In the Media

Monday, April 25, 2022 - 11:06am - Cascadia Daily News

Over the last decade, Daniel Thompson has worked at various Starbucks locations along the West Coast, but has called the drive-thru coffee shop on Iowa and King home for about four years. 

After watching the company he loves change throughout his 9.5-year tenure, he’s ready for a seat at the table. Rising expectations, high turnover rates and cuts to hours mean baristas and shift supervisors, like Thompson, are dealing with more pressure and less support. Some of the employees are trying to change that, announcing plans to unionize last week

“The things that we went through from the pandemic have been a catalyst for all this,” Thompson said. “The culture and sense of community is still there, but the expectations of us have changed exponentially.”

Of the 30 or so employees at the Iowa and King location, 11 signed the letter announcing the unionization efforts. 

One of the 11 signatories is Shannon Butler, a Western Washington University student and a barista at the Iowa and King location.

While many Bellingham residents have stopped by to offer support to the employees, Butler says the Seattle-based company has been less than enthusiastic about the efforts. 

“They’re asking us to vote no, because they believe that the problems that we’ve brought up would be best solved with a direct connection instead of a union,” she said. “From our experience, we have expressed a lot of our concerns … but no changes are made.” 

Monday, April 25, 2022 - 11:03am - The Bellingham Herald

Though all seven Whatcom County school district regions have COVID-19 infection and hospitalization rates that would keep them well within the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s “low” community level, three regions had particularly low infection rates.

The regions covered by the Lynden, Mount Baker and Nooksack Valley school districts all saw fewer than 15 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents during the week of April 10-16, The Bellingham Herald’s found analyzing the latest data released by the Whatcom County Health Department on Thursday, April 21. The other four regions — Bellingham, Blaine, Ferndale and Meridian — all had infection rates higher than 50, but all were still below 80, which kept all four solidly within the CDC’s guidelines for “low” community levels.

COVID-related hospitalization rates also remained low across all seven regions, as Bellingham was the only region to see a new COVID-related patient during the week.

 

Friday, April 22, 2022 - 12:09pm - The Bellingham Herald

With construction of its three condominium buildings underway near Waypoint Park, Harcourt is moving forward with plans for two apartment buildings that will be built nearby in the Bellingham Waterfront District.

During a Tuesday, April 19, commission meeting, Port of Bellingham staff unveiled some initial concept drawings on what for now are called projects 3 and 4. It will consist of two six-story, mixed-use buildings with commercial space on the ground floor and around 140 apartment units on the upper levels. The buildings will also have podium parking, meaning the parking will be built into the first floor next to the commercial space, avoiding the necessity of digging down to put in underground parking, something that is currently taking place nearby in the three condominium buildings.

These two new buildings are slated to go on the corner of Laurel Street and Granary Avenue. The current designs call for keeping the former Georgia-Pacific digesters, known in the community as the waterfront’s rocket ships, in place. The bike track, shipping container village and beer garden can also remain.

 

Friday, April 22, 2022 - 12:05pm - Seattle Times

Your bags are packed, you’re ready to go. You’re standing there, outside your door. And you’re thinking, “If I catch COVID-19 on this trip, I could get seriously ill or die.”

You got a fresh N95 respirator for the trip. And you were counting on most of your fellow travelers to cover their noses and mouths too: the driver of your ride-share, the people in the airport, and passengers packed tightly inside the plane.

But this week, a federal judge in Tampa, Florida, issued an order that voided the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s mask mandate for those on public transportation. The U.S. Justice Department is appealing the decision at the CDC’s behest. Until the issue is sorted out in court, most commercial airlines, airports, bus lines and public transit systems have stopped requiring travelers and employees to mask up.

That means you’re likely to be surrounded by maskless faces.

Now what do you do? Dr. John Brooks, the CDC’s chief medical officer for the COVID-19 response, has some practical advice.

Friday, April 22, 2022 - 12:01pm - Seattle Times

It’s Earth Day and President Joe Biden is in Seattle as part of a two-day visit to the Pacific Northwest.

After spending the day in Portland on Thursday talking infrastructure, Biden signed an executive order at Seward Park Friday morning – aimed at protecting old-growth forests from the ravages of wildfires. Some activists have said they plan to protest near the park Friday to demand the Biden administration take more extensive actions to curb carbon-producing fossil fuel projects.

Biden will also make an appearance in Auburn to deliver a speech at Green River College’s Mel Lindbloom Student Union. He will discuss his work “bringing down costs for American families,” and growing the clean-energy economy, according to the White House.

He is expected to leave Seattle around 2:30 p.m., departing from Seattle-Tacoma Airport for Philadelphia. Commuters and travelers in cars and using transit should expect to see delays with temporary road and highway closures and changes to transit service downtown.

Friday, April 22, 2022 - 11:57am - Seattle Times

Two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, the public debate on masks is as heated as ever — especially in Philadelphia, which earned national attention for once again requiring masks in indoor public spaces and then undoing that rule days later.

Yet in the realm of science, there is plenty of evidence to support using the face coverings. Researchers who study airborne transmission of viruses say there is no question that masks — even the cloth variety — reduce the spread of the coronavirus.

Exactly how much depends on the type of material, how well the mask fits, and how many virus particles an infected person is shedding, among other factors. No mask is bulletproof, but that’s not a reason to reject them entirely. No infection-control measure is absolute, short of complete isolation.

That’s why public health officials have stressed multiple layers of protection: masks, social distancing, and, above all, vaccines. If one layer fails, another may do the trick.

Friday, April 22, 2022 - 11:28am - Associated Press

The final weeks of the college school year have been disrupted yet again by COVID-19 as universities bring back mask mandates, switch to online classes and scale back large gatherings in response to upticks in coronavirus infections.

Colleges in Washington, D.C., New York, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Texas have reimposed a range of virus measures, with Howard University moving to remote learning amid a surge in cases in the nation’s capital.

This is the third straight academic year that has been upended by COVID-19, meaning soon-to-be seniors have yet to experience a normal college year.

Mandates were shed widely in the wake of spring break as case numbers dropped following a winter surge fueled by the omicron variant. But several Northeast cities have seen a rise in cases and hospitalizations in recent weeks, as the BA.2 subvariant of the omicron variant continues to rapidly spread throughout the U.S.

“As much as we would like to move on and think that the pandemic is over, and I think we all would like that to happen at this point, it’s wishful thinking,” said Anita Barkin, co-chair of a COVID-19 task force for the American College Health Association. “The pandemic is still with us.”

Friday, April 22, 2022 - 11:18am - Seattle Times

This spring many Seattle-area firms began reopening their offices and tempting workers back with promises of pizza, spontaneous workplace joviality and other all-but-forgotten pleasures of in-person employment.

To which many office workers appear to have said, “meh” — much to the dismay of those fretting over Seattle’s recovery. 

Last week, offices in the Seattle metro area were only a third full — an improvement from early January, but far below what some U.S. metros are seeing, according to Kastle Systems, which tracks office occupancy.

Hart Hodges, an economist and co-director at the Center for Economic and Business Research at Western Washington University, thinks overall office occupancy will eventually top 70%.

But there are caveats. New coronavirus variants could slow that pace. Factors such as rising gasoline prices are already making some remote workers even less eager to restart their commutes.

Many workers feel they’ve been just as productive at home, making it awkward for “a manager to say, ‘OK, I know you’ve all gotten your work done … but come back to the office,'” Hodges says.

Indeed, remote work, and the freedom it brings from commutes and other office aggravations, is widely viewed as a genuine benefit that workers see little reason to give up.

For those reasons, Hodges is expecting “a lot of pushback [by workers] for the next at least six months that’s going to keep occupancy in the barely over 60% range.”

 

Friday, April 22, 2022 - 10:40am - Whatcom Talk

Formerly the site of the Glow and Studio B night clubs, the space above KPOP Chicken and Beer is now The Blue Room, an all-ages performance venue. Less than two months into operations, the space is bringing a diverse array of live entertainment to downtown Bellingham.

It’s all due to the work of Hodwall Productions, a brain trust comprised of twentysomething musicians Nick Hastings, Ben Hodson, and Martijn Wall.

The three met as music students at Western Washington University, playing together in band and orchestra settings. Wall, 22, plays oboe, while 23-year-old Hodson plays trumpet, and 21-year-old Hastings plays tuba.

Wall and Hastings are still finishing degrees at WWU, while Hodson graduated last year with a marketing degree. They founded Hodwall last fall, after a successful history of hosting shows together.

The first month of performances, which Wall says relied heavily on local performers and a strong relationship with WWU’s music department, was an experimental undertaking that ranged from rock to jazz, hip hop to classical, and comedy to electronic dance.

Thursday, April 21, 2022 - 11:40am - Seattle Times

The World Health Organization says that the number of reported new COVID-19 cases worldwide decreased by nearly a quarter last week, continuing a decline since the end of March.

The Geneva-based U.N. health agency said in a weekly report that nearly 5.59 million cases were reported between April 11 and 17, 24% fewer than in the previous week. The number of newly reported deaths dropped 21% to 18,215.

WHO said new cases declined in every region, though only by 2% in the Americas. The report was dated late Wednesday and sent to journalists on Thursday.

The agency said that “these trends should be interpreted with caution as several countries are progressively changing their COVID-19 testing strategies, resulting in lower overall numbers of tests performed and consequently lower numbers of cases detected.”