Washington State University will require proof that students and staff are vaccinated against COVID-19 before they return to live or work on campus, the university announced Wednesday. WSU is Washington’s first public university to announce vaccine requirements. It joins Seattle University and Pacific Lutheran University, two private universities that mandated vaccines for students earlier this month. The University of Washington, Western Washington University, The Evergreen State College and Central Washington University haven’t announced mandates but are strongly urging staff and students to get vaccinated.
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown is putting 15 counties that encompass the state’s biggest cities into the state’s extreme risk category starting Friday, imposing restrictions that include banning indoor restaurant dining. As Brown issued her order on Tuesday, she said rising COVID-19 hospitalizations threaten to overwhelm doctors. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee is expected to order new restrictions next week for several counties, likely including the state’s largest, that would force businesses and churches to reduce their indoor gathering capacity from 50% to 25%. Inslee will decide which counties need to be rolled back to Phase 2 of his reopening plan after an evaluation of public health safety benchmark numbers.
Is it safe to go to big sporting events during the pandemic?
Is it safe to go to big sporting events during the pandemic?
Not yet, but there are ways to make it safer if you go.
“Yelling, chanting, hugging and generally pouring out our sports enthusiasm is still not the safest activity,” noted Jennifer Dowd, associate professor of population health at University of Oxford and chief scientific officer of Dear Pandemic, a website that offers expert opinions.
If you do decide to go to a game, outdoor stadiums are safer than indoor arenas, which won’t be as well ventilated. Venues that limit attendance and require masks are safer as well. Some teams are requiring proof of vaccination or a negative test for the coronavirus.
Once at the stadium, avoid indoor bars, restaurants and box seating, Dowd said. “Spaces that are indoors with lots of people eating and drinking without masks are still among the riskiest,” she said.
—Carla K. Johnson, The Associated Press
US recovery from pandemic recession is showing momentum
Powered by consumers and fueled by government aid, the U.S. economy is achieving a remarkably fast recovery from the recession that ripped through the nation last year on the heels of the coronavirus and cost tens of millions of Americans their jobs and businesses.
The economy grew last quarter at a vigorous 6.4% annual rate, the government said Thursday, and expectations are that the current quarter will be even better. The number of people seeking unemployment aid — a rough reflection of layoffs — last week reached its lowest point since the pandemic struck. And the National Association of Realtors said Thursday that more Americans signed contracts to buy homes in March, reflecting a strong housing market as summer approaches.
Economists say that widespread vaccinations and declining viral cases, the reopening of more businesses, a huge infusion of federal spending and healthy job gains should help sustain steady growth. For 2021 as a whole, they expect the economy to expand close to 7%, which would mark the fastest calendar-year growth since 1984.
—Paul Wiseman and Martin Crutsinger, The Associated Press
Free rides, beer and savings bonds: Vaccinators get creative
Free beer, pot and doughnuts. Savings bonds. A chance to win an all-terrain vehicle. Places around the U.S. are offering incentives to try to energize the nation’s slowing vaccination drive and get Americans to roll up their sleeves.
These relatively small corporate promotion efforts have been accompanied by more serious and far-reaching attempts by officials in cities such as Detroit, where they’re offering $50 to people who give others a ride to vaccination sites.
Public health officials say the efforts are crucial to reach people who haven’t been vaccinated yet, whether because they are hesitant or because they have had trouble making an appointment or getting to a vaccination site.
—The Associated Press
Washington Legislature approves $340M for COVID-19 Immigrant Relief Fund, making it one of the country’s largest
Washington’s Immigrant Relief Fund got an enormous boost this week when the Legislature approved $340 million in additional funding.
That brings the total allocated so far, first by Gov. Jay Inslee and then by the Legislature, to $467 million — believed to make this the second-largest fund of its kind in the country, behind New York’s.
The fund provides payments to immigrants shut out of other forms of pandemic relief, like federal stimulus checks and unemployment insurance, because they are not in the country legally. California and Oregon offer similar assistance.
“I think we should be very proud of our state,” said Paúl Quiñonez Figueroa, political director of Working Washington, a labor-aligned organization that with the advocacy group OneAmerica co-led a large coalition pressing for funding.
Washington was quick to act, he said. Last August, as COVID-19 was spreading through immigrant communities at especially high rates, often infecting agricultural and other essential workers, Inslee announced the formation of the then $40 million fund. Seattle launched its own immigrant fund in October.
In contrast, Quiñonez Figueroa said, it took New York a year to approve its $2.1 billion fund earlier this month April, and only after protests that sometimes shut down bridges.
Is it finally safe to get back to normal, pre-COVID-19 life? Here’s what experts say
In many ways, this week is a turning point in the battle against COVID-19.
Disneyland will reopen on Friday after being closed for more than a year.
Coronavirus cases in Los Angeles County are so low the area is on the cusp of moving to the yellow tier — the most lenient of California’s four-category color-coded reopening system — which would trigger dramatic reopenings.
And people who are fully vaccinated for COVID-19 can safely stop wearing masks in many outdoor settings, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday.
But there are still reasons to be cautious. As the situations in Oregon and India show, the coronavirus remains a threat.
—Rong-Gong Lin II, Los Angeles Times
Anti-mask politician compares herself to civil-rights icon Rosa Parks, sparking anger and support
A Temecula, California, City Council member who compared her fight against face mask mandates to Rosa Parks’ bus demonstration for civil rights has touched off a weeks-long controversy in the majority-white Riverside County city where residents are sharply divided over the comments and Black community members have expressed anger over the remarks.
The council member, Jessica Alexander, a staunch anti-mask Republican, has not addressed the issue since an April 13 council meeting when she brought up the civil-rights icon while expressing opposition to masks at in-person council meetings.
“Look at Rosa Parks. She was accommodated to the back of the bus, but she finally took a stand and moved to the front because she knew that that wasn’t lawful. It wasn’t truth. So she took a stand. At what point in time do we?” Alexander said. “I’m getting to the point where I’m getting accommodated in my office. I feel like I’m getting pushed to the back of the bus.”
The controversy, which festered for weeks and was used as fodder on “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” Tuesday night, intensified after the latest council meeting.
During Tuesday’s meeting, additional time was dedicated to reading public comments on the issue, which was first reported in the Press-Enterprise. The comments ranged from calls for her resignation to support for her rejection of mask use.
—Colleen Shalby, Los Angeles Times
Jobless claims drop 13,000 to 553,000 as economy heals
The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits dropped by 13,000 last week to 553,000, the lowest level since the pandemic hit last March and another sign the economy is recovering from the coronavirus recession.
The Labor Department reported Thursday that jobless claims were down from 566,000 a week earlier. They have fallen sharply over the past year but remain well above the 230,000 weekly figure typical before the pandemic struck the economy in March 2020.
The four-week moving average, which smooths out weekly gyrations, fell 44,000 to 611,750.
“Layoffs are elevated but are gradually easing, consistent with an economy that is reopening,” said Rubeela Farooqi, chief U.S. economist at Hgh Frequency Economics. “We expect further declines in filings as businesses move closer towards normal capacity which will boost job growth over coming months.”
—Paul Wiseman, The Associated Press
Indians turn to black market, unproven drugs as virus surges
India set another global record in new virus cases Thursday with more than 379,000 new infections, putting even more pressure on the country’s overwhelmed hospitals. The country of nearly 1.4 billion people has now recorded over 18 million cases, behind only the U.S., and over 200,000 deaths — though the true number is believed to be higher.
As the country faces the devastating surge of infections overwhelming its health care system, people are taking desperate measures to try to keep loved ones alive. In some cases they are turning to unproven medical treatments, in others to the black market for life-saving medications that are in short supply.
The few medicines known to help treat COVID-19, such as remdesivir and steroids in hospitalized patients, are scarce. The most basic treatment —oxygen therapy — is also in short supply, leading to unnecessary deaths. Even hospital beds are scarce. There were just 14 free intensive care beds available in New Delhi, a city of 29 million people, on Thursday morning.
—The Associated Press
Fake COVID-19 testing sites appear in Edmonds
Two fraudulent COVID-19 testing sites appeared in downtown Edmonds Tuesday, and police are warning people to be alert.
Edmonds police Sgt. Josh McClure said one phony testing site was in front of a Starbucks and the other was near the ferry terminal, The Daily (Everett) Herald reported.
The sites have since been removed. McClure said police had not cited or arrested anyone as of Wednesday afternoon and are continuing to investigate.
The fake sites were set up with a folding table and medical-appearing paraphernalia and fraudulent health care workers instructed people to provide their names, birthdays, and other personal information, McClure said.
—The Associated Press
Catch up on the past 24 hours
COVID-19 hospitalizations are on the rise in our state among all age groups but for those over 60. Among people who are 65 and older, the unvaccinated are being hospitalized at a rate nearly 10 times higher than their vaccinated counterparts.
A sparse crowd lines up for the COVID-19 vaccine at Lumen Field Event Center in Seattle Wednesday. There are still several thousand first- and second-dose appointments available across the four city-affiliated vaccine sites this week. With all Washington adults eligible and 40% of residents having received at least a first dose, vaccine appointments are now seemingly abundant. Looking for a shot for yourself or a loved one? Here’s our updated guide.
As the pandemic ravages India, the large Indian-American community in the Puget Sound area is fighting feelings of desperation and helplessness -- and finding creative ways to help.
Colleges are hoping for a return to a more traditional, in-person experience in the fall. On at least three campuses in our state, that means vaccination will be mandatory.
When most of the U.S. went into lockdown over a year ago, some predicted a baby boom would result. Well, the numbers are in -- and they’re surprising.
Gyms and fitness studios have been a no-no for much of the pandemic. With more and more people vaccinated, is it safe to go back?
Germany is getting serious in its crackdown on a QAnon-type group that has become increasingly aggressive in its coronavirus denial activities.
Seattle Times staff & news services