(This article was originally published by Real Change and has been reprinted under an agreement.)
In late January, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed a change to the cleanup plan for the Lower Duwamish River, one of the nation’s most polluted waterways, which was declared a Superfund site in 2001. The proposal — which would allow for higher levels of certain pollutants to remain in the river sediment — generated frustration amongst community groups in South Seattle, who called for an extension of a public comment period on the change. Public comment now lasts until April 21.
At the center of the EPA’s proposal is a pollutant called benzo(a)pyrene (BaP), a carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (cPAH) that comes from burning coal and oil and is present in the sediment of the Duwamish River.
Because of Washington State’s decision to follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations to indefinitely pause the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine against the novel coronavirus, following incidents of serious blood clots in a handful people in the United States who have gotten the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, thousands of King County residents now do not know when they will be able to get vaccinated.
There appear to be a small, but growing number of COVID-19 outbreaks among youth sports teams in King County, most of which have occurred in the South End. As of this writing, there have been 10 outbreaks this year, sickening 34 youths and eight adults.
King County is calling on residents living in urban areas in unincorporated King County (including many areas of South King County) to apply to be on an ambitious new participatory budgeting committee that will have the decision-making power for millions of dollars worth of infrastructure and community development projects.
“This is something [King County has] been looking at since 2016 — how to get our community involved in some sort of participatory budgeting process,” said Gloria Briggs, the King County community investment committee coordinator, in an interview with the Emerald. “And so we’re here now and it’s a really great opportunity. I’m really excited to get community members on our committee and to get them actively engaged in this process. The [participatory budget] process, within itself, has a lot of positive impacts for our community.”
Even as Washingtonians mark their calendars for April 15, the day everyone aged 16 and older in the state will be able to get vaccinated, the viral storm clouds on the horizon are growing darker.
In the last week, the average daily COVID case rate in King County alone has risen to 250 new cases per day, Public Health — Seattle & King County (PHSKC) Public Health Officer Dr. Jeff Duchin told listeners in an April 2 press conference. This represents a 26% increase from the week before, and an 86% overall increase from the beginning of this most recent rise, which likely represents a fourth wave beginning, Duchin said.
At the 43:22 timestamp in a video of a nearly two-hour King County Council meeting regarding the shooting death of Mi’Chance Dunlap-Gittens, King County Sheriff Mitzi Johanknecht gets up and walks out of the room, before any members of the community speak, and before Mi’Chance Dunlap-Gittens’s mother starts to read the last poem her son wrote before police shot and killed him in 2017.
“I have to get on to the next thing,” Johanknecht says, looking at the watch on her left wrist.
A round-up of news and announcements we don’t want to get lost in the fast-churning news cycle!
Spike in COVID Cases, Testing, and the Latest in Vaccines
COVID Spike Prompts Update to Rainier Beach COVID Testing & Vaccine Hub— Mayor Jenny Durkan announced last week that the City’s Rainier Beach and West Seattle COVID testing hubs — which recently began offering vaccines in addition to testing — would transition to vaccine-only hubs in the middle of this week, but data from Public Health — Seattle & King County revealed a spike in COVID cases in the county over the last two weeks. As a result, COVID testing at these sites will now be extended, says the City.
With Washington State entering Phase 3 and increasing COVID-19 cases — including brand-new variants of concern — both within King County and throughout the state, Public Health Seattle & King County Health Officer Dr. Jeff Duchin said that the proverbial ice Washingtonians are skating on is “beginning to crack a bit beneath us.” He predicted a fourth wave may now be beginning.
Tommy Le loved to cook and garden with his grandmother and do landscaping work with his father. He was friendly with his teachers. He loved to play chess. He had a curiosity that made him seek out deeply philosophical texts — a trait so unique that his local librarians knew him by name. And on June 14, 2017, the 20-year-old Vietnamese American student was going to attend his graduation ceremony at South Seattle College, where he had graduated from the College Career Link program just the day before.
But Le never got to attend that graduation ceremony. He never got to wear his graduation outfit. Generations of his family — some of them refugees — never got to see him achieve his dream of becoming a firefighter.
Instead, King County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO) Deputy Cesar Molina shot the young man twice in the back and once in the back of the hand in Burien on June 13, 2017. The shots to the back killed Le.
Cases of COVID-19 have slightly increased over the past two weeks in King County, which could be an indicator of the “storm clouds on the horizon” that Public Health – Seattle & King County Health Officer Dr. Jeff Duchin has been warning the public about throughout late February and March.
“We still have a serious threat,” Duchin said during an online Public Health – Seattle & King County (PHSKC) press briefing on Friday, March 19. “We can’t give up on it now. As my friend Mike Osterholm says, ‘It’s too late to tap the breaks after your car is wrapped around the tree.’”