A1 A1
A small ball, a big workout

EAST WENATCHEE — It’s as simple as a ball, an elastic string and a headband, but for Kevin Strickland, 52, of Wenatchee, it’s a passion that has helped him become as healthy as he’s ever been.

If not for the equipment, it would look like Strickland is dancing at the Eastmont Community Park as he kicks, punches, bends and twists. At closer look, a small, light-weight ball is responsible for every move.

“It all started out with just trying to hit the ball,” Strickland said of his moves. “It’s so random it’s a little chaotic.”

As he practiced, he noticed he began anticipating where the ball would go when he hit it with his hands, his elbows, head and feet. He made up moves and named the moves. “Stiletto,” “Switch Blade,” “Worm hole,” are just a few.

Strickland has been working with the Reflex Ball for almost a year. He said it was invented years ago as a training tool for boxers. He was a boxer in Yakima 32 years ago in his early 20’s but he said he got started late in the sport and had to get out.

A father of four, he said he has struggled with his health. A heart attack when he was 38 set him back.

With the daily, one-hour workout he maintains with the ball, he is enjoying being fit.

“It’s become a passion for me,” he said. “I meditate with it. I escape — I don’t think about anything else. I’m healthier now than ever.”

With ear buds in his ears, visitors need to be in the line of sight to get his attention. He listens to hard core heavy metal music.

“I love the rhythm,” he said.

He likes the attention he garners from other people at the park. He thinks it is great that he is setting an example of someone doing something good — exercising. As for his own children, he said they love that he is doing it, but will stay on the sidelines and watch for now.

NCW governments making plans for 'Rescue' funding

NCW — Local governments are looking at budgets, businesses and bouncing back from the pandemic in the funding they’ll receive from the American Rescue Plan.

The $2 trillion plan that became law on March 11 will provide billions of dollars to state, county and municipal governments, according to Congressional documents. But a lot of things remain unknown about how much funding cities and counties will receive and what the parameters of the funding will ultimately look like.

According to sources from the offices of U.S. Reps. Kim Schrier, D-Sammamish, and Dan Newhouse, R-Sunnyside, local agencies are estimated to receive the following funding amounts:

  • Chelan County — $14.97 million
  • Douglas County — $8.42 million
  • Grant County — $18.95 million
  • Okanogan — $8.19 million
  • Wenatchee — $5.92 million
  • East Wenatchee — $3.56 million

The U.S. Department of the Treasury is still finalizing the details and payment amounts from the bill, according to local officials.

The American Rescue Plan has a couple of advantages over the CARES act funding that agencies received in June 2020, Chelan County Commissioner Bob Bugert said. For one thing counties and cities will get the funding directly from the federal government.

The CARES Act had each state divvy out funding to local agencies and some counties in Washington received more funding per capita.

Also, counties and cities may have more latitude with what they do with the rescue plan funding compared to the CARES Act, Bugert said.

“A lot of funding last time, it had a very specific deadline as far as when the money was to be spent,” Bugert said. “Which just caused some challenges for us.”

Bugert said Chelan County plans to spend its funding in three ways:

Bob Bugert

Chelan County commissioner

  • To shore up budgetary holes caused by COVID-19

To provide grants to businesses — particularly agricultural businesses

  • To spur economic recovery from the pandemic

Chelan County will use some of the funds for its budget as it experienced additional expenses in its jail and court system during the pandemic, Bugert said. In addition, the county lost revenue from decreases in the gas tax as people did not travel as much.

The county will then create grants with the funding for businesses to apply for economic relief due to COVID-19 impacts, he said. But they want to focus on agricultural companies this time.

“The initial funding did benefit a lot of the businesses, restaurants, but we did not specifically address agriculture,” Bugert said.

Any funding leftover will be used to help the community and economy recover from the impacts of the pandemic, he said.

The funding does have some parameters, East Wenatchee Mayor Jerrilea Crawford said. According to the Municipal Research and Services Center, it can be used for several things, including:

Jerrilea Crawford

E. Wenatchee mayor

To respond to a public health emergency caused by COVID-19

To provide assistance to households, small businesses and nonprofits

To aid tourism, travel and hospitality industries

To make necessary investments in water, sewer or broadband infrastructure

It is confusing as to what cities and counties can spend the money on, Crawford said. For example, she could see several different ways to aid hotels and restaurants and bring tourists into the city.

“OK, so aid them as in maybe hosting events, so that we can encourage more people to come from out of town to stay in the hotel?” Crawford asked. “Or maybe direct payments to those types of businesses? It’s vague.”

The city of East Wenatchee does not know yet how it will use the funding it receives, but it is looking at budget shortfalls from the pandemic, she said. It is also considering providing some of its funding to the sewer and utility districts to help them with the impact to COVID-19.

The city of the Wenatchee is also in limbo on how it will spend its funding, Wenatchee Mayor Frank Kuntz said. At the moment, it is waiting for guidance from the U.S. Treasurer on how the money can be spent.

Frank Kuntz

Wenatchee mayor

Douglas County commissioners could not be reached for comment.

Wenatchee site passes 31,000 vaccinations; COVID-19 cases in region slightly rise

WENATCHEE — More than 31,000 COVID-19 vaccinations have been administered at the Town Toyota Center mass vaccination site as of last week, while COVID-19 cases have increased.

The COVID-19 rate, taken over 14 days, has risen to 176.6 per 100,000 from 117.7 around two weeks ago. People may have seen that cases were going down and relaxed masking and social distancing, said Luke Davies, health administrator for the Chelan-Douglas Health District.

The COVID-19 B.1.1.7 variant also remains a major concern, Davies said. “Right now, we’re assuming that it is all across the entire state,” Davies said during Tuesday’s news conference at the Town Toyota Center. “There’s currently surveillance being done by the state to track B.1.1.7, and as we’ve seen in Europe and other places, it changes the dynamic of the pandemic.”

Provided photo 

Luke Davies

Chelan-Douglas Health District administrator

Davies referred to the situation in Germany where the B.1.1.7 variant forced the country to extend its lockdown into April, treating the situation as if it were a new pandemic.

“We’re asking everyone to continue to using masks and to kind of reestablish mitigation efforts,” Davies said. Vaccines are still effective against the variant so it is currently a race to vaccinate as many people as possible, he said.

Around 1,100 COVID-19 vaccinations were administered Monday, Davies said. The health district will be working to fill available appointment slots for COVID-19 shots at the Town Toyota Center for the rest of the week. More than 400 appointment slots were still available for Thursday as of Tuesday afternoon.

The biggest issue right now is getting the word out, Davies said in a phone call on Monday. Some are still confused about who is eligible and others remain hesitant about COVID-19 vaccines, he said.

Essential workers in some congregate settings — like farmworkers and grocery store workers — were included on March 17, but every person who was eligible in previous phases stays eligible, according to the state Department of Health.

So, if appointment slots do not get filled up on a certain day, what happens to the vaccine?

In the case for vials of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine that have already been thawed, they will most likely be used the next day or two, Davies said.

“If we’re getting consistently like less than 300 [appointments] here, and 400 there, where we have extra trays, and we see that Grant County doesn’t have enough vaccine, we’ll move a tray to Grant County to help them get coverage.”

Doses will eventually make it into someone’s arm and will be kept in the region, according to Davies. “While it appears that we have a lot of slots that are still open, we’re able to get people to fill them up,” he said.

This added logistical problem would not be solved either by expanding eligibility quickly or allowing people to get vaccinated out of phase, Davies said. Rural counties will simply get through vaccinating their populations faster than urban counties, according to Davies.

“Urban counties are going to take time to have to catch up because they just have so many more people to do and so much more logistics,” Davies said. “It’s a lot harder to identify vulnerable groups when you have so many people and limited staff. If we opened up right now, Chelan-Douglas counties are going to be flooded with 30,000 people wanting to get vaccines. The problem is we don’t have that much vaccine.”

Davies said that the state Department of Health’s rollout plan is tiered by phases to prioritize those most at risk. The state and health district do not want to swamp the system with low-risk people if they need to still go through high-risk populations.

Davies also shared his appreciation for the work that local school nurses and teachers have done toward identifying cases and helping with contact tracing.

“They’ve done a phenomenal job keeping our kids safe and doing so under these intense circumstances,” he said.

This bit of encouragement comes on the heels of a press release from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that updates social distancing guidelines for schools.

Elementary, middle school and high school students could safely remain three feet apart in classrooms, according to the CDC press release. However, while the CDC recommends that elementary schools reopen fully, opening up middle and high schools would be more challenging, Davies said.

“Currently, the governor’s office, the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, and the Department of Health are working on guidance,” Davies said. “They’re going to be providing guidance on whether or not schools across the state will open, whether this will happen in spring or fall. We’ll be hopefully hearing about that in the coming weeks.”

U.S. vaccine hesitancy could mean 4.6 million more COVID-19 cases

The U.S. could experience a “perfect storm” for a jump in COVID-19 cases this year if Americans remain unvaccinated while increasing social activity, according to the Penn Wharton Budget Model.

An estimated one-quarter of Americans will opt out of coronavirus vaccinations this year, the nonpartisan research organization said in a report. If activities involving personal contact surpass 70% of pre-pandemic levels, an additional 4.6 million people could catch the virus this year.

“If all eligible US residents are vaccinated in 2021, we project that the pandemic will effectively be over by the fall,” researchers Alex Arnon and John Ricco wrote in the report. “Differences in the vaccine take-up rate lead to large differences in the state of the economy at the end of 2021.”

Universal vaccination would mean 8.3 million fewer virus cases this year and would trigger an economic boom, according to the projections, with fourth-quarter GDP growth 2 percentage points faster and an extra 2.6 million jobs created by December.

Getting people on board will be a tough challenge as about 30% of survey respondents say they won’t be getting a vaccine, even as President Joe Biden aims to have all Americans eligible by May 1. It presents a challenge for Biden, whose economic goals rest on distribution of the vaccines and reopening of business.

Partisan differences are increasingly seen in vaccine intent. A Pew Research Center survey, conducted Feb. 16-21, found that Democrats are 27 percentage points more likely than Republicans to say they plan to get, or have already received, a coronavirus vaccine.

Meanwhile, companies are desperate to get back to normal levels of activity. Three-quarters of small businesses say the pandemic has had a moderate or large negative effect on their activity, according to the latest results from the Census Bureau’s weekly survey.