Germany to enter lockdown again. Ditto France and Poland. An "exponential" rise in COVID cases prompted German Chancellor Angela Merkel to start clamping down on activities. A big rise in cases among younger people and the spread of variants have conspired to create "some fairly challenging weeks ahead of us," German Health Minister Jens Spahn told the BBC. Representatives from these European countries, who paused administration of the AstraZeneca vaccine this week over (ultimately unfounded) fears that it increased blood clotting, also said they don't have enough vaccine to slow the spread.
After a plateau, King County sees 13% increase in cases over the past two weeks: At his weekly press conference on Friday, Public Health Seattle and King County chief Dr. Jeff Duchin welcomed vaccine-related optimism but stressed that we cannot let it "blind us" to the reality that "the risk is not gone."
The good news: The county has seen no new outbreaks at long-term care facilities in the past two weeks (though the county has seen 17 outbreaks in general recently), and nearly 80% of the county's 65+ population has been vaccinated, though racial disparities still remain. The county also finally has enough eyeballs on the new variants—the CDC recommends we check 5% of all positive cases for variants, and as of this week we're checking 6%.
The bad news: Now that the county is looking more, they're finding more variants. King County now has 93 cases of the more virulent and deadly UK variant, six cases of the South African variant, and two cases of the Brazilian variant. Duchin said the UK variant will likely become dominant this month. Though we'll see less death as these variants take over, Duchin warned that COVID-19 is "not a benign disease for younger adults." New research out of the University of Washington shows that up to 1/3 of people who catch the bug develop long-term symptoms. "Increasing activities with increasing variants is a dangerous combination," Duchin added, pointing to the case increases and expressing concern that people may be "abandoning necessary levels of precaution" due to their optimism about the vaccine.
So please, everybody: Continue to wear your mask, keep your distance, and limit trips. Again, just because business lobbyists have successfully pressured the government to relax restrictions doesn't mean we're not in a pandemic. In other words: Just because you can do something, doesn't mean you should do something. We're close to a time when risks will be much lower, so hold out for that.
The CDC shrinks social distance standard in schools: Now teachers only need to place those torturous little desks three feet apart from one another rather than six feet apart, according to the Associated Press. The move may simplify the game of COVID Tetris school districts have to play to get kids back in schools safely—just in time for summer!
I want to catch this joke in the wild:
In other COVID news, a new dad joke is sweeping the nation: “oh, you got the vaccine? What flavor?”
— Claudia Yaw (@YawClaudia) March 19, 2021
The LA Times talked to the families of the victims of the racist Atlanta massacre: "Gutting" is right.
No crass joke? No good people on both sides? Nope, just a President and a Vice President using their pulpit to condemn hatred and comfort a community mourning the dead. According to the New York Times, President Biden and VP Kamala Harris acknowledged and denounced racism, xenophobia, and sexism in America. Biden offered consolation to the grieving families. "The day will come when their memory brings a smile to your lips before it brings a tear to your eye, as believable as that is now. It will take a while, but I promise you it will come. And when it does, that’s the day you know you’re going to make it," he said.
While it's nice that Biden is speaking out against hate, it'd be extra nice if he'd put his anti-xenophobic and anti-racist rhetoric into action with regard to all the kids we're caging down at the southern boarder. A media columnist at the Washington Post talked to a bunch of journalists covering the recent increase of people migrating north to escape fallout from natural disasters and COVID-19, and it looks like Biden is worse than Trump on transparency. "The Biden administration has adopted an unwritten set of restrictions on media access to information" on its handling of the crisis, denying all requests from reporters to photograph or tour the overcrowded facilities, writes Erik Wemple. Hate to say it, but fucking Sean Hannity is right about this one: “They’re now telling Border Patrol agents, no ride-alongs, any media requests send them to Washington. That’s not transparent. What competent government — what are they trying to hide?”
China chattin' with the US in Alaska: After Chinese and American diplomats exchanged some "theatrical" griping at the Captain Cook Hotel in Anchorage, Alaska, the two sides "got down to business” on some serious international issues, Al Jazeera reports. The US wants China to release from prison two Canadians China accused of espionage after Canada scooped up Huawei Technologies' chief financial officer at our behest. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken also plans to bring up the whole forcing a million Uighurs into "labor" camps thing, as well as the country's anti-democratic "crackdown on Hong Kong," plus "recent moves on Taiwan and hacking attempts."
If only Sen. Mona Das's Karen/Ken bill had passed sooner, then that newspaper carrier down in Tacoma might have a decent case to levy against that Pierce County Sheriff who used the power of his office to summon half the county's officers to protect him against a Black, "homeless," "prowler," who "threatened to kill him." All of those descriptors, the Seattle Times tell us, ended up being projections of his officer's own mind, and good evidence of law enforcement's general disposition toward the homeless. (The officer said he didn't know the newspaper carrier was Black when he called the cops.) In the audio of the call, the Sheriff expresses a sense of victimhood and racist paranoia described by the son of the Tacoma cop who drove his cruiser through a crowd of people at a drag race. Das's bill passed the Senate, and will get a hearing in the House on Tuesday.
Pierce Co Sherriff mentions homelessness twice on this call: that the Black, 24-year-old newspaper delivery driver looked “homeless” and was in a “homeless-looking” car. https://t.co/29pBj8SfKG
— Sydney Brownstone (@sydbrownstone) March 19, 2021
Amazon settles wage-theft suit for $8.2 million: Two drivers said Amazon forced them to "work without lunch or rest breaks" as they delivered packages for a company with which the trillion-dollar company contracts. Amazon told the Seattle Times, who covered the story, they don't tolerate labor violations. (They just settle them, I guess.) In any event, the drivers for the contractor will get $5.5 million from the class action suit.
A little news tucked into this follow-up from the Blake decision in the Seattle Times: The Spokane County Prosecuting Attorney's Office (SCPAO) filed a motion with the Supreme Court to reconsider their decision to strike down the state's simple possession drug law. In the motion, SCPAO Larry Haskell somewhat condescendingly argued that it was "unclear whether all members of this Court considered the very different consequences" of the decision because the Court wasn't briefed "on the retroactive effect of the majority’s decision," as if the majority didn't know what the fuck they were doing when they dissolved the law the criminal legal system has applied in a racist way for decades. Anyhow, the Times said King County prosecutor Dan Clark "acknowledged such motions are frequently denied," so the ruling will probably still stand. But we'll see!
Grocery industry appeals dismissal of hazard pay suit: These greedy little big box grocers filed an appeal after a federal judge decided yesterday that Seattle could, in fact, tell massive grocery store chains to give their frontline workers temporary raises of $4 per hour, according to KING 5.
Seattle's city council districts need to be redrawn: And SCC Insight did some math, figured out which districts need to grow or shrink, and proposed a new map. If the redistricting commission draws lines that look like his, then, after a very brief glance at the 2019 precinct results, and with not enough of an understanding yet of how the pandemic and protests have reshaped the political leanings of the current districts, I think political dynamics would more or less remain the same across districts, except for District 6 becoming even more of a NIMBY stronghold. Not that you'd ever need permission, but please feel free to excoriate me for this flyby analysis in the comments.
Yet another manifestation of our necro-economic model: The City of Redmond is tapping lodging tax dollars to fund $100 gift cards for people who stay in participating hotels within the city for more than two days, KING 5 reports. The gift cards work at "participating restaurants, bakeries, fitness centers, and other local attractions around the city." Hard to see this effort to boost tourism as anything other than plea for higher case counts, but what are you gonna do—pay people to stay home? Hah, what is this, New Zealand?
Speaking of giveaways: This Sunday West Seattle's Lady Jaye is giving away "100 German 'Street-Style' Bratwursts to the first 100 people that come by starting at 11 am. It will basically be a Bratwurst in a split-top bun with mustard and curry ketchup," according to the West Seattle Blog. It's an early lunch, but who can say no to a hot brat? Sit down, vegetarians. I know you're correct, but no ethical consumption under capitalism etc etc etc.