Catalan regional chief faces loss of parliamentary seat
MADRID — The Catalan regional parliament was preparing Monday to strip the president of the prosperous but troubled northeastern region of his lawmaker’s seat because he disobeyed Spain’s strict rules on election propaganda.
The expected move is likely to fuel anger among die-hard pro-independence supporters, who see in the decision by the governing body of Catalonia’s parliament yet another grievance with Spanish judicial decisions.
Parliament officials announced the decision to strip Quim Torra of his seat earlier Monday, but it has to be formally confirmed by the house.
Torra, a fervent separatist, will be allowed to remain as the head of Catalonia’s regional government. He has threatened to call a new regional election.
Spain’s electoral board ruled that Torra should be stripped of his lawmaker’s seat after a Catalan court barred him last month from public office for 18 months for disobedience.
Torra was found guilty of refusing to remove from public buildings yellow ribbons used by separatists to call for freeing several imprisoned politicians and activists. The secessionist symbols had been displayed during Spain’s general election in April, which violated the country’s strict rules on campaigning.
Torra has appealed, but Spain’s Supreme Court last week ruled that the electoral board’s decision should be enforced immediately while judges make a decision.
Separatist supporters were expected to protest later Monday in front of the Catalan regional parliament.
The secessionist movement in the Catalonia region of 7.5 million is Spain’s gravest political challenge in decades. Polls show residents in Catalonia are roughly evenly divided over the question of independence from Spain.
Spain’s constitution rules that the country is indivisible.
Coast Guard board to investigate deadly crab boat sinking
SEATTLE — The Coast Guard has formed a Marine Board of Investigation to determine the causes of the sinking of the Scandies Rose, a Seattle-managed crab boat that went down with five of its seven crew members on Dec. 31 in the Gulf of Alaska.
The board will look into the sinking of the boat, which had left the port of Kodiak, Alaska, and was headed out to the Bering Sea to begin winter harvests of cod and crab, The Seattle Times reported. The board will try to determine the factors involved and come up with recommendations on how to prevent them. The recommendations will be submitted to the Coast Guard commandant.
It’s not clear where and when a hearing will be scheduled, according to Chief Petty Officer Matthew Schofield, a public affairs officer with the 17th Coast Guard District in Juneau.
Schofield declined to release the names of the board members, saying that they were being withheld “in the best interest of the investigation.”
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) also is investigating.
The boat faced high seas, icing and strong winds as their 130-foot (39-meter) boat with a full load of pot gear on deck took on water around 10 p.m. on Dec. 31.
Survivor John Lawler said the boat listed hard to the starboard side and although no emergency alarms sounded, he was convinced the boat was in grave danger.
The crew assembled in the wheelhouse as a Mayday call was made by captain Gary Cobban Jr.
Only Lawler and Dean Gribble Jr. were able to make it into a life raft, and were rescued by a Coast Guard helicopter about four hours later.
Police identify victim in Portland fatal crash, arrest driver
Police identified the victim in a fatal two car-crash that closed Sandy Boulevard in Park Rose Saturday morning as Salvador Cruz Garcia, 52, of Portland.
The driver of the vehicle that hit Garcia’s car, Tyrell P. Dixon, 28, of Happy Valley, was arrested and charged with manslaughter in the second degree, driving under the influence, and reckless driving.
Investigators said Dixon was driving a 2003 Pontiac Bonneville westbound on Northeast Sandy Boulevard and ran a red light at Northeast 105th Avenue. His vehicle hit a 2003 Mazda Miata, driven by Garcia, which was moving northbound through the intersection. Garcia was pronounced dead at the scene. Dixon and a passenger in his vehicle were treated for minor injuries.
Police arrest suspect in pharmacy holdup, link him to five other gunpoint robberies
Portland police identified the suspect arrested in an armed robbery of a pharmacy on Northeast Grand Avenue on Wednesday and have linked him to five other gunpoint robberies in January.
Deondre L. Rosemon, 46, was booked into the Multnomah County Detention Center on suspicion of robbery in the second degree.
Officers arrested him after a foot chase and search by a K-9 team. Police said he had two realistic looking replica guns.
Since then, detectives have linked him to five other Portland holdups in January at a hardware store, two video stores, a cell phone store and a convenience store, according to the Portland Police Bureau. Additional charges are expected related to those cases.
Washington’s health experts aren’t panicking yet about the Wuhan coronavirus
A new virus has health experts puzzled over precisely how it got started and how easily it’s spread. It has infected more than 1,200 people and killed 41 since being discovered last month in Wuhan, China. And it recently showed up in Snohomish County, the first of two cases in the United States.
So, the public’s concern about it is understandable. But it’s not what keeps public-health experts up at night.
They worry more about antibiotic-resistant bugs, say, or nonseasonal flu pandemics like the one that swept the globe in 1918. “That could happen anytime,” said Dr. Janet Baseman, an epidemiologist and the associate dean of the University of Washington’s School of Public Health.
Even the usual influenza that circulates each year has killed between 12,000 and 61,000 people in the United States annually since 2010, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
But because it’s new and somewhat mysterious — and now that it’s crossed the Pacific Ocean — the Wuhan coronavirus has prompted growing concerns.
When The Seattle Times asked readers this week what questions they had about it, one person in Marysville wondered whether it’s even safe to go out and celebrate the Lunar New Year this weekend around Washington state.
The short answer is yes. Party on.
“Don’t panic unless you’re paid to panic,” Brandon Brown, an epidemiologist at UC Riverside who has studied many deadly outbreaks, told the Los Angeles Times. “Public-health workers should be on the lookout. The government should be ready to provide resources. Transmitting timely facts to the public is key. But for everyone else: Breathe.”
(In Sammamish, the Lunar New Year Festival scheduled for Saturday, was canceled after parents and performers pulled out).
The Snohomish County man who has the United States’ first known case of the virus returned to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport on Jan. 15 after traveling solo in Wuhan since November. A few days later, he started showing symptoms of pneumonia and contacted his doctor. He’s been monitored in an isolation unit at Providence Regional Medical Center in Everett since then, and the hospital says he’s in satisfactory condition.
The state Department of Health isn’t disclosing where the man went between landing at Sea-Tac and being hospitalized. Instead, state and local public-health officials have individually contacted 50 people believed to have been in close contact with the man during that time, reaching out daily to ask if they are experiencing any symptoms such as a fever or respiratory issues.
Coronaviruses usually aren’t contagious until a person starts showing symptoms, Dr. Satish Pillai, a medical officer with the CDC, said at a news conference this week.
It isn’t clear how the man, who is in his 30s and lives alone, contracted the coronavirus while in China. He told public-health officials he didn’t visit an animal market in Wuhan where the virus is suspected to have mutated and spread from animals to humans — a common trait of coronaviruses, and one that epidemiologists are paying attention to.
“As our environments and the environments of animals overlap more and more, it is a huge concern, because it is really hard to predict where those spillovers from animals to humans will happen,” Baseman said.
In the past week, the CDC started funneling travelers from Wuhan to the U.S. through five airports equipped to screen them: New York City’s Kennedy airport, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Atlanta and Chicago’s O’Hare airport. Now, no one can leave Wuhan, as Chinese officials enforce unprecedented travel restrictions in and around the city to quarantine about 36 million people.
In the U.S., public-health officials are urging people to wash their hands and cover their coughs and sneezes — the usual precautions taken during flu season, which is in full swing right now and hitting Washington state hard.
Like the flu, the Wuhan coronavirus seems to have a greater impact on older adults and people with underlying health conditions. Most of those who’ve died were older than 60.
But the U.S. health-care system has a lot more experience combating the flu, said Dr. Kathy Lofy, the state’s health-care officer and the chief science officer. “We just don’t know much about this particular virus to date,” she said.
One of the reasons local public-health officials aren’t hitting the panic button yet is that the Snohomish County patient was so diligent about seeing a doctor as soon as he felt symptoms, partly because he’d been following the news of the outbreak.
The risk here is also lower because the virus originated on another continent, Baseman said.
“When you have one imported case, the outbreak potential is a lot different than a place where it starts, where there could be hundreds of people getting sick,” she said.
The World Health Organization on Thursday opted not to declare the outbreak a global health emergency yet, with a divided committee ultimately declaring it was “too early” to make such a declaration.
In the U.S. as of Friday, 63 patients in 22 states are under investigation for the Wuhan coronavirus, and 11 of those have tested negative, according to the CDC. The United States’ only other confirmed case is a woman in Chicago in her 60s, the CDC announced Friday.
Washingtonians with questions can call the Snohomish County Health District between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. daily at 425-388-5088, or call the state health department at 800-525-0127 and press the pound key.
“In my opinion, the state is really well prepared,” said Dr. Linda Venczel, an epidemiologist and director of global health security at Seattle-based health nonprofit PATH. “I feel confident for this situation and anything new that might occur.”
Information from The Los Angeles Times is included in this report.
Arizona, California cases push U.S. tally of new virus to 5
LOS ANGELES — The U.S. has five confirmed cases of the new virus from China, all among people who traveled to the city at the center of the outbreak, health officials said Sunday.
Two new cases were reported Sunday — one in Los Angeles County in California and the other in Maricopa County, Arizona. The latter case was someone with ties to Arizona State University who did not live in school housing and had a history of travel to Wuhan, China, state health officials said.
Officials with the Arizona Department of Health Services said the Maricopa County patient wasn’t severely ill and was in isolation at home to keep the illness from spreading. The department said it would not release potentially identifying information on the person, including the gender and age, and declined to say whether the person was a student or faculty member.
The LA patient alerted authorities that he wasn’t feeling well upon arriving at Los Angeles International Airport. The patient was taken by ambulance to a hospital, health officials said at a Sunday news conference.
“Everything worked as it should,” said Dr. Sharon Balter with the LA County Department of Public Health. “The patient presented for care, the patient was immediately transported to a hospital, the patient has remained in the hospital.”
Officials did not provide details about the patient, except to say that the individual was a traveler from Wuhan, China.
The three previously reported cases were a patient in Orange County, California; a man in his 30s in Washington state; and a woman in her 60s from Chicago.
The virus can cause fever, coughing, wheezing and pneumonia. It is a member of the coronavirus family that’s a close cousin to the deadly SARS and MERS viruses that have caused outbreaks in the past.
Dozens of people have died from the virus in China, which has issued massive travel bans in hard-hit sections of that country to try to stem spread of the virus. The U.S. consulate in Wuhan announced Sunday that it would evacuate its personnel and some private citizens aboard a charter flight.
The U.S. patients generally have been reported to be in good condition and were hospitalized in isolation for monitoring.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention expects many more Americans to be diagnosed with the newly discovered virus, which is believed to have an incubation period of about two weeks, as worldwide the number of confirmed cases nears 2,000. The CDC is screening passengers on direct and connecting flights from Wuhan at five major airports in Atlanta, Chicago, New York City, San Francisco and Los Angeles.
CDC officials noted Sunday that more than two dozen people who had been suspected of having the illness ended up testing negative.
Guidance from the CDC advises that people who have had casual contact with the patient are at “minimal risk” for developing infection.
Teen on acid bites deputy in Otis, police say
OTIS, Ore. — A 16-year-old male on hallucinogenic drugs bit a Lincoln County deputy as she attempted to subdue him at a residence in Otis, the county sheriff’s office said.
The deputy was dispatched shortly before midnight Saturday after a caller reported that the juvenile was under the influence of “acid” or another hallucinogen and had assaulted another person at the residence. When the deputy arrived and attempted to speak with him, the male retreated to the kitchen, began beating kitchen utensils together and repeatedly attempted to kick her, officials said.
In the struggle that followed, the deputy and the juvenile fell to the ground and he bit the deputy on the upper left arm, authorities said. The deputy then used her Taser to subdue him.
Both the deputy and the male were treated for minor injuries at the hospital and the juvenile was charged with assaulting a public safety officer and harassment. He was released at the hospital.
Republicans look for reasons to avoid calling witnesses.
One example of ammunition: a news conference from two decades ago by a current Democratic House manager.
Republicans running for re-election feel the pressure in Washington and at home.
A new ad targets five Republican senators facing tough re-election battles.
Democrats want to hear from Bolton, but they also want his notes.
Representative Adam Schiff, the lead House manager, said the notes “in many respects are more important than the manuscript.”