Tuesday, April 7, 2020
► LIVE from the Seattle Times — Coronavirus daily news update, April 7 — The number of COVID-19 cases in Washington continues to grow, though at a slower rate. The state health department on Monday confirmed the state’s totals are now 8,384 people sickened and 372 dead.
► From Crosscut — After a labor strike and a pandemic, Swedish Hospital nurses have a contract — A protracted labor fight between health care workers and management at Swedish Medical Center facilities — a dispute that culminated earlier this year in a strike and lockout — came to an end Monday night, as nurses, technicians and other union members represented by SEIU 1199NW voted to ratify a new contract. Although the contract battle began before the widespread outbreak of COVID-19, the twin pressures on staff of working without a contract and managing the virus’ spread have mounted in recent weeks. Nurses told Crosscut earlier that they were beginning to see increased turnover, and two of them said Monday that, despite some hesitation, they voted for the new contract so that they could put the fight behind them.
► In the Bellingham Herald — Citing safety fear amid coronavirus outbreak, union files complaint against PeaceHealth — State regulators are investigating after a nurses’ union filed a complaint against PeaceHealth, alleging it was failing to provide a safe work environment for workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 outbreak. The Washington State Nurses Association is accusing PeaceHealth of not giving nurses the personal protective gear they need while working at its St. Joseph hospital in Bellingham and of other actions it said could harm them.
The Stand (April 3) — WSNA: Speak up for PPE, because #SilenceKills
► In the Seattle Times — Bellingham hospital confirms firing ER doctor who criticized its coronavirus response — A top official of PeaceHealth has now confirmed the company ousted emergency physician Ming Lin for allegedly inciting public fear by criticizing the hospital’s emergency precautions.
► In the Seattle Times — ‘We’re all scared’: Spread of coronavirus marked by friction, frustration among employees at Valley Medical Center facilities — Interviews with more than a dozen frontline Valley employees, including multiple physicians, and copies of emails and internal documents underscore the concerns of many employees who said that COVID-19’s sudden arrival left staff and administrators scrambling. Directives changed regularly and sometimes confusion reigned, fueling employees’ fears for their safety.
► In the Tri-City Herald — Coronavirus death toll hits 18 in Tri-Cities area; 72 healthcare workers now infected — The number of known cases in employees of healthcare facilities jumped from 45 reported on Friday to 72 by Monday. They could include workers at hospitals, clinics and nursing or other long-term care homes.
► In the Seattle Times — Sound Transit halts ‘almost all’ construction work due to coronavirus outbreak — About 70% of building trades workers will be temporarily laid off, said Mark Riker, executive secretary of the Washington State Building and Construction Trades Council. The main problem is a national shortage of PPE, Riker said… Some jobs, such as fastening parts inside a station, bring two partners nearly atop each other, and simply can’t be done so long as shortages of PPE exist, Riker said. Many union members feel guilty about using PPE that health care workers need, he said, and some companies have donated their stocks to health facilities. “Every mask I take, I’m taking out of the hands of some nurse or doctor that I may have to see in eight days,” Riker said. “That is not acceptable to my members.”
► In the Columbian — Clark County grocery stores limit customer numbers — Kroger, the parent company of grocery store chains Fred Meyer and QFC, announced Monday that it will begin limiting the total number of customers allowed in its stores at a time. Starting Tuesday, Kroger-owned stores will limit their customer traffic to 50 percent of each store building’s code-calculated occupancy capacity. Safeway and its parent company, Albertsons, announced similar customer traffic restrictions at their own stores on Monday.
► In the Seattle Times — Boeing urged by Congressional delegation to take bailout money, pay workers — The seven Democrats in the state’s Congressional delegation wrote to Boeing CEO David Calhoun on Monday, urging him to take federal bailout money in order “to safeguard thousands of jobs at Boeing in Washington state and across the country.” The letter noted that while Boeing had pressed for the nation’s aviation and aerospace sectors to be included in the government rescue program to cushion the economic blow of the coronavirus epidemic, “we are disappointed to read reports that you are now considering forgoing the relief Boeing requested.”
EDITOR’S NOTE — Here is the letter in its entirety.
► In the Seattle Times — Boeing halts aircraft production in South Carolina, too — Boeing said Monday it will suspend its 787 production work in South Carolina “until further notice,” halting temporarily its last aircraft manufacturing center that was still operating.
► In the (Everett) Herald — 1.2 million students won’t return to classrooms anytime soon — Washington students will not return to classrooms this school year, maybe longer, leaving teachers with the daunting challenge of educating about 1.2 million elementary and secondary students through distance learning. Gov. Jay Inslee on Monday extended the current closure of public, private and charter schools through June 19 in an ongoing effort to blunt the spread of coronavirus. On the front lines, educators are sorting through emotions as they figure out how best to replicate the one-on-one experience of a classroom they’ve lost to the virus. “It may be the hardest thing teachers have had to do,” said Jared Kink, president of the Everett Education Association. “It’s going to be a Herculean effort.”
ALSO TODAY at The Stand — ‘We’re in this together… for the long haul’ — WEA President Larry Delaney on school-from-home through year’s end: ‘I know that WEA members are up to the task’
► In the News Tribune — Coronavirus stimulus checks are coming soon: Here’s who gets money, who doesn’t — While most people will get payments, questions linger whether many others will receive them. How do divorced parents qualify? Newborns? College students?
► In The Stranger — Don’t listen to bad ideas—austerity will only hurt us more (By Sen. Joe Nguyen) — Make no mistake—austerity measures are the exact opposite of what we should be doing. They will only perpetuate the economic contagion caused by this pandemic, and will hurt the people who need help the most… For the economy to recover and to thrive, we need to make investments that ensure maximum participation. Our response can cause a shrinking negative feedback loop, or a virtuous cycle in which the economy grows for everyone. Don’t be fooled by reactionary voices who would have you believe otherwise—we tried to shrink our way to growth in 2008. It didn’t work then, and it won’t work this time. We have two choices before us: grow our way out of this crisis, or wither into it. We need to tax the rich to save our economy. Our lives depend on it.
► In the (Everett) Herald — Trump must reopen Obamacare enrollment for jobless — About 3.5 million are without coverage following layoffs; ACA enrollment must be reopened for them. The good news for those in Washington state, as well as 10 other states and the District of Columbia, is that those states’ foresight in establishing their own insurance marketplaces means they can set their own rules for enrollment for individuals under special circumstances.
EDITOR’S NOTE — Washington’s extended special enrollment period, which ran from March 10 through April 8, has been extended through May 8. Coverage will start May 1 for customers who enroll after April 8. Now is no time to be without health insurance coverage, so if you have lost yours, sign up today at WashingtonHealthplanFinder.org.
► In the Seattle Times — The 2020 Census needs you (editorial) — The stay-home situation provides an excellent opportunity for socially distanced Americans to fill out the civic paperwork, but officials must overcome several challenges coronavirus presents to the population count.
The Stand (April 1) — Census Day: Take 5 minutes to be counted! — If you haven’t already, fill out a census questionnaire today.
► From Politico — ‘Narrow’ DOL guidance on coronavirus benefits for gig workers prompts protest — Instructions from the Labor Department on how to pay emergency unemployment benefits to gig workers sidelined by the coronavirus pandemic prompted protest Monday from Sen. Ron Wyden (D.-Ore.) and AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. Wyden said Monday that DOL’s explanation of who is eligible and who is not could result in many workers being denied benefits unjustly. “This administration doesn’t get it,” Trumka said. “We should not be nickel and diming people who are hurting, especially when the same bill that provides these unemployment benefits also includes a $170 billion tax giveaway to America’s richest real estate investors.”
► In the Washington Post — Underfunded, understaffed and under siege: Unemployment offices nationwide are struggling to do their jobs — Roughly 10 million people have filed unemployment claims over the past two weeks, only to face a similar struggle: Out of work, and soon to be out of cash, they’ve encountered local governments that are unprepared to handle the unprecedented strain. State websites are buckling, their phone lines are jammed and the backlogs are mounting for jobless benefits, threatening to delay checks to Americans who need help most. Complicating matters, the Department of Labor in the nation’s capital has not yet disbursed all the necessary money to the states, and it just issued guidelines for how local governments should implement its new programs over the weekend. The prior days of silence slowed down many states and sparked confusion nationwide. The Labor Department did not respond to a request for comment.
EDITOR’S NOTE — But Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia has responded to a request for comment from the propagandists at Fox News, where he painted a rosy picture of the nation’s economic resiliency and Trump’s handling of the crisis.
► From The Hill — Trump says IG report finding hospital shortages is ‘just wrong’ — Trump on Monday claimed that an inspector general report finding “severe” shortages of supplies at hospitals to fight the novel coronavirus is “just wrong.” Trump did not provide evidence for why the conclusions of the 34-page report are wrong. The IG report found “severe” shortages of tests and wait times as long as seven days for hospitals. It also found “widespread” shortfalls of protective equipment such as masks for health workers, something that doctors and nurses have also noted for weeks.
► In the NY Times — Trump’s aggressive advocacy of malaria drug for treating coronavirus divides medical community — Bolstered by his trade adviser, a television doctor, Larry Ellison of Oracle and Rudolph W. Giuliani, a former New York mayor, Trump has seized on the drug as a miracle cure for the virus that has killed thousands and paralyzed American life. Along the way, he has prompted an international debate about a drug that many doctors in New York and elsewhere have been trying in desperation even without conclusive scientific studies. If hydroxychloroquine becomes an accepted treatment, several pharmaceutical companies stand to profit, including shareholders and senior executives with connections to the president. Trump himself has a small personal financial interest in Sanofi, the French drugmaker that makes Plaquenil, the brand-name version of hydroxychloroquine.
► In the Washington Post — Worried that $2 trillion law wasn’t enough, Trump and congressional leaders converge on need for new coronavirus economic package — Democrats are looking to extend unemployment aid and small-business assistance for additional months, as well as authorize another round of direct checks to taxpayers. Republican leaders, meanwhile, have also called for more corporate aid and money to boost the overwhelmed health-care system.
► From CNN — Wisconsin holds its primary election in the middle of a pandemic — Wisconsin on Tuesday is holding its primary in the middle of a pandemic. Republicans who have insisted on holding the election on schedule won two legal battles Monday, as the state Supreme Court blocked Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ bid to delay it until June and the U.S. Supreme Court (in a party-line 5-4 vote) reversed a lower court’s ruling that gave voters six extra days to return their ballots by mail.
EDITOR’S NOTE — AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said: “It’s unconscionable that Wisconsin voters are being forced to choose between their health amid a pandemic and their constitutional right to vote. This anti-American decision silences tens of thousands of our citizens. That’s rank ideology, not blind justice. And with each passing day, Chief Justice John Roberts is presiding over the degradation of the highest court in the land.”
► From HuffPost — Ginsburg blasts conservative justices who blocked Wisconsin’s absentee voting extension — “The question here is whether tens of thousands of Wisconsin citizens can vote safely in the midst of a pandemic,” RBG wrote on Monday. “With the majority’s stay in place, that will not be possible. Either they will have to brave the polls, endangering their own and others’ safety. Or they will lose their right to vote, through no fault of their own.”
Hey @washdems – @WisDems will be standing in line at least 5 hours to vote today. Milwaukee usually has 180 polling places – today, 5 are open. This is Election Day under a GOP state legislature and state supreme court. #SaveDemocracy https://t.co/YJIHgJL2jX
— Tina Podlodowski (@Tinapo) April 7, 2020
► In the Washington Post — Grocery workers are beginning to die of coronavirus — Thousands of grocery employees have continued to report to work as U.S. infections and death rates continue to climb, with many reporting long shifts and extra workloads to keep up with spiking demand. Many workers say they don’t have enough protective gear to deal with hundreds of customers a day. Dozens of grocery workers have tested positive for the coronavirus in recent weeks. At least four people – who had worked at Walmart, Trader Joe’s and Giant – have died from COVID-19 in recent days.
► From the AP — Truckers warn supply chain in jeopardy if they don’t get better COVID-19 protection — They are hauling into COVID-19 hot spots every day with no protective equipment, testing capabilities or ways to self-quarantine or seek treatment if they become sick.
► From The Hill — More than 700 employees at one Detroit hospital system test positive for coronavirus — Dr. Adnan Munkarah of the Henry Ford Hospital Campus confirmed 731 cases of the coronavirus among employees at the hospital, accounting for 2 percent of the hospital system’s 31,600 employees.
► In the NY Times — Gaps in Amazon’s response as virus spreads to more than 50 warehouses — Shifting sick-leave policy and communication issues are causing employees to assert themselves after they stayed on the job.
► From Politico — Health professionals warn of ‘explosion’ of coronavirus cases in minority communities — Early data shows the coronavirus is hitting black and brown Americans especially hard. But spotty government data collection and publication could prevent resources from flowing to the communities most ravaged by the pandemic.
► In the Boston Herald — Painters union to join walk off over coronavirus concerns — More building trades union members — fed up with Massachusetts GOP Gov. Charlie Baker’s refusal to order a statewide shutdown on construction and concerned about their safety as the coronavirus pandemic escalates — are walking off the job on Monday.
The Stand posts links to Washington state and national news of interest every weekday morning by 10 a.m.