In the Media

Monday, May 16, 2022 - 1:02pm - Seattle Times

For years, the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness has convened public officials and experts and done research on best practices for cities and counties to deal with a growing national homelessness crisis.

It is the only federal agency solely focused on preventing and ending homelessness, but has little power to implement policy or hand out funding. That has left cities and counties mostly on their own to respond to homelessness in the U.S.

Then, the pandemic brought with it an infusion of billions of dollars in federal funding specifically to address homelessness in the United States. Many cities have invested heavily in shelter and long-term housing. Some have also passed stricter anti-camping laws in hopes of reducing the number of people living outside, creating a patchwork of increased services and increased penalties across the country. 

Jeff Olivet, a longtime consultant on race and social issues, became executive director of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness during this time and visited King County while on a tour of the West Coast, a region where he says  there have been “pretty dramatic, troubling increases” in homelessness. 

He met with the Regional Homelessness Authority and public officials from Seattle and throughout King County, as well as visited encampments to “understand the crisis that’s going on in Seattle right now around unsheltered homelessness and lack of affordable housing.” 

Monday, May 16, 2022 - 12:58pm - Seattle Times

A virus that shows no signs of disappearing, variants that are adept at dodging the body’s defenses and waves of infections two, maybe three times a year — this may be the future of COVID-19, some scientists now fear.

The central problem is that the coronavirus has become more adept at reinfecting people. Already, those infected with the first omicron variant are reporting second infections with the newer versions of the variant — BA.2 or BA2.12.1 in the United States, or BA.4 and BA.5 in South Africa.

Those people may go on to have third or fourth infections, even within this year, researchers said in interviews. And some small fraction may have symptoms that persist for months or years, a condition known as long COVID.

“It seems likely to me that that’s going to sort of be a long-term pattern,” said Juliet Pulliam, an epidemiologist at Stellenbosch University in South Africa.

“The virus is going to keep evolving,” she added. “And there are probably going to be a lot of people getting many, many reinfections throughout their lives.”

Monday, May 16, 2022 - 12:50pm - Cascadia Daily News

Lakewood celebrated its extensive past and looked forward to a bright future during Saturday’s 100th anniversary of the Lake Whatcom hot spot. 

Owned and operated by Western Washington University, Lakewood offers an array of watercraft, from paddle boards to sailboats, and is host to academic classes and team-building exercises at the challenge courses. Above all, it is an affordable and accessible place for people to connect with the outdoors.  

Dozens of people showed up for the centennial celebration despite the morning’s rainy weather. Visitors enjoyed a men’s crew race, Western sailing race, free boat rentals, remote-controlled sailboat displays, an open challenge course, refreshments in the Bill McDonald Lounge and a food truck. A mixture of Western students, alumni, parents, staff and community members ignored the 43-degree water to take out a boat or dip their feet off the dock.

For Lakewood Facility Manager Jeff Davis, Saturday’s festivities were bittersweet. Davis will retire May 31 after serving in his role for nearly 48 years, or “576 moons,” as he counted. It’s not an overstatement to call Lakewood Davis’ home — he and his family lived on the premises at one point. Now, they live a mere 1.5 miles across the lake and Davis travels to work by boat.

Monday, May 16, 2022 - 12:47pm - The Bellingham Herald

In the same week the United States reached 1 million deaths during the pandemic, Whatcom County surpassed 300 COVID-related deaths.

Whatcom County has had 301 COVID-releated deaths over the past two-plus years, according to the latest update of the Washington State Department of Health COVID-19 Data Dashboard on Friday, May 13, including three new deaths reported last week. While one of the three deaths reported last week was a person who first tested positive for COVID last year (May 3, 2021), The Bellingham Herald’s analysis of of the state’s epidemiological data found, the two others were people who died tested positive much more recently — April 28 and May 3, 2022.

As of Friday, the state reported Whatcom County has seen 39,343 total cases (confirmed and probable combined) during the pandemic, which was an increase of 623 from the week before. That is the largest increase Whatcom has seen since it saws 1,502 cases reported the week of Feb. 6-12.

St. Joseph’s hospital in Bellingham reported it was treating 12 COVID-related patients on Monday, May 16. Over the past week, the hospital has averaged 10.4 patients per day, which is its highest weekly average since March 10 and represents 4.1% of the hospital’s 252 inpatient beds.

Friday, May 13, 2022 - 1:18pm - Alaska Public Media

When Uluao “Junior” Aumavae was appointed as Anchorage’s chief equity officer in October, he became the first Polynesian Alaskan to serve at the executive level in the city’s government. Aumavae grew up in Anchorage and credits his success to his community, as well as equity officials who mentored him in college.

Aumavae is now seven months into his job as Anchorage’s chief equity officer. The position is fairly new. He’s just the second person with the title, and the Assembly confirmed the first last year. 

But in college, he said, he struggled with adjusting to the intense training schedule and with his grades, and at one point was put on academic probation. It was then that Aumavae found a mentor in Western Washington Univeristy’s equity advisor, Dr. Kunle Ojikutu. Ojikutu started by asking Aumavae what his qualities were. 

“I was like, ‘These are the qualities in my culture. This is what we bring to the table. Respect is going to be number one. Having our family, always protecting our family name.’ And then I told him I was team captain for the football team,” Aumavae said. “All these things that are not academic, you know. And he was like, ‘Promise me you’ll take these experiences and utilize them to get you through college.’”

After working with Ojikutu, Aumavae was able to get his academic probation lifted, so he could continue to play football. Aumavae would go on to transfer to Minnesota State, where he graduated, and then began a career in the NFL, signing with the Dallas Cowboys and playing for the New York Jets. 

Friday, May 13, 2022 - 1:14pm - Associated Press

White House COVID-19 coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha has issued a dire warning that the U.S. 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.”

Friday, May 13, 2022 - 1:05pm - Cascadia Daily News

Sure, you could wait until the Criterion Collection re-releases John Waters' 1972 cult classic film “Pink Flamingos” on Blu-Ray in late June to find out more about why it's difficult to discuss the movie without using words and phrases such as “disgusting,” “filth” and “camp spectacle.”

Another option is to secure a ticket to attend “False Negative: An Evening with John Waters” taking place Saturday, May 21 at Western Washington University's Performing Arts Center Mainstage. Hold on to your seats, because the one-man show and Q&A with the renowned 76-year-old director will be followed by a screening of “Pink Flamingos.”

“False Negative: An Evening with John Waters” takes place at 7 p.m. Saturday, May 21 at Western Washington University's Performing Arts Center Mainstage, 516 High St. This event is open to WWU students, staff and faculty as ticket buyers. Ticket buyers are able to purchase tickets for guests, as well. Tickets are $5 for students, $15 for faculty and staff. Proof of COVID vaccination will be required for entry. Info: tickets.wwu.edu.

Friday, May 13, 2022 - 1:01pm - Seattle Times

As a stealth wave of COVID-19 makes its way across the U.S., 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 count of positive cases impossible. Additionally, many U.S. states and jurisdictions are now reporting COVID-19 data only sporadically to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Earlier this week, Washington, D.C., 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 U.S. 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 aren’t even being reported, giving little insight into how often they occur.

Friday, May 13, 2022 - 12:54pm - The Brookings Institution

Though kids are learning this year, many have fallen even further behind grade level. Our new report—which draws from a national survey of school districts—reveals how good intentions have collided with vexing realities. As new COVID-19 outbreaks and anxiety over health concerns kept kids and teachers home, and as politics roiled small-town and suburban schools, district leaders found themselves squeezed by the conflicting pressures set by new state mandates and parent demands.

Top leaders of six school systems spoke about their specific challenges as part of in-depth interviews conducted for the report. Under promises of anonymity, superintendents and other district leaders were eager to speak about the struggles they could see in schools and classrooms, as well as their concerns about the welfare of children, teachers, and principals. They were also forthright about the need for changes in how schools operate, including new ways to use time, money, and teacher skills; to identify and help kids who struggle; and to make greater use of community resources for learning and student support.

Co-authored by WWU Associate Professor of Political Science Kate Destler.

Friday, May 13, 2022 - 10:28am - The Bellingham Herald

After one week at “medium,” Whatcom County returned to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s “low” COVID-19 community level last week.

For the first time since the CDC began ranking the COVID threat level in each county, Whatcom received a “medium” ranking on May 5. But as of the latest CDC rankings released Thursday, May 12, the county was back in the “low” range. However, The Bellingham Herald’s analysis of the latest location data released Thursday by the Whatcom County Health Department found that if the CDC boiled data down to the same school district regions that the county uses, two regions within Whatcom would received “high” community level grades.

The region covered by the Blaine School District found itself in the “high” rankings for a third straight week, while the Bellingham region joined it for the first time. On the positive side, the Ferndale and Mount Baker regions, which a week earlier were in the “high” and “medium” rankings, respectively, returned to the “low” range along with Whatcom’s other three regions.