The U.S. stood Sunday at the brink of a once-unthinkable tally: 500,000 people lost to the coronavirus.
A year into the pandemic, the running total of lives lost was about 498,000 — roughly the population of Kansas City, Missouri, and just shy of the size of Atlanta. The figure compiled by Johns Hopkins University surpasses the number of people who died in 2019 of chronic lower respiratory diseases, stroke, Alzheimer’s, flu and pneumonia combined.
“It’s nothing like we have ever been through in the last 102 years, since the 1918 influenza pandemic,” the nation’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
The U.S. virus death toll reached 400,000 on Jan. 19 in the waning hours in office for President Donald Trump, whose handling of the crisis was judged by public health experts to be a singular failure.
The first known deaths from the virus in the U.S. happened in early February 2020, both of them in Santa Clara County, California. It took four months to reach the first 100,000 dead. The toll hit 200,000 deaths in September and 300,000 in December. Then it took just over a month to go from 300,000 to 400,000 and about two months to climb from 400,000 to the brink of 500,000.
Joyce Willis of Las Vegas is among the countless Americans who lost family members during the pandemic. Her husband, Anthony Willis, died Dec. 28, followed by her mother-in-law in early January.
There were anxious calls from the ICU when her husband was hospitalized. She was unable to see him before he died because she, too, had the virus and could not visit.
“They are gone. Your loved one is gone, but you are still alive,” Willis said. “It’s like you still have to get up every morning. You have to take care of your kids and make a living. There is no way around it. You just have to move on.”
Then came a nightmare scenario of caring for her father-in-law while dealing with grief, arranging funerals, paying bills, helping her children navigate online school and figuring out how to go back to work as an occupational therapist.
Her father-in-law, a Vietnam vet, also contracted the virus. He also suffered from respiratory issues and died on Feb. 8. The family isn’t sure if COVID-19 contributed to his death.
“Some days I feel OK and other days I feel like I’m strong and I can do this,” she said. “And then other days it just hits me. My whole world is turned upside-down.”
The global death toll was approaching 2.5 million, according to Johns Hopkins.
While the count is based on figures supplied by government agencies around the world, the real death toll is believed to be significantly higher, in part because of inadequate testing and cases inaccurately attributed to other causes early on.
Despite efforts to administer coronavirus vaccines, a widely cited model by the University of Washington projects the U.S. death toll will surpass 589,000 by June 1.
“People will be talking about this decades and decades and decades from now,” Fauci said on NBC’s “Meet The Press.”
Associated Press Writer Heather Hollingsworth in Kansas City, Missouri, contributed to this report.
WASHINGTON (AP) — Union activist Terrence Wise recalls being laughed at when he began pushing for a national $15 per hour minimum wage almost a decade ago. Nearly a year into the pandemic, the idea isn’t so funny.
The coronavirus has renewed focus on challenges facing hourly employees who have continued working in grocery stores, gas stations and other in-person locations even as much of the workforce has shifted to virtual environments. President Joe Biden has responded by including a provision in the massive pandemic relief bill that would more than double the minimum wage from the current $7.25 to $15 per hour.
But the effort is facing an unexpected roadblock: Biden himself. The president has seemingly undermined the push to raise the minimum wage by acknowledging its dim prospects in Congress, where it faces political opposition and procedural hurdles.
That’s frustrating to activists like Wise, who worry their victory is being snatched away at the last minute despite an administration that’s otherwise an outspoken ally.
“To have it this close on the doorstep, they need to get it done,” said Wise, a 41-year-old department manager at a McDonald’s in Kansas City and a national leader of Fight for 15, an organized labor movement. “They need to feel the pressure.”
The minimum wage debate highlights one of the central tensions emerging in the early days of Biden’s presidency. He won the White House with pledges to respond to the pandemic with a barrage of liberal policy proposals. But as a 36-year veteran of the Senate, Biden is particularly attuned to the political dynamics on Capitol Hill and can be blunt in his assessments.
“I don’t think it’s going to survive,” Biden recently told CBS News, referring to the minimum wage hike.
There’s a certain political realism in Biden’s remark.
With the Senate evenly divided, the proposal doesn’t have the 60 votes needed to make it to the floor on its own. Democrats could use an arcane budgetary procedure that would attach the minimum wage to the pandemic response bill and allow it to pass with a simple majority vote.
But even that’s not easy. Some moderate Democratic senators, including Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, have expressed either outright opposition to the hike or said it shouldn’t be included in the pandemic legislation.
The Senate’s parliamentarian may further complicate things with a ruling that the minimum wage measure can’t be included in the pandemic bill.
For now, the measure’s most progressive Senate backers aren’t openly pressuring Biden to step up his campaign for a higher minimum wage.
Bernie Sanders, the chair of the Senate Budget Committee, has said he’s largely focused on winning approval from the parliamentarian to tack the provision onto the pandemic bill. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who like Sanders challenged Biden from the left for the Democratic nomination, has only tweeted that Democrats should “right this wrong.”
Some activists, however, are encouraging Biden to be more aggressive.
The Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, the co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign, said Biden has a “mandate” to ensure the minimum wage increases, noting that minority Americans were “the first to go back to jobs, first to get infected, first to get sick, first to die” during the pandemic.
“We cannot be the last to get relief and the last to get treated and paid properly,” Barber said.
The federal minimum wage hasn’t been raised since 2009, the longest stretch without an increase since its creation in 1938. When adjusted for inflation, the purchasing power of the current $7.25 wage has declined more than a dollar in the last 11-plus years.
Democrats have long promised an increase — support for a $15 minimum wage was including in the party’s 2016 political platform — but haven’t delivered.
Supporters say the coronavirus has made a higher minimum wage all the more urgent since workers earning it are disproportionately people of color. The liberal Economic Policy Institute found that more than 19% of Hispanic workers and more than 14% of Black workers earned hourly wages that kept them below federal poverty guidelines in 2017.
Blacks, Hispanics and Native Americans in the U.S. also have rates of hospitalization and death from COVID-19 that are two to four times higher than for whites, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
People of color are a vital part Biden’s constituency, constituting 38% of his support in November’s election, according to AP VoteCast, a nationwide survey of the electorate.
Adrianne Shropshire. executive director of BlackPAC, noted that Biden has promised to address racial inequalities and create a more fair economy. That means he now has a chance to ensure that hourly wage earners “come out of this pandemic in better shape than they went into it.”
“The recovery around COVID shouldn’t just be about how to stabilize and get people back to zero,” Shropshire said. “It should be about how do we create opportunities to move people beyond where they were.”
The White House says Biden isn’t giving up on the issue. His comments to CBS, according to an aide, reflected his own evaluation of where the parliamentarian would rule based on his decades of experience in the Senate dealing with similar negotiations.
Biden suggested in the same interview that he’s prepared to engage in a “separate negotiation” on raising the minimum wage, but White House press secretary Jen Psaki offered no further details on the future of the proposal if it is in fact cut from the final coronavirus aid bill.
One option could be forcing passage by having Vice President Kamala Harris, as the Senate’s presiding officer, overrule the parliamentarian. But Psaki was clear in opposing that: “Our view is that the parliamentarian is who is chosen, typically, to make a decision in a nonpartisan manner.”
Navin Nayak, executive director of the Center for American Progress Action Fund, the political arm of the progressive think tank, said he wasn’t surprised at Biden’s assessment, but still feels the White House is making good faith efforts.
“They’re not putting this in there to lose it — they put it in there to win it,” Nayak said.
Nayak also noted Biden’s comments came before a Congressional Budget Office projection that found the proposal would help lift millions of Americans out of poverty but increase the federal deficit and cost 1.4 million jobs as employers scale back costlier workforces.
Sanders and other supporters argue that the CBO’s finding that raising the minimum wage will increase the deficit means it impacts the budget — and should therefore be allowed as part of the COVID-19 relief bill. But that will ultimately be up to the Senate parliamentarian.
For Wise, potential congressional hurdles pale in comparison to real world realities.
He makes $14 an hour and his fiancé works as a home health care professional. But when she went into quarantine because of possible exposure to the coronavirus and he missed work to care for their three daughters, it wasn’t long before the family was served with an eviction notice.
People “figure it’s something we’re doing wrong. We’re going to work. We’re productive. We’re law-abiding citizens,” Wise said. “It shouldn’t have to be that way.”
Associated Press writers Alan Fram and Kevin Freking contributed.
Eds: This story has been updated to CORRECT the spelling of Terrence Wise’s first name and Kyrsten Sinema’s first name.
SACRAMENTO — California Gov. Gavin Newsom and his family are quarantining after three of his children were exposed to someone who tested positive for the coronavirus, his office said late Sunday.
Newsom, his wife and four children all tested negative for the virus on Sunday, spokesman Jesse Melgar said in an emailed statement.
Newsom was notified Friday evening that a California Highway Patrol member who had contact with three of his children later tested positive for the virus. The California Highway Patrol provides security for Newsom and his family. Newsom and his wife, Jennifer Siebel Newsom, did not have contact with the officer.
The Newsoms were not tested until Sunday based on advice from health professionals “to improve the accuracy of the test,” Melgar said.
The family is quarantining at their home in Sacramento County. They will be tested regularly, Melgar said. Newsom’s children range in age from 4 to 11.
Karen Johnson, 77, spent about three years in the Highland Springs Care Center in Beaumont.
“She was at an unlocked memory care facility in Hemet, but she got to the point with her Alzheimer’s and dementia … where she needed to be in a locked facility,” said her daughter, Dena Garcia.
Eye of the Storm
Southern California Nursing Homes during the Coronavirus Pandemic
Latest installments in a continuing series
Part One: What do Southern California nursing homes hard hit by COVID-related deaths have in common? We spoke with experts, nursing home administrators and advocates to find out.
Part Two: A tale of two Pasadena nursing homes. One, Gem Transitional Care Center, hard hit by COVID deaths and another, Camellia Gardens, about four miles away, that wasn’t.
Today, Part Three: Highland Springs Care Center in Beaumont has one of the highest percentage of COVID-19 deaths per average daily number of residents of any skilled nursing home in Orange, Riverside or San Bernardino counties.
Garcia, who lives in Moreno Valley, would visit her mother regularly.
“I had a really good relationship with people who worked there. I knew them, they knew me, I could show up at any time,” she said.
And her mother seemed to like Highland Springs:
“She was a very outdoorsy person, so I think she liked getting outdoors and still feel like she was getting outside,” Garcia said, although she noted that Johnson still wasn’t allowed to leave the grounds.
In March, as the coronavirus pandemic swept into Riverside County, Highland Springs stopped all visitation. Management told residents’ families they had a rigorous routine for keeping staff, residents and the facility clean and virus-free. All employees were screened for temperatures when they arrived each day, for example. According to her family, Johnson even appears in a March 23 video about hand washing on the Highland Springs Facebook page.
“She had three really good years there and one really bad week,” said Johnson’s grandson, Kyle Garcia, who lives near Fort Worth.
On April 11, Dena Garcia was told that her mother was running a fever. Three days later, Johnson was sent to the emergency room at Banning’s San Gorgonio Memorial Hospital, where she was nonresponsive. Previously, she was capable of holding conversations and, her dementia and Alzheimer’s aside, was in generally good shape, according to her family.
Highland Springs spokeswoman Liz Tyler blames asymptomatic spread for the virus getting into Highland Springs.
“It’s not like the memory care facility created this virus or served it with breakfast,” she said. “It came in from the outside.”
Despite housing those most vulnerable to COVID-19, nursing homes don’t have the same tools as hospitals do to fight it, she said.
“Nursing homes, they don’t have negative space rooms like you have in hospitals. They have shared ventilation,” Tyler said. “It is an extraordinary effort to contain it.”
Highland Springs stopped admitting new residents on April 13, after the facility was first informed a resident had tested positive for COVID-19.
On April 17, Highland Springs was told Johnson had tested positive for COVID-19. Staff ended up testing all of their patients that same day, Tyler said. Sixty-one out of 86 residents tested positive, most of whom were asymptomatic.
“Their suspicion is it came with an asymptomatic staff member and it may have been a staff member who had a job in more than one facility,” Tyler said.
The facility gave employees an ultimatum, requiring them to only work at one facility, and residents who had tested positive were put in isolation.
Johnson died April 19 — the only person to die of COVID-19 in Riverside County that day, according to county health officials. She was the 75th person to die in the county of the disease.
A nurse at the hospital held up the phone so Dena Garcia could say goodbye to her mother.
“I just told her that I loved her and that we didn’t want her to suffer,” she said. “If it’s your time, it’s your time and you can go. Even without the coronavirus, Alzheimer’s is just a terrible, terrible disease.”
It has been a tough year for Dena Garcia: The last time she saw her mother alive was the day before Garcia’s father was buried. Two of Johnson’s six other siblings also have been diagnosed with COVID-19.
According to Tyler, Highland Springs hasn’t had any new residents test positive for COVID-19 since the beginning of June.
“They got hit with an invisible bomb, they jumped on it, they did the isolation necessary,” she said. “Even with their dementia population, they kept it from spreading.”
The Garcias feel Highland Springs wasn’t as forthcoming as it should have been about the spread of the coronavirus in the facility, something Tyler denies. But the family is sympathetic to the challenge that Highland Springs faces trying to keep dementia and Alzheimer’s patients from contracting COVID-19.
“You can’t teach them to not eat off each others’ plates. You can’t teach them to keep their hands to themselves. You can’t teach them to not pick up a half-smoked cigarette and smoke it for themselves,” Dena Garcia said. “It’s just going to happen.”
According to Tyler, the big challenge isn’t keeping the virus controlled inside nursing homes; it’s keeping it from coming in from the world outside, where, six months on, the public still can’t agree on how to prevent the virus’ spread.
“This bug is easy to kill. You just have to know it’s there. Once you know it’s there, you separate, do all the cleaning and all the things like that and you get rid of it, like this facility did,” Tyler said. “But any facility in this country, no matter how good their protocols are, they’re just one day from an asymptomatic person coming in.”
Administrator Hrag Bekerian felt confident, he said, that they were taking the right precautions at Gem Transitional Care Center before the coronavirus struck.
The four-star-rated nursing home on South Fair Oaks Avenue in Pasadena had closed its doors to visitors a week before the state’s guidance. Managers held frequent training sessions, screened all entrants and ramped up hand-washing checks.
“We believe we were well-prepared,” said Bekerian, 31.
Eye of the Storm
Southern California Nursing Homes during the Coronavirus Pandemic
Latest installments in a continuing series
Sunday, Part One: What do Southern California nursing homes hard hit by COVID-related deaths have in common? We spoke with experts, nursing home administrators and advocates to find out.
Tuesday, Part Two: A tale of two Pasadena nursing homes. One, Gem Transitional Care Center, hard hit by COVID deaths and another, Camellia Gardens, about four miles away, that wasn’t.
Wednesday, Part Three: Highland Springs Care Center in Beaumont has one of the highest percentage of COVID-19 deaths per average daily number of residents of any skilled nursing home in Orange, Riverside or San Bernardino counties.
Yet since mid-April, nearly 55 residents at Gem Transitional tested positive for COVID, more than a dozen of whom died. With typically around 65 daily residents, the nursing home has one of the highest COVID-related resident death rates in Los Angeles County for its population, according to a review by the Southern California News Group.
About four miles up the road is Camellia Gardens Care Center. As a one-star facility, it has the lowest possible overall rating on Medicare’s Nursing Home Compare. The slightly larger home had three residents contract COVID and only one death, said Nelida Arlante, the home’s administrator.
Arlante believes their vigilance helped curb the virus there. As a former physician in the Philippines, Arlante said, she may have had an edge.
2,900 deaths in region
More than 2,900 nursing home residents have died of COVID-19-related causes in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties, comprising about one-third of this region’s total coronavirus deaths, according to data from the California Department of Public Health.
Nursing homes across the region have touted early studies showing that location and size largely determine how they’ve fared with the virus. But it’s becoming increasingly clear that several other factors can help seal a home’s fate.
Mass testing with quick results and adequate personal protective equipment are clearly important, experts say. Nursing staff levels, infection-control practices, resident demographics, leadership and even a home’s for-profit status also can contribute to the death toll.
“It’s all those factors,” said Charlene Harrington, professor emerita at UC San Francisco and a registered nurse.
Behind the high death toll
Bekerian believes the high death toll at his for-profit facility is due at least partly to the type of residents it serves.
“We take high acuity patients,” said Bekerian, whose Gem Transitional facility often accepts patients from neighboring Huntington Hospital. “We had residents in the building that had higher and severe chronic conditions.”
People of color, who are disproportionately affected by the virus, also made up nearly 60% of their residents, according to data Bekerian provided.
California nursing homes with overall quality ratings of four and five stars were less likely to have COVID-19 cases and deaths when adjusting for a home’s size and patients’ race, according to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Directors Association. Nursing facilities with smaller white populations and for-profit ones were more likely to have higher cases and deaths.
Learning hard lessons
Like with many homes, there were also hard lessons they learned in real time.
First, Bekerian said, guidance from local, state and federal agencies kept changing.
He also realized it would have been best to quarantine staff working at multiple facilities at home for 14 days right away. Instead, Gem Transitional had at first waited for COVID-19 cases to surface at an employee’s second facility before doing so.
The nursing home, which has a four-star rating for staffing, eventually told employees they had to pick one facility after the Pasadena Public Health Department directed nursing homes to avoid using employees with multiple jobs “by any means possible” on April 12.
“I think it would have shown us good results if we had done it much, much earlier,” Bekerian said, noting the facility was simply following the guidance given by local health officials.
The vast majority of their employees stayed, he said, and all received hazard pay. He declined to say how much.
Sometimes, employees work at nursing homes with known COVID outbreaks and then are allowed by employers to work at a second facility, said Molly Davies, who oversees L.A. County’s ombudsman program that investigates concerns of residents in long-term care.
Along with a lack of adequate staffing and training, Davies believes this has been a main reason why some nursing homes have been harder hit.
“Part of that is because facilities don’t want to pay overtime so they’d rather have you work even at another building because it starts the clock again,” Davies said.
Watch employees ‘like a hawk’
Arlante has pondered how the for-profit Camellia Gardens, which has below-average ratings for staffing and health inspections, had managed to escape a harsher death toll.
“Maybe (it’s because) we are strict with our employees and we watch them like a hawk,” Arlante said. “Hand hygiene seems so simple but if you are lax, you will forget the steps and do the shortcut.”
Calming employees’ fears with regular shift training was important, she said. Being available to answer questions at any time was as well.
Arlante and Camellia Gardens’ director of nursing slept on couches in the conference room for a week after their first COVID case, she said. They later often stayed until 10 or 11 p.m. at night to supervise the employees.
“I treat the facility as family and these employees like children,” she said. “If they are afraid, they can do something drastic unless the mother hen is there.”
Camellia Gardens also provided its employees with meals three times a day to reduce their trips and their exposure outside, Arlante said.
OT and double-time allowed
The home began requiring nursing staff to pick one facility in May, she said, and lost 15 nurses in the process. But Camellia Gardens gave “bonuses” to all employees and allowed for overtime as well as double-time, which enabled them “to get by.”
Bekerian believes the local health order directing facilities to avoid using employees who work at other facilities helped turn things around at his home. Gem Transitional also learned to adapt to a new, stringent reality.
They had separate entrances for those caring for COVID patients, separate areas to put on their PPE and separate break rooms. The nursing home became vigilant about watching its staff put on and take off their masks, gloves and gowns.
It was “being very strict with every policy and procedure we have put in place,” Bekerian said.
New residents accepted
In mid-August, the city gave the nursing home clearance to accept new residents again. New residents are put in an observation unit for 14 days before they can go into the “green zone” with patients who don’t have the virus or have fully recovered from it.
As of Sept. 10, Gem Transitional had 44 patients in a home with 75 beds.
With all the different zones in the building, it has “beds ready in case a breakdown happens,” Bekerian said. But ultimately, he would “love to get back to full capacity.”
“It’s a little challenging but that’s our goal down the road,” he said. “We’re taking it day by day.”
Contributor Elissa Lee contributed to this report. This article was produced as part of a project for the USC Center for Health Journalism’s California Fellowship.
Orange County’s schools may be able to open in-person on Sept. 22 – not Sept. 8 – the Orange County Health Care Agency announced late Monday night via Twitter.
Under a new four-color, tiered monitoring system, Orange County is in the most restrictive of the tiers, but it’s on track to bump up to the next tier on Sept. 8.
The county would then remain for 14 days in that tier, county health officials confirmed with the the California Department of Public Health, according to the late-night Tweet.
That means that the earliest schools could welcome students to campuses is on Sept. 22.
When Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the new color-coded tier system on Friday, there was initially much confusion among Orange County educators as to what it meant for school reopenings. Then, the county’s health officer, Clayton Chau, tweeted that the switch to a new monitoring system did not reset the 14-day countdown and schools could still open as soon as Sept. 8, if lower case trends continue.
I confirmed with the State that has not changed for OC except for the update in the new blueprint usually occurs on Monday and the State posts on Tuesday, so the school reopening would be Tuesday, September 8, right after Labor Day weekend.
On Saturday, county health officials cast doubt on that opening date. In a Tweet, officials said they requested clarification from schools on the 14-day wait cycle. “State indicated we would get credit for those days. More to come.”
Update re: Gov.’s new system. We’ve requested additional clarification from State re: schools as there are several counties, including #OC, who are in limbo as we were part way thru prior 14 day cycle to re-open. State indicated we would get credit for those days. More to come.
The answer apparently came late Monday night. The earliest Orange County schools can open to in-person learning will be Sept. 22.
County Health Officer received confirmation from @CAPublicHealth that #OC is on track to enter into Red Tier on Sept. 8. Providing we meet Red Tier metrics at that time, there will be a 14-day wait for all K-12 schools to be eligible for reopening, which could happen on Sept. 22.
SEATTLE (AP) — Jordan Morris scored two goals less than a minute apart early in the second half, and Seattle rolled past Los Angeles FC 3-1 on Sunday night in the Sounders first home match in 5½ months.
Playing in an eerily empty CenturyLink Field, Morris scored 59 seconds apart in the opening moments of the second half as Seattle gained a bit of revenge after LAFC’s 4-1 thumping of the Sounders during the MLS is Back tournament in Florida.
In the past, two goals that close together would have sent Seattle’s home crowd into a frenzy. But it was instead met with a murmur of piped-in crowd noise as the stadium is expected to remain empty for the rest of the MLS season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I think everyone is obviously missing the fans. but it was still nice to be back playing at home,” Morris said. “We’ve obviously never played without fans before but we still feel like this is our home stadium and we feel very confident but of course we miss the fans and we feel their support from afar.”
It was a decidedly un-Seattle atmosphere for the Sounders’ first home match since March 7. Instead of the normal, with nearly 40,000 fans in attendance, some of the lower bowl seats were replaced by tarps with advertisements.
“The Brougham End,” where Seattle’s most rabid fans of the “Emerald City Supporters” normally stand and chant the entire 90 minutes, was replaced by a smattering of banners, including a large “Black Lives Matter,” banner directly behind the goal.
“It’s different without fans. But for what we had to work with, or what we’re dealing with with this COVID-19, I thought it was good. It was a good start,” Seattle coach Brian Schmetzer said.
It was at that end of the stadium where Morris scored his two goals. On the first, Morris collected a long pass from Nicolas Lodeiro and dribbled around LAFC goalkeeper Kenneth Vermeer, who was late coming out from goal. Morris finished easily into the open net.
Moments after restarting, Seattle’s João Paulo sent a cross into the box and Morris was unmarked, giving Seattle a 3-0 lead.
Raúl Ruidíaz scored in the first half with a stunning 35-yard left-footed shot that caught Vermeer by surprise and out of position. Ruidíaz was subbed off at halftime for precautionary reasons due to a heel contusion.
Diego Rossi scored in the 60th minute but LAFC lost consecutive matches for the first time since the 2018 season. It was the first match for LAFC since learning league MVP Carlos Vela is out indefinitely with a left knee injury.
“(It’s) a tough stretch for us and you can just see with so many guys confidence, mentality, and performance, things we’ve got to find a way to get back,” LAFC coach Bob Bradley said.
Both teams had midweek matches postponed after players made a collective statement against racial injustice.
The Sounders last home match in early March came as the COVID-19 pandemic was in its initial outbreak in the United States and with the Seattle region as the epicenter. The Sounders played to a 1-1 draw with Columbus before an announced crowd of 33,080. It was the smallest crowd for a Sounders home match since its inaugural season of 2009.
At the time, there had been 16 deaths and 102 diagnosed coronavirus cases in Washington state. Now, there have been more than 74,000 confirmed cases and 1,900 deaths attributed to the virus in the state, according to the Washington Department of Health.
A pro-charter school group brought some 75 parents, teachers and a couple of Orange County Board of Education members together Tuesday evening to rally for the reopening of schools that were closed because of coronavirus concerns.
Parents, they said, should be making the choice of whether their children learn on campus or online.
“Open up the schools,” the crowd briefly chanted.
Jeff Barke, right, leads a rally outside the Santa Ana Educators Association office in Santa Ana on Tuesday, August 4, 2020. The rally calling for the reopening of schools was organized by the California Policy Center’s “Parent Union.” (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)
Cecilia Iglesias, left, and Orange County Board of Education member Mari Barke, right, join others outside the Santa Ana Educators Association office during a ‘reopen the schools’ rally in Santa Ana on Tuesday, August 4, 2020. The rally was organized by the California Policy Center’s Parent Union, a pro-charter school group. Iglesias, a former Santa Ana councilwoman and school board member, works for the center and organized the meeting with Barke’s help. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)
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Rhonda Furin, center, joins others during a reopen the schools rally outside the Santa Ana Educators Association in Santa Ana on Tuesday, August 4, 2020. The rally was organized by a group called “Parent Union.” It’s a pro-charter school group under the libertarian California Policy Center. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)
A man holds up a sign during a ‘reopen the schools’ rally outside the Santa Ana Educators Association office in Santa Ana on Tuesday, August 4, 2020. The rally was organized by a“Parent Union.” (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)
About 75 protesters gathered outside the Santa Ana Educators Association office for a ‘reopen the schools’ rally in Santa Ana on Tuesday, August 4, 2020. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)
Cecilia Iglesias protests outside the Santa Ana Educators Association office during a reopen the schools rally in Santa Ana on Tuesday, August 4, 2020. Iglesias, a former Santa Ana councilwoman and former School Board member, organized the rally as the head of the “Parent Union,” a pro-charter school group under the libertarian California Policy Center. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)
Jeff Barke, a physician who advocates for the reopening of schools without social distancing or face masks, leads a ‘reopen the schools’ rally outside the Santa Ana Educators Association office in Santa Ana on Tuesday, August 4, 2020. The rally was organized by the California Police Center’s Parent Union group, a pro-charter group that said parents should have the choice of whether their children can return to campus for in-person learning or continue with online education. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)
Protestors gather outside the Santa Ana Educators Association for a reopen the schools rally in Santa Ana on Tuesday, August 4, 2020. The rally was organized by the California Policy Center’s “Parent Union.” (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)
Jeff Barke, right, leads a rally outside the Santa Ana Educators Association office in Santa Ana on Tuesday, August 4, 2020. The rally calling for the reopening of schools was organized by the California Policy Center’s “Parent Union.” (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)
Flanked by American flags and punctuated with religious references and prayer, the rally was organized by the Orange County-based California Policy Center’s “Parent Union,” which pointedly chose to host its event in front of the offices of the Santa Ana teachers’ union.
“That’s why we’re here,” said Jeff Barke, an Orange County physician who regularly advocates for reopening schools without face masks or social distancing but mentioned neither safety precaution during the rally. Instead, he and others focused attention on teacher unions, which have advocated for resuming school online for now.
“We’re here to let them know we’re sick and tired of the schools being closed. It’s not based on science. It’s not based on statistics. It’s not based on facts. It’s based on union power. “
Barbara Pearson, president of the Santa Ana teachers’ union – the Santa Ana Educators’ Association – called the protest “another desperate grab for attention in their struggle to stay relevant.
“It has nothing to do with the reopening of schools or the students of Santa Ana. Governor Newsom made the decision to close schools, not the unions. Our priority is the safety of staff and students,” Pearson wrote in an e-mail Tuesday night.
During the rally Tuesday, a few teachers spoke about the detrimental effects of online learning on all students, but especially those who need special services. Students have regressed academically since schools shut down mid-March due to the coronavirus pandemic, they noted. And many who are in vulnerable situations, some speakers said, have been made even more vulnerable, exposing them to abuse and even suicide, because they don’t have their safe haven – school – to turn to.
Mari Barke, an elected member of the Orange County Board of Education and Jeff Barke’s wife, told the crowd, to “keep fighting” to reopen schools.
“Parents are in the best position to make decisions for their children,” Mari Barke said.
The rally was organized by Cecilia Iglesias, a former Santa Ana councilwoman and former School Board member who works for the California Policy Center, a libertarian think tank that focuses on issues like pension reform and charter schools. The Center runs four chapters of the Parent Union in Southern California. Iglesias said she hopes to hold similar rallies in other counties.
“Our call is a call to action, to let parents choose,” Iglesias said prior to the rally. “We’re suggesting: open up the schools, following safety guidelines, and give parents the choice.”
The Pac-12 responded Monday to football players who have threaten to opt-out of the season because of concerns related to health and safety, racial injustice and economic rights with a letter touting the conference’s work in those areas and an invitation to meet later this week.
The players say they have been communicating with more than 400 of their peers throughout the Pac-12. The group released a lengthy list of demands Sunday and said if they are not addressed they will not practice or play. The group said it reached out to the Pac-12 on Sunday to request a meeting. In the letter, Scott said he was eager to discuss their concerns.
“I will come back to you in the coming days following discussion with our members and student-athlete leaders to schedule a call for this week to discuss the matters that you have raised,” Scott wrote.
Also Monday night, Washington State coach Nick Rolovich said in a statement he regretted cautioning one of his players about being part of the #WeAreUnited movement. A recording of a conversation between Rolovich and receiver Kassidy Woods obtained by the Dallas Morning News revealed the coach seemingly warning the player that being involved with the group would hurt his standing with the team. Woods had called Rolovich to inform him he was opting out of the season for health reasons related to COVID-19.
“I spoke with Kassidy Woods in a private phone conversation last Saturday afternoon. This was before the #WeAreUnited group had released its letter of concerns,” said Rolovich, who is in his first season was Washington State coach. “Without knowing the concerns of the group, I regret that my words cautioning Kassidy have become construed as opposition. I’m proud of our players and all the Pac-12 student-athletes for using their platform, especially for matters they are passionate about. WSU football student-athletes who have expressed support for the #WeAreUnited group will continue to be welcome to all team-related activities, unless they choose to opt out for health and safety reasons.”
The #WeAreUnited players’ demands focused on four areas: health and safety protections, especially protocols related to COVID-19; guarding against the elimination of sports programs by schools during an economic downturn; ending racial injustice in college sports; and economic freedom and equity.
Scott addressed each area, highlighting the conference’s:
— Medical advisory committee working on COVID-19 protocols and webinars for student-athletes and their parents;
— Support for reforming NCAA rules regarding name, image and likeness compensation for college athletes;
— Recent initiatives to address racial inequities such as the formation of a social justice & anti-racism advisory group that includes student-athletes representatives.
Scott also listed 10 areas in which, he wrote, “The Pac-12 has been a leader in supporting student-athlete health and well-being …” Included were enhanced medical coverage post-eligibility; cost-of-attendance stipends added to the value of scholarship; mental health support; and the Pac-12’s support of reforming NCAA transfer rules to allow athletes more freedom to switch schools.
Pac-12 football teams are scheduled to begin preseason practices Aug. 17 and the league’s conference-only regular season is set to start Sept. 26.
ANCHORAGE, Alaska — A powerful earthquake located off Alaska’s southern coast jolted some coastal communities late Tuesday, and some residents briefly scrambled for higher ground over fears of a tsunami.
There were no immediate reports of damage in the sparsely populated area of the state, and tsunami warning was canceled after the magnitude 7.8 quake off the Alaska Peninsula produced a wave of a less than a foot.
According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the earthquake struck Tuesday at 10:12 p.m. local time, centered in waters 65 miles (105 kilometers) south-southeast of Perryville, Alaska at a depth of 17 miles (28 km).
Because of its location, nearby communities along the Alaska Peninsula did not experience shaking that would normally be associated with that magnitude of a quake, said Michael West, Alaska State Seismologist.
However, that doesn’t mean they slept through it: West said residents in small towns within a hundred miles of the quake reported very strong shaking, and was also felt more than 500 miles away in the Anchorage area, West said.
“No reports of any damage,” Kodiak Police Sgt. Mike Sorter told The Associated Press early Wednesday morning. “No injuries were reported. Everything is nominal.”
Kodiak is about 200 miles northeast of where the earthquake was centered.
The tsunami warning had coastal residents evacuating for higher ground. Social media posts showed long lines of people fleeing towns like Homer and Kodiak while tsunami sirens wailed in the background.
On Kodiak Island, the local high school opened its doors for evacuees, as did the local Catholic school, the Anchorage Daily News reported.
“We’ve got a high school full of people,” said Larry LeDoux, superintendent of the Kodiak School District. “I’ve been passing out masks since the first siren sounded,” he told the Daily News.
“Everything’s as calm as can be. We’ve got probably 300, 400 people all wearing masks,” he said before the warning was canceled.
Tsunami warnings are commonplace for people who grew up in Kodiak.
”I’ve been doing these since I was a little kid,” LeDoux told the newspaper. “Old news.”
Officials at the National Tsunami Warning Center in Palmer, Alaska, began calling off tsunami advisories and warnings after a wave of only 25 centimeters (.8 foot) was recorded in the community of Sand Point.
“I might have expected a little bit more water, but I’m happy that there wasn’t,” said David Hale, the senior duty scientist at the tsunami center.
Tuesday’s quake was more powerful than the magnitude 7.1 earthquake that caused damage in the Anchorage area in November 2018.
“This earthquake released about 15 times as much energy as that earthquake, said West, the state seismologist.
More than a dozen aftershocks of magnitude 4.0 or higher were reported immediately after the earthquake, he said by telephone from the Alaska Earthquake Center at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
”We got people here who are going be working all night,” West said early Wednesday morning. ”These aftershocks will go and go and go and go.”
The Alaska-Aleutian Trench was also where a magnitude 9.2 quake in 1964 was centered. That remains the second most powerful earthquake ever recorded. The temblor and ensuing tsunami caused widespread damage and killed 131 people, some as far away as Oregon and California. Alaska is the most actively seismic state. Nearly 25,000 earthquakes have been recorded in Alaska since Jan. 1, according to the center.