Gov. Jay Inslee warned Thursday of “strong evidence” of a possible fourth COVID-19 wave in Washington, noting daily case counts have grown to over 1,000, up from 700 per day in February. As coronavirus cases again trend up, Inslee last week ordered three counties — Pierce, Cowlitz and Whitman — to tighten restrictions by moving back to the second phase of his “Healthy Washington” plan. If cases and hospitalizations continue to increase, more counties now in Phase 3 could roll back to the second phase in May.

The United States opened more distance between itself and much of the rest of the world on Thursday, nearing the 200 millionth vaccine administered in a months-long race to protect the population against COVID-19, even as other countries, rich and poor, struggle with stubbornly high infection rates and deaths. The Associated Press reports that nearly half of American adults have gotten at least one dose of the vaccine, and about 30% of adults in the U.S. have been fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But the picture is still relentlessly grim in parts of Europe, Latin America, Africa and Asia as variants of the virus fuel an increase in new cases and the worldwide death toll closes in on 3 million.

France has become the third country in Europe after the U.K. and Italy to reach the unwanted milestone of 100,000 COVID-19-related deaths as new infections and deaths surged due to virus variants. But experts told The Associated Press the 100,000 mark is an underestimate by thousands: An analysis of death certificates shows that some COVID-19 cases were not reported or patients were not tested when people died at home, or in psychiatric units or chronic care facilities. France has reported the most confirmed coronavirus infections in Europe, more than 5.2 million.

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.

New global coronavirus cases nearly double in two months

The number of new coronavirus cases around the globe has almost doubled over the past two months, an alarming increase that the World Health Organization said Friday was nearing the pandemic’s peak infection rate.

Around the world, “COVID-19 cases and deaths are continuing to increase at worrying rates,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a briefing Friday.

“This is approaching the highest rate of infection that we have seen so far during the pandemic,” he said. “Some countries that had previously avoided widespread covid-19 transmission are now seeing steep increases in infections.”

Case numbers have spiked in nearly all regions, with larger outbreaks gripping Brazil, India, Poland, Turkey and some other countries. In the seven days ending April 11, global cases rose by 11 percent compared to the previous week, according to the WHO.

Some of those infections were due to the spread of new variants, while other surges came as pandemic fatigue set in and authorities moved to relax restrictions.

Read the story here.

—Erin Cunningham and Siobhán O’Grady, The Washington Post

Big Chile study finds Chinese vaccine slashes COVID deaths

FILE – In this Feb. 15, 2021 file photo, teachers wait to be inoculated with the CoronaVac COVID-19 vaccine at the Salvador Sanfuentes public school during the start of nationwide vaccination campaign for educators, in Santiago, Chile. A real-world study of millions of Chileans who had received the Chinese-developed CoronaVac vaccine has found it 67% effective against symptoms and 80% against death from COVID-19, the South American country’s Health Ministry said Friday, April 16, 2021. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix, File)

FILE – In this Feb. 15, 2021 file photo, teachers wait to be inoculated with the CoronaVac COVID-19 vaccine at the Salvador Sanfuentes public school during the start of nationwide vaccination campaign for educators, in Santiago, Chile. A real-world study of millions of Chileans who had received the Chinese-developed CoronaVac vaccine has found it 67% effective against symptoms and 80% against death from COVID-19, the South American country’s Health Ministry said Friday, April 16, 2021. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix, File)

A real-world study of millions of Chileans who had received the Chinese-developed CoronaVac vaccine has found it 67% effective against symptoms and 80% against death from COVID-19, the South American country’s Health Ministry said Friday.

Ministry adviser Rafael Araos said the study covered 10.5 million people, including 2.5 million who had received both doses of the vaccine and 1.5 million who had received a single dose between Feb. 2 and April 1. It counted cases starting 14 days after application of the second dose of the vaccine, which in Chile was given 28 days after the first.

Araos said it had reduced hospitalizations by 85%, intensive care visits by 89% and deaths by 80%.

It is one of the broadest studies so far published of any of the vaccines used against the new coronavirus. Most previous studies were based on clinical studies of limited groups of thousands of people given the vaccines to test efficacy and safety prior to general use.

Read the story here.

—Eva Vergara, The Associated Press

Drug companies are planning for COVID-19 booster shots

Scientists have long said that giving people a single course of a COVID-19 vaccine might not be sufficient in the long term, and that booster shots and even annual vaccinations might prove necessary.

Pfizer said Thursday that a third dose of the company’s COVID-19 vaccine was “likely” to be needed within a year of the initial two-dose inoculation — followed by annual vaccinations. Moderna said this week that it was at work on a booster for its vaccine, and Johnson & Johnson has said that its single-shot vaccine will probably need to be given annually.

Dr. David Kessler, who runs the Biden administration’s vaccine effort, told a House subcommittee on Thursday that the government was also looking ahead. One factor at play is the spread of coronavirus variants and whether further vaccination could better target mutant strains.

Read the story here.

—Remy Tumin, The New York Times

A new job is emerging as businesses plan for pandemic’s end: Director of remote work

As remote work evolves from a stopgap measure during the pandemic into an ongoing way of life, a new job is emerging in the corporate ranks: director of remote work.

Tech giants such as GitLab, Facebook, Twitter and Quora are among the first and best-known companies to carve out a new position dedicated to remote work, tapping executives with backgrounds in finance, law, land acquisition and consulting.

But it’s happening informally inside many companies with human resource staffers taking on expanded roles.

They are working with the real estate department to consider downsizing office space, and discussing tax implications of hiring work-from-anywhere employees in multiple states or countries. They’re spending more time with the IT department to ensure workers have the tools they need to work from home. And they continue to serve as the bridge between employees and management.

“We’ve always been viewed as a support function,” Lauseng said. “I think the pandemic has given HR professionals increased job security. They have a more strategic role in how this is going to play out.”

Read the story here.

—Jackie Crosby, Star Tribune

Portugal reaps benefits of a prolonged COVID-19 lockdown

While most of the Europe Union grapples with new surges of COVID-19 cases and brings back curbs on what people can do, Portugal is going in the other direction.

Starting Monday, the Portuguese will be able to go to restaurants, shopping malls and cinemas. Classes will resume at high schools and universities. Schools for younger children are already open, as are café and restaurant esplanades.

After becoming the world’s worst-hit country by size of population in January, Portugal has seen the pandemic ebb significantly during a serious lockdown with flight restrictions that for weeks virtually banned arrivals from other European Union countries and closed the border with neighboring Spain..

Read the story here.

—Barry Hatton, The Associated Press

Day workers leaving India’s cities as virus dries up jobs

People wearing masks as a precaution against the coronavirus walk to board trains at Lokmanya Tilak Terminus in Mumbai, India, Friday, April 16, 2021. Migrant workers are swarming rail stations in India’s financial capital Mumbai to go to their home villages as virus-control measures dry up work in the hard-hit region. The government of Maharashtra state imposed lockdown-like curbs on Wednesday for 15 days to check the spread of the virus. It closed most industries, businesses and public places and limited the movement of people, but didn’t stop the bus, train and air services. An exodus ensued, with panicked day laborers hauling backpacks onto overcrowded trains leaving Mumbai, travel that raises fears of infections spreading in rural areas. (AP Photo/Rajanish Kakade)

People wearing masks as a precaution against the coronavirus walk to board trains at Lokmanya Tilak Terminus in Mumbai, India, Friday, April 16, 2021. Migrant workers are swarming rail stations in India’s financial capital Mumbai to go to their home villages as virus-control measures dry up work in the hard-hit region. The government of Maharashtra state imposed lockdown-like curbs on Wednesday for 15 days to check the spread of the virus. It closed most industries, businesses and public places and limited the movement of people, but didn’t stop the bus, train and air services. An exodus ensued, with panicked day laborers hauling backpacks onto overcrowded trains leaving Mumbai, travel that raises fears of infections spreading in rural areas. (AP Photo/Rajanish Kakade)

Migrant workers are piling into rail stations in India’s financial capital Mumbai to head back to their home villages now that virus-control measures have dried up work in the hard-hit region.

The government of Maharashtra state, home to Mumbai, imposed lockdown-like curbs on Wednesday for 15 days to check the spread of the virus. It closed most industries, businesses and public places and limited the movement of people, but didn’t stop bus, train and air services.

An exodus ensued, with panicked day laborers hauling backpacks onto overcrowded trains leaving Mumbai. The migration is raising fears of the virus spreading in rural areas.

Read the story here.

—Rajanish Kakade, The Associated Press

German’s IDT to make 10M AstraZeneca vaccine doses in 2021

German vaccine-maker IDT Biologika said Friday it plans to bottle this year some 10 million doses of the coronavirus shot developed by AstraZeneca.

IDT Biologika and AstraZeneca previously announced they would expand production capacity for the British-Swedish company’s vaccine at a plant in the German town of Dessau by the end of 2022.

IDT produces vaccines for several pharmaceutical companies. In March, the company announced that for three months it would make the single-dose COVID-19 shot developed by Johnson & Johnson. IDT is also in talks with the developers of Russia’s Sputnik V shot, which has yet to be approved for use in the European Union.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

China ramps up vaccination drive with free eggs, other goods

People wait in line outside a Covid-19 vaccination center in Beijing, China, on Wednesday, March 17, 2021. The Chinese capital city is offering Covid vaccine shots to people aged 60 and above who are in good heath, Beijing Center for Disease Prevention and Control said in a statement. Photographer: Yan Cong/Bloomberg (Bloomberg)

People wait in line outside a Covid-19 vaccination center in Beijing, China, on Wednesday, March 17, 2021. The Chinese capital city is offering Covid vaccine shots to people aged 60 and above who are in good heath, Beijing Center for Disease Prevention and Control said in a statement. Photographer: Yan Cong/Bloomberg (Bloomberg)

China’s success at controlling the coronavirus outbreak has resulted in a population that has seemed almost reluctant to get vaccinated. So it is accelerating its inoculation campaign by offering incentives — free eggs, store coupons and discounts on groceries and merchandise — to those getting a shot.

After a slow start, China is now giving millions of shots a day. On March 26 alone, it administered 6.1 million shots. A top government doctor, Zhong Nanshan, has announced a June goal of vaccinating 560 million of the country’s 1.4 billion people.

The challenge lies partly in the sheer scale of the effort and the need to convince a population that currently feels safe from infections.

Read the story here.

—Huizong Wu, The Associated Press

US setting up $1.7B national network to track virus variants

The U.S. is setting up a $1.7 billion national network to identify and track worrisome coronavirus mutations whose spread could trigger another pandemic wave, the Biden administration announced Friday.

White House officials unveiled a strategy that features three components: a major funding boost for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state health departments to ramp up gene-mapping of coronavirus samples; the creation of six “centers of excellence” partnerships with universities to conduct research and develop technologies for gene-based surveillance of pathogens; and building a data system to better share and analyze information on emerging disease threats, so the knowledge can be turned into action.

The new effort, which relies on money approved by Congress as part of President Joe Biden’s coronavirus relief package, aims to break what experts say is a feast-or-famine cycle in which the government scrambles to counter a potential threat, but funding dries up when it recedes.

Read the story here.

—Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar and Zeke Miller, The Associated Press

Germany’s Merkel urges lawmakers to support pandemic bill

German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged parliament Friday to pass a bill that would mandate a nationwide “emergency brake” when the spread of the coronavirus becomes too rapid, saying that it was needed to prevent the health care system from becoming overwhelmed.

“There is no way around it. We need to stop this third wave of the pandemic… and to achieve this we need to better combine the strengths of the federal, state and local governments than we have been,” she told lawmakers.

Passing the bill is an uphill battle for Merkel, with state governments reluctant to cede any authority over health care to the federal government.

The speech to parliament came as the country recorded 25,831 new daily cases of COVID-19 and 247 additional deaths.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

Senators to Biden: Waive vaccine intellectual property rules

Ten liberal senators are urging President Joe Biden to back India and South Africa’s appeal to the World Trade Organization to temporarily relax intellectual property rules so coronavirus vaccines can be manufactured by nations that are struggling to inoculate their populations.

The lawmakers, in a letter delivered to the White House on Thursday evening, wrote that Biden should “prioritize people over pharmaceutical company profits” and support the temporary waiver of the rules. A waiver could pave the way for generic or other manufacturers to make more vaccines.

The letter was led by independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, along with Democratic Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin and Sherrod Brown of Ohio. Democratic Sens. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Chris Murphy of Connecticut, Edward Markey of Massachusetts, Jeff Merkley of Oregon, Chris Van Hollen of Maryland and Raphael Warnock of Georgia also signed the letter.

“Simply put, we must make vaccines, testing, and treatments accessible everywhere if we are going to crush the virus anywhere,” the lawmakers say in the letter, which was obtained by The Associated Press.

More than 100 nations support a temporary waiver, which could help vaccine manufacturing ramp up in poorer countries that are struggling to acquire vaccine supplies. The Biden administration has said it is studying the issue.

Opponents, including pharmaceutical companies, worry that it would set dangerous precedent in allowing scientists around the globe to copy American and European companies’ research — some of which was funded by the U.S. government — long before patents expire. The Trump administration had opposed calls for the waiver.

Read the story here.

—Aamer Madhani, The Associated Press

Amid hesitancy, Louisiana gets creative in vaccine outreach

FILE – In this April 13, 2021, file photo, Brent Houzenga receives the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine from volunteer RN Maggie Baker, during a vaccine event hosted by Nola Ready, where people received a free drink at the bar if they received a COVID-19 vaccine, at The Howling Wolf, a music venue and bar, in New Orleans. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File)

FILE – In this April 13, 2021, file photo, Brent Houzenga receives the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine from volunteer RN Maggie Baker, during a vaccine event hosted by Nola Ready, where people received a free drink at the bar if they received a COVID-19 vaccine, at The Howling Wolf, a music venue and bar, in New Orleans. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File)

Brass bands playing at a 24-hour drive-thru coronavirus vaccine event. Doses delivered to commercial fishermen minutes from the docks. Pop-up immunization clinics at a Buddhist temple, homeless shelters, truck stops and casinos, with shots available at night or on weekends.

And now, door-to-door outreach getting underway in neighborhoods where few people have gotten vaccinated.

Louisiana is making a full-court press to get shots in arms, with aggressive — and sometimes creative — outreach to make it as easy as possible to get vaccinated. The effort comes as vaccine supplies are surging but demand is not.

The state has enlisted health care workers, colleges, community groups and church pastors to help cajole the hesitant and set up vaccination events. Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards has thrown open vaccine access to anyone age 16 or older. The health department has launched a call center to answer vaccine questions and set up appointments for those without internet access or limited tech skills.

Civic organizations and faith-based groups working with the state have started using get-out-the-vote tactics, knocking on doors and making phone calls, to pitch the vaccine.

But even with widespread ease of access, Louisiana officials struggle with a problem almost as vexing as COVID-19 itself: How to persuade those who are iffy about the shot to roll up their sleeves.

Read the story here.

— Melinda Deslatte, The Associated Press

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