Pandemic ups and downs (and no bikes at Green Lake): Today So Far
These days, the pandemic is a bit up and down. Cases are up, hospitalizations are down. Job openings are up, job hunters are down. And there's also no bikes allowed at Seattle's Green Lake Park.
This post originally appeared in KUOW's Today So Far newsletter for March 31, 2022.
The pandemic is a bit up and down in Washington state these days. Omicron's BA.2 (which is like a variant of a variant) is spreading locally. The variant is more contagious than previous versions, though like omicron, it generally produces more mild illness in most fully vaccinated individuals. BA.2 has already caused massive surges in Europe and China, and the U.S. has typically been two weeks behind them.
It seems cases are already rising in King County — a 42% increase last week. Public health officials note that the numbers had significantly decreased in recent weeks, so at this point, we are starting at a low baseline. The good news is that there is, so far, no spike in hospitalizations or deaths. In fact, deaths declined by 29% last week. And despite Seattle schools going mask optional a couple weeks ago, there has been no bump in cases. Same goes for surrounding school districts.
That up and down from the pandemic is also true for the current job market. The pandemic prompted many businesses to shut down and a lot of people lost work. Now, there are more jobs open than there are workers to fill them. If you're looking to take on a new job, now is a good time as it seems workers have some leverage.
"The demand for labor returned more quickly than the supply of labor. We've got fewer job seekers competing for a large number of openings," said Anneliese Vance-Sherman, a regional labor economist with Washington state’s Employment Security Department, on a recent episode of Soundside.
Another lingering development from the pandemic — no bikes at Greek Lake. Now if you're thinking, "Wait, I've ridden my bike at Green Lake over the past couple years and no one said anything," then you're like me and a lot of other folks who had no clue. Turns out, the city's Parks and Recreation Department banned wheeled-fun at Seattle's Green Lake Park when the pandemic started. They wanted to make more room for walkers. And to be fair, it can be a bit tense for walkers having people speedily weave through you as you stroll.
The ban means no bikes, scooters, roller skates, etc. Not even that rollerblading ponytail guy who blasts the song "Happy" when he coasts by. And not even that guy who uses those single wheel things that aren't strapped to his feet. I don't know how he does it, but it looks like he's using magic to travel.
Now, Parks and Rec is extending the wheel ban through at least June as city officials complete plans for an outer loop for bikes. They aim to construct a new bike lane along Aurora Avenue at the west side of the park, and also a new bike path on Green Lake Drive. Those will connect with existing bike lanes.
Now, you're probably thinking, "Wait, that's not a lakeside loop; that's a highway-side bike lane." And you're right. It reminds me of when I was five and I begged my parents for a puppy. I wouldn't shut up about it. So they hyped up a Christmas gift, making me think a playful puppy was coming my way. What I got, instead, was a small stuffed animal. Even at five, I could tell this was some kind of deceptive wordplay. I imagine that's a similar feeling that cyclists are experiencing now when it comes to Green Lake. Read more details here.
AS SEEN ON KUOW
A volunteer straps down boxes of medical supplies bound for Ukraine on Monday, March 28, 2022. A total of 32 tons of supplies, collected from across the West Coast, were loaded up in Seattle and flown out to Ukraine this week. (Casey Martin / KUOW)
DID YOU KNOW?
April 1 was a significant day in Seattle in the early 1900s (no joke). Seattle officially created its City Light department on April 1, 1910 in response to emerging electric utility monopolies and streetcar monopolies. Then on April 1, 1919, Seattle took over ownership of the city's popular streetcar system. That ended up being a bit controversial. Seattle Mayor Ole Hanson paid $15 million for the system, however, at the time it was not very profitable. It's estimated the city paid three times more than the streetcars were worth. The city used bonds to pay for it, which put Seattle in debt. The overpriced streetcar system only lasted another 22 years (until we got them back in 2007 in South Lake Union).
ALSO ON OUR MINDS
President Joe Biden is preparing to order the release of up to 1 million barrels of oil per day from the nation's strategic petroleum reserve, according to two people familiar with the decision, in a bid to control energy prices that have spiked as the U.S. and allies have imposed steep sanctions on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.