It’s already the first full weekend in August — and, goodness, the delta variant has stolen much of the steam from what was looking like our Hot Vax Summer. So this edition of your weekend reader includes news about COVID and whether we should get ready to be masked again. (Spoiler alert: Yes.) But we also have stories you might have missed about the increasing political storms swirling around school boards, the “MyPillow” guy, Bard in the Quad and, finally, cats.
Melissa Goff, the recently fired superintendent of Greater Albany Public Schools, wrote an opinion piece last Sunday in The Oregonian/OregonLive about the experience. Goff writes that she is among the “atypically high number of public school district superintendents who, according to the American Association of School Administrators, have been fired or chose to leave their positions in the wake of the pandemic.” She adds that these superintendents “are leaving as a result of conservative political action committees inserting themselves into our local school board races.” If you’re wondering why Goff submitted her essay to The Oregonian instead of the Democrat-Herald, well, this editorial may offer a clue. (Goff also spoke Wednesday to OPB’s “Think Out Loud,” an appearance no doubt inspired by her Oregonian op-ed.)
Speaking of Albany’s school board, it’s a prominent part of this story by Eder Campuzano of The Oregonian/OregonLive, about how the politics surrounding the state’s school boards are increasingly polarized around issues such as equity and COVID restrictions. The story details how the winning slate of candidates in May’s school board election for the Greater Albany Public Schools — Roger Nyquist, Brad Wilson and Pete Morse — was backed in part by a new political action committee, Albany First, which dropped about $24,000 into the campaign. Among the donors to Albany First: Entek, the Lebanon-based battery parts manufacturer, and the political arm of the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce.
The Oregonian/OregonLive crunched some numbers and came up with something that should be more or less obvious, but is worth repeating anyway: Counties where more people are vaccinated against the coronavirus tend to have fewer people hospitalized for COVID. In Benton County, with a 73.3% vaccination rate, the per capita hospitalization rate per 100,000 population was 5.8. By contrast, Josephine County, with a 49.1% vaccination rate, had a hospitalization rate of 27.4. (In Linn County, with a vaccination rate of 57.6%, the hospitalization rate is the same as in Benton, 5.8.) This story is a subscriber exclusive on The Oregonian/OregonLive website, but the paper should consider posting all of its coronavirus coverage outside its paywall.
And speaking of COVID, here’s a new piece by The Atlantic’s Katherine Wu about how facial masks are back — and potentially will be a fixture of our daily lives for years to come. “Instead of thinking of masks as a pandemic Band-Aid, maybe we can consider them an obvious fixture of our future, even beyond SARS-CoV-2’s global reign,” she writes. … “We can, and should, expect masking to wax and wane as risk waxes and wanes.”
One more COVID note: I wrote this week about how the disease prompted the cancellation of this year’s Benton County Fair — and what that could mean for other big public events in the months to come. A comment on the piece from Charlie Fautin, recently retired from the Benton County Health Department, offers valuable perspective.
On another topic: The Atlantic’s Anne Applebaum spent a day with Mike Lindell, the “MyPillow” guy, and reports that he is just as goofily delusional as you might think — but nevertheless represents a real threat to democracy.
Here’s something for you cat fans, courtesy of The Atlantic’s Wu: It turns out that feline genomes are surprisingly similar to human’s, and that could help treat diseases in both species. This story also explains why calico cats get that way. (Need more about cats in science? Earlier this year, Wu reported about the fuss surrounding an academic study probing this important question: What’s the deal with cats and boxes?)
Finally, here’s my preview story about Oregon State University’s Bard in the Quad, which opened its production of “The Comedy of Errors” on Thursday. It’s a good chance to see a fun show in an appropriately socially distanced manner. But don’t forget your mask.