NPI's Cascadia Advocate

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

Sunday, June 14th, 2020

COVID-19 Update: Districts accelerate their planning for the 2020–2021 school year

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.


Many coun­ties are ask­ing for per­mis­sion to lift restric­tions on com­merce and oth­er activ­i­ties. For exam­ple, on Tues­day, June 9th, the Ben­ton Coun­ty Board of Com­mis­sion­ers vot­ed unan­i­mous­ly, three to zero, to apply for Phase II sta­tus of Gov­er­nor Inslee’s “Safe Start” pro­gram.

On Wednes­day, June 10th, the Franklin Coun­ty Board of Com­mis­sion­ers vot­ed 2–1 to also apply for Phase II sta­tus – Com­mis­sion­er Clint Didi­er vot­ed against the appli­ca­tion, call­ing on busi­ness­es to defy the law and ful­ly open.

On Thurs­day, June 11th, Cowlitz Coun­ty, in south­west Wash­ing­ton, decid­ed to post­pone an appli­ca­tion to advance to Phase III status.

Also on June 11th, the Office of the Super­in­ten­dent of Pub­lic Instruc­tion, head­ed by Chris Reyk­dal, released a pro­pos­al that calls for face to face sched­ules for most stu­dents at the start of the 2020–20201 school year.

Devel­oped in con­junc­tion with the state Depart­ment of Health, the pro­pos­al envi­sions that all stu­dents and staff will need to wear masks, desks will have to be a min­i­mum of six feet apart, gym­na­si­ums may become class­rooms as nec­es­sary, stu­dents and staff will be screened for COVID-19 symp­toms before enter­ing school build­ings, and plans will have to be in place to quick­ly switch to remote learn­ing if an out­break occurs at a giv­en school.

The Wash­ing­ton Edu­ca­tion Asso­ci­a­tion teach­ers union and edu­ca­tion advo­ca­cy groups are con­cerned that the plans were made with­out the input of families.

On Fri­day, June 12th, the Fed­er­al Depart­ment of Jus­tice filed a “State­ment of Inter­est” in sup­port of a law­suit by the Har­borview Fel­low­ship church of Gig Har­bor, which was ini­tial­ly filed June 1st.

The Jus­tice Depart­ment report states that Gov­er­nor Inslee’s restric­tions regard­ing indoor church ser­vices are stricter than those for “com­pa­ra­ble sec­u­lar busi­ness­es,” and poten­tial­ly in vio­la­tion of a recent fed­er­al Supreme Court rul­ing on May 29th, South Bay Unit­ed Pen­ta­costal Church v. New­som.

In an appar­ent swipe at recent events in Seat­tle, the state­ment of inter­est not­ed that “Gov­er­nor Inslee has placed no lim­it on total num­bers for out­door protests, only request­ing that par­tic­i­pants ‘be safe for them­selves and the peo­ple around them” by “wear­ing a mask and…distancing as much as you can.’”

Yes­ter­day, the Wash­ing­ton State Depart­ment of Health released a state­ment and report regard­ing recent COVID-19 trans­mis­sion increas­es in mul­ti­ple coun­ties, of which Ben­ton, Franklin, Spokane and Yaki­ma coun­ties are of gravest con­cern; espe­cial­ly that, on a per capi­ta basis, these coun­ties are present­ly at a rate com­pa­ra­ble to that of King Coun­ty in March of 2020.

Also yes­ter­day, Coy­ote Ridge Cor­rec­tions Cen­ter in Cor­nell, a town south­west of Spokane, announced that it would be restrict­ing move­ment in its medi­um-secu­ri­­ty unit after over a hun­dred offi­cers and inmates test­ed pos­i­tive for COVID-19.

Ska­ma­nia, Asotin and Whit­man coun­ties have been upgrad­ed to Phase 3 sta­tus of Gov­er­nor Inslee’s “Safe Start” pro­gram. Chelan and Dou­glas coun­ties have been upgrad­ed to a mod­i­fied Phase 1 status.


On Thurs­day, June 11th, Gov­er­nor Kate Brown, due to one hun­dred and sev­en­ty-eight con­firmed and pre­sump­tive cas­es of COVID-19 with­in the pre­vi­ous twen­­ty-four hours as of Noon that day, declared a “pause” on all reopen­ing efforts with­in the state. Three weeks ago, the sev­en day rolling aver­age of new dai­ly cas­es was just under thir­­ty-two. It’s present­ly over one hundred.

The pause came just before Oregon’s most pop­u­lous coun­ty, Multi­n­om­ah, was about to start Phase I of their reopen­ing process, and is in response in part due to a spike in cas­es at food pro­cess­ing facil­i­ties.

On the same day, the Ore­gon Depart­ment of Edu­ca­tion released a frame­work that will place the respon­si­bil­i­ty on indi­vid­ual schools as to whether they will teach on-site, online, or through some com­bi­na­tion of the two approaches.

Any onsite plans must draft a day to day oper­a­tions plan, health pro­to­col and response plan in the event of a COVID-19 outbreak.

Those schools that pro­vide sole­ly online learn­ing must explain why they won’t pro­vide a com­bi­na­tion of onsite and online learning.

All stu­dents and staff must be screened for COVID-19 symp­toms when they board a bus or enter school build­ings. Class­room capac­i­ty must assume a min­i­mum of thir­­ty-five square feet per stu­dent. All staff who reg­u­lar­ly inter­act with­in six feet of stu­dents must wear masks or some oth­er form of face covering.

On Fri­day, June 12th, the Ore­gon Supreme Court found in favor of Gov­er­nor Kate Brown and ordered Bak­er Coun­ty Cir­cuit Court Judge Matthew Shirt­cliff to vacate his pre­lim­i­nary injunc­tion of May 18th, which declared Gov­er­nor Brown’s emer­gency actions, depend­ing on which sec­tion, invalid or expired.

The Court reasoned:

In cas­es involv­ing com­pet­ing pri­vate inter­ests, consider­a­tion of the ‘pub­lic inter­est’ fac­tor may play lit­tle or no role.

In this case, it predominates.

The Gov­er­nor is defend­ing not her per­son­al inter­ests, but her con­sid­ered under­standing of the pub­lic inter­est. Her exec­u­tive orders, as plain­tiffs acknowl­edge, are direct­ed at pro­tect­ing the public.

As the Gov­er­nor of Ore­gon, she is unique­ly sit­u­at­ed, and duty-bound, to pro­tect the pub­lic in emer­gency sit­u­a­tions and to deter­mine, in such emer­gen­cies, where the pub­lic inter­est lies.

The chal­lenged orders were issued in per­for­mance of those duties, based on con­sid­er­a­tion of the range of dan­gers that dif­fer­ent Ore­go­ni­ans may face from COVID-19, the scientif­ic evi­dence that is avail­able to her regard­ing how best to con­tain the dis­ease, and the strong inter­ests of Ore­go­ni­ans in main­tain­ing their reli­gious prac­tices and busi­ness­es but also in pro­tect­ing them­selves and their loved ones.

On the same day, Pre­ci­sion Cast­parts Cor­po­ra­tion made pub­lic the largest to date man­u­fac­tur­ing lay­offs as a result of the nov­el coro­n­avirus pan­dem­ic, with sev­en hun­dred and sev­en­teen employ­ees los­ing their jobs.


On Thurs­day, June 11th, Ida­ho entered Stage IV, its final stage, of the Ida­ho Rebound Plan. Repub­li­can Gov­er­nor Brad Lit­tle made a point of empha­siz­ing how it almost didn’t hap­pen, however.

“I want to stress some­thing very impor­tant, we almost did not make it to Stage IV this week…Despite our incred­i­ble progress, there are some in Ida­ho who are not prac­tic­ing mea­sures to keep them­selves and oth­ers safe.”

Indi­vid­ual respon­si­bil­i­ty is being pro­mot­ed by Lit­tle’s admin­is­tra­tion as the pri­ma­ry means of pre­vent­ing and restrict­ing trans­mis­sion of COVID-19. “The most effec­tive way to mit­i­gate the spread of the virus is through our per­son­al actions…” Peo­ple are encour­aged to take the One Ida­ho pledge as part of the process.

Broad statewide school re-open­ing pro­ce­dures have been in place since May 4th, with some schools already open, but oth­er dis­tricts and enti­ties are still deter­min­ing specifics regard­ing next steps for the fall, and state Super­in­ten­dent of Pub­lic Instruc­tion Sheri Ybar­ra intends to pro­vid­e a set of guide­lines and rec­om­men­da­tions spe­cif­ic to open­ing lat­er this year, like Wash­ing­ton and Ore­gon are doing.

British Colum­bia

The province has been con­sid­er­ing how to open their schools for autumn class­es since May. Schools were opened to option­al, part-time, in-class instruc­tion on June 1st.  As of June 7th, 30% of stu­dents were tak­ing in-class instruction.

A group of Black and Indige­nous orga­niz­ers through­out the province have start­ed the Black in British Colum­bia Com­mu­ni­ty Sup­port Fund for COVID-19, and are request­ing that the provin­cial gov­ern­ment begin col­lect­ing race-based data for COVID-19 cas­es and deaths.

The hard, cold numbers

Wash­ing­ton state has had 26,573 cas­es and 1,221 attrib­ut­able deaths.

462,602 peo­ple have been tested.

Ore­gon has had 5,535 cas­es and 174 attrib­ut­able deaths.

166,189 peo­ple have been tested.

Ida­ho has had 3,399 cas­es and 87 attrib­ut­able deaths.

62,658 peo­ple have been tested.

British Colum­bia has had 2,709 cas­es and 168 attrib­ut­able deaths.

165,256 peo­ple have been tested.

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