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USC News

Washington state is distributing both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines in phases. 

By Karlee Van De Venter, Arts and Features Editor

Lately, it feels like there is so much going on: in the world, in the news, in our lives. Keeping up with current events was hard enough already, and now we’ve got a lot of information getting thrown at us at all times. Use this breakdown of some current topics to get the basic understanding and what you need to know. 

  • Washington state vaccine rollout 
    • Washington state is distributing both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines in phases. 
    • Use this site to find your phase throughout the rollouts and potential changes. 
    • The phases are broken down into tiers, and different criteria get you into certain tiers. 
    • The first tier, Phase 1A Tier 1, was only high-risk health care workers, high-risk first responders and residents and staff of nursing homes (or similar facilities). 
    • Phase 1A Tier 2, which began after Tier 1 was done, was for all other at-risk health care workers. 
    • Phase 1B has four tiers, but we are currently only in the first. 
    • Phase 1B Tier 1 is for anyone 65 and older, and people 50 and older in multigenerational households. 
    • Next will be high-risk workers in some congregate settings who are 50 and older. 
  • Oregon decriminalization law goes into effect 
    • In November, Oregon voted to decriminalize the possession of several common drugs, including heroin, LSD, oxycodone, methamphetamine and more. This went into effect at the beginning of Feb. 
    • The decriminalization only applies to small quantities, each drug has a specific limit where it would become a misdemeanor charge instead. 
    • That doesn’t mean people in Oregon can freely do any of those drugs, though. This is because of the difference between decriminalization and legalization. 
    • Decriminalization means it is no longer a criminal offense. Legalization means it is entirely legal. But what’s the difference when it’s applied?
    • If someone in Oregon is apprehended with those drugs, they wouldn’t go to jail or receive a criminal citation. They’d receive a civil citation, similar to a speeding ticket.
    • The citation is a fine of $100, but can be avoided by opting for a health assessment. The health assessment could lead to mandatory addiction counseling and/or further help for treatment. 
    • This decriminalization is to combat multiple issues in the U.S. Oregon officials have tied it back to problems in the criminal justice system, the war on drugs and more. It’s meant to prioritize rehabilitation over punishment. 
  • COVID-19 strains 
    • There are new strains of COVID-19 being found that differ genetically from the original strain found in China. 
    • Most viruses, especially RNA viruses, are expected to mutate over time and across countries. 
    • An RNA virus has ribonucleic acid (or RNA) as its genetic material. It works differently than DNA viruses, as it transfers genetic code to host cells. 
    • It is suspected that the strain identified in the U.K. is more contagious. 
    • Experts believe the new strains don’t imply a higher danger or fatality rate, though. Continued efforts would be effective against new strains. 
    • Experts also believe there will likely be more strains as time goes on. 
    • While it is unknown whether existing vaccines will protect people from these strains, the progress and recent successes in RNA viruses could make future vaccines a simpler process.