Tuesday, April 21, 2020
► LIVE from the Seattle Times — Coronavirus daily news update, April 21 — The most recent count of COVID-19 cases in Washington totals 12,085 infections and 652 deaths, according to the state Department of Health.
► In today’s Spokesman-Review — Eastern State Hospital nurse dies of COVID-19 — Esequiel “Zeke” Cisneros, who worked at the psychiatric facility in Medical Lake for more than 30 years, became critically ill after contracting the novel coronavirus and was treated in a local intensive care unit, his family said in an obituary published Sunday. Cisneros died on the night of April 13, about a month after his 64th birthday… Like the state Department of Corrections, DSHS has been scrambling to contain the virus within its facilities. An outbreak at Western State Hospital in Lakewood has sickened at least six patients and 28 employees, according to DSHS. One patient there has died. The agency says two Eastern State Hospital employees have tested positive for COVID-19, and one has recovered.
ALSO TODAY at The Stand — Everyday Heroes: Maria Claudio, WFSE member at Western State — Maria Claudio is a psychiatric social worker at Western State Hospital and a vocal member of the Washington Federation of State Employees/AFSCME Local 793. She continues to call on the hospital to take public health guidance seriously, and says management’s failure to act swiftly has placed patients and staff at an elevated risk.
► In the Seattle Times — Metro driver who died after contracting coronavirus remembered for her ability to brighten a bad day — While it’s not known where Samina Hameed contracted the coronavirus, her death has left Metro drivers who knew her in mourning… Ridership across local transit systems has dropped dramatically, but drivers continue to work in regular contact with the public and with limited protection. The union representing 4,000 Metro workers has called for a requirement that passengers wear masks to board, $2-per-hour hazard pay and for buses to go into “drop off only mode” once a certain number of riders have boarded.
► In the Tri-City Herald — 2nd Hanford worker has coronavirus
► In the Tri-City Herald — Number of hospitalized patients with coronavirus jumps. More Tyson and nursing home cases — Eleven more healthcare workers are known to have been infected with the new coronavirus, bringing cases in hospital, clinic and long-term care employees to 120.
TYSON DEATHWATCH — The Tyson Fresh Meats plant near the Tri-Cities in Wallula, which employs about 1,400 people in jobs where people work “elbow to elbow,” remains open despite now having 94 coronavirus infections linked to the plant, almost all of them workers. By comparison, after having just 25 employees test positive in the Puget Sound region, 70,000-employee Boeing shut down its plant production for weeks.
► In the (Longview) Daily News — Four COVID-19 cases now confirmed at Foster Farms — Cowlitz County officials reported Monday that a fourth employee at Foster Farms in Kelso has tested positive for the coronavirus, and they also believe that two of the previously reported cases may be linked after all. Officials say they will begin targeted testing of other employees at the facility for the virus, but county officials so far have not asked the 600-employee chicken processing plant to close down or change operations.
► In the Tri-City Herald — ‘It has felt like chaos.’ The inside story of Tri-Cities medical workers fighting COVID-19 — They’re concerned that many Tri-Citians were not taking the coronavirus pandemic seriously enough. And they said the for-profit hospital group, LifePoint Health of Tennessee, which now owns two Tri-Cities hospitals, has not been doing enough to implement safety measures or involve medical staff in key planning decisions. Hospital workers said they’re scared about the severity and swiftness of the disease that’s struck many in the community — many more than current numbers of deaths and positive tests show, they say. But they also worry about themselves and their loved ones.
► In the Kitsap Sun — Puget Sound Naval Shipyard worker fired after raising concerns about coronavirus — A PSNS employee says she was investigated and then fired after raising alarm over working conditions there during the pandemic. In mid-March, Megan Mayo advocated hazard pay and complained to management that not enough social distancing and other measures were being implemented at the shipyard, the largest such facility in the nation. She even made a sweatshirt that cited CDC statistics on one side and a quote from the shipyard’s commander, Capt. Dianna Wolfson, about putting “shipyard before self.”
► In the Columbian — City of Vancouver braces for massive blow to budget due to pandemic — The city is expecting to lose out on at least $30 million and as much as $60 million, mostly in lost sales-tax revenue. It will leave a deep crater in the city’s coffers — $60 million would amount to about 40 percent of Vancouver’s annual general fund. Vancouver City Manager Eric Holmes sent out an email to staffers Friday detailing $30 million worth of belt-tightening measures at City Hall, including a halt on fund transfers and discretionary spending, a freeze on new hires and potential staff layoffs.
► In the Bellingham Herald — Washington opens no-barrier cash assistance for those without access to other programs — The DSHS has opened coronavirus relief funding to people without citizenship status or proof of a Social Security number. As of Friday, people not eligible for other COVID-19 assistance programs can apply to the Disaster Cash Assistance Program. Money is available to those who meet income and resource thresholds. The department estimates more than 175,000 households might be eligible. People living in Washington can apply online at WashingtonConnection.org and call Customer Service Contact Center at 877-501-2233
► In the News Tribune — ‘Give me liberty or give me COVID-19,’ say Olympia protesters. Give me a break, we say (editorial) — “Live free or die,” certainly. But don’t put others at risk when people are still getting sick and dying in the coronavirus pandemic. Staying home saves lives; gathering en masse at the Capitol could cost them.. The worst thing about Sunday’s rally was that it gave political agitators a platform. State Rep. Robert Sutherland (R-Granite Falls) used irresponsible language that could incite violence… Using this kind of incendiary language while frontline workers put themselves at risk to save lives isn’t only dangerous, it’s stupid, and that’s not a word this Editorial Board uses lightly… Thankfully, most Americans aren’t easy marks for these peddlers of crazy talk. A united, bipartisan front supporting federal safety guidelines would go a long way toward eliminating the nasty politics that only inflames this national crisis.
► From The Columbian — Rep. Vicki Kraft joins Olympia rally against Inslee’s stay-home order — The Vancouver Republican appears in a photo published by The New York Times standing in a crowd, with protesters carrying signs that read “Trump 2020: Keep America Great!” and “Our rights are essential.” She is not wearing a face mask in the photo. Kraft did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
► From The Guardian — Anti-lockdown rallies could cause surge in COVID-19 cases, experts warn — Eric Feigl-Ding, an epidemiologist and public health scientist at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, tweeted: “2,500 anti-lockdown rally in Olympia, Washington… I predict a new epidemic surge (incubation time ~5-7 days before onset symptoms, if any, and transmission to associates around that time, even among asymptomatics)… so increase in 2-4 weeks from now.”
► In the (Everett) Herald — Ferguson says Nevada company violated eviction ban order — In a lawsuit, he claims the firm, which manages a Marysville complex, wrongly sent notices to pay or vacate.
EDITOR’S NOTE — Washingtonians concerned about violations of the governor’s eviction ban, which now runs through June 4, can file a complaint at www.atg.wa.gov/file-complaint.
► In the Seattle Times — Western States Pact is a promising move (editorial) — By actively working together, the states can more powerfully and efficiently handle their common mission. In the absence of the federal action America needs, it’s the strongest way for the West Coast to find the road back to normalcy.
► From the EOI — Even during COVID-19, the wealthy under-contribute (by John Burbank) — The popular phrase is that we are all in this together. But we aren’t, are we? The wealthiest among us remain insulated from the pandemic crisis and the economic crisis. And it seems that they really don’t care. We should not be surprised. The wealthy do not contribute, and have never contributed, proportionately and in an equitable manner, to the public services of our state. Households with over half a million dollars in income pay less than 3 percent of their income in state and local taxes. The uber wealthy most likely pay less than 1 percent. Middle class families pay 10 percent and poor families pay 17 percent.
► In the Washington Post — Trump says he will issue order to suspend immigration during coronavirus crisis, closing off the United States to a new extreme — Trump, who is running for reelection on his immigration record and his effort to build a wall on the Mexico border, has long been frustrated with the limits on his ability to seal off the United States by decree. An executive order suspending all immigration to the country would take the president’s impulses to an untested extreme.
EDITOR’S NOTE — Suspending immigration won’t create a single job, save a single pension, or protect a single community. This is intended to create a distraction from Trump’s failure to lead America through this crisis.
► From The Hill — Nurses union to protest at White House Tuesday — National Nurses United, the largest nurses union in the U.S., said in a press release that members planned to read aloud names of nurses who have died from COVID-19 as hospitals across the country struggle to provide masks, gloves and other equipment for staffers.
► In the Washington Post — ‘We’re beyond angered’: Fed up nurses file lawsuits, plan protest at White House over lack of coronavirus protections — Among nurses, frustration over being forced to choose between doing their jobs and risking exposure to a potentially deadly virus appears to be reaching a tipping point this week. More than 9,000 health-care workers in the United States have tested positive for the novel virus, according to the CDC. But those numbers are believed to be a gross undercount of infections due to the continuing lack of available tests in many areas. Some regions and facilities are choosing not to test health-care workers in favor of saving kits for their sickest patients.
► In the NY Times — ‘You’re on your own,’ essential workers are being told (editorial) — Weeks into the pandemic, it’s apparent that not nearly enough is being done to protect these front-line workers, even as their continued labor ensures that a semblance of normality endures for their fellow Americans. “The message from OSHA to employers and their workers is: You’re on your own,” said Debbie Berkowitz, a former OSHA official and now program director of the National Employment Law Project.
► In the Washington Post — White House readies push to slash regulations as major part of its coronavirus economic recovery plan — Senior Trump administration officials are planning to launch a sweeping effort in the coming days to repeal or suspend federal regulations affecting businesses, with the expected executive action seen by advisers as a way to boost the economy. While the plan remains in flux, changes could affect environmental policy, labor policy, workplace safety and health care, among other areas.
► From Reuters — Corporate America seeks legal protection for when coronavirus lockdowns lift — Major U.S. business lobbying groups are asking Congress to pass measures that would protect companies large and small from coronavirus-related lawsuits when states start to lift pandemic restrictions and businesses begin to reopen.
► In the Washington Post — Trump’s reckless incitement to ‘liberate’ states endangers lives (editorial) — Public Fatigue with stay-at-home orders to fight the novel coronavirus pandemic is inevitable and understandable. Not understandable, nor forgivable, is the president of the United States inciting disrespect for his own government’s guidelines, which are unquestionably essential for the public health.
► From The Guardian — Hundreds of Amazon warehouse workers to call in sick in coronavirus protest — Hundreds of Amazon warehouse workers across the U.S. will refuse to show up for work this week by calling in sick, marking the largest nationwide protest effort so far against the company’s coronavirus response.
EDITOR’S NOTE — Amazon employees: Tired of being disrespected by an employer unresponsive to your safety concerns? Get a union! Find out more information about how you can join together with co-workers and negotiate for a safer workplace (and a fair return for your hard work). Or just contact a union organizer today!
► From Business Insider — Amazon-owned Whole Foods is quietly tracking its employees with a heat map tool that ranks which stores are most at risk of unionizing — The heat map is powered by an elaborate scoring system, which assigns a rating to each of Whole Foods’ 510 stores based on the likelihood that their employees might form or join a union. The stores’ individual risk scores are calculated from more than two dozen metrics, including employee “loyalty,” turnover, and racial diversity; “tipline” calls to human resources; proximity to a union office; and OSHA violations recorded.
► From In These Times — Amazon will not change without a union (by Hamilton Nolan) — Yes, it will be hard. But it is necessary if we want to prevent the future of work in America from being ground up in a vast algorithmic machine in service of a lone mega-billionaire. So it has to be done. The one thing that all of Amazon’s spending cannot change is the fact that, if 50% plus one of the employees in an Amazon warehouse decide that they want to stop being exploited, they will have a union, by law. And once they have a union, they will collectively bargain, by law. And once they collectively bargain, they become a serious force to be reckoned with, something that Amazon has never yet had to deal with. There is a reason why companies like Amazon have such sophisticated internal anti-union surveillance systems. It is because they understand that a union gives employees a type of power that they will never otherwise have. Not a power that depends on influencing others, but an inherent structural power of their own.
► From The Guardian — ‘I don’t want this job to kill me’: why have 68 New York transit workers died during the pandemic? — So far about 2,400 transit workers have tested positive for the coronavirus while 4,000 are quarantined. Sixty-eight workers have died.
► From Michigan Live — Flint hospital’s union president, Edward Nelson, dies from coronavirus — Edward Nelson, president of AFSCME Hurley Medical Center Employees Local 1603, died Monday, April 13 from COVID-19 at the hospital where he worked for so long. He was 65 and planning to retire at the end of the month.
The Stand posts links to Washington state and national news of interest every weekday morning by 10 a.m.