Wednesday, March 11, 2020
► LIVE from the Seattle Times — Coronavirus daily news update, March 11 — Officials continue to confirm cases of COVID-19 around Washington state. In total, 24 people in the state are known to have died from the disease.
► In the Seattle Times — Inslee to restrict gatherings of more than 250 people, a move aimed at sports and concerts — In the most drastic move yet to try to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, Gov. Jay Inslee is expected Wednesday to restrict gatherings of more than 250 people in King, Snohomish and Pierce counties, a move aimed at sports, concerts and other cultural events.
EDITOR’S NOTE — The governor’s press conference is scheduled for 10:15 a.m. this morning. As soon as we get it, The Stand will post the news release describing the specific new restrictions and social distancing orders. Stay tuned…► In the NY Times — Flattening the coronavirus curve — One chart explains why slowing the spread of the infection is nearly as important as stopping it.
► From the Wash. Heath Benefit Exchange — Washington Healthplanfinder announces special enrollment period in response to growing coronavirus outbreak — This special enrollment period, that runs through April 8, 2020, for qualified individuals who are currently without insurance will allow them 30 days to enroll in health insurance coverage through Washington Healthplanfinder.
► In the Seattle Times — Jails, courthouses across Washington look for ways to protect employees, jurors and inmates — Washington jails are on heightened alert as the coronavirus outbreak worsens, given the close quarters inmates are confined to and the high turnover in the daily population as inmates are booked and released.
► In the Spokesman-Review — Inslee announces strict visitation rules for nursing homes as COVID is found at nearly a dozen facilities
► From Crosscut — Coronavirus fears in Pacific NW lead to rise in anti-Asian racism — Asian Americans in Seattle and elsewhere say they are increasingly being harassed and blamed for the COVID-19 outbreak.
► In the Washington Post — Face mask shortage prompts CDC to loosen coronavirus guidance — Instead of recommending that health-care workers use specialized masks known as N95 respirators, which filter out about 95 percent of airborne particles, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention posted new guidelines Tuesday that said “the supply chain of respirators cannot meet demand” and that looser fitting surgical face masks “are an acceptable alternative.”
ALSO at The Stand — State’s healthcare unions demand necessary protective equipment
► From TPM — Why Washington state is desperate for Trump to declare a COVID-19 emergency — The state would like to apply for a Medicaid waiver that would let Washington give people more options for where to receive care, so that it can lessen the pressure on its already overtaxed health system. The problem for the state is that one of the types of waivers currently under discussion — a waiver known as 1135 — can be triggered only by the President declaring an emergency or a disaster under the Stafford Act, something he has notably failed to do, despite all signs indicating that the coronavirus outbreak stands to be a major public health crisis.
► In the NY Times — Coronavirus brings a new legislative push for paid sick leave — The United States is one of the only rich countries not requiring employers to give their workers paid time off when they’re sick. It has become an urgent issue for more Americans because of the coronavirus outbreak. Citing the crisis, Democrats in Congress are trying to pass a new version of a sick leave bill that has been stalled in Congress since 2004 — and expand it to add 14 days of immediately accessible paid sick leave in the case of a public health emergency. “Right now, the experts are telling people: Stay home if you’re sick,” said Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), sponsor of the new bill. But many workers, including those in the service industry, cannot follow the advice without losing a paycheck, she said. “That’s why paid sick days are such a critical part of this response.”
The Stand (March 6) — Murray introduces emergency paid sick leave legislation
► In the NY Times — U.S. employers: Paid sick leave. Now. (editorial) — Companies that do not provide paid sick leave to all employees, particularly those in the retail and restaurant industries, are endangering their workers and customers.
► In the (Everett) Herald — Paid sick leave an effective tool against COVID-19 (editorial)
► From Politico — Worker health is central to public health (by Rebecca Dixon) — If there is a prime lesson in this crisis, it is that our interconnected lives depend on workplace protections for everyone. Luckily, we have the solutions to ensure that the most vulnerable individuals have better protections as workers, so that families, and our delicate human web, can stay safe and healthy.
► From CNBC — Coronavirus could financially cripple many Americans — Americans’ health may not be the only thing at stake as the coronavirus continues its unrelenting spread in the U.S. The virus could also prove financially crippling for many individuals.
ALSO at The Stand — U.S. must also act to stop spread of financial contagion (by Damon Silvers) — We need government to act to stop financial and economic contagion until the worst of the coronavirus passes and, most importantly, until everyone has a better sense of the exact nature of the threat — that is, until the uncertainty diminishes. Working people must demand that government act, or we and our families will pay the price for others’ lack of action, as we so often have in the past.
► In today’s Seattle Times — Alaska, Southwest, battered by decline in air travel due to coronavirus, prepare to cut flights — Executives from both airlines said they are looking to cut all nonessential spending and freeze hiring. They also suggested that if the travel slump is prolonged, once Boeing’s 737 MAX is ungrounded their airlines may postpone planned deliveries of those aircraft.
► From Crosscut — Seattle workers lose jobs and worry about rent as coronavirus slows business — The widespread effort to control the spread of the virus, which seems to move easily from person to person, is already reverberating into people’s pocketbooks and is likely to continue to do so.
► In the Washington Post — Trump pitches payroll tax cut through election to skeptical GOP senators — Trump told GOP senators Tuesday he wants to dramatically reduce the payroll tax through at least the end of the year, a plan that could deliver a massive — but expensive — boost to many businesses and voters as he heads into the November presidential election. But his proposal was not warmly received by Republicans, and it was also panned by Democrats, leaving policymakers searching for any common ground as the coronavirus’s outbreak continues to take its toll on the economy.
ALSO at The Stand — Trump plan to cut payroll taxes is ‘an attack on Social Security’ (by Nancy Altman) — Trump is using the coronavirus crisis as an excuse to propose a reduction in payroll contributions. This is a Trojan Horse attack on our Social Security system, which will do nothing to meaningfully address the crisis at hand.
► From The Hill — Democratic senators call on OSHA to issue Emergency Temporary Standard for workers due to coronavirus outbreak — Sens. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) are calling on the Trump administration to issue an Emergency Temporary Standard to protect workers from the spreading coronavirus.
ALSO at The Stand — AFL-CIO issues call to action on COVID-19; Call Congress now! –Demand that OSHA issue an emergency temporary standard for infectious diseases.
► From the Senate HELP Committee — Murray, Democrats push Scalia to advocate for workers, question DOL’s absence from task force — “We call on you – as the lead federal government official responsible for the protection and advocacy of workers – to ensure response efforts incorporate both the immediate and long-term needs of workers,” wrote the senators.
► From Politico — U.S. coronavirus testing threatened by shortage of critical lab materials — The slow pace of coronavirus testing has created a major gap in the U.S. public health response.
► From Politico — Email crash impeded HHS response to coronavirus — Day-long IT snafu last month infuriated health officials, adding fuel to tensions among department leaders.
► From The Hill — Three TSA employees in California test positive for coronavirus
► In the Washington Post — Trump administration wants hundreds of thousands of federal workers to prepare to work remotely full time — Some corners of the federal government, the country’s largest employer, are only just confronting what could be an unprecedented shift in how they serve the public — for weeks or even months.
► In the Washington Post — Fox News is putting lives at risk (by Max Boot) — Trump was comparing COVID-19 to the ordinary flu, even though its mortality rate appears to be many times higher and its economic effect infinitely greater. But Trump could not spread disinformation all by himself. A herd of right-wing pseudo-journalists has jumped the shark along with him. They are promulgating narratives so at odds with reality that they are likely to get people killed.
► In the (Everett) Herald — Bill repealing Boeing tax break clears the state Senate — The state Senate on Tuesday approved a much-worked bill to repeal a tax break for Boeing — but not give it all back in the future… Currently, the company pays a B&O tax rate of 0.2904%. Starting April 1, the tax break would be gone and the company’s rate would rise to 0.484%, a 40 percent increase. If and when the state Department of Commerce verifies that the U.S. and the European Union have entered into a written agreement resolving any WTO disputes involving large civil aircraft, that rate would come back down to 0.357% — a roughly 25 percent cut. In addition, Boeing must prove that a portion of its workforce, three-tenths of 1%, are apprentices. To keep the lower tax rate, the percentage both at Boeing and, separately, in the rest of the aerospace industry must be 1.5 percent by April 1, 2026, or within five years after the lower tax rate is reinstated.
► In the Seattle Times — Sanders, Biden in virtual tie in Washington primary election results, as Biden cruises in other states — Sanders led Biden with 32.7% of the vote to 32.5% in Washington Tuesday, with the two candidates separated by about 2,000 votes out of more than 1 million counted. Washington represented the second-biggest state voting on Tuesday. Biden won the largest, Michigan, as well as Mississippi and Missouri, while North Dakota and Idaho remained too close to call.
► From HuffPost — Group asks Congress to investigate if Betsy DeVos is tied to her brother’s work — A progressive government watchdog nonprofit group is asking Congress to investigate whether Education Secretary Betsy DeVos had any involvement in her brother’s efforts to spy on a Michigan teachers union.
► From CNN — Tens of thousands of students out of school as St. Paul educators strike after failed negotiations — More than 37,000 children are out of school after the St. Paul, Minnesota, teachers union went on strike because a dozen mediation sessions had not yielded meaningful movement on educators’ demands for better mental health and multilingual services for students.
The Stand posts links to Washington state and national news of interest every weekday morning by 10 a.m.