In the Media

Wednesday, July 13, 2022 - 2:36pm - Next City

When Nico Vargas spent her time mentoring teenage girls in South Seattle last year, they were just trying to make it through another day in high school – all while disproportionately burdened with air pollution.

Vargas, then a senior at Western Washington University studying environmental policy, walked them through neighborhoods in the Duwamish Valley to collect moss that the United States Forest Service (USFS) would later screen for air toxin concentrations. They asked about how to find viable trees to access the moss, but they also asked why navigating high school felt so impossible. It reminded Vargas of lived experiences outside of datasets often reflected in academic papers.

“The experts don’t have to just be someone in a white lab coat. Science can be used as a tool to help people with their advocacy rather than a tool of gatekeeping,” says Vargas, who now works at a salmon recovery non-profit. “Involving the community directly in research about their own neighborhood is a matter of justice. It’s not just numbers in a study, people are really living this.”

That’s one of the reasons why Duwamish River Community Coalition (DRCC) Executive Director Paulina Lopez worked with the USFS to train community scientists to investigate heavy metals around them. More than 73% of people who live in Duwamish Valley’s neighborhoods, Georgetown and South Park, are Black, indigenous and people of color. In the local government’s science-based agencies, they’ve historically been excluded from evidence collecting and evaluation in their own community.

Lopez is sharing what a team of 55 community scientists learned from measuring pollutants in moss tissues from these industry-adjacent neighborhoods. Through a complex air quality investigation, including a newly published study of heavy metal concentrations in the air, they hope to bring environmental justice to an underinvested area with a long history of environmental contamination. After reviewing their data, the government has already agreed to fund several temporary air monitors in the Duwamish Valley this summer.  

Wednesday, July 13, 2022 - 2:28pm - Cascadia Daily New

When Ohio transplant Rebecca Quirke, 38, moved into a $1,400-per-month Billy Frank Jr. Street rental home in November 2021, she wasn’t prepared for the multitude of unpleasant — and unlawful — surprises.

Familiar to many veteran Bellingham renters, but not a newcomer, were a range of local rental quirks: a smattering of mold on her bathroom ceiling, a mural of a gigantic squid painted on the living room wall, cockroaches in the fridge, rodents in the walls, windows that had been painted shut and $500 electrical bills during the frigid winter months due to the aging structure. 

Her complaints mirrored those of hundreds of other renters and foreshadowed an innovative and growing local movement led by tenants, against landlords.

Wednesday, July 13, 2022 - 2:12pm - Seattle Times

In a few short months, the weather will turn crisp, the holiday season will draw near, and the coronavirus may embark on its third consecutive winter of death and devastation.

That prospect has federal regulators and their scientific advisers engaged in a high-stakes guessing game.

The question: How should the COVID-19 vaccine change?

Certainly, the circumstances have changed. The coronavirus strains responsible for 97% of infections today — BA. 4, BA. 5 and BA. 2.12.1 — didn’t exist in 2021, let alone in 2020. Yet all of the vaccines currently available in the U.S. are designed to recognize the version that left China in January 2020.

The shots have done an admirable job. Researchers credit them with saving 1.9 million U.S. lives in their first year of availability, and they continue to provide solid protection against severe illness and death from COVID-19. The ubiquitous omicron subvariants, however, have several mutations on their crucial spike proteins that make them less recognizable to an immune system primed to fight the 2 1/2-year-old virus.

The result: A real-world study found that the protection from three doses of mRNA vaccine is half as strong against omicron compared to the Delta variant that preceded it.

At the end of June, the FDA asked vaccine manufacturers to produce “bivalent” doses that combine the original vaccine with one designed to recognize BA. 4 and BA.5. Who will be advised to get it has yet to be determined.

Wednesday, July 13, 2022 - 1:56pm - Associated Press

The U.S. is getting another COVID-19 vaccine choice as the Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday cleared Novavax shots for adults.

Novavax makes a more traditional type of shot than the three other COVID-19 vaccines available for use in the U.S. -- and one that’s already available in Europe and multiple other countries.

Nearly a quarter of American adults still haven’t gotten their primary vaccinations even this late in the pandemic, and experts expect at least some of them to roll up their sleeves for a more conventional option — a protein-based vaccine.

The Maryland company also hopes its shots can become a top booster choice in the U.S. and beyond. Tens of millions of Americans still need boosters that experts call critical for the best possible protection as the coronavirus continues to mutate.

Tuesday, July 12, 2022 - 1:38pm - The Bellingham Herald

The number of new COVID-19 cases reported in Whatcom County ticked up slightly for a second straight week, and the county had two more deaths linked to COVID.

Whatcom County now has had a total of 43,552 COVID cases reported during the pandemic, according to the Friday, July 8, report on the Washington State Department of Health COVID-19 Data Dashboard, including 38,154 confirmed cases and 5,398 probable cases, resulting from a positive antigen test not confirmed by a molecular test. The county’s 483 new reported cases last week were up from the 466 reported by the state a week earlier, which was up from 435 cases reported the week of June 19-25.

Whatcom’s weekly COVID-19 reported case rate increased to 204 new cases per 100,000 residents for the most recently completed epidemiological data from June 23 to June 29, up from a rate of 191 from one week earlier (June 16-22). St. Joseph’s hospital in Bellingham reported it was treating seven COVID-related patients on Monday, July 11. Over the past week, the hospital’s daily snapshot has averaged 12.7 COVID-related patients per day, which is down from 14.6 one week earlier (June 28 to July 3) and represents 5.0% of the hospital’s 252 inpatient beds.

Tuesday, July 12, 2022 - 1:34pm - Seattle Times

Biden administration officials are developing a plan to allow all adults to receive a second coronavirus booster shot, pending federal agency sign-offs, as the White House and health experts seek to blunt a virus surge that has sent hospitalizations to their highest levels since March 3.

Virus levels have risen across the country, fueled by ever-more-contagious omicron subvariants such as BA. 5 that evade some immune protections and have increased the risk of reinfections. About 112,000 new cases have been reported per day, according to The Washington Post’s rolling seven-day average – with the true number many times higher, say experts, as most Americans test at home. Hospitalization and death levels are mounting, although they remain significantly below January peaks, with about 38,000 people hospitalized with covid as of Sunday, and an average daily death toll of 327 as of Monday.

Currently, a second booster shot is available only to those 50 and older, as well as to those 12 and older who are immunocompromised. But administration officials are concerned by data that suggests immunity wanes within several months of the first booster shot. Swiftly expanding access to booster shots also would enable people who are boosted now to receive reformulated shots that target newer virus variants, when those become available, likely later this year. In addition, officials want to use vaccine doses that are reaching their expiration dates and would otherwise be discarded.

Tuesday, July 12, 2022 - 1:27pm - Associated Press

A sparkling landscape of baby stars. A foamy blue and orange view of a dying star. Five galaxies in a cosmic dance. The splendors of the universe glowed in a new batch of images released Tuesday from NASA’s powrful new telescope.

The unveiling from the $10 billion James Webb Space Telescope began Monday at the White House with a sneak peek of the first shot — a jumble of distant galaxies that went deeper into the cosmos than humanity has ever seen.

Tuesday’s releases showed parts of the universe seen by other telescopes. But Webb’s sheer power, distant location from Earth and use of the infrared light spectrum showed them in a new light that scientists said was almost as much art as science.

“It’s the beauty but also the story,” NASA senior Webb scientist John Mather, a Nobel laureate, said after the reveal. “It’s the story of where did we come from.”

Tuesday, July 12, 2022 - 1:12pm - Associated Press

“Severance,” Apple TV+’s vicious satire of office culture, managed to charm Emmy voters with 14 nominations.

“Severance” is set in a shadowy corporate headquarters where employees have agreed to get a chip implanted in their brains that separates the personal life from office life. Though conceived before the pandemic, it arrived just as many white-collar workers were making their first tentative steps back to the office — and questioning why.

The show — written by newcomer Dan Erickson, with all episodes directed by Ben Stiller and Aoife McArdle — is drenched in paranoia about what corporate work does to people and became one of the most acclaimed series of the year.

Adam Scott stars as the leader of a group who work under bright florescent lights and wander down endless antiseptic corridors, cut off from the world outside. In Season One, the series morphs from satire to thriller as some employees start questioning what is happening to them.

Among the show’s nominations are a berth in top drama series and a best writing honor. Scott earned a lead actor nod, Patricia Arquette got one as a supporting actor and Stiller for directing the episode “The We We Are.”


*Dan Erickson is a WWU alum with a degree in English who also studied screenwriting and was active in the theater department and the improv group known as the Dead Parrots Society.

Monday, July 11, 2022 - 1:40pm - Lifehacker

A faster workout recovery is a good indicator of overall fitness level and is essential for improving performance, whether it’s lifting more, running faster, or building endurance. And for years, the advice has been to recover from a high-intensity workout by holding your hands above your heads. You maybe had a similar experience growing up: When I ran track in high school, my teammates and I were taught to resist the urge to lean over and place our hands on our legs. But the truth is different than what we were taught.

As research is showing, your instinct to recover from a tough workout by putting your hands on your knees may be the best one. In a study published in 2019, researchers at Western Washington University had 20 college varsity soccer players do sprint trials. For the study, each soccer player ran two separate trials, spaced one week apart, for which they did four 4-minute sprints, running at 90 to 95 percent of their maximum heart rate. After the sprints, the soccer players were asked to either hold their hands on their head or their knees, with researchers collecting information on how fast their heart rate dropped in the first minute and how efficiently their lungs filled. What they found was that when the soccer players put their hands on knees, their heart rate dropped faster in the first minute of recovery, and their lungs operated more efficiently.

Monday, July 11, 2022 - 12:59pm - South Sound Magazine

When Teena Thach first downloaded TikTok a few years ago, she, like most of us, struggled to wrap her head around it.

“What’s funny is, I’ve worked in social media for so long that I felt like I understood each channel when it came to Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook,” said the Tacoma-bred social media manager and now-TikTok star. “But I was like, ‘I don’t understand TikTok.’ It was just something that, at first, I thought was so weird, and so odd.” 

In July 2020, Thach called her friend Thai Ha, owner of the Mangosteen food stand in Seattle’s International District. She hadn’t yet been, and wanted to stop by. Ha suggested she make a promotional TikTok during her visit in exchange for free boba, given her familiarity with the app and her social-media background. “And I was like, ‘I love free boba,’ so I’m coming,” she said.

The 34-second post — which began with Thach greeting her fellow foodies and continued with her enticingly shot recommendations — unforeseeably became a hit, attracting thousands in hours. 

Going viral was definitely cool. But even better was the giddy-with-disbelief follow-up call from Ha. Post-video, Mangosteen saw an enormous sales bump. It was common for TikTok-savvy customers to play Thach’s endorsement for an employee to make sure they got her same order. They wanted those golden-brown pieces of Korean fried chicken, those crispy fish sauce wings, that refreshingly frosty mangonada. 

She graduated from Mount Tahoma High School, then went to Western Washington University, making her the first person in her family to pursue higher education.

When she started college, she broadly went after communications because of a longstanding interest in social media and storytelling. Then she honed her focus as more classes affirmed where her interests most lay. One public-speaking course was emboldening. But a journalism class where she got to tell a visual story about someone usually pushed to societal sidelines was particularly impactful. (She centered her assignment on a school janitor, with whom she remains in touch.) Because it meaningfully put her then-mostly-untapped storytelling inclinations into practice, the project solidified her purpose. 

“It was just a bunch of, ‘I like telling people’s stories. I like public speaking. I love reporting, but I also love social media and I love getting people together,’” Thach remembers realizing. “It was everything all coming together.”