As the COVID-19 vaccine effort continues to gain momentum, Washington’s 39 counties will move into the third phase of Gov. Jay Inslee’s reopening plan today. That means the state will allow restaurants, retailers, fitness centers and other indoor spaces to open with up to 50% capacity. The move is being met with cautious optimism.

People are “just tired of being locked in,” said Sean Brewer, 34, a sales associate at the Moon Valley Organics stall at the Pike Place Market, which thronged with visitors on Saturday. “People are seeing that light at the end of the tunnel — and they’re sprinting towards it.”

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.

Teachers lament ‘chaotic’ virus rules in German schools

FILE – In this Oct.21, 2020 file photo pupils of a fifth class at a high school wear face masks as they take part in an electronic learning session in Frankfurt, Germany. Amid pressure to relax the lockdown, Germany agreed last month to gradually begin reopening schools. Then coronavirus cases started climbing again, prompting authorities in some regions to put those plans on hold even as others press on and insist that in-class teaching needs to be the norm. (AP Photo/Michael Probst,file)

FILE – In this Oct.21, 2020 file photo pupils of a fifth class at a high school wear face masks as they take part in an electronic learning session in Frankfurt, Germany. Amid pressure to relax the lockdown, Germany agreed last month to gradually begin reopening schools. Then coronavirus cases started climbing again, prompting authorities in some regions to put those plans on hold even as others press on and insist that in-class teaching needs to be the norm. (AP Photo/Michael Probst,file)

Under pressure to ease Germany’s virus restrictions, officials last month agreed to gradually reopen schools. Confirmed COVID-19 cases started climbing again, leading some states to backtrack while others pressed on and insisted that in-class teaching must be the rule.

Caught in the middle are students, parents and teachers such as Michael Gromotka, whose plans to teach art to his year 7-9 students were upended last week when the state of Berlin nixed their return to school after months of remote learning.

“It was all very chaotic,” Gromotka said. “We got less than a week’s notice.”

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

At a South Seattle long-term care facility, a lobby fills with reunions as COVID-19 restrictions lift

Rysic Terada, 2, hugs his great-grandfather George Kozu, 94, at The Lakeshore on Sunday. It was the first time they had seen each other indoors since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. Gov. Jay Inslee announced last week that long-term care facilities can reopen after a year of lockdowns because of the COVID-19 pandemic. (Bettina Hansen / The Seattle Times)

Rysic Terada, 2, hugs his great-grandfather George Kozu, 94, at The Lakeshore on Sunday. It was the first time they had seen each other indoors since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. Gov. Jay Inslee announced last week that long-term care facilities can reopen after a year of lockdowns because of the COVID-19 pandemic. (Bettina Hansen / The Seattle Times)

Two little boys walked into The Lakeshore, smiling under their Pokémon masks and eyeing the “welcome back” balloons that were floating in the South Seattle senior residence’s lobby.

Their great-grandparents, George and Mary Kozu, waited as family members had their temperatures taken and signed forms stating they didn’t have COVID-19 symptoms. Finally, Mary Kozu walked toward her two great-grandsons, 6-year-old Jyler and 2-year-old Rysic.

The boys hesitated, suddenly shy around the great-grandparents whom Rysic only knew from a distance when they had back patio visits, and Jyler had vague memories of being inside with. But Mary Kozu, 89, asked Jyler if he remembered playing with the toys in their apartment, and a sign of recognition came over his face.

The Lakeshore’s lobby on Sunday afternoon was filled with reunions, as visitors came inside for the first time in a year. A grandmother and granddaughter embraced for a full minute, both crying happy tears. “That felt good after a year,” the granddaughter said. A son brought takeout for his dad and marveled at how quiet it was inside compared to when he was here in March 2020.

Visits at some of Washington’s long-term care facilities resumed this weekend following Gov. Jay Inslee’s announcement last week that residents at nursing homes, assisted-living facilities and other care sites could have indoor visits, as long as the resident or visitor is vaccinated.

Read the story here.

—Paige Cornwell

Catch up on the past 24 hours

The rules change today for restaurants, retailers, fitness centers and other indoor spaces as Washington enters the third phase of reopening. (Here’s what you can and can’t do now.) It’s a key moment for the state’s economy, but mixed with the hope is plenty of anxiety for business owners and residents. Many restaurants aren’t reopening yet, because their owners say more changes need to happen first. 

AstraZeneca’s vaccine provided strong protection in a U.S. trial, the company announced today. AstraZeneca said its experts identified no safety concerns despite rare blood clots that occurred in Europe. Here are the next steps.

“A spring break like no other” has gone awfully wrong in Miami Beach, which declared a state of emergency and extended its 8 p.m. curfew to clear crowds and chaos from its streets. City leaders are blaming pent-up demand for travel as people flock to Florida, where coronavirus restrictions are looser than in many other states.

Fully vaccinated and time to party … if you’re 70: The world is suddenly upside-down, with many older Americans partying more than millennials these days. “This is my just due,” one says. “Seniors gave up more than anybody else.”

—Kris Higginson



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