As Election Nears, Trump Makes a Final Push Against Climate Science
The administration is imposing new limits on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that would undercut action against global warming.
Noah Centineo Wants You to Vote
A week before Election Day, the actor opened a pop-up in Los Angeles aimed at getting influencers and their audiences to vote.
Trump Wants to Pick Off Nevada. But Biden Is Holding a Lead, Our Poll Shows.
Joe Biden has a six-point advantage in the latest New York Times/Siena College poll of Nevada, where unemployment has soared amid the coronavirus pandemic.
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How Tillamook creamery has become a model for inclusion and diversity work
Eugene-based Covid surface and air-testing company raises seed round
Medicare finalizing coverage policy for coronavirus vaccine
WASHINGTON — Medicare will cover the yet-to-be approved coronavirus vaccine free for older people under a policy change expected to be announced shortly, a senior Trump administration official said Tuesday.
The coming announcement from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services aims to align the time-consuming process for securing Medicare coverage of a new vaccine, drug or treatment with the rapid campaign to have a coronavirus vaccine ready for initial distribution once it is ready, possibly as early as the end of the year.
It’s questionable under normal circumstances if Medicare can pay for a drug that receives emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration, as expected for the eventual coronavirus vaccine. Emergency use designation is a step short of full approval.
The administration official said Medicare’s announcement will try to resolve several legal technicalities that could conceivably get in the way of delivering free vaccines to millions of seniors, a high-risk group for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. The official spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity to discuss a pending regulation.
President Donald Trump and lawmakers of both parties in Congress have spelled out their intention that all Americans will be able to get the vaccine for free. But the official said a series of potential legal obstacles that could get in the way of Medicare payment never got unscrambled.
Earlier this month, Medicare administrator Seema Verma said her agency was close to resolving the issue.
“I think we’ve figured out a path forward,” Verma said at the HLTH conference, a forum for innovators. “It was very clear that Congress wants to make sure that Medicare beneficiaries have this vaccine and that there isn’t any cost-sharing.”
“Stay tuned,” she added.
The $1.8 trillion CARES Act passed by Congress in March called for free vaccination for all Americans, from seniors covered by Medicare to families with employer-sponsored health insurance.
A White House-backed initiative called “Operation Warp Speed” is pushing to have a vaccine ready for distribution in the coming months. The government is spending billions of dollars to manufacture vaccines even before they receive FDA approval, thereby cutting the timeline for delivery. Officials at the FDA have committed that the program will not interfere with their own science-based decisions. Vaccines that don’t meet the test for approval would be discarded.
States have already begun submitting their plans for vaccine distribution to the federal government.
Initially, it’s expected vaccines will go to people in high-risk groups such as medical personnel, frontline workers and nursing home residents and staff. Older people are also high on the priority list because their risks of serious illness and death from the coronavirus — which has killed more than 225,000 people in the United States — are much higher. It could be well into next year before a vaccine is widely available.
Medicare’s impending announcement was first reported by Politico.
Vancouver police investigate Monday night shooting in central Vancouver
The Vancouver Police Department is investigating a shooting in which a man was wounded Monday night in central Vancouver.
Police responded about 9:30 p.m. to Northeast 87th Avenue and Northeast 12th Street in the North Garrison Heights neighborhood for a report of shots fired involving two vehicles.
Upon arrival, officers located multiple shell casings but no victims, according to a department news release.
However, a short time later, dispatch received a call about a man who returned home with multiple gunshot wounds. Officers responded to the residence, and the man was taken to an area hospital, police said.
A vehicle matching the description of one of the vehicles at the shooting scene was also found at the residence, according to the police department.
Detectives with the Safe Streets Task Force and Major Crimes Unit are investigating.
Anyone with information on the shooting should call the Vancouver Police Department Tip Line at 360-487-7399.
Law enforcement unions push Washington ballot initiative to regulate protests, protect police jobs
Contending public officials in Seattle and elsewhere have failed to keep all citizens safe during ongoing racial injustice protests, a group of law enforcement unions announced Monday they’re pushing a statewide ballot initiative that would require Washington cities and counties to create and enforce detailed plans for regulating free-speech demonstrations.
Calling themselves Team Blue — Washington, the group — made up of executives from the Seattle Police Officers Guild (SPOG), the King County Corrections Guild and the Washington Council of Police & Sheriffs (WACOPS) — said the proposed measure also permits citizens harmed by demonstrations to quickly seek damages from local governments that fail to enforce those plans.
“This will work to restore order to our communities and allow people to have a robust say as to how their communities function,” Ryan Lufkin, a former deputy district attorney in Multnomah County in Oregon and the group’s chair, said during a virtual news conference announcing the campaign on Monday.
SPOG President Mike Solan, one of the campaign’s vice chairs, added that because the initiative offers what he views as a “sensical approach” toward public safety, it also follows that its approval by voters would help indirectly to protect police jobs amid calls to defund the police.
“Clearly, police officers protect the public and this effort protects the public,” Solan said. “When you look at politicians trying to defund the police, where you remove officers from communities — particularly in Seattle, at a time when 911 response times are through the roof — having less officers on the street will cause only more problems.”
Response times, particularly at the East Precinct, rose during the height of the protests, but have since come back down, according to recent SPD data. The SPD’s target response time for the highest-priority calls is 7 minutes, and three of the five precincts meet that goal. Median response times for the two other precincts range between 7 and 9 minutes.
Representatives of Decriminalize Seattle and King County Equity Now — two local advocacy groups supporting police defunding efforts — did not immediately respond to requests for comment Monday, nor did a spokeswoman for the Seattle City Council.
In a statement late Monday, the ACLU of Washington said: “This unnecessary initiative duplicates existing permitting processes, exposes cities to lawsuits, and distracts the government and its agents from their number one priority, which should be protecting people’s constitutional rights — including the freedoms of speech and assembly.”
The campaign group has drafted what it calls the “Protect Free Speech and Safe Streets Act,” and the act is posted at teamblue-wa.com. It contends that the proposed measure protects First Amendment rights and peaceful protests, but will require each community to create a comprehensive plan that clearly lays out how demonstrations will be regulated.
Under the act, each jurisdiction would be free to adopt its own rules but must have a list of minimum standards. They include banning loud demonstrations after 10 p.m. in residential neighborhoods, or between midnight and 7 a.m. in any neighborhood; prohibiting possession of “riot agents,” such as fireworks, flammable explosives and laser pointers at gatherings that have been deemed unlawful; and outlawing street blockades, property destruction and the setting of fires.
Each community’s plan also must require officers to wear observable identification, describe what types of force and crowd-control devices they could use and provide details for when police could declare that an event was a riot or unlawful.
Already, Seattle and other communities have rules and laws that address most of the issues, Lufkin said. “The problem is, they haven’t been enforced in any meaningful way and certainly not consistently,” he said.
If a community fails to enforce its plan, the measure would allow a streamlined process for citizens or businesses that are harmed by a demonstration to sue for actual damages or a minimum of $1,000.
Beginning in late May, large-scale demonstrations against racial injustice and other causes erupted in cities nationwide in the wake of the death of George Floyd and other Black men and women.
Protests in Seattle have drawn national attention and become a political football reflecting the nation’s deep ideological chasm. Some demonstrations here have been marred by episodic vandalism, looting and property destruction, as well as heavy-handed police responses that have spurred multiple misconduct complaints, legal claims and lawsuits.
Seattle police largely abandoned the East Precinct on Capitol Hill in June while protesters occupied and declared a six-block autonomous zone. At least four shootings occurred before police reoccupied the precinct and the city disbanded the zone. Amid the protests, the City Council also adopted budget cuts to the police department and Chief Carmen Best suddenly retired.
Team Blue — Washington recently filed paperwork as an initiative campaign committee with the state’s Public Disclosure Commission, records show.
Joining the cause with Solan and Lufkin, whose Portland law firm, the Public Safety Labor Group, specializes in representing law enforcement labor unions, are WACOPS President Chris Tracy and King County Corrections Guild President Dennis Folk. Both are vice chairs of the group.
As of Oct. 19, the committee had reported contributions totaling $100, records show.
Lufkin said the group plans to collect and submit to the state the more than 250,000 signatures required by July to put the measure on the general election ballot next year. The group believes that task is attainable, he said, noting unions backing the effort collectively have more than 6,000 members. He also cited results from two recent polls suggesting public support for the cause.
A poll taken Sept. 8-14 by Seattle-based political consultants Strategies 360 found 50% of respondents view the recent demonstrations in downtown Seattle as “more violent than peaceful,” with 39% seeing them as more peaceful. A Crosscut-Elway poll taken Sept. 26-Oct. 1 also found that 87% of respondents who lived in Seattle or King County wanted at least the same amount, or more, of police presence in their neighborhoods.
Despite such viewpoints, a recent study by the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project found that nationwide, more than 93% of all demonstrations connected to the Black Lives Matter movement have been peaceful. In many urban areas with sustained unrest, such as Seattle and Portland, violent or destructive demonstrations largely have been confined to specific blocks rather than dispersed throughout cities, the study also found.
Restoration work aims to improve salmon habitat in lower Columbia
The final piece of a three-part effort to improve salmon passage and habitat in the lower Columbia River is underway at Washington state’s Hungry Harbor not far from Astoria.
The project, led by the Columbia River Estuary Study Taskforce, will remove a failing culvert and reopen the habitat beyond to tidal influence and — importantly — salmon.
The project involves partnerships and cooperation between local, state and federal groups and took several years to launch. Funding for the estimated $1.4 million project is secured, but the work begins at a time when there is some uncertainty for how such projects will be funded in the future as the coronavirus pandemic continues.
The Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board, funded in part by Oregon Lottery dollars, saw a significant hit to video lottery revenue after bars and restaurants closed or were forced to change operations due to the pandemic. The board is a major resource for grants for habitat restoration work of all kinds. In June, the board approved a $2.1 million grant to the North Coast Land Conservancy for the Rainforest Reserve project.
But with an anticipated decline in lottery revenue because of the coronavirus, the board proposed a 20% reduction for its 2021-2023 budget and has delayed acceptance of the next round of grant applications until the spring.
Some organizations could experience funding gaps as a result and the future of some work may be on shaky ground.
The dip in lottery money also impacts the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department which faces a $22 million budget deficit between now and next June. The deficit is tied in part to the decline in lottery funds, but also the revenue parks lost when they closed in early spring due to the pandemic. Many popular park sites on the coast did not reopen until June.
The department held off hiring some of the seasonal workers usually employed during the busy summer months and was forced to cut staff and programs. Some species monitoring and other work was left undone as remaining staff shouldered a wide range of duties when parks reopened.
All in all, Jason Smith, the habitat restoration project manager with the Columbia River Estuary Study Taskforce, is grateful the project at Hungry Harbor was already guaranteed.
“The outlook for projects in the next couple years is not looking good,” he said.
Money for the Hungry Harbor project came from a variety of sources, including state and federal grants. Donations and support also came from the upstream landowners and the timber company GreenWood Resources, which owns large acreages in Clatsop County.Shallow scoop
Washington’s Hungry Harbor, a shallow scoop along State Route 401, is best known now as the final resting place of the former U.S. Navy ship the USS Plainview, which rests — in plain view — on the mudflats.
In combination with other sites, including Fort Columbia and the Megler Creek area where the task force completed similar culvert replacement and habitat enhancement work, the Hungry Harbor area is an important spot for young ocean-bound salmon as well as a returning adults.
Research by state and federal agencies has shown that, on their journey down the Columbia River to the ocean, juvenile salmon cross the river when they reach Tongue Point in Astoria and head toward the Washington shoreline.
“Where they are greeted with around 8 miles of continuous highway,” Smith said.
Drivers can see hints of the habitat salmon would prefer to access on the north side of the Washington state highway: streams that cut down through the forested hillsides. But on the river side of the highway, there are narrow culverts, rock armoring placed by the road department years ago.
The estuary is an important place for salmon of all ages, providing forage and shelter. But this portion of the river is also where young salmon undergo key physical changes that prepare them for the years they will spend at sea. Their ability to access good habitat here can have a direct impact on their ability to survive in the much rougher environment of the Pacific Ocean, Smith said.
Work began on the roadway above the harbor on Oct. 19. Travelers will encounter lane closures in the area through mid-December as crews remove a failed culvert and replace it with a box culvert.
The old culvert at Hungry Harbor — crumpled, silted in and undersized for fish passage — created a barrier to fish and disrupted the natural flow of the tides to the habitat on the other side of the highway, affecting the distribution of sediment, nutrients and natural debris.
The much larger and wider box culvert will allow the unnamed creek that flows through the area to reestablish along historic lines. Though complicated to organize and design, this type of project is the cheapest and most effective option to reopen the habitat to salmon, Smith said.‘Muddy mess’
The task force completed similar restoration work near Fort Columbia State Park farther to the west in 2010 and at Megler Creek near the Dismal Nitch rest area in 2017, both on the same highway. At Fort Columbia, allowing natural systems to reassert themselves helped alleviate some flooding issues nearby residents had experienced for years.
The change on the land was dramatic. Pushed and pulled with the tides, a stream at Fort Columbia twisted and twined.
Crews will help some of these changes along at Hungry Harbor and plant native species that thrive in a mixed salt and freshwater environment. The site will look like a “muddy mess” for a bit, Smith said, but the simple reintroduction of tides and full stream flow will begin to have an impact almost immediately, reshaping the environment.
At the other restoration sites, salmon returned quickly — the icing on the cake for people who monitored the areas afterward. Also, Smith noted, an unimpeded creek and a more natural system will benefit other creatures in the estuary, both on the land and in the water.