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News Brief: Week of Sept. 6-12


West Coast wildfires leave 33 dead, thousands evacuated

Wildfires burning across the West Coast since August have left millions of acres burned, citizens displaced and 33 dead in their wake.

As of Saturday, Sept. 12, 97 fires were burning in California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana, and 3.4 million acres have been destroyed. In California, three of the state’s five largest wildfires are burning now.

Fires began in California in August before spreading across the West Coast. One fire was sparked after a pyrotechnic device at a gender reveal malfunctioned, leaving 10,000 acres burned in Southern California.

Smoke from the fires has given the air a hazy orange appearance as air quality plummets.

According to Oregon Department of Forestry Fire Chief Doug Grafe, at least eight of Oregon’s wildfires are expected to burn “until the winter’s rains fall.”

Trump causes controversy in recently released interview

A January interview with President Trump reveals him stating that he intentionally downplayed the coronavirus pandemic, despite having information about its deadly nature.

In an interview with Bob Woodward, Trump claimed the coronavirus is “deadly stuff.” The interviews were occurring in preparation for Woodward’s book about Trump entitled “Rage,” which will be published on Tuesday, Sept. 15.

“You just breathe the air and that’s how it’s passed,” Trump said to Woodward. “And so that’s a very tricky one. That’s a very delicate one. It’s also more deadly than even your strenuous flus.”

The New York Times noted Trump spoke about the coronavirus in a White House news conference on Feb. 26.

“It’s a little like the regular flu that we have flu shots for,” Trump said. “And we’ll essentially have a flu shot for this in a fairly quick manner.”

Trump defended his January statements during a White House news conference on Thursday, Sept. 10.

“We don’t want to instill panic,” Trump said. “We don’t want to jump up and down and start shouting that we have a problem that is a tremendous problem and scare everybody.”

He also said his actions were consistent with good leadership.

“I want to show a level of confidence, and I want to show strength as a leader,” Trump said. “I want to show our country will be fine one way or the other whether we lose one person — we shouldn’t lose any. This shouldn’t have happened. This is China’s fault. Nobody’s fault but China.”


COVID-19 outbreak in Oklahoma prison leads to one death

An Oklahoma prison inmate who had COVID-19 died on Saturday, Sept. 12.

The inmate at the Eddie Warrior Correctional Center in Taft was being treated in a hospital. According to the Department of Corrections, she had other undisclosed health conditions. 

The Eddie Warrior Correctional Center has suffered a COVID-19 outbreak, with 721 inmates testing positive as of Thursday, Sept. 10. According to employees, the outbreak is believed to have begun after an inmate transfer. The inmates were screened for COVID-19, but were not tested. 

Unemployment down as extra benefits end

Unemployment claims are declining after reaching record levels during the coronavirus pandemic earlier this year.

For the week ending on Sept. 5, first-time weekly claims totaled at 5,241 and continuing claims numbered 103,903 down from 6,019 initial claims and 119,571 continuing claims from a week earlier.

Oklahoma’s July unemployment rate was reported at 7.1% down from 14.7% in April. August numbers will be released later this month.

In addition, FEMA ended its Lost Wages Assistance program on Sept. 5, which provided an additional $300 weekly unemployment benefit.

The program ended before Oklahomans had received their payments. Back payments will be provided to those who qualified Aug. 1 to Sept. 5.

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