Northwest News Network

Regional Public Journalism from twelve public radio stations throughout Oregon, Washington and Idaho.

The state of Washington, hamstrung as many states have been by a slow distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, will deploy the National Guard, set up mass vaccination sites and create a new public-private partnership to lead a renewed effort to get the vaccine into the arms of people.

The move comes as the state prepares to immediately advance to the next phase of people eligible for a vaccination beyond health care workers, first responders and those living and working in nursing homes.

Hundreds of elderly drivers put their cars in line way before dawn for the opening day of a first come, first serve drive-thru COVID vaccination clinic in Sequim, Washington. The scene provided a dramatic illustration of eagerness among many seniors to get the coveted shots. Hospitals in other medium-sized and smaller Washington communities that have opened vaccination appointment lines to all seniors in recent days report being swamped as well.

Washington’s salmon are “teetering on the brink of extinction,” according to a new report. It says the state must change how it’s responding to climate change and the growing number of people in Washington. 

The U.S. House voted 232 to 197 Wednesday to impeach President Donald Trump for a second time.

To keep Washington from facing another devastating fire season, Public Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz is asking the state legislature to create a dedicated fund for firefighting, forest restoration and community response.

People age 70 and older as well as some people living with an elder will be next in line for the COVID-19 vaccine in Washington. The state Department of Health on Wednesday provided awaited details for whose turn comes when to get the precious and scarce shots.

Bringing back sea otters to the Oregon Coast just got a high-level endorsement. The federal budget for this new year, which President Trump signed after some unrelated last minute drama, includes a directive to study sea otter reintroduction.

Amid the ongoing pandemic and threats by far-right protesters to "occupy" the Capitol, Washington lawmakers will convene Monday for what will ultimately be a mostly remote 2021 session with a focus on the ongoing response to COVID-19, police reform, addressing climate change and writing a two-year state budget.

A central Washington sheriff’s deputy has died of COVID-19,  according to the Grant County Coroner's office. 

Jon Melvin, 60, was found Dec. 11, 2020, in bed at his home in Desert Aire, in southwestern Grant County. Fellow deputies were checking on his welfare after family members were unable to reach him.

“He had pneumonia due to COVID-19,” Jerry Jasman, chief investigator with the Grant County Coroner's office, said Monday.

The COVID-19 pandemic is a recurring theme as Washington state lawmakers prepare to convene their 2021 legislative session. Some legislators are raring to get started and have already drafted and filed the proposals they plan to formally introduce once the opening gavel falls on January 11.

Besides the coronavirus, other high-profile topics teed up for 2021 lawmaking have to do with voting, climate goals and racial equity.

The first time it happened, it was a squeezing feeling. I felt like I couldn’t breathe. My heart raced. At the hospital, I got an EKG and took a blood test. It wasn’t a heart attack. Just felt like one. Then, it happened again. And again. 

At the Hanford site in southeastern Washington, along the Columbia River, stew millions of gallons of radioactive sludge cradled in aging underground tanks. Nearly 2,000 capsules filled with cesium and strontium rest unquietly in an old, glowing-blue pool of water. Two more reactors along the Columbia still need to be sealed up and cocooned.

Sure, you're a good Pacific Northwesterner because you recycle your beer cans, cardboard boxes and plastic milk jugs. But what about that dust-collecting piano you have long wanted to unload? It doesn't fit into the recycling bin. Creative upcycling might be the answer.

Alan Scheiber is one organic farmer who would have never applied so-called “Agro Gold WS” to about a dozen acres if he’d known it contained synthetic herbicides. 

“It is just beyond the pale of acceptability,” Schreiber says. “No legitimate organic grower would ever use Glyphosate or Diquat — the products that were found in this organic herbicide in an organic farm — no person would ever do that.” 

Leavenworth Mayor Carl Florea says that this year, the “capital of Christmas” isn't doing any of the usual characters, festivals, open fire pits or even the famous tree lighting

“The only thing left that basically says we’re a Christmas town is that the trees in our park are still lit up with lights,” he says. 

A train carrying crude oil derailed and caught fire in Whatcom County Tuesday morning, prompting officials to evacuate all nearby residents and businesses for several hours.

Reports that the train had derailed came in around 11:46 a.m., according to the Whatcom County Sheriff's Office, in the 7500 block of Portal Way in Custer, Wash., roughly 15 miles north of Bellingham along I-5.

Officials initially evacuated the area around the scene due to the toxicity of oil smoke, but lifted the order at approximately 4:44 p.m.

The initial deliveries of COVID-19 vaccines to Oregon, Washington state and Idaho are spoken for — at least well into next month. High-risk health care workers, EMT/paramedics and nursing homes have top priority to get the vaccine jab. But then who?

The environmental review of a 90-year-old dam in central Washington’s Alpine Lakes Wilderness will start soon. Eightmile Dam is considered a threat to people and property downstream near Leavenworth.

Three years ago on December 18, a speeding Amtrak Cascades train bound for Portland derailed near DuPont, Washington, and tumbled onto Interstate 5. The crash killed three passengers and injured scores of others. An Olympia woman marked the anniversary Friday by going back to her local blood donation center to achieve a related, but happier milestone.

As he prepares to begin a third term in office, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee is proposing a new tax on health care premiums to fund post-pandemic public health. He’s also once again urging the Legislature to pass a capital gains tax.

The tax measures are contained in Inslee’s two-year, $57.6 billion operating budget proposal released Thursday in advance of the 2021 Legislative session. Separately, the Democratic governor also released proposed capital construction and transportation budgets.

Homes, schools, parks and daycares on Central Washington’s former orchards could soon be one step closer to sitting atop less contaminated ground. A workgroup is finalizing a report to help spread the word about pesticide contamination from more than a century ago – and to give advice on how to help clean it up.

It stands to reason that all the stress, anxiety and isolation of the pandemic could lead more people to take their own lives. But newly obtained data for Oregon and Washington show this is one bad thing that 2020 has not delivered.

The first doses of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine should start arriving in Washington on Monday, with the first vaccinations of front line health care workers beginning as early as Tuesday.

An upbeat Washington Gov. Jay Inslee announced that timeline at a rare Sunday news conference.

“We are ready to go,” Inslee said. “We now know there will be an end to this turmoil and this trauma and this challenge.”

For the second Saturday in a row, a gun was fired as groups of protesters from opposing ends of the political spectrum clashed in Olympia.

Debbie Roberts wishes her stepbrother had just slid away from his advanced Parkinson's disease.

He died Nov. 29, just one person among many who died in an outbreak of COVID-19 at North Valley Extended Care in the Okanogan County town of Tonasket, Wash., — population about 1,000. So far, at least 16 people at the facility have died since Thanksgiving.

Debbie Roberts wishes her step-brother had just slid away from his advanced Parkinson’s disease.

He died November 29, just one person among many who died in an outbreak of COVID-19 at North Valley Extended Care in the Okanogan County town of Tonasket — population about 1,000. So far, at least 16 people at the facility have died since Thanksgiving.

Since early in the pandemic, rapid contact tracing has been considered one of the keys to controlling the spread of the coronavirus. But in recent weeks, an overwhelming surge in new cases has let thousands of COVID-positive people and their close contacts fall through the cracks.

At Providence St. Peter Hospital in Olympia, nurses with desk jobs are being told to prepare to come back to the front lines, and elective surgeries and procedures are once again being put on hold.

The desperate measures come amidst an ongoing spike in coronavirus cases in the community and as the hospital prepares for a post-Thanksgiving surge of COVID-19 patients.

“Unfortunately, I think within the next week it’s going to be a significant rise in COVID-19,” said Dr. Kevin Caserta, the chief medical officer for Providence SW Washington.

A new government report on high speed rail in the Pacific Northwest recommends that Oregon, Washington and British Columbia formalize their interest in a Cascadia bullet train by creating an independent body to plan and eventually build it. But a critic associated with a conservative think tank responded that the region should take heed of California's high speed rail woes and put a spike in the Cascadia bullet train ambitions.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee announced Tuesday that he would be extending Covid restrictions already in place until January 4, which prohibit most non-essential indoor gathering.

Inslee said the restrictions were extended for three more weeks due to continued concerns over Covid activity, and an unclear picture following the Thanksgiving holiday.

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