by Paul Kiefer
(This article originally appeared on PubliCola and has been reprinted under an agreement.)
When the Washington State Supreme Court ruled in February that the State’s harsh drug possession laws were unconstitutional, most lawmakers, prosecutors and defense attorneys hurried to prepare for the ruling’s vast consequences for the state’s court system and the tens of thousands of people whose convictions for drug possession are now baseless.
Among those impacted by the ruling, State of Washington v. Blake, are immigrants convicted for simple drug possession under Washington’s pre-Blake drug laws. Some are currently facing deportation because of a drug possession conviction; others have already been deported.
Continue reading New State Drug Laws May End Some Deportation Proceedings, But Risks Remain
by Ashley Archibald
Gov. Jay Inslee announced Wednesday that the State would open eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccine to all people over the age of 16 on April 15, a move that will allow another million Washingtonians to make appointments for the shot two weeks ahead of the standard set by the Biden administration.
There will not be enough supply to meet pent up demand from younger adults to get their vaccines immediately when eligibility opens in mid-April, cautioned Dr. Umair Shah, the secretary of the Washington State Department of Health. However, the federal government has increased the number of weekly vaccines delivered to the state and is likely to be able to further expand supply in May.
“While we are pleased and excited that we can open to everyone above the age of 16 on April 15, we also recognize that we have vaccine supply that continues to be a challenge for all of us,” Shah said. “That supply is something we’re continuing working with the federal administration on and the governor has done a lot from his seat to get more vaccine into the state of Washington.”
Continue reading Governor Announces Vaccine Eligibility for Ages 16 and Over Starting April 15
by Ashley Archibald
There is light at the end of the pandemic tunnel, but Washingtonians should not get complacent, public health officials emphasized in an online press conference on Thursday, March 25.
The State has so far administered 3 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines and fewer than 4,000 doses have gone to waste, officials said. The State confirmed yesterday to the Seattle Times that people ages 16 and older will be eligible for the vaccine by the May 1 deadline set by the Biden administration.
Continue reading COVID-19 Cases Rise as State Announces People 16+ to Qualify for Vaccine May 1
by M. Anthony Davis
At President Biden’s recent town hall, he was asked a direct question by a voter, who is currently in federal student loan debt, about Biden’s plans regarding the forgiveness of at least $50,000 in student loan debt. Biden gave a straightforward “no” in answer in a response in which he suggested the funds should be used to support early education instead, and he went on to describe his reluctance to assist Americans who have degrees from elite institutions. Biden did reiterate his commitment to free community college.
The student asked the president: “The American dream is to succeed — but how can we fulfill that dream when debt is many people’s only option for a degree?” This statement stands out to me. As a Black American, I know many graduates, who like myself, were forced to take on student loans in pursuit of a degree that would hopefully set us on a path toward building generational wealth for our families. But how will we succeed if we are stuck with insurmountable debt as a reward for our pursuit of a professional career?
Continue reading By Refusing to Forgive Student Debt, Biden Rejects a Tool to Help Black Americans
by Carolyn Bick
The Washington State Department of Health (DOH) today announced that it, along with Public Health – Seattle & King County and the UW Medicine Virology Lab — have detected yet another novel coronavirus (also known as SARS-CoV-2) variant in the state, in addition to the already-present B.1.1.7 variant. The new variant was detected in King County, the DOH said in a press release. At the same time, the DOH also announced on Tuesday that it has confirmed an additional 19 cases of the B.1.1.7 variant in the state.
Continue reading State Detects First Case of New Coronavirus Variant With Higher Vaccine Resistance
by Carolyn Bick
Washington State has expanded the number of days school districts may offer in-person learning, but teachers will not be moved into earlier phases of vaccination, Gov. Jay Inslee said in a press conference on Feb. 16. Inslee did not immediately provide details on the number of days included in the increase. The State’s rationale for encouraging in-person learning without ensuring that all teachers are vaccinated is that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has not included vaccinating teachers in its base-level guidance that can help to determine whether in-person learning is safe. The State will allow parents to keep their children on remote learning plans, if they so choose.
In his announcement, Inslee pointed to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) recently updated publication regarding operational strategy for schools to open for in-person learning. He said that the CDC’s guidance “broadly aligns” with the State’s suggestions and that the CDC has “also made very clear that mass vaccination of our teachers is not a prerequisite to going back to school.”
In its guidance, the CDC also says that “[t]he following public health efforts provide additional layers of COVID-19 prevention in schools” and lists “[t]esting to identify individuals with a SARS-CoV-2 infection to limit transmission and outbreaks” and “[v]accination for teachers, staff, and in communities as soon as supply allows.”
Continue reading State Officials Push School Reopening Plan, Drawing on Data From Studies of Predominantly White Student Groups in Handful of U.S. Studies
by Carolyn Bick
Cases of COVID-19 in King County and throughout the state of Washington may be going down, but Public Health — Seattle & King County’s Health Officer Dr. Jeff Duchin says that this is just the calm before the “serious storm on the horizon.”
Continue reading As Inslee Allows More Counties to Open, King County’s Public Health Officer Warns of ‘Serious Storm on the Horizon’
by Elizabeth Turnbull
On Friday, Dec. 4, a federal judge ordered the government to fully reinstate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which allows undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children to continue to live and work here.
Created by the Obama administration in 2012, the program has been under attack since then by both Republicans and the Trump administration. This past summer, acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf issued a memorandum that prevented new applicants from enrolling in the program and reduced the length of work permits from two years to one. But on Dec. 4, that memo was reversed, restoring all of DACA’s original protections.
Continue reading A Federal Judge Ruled to Fully Reinstate DACA, but the Fight Continues
by Sally James
Jane Hopkins, RN (a registered nurse) is bringing a little of Kent, a little of Bothell, a little of Woodinville, and some First Hill to her new appointment by the Biden transition team to a national COVID-19 advisory panel. Growing up in Sierra Leone, Hopkins says she did not experience the kind of racism that is typical for Blacks in the United States. She moved to London at age 13 and received her mental health nursing education there before arriving in Seattle in 2000. She has three adult children and a 3-year-old grandson. Her husband is a small-business owner. The family has lived in Kent, Bothell, and now is in Woodinville.
She’s also bringing to her new role experience as an immigrant, an African American nurse, and a union executive. Perhaps most crucial is that she believes she listens to and hears what is bothering people in health care settings and can help ground the panel in the reality of worker worries.
Continue reading Local Nurse and Health Care Worker Advocate Jane Hopkins, RN to Serve on Biden Administration COVID-19 Panel