Monday, April 20, 2020
► In the Seattle Times — King County Metro bus driver dies after contracting the coronavirus — The driver, 59-year-old Samina Hameed, died Thursday evening at Overlake Medical Center in Bellevue, Metro told drivers in a poster placed at some transit bases. Hameed had been employed by Metro since 2017 and worked out of Bellevue Base and East Base. Her husband is also a Metro operator and the couple have three children and a daughter-in-law… Drivers have pushed Metro to take more safety precautions, and a union leader this month said drivers “are out there feeling a little scared, and afraid, out there by themselves.”
► From The Guardian — ‘We’re risking our lives out here, every day’: U.S. bus drivers lack basic life-saving protections — Nearly 100 American transit workers have died from the coronavirus as their employers have delayed on basic safety measures.
The Stand (April 15) — Join ATU in demanding Safe Service transit policies
► In the Tri-City Herald — 1,300 sign petition to close beef plant near Tri-Cities — By Sunday, 89 people connected to the plant living in four counties and two states reported being infected with COVID-19. “Because of a lack of pressure from elected officials, Tyson continues to keep their Wallula plant running, exposing hundreds of other workers to the virus and endangering the neighborhoods and communities in which those workers live, shop and go to the doctor,” says the petition.
EDITOR’S NOTE — Apparently, local health officials are waiting for the infected to start dying before they take action. Meanwhile, a safe-at-home Tyson spokesman says, “We’re working hard to protect our team members during this ever-changing situation, while also ensuring we continue fulfilling our critical role of helping feed people across the country.”
► In the (Longview) Daily News — Three new COVID-19 cases are Foster Farms workers; no link suspected — Three new coronavirus cases reported in Cowlitz County on Friday all involve workers at the Foster Farms chicken processing plant in Kelso, but, incredibly, officials say they do not yet believe the cases are linked or that the workers risked spreading the virus to any of the other 600 employees.
► In the Yakima H-R — Yakima Health District reports 70 COVID cases in agriculture industry
► In the Seattle Times — Undocumented, essential and sick: One Washington family’s struggle with coronavirus (by Naomi Ishisaka) — Unlike other workers, undocumented workers cannot get unemployment benefits and they are excluded from the federal coronavirus stimulus plan. In another punishing twist, mixed-status families — or families where one person might be undocumented but others have Social Security numbers — also are not eligible for the stimulus, which is an estimated 8 million people nationwide. All of this leaves Maria both fearful for her daughter, first and foremost, but also worried about her ability to care for her family as a single parent. As the rent comes due and bills pile up, she doesn’t know how she will pay them all with no income.
► In the Seattle Times — Coronavirus risk and environmental justice campaigns unite Amazon tech, warehouse workers — Hours before Amazon fired Emily Cunningham and Maren Costa this month, they were among about a thousand of the company’s technology employees to accept an invitation to hear from warehouse employees about working conditions during the coronavirus pandemic. In addition to firing the women — both visible leaders of Amazon Employees for Climate Justice (AECJ) — Amazon deleted the calendar invitation to the online event and took disciplinary action against another employee who circulated it. On Thursday, the conversation went ahead anyway, featuring warehouse workers from Chicago, New York and Poland. “They clearly did not want this event to happen,” Costa, who spent 15 years at Amazon, rising to be a principal user experience designer, told the approximately 375 people watching the web conference. “They apparently do not want tech workers talking to warehouse workers. They fired us to silence you and to silence all of us.” Costa called on her former colleagues to stage a sickout as a form of collective protest action on April 24.
RIGHT TO INFECT
► In the Seattle Times — Demonstrators rally in Olympia against Washington’s coronavirus stay-at-home order — More than 2,000 demonstrators, including a Republican state representative who called for a rebellion, appeared at the State Capitol on Sunday to urge Gov. Jay Inslee to lift the stay-at-home order. The rally was in violation of both the governor’s order and the guidance of public health officials across the state and country… A trio of Republican state lawmakers violated the governor’s order: Reps. Jim Walsh (R-Aberdeen), Vicki Kraft (R-Vancouver), and Robert Sutherland (R-Granite Falls). Sutherland, who carried a pistol tucked into his pants urged those gathered to start a revolt if state officials tried to enforce the temporary ban on recreational fishing: “Governor, you send men with guns after us when we go fishing, we’ll see what a revolution looks like… You send your goons with guns, we will defend ourselves.”
On Facebook, Sen. Doug Ericksen (R-Ferndale) linked to a newspaper story on a proposal by governors and public health officials to ramp up testing and track down the contacts of anyone who’s tested positive — classic epidemiological practices, but deployed on a larger-than-ever scale. Ericksen wrote: “Now the deep state is proposing Communist Chinese style, freedom destroying, liberty crushing techniques to fight the Communist China Virus.”
EDITOR’S NOTE — Those “goons with guns” Sutherland is referring to are law enforcement officers with the Department of Fish and Wildlife. Their jobs just got a lot more dangerous because of Rep. Sutherland’s rhetoric. As for Ericksen, even as “Double Dipping Doug” milked taxpayers with multiple government jobs, he was also a paid consultant for a Cambodian dictator. This is a guy who’ll say and do just about anything for a free meal.
Bottom line: nearly 70 percent of Republicans said they supported a national stay-at-home order, according to a recent Quinnipiac poll. Ninety-five percent of Democrats backed such a measure in the survey. If these fringe elements and their Republican instigators were only endangering each other with their political rallies, few would care. But they are endangering their entire communities.
► In the NY Times — Trump, head of government, leans into anti-government message — With his poll numbers fading after a rally-around-the-leader bump, the president is stoking protests against stay-at-home orders.
► From the AP — Inslee blasts Trump for ‘fomenting domestic rebellion’
► In the Washington Post — Far-right activists using Facebook groups to push anti-quarantine protests — A trio of far-right, pro-gun provocateurs is behind some of the largest Facebook groups calling for anti-quarantine protests around the country, offering the latest illustration that some seemingly organic demonstrations are being engineered by a network of conservative activists.
► In the NY Times — Protesting for the right to catch the coronavirus (by
► In the Spokesman-Review — More testing, contact tracing, supplies needed before state dials back social distancing — Gov. Jay Inslee’s current “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order is in effect through May 4, but whether he loosens those restrictions earlier or extends it later than that date depends on multiple factors. Under the guidance of state health officials, Inslee has said he envisions the loosening of mitigation strategies through a phased-in approach, not all at once.
► In the Seattle Times — State website crashes after seeing ‘a tsunami of claims’ for new coronavirus unemployment benefits — The state’s website went live with the new COVID-19 job loss programs funded by the federal government Saturday night at 8 p.m. The system was immediately swamped by applicants. The Employment Security Department is monitoring the problem and adding capacity, but the best solution in the short term to the bandwidth shortage is to wait it out for a few days, when people normally applying for their weekly benefits aren’t also in the system. Or try at odd hours. “The system is there, 24-7,” said a spokesman.
► In the Seattle Times — Republican lawmakers release plan to reopen Washington’s economy amid coronavirus –The plan’s 16 recommendations would, among other things, slash Business & Occupation (B&O) taxes, provide sales-tax holidays for retail stores, and suspend any inflation-adjusted minimum-wage hike for 2021.
► In the Spokesman-Review — COVID-19 puts rural hospitals in Eastern Washington on brink of financial collapse — Rural hospital systems have bolstered COVID-19 responses and protections while losing major revenue streams from other kinds of care. The moves have left many in a financially precarious position.
► In the Spokesman-Review — Full-time Spokane parks employees shift into new roles as other workers get furloughed — The new assignments are just one facet of the department’s stark and rapid adjustment to life amid a pandemic, which has forced the closure of playgrounds, postponed outdoor concerts and postponed recreational sports leagues – all as city residents are as desperate as ever for recreation.
► In the Washington Post — Trump administration, congressional leaders near deal on virus aid that includes major boost for small businesses — The Trump administration and congressional leaders closed in Sunday on an approximately $470 billion deal to renew funding for a small-business loan program that ran out of money under crushing demand during the coronavirus pandemic, aiming to pass the agreement into law within days. The deal would also boost spending for hospitals and coronavirus testing by about $100 billion.
► In the Washington Post — White House, GOP face heat after hotel and restaurant chains helped run small-business program dry — The federal government gave national hotel and restaurant chains millions of dollars in grants before the $349 billion program ran out of money Thursday, leading to a backlash that prompted one company to give the money back and a Republican senator to say that “millions of dollars are being wasted.”
EDITOR’S NOTE — Who got paid? Ruth’s Chris Steak House, a chain that has 150 locations and is valued at $250 million; Potbelly, which has more than 400 locations and a value of $89 million; Shake Shack, a $1.6 billion burger-and-fries chain. In all, more than 70 publicly traded companies have reported receiving money from the program.
► From Roll Call — H-1B workers lose jobs, legal status amid pandemic — Mass layoffs and shuttered immigration offices create big problems for foreign workers.
► In the Washington Post — Trump tells a damnable and murderous lie (by Dana Milbank) — Trump has decided that reelection requires him to attack the World Health Organization at the height of a pandemic. Multitudes could die for his lie.
► From The Hill — U.S. coronavirus death toll surpasses 40,000
► In the Washington Post — First, the coronavirus pandemic took their jobs. Then, it wiped out their health insurance. — In a nation where most health coverage is hinged to employment, the economy’s vanishing jobs are wiping out insurance in the midst of a pandemic. The Economic Policy Institute, a nonpartisan think tank, estimates that 9.2 million U.S. residents were at high risk of having lost coverage during the past four weeks. The consulting firm Health Management Associates forecasts that perhaps 12 million to 35 million people will lose job-based insurance because of the pandemic, on top of the 27.5 million who were uninsured before the virus arrived.
► In the NY Post — 45 NYC doormen and janitors dead from coronavirus, union says — At least 58 service industry employees unionized under 32BJ SEIU have died due to COVID-19 across the country — with 45 of those deaths taking place in New York City.
► From Vox — Getting unemployment has been a nightmare for millions of people across the country — With 22 million people trying to get unemployment at once, the system is overwhelmed. The unemployment insurance fiasco is a perfect storm: a massive, crippling recession meeting many state programs that were underfunded and out of date to begin with. Programs in states like Florida — where former Gov. Rick Scott purposely designed the online system to make it hard for people to access, the Washington Post reported — have made it even more difficult for people to get help when they need it most.
The Stand posts links to Washington state and national news of interest every weekday morning by 10 a.m.