NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Wednesday, May 27th, 2020

COVID-19 Update: Food, fraud, the homeless, strikes, the courts and miscalculations

It’s time for anoth­er install­ment of of our spe­cial series COVID-19 Update, bring­ing you the lat­est devel­op­ments on the nov­el coro­n­avirus out­break that pub­lic health author­i­ties here and across the coun­try are work­ing to mit­i­gate.

Wash­ing­ton

On Tues­day, May 19th, the Fire­stone Pacif­ic Foods pro­cess­ing facil­i­ty in Van­cou­ver was closed due to an out­break that result­ed in thir­­ty-eight infect­ed employ­ees. It also result­ed in a “pause” of Clark Coun­ty upgrad­ing to Lev­el 2 sta­tus, and Clark Coun­ty Pub­lic Health is present­ly work­ing with Fire­stone to redeem the sit­u­a­tion.

A sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tion is sad­ly unfold­ing at the Stemilt Grow­ers Old sta­tion facil­i­ty – twen­­ty-five employ­ees on a pack­ag­ing line crew out of six­ty have test­ed pos­i­tive for COVID-19 as of May 23rd — but no “pause” is present­ly under con­sid­er­a­tion as a result with­in Chelan Coun­ty.

On Thurs­day, May 21st, state offi­cials con­firmed that hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars in unem­ploy­ment ben­e­fits were stolen in what appears to have been a “coor­di­nat­ed crim­i­nal attack” through the cre­ation of thou­sands of fraud­u­lent accounts.

We at NPI strong­ly rec­om­mend that you cre­ate an account on the state Employ­ment Secu­ri­ty Divi­sion web­site and then link your Social Secu­ri­ty Num­ber to that account as a means of pre­vent­ing fraud through use of your per­son­al data.

If you already have a Secure Access Wash­ing­ton (SAW) account because you’ve use DOL’s Licen­seX­press to renew your dri­ver’s license, sim­ply login with your cre­den­tials on the ESD web­site and then cre­ate your pro­file. Cre­at­ing the pro­file is the essen­tial step that you must to take to deter fraud.

Also last Thurs­day, state Insur­ance Com­mis­sion­er Mike Krei­dler extend­ed his emer­gency order to facil­i­tate health­care cov­er­age in terms of the means by which access is avail­able and diag­no­sis is attempt­ed.

Pacif­ic, Cowlitz, Grant, Island, Jef­fer­son, Mason and San Juan coun­ties were approved on Sat­ur­day, May 23rd, to move into Phase II of Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee’s “Safe Start” plan. They join four­teen oth­er coun­ties in Phase II.

Mean­while, a Tim Eyman hyped demon­stra­tion against Gov­er­nor Inslee’s stay home, stay healthy orders — which report­ed­ly drew around four hun­dred par­tic­i­pants — took place at the Yaki­ma Speed­way.

As not­ed in the state’s COVID-19 — Risk Assess­ment Dash­board, more than one third of new cas­es are hap­pen­ing in Yaki­ma Coun­ty.

Almost 20% of new cas­es are from fruit-pack­­ing ware­hous­es.

Lack of PPE on the job has ini­ti­at­ed work actions, which have devel­oped into full-blown strikes over a num­ber of issues left unre­solved over the years.

Contro­ver­sy regard­ing home­less sweeps in var­i­ous neigh­bor­hoods in Seat­tle since the start of the pan­dem­ic final­ly being addressed by their City Coun­cil.

Funds will no longer be avail­able to clear camps that don’t rep­re­sent an “active” health risk, and the city will be pro­vid­ing show­er trail­ers, portable toi­lets and hand-wash­ing sta­tions across the city to improve access to hygiene.

King Coun­ty Metro is con­sid­er­ing adopt­ing a reser­va­tion sys­tem to man­age rid­er access to bus­es that are part of its Night Owl ser­vice between 1 AM and 5 AM, in order to ensure best use of exist­ing resources.

Rid­er­ship has declined sig­nif­i­cant­ly since the onset of the pan­dem­ic.

Com­pared to last year, depend­ing on the day of the week, esti­mat­ed rid­er­ship in the morn­ings has dropped 75–84%, mid­day and evening rid­er­ship has dropped 60–67%, and late-night to ear­ly morn­ing rid­er­ship is down an esti­mat­ed 53–57%.

The Wash­ing­ton State Depart­ment of Labor and Indus­tries has approved a set of rules effec­tive start­ing May 26th which are meant to cite and fine busi­ness­es vio­lat­ing the stay home, stay healthy orders by cre­at­ing an unsafe work­place.

Final­ly, right wing activists are up in arms a month after the Wash­ing­ton State Supreme Court, in a 5–4 vote on April 23rd, denied a peti­tion from Colum­bia Legal Ser­vices demand­ing the ear­ly release of thou­sands of inmates with­in Wash­ing­ton state pris­ons to pro­tect them from falling vic­tim to COVID-19 due to con­di­tions with­in the facil­i­ties, most espe­cial­ly over­crowd­ing.

Because the peti­tion’s con­di­tions for release were sole­ly focused on the health, age and time towards com­ple­tion of sen­tence of the pris­on­ers, if accept­ed as pre­sent­ed, the peti­tion could have poten­tial­ly released vio­lent pris­on­ers, although it’s very like­ly that there would have been excep­tions placed on an accept­ed form of the peti­tion that would ensure vio­lent crim­i­nals remained in cus­tody.

State Supreme Court jus­tices Mon­­toya-Lewis, Gon­za­lez, McCloud and Yu vot­ed in favor of grant­i­ng relief sought by the peti­tion. Jus­tice Mon­­toya-Lewis was appoint­ed by Gov­er­nor Inslee to the state Supreme Court in Decem­ber of 2019 and is run­ning for elec­tion to the seat in her own right this year.

This deci­sion did not have an effect on the over three hun­dred pris­on­ers released by Gov­er­nor Inslee on April 16th, pos­si­bly to be expand­ed to over 1,100 over time, due to health con­cerns.

Ore­gon

The State Supreme Court has decreed thay Bak­er Coun­ty Cir­cuit Judge Matthew Shirt­cliff either vacate his recent rul­ing (which has been stayed for the moment), or more com­plete­ly explain his rul­ing and give both the church­es involved in the suit and the state the abil­i­ty to present argu­ments that but­tress their cas­es.

Shirt­cliff had opined last week that Brown’s order was invalid.

Brown’s stay at home order has been extend­ed to July 6th, but most coun­ties are present­ly in Phase I of the state’s “Build­ing a Safe & Strong Ore­gon” plan.

Some con­fu­sion seems to exist regard­ing Port­land’s pan­dem­ic-era response to home­less­ness. Jon­ny Lewis, with the city’s Home­less­ness and Urban Camp­ing Impact Reduc­tion Pro­gram, said on May 19th that they would con­tin­ue to clear camps that pose the great­est pub­lic health risk, but that in gen­er­al peo­ple and their prop­er­ty would not be moved. How­ev­er, on May 21st, sweeps took place in the Old Town and Chi­na­town dis­tricts of the city, exac­er­bat­ing fears.

Ida­ho

Gov­er­nor Brad Lit­tle ini­ti­at­ed the sec­ond stage of a four-stage reopen­ing of the state on May 16th. On Fri­day the 22nd, Lit­tle and the Depart­ment of Health and Wel­fare’s Elke Shaw-Tul­loch joined togeth­er at a press con­fer­ence to estab­lish new plans to increase test­ing and attempt to inte­grate it with improved lev­els of con­tact trac­ing, phys­i­cal dis­tanc­ing and per­son­al hygiene to be effec­tive.

Notable is that anti­body test­ing will have a  lim­it­ed role in this new process.

There were also issues with the state Depart­ment of Health and Wel­fare track­ing web­site the next day. A num­ber of cas­es were miss­ing, tab­u­lat­ed incor­rect­ly or declared in the incor­rect coun­ty of ori­gin. Ida­ho offi­cials have been try­ing to resolve those issues and set yes­ter­day as their tar­get date for get­ting them fixed.

The hard, cold numbers

Wash­ing­ton state has had 21,422 cas­es and 1,093 attrib­ut­able deaths.

335,801 peo­ple have been test­ed.

Ore­gon has had 4,038 cas­es and 148 attrib­ut­able deaths.

116,992 peo­ple have been test­ed.

Ida­ho has had 2,731 cas­es and 82 attrib­ut­able deaths.

43,629 peo­ple have been test­ed.

British Colum­bia has had 2,550 cas­es and 162 attrib­ut­able deaths.

138,043 peo­ple have been test­ed.

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One Comment

  1. And mean­while, in devel­op­ing coun­tries, cas­es of COVID-19 are soar­ing.

    # by Ginny Mirex :: June 2nd, 2020 at 1:05 AM