Friday, August 20, 2021
► From the Spokesman-Review — COVID hospitalizations at record high in Washington and Spokane County — There are more people hospitalized for COVID-19 in Spokane County – and Washington state – than ever before in the pandemic. The majority of those people are unvaccinated. In Spokane , more than 90% of patients hospitalized with the virus are unvaccinated, according to hospitals and the health district. The Delta variant has led to a statewide surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations.
► From the Seattle Times — Unvaccinated COVID-19 patients are creating a ‘deeply frustrating’ situation at Washington state hospitals — According to the state Department of Health, the seven-day average of hospital admissions has tripled since July to 96. Younger Washingtonians — those in their 20s and 30s — are making up more and more hospitalizations, the report said. Researchers also found about 98% of new cases have been caused by the Delta variant, and infections are “likely to continue in the coming month” due to the Delta variant.
► From the AP — COVID anxiety rising amid delta surge, AP-NORC poll finds — Anxiety in the United States over COVID-19 is at its highest level since winter, a new poll shows, as the delta variant rages, more states and school districts adopt mask and vaccination requirements and the nation’s hospitals once again fill to capacity.
► From the AP — COVID-19 Delta wave hits kids in record numbers — With the highly contagious delta variant spreading across the U.S., children are filling hospital intensive care beds instead of classrooms in record numbers, more even than at the height of the pandemic. Many are too young to get the vaccine, which is available only to those 12 and over. The surging virus is spreading anxiety and causing turmoil and infighting among parents, administrators and politicians around the U.S., especially in states like Florida and Texas, where Republican governors have barred schools from making youngsters wear masks. With millions of children returning to classrooms this month, experts say the stakes are unquestionably high.
► From Roll Call — Sens. Hickenlooper, King and Wicker diagnosed with COVID-19 — The senators were tested after experiencing mild symptoms.
MASK AND VACCINE MANDATES
► From the Seattle Times — Inslee’s vaccine mandate draws fire from union and questions about unemployment benefits — Gov. Jay Inslee’s rollout of a sweeping COVID-19 vaccine mandate is drawing fire from a major state employees union and leaving unanswered questions, including whether workers fired for noncompliance can collect unemployment benefits. In imposing one of the nation’s strictest and most far-reaching mandates, Inslee said the state would bargain in good faith over the requirements with unions representing affected state employees. But the 45,000-member Washington Federation of State Employees (WFSE) is accusing the Inslee administration of breaking that commitment — and failing to provide needed details about how the mandate will affect the state workforce. Mike Yestramski, WFSE’s president, said WFSE’s members hold an array of views on vaccination policies, but emphasized the union is “on the side of public health and public safety.” He said public employees deserve consideration for working to maintain government services amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Stand (Aug. 19) — State rejects all WFSE proposals on mandate — Washington’s largest public service union calls on state to bargain in good faith over vaccine requirement.
► From KUOW — At WA Ferries, vaccine mandate looms amidst ‘unprecedented’ worker shortages — Governor Jay Inslee’s announcement of mandatory Covid vaccinations for state workers on Aug. 9 kicked off a turbulent week at Washington State Ferries. By the end of last week, the agency experienced a severe staffing shortage, and the state transportation secretary issued a reminder for employees to remain civil with one another.
► From the Spokesman-Review — The statewide mask mandate is back for everyone, but there are some exceptions. Here’s where you need to wear a mask. — Beginning Monday, everyone, regardless of vaccination status, must wear a face covering in most indoor settings.
► From the (Longview) Daily News — Local schools worried about vaccine mandate effect on staff — Gov. Jay Inslee said he did not expect to see a large exodus of workers under his new education vaccine mandate, local officials said they are worried that’s exactly what will occur.
► From the Spokesman-Review — Feeling oppressed by masks in schools? Here’s the perfect solution (by Shawn Vestal) — If you are dead set against your child wearing a mask to school to help control the spread of a deadly virus that is now filling hospitals, infecting more and more children, and killing the unvaccinated – new peaks achieved largely due to people burning with your selfsame rage – you will be thrilled to learn that among your choices is one that will allow you to educate your children, sort of, while not enduring the unbearable tragedy of mask coercion. Home school. Short of a desert island, it sounds like just the place for you.
► From Politico — Texas drops mask mandate ban enforcement in public schools — As of Aug. 8, 829 students and 872 staff members had tested positive.
► From The Hill — Fox News requires employees to provide vaccination status
► From the Seattle Times — Cascade Behavioral Health employees call for increased safety, staffing as they finish third week of worker strike — Staff at the Tukwila psychiatric hospital say that on the evening of Aug. 1, chaos erupted when a patient in crisis left his room, stole a key card from a nurse and ran around the hospital, tearing up patients’ medical records and threatening anyone who approached him. Up to 10 Cascade staff members were injured. According to Cascade employees, that night’s violence is the latest example of increasingly dangerous conditions both staff and patients have faced recently, laying the foundation for a situation that’s now escalated to a “crisis level.” The following morning, a group of workers went on strike — and many say they won’t return to work until the hospital, which is owned by Acadia Healthcare, has guaranteed them more safety, specifically by increasing staffing and hiring security guards to help de-escalate violent situations. Nearly three weeks after the workers stopped showing up for shifts, tensions have only grown between management and employees. At least 16 picketing workers have been fired, and this week a chain-link fence went up between the hospital and the picket line.
The Stand (Aug. 16) — Labor Secretary meets with Cascade workers on safety
The Stand (Aug. 13) — Sign the petition: Cascade safety matters!
EDITOR’S NOTE — All union members and supporters are invited to show their support on the picket line at 12844 Military Rd S in Tukwila.
► From The Stranger — Portland Nabisco workers enter second week of strike — Workers at a Nabisco factory in Northeast Portland are in the second week of a strike that has spread across the country in what one local union member has described as a fight to “save middle class American jobs.” One of the major issues workers have raised in contract negotiations is parent company Mondelez’s proposal to shift workers to an alternative workweek, where employees clock longer hours each day and effectively eliminate overtime pay on weekends. BCTGM Local 364 estimates that workers could stand to lose between $10,000 and $40,000 per year if the proposed changes to overtime pay are enacted.
EDITOR’S NOTE — A Solidarity Rally is planned from 10 a.m. to noon on Saturday for the striking Nabisco workers in Portland on the picket line, 100 NE Columbia. Get details.
► From the Tri-City Herald — ‘Just getting tired.’ Kadlec employees plan picket after months with no contract — Kadlec Regional Medical Center employees are tired, stretched thin and want better pay. They worry if nothing changes it will hurt patient care and limit the number of people they can serve. And that’s a big concern as the largest Tri-Cities hospital faces a deluge of patients because of COVID-19. “The morale levels are the worst I’ve ever seen,” said Becky Strode, a 26-year telemetry monitor tech for the Richland hospital. “When you look at the staff, they’re understaffed and we’re just getting tired, extremely tired.” Strode was one of about 15 members of SEIU Healthcare 1199NW who announced Thursday that the union plans an informational picket Wednesday, Sept. 1.
► From the Washington Post — Winthrop, Wash., was suffocating in smoke. A company in Chicago sent $600,000 in air purifiers to help. — With fires raging near Winthrop and the sun blotted out by smoke, Liz Walker has been waiting anxiously to hear any response to her grant proposal for funding 250 homemade purifiers. So when the town’s mayor called her earlier this month to say that a Chicago company had heard about Winthrop’s predicament and was willing to donate 2,000 air purifiers, it was overwhelming news.
► From the Seattle Times — As police reforms hit resistance, law-enforcement leaders need to step up (editorial) — Depending on their interpretations of the state’s new police reforms, law-enforcement agencies are responding to 911 calls with vastly different equipment and tactics, sometimes putting public safety at risk. Some disagreeing law-enforcement leaders should stop obfuscating over the laws and put safety of their communities ahead of their political agendas.
► From Roll Call — Nine Democrats hold firm on opposing budget without infrastructure vote first — Dozens of progressive Democrats have said they won’t vote for the infrastructure bill without moderates in the House and Senate supporting the reconciliation package, leaving leadership to believe the only way to pass both is to move them together. But moderates think there’s enough Republican support on infrastructure to overcome progressive opposition. While not part of the dispute, the voting rights bill could also get caught in the crosshairs.
► BREAKING from The Hill — AFL-CIO elects first woman as president — The AFL-CIO on Friday elected longtime labor advocate Liz Shuler as its new president. Shuler, who served as the organization’s secretary-treasurer since 2009, is the first woman to lead the AFL-CIO in the organization’s history. The election comes after Richard Trumka, who led the labor federation for more than a decade, passed away earlier this month. “This is a moment for us to lead societal transformations—to leverage our power to bring women and people of color from the margins to the center—at work, in our unions and in our economy, and to be the center of gravity for incubating new ideas that will unleash unprecedented union growth,” Shuler said.
ALSO TODAY at The Stand — Liz Shuler is elected AFL-CIO president; USW’s Fred Redmond is secretary-treasurer
► From the NY Times — Cutting off jobless benefits early may have hurt state economies — When states began cutting off federal unemployment benefits this summer, their Republican governors argued that the move would push people to return to work. New research suggests that ending the benefits did indeed lead some people to get jobs, but that far more people did not, leaving them — and perhaps also their states’ economies — worse off.
EDITOR’S NOTE — Of course this is true. Unemployment benefits are intended not just to help families who lost jobs, but also the businesses in communities hardest hit by joblessness. Billions of dollars have been injected into local economies by these benefits, money that is spent immediately at local businesses. Any conservative small business owners who complained to their Republican governors that people needed to be forced back into minimum-wage jobs by ending these benefits were shooting themselves in the foot. The bad news for the rest of America, federally funded unemployment programs expire in all the remaining states, including Washington, on the week ending Sept. 4. A relative handful of people will return to work, but local economies and businesses will suffer disproportionately.
► Remember back in March when people were fighting over who’d get the COVID vaccine first? Now that the Russians and Republicans have had a few months to do their thing, we’re fighting over who’ll get it at all. Well, the Entire Staff of The Stand says, take us back to the good old days, before Delta dawned, and Dolly Parton was telling folks, “Don’t be such a chicken squat. Get out there and get your shot!” And SNL dropped this gem. Enjoy.
The Stand posts links to Washington state and national news of interest every weekday morning by 10 a.m.