Students Plans After COVID

Tinsae Shifreaw, Staff Writer

During this pandemic, many fun activities that allowed interaction were canceled, such as concerts, amusement parks and common hangout areas, so that state and federal governments can slow and stop the spread of the COVID-19 disease. Thankfully, vaccine research and distribution to the population has begun. With the state re-opening and moving to Phase Three, many places and businesses are starting to open up, allowing the businesses to host at 50 percent capacity, and allowing more freedom for citizens to participate in different, yet still limited activities. Though the state is opening up, it is a long process, with us backtracking when there is a high spike in cases across the state and taking a slow approach to opening. With this information, “what is the first thing you would do after COVID is over and safe to go around and attend the many different activities once unavailable?”  This question was asked to students, allowing them to consider what they may do after our long quarantine is over. Max Turner, a junior at Saint Martin’s University, said, “probably go somewhere crowded and just relax”. Something many people miss. Others responded the same, saying how they want to walk around without masks, enjoying the fresh air and hanging out with their friends in public places like the mall or something like the Puyallup State Fair. Freshman Ja’Tarya Hoskins says that she would go to a concert or festival with her friends, dancing and singing to the lyrics of the different songs, losing their voices over the loud beats. 

Many do plan on traveling to other states or countries, feeling the need to travel as the warm weather creeps in, kicking the cold weather of winter out, and missing the adventures in different and new places. However, some students do not have a plan, still waiting for it to officially be safe to have fun. Sophomore Asma Ibrahim had that thought when asked the question. “I haven’t thought that far ahead because it became a way of living that if I go to crowded areas now, it doesn’t feel right”. With life slowly getting back to normal, many feel the awkwardness of life  before the pandemic and before the quarantine, especially in crowded places like malls and parks. Those with high-risk family members and are attending classes online may soon be able to safely attend classes in person. They are going to be able to experience the college life that many have been hoping to witness by attending the different activities available. With the college experience in mind, different activities for classes or even just part of campus life can actually take place, allowing for bigger events, like potlucks or even dances that many have heard occurred during the previous years of many upperclassmen who attend Saint Martin’s University. 

Schools Reopening

Ailina Cunningham, Staff Writer

For students with families who live locally, it’s important to understand how schools are attempting to open back up amidst the COVID-19 pandemic and how they plan to handle the delicate balance of Education vs. Public Safety. Locally, the Thurston County school districts are opening up as we inch closer and closer to COVID-19 free schooling. This of course is not a perfect system as several schools have opted for hybrid and online classes. This is a compromise the school districts are using in order to keep the school going while also being aware of social distancing protocol and safety protocol for students and teachers. The Thurston County School District website even states that in order to get back to school, students and staff are both encouraged to take a COVID-19 test to ensure the safety, health and wellness of each person. On their website, it says “participants are encouraged to pre-register online before arriving at the testing site. Parents/guardians who pre-register their student online will also be asked to fill out a permission slip that allows test results to be shared with their student’s school district.” This is regarding a testing site that has been set up for the Thurston County School District to get tested that is located conveniently at 6005 Tyee Dr. S.W. in Tumwater. 

Currently, the plan for implementing public safety within the school district is to enact hybrid learning that allows students to opt for virtual or in-person learning as needed. Different grades are given different times that their hybrid learning styles are going to be implemented, including as early as March 15 for 6th graders. This however does not mean that masks will be excluded from the educational plan as students are still encouraged to wear a mask and promote public safety for their fellow students. The hybrid learning is the fifth part of a six-part education reopening plan which allows students to get back to pre-k COVID-19 school learning. The first two parts of the reopening plan include remaining at home and full remote learning. Steps three through five include gradual hybrid learning with an emphasis on in-person learning with each step. Currently, in Stage five, it is a requirement that in-person learning takes place at least two times a week out of the five days that school is in session with three of those days being an optional online class. Currently, much like Saint Martin’s students who are using online classes to complete their degree, students of Elementary and High School are using Google Classroom and Canvas in order to get their assignments completed and meet virtually through Zoom calls. Luckily in this age of technology, it becomes easier to adapt to learning environments such as virtual classrooms that allow people to proceed with their education no matter where they are. Even as schools open up and learning becomes more in person, maintaining the ability to have hybrid classes could be beneficial in the future and a valuable model for teachers to use to reach students everywhere.

Restaurants Expanding their Services during COVID

Tinsae Shifreaw, Staff Writer

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, restaurants have been closed to in-person dining since March  2020. Now with Thurston County opening back up, restaurants are following suit with in-person dining at a limited capacity. Governor Jay Inslee has allowed restaurants to prepare for the influx of customers ready to dine in. In addition to the state now moving into Phase Three of the Healthy Washington Plan, which started on March 22, restaurants are now able to hold guests at 50 percent capacity. At this time, restaurants in Thurston County are open-minded about opening to 50 percent capacity; however, they are not as enthusiastic. These feelings could be due to the hard year that the restaurant and hospitality businesses had to go through. 

The hospitality industry had to shut down and reopen on multiple occasions due to random spikes of COVID-19 cases from March 2020 up until present day. At this time, with COVID-19 cases lowering in Thurston County, businesses can have less extensive restrictions. Many restaurant owners were over the moon when they found out that they could finally open, yet they believe that the path leading up to this point was damaging, with a great deal of closures and openings that set businesses backwards. Many of the employees who worked in the hospitality industry lost their jobs due to the virus. Their employer could no longer afford the employees that they hired. 1,700 local employees in the restaurant industry were let go from their jobs within this past year because businesses were unable to continue payroll due to sudden closures.

 Restaurant owners are just waiting for Governor Jay Inslee to completely open restaurants, this will allow them to re-establish a pattern for regular customers, as well as begin making a steady profit. The current difficulty that restaurants with a higher capacity change are facing is trying to hire new workers. The potential employees planning to work in a restaurant are concerned that they may get COVID-19. 

Along with Thurston County opening to Phase Three, we still have to be careful and mask up to avoid going back to Phase Two. With restaurants opening up, and  more people going outside, there are higher chances of spikes in Thurston County. Phase Four will take a lot longer than Phase Three, which took three months, to be achieved. 

Domestic Violence on Campus: How to Spot it and How to Respond

Brianna Lopez, Staff Writer

Domestic violence comes in many forms and can happen anywhere. On the evening of February 22, it occurred on campus on the third floor of Parsons Hall. The boyfriend of a student became upset around 10:30 P.M. when confronted about potentially cheating on his girlfriend, according to a Lacey Police report obtained by The Belltower

The report indicates the 19-year-old male hit his girlfriend and hurt two other female students and one male student who were trying to intervene. Some of the dorm’s Resident Assistants and others became involved, and the police were called. The police report included witness statements from multiple Saint Martin’s students and quoted directly from life-threatening texts and statements the suspect allegedly made to students involved in the conflict. The suspect was arrested on three assault charges and one count of domestic violence, and was taken to Nisqually Jail. The assaults on February 22 are still under investigation.

Domestic violence is a worldwide issue and is something that some are lucky enough to never witness or experience. By definition, domestic abuse is an intimate living relationship where your partner may be physically, emotionally or verbally hurting you. This has a major effect on people that happen to be victims. The difference between this domestic violence incident and many others is the titles that come with the relationship. 

Howard Thronson, Interim Director of Campus Security, was able to shed light on domestic violence and what to do in that situation. The conversation started with how Thronson defines it. Upon first getting to know someone, their true colors may be difficult to see. Thronson stated that when people get into a relationship and each person decides how far the relationship is going to go, “someone always wants more,” he said, “then they become controlling.” 

Many may think there is only one way to define domestic violence and that is if the male in the relationship hits the female. However, domestic violence is an umbrella term with a lot of topics under it. Regarding the crime, it is often assumed the man is the perpetrating party in a case. But this is not always true; in a relationship, either partner could be the offender. It is simply less common to see women hitting their husbands. We also know that there are men who may be abused in their relationships. But due to the stigma and other stereotypes of men having to be stronger and more dominant, their experiences and stories are not told as often. 

Here on campus, there are a lot of things you can do to help someone in a situation like this. This goes for everything in life: if you see something suspicious, tell someone you trust. If you know your friend is involved in a bad relationship, be there for them and refrain from saying things like, “I know how you feel,” because that may not be the case for all people. Saint Martin’s provides training for students about how to help victims as well as how to distract the aggressor. The school has only reported about one domestic violence incident in each recent year, however it is still important to know the warning signs.

Homelessness in Lacey, Washington

Brianna Lopez, Staff Writer

Homelessness has always been an issue in modern society, especially in largely populated cities, but what is being done about this issue and how are people responding? COVID-19 has caused a large increase in unemployment, which has led to individuals losing their homes. There are different programs that people can apply to in order to help themselves, but many feel it is also the duty of these highly-populated cities to help.

The City of Lacey has dealt with homelessness for quite some time. The homeless now find shelter under bridges or in homeless shelters. Unfortunately, these shelters fill up fast, leaving many individuals to face the ever-changing climate. 

Rick Walk, the City of Lacey Community and Economic Development Director, explained what the city has decided to do to help decrease homelessness and the impact it has made on his life. Walk also explained the way people have responded to the city’s plan. The Community work group consists of 30 members coming from different backgrounds such as business owners, nurses, those who have been homeless and more. 

This project to decrease homeless numbers started about a year ago. The work group along with City Council members are in the middle of processing how to perfect this work group and what would best work for the community. There was a two-week virtual open house in the summer of 2020 where they spoke about what would happen during these work groups and what they are all about. These conversations are done virtually since we are currently in a pandemic and guidelines will be continuously followed. 

Continuing the conversation with Mr. Walk, one might wonder how he feels the project has impacted him as an individual. He responded positively, considering it a “very rewarding experience.” The homeless population continues to grow, quickly exceeding the facilities that we have, so how do we decrease the numbers?

Like anyone who wants to make a change, there is the opportunity to hear very strong opinions and perspectives. How you help people understand what your perspective is on issues you feel strongly about is a very difficult task. Some people will always show up and have a completely different opinion. 

Walk also stated that he is becoming more aware of the complexity of homelessness. Drugs, mental health, family conflicts and more play a large part in it. There is a negative perspective some people have of homelessness, but by educating ourselves we may learn something that changes our point of view. In order for a community to respond in a strong way, they must work together.

Six Dr. Suess Books Will No Longer Be Printed

Sunya Chay, Staff Writer

Theodor Suess Geisel, better known as Dr. Suess, is one of the most well-known children’s authors of all time. There are many books published under the name “Dr. Suess” that children have been reading them for decades. However, six books have come under fire for racist imagery. The six books, And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, If I Ran the Zoo, McElligot’s Pool, On Beyond Zebra!, Scrambled Eggs Super!, and The Cat’s Quizzer, were all called out for their imagery. These books will no longer be published, and some schools are pulling these books off of their shelves. 

Dr. Seuss is celebrated all over the United States. Read Across America, an organization that promotes children’s literacy, promotes Read Across America Day on March 2nd every year on Dr. Seuss’ birthday. Dr. Seuss Enterprises and Read Across America work together to promote reading. However, in 2018, Read Across America stopped partnering with Dr. Seuss Enterprises. 

According to Vox, “when the NEA’s contract with Dr. Seuss Enterprises ran out in 2018, it chose not to renew the terms, leading to a lot less Dr. Seuss merch getting distributed to different schools. And this year, the NEA has pivoted away from Dr. Seuss entirely.” 

Since these six books are no longer being published, sales for Dr. Seuss have skyrocketed. Many people want to get these books before they are no longer on the market. However, many online stores are already taking it off of the shelves, making it harder for people to buy them.

The book If I Ran the Zoo depicts many racist images of people of color. According to Vox, the images include a point when  “the narrator declares his intention to put a ‘chieftain’ (illustrated as a man in a turban) on display in the zoo; a pair of African characters are portrayed as monkeys; and a group of Asian characters, described as ‘helpers who all wear their eyes at a slant’ from ‘countries no one can spell’ carry a caged animal on their heads.” Many of Dr. Seuss’ books also depict racist images to go along with the narration.

One of the other books that depicts racist images is And to Think I Saw It on Mulberry Street. According to AP News, the book has, “an Asian person… portrayed wearing a conical hat, holding chopsticks, and eating from a bowl.” These images are not only racist but are also hurtful to the communities that are affected by it. 

All of Dr. Seuss’ books published under Dr. Seuss Enterprises will no longer be published. The decision for these six books to stop publishing was last year when more attention to the racist imagery arose. According to AP News, “‘These books portray people in ways that are hurtful and wrong,’ Dr. Seuss Enterprises told The Associated Press in a statement that coincided with the late author and illustrator’s birthday.” These books will no longer be published. However, the rest of Dr. Seuss’ books, such as The Cat in The Hat will be.

Amazon’s Affordable Housing

Sunya Chay, Staff Writer

Earlier this year, Amazon revealed its plan to help fund homes for low-income families. The Housing Equity Fund is a $2 billion plan to help create and maintain housing. This fund will focus on three different locations: the Puget Sound region, Nashville, Tenn., and Arlington, Va.. Amazon states, “The fund will support Amazon’s commitment to affordable housing and will help ensure moderate- to low-income families can afford housing in communities with easy access to neighborhood services, amenities, and jobs.” This fund will help those struggling to find a home get back on their feet. 

 Beyond helping families with  housing, the Housing Equity Fund will also give grants to organizations run by minorities. “Amazon’s Housing Equity Fund will provide an additional $125 million in cash grants to businesses, nonprofits, and minority-led organizations to help them build a more inclusive solution to the affordable housing crisis, which disproportionately affects communities of color.” This added fund will help minorities create more housing in areas where it is scarce. They also will provide funds for resources that are not part of the housing, including schools and transportation. With the added funds to those resources, Amazon hopes that it will help create more affordable housing and overall better communities.

Within the three locations, Amazon hopes that they can help keep the cost of housing low.  Specifically, Amazon is  planning to help those who are making between thirty to eighty percent of the average income. In Washington, Amazon aims to help keep 1,000 apartments in King County affordable for those who make eighty percent of the average income. The company is going to give a $161.5 million loan to the King County Housing Agency in order to meet their goals.  In addition, Amazon will also give a $24 million grant to keep the aforementioned 1,000 apartments affordable. With part of the grant, Amazon plans to help those who make thirty percent of the average income. While working with the agency, Amazon desires to help finance 470 units in Hampton Greens, Illahee Apartments, and Pinewood Village in King County. These units will be for households that make thirty to eighty percent of the average income for the area. 

The conglomerate is also working with Washington Housing Conservancy, giving $339.9 million in loans and $42 million in grants. In Arlington, Va., the Washington Housing Conservancy was able to buy Crystal House, which is an apartment complex. This apartment complex offers a range of apartments from loft style studios to three-bedroom apartments. This happened two months earlier than expected and is near the new Amazon Headquarters.  The development was made  using the loan that they gave to the Washington Housing Center. 

In addition to the grants in Washington, Amazon is funding $2 million dollars in loans to help fund affordable housing for low-income families. With this fund, Amazon strives to create more affordable housing resources, such as better transportation and schools that are beneficial in the affected housing markets.

Second Round of Phases

Sophia Kobernusz-Gibbs, Staff Writer 

Gov. Jay Inslee first announced reopening phases in May 2020 with the Safe Start Plan. It consisted of four phases, and though no county in Washington got to the fourth phase, areas were able to get to the third, showing the beginnings of returning to normal life. Fewer social gatherings with quarantining and testing were required. However, with drastic spikes in the winter and holiday season, a new plan of action was formed and released at the beginning of this year.

Washington is now using a new phase system for reopening. This system is called “Healthy Washington – Roadmap to Recovery.” The entire state is divided into eight regions; Saint Martin’s resides in the West region along with Grays Harbor, Lewis, and Pacific counties. On the Washington State Governor’s Office website, all information regarding the new plan is laid out. Unlike the last plan, there are only two phases. Gov. Inslee explained that more phases can be added at a later date if needed.

There are four metric requirements, and they were made effective on Jan. 11, 2021 for moving forward from Phase 1 to Phase 2. These metrics include a decreasing trend of greater than 10% in a two-week rate of COVID-19 cases per 100K population. The trend also needs to apply to COVID-19 hospital admission rates, less than 90% ICU occupancy, and COVID-19 positivity rate of less than 10%. However, once a county is in Phase 2, they have more metrics to meet in order to remain in the second phase. These requirements include a decreasing or flat trend in a two-week rate of COVID-19 cases per 100K population, decreasing or flat trend in two-week new COVID-19 hospital admission rates per 100K population, and the ICU and COVID-19 positivity rates from Phase 1 must be applied here. Failure in two or more of these metrics would mean getting moved back to Phase 1.

In Phase 1, there are limited social gatherings outdoors and none allowed indoors. The main system of limited capacity is applied to stores and services. Fitness and entertainment are fairly restricted such as limiting the number of households present( two households as a general rule), and interaction. With Phase 2, social gatherings are allowed but limited to two households regardless of whether it is indoors or outdoors.The guidelines then change to 25% or less capacity for institutions and services. This system only has two phases, and the entire state is in Phase 2 as of Feb. 14, 2021. 

Those are not the only phases brewing in this regard, as there are also the COVID-19 vaccine phases. These are divided by season as to when people will most likely receive their vaccine. 1A tier 1 and 2, and 1B tier 1 are in the winter. These are for at-risk folks, mandatory workers, people over age 65 and people over age 50 living in multigenerational homes. In the spring and summer, 1B tiers 2, 3 and 4 will be addressed. These include high-risk critical workers, starting with over 50 and then under 50. In addition, it will encompass “people 16 years or older with 2 or more comorbidities or underlying conditions.” There will be more phases to take care of the rest of the population. The summer and fall phases 2, 3 and 4 will be coming soon. These phases are in place to distribute to those most at risk, in addition to regulating the limited supply of vaccines. 

Washington State COVID-19 Relief Bill

Staff Writer, Hillary Thompson

Over the past several months, the COVID-19 pandemic has vastly affected public health and has caused unemployment rates to rise. Companies have created certain vaccines, which have been  in distribution throughout the country. To help the people in Washington who have been affected by the disease, the Washington State Senate has approved a COVID-19 relief bill. 

According to KOMO news, “The Washington State Legislature approved a bipartisan $2.2 billion COVID-19 relief bill Wednesday to expand testing and vaccine distribution, provide support for schools and small businesses, and help with housing and food assistance.” Because  the bill has an emergency clause, it will take effect immediately upon Gov. Inslee’s signature. The bill has several elements, looking to provide support for many of the industries impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

According to King 5 news, “Under the bill, $668 million will be allocated to schools as they move toward welcoming students back to the classroom. An additional $618 million will go toward vaccine administration, contact tracing and testing, and $365 million will go toward rental assistance to help renters and landlords affected by the pandemic.” 

In addition, “$240 million [will go to] at least 12,000 small business assistance grants, $70 million to assist undocumented immigrants who have been affected by the pandemic and do not qualify for federal or state assistance, $50 million in grants to help keep childcare business open and expand their capacity, [and] $26 million for food assistance to individuals and households in need.”

Sen. Christine Rolfes talked about how Washington state is ready to beat the virus and get rid of COVID-19. She called the bill an “early action” bill, and it’s only a series of COVID-19 relief packages she expected state lawmakers to pass this year. Rolfes had sponsored the senate bill that will allow thousands of establishments that were impacted by the closures to be able to avoid paying liquor licensing fees. This measure is awaiting action in the House.

Sen. Doug Erickensen disagreed with Rolfes’ statement. “Today is not early action,” Ericksen said on the Senate floor. “Today is watching the house burn down and standing outside with some MREs [meals ready to eat], emergency baskets to pass out to people as they escape that apartment building that just burned down. The governor should have had lawmakers return to Olympia for a special session last spring or summer to provide relief sooner.” 

Sen. Doug Ericksen had also sponsored Senate Bill 5169. “This bill would improve the provision of personal protection equipment in medical settings,” KHQ 1 news reported. “The Bill passed the Senate on Wednesday and now it is heading to the House of Representatives’ consideration.” 

The Legislature also approved House Bill 1095, which will exempt businesses from paying B&O taxes on emergency assistance grants from the state or federal government. The measure is expected to provide up to $210 million in tax relief for Washington businesses impacted by the pandemic.

Bidens’s Inauguration

Hillary Thompson, Staff Writer 

On January 20, 2021, a historic moment in U.S history played out as the world watched Joe Biden become the 46th President of the United States. Joe Biden took the oath of office on his family’s 127-year-old Bible, while Kamala Harris was sworn in, becoming the first African and Asian American, to become the Vice President of the United States. The first Hispanic and Latina member of the Supreme Court, Sonia Sotomayor, administered the oath of office to many who had watched in awe as the former Presidents and the families of the two elected Presidents gathered in celebration and watched the historic moment. Meanwhile, former President Donald Trump has become the first President in 185 years to not attend the inauguration of his successor. There were many celebrity guests, such as Lady Gaga who had sung her rendition of “ The Star-Spangled Banner,” Jennifer Lopez performed “This Land is Your Land” and “America the Beautiful” and Katy Perry performed her most popular song “Firework” while singing in front of the Washington Monument; fireworks of red, white, and blue exploded behind her. Poet Amanda Gorman, a 22-year-old Harvard grad, recited a poem reflecting on the day the Capitol was attacked stating, “in this truth, in this faith, we trust. For while we have our eyes on the future, history has its eyes on us.”

After President Biden gave a speech preaching about healing and unity he stated, “to overcome these challenges, to restore the soul and secure the future of America requires so much more than words. It requires the most elusive of all things in a democracy: unity.”  After his inaugural address, the President and Vice President also received congressional gifts. These gifts included a painting made by a Black painter from the Civil War presented to Biden by Sen. Roy Blunt, a Missouri Republican. Minnesota Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar presented Biden and Harris with Lenox crystal vases. Then Biden and Harris went from the Capitol to Arlington National Cemetery for a wreath-laying ceremony with three formers Presidents, Barack Obama, George W. Bush, and Bill Clinton, at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. 

The Biden family then walked in the inaugural parade. Around 4 pm Biden entered the White House for the first time as the 46th commander in chief. Biden and the First Lady paused for a moment on the North Portico as “Hail to the Chief” played. Vice President Harris returned to the Capitol to swear in three new Democratic senators: Georgia’s Jon Ossoff, Raphael Warnock, and California’s Alex Padilla, who replaced Harris in the chamber. After the inauguration, a celebration called Celebrating America included performances from Bon Jovi, Demi Lovato, Tim McGraw, Luis Fonsi, and the event  Host Tom Hanks. During this celebration, Biden had reiterated his call for unity stating “it is humbling to stand here in this place in front of these sacred words. Humbling out of respect to President Lincoln and the office we now share and humbling because of you, the American people. As I said earlier today, we have learned again that democracy is precious and because of you democracy has prevailed.”