Pierce Pioneer

UK COVID Strand Found at University of Washington

Between Dec. 25 and Jan. 20, 1,035 DNA samples were collected and tested at the University of Washington’s virology lab, two of which tested positive for the B.1.1.7 strain previously identified in the UK in September. 

Chris Spitters, a health officer for the Snohomish Health District says the district had already instituted standard case investigation, isolation, and contact tracing prior to learning about these cases; he adds that containment protocols will not be handled any differently than with standard COVID-19 cases.

In regards to vaccinations, UW medicine states that the current Pfitzer and Moderna vaccines will still be effective against new variants, but encourage taking extra precautions until then such as double masking, maintaining social distancing, and keeping your hands clean. “This new variant is 30%-50% more contagious than the original strain, so wearing masks and physical distancing is even more important,” UW stated.

The University of Washington encourages people to take extra care in following the CDC guidelines while awaiting their vaccinations. “[The] B.1.1.7 variant spreads the same way other coronaviruses spread; it’s just better at it,” UW stated. “Strictly following prevention measures is the best way to slow the spread of all variants of the virus that causes COVID-19.”

Recommended steps to take in order to prevent contracting or spreading the B.1.1.7 variant are maintaining a social distance of up to 6-feet with people not in your household, avoiding crowds or poorly ventilated areas, washing your hands, staying home or away from others if you or someone around you is showing signs of COVID-19, getting vaccinated when you are eligible, and/or wearing a properly fitting mask with multiple layers if available.

The University of Washington states that wearing a facial covering with at least two-layers can block up to 80% of exhaled respiratory particles as well as inhaled and adding a double facemask can provide additional filtration.

The B.1.1.7 variant may sound scary and new for the residents of Snohomish and King county, but by taking the necessary prevention steps and staying vigilant with our health as well as our community’s can make the situation easier to contain and manage.

In our want to social distance, has ordering delivery actually brought financial strain to restaurant businesses?

Since the Coronavirus pandemic began, third-party delivery apps such as Doordash, Grubhub, and Ubereats have seen double the amounts of customers and partnered businesses. Despite the large following these delivery apps have gathered, nobody seems to be on the winning side when it comes to ordering from them. To Irene Jiang of the Business Insider, restaurant owners may be losing money. 

“Diners are seeing their costs raised, either by delivery companies that need to pay delivery drivers or by the restaurant owners who raise prices to offset delivery fees,” Jiang stated. “And delivery drivers still make low, unpredictable wages frequently with no benefits.” 

Delivery services were popular pre-pandemic, but with the loss of dine-in options for many restaurants, delivery has become a way to substitute a loss of business and to help keep restaurants afloat. However, Jiang states that these local businesses are losing a large chunk of their money to pay for these delivery partnerships, approximately 30% in commissions. 

To offset these rates while supporting the community, look for restaurants that offer curbside pickup instead. Curbside pickup gives the restaurant all of the money directly and allows users and the restaurant staff to stay healthy and safe by social-distancing.

For those preferring delivery to takeout, Kerry Breen of Today would encourage checking to see if the restaurant delivers directly. “Third-party sites can charge restaurants a significant amount, meaning that only a small amount of what you’re spending goes to the restaurant you’re trying to support,” Breen stated. 

Delivery drivers are another piece of the food delivery puzzle, with drivers working on low salaries with little to no benefits during the COVID pandemic. Kimiko de Freytas-Tamura of the New York Times revealed that while drivers working for food delivery apps can earn as much as $22 per hour, including tips, many drivers say they’ve never earned anywhere close to that much.

Since many delivery drivers are relying on these apps for full time income while their places of employment are closed, it’s important to tip drivers as much as possible when placing an order. An even better way to help out your delivery drivers is to tip in cash, especially with apps like Doordash that use gratuities to provide their workers’ minimum wages. 

The blog  Maid Sailors backs this up by saying when tipping a Dasher in cash, DoorDash has no record of it. “Instead, they see that the driver has not made the minimum guaranteed amount for the order, so they kick in the amount required to meet that minimum,” Maid Sailors stated. 

“On top of that, the driver receives the cash tip that you provided. This increases the driver’s total pay for the delivery without costing you an extra penny. In addition, paying cash makes the Dasher a happier person as they can readily use the money and not have to wait until payday.”

By following some of the examples above – ordering from local deliveries, doing curbside pickup, and paying attention to the pay models of different delivery apps – customers can help our local businesses and delivery workers while not doubling the cost of a single meal.

Social-distancing safe activities to participate in for 2021

The new year is here but the pandemic still remains. So before we all start making resolutions to travel more or visit with friends and family this year, let’s continue practicing some good social distancing habits such as keeping our gatherings virtual. Of course, this is all easier said than done; so if you’re struggling to keep your quarantine campaigns interesting, look no further. The following list has everything covered from movie nights to meal prepping.


 

Throw a Netflix Party

 

Ciara williams

There’s no doubt you’ve probably been staring at a screen for a majority of the pandemic, but with the Netflix Party chrome extension, you can enjoy all your favorite shows and movies with the added commentary of your friends and family. The History of Swear Words is one fine example of a new Netflix original, and with its host being Nicholas Cage and featuring several iconic guest stars such as Nick Offerman and Sarah Silverman, it makes for the perfect show to help you stay inside and destress.

Those looking to download the extension can do so here.

Have a game night

 

 

In the digital age of the 21st century, many games are being enjoyed on both console and computer, and the great thing about this is that there’s something for everybody to enjoy! If you’re looking to stick to the classics, board games like Uno, Monopoly, and Life all have their own digital counterparts that can be played at home with others or far apart on multiplayer. 

For the ones who enjoy a little more competition, the Nintendo Switch has games like Smash Bros and Mario Kart, the former of which having frequent updates and several ways to spice up your challenges to keep things interesting. PC users have a variety of co-op games ranging from thrilling ghost hunting simulators such as Phasmophobia to the stress-relieving farm simulators like Stardew Valley.

Host a virtual book club

 

If you’re looking for a way to stay entertained without looking at a screen then now might be the perfect time to get back into reading. With genres ranging from thrillers to romances, it’s easy to get immersed in a different time and place while stuck at home. By using a book club you can bond with your friends over your favorite characters and make predictions on future chapters. For fans of the mystery/thriller genre, Taylor Adams’s novel “No Exit” is an excellent story that I picked up over quarantine.

Try out some new recipes

 

Whether you’re flying solo in the kitchen or having a cooking contest with friends via Zoom, cooking is an activity that can be both fun and rewarding. If you cook regularly you might like trying your hand at something you haven’t made yet; the cooking website Tastesofhome happens to have a whole list for the occasion. You don’t have to excel at cooking to make delicious food either; plenty of restaurants have started selling meal kits since the pandemic began so you can make your favorite dine-out meals at home with only some assembly required!

Experience nature at a local wildlife refuge

 

If you’re running out of ideas while indoors and you’re tired of taking walks around your neighborhood you may be interested in knowing that several of Washington’s wildlife refuges such as The Northwest Trek Wildlife Park and The Nisqually Wildlife Refuge have updated their health guidelines to continue allowing visitors into their parks during the pandemic. Of course, this means you’ll have to bring a mask and stay six-feet apart from anyone not in your group, but you’ll get to stretch your legs and take in some of Washington’s beautiful flora and fauna.


Until all our favorite shops and restaurants can open their doors again and we can walk side by side with our friends, let’s put the technology of Zoom meetings, Skype calls, and Discord chats to use so that no matter where we are we can still be together with those we love.

Hanukkah Dishes for the Holidays

A list of dishes and recipes for those looking to diversify their tables for this year’s holidays.

The holidays are a lovely time of year for everyone, as well for me; Hanukkah is an especially great time of year because it means some of the tastiest dishes of our culture get to be indulged in for eight days. Here is a list of all my personal favorite foods to eat during Hanukkah and what makes them so special!

 

Brisket

 


What it is: Braised beef.
What it means: Chances are you’ve already heard of brisket, it’s a popular meat all over the world. My grandma used to serve brisket at all of our holidays, Hanukkah, Passover, etc. The braising of the meat makes it tender and juicy and very flavorful, making it a year-round favorite for the community.

Gelt

 


What it is: Milk chocolate circles wrapped in colored foil that resemble Jewish coins.
What it means: Gelt is something akin to an edible poker chip for anyone playing a game of dreidel. Everyone starts out with about 10 pieces of gelt and then takes turns spinning the dreidel, depending on which of the four sides it lands on you’ll either take all the gelt in the pile, take half of the gelt in the pile, lose all your gelt, or do nothing and move on to the next person. Aside from being a game currency, gelt is also gifted to children during the holidays.

Gelt can be bought from a multitude of places in Pierce County, including the Cost Plus World Market in Tacoma and Party City in Lakewood. Gelt can also be ordered on Amazon.

 

Knishes

 

What it is: Fried dough stuffed with either meat or potatoes.
What it means: Unlike the other items on this list, knishes are a more unorthodox choice for Hanukkah, but since they’re usually fried I like to eat them around this time of year. In theory, stuffing a pastry full of mashed potatoes or ground beef may sound strange, but really knishes are just the Jewish version of an empanada or a samosa.

 

 

Latkes


What it is: Fried potato pancakes, usually topped with applesauce and sour cream.
What it means: Next to matzo, latkes are somewhat of a staple dish in the Jewish community; they’re easy to make and a lot of regular grocery stores carry the ingredients or even have latke mix to make them. On Hanukkah latkes are one of the stars of the show since they are fried in oil, but they also make for a delicious breakfast with some cold applesauce and sour cream to complement this hot dish.

Sufganiyot


What it is: Powdered jelly donuts.
What it means: Sufganiyot, pronounced soof-gah-nee-ah or soof-gah-nee-oht, are little fried balls of dough filled with jelly or sometimes custard and they are almost exclusive to Hanukkah. Like regular doughnuts, sufganiyot can be made differently and depending on where you go, they can range from pretty basic to very extravagant; but, in my opinion, you can’t go wrong with the classics.



Moving here was a bit of a culture shock for me, I didn’t realize how used I was to being surrounded by stores and delis that had everything my family needed until I was over a thousand miles away from it. 

Even though the Jewish community here is small, it still exists and with several places in Seattle like Dingfelders and Zyldberschteins that have some classic Jewish soul-food. So whether you’re a fellow Jew looking to reach out to another member of the community or you’re just looking to expand your culinary horizons, don’t be afraid to spice up the holiday season with a few new dishes this year!

Understanding the Murder Hornets and the potential threat posed to the Northwest environment

On Oct. 22, the forests of Blaine, Wash., became a hub for local entomologists, scientists whose area of study involves insects, as the trees around them buzzed with a new, unprecedented life that came in the form of a hornet’s nest.

Washington is no stranger to invasive species — from the Himalayan Blackberry, a behemoth of a rose bush that uses its strong thickets to trample over native flora; to the Gypsy Moth, an insect whose lack of predators allows it to breed rapidly and consume trees and plants just as fast. And as of December 2019, Washington now homes the Asian-Giant Hornet, aptly nicknamed the “Murder Hornet.”

This invasive insect originates from Japan and its surrounding countries in East Asia. Much like their other relatives in the Vespidae family, they’re somewhat easy to spot. With their large frame being over 2 inches long and brightly colored orange and black bodies with long stingers; these ones, however, deliver a potent venom to anyone on the receiving end. 

Justin Schmidt, an entomologist at the Southwestern Biological Institute and University of Arizona, states that an Asian-Giant Hornet’s sting is equivalent to three to 10 yellow jacket stings at once. However, Schmidt adds that despite the intensity of their sting, Japan’s death toll reveals that these hornets are responsible for less than 50 deaths a year, including those with allergies.

Murder Hornets earn their title because their main targets are the honeybees. These hornets form organized, raiding parties and with just a few small fleets are able to wipe out an entire hive. 

Naturally, this causes problems for the ecosystem as humans depend on bees for pollination, something that researcher James Crall emphasizes in an interview with The Harvard Gazette. Bees are incredibly important for human well-being, including both managed honeybees and wild bees,” Crall said. 

“Put simply: About one in three bites of food comes from crops that depend on animals for pollination, and bees are the most important group of pollinators. Losing pollinators means less healthy food and worse health outcomes for humans. Of course, beyond their role in food production, bees are incredibly important for preserving biodiversity, more generally.”

Nina Pullano, a writer for Inverse, goes on to state what makes these hornets dangerous. “Their greatest threat to humans is not their sting. Instead, it’s their proclivity for killing other insects — insects that we very much need to keep alive because of their effects on the ecosystem and agriculture.”

Bees are valuable pollinators and by extinguishing them humans and animals lose food sources, emptying out a very important niche within the ecosystem. The deaths of the bees also has an effect on their other native predators who are now cut short on their food source, making these hornets a much bigger threat to the wildlife rather than to humans and domesticated animals. 

The threat level truly depends on whether or not the hornets continue to reproduce and survive in their new environments. “It will have a massive impact on the bees, who have been facing a rapid decline in the last 10 years, as well as human agriculture which largely depends on pollinator biodiversity.” Pullano stated.

The WSDA is encouraging people to report any sightings of the giant hornets to them and to refrain from taking any direct action of their own, as even typical beekeeping gear is not enough to protect you from their stingers. You can also help the ecosystem not just by looking for the hornets, but by looking out for other insects as well.

According to Eric Lee-Mäder, a co-director of the pollinator program at the Xerxes Society, peoples’ fear of the hornets is affecting other insects in the area. “Fear of these insects seems to be driving people to kill bees and wasps that aren’t Vespa mandarinia,” Lee-Mäder stated.

Invasive species can be a threat to any environment, especially when their targets are such pivotal members of the ecosystem and agriculture. Exterminating the hornets is a careful and time-consuming process and the best way Washingtonians can support our state’s ecosystem and the scientists protecting it is to remain calm, report any possible sightings to the proper people, and to avoid doing any further harm by killing unrelated wasps and bees.

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