Live: Coronavirus daily news updates, May 13: What to know today about COVID-19 in the Seattle area, Washington state and the world

The White House’s COVID-19 coordinator warned that the country will be increasingly vulnerable to the virus this fall if Congress fails to approve additional funding for COVID-19 vaccines and treatments.

Immune protections against COVID-19 are waning as the virus continues to adapt and become more contagious, highlighting the need for booster doses, Dr. Ashish Jha warned.

At the same time, President Joe Biden ordered flags lowered to half-staff to mark the “tragic milestone” of 1 lives lost in America to COVID-19 and called on world leaders to take on a million renewed commitment to attack the virus.

Meanwhile, the first factory in South Africa to produce COVID-19 vaccines may close within weeks due to a lack of orders. The senior World Health Organization official called this a “failure” in attempts to reach vaccine equity.

We’re updating this page with the latest news about the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects on the Seattle area, the US 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.

US overdose deaths hit record 107,000 during second pandemic year, CDC says

More than 107,000 Americans died of drug overdoses during the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic, setting another tragic record in the nation’s escalating overdose epidemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated Wednesday.

The provisional 2021 total translates to roughly one US overdose death every 5 minutes. It marked a 15% increase from the previous record, set the year before. The CDC reviews death certificates and then makes an estimate to account for delayed and incomplete reporting.

Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, called the latest numbers “truly staggering.”

The White House issued a statement calling the accelerating pace of overdose deaths “unacceptable” and promoting its recently announced national drug control strategy. It calls for measures like connecting more people to treatment, disrupting drug trafficking and expanding access to the overdose-reversing medication naloxone.

US overdose deaths have risen most years for more than two decades. The increase began in the 1990s with overdoses involving opioid painkillers, followed by waves of deaths led by other opioids like heroin and — most recently — illicit fentanyl.

Last year, overdoses involving fentanyl and other synthetic opioids surpassed 71,000, up 23% from the year before. There was also a 23% increase in deaths involving cocaine and a 34% increase in deaths involving meth and other stimulants.

There were about 3,900 so-called deaths of despair from drug overdoses, alcohol use and suicide in Washington state the first year of the pandemic, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Read the story here.

—Mike Stobbe, The Associated Press

Had COVID at Christmas? You could get it again now

As a stealth wave of COVID-19 makes its way across the US, those who have so far evaded the virus are now falling ill — while others are catching COVID-19 for a second, third or even fourth time.

Several factors have conspired to make the state of the pandemic harder than ever to track. The rise of at-home tests, which rarely make it into official case numbers, have made keeping accurate counts of positive cases impossible. Additionally, many US states and jurisdictions are now reporting COVID-19 data only sporadically to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Earlier this week, Washington, DC, reported case data to the agency for the first time since April.

This has happened just as new, more contagious subvariants of omicron are making their way through the US population, leading not only to rising first-time COVID-19 cases but also frequent reinfections.

The latest versions of the virus appear particularly adept at evading the body’s immune response from both past COVID-19 infections and vaccines. Studies suggest most reinfection cases are not even being reported, giving little insight into how often they occur.

All this makes it especially difficult to gauge what percentage of the population is presently vulnerable to COVID-19 — and how the pandemic might evolve.

Read the story here.

—Madison Muller, Bloomberg

US ‘vulnerable’ to COVID without new shots

White House COVID-19 coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha has issued a dire warning that the US will be increasingly vulnerable to the coronavirus this fall and winter if Congress doesn’t swiftly approve new funding for more vaccines and treatments.

In an Associated Press interview Thursday, Jha said Americans’ immune protection from the virus is waning, the virus is adapting to be more contagious and booster doses for most people will be necessary — with the potential for enhanced protection from a new generation of shots.

His warning came as the White House said there could be up to 100 million infections from the virus later this year — and as President Joe Biden somberly ordered flags to half-staff to mark 1 million deaths.

“As we get to the fall, we are all going to have a lot more vulnerability to a virus that has a lot more immune escape than even it does today and certainly than it did six months ago,” Jha said. “That leaves a lot of us vulnerable.”

Jha predicted that the next generation of vaccines, which are likely to be targeted at the currently prevailing omicron strain, “are going to provide a much, much higher degree of protection against the virus that we will encounter in the fall and winter.” But he warned losing that the US is at risk of its place in line to other countries if Congress doesn’t act in the next several weeks.

Speaking of a need to provide vaccination assistance to other nations, he cast the urgency in terms of the benefits to Americans, even if they never travel overseas.

“All of these variants were first identified outside of the United States,” he said. “If the goal is to protect the American people, we have got to make sure the world is vaccinated. I mean, there’s just no ‘domestic-only’ approach here.”

Read the story here.

—Zeke Miller, The Associated Press

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