President Joe Biden signed an order Monday reversing a Trump-era Pentagon policy that largely barred transgender individuals from serving in the military.
The new order, which Biden signed in the Oval Office during a meeting with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, overturns a ban ordered by President Donald Trump in a tweet during his first year in office. It immediately prohibits any service member from being forced out of the military on the basis of gender identity.
The coronavirus vaccine developed by Moderna triggers an immune response that protected in laboratory tests against two variants of the virus first detected in Britain and South Africa, the company said Monday.
The finding was largely encouraging but contained a clear warning sign: Even though the vaccine generated disease-fighting antibodies that worked against the South African variant, that efficacy was diminished. Moderna said there was a reduction in response, prompting the company to design a new potential vaccine that could be added to the current two-dose regimen.
This strain of coronavirus spreads more easily and quickly than the original variant, the Snohomish Health District said.
As of Friday, there were 195 detections of this version in 22 states, including Oregon.
Dr. Umair Shah, state health secretary, said the state has surveillance efforts in place to detect the new variant, known as B-117. Its arrival makes prevention even more crucial, he said at a news conference.
“We need to double down on all the efforts to wash our hands, watch our distance, wear our masks, and certainly to get tested,” Shah said.
Another 60 new confirmed COVID-19 cases were reported by Whatcom County on Saturday, Jan. 23, according to the Washington State Department of Health’s dashboard.
Overall, Whatcom County has seen 5,186 confirmed cases and 59 related deaths during the pandemic, according to state data as of 11:59 p.m. Friday, Jan. 22, meaning 1.1% of all COVID cases in Whatcom County have been linked to a death.
With Western Washington University offering mostly online instruction during the COVID-19 pandemic, a major contractor announced it is reducing staff.
Aramark, which handles the dining services at the university, submitted paperwork to the state announcing it is laying off 183 people. The Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification stated that the layoffs would start March 15 and that the state’s WorkSource center will begin outreach to the impacted employees.
An email statement from Chris Collom, who represents the company’s communications department, stated the pandemic was a factor in the layoffs.
Earlier this month Western announced that its spring and summer quarter classes will mostly be done remotely in 2021.
The Education Department said Wednesday night that at President Joe Biden's request, it is continuing to give student loan borrowers a break from making their monthly payments for another nine months, until Sept. 30. The department's student aid website was also updated to reflect the pause had been extended. The department said the order came from Phil Rosenfelt, who was named acting education secretary. However, advocacy groups for borrowers urged him to go further.
The move is the latest extension borrowers have gotten from having to resume making payments after former president Trump in August granted a moratorium through the end of last year. With borrowers facing the prospect of having to make payments again, then-Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on Dec. 6 extended the moratorium until Feb. 1.
For locals invested in Bellingham’s culture, the name “Ella Higginson” is generally familiar. Literary enthusiasts may know her as Washington’s first Poet Laureate. Western Washington University visitors may know that the façade of Edens Hall quotes her (“Here is the Home of Color and of Light”). However, significantly fewer people recognize Ella Higginson’s untold influence on Bellingham and Pacific Northwest literature.
Higginson was born 1862 in Kansas and grew up in Oregon. In 1888, Higginson and her husband, Russell, moved to New Whatcom, where they remained and built a locally famous house. Higginson’s more than 800 works—poems, fiction, and essays—inspired nationwide fascination with our region.
“Ella Higginson put the Pacific Northwest on the literary map,” says Dr. Laura Laffrado, an English professor at Western Washington University. “She created the Pacific Northwest in the minds of people who would never be here.”
It took Whatcom County only 13 days to surpass another dubious milestone during the COVID-19 pandemic, as the 73 cases reported by the Washington State Department of Health dashboard Thursday, Jan. 21, pushed the county over past 5,000 total confirmed cases.
Making Thursday’s numbers release even more difficult was the reporting of three additional related deaths.
Statewide, 125 deaths were reported Thursday, and the dashboard said the high number was due to the clearing of a “data processing backlog” from Jan. 14-20.
President Biden on his first day in office Wednesday proposed an immigration bill that features a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and makes Dreamers -- young undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children -- immediately eligible for green cards.
He also signed a memorandum directing the Secretary of Homeland Security to take actions aimed at "preserving and fortifying" the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. A separate executive order repealed a controversial travel ban policy established by former president Trump that barred nationals from a group of mostly Muslim-majority and African countries from entering the United States.
Higher education groups praised the reversal of the ban, which initially caused chaos in higher education as students and scholars affiliated with American institutions found themselves stranded abroad. In the nearly four years since the travel ban was put in place, one week after Trump's inauguration, many higher ed officials have argued the policy sent an unwelcoming message to students and scholars around the globe.
Whatcom County saw 59 new confirmed COVID-19 cases reported by the Washington State Department of Health dashboard Wednesday, as it closed in on its 5,000th positive test during the pandemic.
Whatcom’s death total remained unchanged, as the state did not report deaths Wednesday, once again citing processing issues and saying a full report of deaths will be made Thursday, Jan. 21.
Overall, Whatcom County has seen 4,939 confirmed cases and 56 related deaths during the pandemic, according to state data as of 11:59 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 19. That means that 1.1% of the Whatcom residents who have tested positive for COVID during the pandemic have died.