Slog PM: The South African Variant Lands in King County, Tiger Woods Hospitalized After Crash, Capitol Police Point Fingers

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Tigers car after the crash. Heres hoping Tiger will fare better.

Tiger’s car after the crash. Here’s hoping Tiger will fare better. David McNew / GETTY

Another COVID-19 “variant of concern” lands in King County: At a press conference this afternoon the Washington Department of Health said they found a case of the B.1.351 variant of SARS-CoV-2 in King County. The patient who contracted the new strain, which was first identified in South Africa, was diagnosed with COVID-19 at the end of January. However, contact tracers couldn’t reach this person, so health officials have no idea where he’s been, according to state epidemiologist for communicable diseases Dr. Scott Lindquist. Public Health Seattle & King County health chief Dr. Jeff Duchin said the vaccines available in the U.S. “remain protective against severe illness and hospitalization,” but the degree of reducing infection from this new strain entirely “isn’t fully understood.”

On top of that, the number of B117 cases has doubled since last week: Last week the state recorded 20 cases of B117, the more virulent and transmissible strain of COVID-19 first ID’d in the United Kingdom. Today the DOH added 19 more cases to that tally, but we still only have eyes on “less than 1%” of positive COVID-19 tests, according to Dr. Lindquist. Dr. Lindquist said DOH is conducting “active conversations with the Governor’s office” about whether we should “take stock of where we are…and look for variants before making any decisions” about moving forward through the reopening phases, and

In the meantime, mask the fuck up and stay the fuck home: If you don’t have to be out and about, then don’t be out and about. While we don’t know for sure how well the vaccines respond to the latest variant to land on our shores, we do know that wearing masks, keeping distance, and limiting activities works to slow the spread. So keep doing that. “We must keep in mind that we remain vulnerable to a potentially severe fourth wave given the large number of people” in the state who could catch the bug, Dr. Duchin said.

In case you still talk to uncles who still say COVID-19 is ‘just like’ the flu:

Oh look, a bunch of tools: Washington state Senate Republican leaders posed for a photo outside the fences surrounding the Capitol grounds in Olympia because………..they want Gov. Inslee to remove the fences so that people can testify indoors on bills that would allow more people to gather indoors as new variants begin to take hold in Washington. Visionaries. I know Twitter imposes character limits, but it’s certainly worth noting that Inslee erected those fences after a mini-insurrection whipped up by rhetoric coming from their party created a need for increased security. And anyway, what the fuck is Sen. Yellow Shirt going to do with that wrench?

Speaking of insurrections: The Washington Post has a rundown of today’s Senate hearing that featured leaders of the Capitol Police, all of whom resigned their posts after a bunch of Trump supporters stormed the Congressional Building on Jan. 6. The highlights: They all say they didn’t see it coming, but the day before the attack the FBI issued an intelligence report that included “credible calls for violence;” one of them said the other didn’t ask for military backing two days before the insurrection due to “optics,” but the accused denied it; one cop said he asked the other cop to call the National Guard earlier than the other cop would admit, and the Senators didn’t end up straightening out the discrepancies in the two different stories; GOP Sen. Ron Johnson floated the unproven “antifa did it” theory.

Bernie break:“What’s in the boxxxxxxxx?”

The DOJ “reinvigorated” its investigation into the police killing of George Floyd: After the agency’s investigation fizzled under Trump, Biden’s Justice Department has empaneled a new grand jury and called for new witnesses to testify in the case of Officer Derek Chauvin, who killed Floyd while other police officers stood by and watched, the New York Times reports. The new investigation “has apparently narrowed to focus on Mr. Chauvin, rather than the three other former officers who face aiding and abetting charges.”

Tiger Woods in “serious condition” after apparently wrecking his car: According to Golf Digest, the champion golfer underwent surgery “for multiple injuries to his legs” after rolling his “2021 Genesis GV80 SUV” off a “windy portion of Hawthorne Ave.” in Los Angeles on Tuesday morning. He was the only person in the car, and cops said he likely would have died had he not worn a seatbelt.

Some famous poets die young, so it’s sad but somewhat uplifting to see a poet die at the ripe old age of 101. Lawrence Ferlinghetti, a legend of San Francisco literary scene, died on Monday of a lung condition “in his second-floor walk-up apartment in North Beach, where he lived for 40 years,” according to the San Francisco Chronicle. I do not have the space here to enumerate his million accomplishments, but the man founded City Lights bookstore and press, where he published immortal work such as Allen Ginsberg’s Howl. In the words of Whitman: “I do not commiserate—I congratulate you,” Ferlinghetti.

Though he wrote a lot, I actually don’t like a lot of Ferlinghetti poems: But I do like this one:

We’re one step closer to fast internet for all: Rep. Drew Hansen’s Public Broadband Act (HB 1336) passed off the House floor this afternoon. Three Republican reps crossed the aisle in support of the legislation, which would allow public entities (such as Public Utility Districts and ports) to provide internet access to people like you and me rather than just to libraries and stuff. The law would finally expand internet access into rural and urban communities who do without or with turtle-slow speeds. Passage of the bill sets up a potential fight in the Senate, which has its own public broadband bill. That version, sponsored by Sen. Lisa Wellman, would give private telecom companies total say in where those public entities could play. Much more on this issue from me later this week.

Another Amazon exec shake-up: GeekWire got ahold of an internal memo showing that Amazon senior vice president Jeff Blackburn,” who played a key behind-the-scenes role as one of Jeff Bezos’ top lieutenants for more than two decades,” is moving on. That’s two Jeffs in two months, GeekWire notes. How can any company live with the loss of that many Jeffs?

Shooting in the Central District leads to one dead, one with minor injuries: Police evacuated employees working at the Catholic Community Services building at 23rd and Yesler after reports of an active shooter on the campus this afternoon. Police said a man ultimately shot himself “after attempting to shoot a woman at a housing services program,” Capitol Hill Seattle Blog reports.

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Oof, major layoffs hit the Yakima Herald-Republic: The Seattle Times Co. will cut 50 “full and part-time positions” as it sells the central WA newspaper’s HQ and moves printing to a smaller place in Walla Walla, the Herald reports. The company blamed the decision on a big tenant moving out of the building, a drop in ad revenue due to the pandemic, and “a 40% drop in commercial printing revenue due to publications reducing page counts or closing.”

I’ll give Ferlinghetti the last word:

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