In the Media
The number of new coronavirus cases reported worldwide has continued to fall except in the Americas and Africa, the World Health Organization said in its latest assessment of the pandemic.
The decline comes as Europe marked a COVID-19 death milestone: 2 million on the continent.
In its weekly pandemic report released late Tuesday, the U.N. health agency said about 3.5 million new cases and more than 25,000 deaths were reported globally, which respectively represent decreases of 12% and 25%.
The downward trend in reported infections began in March, although many countries have dismantled their widespread testing and surveillance programs, making an accurate count of cases extremely difficult.
WHO said there were only two regions where reported COVID-19 infections increased: the Americas, by 14%, and Africa, by 12%. Cases remained stable in the Western Pacific and fell everywhere else, the agency said.
A new phase of the pandemic. A lull between waves. A time of reflection.
Scientists, politicians and public health leaders have spent the past few months using these phrases to describe where Washington stands in the battle against COVID-19. Now case rates are increasing once again, despite many people in recent weeks inching — or lunging — back toward pre-pandemic norms.
Public transit is often crowded, restaurants and bars packed again. Last week, a record crowd of more than 68,000 (mostly unmasked) Sounders fans packed into Lumen Field for a championship game.
But shifting public health guidance, the emergence of new variants and continued strain on hospitals has made it difficult for many to gauge their personal and community risk, leaving Washingtonians to wonder: Is this a new phase of the pandemic?
Western Washington University’s Student Theatre Productions presents Yasmina Reza’s “God of Carnage,” translated by Christopher Hampton, and directed by Austin Denton at 7:30 p.m. May 12 through 14 at Old Main Theater.
Masks are recommended for audience members due to the close proximity of unmasked actors to them during the show. The play is about a playground altercation between 11-year-old boys that brings together two sets of Brooklyn parents for a meeting to resolve the matter. At first, diplomatic niceties are observed, but as the meeting progresses, and the rum flows, tensions emerge and the gloves come off, leaving the couples with more than just their liberal principles in tatters. Tickets are $7 for students, $10 general, and are available at tickets.wwu.edu.
As Western Washington University works to hire several new administrators amid retirements and job changes, the university looked internally to promote Brad Johnson — the current dean of the College of Science and Engineering — to take over as provost of the university.
“I'm incredibly humbled to be given this opportunity,” Johnson said. “I'm both excited and a little nervous.”
As the vice president of academic affairs, he will lead the deans of the university's seven colleges and will be responsible for academic planning and policy, budgets and research. The job also oversees the university libraries, information and technology, international programs, the honors program and other extended education programs.
Johnson will begin his role this summer, taking over for current provost Brent Carbajal who is retiring after 25 years in the role.
The European Union will no longer recommend medical masks be worn at airports and on planes starting next week amid the easing of coronavirus restrictions across the bloc, though member states can still require them, officials said Wednesday.
The European Union Aviation Safety Agency said it hoped the joint decision, made with the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, would mark “a big step forward in the normalization of air travel” for passengers and crews.
The new guideline “takes account of the latest developments in the pandemic, in particular the levels of vaccination and naturally acquired immunity, and the accompanying lifting of restrictions in a growing number of European countries,” the two agencies said in a joint statement.
“Passengers should however behave responsibly and respect the choices of others around them,” EASA Executive Director Patrick Ky said. “And a passenger who is coughing and sneezing should strongly consider wearing a face mask, for the reassurance of those seated nearby.”
If mirth can be found in despair, a bit of it seeped through the cracks as Whatcom County soldiered through the early stages of the pandemic: “At least,” the local tongue-in-cheek wisdom went, “we can park at Trader Joe’s now.”
The reference was to border restrictions — barriers to entry slapped on international crossings once considered routine by residents of Northwest Washington and British Columbia. When the pandemic struck, both nations, in panic mode, slammed shut long-open doors with border-crossing barricades that have existed in various forms ever since.
The premise of border shutdowns was public health, but the length and severity of restrictions was fueled by nationalism and nativism, border observers say. History is likely to view them as a knee-jerk reaction, the pulling up of the drawbridge to protect the locals from disease-ridden foreigners, who have been God knows where.
We have sadly been there, done that, before.
It’s an important takeaway from our recent estranged-children-of-a-common-mother experiment, said Laurie Trautman, director of the Border Policy Research Institute at Western Washington University.
The unprecedented shutting of the border to most common folks — definition: those not driving a truck laden with commercial goods — might have had some yet-unproven health benefits, Trautman said. But the sentiment fueling them allowed them to linger longer for a simple reason: While broadly unpopular in border communities, they proved to be popular national politics.
“Americans and Canadians both really favored this nationalist sentiment,” Trautman observed. The impacts of course were not immediately felt in D.C. or Ottawa. “We’re the ones who felt it.”
The closures, which Trautman called a “9/11 moment” in border terms, struck a blow to the notion of the B.C.-Washington community even more dramatic than that 2001 shutdown and subsequent slow recovery in crossings, she said. They would previously have been considered “unthinkable” by border observers.
One of our favorite seasoned travelers, Rick Steves, can usually be found hopping between cafés in Paris or exploring the streets of Lisbon. Most recently, however, he visited somewhere a little closer to home: Whatcom County, the north westernmost region of Washington state and known for its rich natural beauty. In a video collaboration released last week with The Seattle Times, Steves gives viewers an inside look at how he likes to travel and shares that when he's not exploring Europe, he's enjoying the serenity the outdoors has to offer.
“Whatcom County, just up the road from my hometown, is a wonderful example of how, so often, there are great treasures hiding in your own backyard,” Steves tells Traveler. For the television personality and author, Whatcom County is all about nature, beer, and smiles. “Sure, it ain’t Europe, but Europe ain’t Whatcom County, either.”
There's something special about a destination that feels remote but is also incredibly accessible, Steves argues as he takes viewers along the region's many hiking trails, introduces them to local tourist guides, and explores the county's main city of Bellingham—all of which is about a two and a half-hour drive from Seattle.
We’ve all seen snow turn from white to gray and black, maybe a ruddy brown color when it has been sitting next to a busy road or sidewalk. We’ve seen snow take different shapes and appearances depending on temperatures and ice crystal shapes.
But have you ever seen pink snow? Sometimes it is called Watermelon snow because of the soft pink color.
The Kodner Lab at Western Washington University actively studies and documents pink snow blooms using modern DNA sequencing techniques to characterize species along with tracking changes over time. It has been noted that when the algae bloom, they appear to be helping the snow melt faster.
From scientists at the Kodner lab, the Living Snow Project began specifically to study this algae species to learn more about it.
If you are interested in the snow microbiome across mountain ranges the Living Snow Project with help from citizen scientists, volunteers and people who love to play in the mountains can participate by contacting the Living Snow Project through their Instagram, Twitter, or website.
When we have the Mariners Weather Education Day, May 25th at T-Mobile Park, The Living Snow Project will be joining us to make one of the presentations. We’d love to see you there!
For more information on the Living Snow Project through Western Washington University, here are a few ways to contact, shown in the photo.
David, a sophomore pre-med student at the University of Washington, was used to juggling a busy schedule: He was a wrestler, swimmer, and runner in high school and works 20 hours a week on top of a full course load.
Still, when he finally made it to campus this school year — attending labs in person for the first time after two years of online work — the stress was bubbling. Being on campus was challenging and exciting, but he felt higher expectations came with in-person learning.
“I felt like I had to have my foot pressed all the way down on the pedal 100% of the time, or else everything’s just gonna fall apart,” said David, who asked that only his middle name be used out of concern that speaking about mental health struggles could disqualify him from future professional opportunities.
David and many other students now back on college campuses are experiencing not only the stress that comes from entering young adulthood, but also the added burden of the COVID-19 pandemic as a backdrop. And while David was lucky to get mental health care, many college students experience long wait times to see a counselor as UW and other universities across Washington state struggle to keep up with demand.
Even before the pandemic, college and university counseling systems couldn’t provide enough services for students. COVID-19 exacerbated the problem, and it worsened as students returned to classes in person.
Testing for COVID-19 has plummeted across the globe, making it much tougher for scientists to track the course of the pandemic and spot new, worrisome viral mutants as they emerge and spread.
Experts say testing has dropped by 70 to 90% worldwide from the first to the second quarter of this year — the opposite of what they say should be happening with new omicron variants on the rise in places such as the United States and South Africa.
“We’re not testing anywhere near where we might need to,” said Dr. Krishna Udayakumar, who directs the Duke Global Health Innovation Center at Duke University. “We need the ability to ramp up testing as we’re seeing the emergence of new waves or surges to track what’s happening” and respond.
Reported daily cases in the U.S., for example, are averaging 73,633, up more than 40% over the past two weeks, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. But that is a vast undercount because of the testing downturn and the fact tests are being taken at home and not reported to health departments. An influential modeling group at the University of Washington in Seattle estimates that only 13% of cases are being reported to health authorities in the U.S. — which would mean more than a half million new infections every day.