In the Media

Monday, May 2, 2022 - 11:47am - The Bellingham Herald

Yes, there are expiration dates for at-home COVID-19 tests, and you should check if an unopened one has been sitting on your shelf for some time. But while the FDA says you shouldn’t use an expired at-home test, you might still want to keep any you may have as the coronavirus continues to spread in the U.S. Here’s why.

There’s an increased risk of inaccurate COVID-19 test results — meaning a false positive or negative — when using an expired test kit, the FDA says. For this reason, they shouldn’t be used.

However, the FDA acknowledges that test kit expiration dates can get extended as manufacturers gather data to determine how long a test is actually reliable. With “real-time stability testing,” a manufacturer will store tests longer than their listed shelf life and then analyze their “ability to perform accurately,” according to the agency.

Before you throw out your expired test, check for updated expiration dates for FDA-authorized test kits as listed by the agency here. You can look for your particular test by using the available search bar.

 

Monday, May 2, 2022 - 11:40am - Seattle Times

Inside an airy, stained glass-adorned room at Salem Lutheran Church, the Skagit Valley Chorale is surrounded by reminders of deep heartbreak.

Four doorways are propped open, two to the cool, outdoor air. A pair of homemade air cleaners, fashioned from furnace filters, a box fan and duct tape, hum away at the center of the room. A laptop streams video via Zoom. Two small monitors gauge the concentration of carbon dioxide — and alert the choir when too much of their own breath accumulates.

These are some of the safety measures the Chorale now takes after the coronavirus visited them in March 2020, when a seemingly ordinary choir practice became one of the country’s first superspreader events.

More than 50 members were infected, at least a handful hospitalized. Two died.

The group’s experience ventilating and filtering indoor air illustrates a new stage of the COVID-19 pandemic that Washington, along with much of the United States, is moving toward after the omicron variant infected vast swaths of the population.

Monday, May 2, 2022 - 11:29am - Seattle Times

Coronavirus cases are surging again in South Africa, and public health experts are monitoring the situation, eager to know what is driving the spike, what it says about immunity from previous infections and what its implications are globally.

South Africa experienced a decline in cases after hitting an omicron-fueled, pandemic peak in December. But in the past week, cases have tripled, positivity rates are up and hospitalizations have also increased, health officials said. The surge has the country facing a possible fifth wave.

The spike is linked to BA.4 and BA.5, two subvariants that are part of the omicron family.

Tulio de Oliveira, director of South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal Research and Innovation Sequencing Platform, said BA.4 and BA.5 demonstrate how the virus is evolving differently as global immunity increases.

“What we are seeing now, or at least maybe the first signs, is not completely new variants emerging, but current variants are starting to create lineages of themselves,” de Oliveira said.

Friday, April 29, 2022 - 9:43am - Associated Press

Climate change will result in thousands of new viruses spread among animal species by 2070 — and that’s likely to increase the risk of emerging infectious diseases jumping from animals to humans, according to a new study.

This is especially true for Africa and Asia, continents that have been hotspots for deadly disease spread from humans to animals or vice versa over the last several decades, including the flu, HIV, Ebola and coronavirus.

Researchers, who published their findings Thursday in the journal Nature, used a model to examine how over 3,000 mammal species might migrate and and share viruses over the next 50 years if the world warms by 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), which recent research shows is possible.

They found that cross-species virus spread will happen over 4,000 times among mammals alone. Birds and marine animals weren’t included in the study.

Researchers said not all viruses will spread to humans or become pandemics the scale of the coronavirus but the number of cross-species viruses increases the risk of spread to humans.

The study highlights two global crises — climate change and infectious disease spread — as the world grapples with what to do about both.

Friday, April 29, 2022 - 9:32am - The Bellingham Herald

The city of Bellingham is asking citizens to grab their bikes, helmets and head downtown to be a part of history.

The Bellingham Bike Parade on Sunday, May 1, is celebrating Bike Everywhere Month by gathering downtown and recreating a historic photo from 1948. The original photo, taken on May 1, 1948, featured about 800 Whatcom County youth riding decorated bikes in a May Day bike parade down Holly Street. The photo was taken by Jack Carver, staff photographer for The Bellingham Herald from 1945 to 1981, and is now part of the Whatcom Museum Photo Archives.

Riders will meet at WECU at 600 East Holly St. at 12:30 p.m. to depart from the parking lot at 1 p.m. and head down Holly Street to Waypoint Park.

 

Friday, April 29, 2022 - 9:24am - The Bellingham Herald

If the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention took its COVID-19 community level rankings down to school district regions, one Whatcom County region would find itself in the “high” range where masking in public locations is recommended.

Based on the most recently location data released by the Whatcom County Health Department on Thursday, April 28, and U.S. Census data, The Bellingham Herald’s data analysis found the region covered by the Blaine School District had a weekly COVID-19 infection rate of 237 cases per 100,000 people between April 17 and April 23 and a COVID-related hospitalization rate of 11 new hospitalizations per 100,000 people. Both of those marks exceed the community level benchmarks set by the CDC of an infection rate of 200 and a hospitalization rate of 10, and that would push the region to the “high” level.

Whatcom’s six other regions all had COVID infection and hospitalization rates within the “low” community level, which is where the CDC had the county, as a whole, rated for a ninth straight week on Thursday, April 28.

 

Friday, April 29, 2022 - 9:21am - Seattle Times

The Food and Drug Administration on Friday set tentative dates in June to publicly review COVID-19 vaccines for the youngest American children, typically the final step before authorizing the shots.

The meeting announcement follows months of frustration from families impatient for a chance to vaccinate their little children, along with complaints from politicians bemoaning the slow pace of the process.

The FDA said it plans to convene its outside panel of vaccine experts on June 8, 21 and 22 to review applications from Moderna and Pfizer for child vaccines. The dates are not final and the FDA said it will provide additional details as each company completes their application.

Currently, only children ages 5 or older can be vaccinated in the U.S. with Pfizer’s vaccine, leaving 18 million younger tots unprotected.

Friday, April 29, 2022 - 9:14am - Associated Press

Black and Hispanic Americans remain far more cautious in their approach to COVID-19 than white Americans, recent polls show, reflecting diverging preferences on how to deal with the pandemic as federal, state and local restrictions fall by the wayside.

Despite majority favorability among U.S. adults overall for measures like mask mandates, public health experts said divided opinions among racial groups reflect not only the unequal impact of the pandemic on people of color but also apathy among some white Americans.

Black Americans (63%) and Hispanic Americans (68%) continue to be more likely than white Americans (45%) to say they are at least somewhat worried about themselves or a family member being infected with COVID-19, according to an April poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

Throughout the pandemic, Black and Hispanic communities have experienced higher rates of illness and death from COVID, said Amelia Burke-Garcia, public health program area director at NORC. Those experiences have resulted in greater levels of stress, anxiety and awareness of the risks of catching COVID-19, she said, which means people of color are more likely to feel measures like mask mandates are needed.

Thursday, April 28, 2022 - 11:36am - Seattle Times

Meteorologists are monitoring the potential for a “triple-dip La Niña,” an unusual resurgence of cooler-than-normal sea surface temperatures in the eastern tropical Pacific. While such a phenomenon might seem remote, La Niña plays an enormous role in our weather stateside.

In addition to helping juice up tornado season in the spring, La Niña has been known to supercharge Atlantic hurricane season when it sticks around into the summer and fall.

La Niña is the opposite of El Niño, which are both sides of the coin that make up ENSO, or the El Niño Southern Oscillation. El Niño represents ENSO’s positive “warm” phase, while La Niña is the opposite. The effects of the different phases are wide-reaching and significant, with implications on the weather experienced all across the globe.

If La Niña manages to hold on through the fall and into next year, becoming a true “triple dip” event, it could have the following additional effects:

Worsening drought conditions in the Southwest and elevating the fire danger since La Niñas tend to result in reduced precipitation in the region

Raising the odds of a relatively cold, stormy winter across the northern tier of the United States and a mild, dry winter across the South, not unlike this past winter

But looking ahead this far is pretty speculative because computer models are challenged to make accurate ENSO forecasts at this time of year; forecasters refer to this as the spring predictability barrier.

Thursday, April 28, 2022 - 11:33am - Cascadia Daily News

Whatcom County Executive Satpal Sidhu and Bellingham Mayor Seth Fleetwood used their appearance together at a Bellingham City Club meeting Wednesday as an opportunity to pivot. With the trials of the COVID-19 pandemic mostly in the rearview mirror for the two biggest governments in the county, the executive and the mayor struck an optimistic tone at the online event, even as Fleetwood announced he was ill with COVID-19.

Fleetwood told the City Club audience he tested positive on Monday, in the middle of a full day of virtual City Council meetings. The mayor, who is current on vaccinations and boosters, developed bad cold symptoms but was already recovering by the time Wednesday’s noon City Club session began. 

During the 90-minute meeting, he proved up to the task of addressing some of the biggest problems faced by the city and society at large, including homelessness, climate change and rising crime.