Friday, September 11, 2020
► From the Seattle Times — Weather shifts, helping firefighting but bringing more smoke to Washington state — About 30 large fires continued to burn across Washington and Oregon on Friday, destroying hundreds of homes, forcing thousands of people to flee and turning the pristine air of the Pacific Northwest into a hazy, hazardous mishmash of smoke and particulates. The Washington state Department of Ecology predicted “unhealthy” air for essentially the entire western half of the state.
► From the Spokesman-Review — ‘You have today to prepare’: Massive smoke cloud approaches
► From the Washington Post — Half a million Oregonians, more than 10 percent of the state’s population, have evacuated from wildfires — More than 30 fast-moving wildfires across the state have killed at least four people and burned more than 900,000 acres in Oregon, nearly doubling the annual average of acres burned in just three days.
► From the Oregonian — Rumors about ‘antifa’ wildfires in Oregon are false, police say
► From the NY Times — I’ve never seen the American West in such deep distress (by Timothy Egan) — The West of 2020 is very sick. Like much of the country, we Westerners are at each other’s throats, struggling to put our lives back together under a madman for a president. But unlike the rest of the country, we’re also choking on smoke and staring out at Martian-red skies in a world becoming uninhabitable.
► From the Seattle Times — Wildfire prevention is everyone’s job (editorial) — Every individual must do better. Wildfire season has for years been a predictable and growing part of the calendar for much of the American West. Climate change further exacerbates the threat to woodlands and communities. People die. Families lose their homes. Vigilance against errant flames — even sparks — can prevent much of this hurt. That is a universal obligation.
► From the Spokesman-Review — We have met the cause of the wildfires, and it’s usually one of us (by Shawn Vestal) — Campfires and cigarettes. Sparking machinery and fireworks. Slash piles and debris burns that grow out of control. And, yes, even gender-reveal parties gone wrong.
► LIVE from the Seattle Times — Coronavirus daily news update, Sept. 11 — The latest count of COVID-19 cases in Washington totals 78,467 infections (7-day average of new infections per day: 443) and 1,985 deaths (7-day average of deaths per day: 7)
► From the Spokesman-Review — ‘A major threat to the state of Washington’: Inslee meets with health officials in Pullman as COVID cases climb at WSU
► From the USA Today — ‘Astonishingly risky’: COVID-19 cases at colleges are fueling the nation’s hottest outbreaks — Across the country, college students’ mounting coronavirus outbreaks have become an urgent public health issue. Of the 25 hottest outbreaks in the U.S., communities heavy with college students represent 19 of them. They span the map from Georgia Southern University to the University of North Dakota, from Virginia Tech to Central Texas College. In some of the college towns, like Pullman, Wash., home to Washington State, students aren’t even taking classes in person, yet are still crowding apartments and filling local bars.
► From the NY Times — A university had a great coronavirus plan, but students partied on — The predictive model at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign included an oversight: It assumed that students would do all of the things that they were told.
► From the Seattle Times — ‘A wholesale failure’: Inslee, Murray blast Trump for downplaying coronavirus threat as outbreak hit Washington — “I have been saying since day one, way back in the end of January … of the urgency of this crisis and what we need to do,” said Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.). “It was downplayed by this administration, there was no urgency … and people have died.”
► From the Washington Post — Trump’s lies about the pandemic were a grave dereliction of duty (editorial) — It is astounding and indefensible that Trump willfully deceived the nation about the seriousness of the coronavirus threat. This was no casual deceit, no singular slip of the tongue, but a purposeful and repeated falsehood. The cost has been about 190,000 dead so far in the United States, and millions sickened, many seriously.
► From the AP — Scarcity of key material squeezes medical mask manufacturing — White House officials say U.S. hospitals have all the medical supplies needed to battle the deadly virus, but front-line health care workers, hospital officials and even the FDA say shortages persist. Critical shortfalls of medical N95 respirators, commonly referred to as N95 masks, and other protective gear started in March. Pressure on the medical supply chain continues today, and in “many ways things have only gotten worse,” the AMA’s president, Dr. Susan Bailey, said in a recent statement.
► From Health Affairs — Mortality rates from COVID-19 are lower in unionized nursing homes — Health care worker unions were associated with a 30% relative decrease in the COVID-19 mortality rate compared to facilities without health care worker unions. Unions were also associated with greater access to PPE, one mechanism that may link unions to lower COVID-19 mortality rates.
EDITOR’S NOTE — Unions save lives.
► From The Hill — Fauci warns U.S. needs to ‘hunker down’ for fall, winter: ‘It’s not going to be easy’ — Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious diseases expert, warned Thursday that the U.S. should prepare for a difficult few months in the fight against COVID-19 as flu season approaches.
► From the Seattle Times — Washington ranked as state with best safety net for workers during COVID-19 — No state has a better safety net than Washington, according to a new report from Oxfam America, a nonprofit that works to alleviate poverty. Oxfam graded states for 27 policies which fall into three umbrella categories: Worker protections, which account for 45% of the total score, unemployment support (35%), and health care (20%). Washington received high scores across the board, including the top score for unemployment support. We tied for 2nd for worker protections and 10th for health care.
The Stand (Sept. 4) — Washington’s #1 for workers amid pandemic — “It should come as no surprise that a strong union state like Washington has superior worker protections,” said WSLC President Larry Brown. “Thanks to decades of advocacy by our state’s labor movement and strong progressive leadership in state government, Washington leads the way on minimum wage, paid sick leave, work safety standards, paid family and medical leave, and strong safety nets for injured workers and the unemployed. It’s proof that strong unions benefit all workers, even if they aren’t members — yet.”
► From the News Tribune — State Health Department issues guidelines for COVID-19 patients returning to work — DOH only recommends routine screening of asymptomatic employees in certain high-risk jobs, such as healthcare workers. DOH also discourages employers from requiring their employees to have a negative test before returning to work after a confirmed COVID-19 infection.
► From the Spokesman-Review — Ferguson asks judge to reverse Postal Service changes ahead of election — Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson asked a federal judge in Yakima late Wednesday to reverse what the state’s top lawyer called “drastic changes” at the U.S. Postal Service, claiming the recent moves jeopardize mail delivery across the country ahead of November’s election. If Judge Stanley Bastian approves Ferguson’s request for a preliminary injunction, the USPS would be required to halt a recent effort by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy to save money by cutting down on delayed and extra truck trips. The motion also calls for the Postal Service to replace recently dismantled mail sorting machines and formalize a longstanding practice of prioritizing election mail.
► From CNN — After negotiations falter, Senate fails to advance Republican bill addressing coronavirus pandemic — The Senate failed Thursday to advance a Republican proposal to address the health and economic crises caused by the coronavirus pandemic, four months after House Democrats passed their $3 trillion plan… The GOP bill would have cost about a tenth of the House’s proposal. It did not include money for a second round of direct stimulus checks to Americans or provide additional funding for states and local governments facing budget shortfalls.
The Stand (TODAY) — GOP’s weak COVID-relief bill rejected by U.S. Senate
► From the AP — $300 in U.S. jobless aid running out even as more seek help — The nation’s unemployment safety net is looking increasingly shaky, with a $300-a-week federal jobless benefit running out just weeks after it began and millions of laid-off Americans nearing an end to their state unemployment aid.
► From Bloomberg — OSHA fines Smithfield $13,494 over worker infections, deaths — Smithfield Foods has been fined $13,494 for its failure to mitigate worker exposure to the coronavirus, the first such meatpacking company sanction imposed by OSHA during the pandemic. Nearly 1,300 Smithfield employees tested positive for the coronavirus, 43 workers were hospitalized, and four workers died between March 22 and June 16.
A $13,494 fine for 4 deaths and nearly 1,300 coronavirus infections. Way too little, way too late. @OSHA_DOL must do better. 190,000 deaths and still no infectious disease standard to protect workers. Working families deserve more.https://t.co/29foMGA6EK
— Richard Trumka (@RichardTrumka) September 10, 2020
► From Politico — Federal judges block Trump census order on undocumented immigrants — A three-judge panel in New York is blocking President Donald Trump from excluding undocumented immigrants from the census count for the purpose of congressional reapportionment. “This is a huge victory for voting rights and for immigrants‘ rights,” Dale Ho, director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project, said in a statement. “President Trump has tried and failed yet again to weaponize the census against immigrant communities. The law is clear — every person counts in the census.”
► From Vice — NLRB finds merit that Kickstarter illegally fired union organizer — Six months after Kickstarter workers voted in the first union at a major tech company in the U.S., a federal agency has found sufficient evidence that management violated the National Labor Relations Act by firing a union organizer.
► Special Report from Reuters — Big Pharma wages stealth war on drug price watchdog — Over the past five years, a small but increasingly influential drug-pricing research organization, the Institute for Clinical and Economic Review (ICER), has pressured drugmakers to lower the cost of nearly 100 drugs. It aims to play a similar role with emerging COVID-19 treatments and vaccines. So the drug industry has moved aggressively to combat the threat to its profits in two ways: With open criticism of ICER’s formula and with a stealthier campaign to undermine its credibility through proxies, including veterans’ groups and organizations that claim to advocate for patients but have ties to the pharmaceutical industry, Reuters found in a review of industry connections and funding among groups targeting ICER.
► From the AFL-CIO — Remembering loved ones and our fallen heroes on Sept. 11 — President Richard Trumka: “Nineteen years ago today, Americans confronted evil with courage, grace and solidarity. As we reflect nearly two decades later, we send love to all those families who mourn every day for the more than 3,000 lives lost, many who were union members. We also honor the heroic first responders who gave their lives to save so many and continue to pray for those who will suffer health effects for the rest of their lives.”
► From Bloomberg — Amazon raised prices on essentials amid pandemic, watchdog says — Amazon charged inflated prices for hand sanitizer, disposable gloves and other essentials months after the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, the consumer watchdog Public Citizen said in a report accusing the world’s largest online retailer of price gouging.
► To make amends for all of today’s depressing news, The Entire Staff of The Stand presents a truly beautiful song… about death.
The Stand posts links to Washington state and national news of interest every weekday morning by 10 a.m.