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Dogs provide free kisses for Valentine's Day

WENATCHEE — Four humans stood 10 feet away from a square box that said “kissing booth” squeezing toys and making kissy sounds to get the attention of a dog with heart antennas on its head.

It was all a part of the EarthWise Pet Store’s Valentine’s Day event from 12 to 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. The pet store started the photo booth to help raise money for the Wenatchee Valley Humane Society, said McKenzie Crawford, pet store manager.

“We’re going to try and do seasonal stuff like this, like Easter maybe with an Easter bunny,” Crawford said. “We weren’t able to do Santa photos this year, but next year we plan on doing that as well.”

The dogs were somewhat reluctant to get onto a small hydraulic lift that raised them up into the booth, but were bribed with treats. It was difficult to get a solid picture even when they were in place, with one dog continuously winking at the photographer.

Carlyn Little, of Wenatchee, said her Airedoodle, a cross between Airedale terrier and a poodle, named Denver did not want to sit still for his photos. He’s only six months old, so he’s still a puppy.

“He’s crazy, he’s a lot of energy, kind of stubborn, but we’re working on it,” Little said. “He likes to go down to the park and swim and do kind of active things.”

She did not have Denver give her a kiss, though, for the photo, she said. She let him take a photo by himself.

When asked about their Valentine’s Day plans almost everyone said they didn’t have anything special. Their dog was the main focus of their Valentine’s Day activities.

Dan Landeck and Andrea Peters, of Wenatchee, got their dog Hall, a lab and shar-pei mix from the Humane Society on Oct. 31. It was Hall’s birthday on Feb. 6, so the pair decided it would be a great idea to get a photo of Hall for his birthday.

Landeck has been spending a lot of time with Hall since he’s been out of work from his job as a server due to COVID-19.

“It’s the best really, silver lining to being stuck at home,” Landeck said.

Today is last day to vote in special election

WENATCHEE — Today is special election day. On the ballots regionally are mostly renewal of expiring educational programs and operations levies, formerly known as maintenance and operations levies.

In Chelan County, the Wenatchee School District is running a four-year replacement levy. The Cascade School District is running a replacement levy and a technology, safety and security levy, while the Manson School District is running a replacement levy.

In Douglas County, the Orondo School District is running a capital levy for health, life safety and security improvements. A small number of voters in the county also vote on the Ephrata School District replacement levy.

In Grant County, the Ephrata School District is asking voters to approve a replacement levy. The Wahluke School District is asking voters to approve a capital levy for health, safety, security, and infrastructure improvements. Grant County Fire District No. 10 is asking voters whether to increase the size of the board of commissioners.

Ballots must be postmarked no later than today. They can also be dropped off before 8 p.m. at either a ballot box or the county courthouse.

Trump impeachment trial begins with a standoff over constitutionality

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Former President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial began Tuesday with a clash over whether the Constitution allows it.

A group of nine House Democrats, acting as impeachment prosecutors presenting the case to the Senate, will argue that the Constitution gives the Senate authority to hold the trial of a former president because he is being tried for crimes allegedly committed while in office.

And, while Trump was impeached by the House shortly before he left office, the prosecutors will go further and argue that the House’s impeachment power also extends to former officials, a potentially wide-ranging precedent.

Trump’s lawyers, Bruce L. Castor, David Schoen and Michael van der Veen, will argue that House managers are wrong and that a trial can only be held when an official is still in office.

Trump was impeached last month for allegedly inciting the Jan. 6 insurrection when a violent mob of his supporters ransacked the U.S. Capitol. The riot left five people dead, including a police officer. After leaving office Jan. 20 following the inauguration of President Joe Biden, Trump becomes the first former president to face an impeachment trial in the Senate.

He is also the only president to be impeached twice, following his 2019 impeachment for allegedly encouraging Ukrainian government officials to interfere in the 2020 election by investigating Biden. He was acquitted on those charges last year by the Senate.

A vote on the question of constitutionality is slated to be held Tuesday evening, but Democrats are expected to win that vote with the help of up to a handful of Republicans who joined them last month in supporting the legality of the proceeding. In a preliminary procedural vote Jan. 26, five Republicans joined Democrats, but 45 GOP senators supported a motion to declare the trial unconstitutional.

Since conviction requires the support of 67 senators, Trump’s chances of second acquittal are strong in a chamber evenly divided at 50 Democrats, including two independents who caucus with them, and 50 Republicans.

After the constitutionality vote, both sides will be given two days each to lay out their arguments, beginning Wednesday with House prosecutors. House Democratic aides said Tuesday that they will play copious video recounting the attack and introduce previously unseen evidence in the case.

Given Democrats’ reluctance to let Biden’s agenda get bogged down by a lengthy proceeding and the near certainty Trump won’t be convicted, the trial may be one of the shortest presidential impeachments in history. There will be four days of oral presentations on the single charge, followed by senators’ questions and the opportunity to call witnesses, a request the House managers may not take up. A final vote on conviction could take place as soon as early next week.

Trump’s lawyers on Tuesday will argue that the trial is merely political theater, and that if the Senate can try Trump now that he is out of office, there is nothing to stop them from pursuing any other former government official accused of wrongdoing who is now a private citizen.

“The framers could have explicitly included a provision allowing for the impeachment of a former president, but they did not,” they wrote in a brief.

Democrats — and many legal experts — argue the opposite. A group of 150 constitutional law experts wrote recently that the Constitution does allow former officials to be tried. As evidence, they point to the Constitution’s allowance that the Senate can bar impeached and convicted officials from further office.

“Disqualification is a consequence that might need to be imposed on prior officeholders as well as current ones,” they wrote. In keeping with that rationale, nothing in the text of the Constitution bars Congress from impeaching, convicting, and disqualifying former officials from holding future office.

There is no question that the House was allowed to impeach Trump because he was still president when it did so. The question Republicans raise now is whether a trial can be held after his term has ended. Many experts say that it can.

“The Senate has authority to try all impeachments,” Michael W. McConnell, a professor at Stanford Law School and a former federal judge appointed by former President George W. Bush, said in an interview.

House Democrats went a step further. In their brief, they argue that not only can a trial be held after an official is out of office, but the House can also impeach an official once he or she is out of office.

“The framers intended the impeachment power to reach both current and former officials who engaged in gross abuse of their office,” House managers wrote in a recent brief. “The text and structure of the Constitution that emerged from their debates reflect — in fact, require — that conclusion.”

McConnell disagrees, saying that “only current officeholders” can be impeached.

Other constitutional experts agree and worry that trying Trump may set a dangerous precedent, one that would allow the House to impeach officials long after they have left office. To emphasize that point, some Senate Republicans have raised the prospect that a Republican-controlled House might one day use such a precedent to impeach a former Democratic president, such as Barack Obama.

“If the Senate were controlled by Republicans, they could decide that this a broad precedent,” said Rory Little, a constitutional law professor at the University of California, Hastings College of the Law.

A step-by-step guide for the online vaccine appointment process

NCW — Here is a five-step process to guide you through registering online for a COVID-19 vaccine.

1. Check and confirm eligibility

To check if you are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, go to form.findyour phasewa.org/210118771253954. If you are eligible, you will receive a confirmation message via email or text message to display to your vaccine provider.

2. How to register on the website

Go to prepmod.doh.wa.gov/clinic/search. The site will load locations closest to your zip code, which will appear below the information entry box. Even if a location shows up, appointments might not be available. (Look at the “Available Appointments” section.)

Appointments for the upcoming week open at noon Sundays. (A few minutes before noon, go to the prepmod.doh.wa.gov link and continue to hit the refresh button until appointments reopen.)

If you click on the blue “Sign Up for a COVID-19 Vaccination” button under your preferred location, the registration page will appear. (Please note that this page will appear even if no appointments are available.)

Enter your personal information. Select what type of healthcare coverage you have, though the vaccine is provided with no cost. Next, enter health information and select if you will be receiving your first or second vaccination. You then select the type of vaccine, Pfizer or Moderna, and give an electronic signature of consent. A page will then display available appointments to select.

If no appointments are available, the appointment times will be grayed out. It is suggested that if the first page lists “0” under “Available Appointments,” do not waste your time filling out the reservation.

3. What to do if no appointments are available and you’re added to a waitlist

A waitlist is available, but it is only to be on call if appointments open that week. The waitlist resets at noon every Sunday when new appointments reopen and the process starts over.

4. How to get your second dose

Each person who receives a first dose at the Town Toyota Center will receive a vaccination card that lists the date three weeks later when they should return. You do not need to complete another online appointment registration for the second dose. Arrive at the same time as the original appointment and bring that card. The second vaccination dose must be the same vaccine brand as the first dose.

5. Side effects to expect

Side effects from the COVID-19 vaccine are much like those of a flu shot. Common side effects include soreness or swelling at the site of inoculation or headaches, tiredness and low fever, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Most symptoms should go away in a few days.

After receiving the vaccine, recipients are asked to sit for 15 minutes to monitor for an allergic reaction, which occurs in rare cases. The CDC also provides printable sheets explaining side effects on its website.

First look at state data on COVID-19 vaccination by race, ethnicity shows wide gaps

SEATTLE — Scarce doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have so far gone disproportionately to white Washington residents, new data from the state Department of Health (DOH) shows.

As in other states, Black and Hispanic residents have tested positive for the coronavirus at a higher rate compared to white residents, but vaccination numbers haven’t matched each group’s vulnerability.

The Seattle Times obtained data on the race and ethnicity of vaccine recipients from the state through Jan. 30, and compared it to the case counts, deaths and population demographics. The Times analysis shows Washington has some clear gaps.

While 67% of people who received their initial doses were white, 48% of the state’s cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, have been in white patients.

On the other hand, Black and Hispanic residents have been comparatively under-vaccinated. Just 5% of people receiving an initial dose were Hispanic, while 32% of people who have tested positive for coronavirus have been Hispanic. Black residents have received 2% of the initial doses, but they account for 6% of cases.

The picture changes slightly when you look at COVID-19 deaths. White residents, who make up 71% of the state’s deaths, are relatively under-vaccinated. But Hispanic residents, with 12% of the total deaths, still face a larger gap.

A DOH spokesperson said officials are still analyzing the race data, and haven’t come to any conclusions about inequities.

“That being said, we do want to address any gaps in vaccination and get the vaccine to those who are at highest risk,” DOH spokesperson Danielle Koenig said in an email. “We are always assessing our activities for equity and social justice, supplying vaccine information in up to 37 languages, and working to identify and overcome barriers as they come up.”

The department is “meeting regularly with many different communities to get direct feedback on what they need to support getting vaccinated,” Koenig added.

One obstacle for addressing inequities is that the state’s data is incomplete. About 1 in 10 patients receiving an initial vaccine are listed as “unknown,” and an unusually large share reported “other” as their race. Vaccine providers are required to enter race and ethnicity into the state’s immunization registry, but not all do. At least two providers told The Seattle Times they don’t ask for race. Also, Koenig said “unknown” is an acceptable response.

It is important for the state to track race to understand who is receiving the vaccine, said Estela Ortega, executive director of Seattle-based nonprofit El Centro de la Raza. El Centro de la Raza primarily serves the local Latino population, and is working to add a vaccination site at its Plaza Roberto Maestas & Centilia Cultural Center in Beacon Hill, although an opening date has not been established.

The state’s vaccine priority scheme and disjointed registration systems could explain some of the disparities, Ortega said.

The current DOH guidelines prioritize people 65 and older as well as people 50 and over in multigenerational households who live with and care for grandchildren or can’t live independently. But Ortega believes that the younger Latino population has higher incident rates of COVID-19 because they’re essential workers, in sectors like food service and construction. “Although we know that the Latino population is working and they’re in another age group, the vaccine can’t be given to them right now,” she said.

Additionally, people eligible to receive the vaccine have faced difficulty scheduling appointments and navigating Phase Finder, the state’s online questionnaire for vaccine eligibility. “The system appears to be broken, because people can’t get in,” Ortega added. An elder in her community woke up at 4 a.m. to schedule an appointment, and she said within 30 minutes of securing his spot, he looked again and found that all appointments were booked.

Another barrier to vaccine access is that DOH prioritized high-volume vaccination sites over community health centers, said Teresita Batayola, president and CEO of International Community Health Services (ICHS). Now the state is ramping up vaccines for community health clinics.

ICHS places its vaccination orders with DOH, and since Jan. 18, ICHS has not received any vaccines from the state, Batayola said. Last week, Public Health − Seattle & King County gave ICHS 500 doses. Then this week, the department convinced Swedish Health Services to give ICHS 800 of their doses.

“Community health centers serving the disproportionately impacted should be assured supplies,” Batayola said. “In the formal allocation process, we would have been standing to the side,” Batayola said. The vaccine shortage became even greater when Gov. Jay Inslee expanded the eligible population in phase 1B last month from 70 years to those 65 years and older.

ICHS says it serves close to 33,000 patients, and most are low income, people of color and 1 in 5 are 65 and older. The clinic’s patients speak over 50 languages.

About 7,000 of the agency’s patients are eligible to receive the vaccine, and the flagship clinic in the Chinatown International District expanded its vaccination distribution to nonpatients living in the largely low-income area.

If the vaccine shortage continues, Batayola believes that inequity will become worse. “Once essential workers are part of the mix to be eligible to be vaccinated, it will be an even bigger problem,” she said.

Compared to other states with similar racial demographics, Washington’s vaccine disparities appear to be comparable. Oregon, for instance, has the same share of Hispanic residents as Washington, and they make up 35% of cases there, according to an analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation. But just 6% of Oregon’s vaccinations have gone to Hispanic people.

As with other aspects of COVID-19 data, Washington’s effort to collect and publicly share racial data around vaccinations has been slow and prone to problems. The state has planned to post race and other demographic data on its online vaccine data “dashboard,” but as of Friday it had not done so.

“Unfortunately, we have had to work through a lot of technical difficulties, along with some data collection, analysis, and capacity hurdles that have delayed getting it to the dashboard,” Koenig said.

Racial disparities in vaccination rates have been found throughout the country, said Eric Schneider, a senior vice president at the New York-based Commonwealth Fund, a private foundation that supports research on health care practice and policy.

However, it’s difficult to know the accurate rate of disparity since about 50% of the vaccine recipients’ races are listed as “unknown” in the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data.

“We need to have better data to really understand the inequity,” Schneider said.

Vaccine hesitancy contributes to some of the disparity because it is higher among people of color, Schneider said, referring to recent surveys. Additionally, Schneider said vaccination sites appear to open more often in areas with a higher white population.

“We’re still in a scarcity period of the vaccine being in short supply,” Schneider said. “I think that this problem will get worse as the vaccine becomes more available and if people let their guard down about ensuring that it’s equitably distributed.”

Looking at just the ethnicities reported would make the gaps in vaccinations very concerning, but the unknown would very likely change the numbers, according to Dr. Bindu Nayak, member of the Health Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion council at Confluence Health.

Unknown race or ethnicity data is a pretty common problem and very little can be done to illuminate this issue in retrospect, Nayak said. Instead, “if [DOH] would locate where they are getting the incomplete data, then they could work prospectively,” Nayak said.

The 76,000 vaccinations that fall under the Non-Hispanic Other category is not so common, according to Nayak. The problem here may be a problem with how race and ethnicity are being grouped.

There are five categories being recorded under race: Black, Asian, White, Native-American, Pacific Islander,and other. For ethnicity, the only options are Hispanic or Non-Hispanic.

At Confluence Health, the Health equity council found that most Latino patients will choose other and then Hispanic for ethnicity, Nayak said. If someone is Asian or Black, it is pretty clear which one they might pick, but for Latinos that might not be so clear, according to Nayak.