Medical researchers at the University of Washington have identified the most common symptoms of long COVID by studying nearly 10,000 Americans.

Their research findings, published Thursday in JAMA, are expected to help doctors separate people with long COVID from those whose symptoms are caused by another medical problem.

The 12 symptoms that appear to be most useful for identifying patients with long COVID include: post-exertion malaise, fatigue, brain fog, dizziness, gastrointestinal problems, heart palpitations, issues with sexual desire or capacity, loss of smell or taste, thirst, chronic cough, chest pain and abnormal movements.

The study, led by Dr. Helen Chu, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Washington School of Medicine, also found that people who were unvaccinated, had multiple infections or had their first infection before the 2021 omicron variant, were more likely to have long COVID symptoms and more severe cases of long COVID.

Growers are expected to harvest more Northwest sweet cherries in 2023 than they did last year, according to a first-round estimate from Northwest Cherry Growers. 

According to the estimate, based on grower reports, the five-state region — Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Utah —  could potentially harvest 19.9 million 20-pound boxes this year. 

That’s a 50% increase from the 2022 crop of 13.3 million boxes, which was the region’s smallest since 2008. 

Last year, several adverse weather events created harvest delays and reduced crop volume. Some cherries didn’t develop due to a lack of pollination during the cold spring months, and others were damaged through rain or other weather conditions. That led to fewer — and more expensive — cherries in grocery produce sections. 

Cooler weather did delay development this year — in some areas, upward of three weeks compared to the 2022 schedule. However, warming temperatures throughout the Northwest contributed to full bloom in most orchards. 

Early harvest is expected to start around mid-June and continue through July and early August, with plenty of available fruit around the Fourth of July holiday, according to industry officials. 

About 170 farmworkers at a Sunnyside mushroom farm are expected to be eligible for financial compensation under the settlement of a worker discrimination lawsuit filed by Attorney General Bob Ferguson last summer. 

Ostrom Mushroom Farms and Asellus-Sunnyside, the business entity that now operates the Sunnyside facility, will pay $3.4 million to the state Attorney General’s office, which will in turn compensate impacted farm workers. 

Ferguson filed the lawsuit in Yakima County Superior Court last August after an investigation by his office’s civil rights division. The investigation revealed that Ostrom fired its primarily female and Washington-based workforce between January 2021 and May 2022 and replaced them with male foreign guest workers through the H-2A program in violation of Washington discrimination laws. 

While the lawsuit was pending, Ostrom sold the Sunnyside mushroom facility to Windmill Farms, a Canadian company. As part of the agreement, Windmill Farms — operating as Asellus-Sunnyside in this state —  has agreed to take measures to prevent further worker discrimination. Ostrom must also agree to take these measures if it resumes operations in Washington in the next three years. 

Anyone who has worked at Ostrom and believes they should be part of this claims process should contact the Civil Rights Division by emailing or by calling 1-833-660-4877 and selecting Option 5.

In the meantime, workers have continued union organization efforts in cooperation with the United Farm Workers. The union declared the settlement “a victory” in a tweet posted on May 19

Since a federal court ruled in 2015 that the state was failing to do timely competency evaluations related to court proceedings, the Washington Legislature has been trying to shore up the mental health part of the state’s legal system.

Gov. Jay Inslee this week signed a bill that takes the next step toward overhauling the system as required by the so-called Trueblood decision. Senate Bill 5440 will overhaul the competency system, improve the timeliness of evaluations and provide services to people in the legal system who are suffering from behavioral health disorders.

SB 5440 includes a number of new initiatives and rules. The new law requires jails to allow mental health providers to meet with defendants waiting in jail for competency restoration. It prohibits jails or juvenile detention centers from substituting or discontinuing an individual’s medication for a serious mental health disorder when they are medically stable on the medication. And it creates a way for someone with non-felony charges to get those charges dismissed so they can get mental health treatment outside of jail.

The state was fined $83 million before reaching an agreement to settle the Trueblood case in 2018. The process of overhauling Washington’s competency system has been an ongoing process – overseen by the federal courts – ever since. 

King County Regional Homelessness Authority CEO Marc Dones announced today that they will step down in June. Deputy CEO Helen Howell will take over as interim CEO. 

The Regional Homelessness Authority was created in 2019 by the city of Seattle and King County to consolidate oversight and management of the homelessness response system. The authority manages contracts for the nonprofit service providers providing outreach, shelter and housing. It takes the lead on homelessness policy decisions. It serves as the region’s go-between on federal homelessness policy. And the authority has its own staff of frontline homeless outreach workers

Dones was hired as the organization’s first leader in 2021. Their departure, first reported by Publicola, comes amid criticisms from homeless service providers and from advocates that the agency has mishandled its takeover of the homeless contract system, leaving some nonprofit providers operating without pay.

In a joint statement, Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell and King County Executive Dow Constantine thanked Dones for their service: “Marc’s drive to innovate systems, improve housing stability, and help people move off the streets and inside with the supports they need is rooted in a staunch commitment to ending homelessness. From leading the design of the KCRHA to taking the reins as its first CEO, Marc has played an indispensable role in transforming ‘regional solutions to homelessness’ from an idea to tangible action.”

The Regional Homelessness Authority also released a statement about Dones's departure, thanking them for their leadership: “They have been a tireless advocate for racial equity and social justice, centering lived experience, increasing affordable housing, highlighting root causes of economic instability, and working together to iterate on new approaches to transforming the homelessness response system.”

Washington Supreme Court changes its opinion on race in juries

Justice Susan Owens notes that in previous rulings, the Court fell short of the objective to remove racism from the jury selection process.

The Washington Supreme Court revised its previous stand on what it means to have a “jury of your peers” in a decision issued Thursday.

Race discrimination in jury selection violates the Fourteenth Amendment’s equal protection guarantee, Justice Susan Owens states at the beginning of her simple-yet-dramatic opinion, which was signed by all her colleagues on the court.

Owens notes that previous rulings by the Washington Supreme Court fell short of the objective to remove racism from the jury selection process.

In 2010, a Black defendant appealed a trial court decision after a second potential Black juror was removed from the jury box in his trial for robbery, drug and firearm charges. The Supreme Court rejected his appeal at the time, but has now ordered Theodore R. Rhone’s case to be retried – 13 years after he made his appeal.

After the court swore in the jury, Rhone made the following statement: “I would like to have someone that represents my culture as well as your culture. To have this the way it is … seems unfair to me. It’s not a jury of my peers.”

Owens said Rhone was asking for “a bright line rule establishing a prima facie case of discrimination when the State peremptorily strikes the last member of a racially recognized group” from the potential jury pool. But the Court did not agree to adopt this rule in 2010.

The justices changed their minds in the years following because of all they have learned since then regarding the impact of implicit bias in jury selection, Owens wrote in her opinion.

The 2023 opinion was related to a different matter in Rhone’s case, but as Owens wrote, “We take this opportunity to revisit and correct that decision.”

“Given the unique factual and procedural history of this case and in the interest of justice, we recall our prior mandate, reverse Rhone’s convictions, and remand for a new trial,” she wrote.

Washington reports 10 times more flu deaths this season

A total of 262 Washington residents were reported to have died from the flu between the beginning of October 2022 and the end of April 2023.

Ten times more Washingtonians died from the flu during the 2022-2023 season compared to the previous flu season, the Washington Department of Health reported on Thursday.

A total of 262 Washington residents were reported to have died from the flu between the beginning of October 2022 and the end of April 2023, including 257 adults and five children. The Health Department reported 26 laboratory-confirmed flu deaths during the 2021-2022 flu season. Officials believe COVID-19 mitigation efforts, including masking, staying home and limited gatherings, may have kept flu activity down for the past few years. 

Nationwide, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates as many as 57,000 flu deaths occurred between Oct. 1, 2022 and April 29, 2023. The CDC reports one positive statistic concerning this year’s flu season: Hospitalizations decreased 75% for children and by about half for adults. Federal officials credit the flu vaccine for these decreases, but also note that flu vaccination rates have gone down nationally in certain groups, including children and pregnant people, compared to pre-pandemic levels. 

Washington Health Secretary Dr. Umair Shah advised people to become more diligent about getting a flu vaccine now that masking and social distancing are less common again. 

“The flu vaccine is your best protection against this serious disease. Even if you get the flu, if you’ve been vaccinated, typically your illness is milder and you aren’t as likely to need to go to the hospital,” Shah said in a DOH statement.

In Washington, flu activity rose at the end of October and peaked by the end of November. The DOH’s Flu Overview page has more information about this season’s outbreak.

Gov. Inslee signs bill to help survivors of sex trafficking in WA

The legislation will fund healing and transition services for people who have experienced sex trafficking. 


Gov. Jay Inslee recently signed a bill intended to help survivors of sex trafficking access housing, health services and more in Washington. 

“This is important because many survivors don’t know that services exist and there are people available to support them through their journey to healing,” said Jeri Moomaw, executive director of Innovations Human Trafficking Collaborative and co-founder of Washington Against Sexual Exploitation (WASE Forward), in a news release.

Signed on May 4, Substitute Senate Bill 5114 was written by and for survivors of adult sex trafficking, according to the WASE coalition of 34 agencies working to prevent commercial sexual exploitation of vulnerable people.

The coalition hopes the money will be spent on culturally responsive programs and services tailored toward those disproportionately affected by human trafficking, including communities of color.

The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Claire Wilson, D-Auburn, and Rep. Tina Orwall, D-Des Moines, will fund services like legal advocacy, safety planning, substance-use disorder treatment, housing, health services and education.  

Different factors make Washington particularly vulnerable to human trafficking, according to the Attorney General’s Office, including its border with Canada, rural landscape and “abundance of ports.” 

A new journalism fellowship to increase local news coverage in Washington will be established with money from the state budget. 

The Washington Legislature allocated $2.4 million over two years for the new fellowship program. Under the program, which could start as early as 2024, eight recent college graduates will be sent to news outlets statewide each year for two-year reporting stints. 

Local news coverage nationwide has been dwindling in recent years. Nearly 2,000 newspapers closed nationwide between 2004 and 2018, according to data from the University of North Carolina,

Several news outlets in Washington have closed or scaled back operations over the past two decades. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer became an online outlet after closing its print operation in 2009. Recently, leadership at the Seattle Chinese Post announced it would cease publication after more than four decades. 

“I know what it means for the press corps to hold elected officials’ feet to the fire, and it’s an important part of our democratic process that we can’t let slip away in towns around our state,” said Sen. Karen Keiser, D-Des Moines, in a news release from Washington Senate Democrats. 

Keiser, a graduate of the University of California Berkeley who worked as a broadcast journalist in Denver, Portland and Seattle, led the effort to fund the program with Sen. Marko Liias, D-Everett. 

The Edward R. Murrow College of Communication at Washington State University will operate the program, modeled after the California Local News Fellowship operated by the University of California Berkeley. Half of the participants selected will be WSU graduates, and all who complete the fellowship will receive a certificate in digital media innovation from the university. 

A bell rang 94 times, once for each worker in Washington state who died on the job last year, as their name was read aloud Thursday at the 2023 Worker Memorial Day ceremony in Tumwater.

Officials reported the most dangerous industry continues to be construction, which in 2022 accounted for about a third of the state’s workplace fatalities. Three of those workers died when the trench they were in collapsed. The second highest number of deaths, 26, resulted from exposure to toxic chemicals.

Thursday's event also honored 35 workers who died before 2022, but had not received recognition in previous ceremonies.

“As we hear each name read, it’s important to remember these are not just names. These are not just statistics. They’re our neighbors. They’re our friends. They’re our co-workers. They’re families. They’re our community,” said Joel Sacks, director of the state’s Department of Labor & Industries

On-the-job homicides also increased last year, rising from four deaths in 2021 to 11 in 2022 – all but two by gunfire. These deaths included Justin Krumbah, an Instacart shopper shot at a Fred Meyer in Richland.

In both 2020 and 2021, COVID-19 proved the leading cause of work-related fatalities, claiming 24 and 26 lives respectively. In 2022 that number dropped to 13.

Gov. Jay Inslee told attendees that a recently passed bill is intended to increase the safety of state highway workers by authorizing the use of speed safety cameras in work zones. 

“We got the legislature to do something to increase safety for that one group of employees, and we’re always looking for things like that, to try to allow people to come home safely,” he said.

The state’s fatality rate ranks third-lowest in the country with 2.1 deaths per 100,000 workers, according to the AFL-CIO’s 2023 Death on the Job report released this week – below the national average of 3.6 deaths per 100,000 workers.