Tag Archives: Feature

Patients Are Traveling From Texas for Abortion Care. This May Be the New Normal.

by Megan Burbank

At midnight on the first day of September, after the Supreme Court failed to respond to an appeal from abortion providers, a law banning abortions after six weeks of pregnancy went into effect in Texas. SB 8 has ended access to an estimated 85% of procedures, empowered ordinary people to sue fellow citizens for seeking out or facilitating abortion care, and pushed patients to seek care across state lines, some as far as the Pacific Northwest. Less than a month after SB 8’s implementation, Planned Parenthood disclosed to the Emerald that its Central District Health Center had seen its first patient from Texas.

This disruption in care, and rise in anti-abortion vigilanteism, has already been challenged by the Justice Department and drawn widespread criticism. Reproductive health care providers question its use of the term “fetal heartbeat,” a descriptor that’s more emotional than clinical (the sound heard on ultrasounds is caused by electrical activity; heart valves aren’t actually present). Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor offered a blistering, Ruth Bader Ginsburg-esque dissent calling the law “clearly unconstitutional.” The law has even been condemned by private companies like Lyft, which established a defense fund to cover legal fees for drivers sued under the law. In the words of one Slate headline: “The Supreme Court Overturned Roe v. Wade in the Most Cowardly Manner Imaginable.”

But none of these objections lessen the impact the law has already had. SB 8 has had “a chilling effect” on abortion providers in Texas, said Lisa Humes-Schulz, vice president of policy and regulatory affairs at Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates. “No one wants to get sued,” she added, and the fallout has been swift.

Continue reading Patients Are Traveling From Texas for Abortion Care. This May Be the New Normal.

Weekend Long Reads: Deconstructing Productivity

by Kevin Schofield

This weekend’s “long read” is an article published by Noah Smith, looking at the productivity of construction workers and how it’s measured.

The conventional wisdom is that for decades construction productivity has been in a slow decline, in sharp contrast to other intensive industries such as agriculture and manufacturing. This graph from the Economist sums up the picture well:

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The 2021 Seattle Mayor’s Race by the Numbers

by Erica C. Barnett

With just over a month to go before the 2021 Seattle mayoral election, both Lorena González and Bruce Harrell have amassed financial support worth well over a million dollars, including both direct contributions (which are capped at $550) and independent expenditures (which are unlimited). But a closer look at campaign contributions and expenditures reveals key differences between the candidates’ supporters and how they’re spending their campaign funds.

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COVID-19 Plays Halloween Trick — Again

by Sally James

The past few days have seen a confusing swirl of decisions by health experts at the federal level, but here’s how the COVID-19 vaccine dust is settling. Anyone over 65 who received the Pfizer vaccine can now get a third “booster” shot. Medical experts say the booster can improve protection against COVID-19, which gradually wanes about six months after people get the first two shots.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Rochelle Walensky announced on Thursday, Sept. 24, that the booster is available to everyone over 65 and also to health care workers, teachers, and others in high-risk jobs. She overruled the recommendation of her own advisory committee, which had excluded high-risk occupations.

Within days, vaccine providers at drive-in, pharmacy, and other outlets will likely begin taking appointments for those who qualify for the Pfizer booster. Those who received Moderna or Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccines will need to wait until those boosters are approved later in the year.

For children ages 5–11, there was also good news this week. Pfizer officials announced they will seek approval from the CDC to offer those shots later this fall, maybe by Halloween. But other experts warned that approval for the child-safe doses will require further review, and approval is not guaranteed.

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Black-Owned rōJō Juice Pours Out Organic Juices and Love

by Elizabeth Turnbull

At the entrance of Pike Place Market, next to Ellenos Greek Yogurt and across from where the fish are thrown, one woman and her family pour organic fruits, vegetables, and joy into the lives of Seattleites and tourists who visit the Black-owned business rōJō Juice

“Customers say that the music that we play, the energy that we give literally like … gets them out of bed,” Rhonda Faison, the owner of rōJō Juice, told the Emerald. “… and whether they buy a juice or not they just love to be around rōJō and the energy.” 

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Weekend Long Reads: mRNA Vaccines

by Kevin Schofield

This week’s “long read” is an article in the journal Nature, looking at the long and complicated path leading to the mRNA vaccine technology and techniques used to create the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines against COVID-19.

“Messenger RNA,” or mRNA, is essentially a recipe for building proteins. Living cells use it as a way of passing notes around: Parts of our DNA are transcribed into mRNA, which is then read by the tiny factories in our cells that produce proteins. 

Technically, a virus isn’t alive: It’s just a string of genetic material surrounded by a coating of fat (what biologists call “lipids”) with some proteins on the surface that help it to gain access into our cells (such as the COVID-19 “spike protein”). Once a virus invades our cells, its DNA is also transcribed into mRNA that contains the blueprint for the virus, and then our own cells do all the hard work to churn out thousands of virus copies.

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COVID-19 Forces Pro Sports Teams to Mandate Vaccine Proof for Fans

by Sally James

A late summer surge of the COVID-19 delta variant has schools scrambling to adjust to in-person learning, parents worried about the safety of unvaccinated kids, and sports fans on edge.

Local professional sports teams, including Seattle Seahawks, Seattle Sounders FC, and Seattle Kraken all announced that they would require proof of vaccination from fans who want to attend games. Following those announcements Tuesday, Sept. 7, the Washington Huskies, Washington State Cougars, and Seattle Mariners also announced similar rules to help curb the spread of the coronavirus. 

The rules don’t apply to fans under 12 years old, who cannot yet be vaccinated. In a story this week, the Emerald outlined the updated guidelines for student athletes.

For participants in outdoor sports and fans of all ages, the delta variant continues to spread throughout the community, requiring changes to fall plans and public health guidance.

Off the field, the Washington Hospital Association (WSHA) reported an almost 7% increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations statewide over the previous week. Some of that press conference is in this video from television station KIRO-7. WSHA leader Cassie Sauer explained that overcrowded hospitals anywhere are a problem for all hospitals, because patients are sometimes shifted to other facilities.

King County Executive Dow Constantine said the County is trying to create some vaccine verification standards that could become effective in October. These would help businesses and others quickly verify a person’s vaccine status.

In this week’s Q&A, we hope to help you make sense out of the latest COVID-19 health and safety headlines with links to credible sources.

Send your questions to us at editor@seattleemerald.org.

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Weekend Long Reads: The Evolution of Our Health Care System

by Kevin Schofield

This weekend’s “long read” focuses on two medical research papers exploring how the U.S. health care system has changed over the past two decades: the money going into the system and the outcomes for individuals. And it’s not a pretty picture.

Let’s start with a paper from a group of researchers at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation here in Seattle, looking at health care spending from 2002 through 2016 and broken out by race and ethnicity. Total spending has grown dramatically, from about $1.5 trillion annually in 2002 to over $2.4 trillion in 2016. The amount spent per person increases as they age, from a low of about $3,000 per year for children in 2016 to more than $15,000 per year for those over the age of 65. There are some significant differences in spending across racial and ethnic lines, with Asians, Native Hawaiians, Pacific Islanders, and Hispanics seeing some of the lowest levels of spending across all age groups and white and multiracial individuals seeing the highest spending.

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Mask Mandates, School Openings, Sports, and Other Questions About COVID-19

by Sally James

The COVID-19 delta variant is behind the latest surge of coronavirus cases, prompting new mask mandates, and raising a lot of new questions, including about the safety of unvaccinated school children and playing sports. 

This week we look at some new questions and rely on County and State health officials for the latest guidance.

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Weekend Long Reads: The Kids Are Eating a Lot More Pizza

by Kevin Schofield

This weekend’s “long read” is a report from a 20-year study on the food consumption habits of American youth. The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NAHANES) has been collecting data since 1999, in two-year intervals, on what foods kids are eating, broken out across four categories: unprocessed and minimally processed; processed culinary ingredients such as oils; processed foods like cheeses; and “ultraprocessed” foods such as fast food, sweetened beverages, and store-bought ready-to-heat dishes.

In their most recent cohort, 2017–2018, they found that over two-thirds of the calories consumed by youth are from ultraprocessed food, up from 61.4% in 1999. The ready-to-heat/eat category jumped from 2.2% all the way up to 11.1%; that includes store-bought pizza, hamburgers, and sandwiches, and pizza alone is now over 5% of kids’ total calorie consumption.

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