In the Media
Valentine Wulf doesn’t need to spend days preparing to write an essay for school. That’s why the 16-year-old prefers taking English at North Seattle College — she’s ready to just start writing.
“The pace moves a lot faster … there’s less time that is spent just sitting in a classroom doing things to get ready to do the assignment,” said Wulf. She was already considering taking a class at the college, and a push from her high school English teacher sealed the deal.
But this year fewer students are thinking like Wulf, who is enrolled in Running Start, the state program that allows students to earn college credits while working toward their high school diploma.
Enrollment has plummeted by about 14%, after years of steady increases.
A variety of factors are fueling the drop, including a desire by many to have a normal high school experience instead of hashing out logistics to take college classes that have continued mostly online. Some students say after two years of disrupted pandemic learning, they don’t feel ready for college yet.
That has many higher education experts worried. They’re working to underscore the program’s benefits: college credits earned tuition-free in high school can save students thousands of dollars down the road, especially for those who earn their associate degrees.
U.S. regulators on Thursday strictly limited who can receive Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine due to the ongoing risk of rare but serious blood clots.
The Food and Drug Administration said the shot should only be given to adults who cannot receive a different vaccine or specifically request J&J’s vaccine. U.S. authorities for months have recommended that Americans get Pfizer or Moderna shots instead of J&J’s vaccine.
FDA’s vaccine chief Dr. Peter Marks said the agency decided to restrict the vaccine after taking another look at the data on the risks of life-threatening blood clots and concluding that they are limited to J&J’s vaccine.
“If there’s an alternative that appears to be equally effective in preventing severe outcomes from COVID-19, we’d rather see people opting for that,” Marks said. “But we’ve been careful to say that-- compared to no vaccine-- this is still a better option.”
The problem occurs in the first two weeks after vaccination, he added: “So if you had the vaccine six months ago you can sleep soundly tonight knowing this isn’t an issue.”
The United Nations raced Friday to rescue more civilians from the tunnels under a besieged steel plant in Mariupol and the city at large, even as fighters holed up at the sprawling complex made their last stand to prevent Moscow’s complete takeover of the strategic port.
The fight for the last Ukrainian stronghold in a city reduced to ruins by the Russian onslaught appeared increasingly desperate amid growing speculation that President Vladimir Putin wants to finish the battle for Mariupol so he can present a triumph to the Russian people in time for Monday’s Victory Day, the biggest patriotic holiday on the Russian calendar.
Some 2,000 Ukrainian fighters, by Russia’s most recent estimate, are holed up in the vast maze of tunnels and bunkers beneath the Azovstal steelworks, and they have repeatedly refused to surrender. Ukraine has said a few hundred civilians were also trapped there, and fears for their safety have increased as the battle has grown fiercer in recent days.
The Western softball team will open its postseason run against a familiar opponent.
The Vikings just wrapped up a weekend series with Saint Martin’s University and will meet the Saints again Thursday on the opening day of the Great Northwest Athletic Conference tournament.
The tournament will be held at Central Washington University in Ellensburg.
With a 29-22 overall record and 15-9 record in the conference, the Vikings will be the No. 3 seed in the GNAC tournament.
Western, the defending tournament champions from 2021, will open this year’s tournament at 10 a.m. Thursday against No. 2 seed Saint Martin’s.
“Right to Recognition, a body response to the Declaration of Human Rights,” a collaboration between mixed-media artist Linda Ost and Senior Professor of Dance at Western Washington University Pam Kuntz, combines human rights, images provided by Western students and an unconventional use of hand sanitizer.
“It’s the only art project I know where you get cleaner,” Ost said of the photo transfer process she taught to students in Kuntz’s dance history class.
The student-created work, along with the rest of the exhibition, can be viewed through Thursday, May 12 in Western's B Gallery. Close-ups of hands, feet and faces look as though they have been eroded or submerged under water. Text from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (drafted by Eleanor Roosevelt and adopted in 1948) is layered with these images. The tiles that spell out “Right to Recognition” deserve a closer look, as do the carefully constructed tape bodies. Even on flat surfaces texture and tactile sensations are abundant.
The intersection of dance and social justice is a big part of what inspired this installation. As the exhibit text suggests, Kuntz and Ost are friends who enjoy sharing ideas back and forth. They met when Ost began taking Kuntz’s dance classes as part of the “over 60 waiver” program offered at Western Washington University.
Kuntz has taken an inclusive approach to teaching and performing dance for many years; she’s shared prisoners' stories through her work and taught classes for people affected by Parkinson’s.
In early 2021, scientists in Colombia discovered a worrisome new coronavirus variant. This variant, eventually known as mu, had several troubling mutations that experts believed could help it evade the immune system’s defenses.
Over the following months, mu spread swiftly in Colombia, fueling a new surge of COVID-19 cases. By the end of August, it had been detected in dozens of countries, and the World Health Organization had designated it a “variant of interest.”
“Mu was starting to make some noise globally,” said Joseph Fauver, a genomic epidemiologist at the University of Nebraska Medical Center and an author of a recent study on the variant.
And then it fizzled. Today, the variant has all but vanished.
For every delta or omicron there is a gamma, iota or mu, variants that drove local surges but never swept to global dominance. And while understanding omicron remains a critical public health priority, there are lessons to be learned from these lesser lineages, experts say.
“This virus has no incentive to stop adapting and evolving,” said Joel Wertheim, a molecular epidemiologist at the University of California, San Diego. “And seeing how it did that in the past will help us prepare for what it might do in the future.”
The World Health Organization estimates that nearly 15 million people were killed either by coronavirus or by its impact on overwhelmed health systems during the first two years of the pandemic, more than double the current official death toll of over 6 million.
Most of the deaths occurred in Southeast Asia, Europe and the Americas, according to a WHO report issued Thursday.
The U.N. health agency’s director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, described the newly calculated figure as “sobering,” saying it should prompt countries to invest more in their capacities to quell future health emergencies.
WHO tasked scientists with determining the actual number of COVID-19 deaths between January 2020 and the end of last year. They estimated that between 13.3 million and 16.6 million people died either due to the coronavirus directly or because of factors somehow attributed to the pandemic’s impact on health systems, such as cancer patients who were unable to seek treatment when hospitals were full of COVID patients.
Based on that range, the scientists came up with an approximated total of 14.9 million.
For the first time, the U.S. came close to providing health care for all during the coronavirus pandemic — but for just one condition, COVID-19.
Now, things are reverting to the way they were as federal money for COVID care of the uninsured dries up, creating a potential barrier to timely access.
But the virus is not contained, even if it’s better controlled. And safety-net hospitals and clinics are seeing sharply higher costs for salaries and other basic operating expenses. They fear they won’t be prepared if there’s another surge and no backstop.
“We haven’t turned anybody away yet,” said Dr. Mark Loafman, chair of family and community medicine at Cook County Health in Chicago. “But I think it’s just a matter of time ... People don’t get cancer treatment or blood pressure treatment every day in America because they can’t afford it.”
A $20 billion government COVID program covered testing, treatment and vaccine costs for uninsured people. But that’s been shut down. Special Medicaid COVID coverage for the uninsured in more than a dozen states also likely faces its last months.
Rents are skyrocketing nationally, and local renters have not been spared, with some Bellingham residents facing spikes as high as 60% upon renewing leases.
The fair market rent price of a one-bedroom in Bellingham has increased from $677 to $996 over the last decade — a 47% increase, according to metropolitan statistical area rental data.
Some cities in the U.S. are experiencing a decade's worth of increases in a single year; Austin, Texas, saw the average rent increase 40%. Overall, rents increased 14.1% across the nation in 2021, according to Redfin.
Renters have looked to government for relief, mostly to no avail. In 2019, Oregon became the first state to implement rent control. No other state in the nation, including Washington, has a cap on the amount a landlord can raise rent in a single year. In fact, rent control is illegal in Washington.
Over half of occupied housing units are inhabited by renters in Bellingham, and local residents say none of the state's or city's measures have been enough to keep a growing, desirable destination affordable for people of average means. Some even report rent increases that have pushed them toward homelessness.
If you’ve used up the rapid tests you ordered in January, there are still rapid tests available from both Washington state and the federal government.
While tests quickly ran out when the Washington Department of Health first launched its website earlier this year, the department has plenty of tests now, according to DOH spokesperson Frank Ameduri. “We have about 3.3 million tests on hand and more on the way,” he said.
In March, Washington public health officials announced an expansion of their free COVID-19 test program to allow up to two orders per household every month, while supplies last.
The federal government launched its site, COVIDTests.gov, in January.
Washington state also in January launched its website to order free tests, sayyescovidhometest.org.