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Photo: High water brings new toys

Local
Wenatchi Landing sewer extension project gets started

EAST WENATCHEE — In a time when many businesses are closed and employees are out of work during the COVID-19 crisis, the start of the Wenatchi Landing project has come as a relief.

The project is located near the Odabashian Bridge in Douglas County. Construction is beginning this month and the first phase is expected to be completed by November. That phase involves extending sewer along Empire Avenue Northwest from 29th Street toward 35th Street.

The state Legislature last year included $4 million in the capital budget to fully fund the first phase.

State Sen. Brad Hawkins, R-East Wenatchee, advocated for it with support from state Reps. Keith Goehner, R-Dryden, and Mike Steele, R-Chelan.

State Sen. Brad Hawkins

R-East Wenatchee

“This is a key infrastructure project for the Wenatchee Valley, and it’s very exciting to see things moving forward, especially at a time when we need to get our local economy restarted,” Hawkins said.

He said he appreciated his fellow legislators and local leaders all working together on the project.

“The availability of suitable land for responsible and planned development is becoming increasingly scarce in the valley, especially anything close to the bridges,” Hawkins said. “... It’ll be really exciting to look back 10 years from now and see what has become of this Wenatchi Landing area in Douglas County and, ultimately, what that will mean for our economic development of the valley.”

Douglas County Sewer District Manager Bernita Landers said the district recently awarded a $2.3 million contract to Hurst Construction of East Wenatchee. Hurst was the lowest of eight bidders.

The sewer district had also awarded an $871,319 contract to RH2 Engineering.

Landers said the total budget of $4 million includes engineering, permitting and archaeological studies.

Later phases of the project will involve road and water line extensions.

Bernita Landers

Manager, Douglas County Sewer District

“This project is just to kind of get the basic infrastructure in there, and then as that development happens it’ll kind of dictate where the roads go,” Landers said.

She said Hurst is on site this week for pothole testing and mobilization and excavation should start next week. A groundbreaking ceremony is scheduled for 10 a.m. June 11.

Of the 317 acres, 283 can be developed; the rest is public right of way. There are several private landowners, and the state Department of Transportation and Chelan County PUD also own land next to the river.

Possibilities for the site include commercial, retail and recreational space, and possibly infill housing.

Extending sewer into the Wenatchi Landing area sends a positive message to private developers, said Chelan-Douglas Regional Port Authority CEO Jim Kuntz.

Photographer: Dean Parsons 

Jim Kuntz

CEO, Chelan-Douglas Regional Port Authority

“I think the project as envisioned, as having mixed-use retail, still makes a lot of sense long-term and we’ll just have to see how the market develops over time,” he said. “To date, it’s been a well-envisioned project. The county has done a very effective job on zoning and land use in the area to protect the concepts that were developed in the master plan. ... Once you get the retail aspects of development going, that generates car traffic; and as you develop car traffic and car counts, I think it extends the range of possibilities that can happen in that area.”

Douglas County Commissioner Dan Sutton said the location would be ideal for a hotel. He noted that the state Department of Transportation is looking to install a roundabout at 35th and Highway 28, making that location an easy access point.

Dan Sutton

Douglas County commissioner

“The vision is to have a vibrant community up in that area that contributes to the totality of the valley, both socially and economically,” he said. “There’s a lot of opportunity out there.”

Sutton said he’s glad the project is considered essential and therefore able to move forward despite the shutdown.

“Any construction, any business, anybody employed, anybody getting a paycheck right now is good for our community,” he said. “Any job that somebody can hold right now is absolutely wonderful, so we’re very happy that this construction project is going to go on because it’s going to employ people and put gas in their tanks and food in their stomachs.”


National
After long silence, Mattis denounces Trump and military response to crisis

WASHINGTON, D.C. — After long refusing to explicitly criticize a sitting president, former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis accused President Donald Trump on Wednesday of trying to divide America and roundly denounced a militarization of the U.S. response to civil unrest.

Protests have erupted around the United States since the death on May 25 of unarmed black man George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody.

“Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people — does not even pretend to try,” Mattis, who resigned as Trump’s defense secretary in 2018, wrote in a statement

“Instead he tries to divide us. We are witnessing the consequences of three years of this deliberate effort.”

He drew a comparison to the U.S. war against Nazi Germany, saying U.S. troops were reminded before the Normandy invasion: ‘The Nazi slogan for destroying us … was ‘Divide and Conquer.’”

Mattis, a retired Marine general who denies political ambitions, also took a swipe at current U.S. military leadership for participating in a Monday photo-op led by Trump after law enforcement — including National Guard — cleared away peaceful protesters.

He criticized use of the word “battlespace” by Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Army General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to describe protest sites in the United States.

“We must reject any thinking of our cities as a ‘battlespace,’” Mattis wrote.

Trump’s threats to deploy active duty troops — even in states that oppose their use — has stirred alarm within the U.S. military and in Congress, where a top Republican warned it could make troops “political pawns.”

“Militarizing our response, as we witnessed in Washington, D.C., sets up a conflict — a false conflict — between the military and civilian society,” Mattis wrote.


Riot police clear Lafayette Park for a photo opportunity by President Donald Trump in Washington


Northwest
'Where are the patients?' People are avoiding doctors, hospitals because of coronavirus worries

SEATTLE — Pain wrenched Cheri Armstrong from her slumber.

“I just shot up out of bed,” said Armstrong, 69. “It wouldn’t go away.”

She thought the squeeze radiating between her shoulders was a muscle cramp. She twisted, walked and paced for about five minutes before it subsided.

Her husband, Richard Armstrong, urged her that April Saturday to go to the emergency room.

“The last place I’m going is a COVID-19 hospital,” Cheri Armstrong remembers telling him.

The pain receded, only to spike sporadically over the next days — twinges of tightness. By Monday evening, though, it had worsened and migrated to her jaw.

“We’re going to the emergency room,” Richard said.

Doctors soon whisked her through tests and delivered the news Cheri suspected: She had suffered a heart attack.

“Her artery was about 99% blocked,” said Dr. Daniel Guerra, a cardiologist at MultiCare Pulse Heart Institute in Tacoma. “She was lucky she didn’t have a big heart attack.”

Armstrong’s story illustrates a growing concern.

Beginning in March, public officials told Washingtonians to avoid going to the hospital, if possible, fearing a surge of COVID-19 patients would overwhelm the system.

People stayed home, with nationwide outpatient visits dropping some 60% in early April, according to one estimate. Some feared they risked contracting COVID-19 at hospitals. The governor canceled elective surgeries statewide. Many mammograms and colonoscopies went on hold.

But in recent weeks, as case counts dropped and fears of a massive surge of COVID-19 patients diminished, a chorus of doctors, hospital executives and public officials have beseeched Washingtonians to return.

“Stroke, heart attacks, cancer, trauma, much more — all of this can and should be treated,” said Washington Gov. Jay Inslee in a news conference last week. “Time is of the essence.”

Doctors suspect there’s a backlog of pain, trauma and needed treatments.

“Washingtonians did a good job with social distancing rules and stayed home and that really helped with the curve,” said Dr. Regina Bonnevie Rogers, chief medical officer for Peninsula Community Health Services.

But now Bonnevie Rogers said she’s seeing patients whose diabetes has worsened, who are struggling with their mental health or who have not vaccinated their children.

‘Where are the patients?’

A national survey of more than 2,200 people conducted in mid-April found that 80% of Americans worried about contracting COVID-19 if they needed to receive medical care.

Some 29% of those surveyed by Morning Consult on behalf of the American College of Emergency Physicians reported they had delayed or avoided receiving care because of these concerns.

“We’ve all come across it. It seems like when people are coming to the hospital, they’re sicker. People are nervous about coming,” Guerra said.

What are the costs of delay? The price of missed opportunities?

It will take months, perhaps years, to quantify the consequences of this disruption in care, said Jared Baeten, vice dean of the School of Public Health and professor of global health, medicine and epidemiology at the University of Washington.

“It’s from people having an emergency: A stroke, a heart attack, appendicitis, who fear going into a hospital because of concerns about coronavirus and have a worse outcome and complications as a result — including dying,” Baeten said. “All the way down to people getting disruptions in their regular care.”

Early figures at some local hospital systems show cause for concern.

Across the CHI Franciscan hospital system, which has eight hospitals, emergency department volumes dropped 42% in April when compared to last year, according to data provided by the organization.

Chief Medical Officer Michael Anderson said clinicians are worried.

“Why are people not coming in?” he said. “Where are the patients?”

In March, the number of patients treated for strokes dropped about 17% systemwide at CHI Franciscan compared to 2019.

The analysis also suggests patients waited longer before receiving care. The median amount of time patients were last known to be well and without symptoms before their arrival at the hospital rose 74 minutes to just over five hours.

In treating strokes, the longstanding adage is “time is brain.” In general, the quicker the treatment, the more nervous tissue can be preserved.

When patients arrive at CHI Franciscan, their time to screening is tracked “to the second almost,” Anderson said.

“That’s how urgent it is,” Anderson said. “If patients sit at home, they’re basically taking it away from us.”

Similar declines in the number of people seeking care for strokes have been noted and discussed in news coverage across the country. Doctors don’t know for sure what’s happening.

Anderson said it could be possible that fewer people are having strokes (and heart attacks) because their lifestyles are less active.

But as social-distancing measures lift, he wonders if some people, after weeks of sedentary living, might suffer heart attacks and strokes in greater numbers.

Dr. Nicholas Osteraas, an assistant professor of neurologic sciences at Rush University Medical center, said it’s possible stroke victims are staying away out of fear of COVID-19 infection.

It’s also possible some people are suffering strokes alone and less likely to become aware of deficits they do not recognize because of social isolation, Osteraas said.

Cancer care changes

For cancer, the public-health message has been a consistent drumbeat: early detection, early treatment. Get screened.

And then came COVID-19.

At CHI Franciscan, colon and breast cancer screenings fell about 81% and 92%, respectively, in April. A month or two of delay isn’t a huge concern, Anderson said, but risks rise if patients delay into next year.

Seattle Cancer Care Alliance in April saw a 40% reduction in clinical activity, which includes everything from wellness screening visits to chemotherapy, said its chief nurse executive, Terry McDonnell.

“We almost shifted our paradigm away from what we really worked on for years and years,” McDonnell said, with regard to prevention and even some surgeries. “We were able to continue chemotherapy and those interventions that are either curative or at least prolong life.”

Still, COVID-19 forced changes to procedures.

Some SCCA patients, who typically would receive multiple-day chemotherapy regimens involving a hospital stay, shifted to longer, single-day sessions, McDonnell said.

SCCA also delayed bone marrow transplants for many patients, because the procedure leaves immune systems vulnerable.

“Those patients end up becoming high risk for picking up some kind of acquired infection,” McDonnell said.

McDonnell said she hopes SCCA hasn’t lost ground for patients, but it will take months to know the effects of delayed care.

“I would imagine we’re going to see a lot of research over the summer,” she said. “Once the data all shakes out, how many of those cancers would be picked up two months later than they would previously?”


Coronavirus
Inslee lawsuit stays in Chelan County

WENATCHEE — A lawsuit to end Gov. Jay Inslee’s COVID-19 state of emergency order will go forward in Chelan County Superior Court.

A group of plaintiffs sued the governor almost two weeks ago to end the emergency order in an effort to allow Chelan and Douglas county officials to lead reopening of the local economy.

In her ruling Wednesday afternoon, Judge Kristin Ferrera said, “These harms that are alleged seem particularly unique to Chelan County because of how these proclamations touched the different counties differently with the different phases.”

Attorneys for Inslee have argued the case should be heard in Thurston County Superior Court because state law requires legal action against a public official to be heard in the county where the individual is in office. Inslee’s proclamations have all been issued in Thurston County.

“Venue is appropriate where the cause of action or any part thereof arose,” Ferrera said, reading the law. In her analysis of the law, she said, “The plain language meaning of what a ‘cause of action’ is is it requires that there not only has to be an act but also that act causes harm.”

She cited a case from 1920, Pratt v. Niagara Fire Insurance Company of New York, in which the state Supreme Court held that the venue could be in multiple counties because the cause of action isn’t just the act itself but harm also is a part of that cause of action.

“So, I think venue is appropriate here,” Ferrera said.

With the venue issue mostly settled — the Attorney General’s Office can challenge the ruling — the next portion of the lawsuit addresses the emergency order.

A hearing had not been scheduled as of Wednesday afternoon.