West Coast burns
As of Thursday, at least seven people have died in wildfires burning up and down the West Coast as far north as Seattle, through Oregon and as far south as San Diego, according to the New York Times.
“Over the last 24 hours, Oregon has experienced unprecedented fires, with devastating consequences across the state,” Governor Kate Brown tweeted on Wednesday. “Our number one priority right now is saving lives. This could be the greatest loss of human lives and property due to wildfires in our state’s history.”
Washington Governor Jay Inslee said the damage inflicted upon his state by wildfires was “unprecedented and heartbreaking.”
“An estimated 330,000 acres burned in just 24 hours yesterday,” Gov. Inslee explained in a Tuesday news briefing. “More acres burned yesterday than in 12 of the last 18 entire fire seasons in the state of Washington.”
USA Today reports that in California alone, over two million acres of land have burned. In total, there are 12 U.S. states battling wildfires and a loss of almost five million acres.
“Wildfires certainly are not new to the region, but fire season is getting longer, and more costly. Wildfires burn three months longer than they did in the 1970s,” The Economist radio host Kenneth Cukier said in a Sept. 9 podcast.
According to Catherine Brahic, Environment Editor for The Economist, the cost of fire suppression increases by billions each year.
Brahic also said wildfires are actually an essential part of many ecosystems and occur naturally in regions like Australia and California, but the problem is “humans are increasingly building in these environments where there is a natural fire season.”
“Naturally we try to stop fires burning, but in doing that we actually stymie this natural process and then just build up more, and more, and more fuel for when the fire does actually catch… it just goes ballistic,” Brahic said. “And then, of course, on top of that, you have the impacts of climate change.”
The effects of climate change, according to Brahic, create “an ideal tinder box” in California, which becomes more problematic when human development encroaches upon zones that are at high risk for wildfires.
Portland mayor calls for an end to the use of tear gas
Effective as of Thursday, Portland, Ore. Mayor Ted Wheeler banned the usage of CS gas–one of the most common forms of tear gas–for crowd control.
“During the last 100 days Portland, Multnomah, and state police have relied on CS gas where there’s a threat to life safety,” Wheeler said. “We need something different, and we need it now.”
The mayor also commended the state legislature for its research into safer crowd control alternatives, committing the city of Portland to participate in reforms.
“I expect the police to arrest people who engage in criminal acts. I expect the district attorney to prosecute those who commit criminal acts, and I expect the rest of the justice system to hold those individuals accountable. We must stand together, as a community, against violence, and for progress,” Mayor Wheeler said. “I’m acting. It’s time for others to join me.”
“I expect the police to arrest people who engage in criminal acts. I expect the district attorney to prosecute those who commit criminal acts, and I expect the rest of the justice system to hold those individuals accountable. We must stand together, as a community, against violence, and for progress,”
#TrumpKnew trends on Twitter
On Wednesday, #TrumpKnew was the top trending hashtag on Twitter with over 600 thousand tweets after several major news outlets, including CNN and The Washington Post, reported excerpts of journalist Bob Woodward’s upcoming book, “Rage.”
According to the Associated Press, Woodward’s new book, which is set to release to the public on Sept. 15, is composed of 18 interviews that Woodward conducted with President Donald Trump between Dec. 2019 and July 2020.
In one Feb. 7 interview, Trump told Woodward that COVID-19 “is deadly stuff.”
“You just breathe air and that’s how it’s passed. And so that’s a very tricky one. That’s a very delicate one,” the president said in February, adding that the novel coronavirus is “more deadly than even your strenuous flu.”
However, more than a month later, in an interview with Fox News, the president questioned shutting down the country for COVID-19, comparing the outbreak to the average annual death toll of the flu, stating, “We’ve never closed down the country for the flu. So you ask yourself, ‘What is this all about?’”
According to CNN, Trump told Woodward in March that he “wanted to always play it down.”
“I still like playing it down because I don’t want to create panic,” the president said.
When asked by reporters on Wednesday if he was responsible for misleading the public, Trump said “I think if you said in order to reduce panic, perhaps that’s so.”
“I’m a cheerleader for this country. I love our country and I don’t want people to be frightened. I don’t want to create panic,” Trump said.
“Certainly I’m not going to drive this country, or the world, into a frenzy. We want to show confidence. We want to show strength. We want to show strength as a nation, and that’s what I’ve done,” the president continued, “and we’ve done very well. We’ve done very well from any standard you look at.”
When asked by another reporter how he can assure that the American public can trust what he says in the future, Trump answered, “Well, I think that’s really a big part of trust. We have to have leadership. We have to show leadership, and the last thing you want to do is create a panic in the country.”
#TrumpKnew was trending on Twitter along with #TrumpLiedPeopleDied, “the Woodward tapes” and “200kAmericans,”referring to the current death toll of COVID-19 in America.
Nebraska loosens social distancing guidelines
On Thursday, Governor Pete Ricketts announced that Nebraska will loosen some of its social distancing guidelines beginning on Sept. 14.
Small indoor facilities such as restaurants, gyms and churches will be able to operate without formal restrictions from the state government, according to the Associated Press. Larger venues such as concert halls will be permitted to increase their attendance up to 75%.
State officials said that the decision was made based upon the availability of hospital beds and ventilators. According to Nebraska’s online tracking portal, the state has consistently had less than 50% of its hospital beds occupied.
Lincoln-Lancaster Public Health Director, Pat Lopez, told the Associated Press that schools reopening this month are keeping her from easing the restrictions in her county with the governor.
“This is the time, not only to stay on course, but also to redouble our efforts in Lancaster County,” said Lopez.