In the Media
An increase in COVID-19 infections around the U.S. has sent more cities into new high-risk categories that are supposed to trigger indoor mask wearing, but much of the country is stopping short of bringing back restrictions amid deep pandemic fatigue.
For weeks, much of upstate New York has been in the high-alert orange zone, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention designation that reflects serious community spread. The CDC urges people to mask up in indoor public places, including schools, regardless of vaccination status. But few, if any, local jurisdictions in the region brought back a mask requirement despite rising case counts.
Nationally, hospitalizations are up slightly but still as low as any point in the pandemic. Deaths have steadily decreased in the last three months to nearly the lowest numbers.
The muted response reflects the exhaustion of the country after two years of restrictions and the new challenges that health leaders are facing at this phase of the pandemic
U.S. health officials on Tuesday restated their recommendation that Americans wear masks on planes, trains and buses, despite a court ruling last month that struck down a national mask mandate on public transportation.
Americans age 2 and older should wear a well-fitting masks while on public transportation, including in airports and train stations, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended, citing the current spread of coronavirus and projections of future COVID-19 trends.
For months, the Transportation Security Administration had been enforcing a requirement that passengers and workers wear masks.
The government had repeatedly extended the mandate, and the latest one had been set to expire May 3. But a federal judge in Florida struck down the rule on April 18. The same day, the TSA said it would no longer enforce the mandate.
Complaining that the West is “stuffing Ukraine with weapons,” Russia bombarded railroad stations and other supply-line points across the country, as the European Union moved to further punish Moscow for the war Wednesday by proposing a ban on oil imports, a crucial source of revenue.
Heavy fighting also raged at the Azovstal steel mill in Mariupol that represented the last pocket of Ukrainian resistance in the ruined southern port city, according to the mayor. But a Russian official denied Moscow’s troops were storming the plant, as Ukrainian commanders claimed a day earlier.
The Russian military said Wednesday it used sea- and air-launched missiles to destroy electric power facilities at five railway stations across Ukraine, while artillery and aircraft also struck troop strongholds and fuel and ammunition depots.
While thumbing through school reports, court cases and social workers’ notes, Garry Larson, now 23, saw he was considered an insufficient student at age 7.
Garry and his siblings, Crystal and Michael Larson, grew up in the foster care system through their middle school years.
“When kids are on survival mode, academics do not come first,” said Garry Larson. “And I think to see the trajectory where I was headed, without the people in my life who helped me, that’s exactly what I was just going to be as a human being — just insufficient.”
The social workers who documented “how many problems I had” were those who would eventually find skills in Garry Larson that he couldn’t yet see.
Today, he is a crisis counselor and on track to get his bachelor’s degree from Western Washington University. Michael Larson, 22, is a Gonzaga alum. Crystal Larson, 20, is an engineering technician for Facebook parent company Meta and attending Edmonds College, on her way to becoming an aerospace engineer. She starts at Wipro Givon, an aerospace company, as a junior engineer later this month.
In the last few decades, there has been a continual shift in building design towards greener materials and methods. Whether buildings be LEED, Living Building Challenge, Salmon-Safe, Energy Star, or WELL certified, each has a positive impact. Design also has the power to inspire joy, uplift lives, and strengthen the spirit of the community. What specifically can be accomplished when architects put an emphasis on designing carbon-neutral buildings?
Carbon-neutral buildings use passive and highly efficient active systems for heating, cooling and ventilation. The materials are planned to reduce the ‘embodied carbon’ attributable to the construction of the facility. Once delivered, the building’s energy must come from renewable sources such as photovoltaics or wind. All these aspects support the goal of net-zero carbon in the built environment.
One tool that aids in calculating the carbon-neutral threshold is the Building Transparency Embodied Carbon Construction Calculator tool (EC3), which helps projects measure their carbon footprint reductions, benchmark progress, and focus on the upfront supply chain emissions of construction materials. Perkins&Will is helping to develop a 2.0 version of the EC3 tool that will be used at Western Washington University to assess the impacts of the new Kaiser Borsari Hall computer science and electrical engineering facility.
This new facility is a breakthrough building for the campus, as it is the first net-zero building on a university campus in Washington state. In partnership with Perkins&Will and sustainable design expert Jason F. McLennan, the new building will include advance battery technology to provide on-site energy storage and smart building technologies and controls.
The carbon-neutral design elements of the new facility are responsive to their place at Western Washington University. The $51 million Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Building is a 53,000 square-foot (4923.8 sq m) next generation STEM facility for teaching and research. The four-story facility is nestled along the arboretum with a new courtyard and pedestrian connection to existing STEM programs. Planned in the concept of the porous campus, the new STEM facility encourages active collaboration with the industry. For example, the rooftop solar panels will serve as a teaching opportunity for the electrical engineering students to see first-hand what they are learning about, including real-time performance metrics.
A pair of new omicron subvariants has emerged, raising the possibility that survivors of earlier omicron strains can get reinfected.
BA.4 and BA.5 have gained increasing attention in South Africa as weekly coronavirus cases tripled in the last two weeks, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
“It really came out of the blue over the weekend. We were already settling down with BA.2.12.1, and then BA.4 and BA.5?” said Dr. Peter Chin-Hong, an infectious diseases expert at UC San Francisco. “It just seems like the latest chapter of a never-ending saga.”
The rapid growth of BA.4 and BA.5 in South Africa has implications for a potential future surge in California and the U.S. Until now, scientists had been reassured that people who survived the first omicron variant over the winter, BA.1, were unlikely to be reinfected by the even more infectious subvariant BA.2, which is now dominant nationwide.
But the surge in cases in South Africa of BA.4 and BA.5 follow an earlier omicron wave. An estimated 90% of South Africa’s population has immunity to the earlier omicron variants either due to surviving a natural infection or through vaccination.
“If 90% of people are immune already, and they’re seeing a surge in cases, it means that this particular dynamic duo [BA.4 and BA.5] are causing more reinfections — even in people who already had omicron,” Chin-Hong said.
Employers posted a record 11.5 million job openings in March, meaning the United States now has an unprecedented two job openings for every person who is unemployed.
The latest data released Tuesday by the the Bureau of Labor Statistics further reveals an extraordinarily tight labor market that has emboldened millions of Americans to seek better paying jobs, while also contributing to the biggest inflation surge in four decades.
A record 4.5 million Americans quit their jobs in March — a sign that they are confident they can find better pay or improved working conditions elsewhere.
Layoffs, which has been running around 1.8 million a month before the pandemic hit the economy in early 2020, ticked up to 1.4 million in March from 1.35 million in February.
The U.S. job market is on a hot streak. Employers have added an average of more than 540,000 jobs a month for the past year. The Labor Department is expected to report Friday that the economy generated another 400,000 new jobs in April, according to a survey by the data firm FactSet. That would mark an unprecedented 12th straight month that hiring has come in at 400,000 or more.
Though COVID-19 case rates continued their late April climb, Whatcom County’s COVID-related death total remained unchanged last week for the first time since early August.
Whatcom County has had 298 COVID-related deaths during the pandemic, according to the latest update Friday, April 29, on the Washington State Department of Health’s COVID-19 Data Dashboard — unchanged from a week earlier. The last time Whatcom saw its death total stay put for week was the week of Aug. 8-14, which was actually the second of two straight weeks when that number didn’t change.
The county actually did have a new death reported last week, as the state dashboard added a new death epidemiologically linked to Jan. 10 in Wednesday’s update, but Friday’s report scratched one that had previously been reported on April 5. Meanwhile, St. Joseph’s hospital in Bellingham reported its daily COVID-related patient snapshot reached double figures for the first time in nearly a month on Sunday, May 1, with 10 patients, but that went down by four as of Monday, May 2.
Overall, Whatcom County had 501 total new cases (confirmed and probable combined) reported by the state last week — its largest increase since it had 1,502 reported Feb. 6-12.
I bring all this up because this past week, on Tuesday, students at the University of Washington in Seattle called on their school to do a similar public reckoning with a pivotal moment in this city’s history.
The student senate voted overwhelmingly that the UW continues, today, to “white-wash” its telling of the 1909 Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition. That’s the world’s fair that put Seattle on the post-gold rush map, and created the grand layout of the UW campus.
The students requested the UW take down several plaques and historical displays that glorify this exposition, and, like Victoria, replace them with something that also points to the fair’s exploitative side.
That history is indeed problematic. Fairs and expos at that time were obsessed with presenting human exhibits — either carnival “freak shows” or, in this case, living displays of tribespeople from around the world.
According to author Claire Prentice, a cottage industry of carnival showmen sprang up who would travel to far-flung spots and bring back Indigenous people, presumably voluntarily, so fairgoers could gawk at them.
Seattle’s expo had at least two such exhibits — “Igorrote Village,” located just west of where UW Medical Center is today, and another called “Eskimo Village,” about where the physics building is today along 15th Avenue Northeast.
“One has to be already aware of the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition’s racist legacy in order to know of the events that exploited Indigenous peoples for profit,” wrote the students, who included members of UW’s American Indian and Filipino American student groups.
When November’s floods ravaged his community, Sumas pastor Chad Hammond rolled up his sleeves and got to work.
He opened the doors of his church, the Sumas Advent Christian Church, turned the sanctuary into a donation center for food and clothes, and offered the space as a hub for city staff and federal emergency responders.
“City Hall flooded, and so did the fire department, so the mayor and the police department all started using our building to meet,” Hammond said. “Then people started bringing clothes and donations … We gave away fans, dehumidifiers, clothes and food.”
Through partnerships with the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office Division of Emergency Management and the Whatcom Community Foundation, the group has organized recovery services and financial support for locals. Currently, qualified businesses have until May 3 to apply for the Whatcom County Foundation Small Business Relief Fund, with grants of up to $5,000 available to businesses damaged during last year’s floods.
They also have several disaster case managers contacting more than 1,500 impacted county households to evaluate remaining needs in the community.