washington military members and veterans get own COVID lottery, Gov. Inslee announces

Washington’s military members and veterans are getting a COVID-19 vaccine lottery of their own, Gov. Jay Inslee announced Thursday.

That lottery will begin July 20 and include two weekly drawings for $100,000, and then a drawing in the third week for $250,000. Other prizes will include Amazon gift cards for $250 and $100 state parks gift cards.

The incentive applies to members of the military and family members who got vaccinated through the U.S. Department of Defense, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, or the National Guard.

The announcement seeks to correct a wrinkle in the lottery announced by Inslee earlier this month that is currently underway. Those winners are chosen from the state’s immunization database.

But vaccination records for service members and veterans have been maintained through the federal government, so they weren’t included in that lottery — an obstacle that state officials acknowledged even as they rolled out the virus lottery.

Read the story here.

—Joseph O’Sullivan

Russian regions make vaccines mandatory for many workers

Authorities in four Russian regions made coronavirus vaccines mandatory this week for people working in retail, education and other service sectors, part of an effort to boost the country’s low immunization rates as COVID-19 cases continue to soar.

Moscow first announced the requirement Wednesday, and the surrounding Moscow region, the Siberian region of Kemerovo and the Far East region of Sakhalin promptly followed.

Officials in the four regions ordered businesses and institutions involved in retail, education, health care, public transportation, beauty, entertainment and other industries that serve a large number of people to ensure that at least 60% of their staffs are fully vaccinated.

In Moscow, the Moscow region and Kemerovo, officials set a mid-August deadline for the threshold to be reached. Sakhalin authorities did not set a deadline but said that individuals who refuse to get vaccinated without a valid medical reason would be suspended from work until they got their shots.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

French tourism seeks new boost with Disneyland reopening

A float rides in Disneyland Paris in Marne-la-Vallée, east of Paris, Thursday. France’s tourism sector takes a further step toward post-pandemic recovery with the reopening of Disneyland Paris, two weeks after the country formally welcomed back vaccinated foreign visitors. (AP Photo/Catherine Gaschka)

A float rides in Disneyland Paris in Marne-la-Vallée, east of Paris, Thursday. France’s tourism sector takes a further step toward post-pandemic recovery with the reopening of Disneyland Paris, two weeks after the country formally welcomed back vaccinated foreign visitors. (AP Photo/Catherine Gaschka)

France’s tourism sector is taking a further step toward normality with the reopening of Disneyland Paris, two weeks after the country reopened its borders to vaccinated visitors from across the world.

Europe’s most frequented theme park in Marne-la-Vallee, east of the French capital, opened its doors on Thursday after nearly eight months of closure.

“Amazing,” said Debbie Tater. The Delaware resident travelled from the United States to visit her family, including her daughter and two granddaughters, who live in France and whom she hadn’t seen for a year and a half.

“Happiest place on earth,” she said, with tears in her eyes.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

CureVac: Vaccine data are ‘sobering,’ full results in weeks

FILE- This Jan. 7, 2021, file photo, shows the Curevac company headquarters in Tuebingen, Germany. German vaccine maker CureVac said Wednesday, June 16, 2021, that interim data from late-stage testing of its coronavirus shot show a comparatively low effectiveness in protecting people against COVID-19. (Sebastian Gollnow/dpa via AP, File)

FILE- This Jan. 7, 2021, file photo, shows the Curevac company headquarters in Tuebingen, Germany. German vaccine maker CureVac said Wednesday, June 16, 2021, that interim data from late-stage testing of its coronavirus shot show a comparatively low effectiveness in protecting people against COVID-19. (Sebastian Gollnow/dpa via AP, File)

CureVac announced late Wednesday that its vaccine had shown an efficacy of 47% against COVID-19 of any severity, according to a partial review of data from its trial involving 40,000 participants in Latin America and Europe.

This is below the World Health Organization threshold of 50% and the chief executive of the German company said Thursday that the results are “sobering,” but the company will finish its final analysis within weeks and determine whether it will still seek regulatory approval.

The biotechnology company said more than two dozen variants of the coronavirus were found in its trial across 10 countries, a fact that may have affected the outcome.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

US jobless claims tick up to 412,000 from a pandemic low

The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits rose last week for the first time since April despite widespread evidence that the economy and the job market are rebounding steadily from the pandemic recession.

The Labor Department said Thursday that jobless claims rose 37,000 from the week before to 412,000. As the job market has strengthened, the number of weekly applications for unemployment aid had fallen for most of the year. Weekly applications for unemployment aid had dropped for six straight weeks, and economists had expected another dip last week.

A year ago, nearly 1.5 million people had applied for unemployment benefits in one week.

Read the story here.

—Paul Wiseman, The Associated Press

WHO warns of fresh Indonesia surge fed by virus variants

Indonesia’s president ordered authorities to speed up the country’s vaccination campaign as the World Health Organization warned Thursday of the need to increase social restrictions in the country amid a fresh surge of coronavirus infections caused by worrisome variants.

Motorcyclists pass a mural in Jakarta, Indonesia. The country is battling a fresh surge of COVID-19 cases fed by virus variants. (Bloomberg)

Motorcyclists pass a mural in Jakarta, Indonesia. The country is battling a fresh surge of COVID-19 cases fed by virus variants. (Bloomberg)

Indonesia, the world’s fourth most populous country, aims to inoculate more than 181 million of its 270 million people by March 2022, but authorities have only fully vaccinated 11.8 million people and partially vaccinated another 9.6 million others.

Indonesia saw its number of confirmed new cases climb to more than 12,600 on Thursday, an increase blamed on travel during last month’s Eid al-Fitr holiday as well as the arrival of new virus variants, such as the the delta version first found in India.

“With increased transmission due to variants of concern, urgent action is needed to contain the situation in many provinces,” the WHO report said.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

Catch up on the past 24 hours

A big worry is keeping Washington state’s epidemiologist up at night: the gamma variant, which is rising faster than any other in the state. It’s highly infectious and linked to increased breakthrough infections in vaccinated people. That’s on top of concerns about the delta variant, which is increasing its grip locally and nationally. You can track the spread of the virus in these graphics.

Colds and common viruses are roaring back, especially among children — and sometimes with an uncommon punch. “It’s very unusual to see this volume of sick kids during the summer,” one pediatrics expert explains.

Tired of “hygiene theater”? Many showy precautions don’t provide meaningful protection against the coronavirus, safety experts say, from touchless mustard to power-washing the outside of subway cars as if people “were going around licking the exterior.” But defenders say these measures serve a purpose, even if it’s an unintended one.

—Kris Higginson