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caption: Mr. Spock wears a face mask in this wall art seen in Seattle in 2020. The work was done by local artist Sub Space, who commonly spreads works of Spock around Seattle. When the Covid-19 pandemic struck, they returned to their works and added face masks.
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Mr. Spock wears a face mask in this wall art seen in Seattle in 2020. The work was done by local artist Sub Space, who commonly spreads works of Spock around Seattle. When the Covid-19 pandemic struck, they returned to their works and added face masks.

Are we still in a 'pandemic phase?': Today So Far

  • Covid continues to spread, but not like before. Now Dr. Anthony Fauci is saying we are "out of the pandemic phase."
  • More scooters will roll in Seattle.
  • How carbon-friendly is Amazon, really?

This post originally appeared in KUOW's Today So Far newsletter for April 27, 2022.

Amazon's climate change efforts aren't as robust as one might think, according to a recent investigative report.

Seattle-based Amazon has stated it wants to go with 100% climate-friendly energy by 2030. It also named a Seattle stadium the "Climate Pledge Arena." And it has made great strides to use clean energy. As KUOW's John Ryan reports, Amazon just invested in 3.5 gigawatts' worth of new wind and solar power farms. It's among the world's biggest customer of green energy, with 310 wind/solar projects in 19 countries.

But the Center for Investigative Reporting concludes that Amazon may be fudging the numbers when it comes to its carbon footprint. It got ahold of a private company document that shows the online retail giant isn't adding up the numbers like its competitors do. It compares Amazon with Target, which factors in all the products it sells, including the carbon it takes to create and to operate them. Amazon apparently only adds up its own branded products (Kindles, AmazonBasics, etc.). It doesn't consider products it buys from other companies and sells through its online store. That could explain why Amazon sells a lot more than Target, but reports a much smaller carbon footprint. Read more here.

There haven't been as many pandemic headlines recently, but we just got a flood of updates. In short, this isn't the pandemic phase we've gotten used to over the past two years. In fact, if you ask Dr. Anthony Fauci, the United States is "out of the pandemic phase." Covid cases are still ticking upward (Vice President Kamala Harris just tested positive), but hospitalizations and deaths are not as severe as during pandemic peaks. The CDC further reports that most people in the United States have been infected with the coronavirus at this point. About 60% of the U.S. population has some level of antibodies; 75% of kids have antibodies. And just observing folks around the grocery store, coffee shops, etc., most folks around town have personally been out of the pandemic phase for a while now.

As we enter a more endemic phase, progress is still being made. Researchers at the University of Washington School of Medicine just came up with a new Covid vaccine. And once again, it's based on new technology (sorry mRNA). This vaccine goes by the super clever name of "GPB510." Phase 3 trial results have been very positive. It's slated to be distributed across the globe (South Korea has already committed to buying 10 million doses). That's because, unlike other vaccines, it can be produced rather quickly, easily, and doesn't require extreme cold storage. This all means that I have one more Covid booster to add to my collection. I got the J&J. Then I got the Moderna booster. I have my fingers crossed for a Pfizer shot at some point. And eventually, GPB510! Got to collect them all!

Scooters in Seattle. I have a feeling this will be one of those hot topics around town as the city moves forward with its e-scooter program. The city recently released a report on its e-scooter pilot program in 2020-2021. In short, the 260,000 Seattle scooter customers, who took 1.4 million trips, had difficulty keeping scooters off sidewalks and parking them properly. Also, not a lot of riders wore helmets and some folks got injured. The scooters were mostly used for fun or for commuting, and were largely rolling around City Center, Ballard, Fremont, the University District, and Alki Beach.

Overall, the city sees some benefit from the scooters. So Seattle is rolling along with an official scooter program and will offer four permits to operate in the city, which is convenient since four scooter companies took part in the pilot. It adds up to more scooters coming to Seattle streets. Read more here.

AS SEEN ON KUOW

caption: An otter pup sits on its mother in the waves off of Cape Flattery in Neah Bay, Wash.
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An otter pup sits on its mother in the waves off of Cape Flattery in Neah Bay, Wash.
Credit: KUOW/Hans Twite

An otter pup sits on its mother in the waves off of Cape Flattery in Neah Bay, Wash. Before the United States tested atomic bombs on remote islands in Alaska in the late 1960s, some people decided to save some of the local sea otters that relocate them to the Washington and Oregon coasts to help bring the species back to the region. The Wild podcast dives into what happened next. (Hans Twite / KUOW)

DID YOU KNOW?

There’s a lot of cool things you can say about Seattle author Vonda McIntyre. The reason I’m aware of her is because she penned many Star Trek novels in the 1980s (thanks to Seattle reporter Essex Porter for enlightening me with that information).

Aside from her talents as a science fiction writer, her day job was based in science reality. McIntyre earned a bachelor’s in biology from the University of Washington in 1970. She then researched genetics for her graduate degree at UW. Around this same time, she helped found the Clarion West Writers Workshop while her sci-fi writing garnered Nebula and Hugo awards.

McIntyre wrote a range of books that weren’t Star Trek, but because I’m writing this blurb, and because I’m wearing my Star Trek socks today, I’m going to mention that McIntyre is responsible for a lot of Star Trek canon. For example, while fans knew of Lt. Sulu on the bridge of the Enterprise in the 1960s, they didn’t know his full name until McIntyre wrote it into a novel in 1981 — Hikaru Sulu.

When McIntyre passed away in 2019, a memorial scholarship was set up at Clarion West that helps women writers and writers of color attend the workshop.

ALSO ON OUR MINDS

caption: Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, pauses while speaking during a Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee hearing on Capitol Hill, Thursday, Nov. 4, 2021, in Washington.
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Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, pauses while speaking during a Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee hearing on Capitol Hill, Thursday, Nov. 4, 2021, in Washington.
Credit: (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Here's why Dr. Fauci says the U.S. is 'out of the pandemic phase'

"We are certainly, right now, in this country out of the pandemic phase. Namely, we don't have 900,000 new infections a day and tens and tens and tens of thousands of hospitalizations and thousands of deaths. We are at a low level right now ... So, if you're saying: 'Are we out of the pandemic phase in this country?' We are."


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