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WA Department of Health/Facebook screenshot

Washington health officials say the omicron Covid variant is now in the Evergreen State. This weekend state Health Secretary Umair Shah announced three cases have been identified in western Washington.

“At this point, the likelihood is that we are going to see more confirmations, but I think we also have to balance that with remembering our biggest concern right now is delta. Delta variant in our state. That right now is impacting people as we speak with severe disease and we want to make sure that we’re doing everything we can to protect against that most urgently," he said.

TVW screenshot

2021 has been a big year for Washington Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz. She convinced the legislature to allocate hundreds of millions of dollars over the next several years to pay for forest health and wildfire prevention projects. She says her agency is now laying the groundwork needed to do those.

Courtesy of Bonner County

Jury trials in five north Idaho counties are suspended through December 17 because of the region’s high coronavirus case rates and a “crisis standards of care” designation.

The order signed Friday by Administrative Court Judge Rich Christensen applies to five counties in Idaho’s First Judicial District: Benewah, Bonner, Boundary, Kootenai and Shoshone. The order confirms the suspension and requires people doing business at any of the courthouses in the district to wear a mask and maintain a separation of six feet from other people.

In a surprise order Friday morning, the Washington Supreme Court declined to take on the job of drafting new congressional and legislative maps. Instead, the court declared that the state's Redistricting Commission had finished its work on time last month.

Rebecca White/SPR

The Spokane Regional Board of Health voted to indemnify board members and Chief Administrative Officer Amelia Clark from a potential lawsuit from their former top health official Thursday.

Austin Jenkins/Northwest News Network

Gov. Jay Inslee says he would support a short-term delay in the implementation of a new payroll tax to fund a first-in-the-nation long-term care benefit program called WA Cares Fund.

Copyright 2021 Northwest News Network. To see more, visit Northwest News Network.

Rebecca White/SPR

As a new COVID-19 variant emerges and holiday travel increases, health officials are urging people to get tested, and follow through on quarantine protocols.

You're not imagining things if driving in Pacific Northwest traffic feels as busy these days as it was before the pandemic. Traffic data from the Oregon and Washington transportation departments show highway volumes are nearly back to 2019 levels.

Providence

Providence, the healthcare system that oversees Spokane’s largest hospitals, has named a new chief executive for the Inland Northwest.

Susan Stacey, the chief nursing officer and chief operating officer, will replace outgoing chief executive Peg Currie.

Stacey started her career as a nurse in the healthcare system’s Pediatric Intensive Care Unit and was previously the executive director  of the children’s hospital, women’s services and orthopedic services.

Currie, who has led Providence for five years, will retire at the end of January.

NW lawmakers weigh in on Supreme Court abortion case

Dec 1, 2021
Twitter screenshot

Elected officials from the Northwest are offering their views about today’s [Wednesday’s] U.S. Supreme Court hearing on Mississippi’s new abortion law. The law would ban most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.
 
As attorneys presented their cases to Supreme Court justices in Washington this morning, activists were outside presenting their cases to the public. Eastern Washington Republican Cathy McMorris Rodgers says it’s time to tone down the rhetoric about abortion and help the country bridge its differences.
 

Vaccine shot
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, via Flickr / US Army Corps of Engineers

Idaho health officials say they're bracing for the arrival of the coronavirus' omicron variant. The state's public health infrastructure is looking for signs of omicron in Covid test results, and Idahoans are urged to roll up their sleeves and get vaccinated.

Noel King to depart as host of NPR's Morning Edition

Dec 1, 2021
Courtesy of Vox Media

Noel King, one of the co-hosts of NPR's Morning Edition, is leaving the network to become co-host of the Vox daily news podcast Today, Explained.

King's last day on Morning Edition will be December 10.

Don Hamilton

David Govedare, the artist behind the iconic Bloomsday runner statues in Spokane’s Riverfront Park and the Wild Horse Memorial in central Washington, died just before Thanksgiving.

In his life, Govedare produced hundreds of metal sculptures. His pieces adorn buildings, parks and landscapes across the Northwest.

Franz proposes plan to save forests, both urban and rural

Nov 30, 2021
TVW screenshot

Washington Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz today [Tuesday] unveiled a plan intended to save a million acres of forest land from development.

She says the proposal is a logical next step to the forest health initiative approved and funded last year by the legislature.

Courtesy of MultiCare

Amid the reports about the new omicron variant is good news about the lowering number of Covid-related hospitalizations in Washington, from about a thousand two weeks ago to 800 last week to a little less than 700 this week.

Courtesy of Gonzaga University

What was once lily-white Spokane is slowly becoming more diverse.

That is happening, in part, through the efforts of local businesses and universities, which have recognized the benefits of having a variety of viewpoints and backgrounds in their workplaces.

Charlita Shelton came to Gonzaga two years ago as the university’s interim assistant chief diversity officer.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

La Niña, an occasional pool of cooler water in the southern Pacific Ocean, is the focus of lots of attention in the mainstream press and on social media. But hype, sensationalism and misinterpretation often obscure what the climate phenomenon means for the Pacific Northwest, and what kind of weather the region will experience.

Screenshot from Washington State Hospital Association

The new omicron variant has added a new layer of uncertainty to the Covid pandemic. Washington scientists are among those quickly trying to learn more about it and its potential effects.

New school to serve autistic students in Spokane

Nov 29, 2021
Courtesy of Ascend Academy

Students with severe autism-related disabilities in Spokane will have a new education option beginning the first of the year.

That’s when the new Ascend Academy will open its doors. It’s a free, non-profit private school in north Spokane that’s accepting applications for students in kindergarten through fifth grade.

Indicators of Broadband Need courtesy of the United States Department of Commerce

The Pacific Northwest is set to receive hundreds of millions of dollars in broadband funds from the recently passed Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. Business, health and political leaders say the investment is badly needed, and the money could spur economic development.

Doug Nadvornick/SPR

A Spokane man has created an interactive calendar designed to teach people about the U.S. Constitution and American history.

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell says the high inflation seen in 2021 is a temporary side effect of the consumer economy finding its way out of the pandemic recession and grappling with global supply and delivery problems. But Powell may be in an economic minority as inflation in the United States continues to grow faster than the public and many economists are comfortable with. While prices for many common goods are rising across the country, the inflation isn’t spread out evenly.

Spokane County

Spokane’s second mass site opens Friday at the Spokane County Fairgrounds and Expo Center.

Spokane Regional Health Officer Dr. Francisco Velazquez said he expect a surge of cases following the Thanksgiving holiday, and urges people to go and get tested if they are symptomatic, or were exposed to someone who is.

He said the tests available at the mass testing sites are lab based-PCR tests, which are more accurate than at-home antigen tests.

A federal appeals court dismissed a lawsuit from Yakama Nation and Grand Ronde tribal leaders, who claimed a 2008 highway expansion destroyed a sacred site near Mount Hood.

U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Benjamin W. Stratton

The holiday season is the time many Inland Northwesterners think about giving. Bell ringers and toy drives are physical reminders of need. But they’re also seasonal, which means people tend to give a lot during the closing months of the calendar year. The same is true for food banks.

Tracking some young salmon has always had one hitch: the tiny fish are too small for the injectable tags researchers use to track fish as they move past hydropower dams. To make the tags smaller, researchers also had to shrink the batteries that power the fish tags.

Now, new battery technology developed at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory will allow researchers to better study small fish, such as juvenile sockeye salmon and Pacific lamprey.

Rebecca White/SPR

Spokane Mayor Nadine Woodward announced Tuesday her office is cutting all non-essential expenses in the fire department for going over budget with overtime costs.

The city of Spokane will soon have to cover about $5 million in overtime costs from its fire department.

Chris Sybrandy, a dairy farmer in Skagit County in northern Washington, says he recently helped haul more than 40 dead animals out of barns for his friends nearby.

“I made a decision that I needed to help them take their cows out, so they didn’t have to take their own animals out,” Sybrandy says. “Having raised these cows from babies, I didn’t want them to have to take them out themselves.”

The worst of last week’s flood waters are slowly starting to recede in northern Washington, after about 100,000 cattle were jeopardized.

Doug Nadvornick/SPR

The city of Spokane is increasing its investment in water conservation efforts, at least in its parks and golf courses.

The Public Works Department has agreed to give the Parks Department $250,000 a year for the next 10 years to implement new water savings plans.

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