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.

Thursday, August 13th, 2020

COVID-19 Update: Many school districts plan to open for the fall in remote-only mode

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.

With sum­mer more than halfway over, local health depart­ments and school dis­tricts are decid­ing if and how they will allow stu­dents back in the class­room.

Wash­ing­ton

On Wednes­day, July 29th, the Boe­ing Com­pa­ny declared a $2.4 bil­lion quar­ter­ly loss, made sig­nif­i­cant cuts in com­mer­cial air­craft pro­duc­tion and warned about the pos­si­bil­i­ty of expand­ing com­pa­ny-wide lay­offs beyond a planned 10% of the work­force (and beyond a planned 15% of its Com­mer­cial Air­craft unit) as the pan­dem­ic rav­ages demand for air trav­el. For the first time in a decade, Boe­ing’s Defense unit will like­ly out­per­form its Com­mer­cial Air­craft unit in 2020.

On Mon­day, August 3rd, Alas­ka Air­lines filed notice with the State of Wash­ing­ton, announc­ing lay­offs for almost 1,600 employ­ees, effec­tive Octo­ber 1st.

In late July, Alas­ka stat­ed that it was los­ing around $4 mil­lion per day due to the sig­nif­i­cant reduc­tion in com­mer­cial air trav­el as a result of the pan­dem­ic.

On Wednes­day, August 5th, Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee, in a press con­fer­ence accom­pa­nied by Chris Reyk­dal, the Super­in­ten­dent of Pub­lic Instruc­tion, announced new rec­om­men­da­tions for the 2020–2021 school year (which runs Sep­tem­ber-June) from the Wash­ing­ton State Depart­ment of Health.

As with the Safe Start phased reopen­ing plan, local school dis­tricts, advised by coun­ty depart­ments of health, will decide if and how they will allow stu­dents back in the class­room. That said, as most coun­ties are present­ly con­sid­ered Mod­er­ate or High Risk per the rec­om­men­da­tions, remote or online learn­ing is strong­ly rec­om­mend­ed for most Wash­ing­ton stu­dents at this time.

On Thurs­day, August 6th, Inslee announced new guid­ance for long-term care facil­i­ties, allow­ing for a grad­u­at­ed reopen­ing of facil­i­ties that meet spe­cif­ic require­ments. The fol­low­ing graph­ic explains what is allowed.

Guidelines for visitation of long term care facilities

Guide­lines for vis­i­ta­tion of long term care facil­i­ties (Office of Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee)

On Sat­ur­day, August 7th, eleven con­firmed cas­es of chil­dren suf­fer­ing from Mul­ti­sys­tem Inflam­ma­to­ry Syn­drome (MIS‑C) were con­firmed in Wash­ing­ton state. MIS‑C is asso­ci­at­ed with the nov­el coro­n­avirus, SARS-CoV­‑2.

Six of the chil­dren affect­ed are nine years of age or younger. “While MIS‑C is very rare, par­ents should be aware it can hap­pen and con­tact their health care provider if their chil­dren devel­op new or unusu­al symp­toms,” said Dr. Kathy Lofy, state health offi­cer for the Wash­ing­ton state Depart­ment of Health.

On Sun­day, August 9th, Chris­t­ian Con­tem­po­rary musi­cian Sean Feucht held a ral­ly in Cal Ander­son Park in Seat­tle. Although there were sound bytes about “racial rec­on­cil­i­a­tion,” Feucht has been using these ral­lies to delib­er­ate­ly flout mask laws in mul­ti­ple states, repeat­ing the process in Port­land on August 8th.

On Mon­day, August 10th, Gov­er­nor Inslee pro­vid­ed spe­cif­ic guid­ance for agri­cul­tur­al events and updat­ed guid­ance for indoor fit­ness facil­i­ties and faith-based ser­vices. That same day, he also announced the avail­abil­i­ty of new relief funds for immi­grants and agri­cul­tur­al work­ers.

On Tues­day, August 11th, a fire­fight­er who helped put out the Anglin Fire near Tonas­ket, which was con­tained August 1st, was diag­nosed with COVID-19. It’s the third state Depart­ment of Nat­ur­al Resources fire­fight­er diag­no­sis this fire sea­son.

Franklin Coun­ty, one of the hotspots with­in the state for the pan­dem­ic, will open its pub­lic schools on Fri­day, August 14th, with remote access an option.

Eduar­do Cas­tañe­da-Díaz, the Demo­c­ra­t­ic chal­lenger for one of the 13th Leg­isla­tive Dis­tric­t’s House seats, has focused his mes­sage on farm­work­er safe­ty in the midst of the pan­dem­ic and has called for the boy­cott of local­ly grown fruit.

Oregon

On Fri­day, August 7th, the Ore­gon Health Author­i­ty dis­closed that an inves­ti­ga­tion of Smith Frozen Foods in West­on had been trig­gered on Fri­day, July 24th. The facil­i­ty has three hun­dred and twen­ty-five employ­ees who work around the clock.

On Mon­day, August 10th, the State of Ore­gon dis­closed that on July 29th, Alas­ka Air­lines filed notice that it would lay off two hun­dred and sev­en­ty-sev­en employ­ees at its Port­land facil­i­ty.

At about the same time, Nike began let­ting go of around five hun­dred employ­ees at its Beaver­ton head­quar­ters, and of three hun­dred and fifty-five food ser­vice employ­ees at Ara­mark being laid off which work on the Nike cam­pus.

On Tues­day, August 11th, the Pac-12 Con­fer­ence joined the Big Ten in can­cel­ing their autumn sports (includ­ing the grid­iron sea­son) over con­cerns regard­ing the pan­dem­ic and the poten­tial for infect­ing play­ers and oth­er stu­dents with­in their uni­ver­si­ty com­mu­ni­ties. Need­less to say, cer­tain peo­ple aren’t tak­ing this well.

Of the remain­ing mem­bers of the “Pow­er Five” col­le­giate foot­ball con­fer­ences, the Big 12, Atlantic Coast Con­fer­ence (ACC) and South­east­ern Con­fer­ence (the SEC) have all, with enough wig­gle room in their offi­cial com­ments to opt out if deemed nec­es­sary, declared their intent to play.

On Wednes­day, August 12th, the Ore­gon Depart­ment of Edu­ca­tion bowed to pres­sure from rur­al com­mu­ni­ty lead­ers and released new stan­dards for in-per­son instruc­tion in the state’s most sparse­ly-pop­u­lat­ed areas.

That same day, Ore­gon health offi­cials encour­aged par­ents to ensure their chil­dren’s vac­cines are up to date after months of can­celed doc­tors’ appoint­ments due to the pan­dem­ic. Last August, one of the largest out­breaks of measles in the state in the last twen­ty years occurred due to delib­er­ate refusals by par­ents to inoc­u­late chil­dren against the dis­ease. With many chil­dren and teenagers behind on their vac­cine sched­ule, the Ore­gon Health Author­i­ty is wor­ried about out­breaks of vac­cine-pre­ventable dis­eases amid the pan­dem­ic.

Idaho

There were four hun­dred and fifty-sev­en new cas­es of COVID-19 on Wednes­day, July 29th, five hun­dred and fifty-nine new cas­es on Tues­day, August 4th, four hun­dred and twen­ty-nine new cas­es on Mon­day, August 10th, four hun­dred and nine­ty-five new cas­es on Tues­day, August 11th and five hun­dred and thir­ty-eight new cas­es on Wednes­day, August 12th.

On Tues­day, August 11th, East­ern Ida­ho Pub­lic Health’s board of direc­tors, in a unan­i­mous vote, made wear­ing masks in pub­lic in Teton, Fre­mont and Jef­fer­son coun­ties manda­to­ry. That same day, by a four to two vote, the Cen­tral Dis­trict Health Board of Health made wear­ing masks in Val­ley Coun­ty manda­to­ry, and in a five to one vote, lim­it­ed social gath­er­ings to ten peo­ple or less in Ada Coun­ty, which includes Ida­ho’s largest city and state cap­i­tal of Boise.

A group of Repub­li­cans in the state leg­is­la­ture, known as the Edu­ca­tion Work­ing Group, are push­ing for a pro­pos­al where­by school boards, the gov­er­nor and the State Board of Edu­ca­tion would have the author­i­ty to close schools to pre­vent the spread of dis­ease, but pub­lic health dis­tricts would not.

Whether this pro­pos­al will be con­sid­ered any­time soon depends on what Gov­er­nor Brad Lit­tle declares the top­ics to be addressed before he con­venes an extra­or­di­nary ses­sion of the Leg­is­la­ture over the week of August 24th.

The Ida­ho States­man is pro­vid­ing an inter­ac­tive map to track food pro­cess­ing facil­i­ties falling prey to out­breaks of COVID-19.

British Colum­bia

On Wednes­day, August 12th, provin­cial health offi­cer Dr. Bon­nie Hen­ry announced eighty-five new con­firmed cas­es of COVID-19; the third high­est num­ber of cas­es record­ed in a sin­gle day since the start of the pan­dem­ic.

That same day, Pre­mier John Hor­gan declared that the province would be hir­ing 500 health-care pro­fes­sion­als to help with its COVID-19 con­tact trac­ing efforts to pre­pare for a poten­tial fur­ther surge in COVID-19 cas­es as flu sea­son approach­es. Hor­gan also called on B.C. celebri­ties, such as Ryan Reynolds and Seth Rogen, to to help with mes­sag­ing regard­ing the pan­dem­ic for younger peo­ple.

That same day, provin­cial edu­ca­tion min­is­ter Rob Flem­ing declared that schools would open on Sep­tem­ber 10th, two days lat­er than orig­i­nal­ly intend­ed per the province-wide plan to return chil­dren to class­rooms.

The hard, cold numbers

Wash­ing­ton state has had 66,497 cas­es and 1,726 attrib­ut­able deaths.

1,010,191 peo­ple have been test­ed.

Ore­gon has had 22,022 cas­es and 375 attrib­ut­able deaths.

461,395 peo­ple have been test­ed.

Ida­ho has had 26,133 cas­es and 246 attrib­ut­able deaths.

212,898 peo­ple have been test­ed.

British Colum­bia has had 4,196 cas­es and 196 attrib­ut­able deaths.

293,127 peo­ple have been test­ed.​

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