Coronavirus daily news updates, December 11: What to know today about COVID-19 in the Seattle area, Washington state and the world

The U.S. National Guard is assisting medical staff in COVID-19 ridden hospitals all over the country. Unvaccinated people who became sick with the virus are overwhelming health care systems, particularly in the Northeast and Upper Midwest. The U.S. is nearing 800,000 COVID-19 deaths while about 40% of the country’s residents remain unvaccinated.

Health officials warned for months about a possible spike in cases as the winter holidays approached if people did not work to mitigate COVID-19 spread. Now it appears that the country is headed toward a “holiday crisis.”

The seven-day average of hospital COVID-19 admissions rose at least 50% from two weeks earlier in 12 states and Washington, D.C., according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

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.


Navigating the pandemic

(Jennifer Luxton / The Seattle Times)

South African doctors see signs omicron is milder than delta

FILE — Melva Mlambo, right, and Puseletso Lesofi, both medical scientists prepare to sequence COVID-19 omicron samples at the Ndlovu Research Center in Elandsdoorn, South Africa, Dec. 8, 2021. Health experts still don’t know if omicron is causing milder COVID-19 but some more hints are emerging with doctors in South Africa saying their patients aren’t getting as sick with omicron, compared to the delta variant. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay, File)

As the omicron variant sweeps through South Africa, Dr. Unben Pillay is seeing dozens of sick patients a day. Yet he hasn’t had to send anyone to the hospital.

That’s one of the reasons why he, along with other doctors and medical experts, suspect that the omicron version really is causing milder COVID-19 than delta, even if it seems to be spreading faster.

“They are able to manage the disease at home,” Pillay said of his patients. “Most have recovered within the 10 to 14-day isolation period.” said Pillay.

And that includes older patients and those with health problems that can make them more vulnerable to becoming severely ill from a coronavirus infection, he said.

Read the full story.

—The Associated Press

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Taiwan records first omicron case in traveler from Africa

Taiwan has recorded its first case of the omicron variant in a passenger who recently traveled to the southern African country of Eswatini, health officials said Saturday.

The passenger, a Taiwanese woman in her 30s who returned on Dec. 8, is now in quarantine in hospital, according to the Central Epidemic Command Center, which is in charge of the island’s pandemic response. Passengers who sat near her on the plane have tested negative so far.

Taiwan reported 10 new coronavirus cases on Saturday, all of which were identified in travelers entering from abroad. Read more here.

—The Associated Press

As scientists race to understand the omicron variant, misinformation has already sprinted ahead

In July, a fake slide deck with the logos of the World Health Organization and the World Economic Forum purporting to show a schedule for when coronavirus variants would be “released” rocketed around social media, racking up thousands of likes on Twitter and Instagram.

Anti-vaccine influencers posted the image, citing it as proof that the pandemic was orchestrated by powerful interests, and that new variants of the disease were all part of a shadowy plan.

Fast forward to the end of November, when South African scientists identified the omicron variant and warned that it had a high number of mutations. While public health officials around the world cautioned people not to jump to conclusions before the variant could be studied more closely, the fake image recirculated on social media, posted by people adamant that omicron was just the next step of a global conspiracy.

The new strains of misinformation are the latest wrinkle in what has been a yearslong battle between social media companies and those taking advantage of a global thirst for knowledge and facts in the face of a void of information. While platforms like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have banned coronavirus and vaccine misinformation, instead attempting to promote authoritative information from the government, it continues to spread. Read the full story here.

—The Washington Post

UK scientists urge more restrictions to fight omicron surge

The British government may need to introduce tougher restrictions to slow the growth of the omicron variant and prevent a new surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths, British scientists said Saturday.

U.K. health officials say omicron is spreading much more quickly than the delta strain and is likely to replace it and become the dominant variant in Britain within days. The U.K. recorded 58,194 coronavirus cases on Friday, the highest number since January, though what portion were the omicron variant is unclear.

Concerns about the new variant led Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative government to reintroduce restrictions that were lifted almost six months ago. Masks must be worn in most indoor settings, vaccine certificates must be shown to enter nightclubs and people are being urged to work from home if possible.

Many scientists say that’s unlikely to be enough.

Read the full story here.

—The Associated Press

Article Source: The Seattle Times