Pierce Pioneer

Gov. Inslee extends state COVID restrictions to Jan. 4

On Thursday, Gov. Jay Inslee announced that current state restrictions have been extended to Jan. 4, past its original end-date of Dec. 14. Inslee has since partnered with Lisa Brown, the department of commerce director, to announ+ce an additional $50 million care package plan for small businesses in Wash.
As reported on the gov.’s official site, this three-week extension follows healthcare systems nearing high occupancy levels coming from the aftermath of Thanksgiving. With the number of potential cases not yet known, the extension allows medical systems time to increase ICU capacity before it risks being overwhelmed.
Secretary of Health John Wiesman, as cited by the Medium, goes on to state what officials aim to gain from this extension. “We all hoped a fall surge would not materialize. Sadly, that was not the case and our hospital systems continue to be heavily impacted by rising cases,” Wiesman said.
“It’s important we stay the course right now. We cannot let our guard down, even though it’s hard and we’re tired. We need people to mask up, stay home as much as possible and delay gatherings with anyone outside your home.”
Since restrictions first began, Wash. has provided billions in federal and state funds to assist small businesses and workers affected by the pandemic, according to the Medium. However, this $50 million will be strictly for businesses usage, as it comes from the Working Washington grants. Businesses meant to benefit from this care package include restaurants, gyms, venues and fitness centers.
“The needs among our small businesses are profound, and speed is of the essence,” Brown said. “This additional funding allows us to double the number of small businesses we can provide aid to, but we know it’s not enough. As we battle the toughest months of this pandemic, we need Congress to step up so we can support our businesses and workers as we continue asking them to do these hard things.”
Currently, Wash. roughly totals in 195,000 confirmed cases, with nearly 20,000 of those cases stemming from Pierce County alone, as reported by Google statistics. Despite this, Wash. ranks 15th in lowest number of cases in the United States, based on weekly case reports provided by the CDC’s official site.
Alongside this information, the Washington State Department of Health announced that since the release of WA-Notify, more than a million users have joined within 24 hours of its availability. Whether or not an app meant to help users stay on top of potential COVID exposures will help the curve in the long-run, remains to be seen.
Regular updates on COVID restrictions in Wash. are provided in full on Inslee’s official site. Quick updates on this story will continue to be uploaded here in the meantime.

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.

WA Notify – A New COVID Exposure Tool

On. Nov. 30, Gov. Jay Inslee and the Washington State Department of Health launched the app WA Notify. The Washington Exposure Notifications will alert smartphone users of nearby residences exposed to COVID-19, without releasing personal information.

“Secure, private and anonymous exposure notification technology is an important tool for Washington,” Inslee said. “We’ve deployed WA Notify in 29 languages so as many Washington residents as possible can protect themselves, their loved ones and their communities. I encourage everyone to start using WA Notify today so we can continue to work together to contain this virus.”

As posted on DOH’s official site, WA Notify, if activated, will exchange anonymous codes with nearby phones who have also enabled the app. Patients who’ve recently tested positive for COVID will be asked by public health officials if they wish to use the app. If so, their code will anonymously alert those who’ve spent a significant amount of time with said patient regarding their potential exposure.

“If WA Notify detects you may have been exposed, a notification on your phone will direct you to a website with information about what you should do next,” DOH stated. “This includes how and where to get tested, information about keeping yourself and those close to you safe, and resources to answer your questions.”

For users concerned with privacy, DOH informed that the only piece of information being shared from users’ smartphones is the randomly generated codes they’ve entered. “We will not voluntarily collect or share any of your information with anyone, unless you choose to enter a verification code,” DOH stated. 

“If you do so, WA Notify will share your random codes with other smartphones that have been near your smartphone. The verification code cannot be linked back to you by someone who does not have access to your smartphone.”

DOH added that WA Notify is free and voluntary, meaning users have the choice of opting in. “You can opt-out at any time,” DOH stated. “Simply turn the feature off or delete the app. All random codes the phone has stored from other nearby users will be deleted and cannot be recovered.”

WA Notify can be found and installed through users’ Apple or Google app stores; this app will not self-download onto users’ phones. The app only works, however, on iPhones containing iOS versions 13.7 or later, along with 13.5: 11, 11 Pro, 11 Pro Max, Xr, Xs, Xs Max, X, SE second generation, and 8, 8 Plus, 7, 7 Plus, 6s, 6s Plus, SE first generations. Android users whose phones supports Bluetooth Low Energy or versions six and above can also download the app.

“Studies have found that the more people who use exposure notification, the greater the benefit,” DOH stated. “Models based on three counties in Washington state show that even a small number of people there using WA Notify would reduce infections and deaths. Just like wearing masks, physical distancing and keeping gatherings small, WA Notify is another tool to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.”

Affirmative Action Rejected

R. Wilfing / Courtesy Photo / Pixabay

Affirmative Action to be denied in Washington State’s November 2019 Elections, reinstating Initiative 200.

During the Washington State elections on November 5, citizens voted against Referendum 88 and the restoration of Affirmative Action – a policy favoring individuals belonging to previously discriminated groups within America. This practice would have allowed for colleges, universities, and businesses to increase opportunities for minority groups by giving them further support.

Previously in April 2019, Washington State legislatures passed Initiative 1000, repealing the ban on Affirmative Action which had been placed 20 years ago. This ban was originally passed by Washington voters in 1998 via I-200; however, recent elections have since reinstated this ban by the people. With its rejection, this leaves the state facing a number of concerns from both sides of the vote.

For Washington State government officials such as April Sims, co-chair of Washington Fairness, Affirmative Action being rejected is disheartening. As reported by NBC News, Sims states how Affirmative Action would have been a great way to level the playing fields for everyone in Washington State. Jay Inslee, the Governor of Washington State, also saw Referendum 88 as a way to address what he referred to as systemic inequalities.

Despite this, not everyone in Washington saw Affirmative Action as a solution to inequality. Shortly after the passing of I-1000, a petition was led by Washington Asians for Equality. This petition was created as an attempt to keep Affirmative Action banned in Washington State by giving the vote back to the people.

“I-1000 can be summed up in one sentence: It would abolish the standard of equality for all, regardless of race, as required by I-200, and replace it with a system that uses different rules for people of different races,” states the petition. As such, petitioners felt that this vote should be in the hands of the people.

Those sharing this sentiment see Affirmative Action and Referendum 88 as an attack on equality in Washington State. However, while some feel as though I-200 allows for true equality, certain statistics state otherwise.

According to the Stranger, many legislatures within Washington viewed I-200 as a step backwards for the state when it comes to providing underrepresented groups positions in business. With both women and minorities having less than 4% of the state’s contracting dollars post I-200, this has left Washington state below its established goals.

Javier Valdez, a Seattle representative, believes that I-1000 would have been a fix to I-200. “I-200 was sold 20 years ago as something that would be fair to everyone, and that’s clearly not the case,” he said.

While both sides hold claims still in search of a proper solution, it’s not difficult to see what demographics tend to dominate college campuses, Pierce College included. But whether or not something like Affirmative Action could help with this, or if this is even a problem that needs help, is a question for another time.

Potential Washington State shut down will not cause Pierce to shut down.

Many have heard of the Federal government shutting down due to lack of agreeing on the budget. This time it is our Washington State government that is pending a partial shut down if they do not reach an agreement by June 30th. This will be affecting up to 26,000 workers across the state. Even places like Joint Base Lewis McChord  and Emerald Downs will be affected.

Choi Halladay send out an email recently to the staff on campus.

“Dear Colleagues:

You may have seen news stories regarding the State Legislature still not having a new state budget for the 2015-2017 biennium. If no budget is passed and implemented prior to July 1, 2015, then many state agencies will have to shut down on July 1; those agencies that shut down will place all non-essential personnel on furlough (Temporary Layoff) and not pay them during the shutdown.

As the Chancellor has indicated before, Pierce College, along with all the other community colleges, will not be shutting down on July 1, no matter the result of the legislative process. We will be open for business as usual for all of Summer Quarter, and all employees will continue in their normal summer schedules, with normal pay, just like any other year.

I know that the legislature’s lack of resolution on a state budget can be worrisome. Hopefully they will come to a conclusion soon so we can continue our work serving the community into 2016 and beyond.

—Choi Halladay”

Good news. We get to go to school. Bad news. We don’t get a longer vacation.

This graph was obtained from Kiro 7 News and gives a brief overview of what could possibly be affected.
Kiro 7
This graph was obtained from Kiro 7 News and gives a brief overview of what could possibly be affected.
About the Contributor
Photo of Dominic Wilkerson
Dominic Wilkerson, Managing Editor

Dominic Wilkerson is the Managing Editor of The Pioneer. Please contact me at [email protected] or 253-964-6604. The Pioneer office is located in...

Affordable Care Act

Daniel Konicek Contributing Writer

Obamacare met with success in the state, thousands have signed up

On Jan. 1, the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, will come into effect with the purpose of ensuring that every American has health insurance. While implementation at the federal level has been troubled, Washington state has rolled out a working online health exchange, allowing thousands of people to sign up for new, more expansive health coverage.

For the uninitiated, Obamacare is a series of reforms and guidelines concerning health care coverage. The Affordable Care Act mandates that all citizens have health insurance coverage by encouraging businesses to provide health benefits and subsidizing those who have thus far been unable to afford care through an expansion of Medicaid. Afor most people, such as preventive services, maternity and newborn care, mental health and treatment of substance abuse disorders including behavioral health treatment, and pediatric services. Plans will not be allowed to have an annual or lifetime benefit limit as well as forbid price discrimination to those with pre-existing conditions.

In addition to these reforms, the Affordable Care Act has language allowing for states to create their own health care exchange, essentially a marketplace for people to shop for health plans, before defaulting to the federal one. While the federal exchange has not been consistently functional since launch, the state exchange is one of the most successful in the country, signing up over 9,000 thus far, many of them through expanded Medicaid services. Another 10,000 are reported to have submitted applications, but have yet to pay for benefits.

The deadline for having health coverage is March of next year, and citizens are encouraged to find a plan before then. Washington Apple Health, the expanded Medicaid services, will be available to people who have incomes below 138 percent of the federal poverty level. For single adults, this is about $15,864 a year, and for a family of four, this is about $32,500 a year. People that qualify may receive free or low-cost coverage through state Medicaid coverage.

For those still unsure of how the Affordable Care Act will affect them, the Washington State Board of Health has more information at www.coverageishere.wa.gov, and the health exchange can be found at www.wahealthplanfinder.gov.

Pierce’s views about the Mary Jane madness

Students of Pierce tell about their opinions on the recent legalization of marijuana in Washington

Katelyn Hummel
Staff Writer 

The legalization of marijuana has brought out vastly opposing views from the people of Washington and, more locally, the students at Pierce.

The passing of Initiative 502 legalized the production, possession, delivery and distribution of marijuana for recreational use in the state of Washington. Similar to the laws regarding alcohol, users must be over the age of 21 and can be penalized under similar DUI laws.  The possession of marijuana is legal up to one ounce (28.2 grams)

The vote to legalize marijuana won 55% to 45%, emphasizing a close split. Students at Pierce seemed just as divided as their opinions ranged from some students adamantly stating their belief that the world was running to heck, while others had nothing else to say but “F*** yes!” to the legalization.

Some views are that the taxation of weed will boost the economy, while others view the legalization as a potentially harmful situation for users and non-users in their close-proximity.

However, some students like Phil Becker swayed more in the middle, with ideas of pros and cons in their logic.

“Well I voted for [the legalization of marijuana] and still have mixed feelings on it,” said Becker, “but its kind of like prohibition in a sense. I don’t personally do it, but there are good causes for it and there’s bad causes for it, but if its another source of income for our local governments, then hopefully that money can be put to good use for things like schools.”

Although a majority voted for the passing of initiative 502, some feel that the voters were ill educated.

“I think there wasn’t enough education on the initiative itself, although I agree with it,” said student Ricky Luther. “I feel people just thought that it would mean that they could grow it in their back yard and smoke it any time they want without any penalties.”

Becker explained that the issue of marijuana is a “double-edged sword” no matter how it’s looked at because the Federal Government does not want the legalization of marijuana to ensue.

“Now we are going to have a state and local battle with it, so it’s going to take a while for it to actually come into effect and for the legalization to actually be finalized,” said Becker.

One hope that many had for the legalization of marijuana was that it would illuminate some of the crime and illegal trafficking of the drug. Although marijuana grow farms and food processors can be licensed by the Washington State Liquor Control Board for legal growth and distribution, many believe that the new law will not influence people to follow the law.

Many believe that, due to the tax, people who already smoked weed illegally for free or cheap will continue to do so to evade the tax. Dara Anderson, student, stated that she believed it would be about the same amount of illegal trafficking, if not more so.

“I think its going to make people buy and sell it illegally more now because people wont just say ‘Oh, I’ll just get my license and grow it legally and pay a tax for it,’” said Luther.

“If [the government] hasn’t regulated it up to this point,” said Becker, “they’re not going to really start. Now its just easier for [marijuana users] to grow it.”

Some are not really against it but they still fear repercussions similar to that of drunk driving. Theron Nelson, student, stated very adamantly that the smoking of marijuana should be under the same restrictions as alcohol. Luther agreed, saying that marijuana should be treated exactly like alcohol, “including the DUI portion.”

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