Clark County Today Editor Ken Vance takes a look at how Gov. Jay Inslee’s views on reopening compares to that in other states
Gov. Jay Inslee made another appearance in Clark County Tuesday. He’s made so many stops here recently, as well as regular visits to seemingly every nook and cranny in our state, that I hardly took notice.
I’m never going to complain about our governor visiting our neck of the woods. Those of us in Southwest Washington often have felt ignored by the state’s leadership in Olympia, who often act as if it doesn’t happen in King or Pierce counties; it just isn’t worthy of their attention. On a side note, I am skeptical of his motivation. He was just reelected rather easily so he doesn’t have to campaign anytime soon and Washington state hasn’t elected a Republican governor since 1980. Oh well, I guess I need to remember that all motives aren’t sinister.
While I don’t have any complaints about seeing Gov. Inslee’s face in Clark County, even if it is covered by a mask, I sure wish he would start singing a different tune. The governor issued a statement Tuesday, refusing to budge on his plans for reopening our state.
“Many people, myself included, are eager for our state to fully reopen,’’ Inslee stated. “I have said repeatedly we are going to do this on June 30 or when we hit 70% of people 16 and up initiating vaccinations — whichever happens first.’’
It seems our governor, who has appeared rigid, stubborn and unwilling to consider the thoughts of others throughout this pandemic, is determined to make Washington the 50th state to fully reopen from restrictions and lockdowns due to COVID-19.
Those of you who are kind enough to read my thoughts in this space on a regular basis know I’ve been a sports fan my entire life. Last evening, as is the case on most evenings, I was busy watching a number of sporting events at the same time. (I’m a pro at manipulating the remote control so I can watch multiple games at once.)
One of the sporting events I was focused on last night was the Dodgers and Phillies game in Los Angeles. The Dodgers billed the game as “Reopening Day,’’ selling 52,078 tickets at Dodger Stadium to fans not only starved to watch baseball in person, but starved to watch or do anything in person after more than a year of living life in a pandemic.
Fans were sitting right next to each other, filling every available seat. I didn’t even see that many masks. Remember, California Gov. Gavin Newsom and Inslee have essentially been in lock step in issuing restrictions throughout the pandemic. But, no more. There are no more state rules in California on social distancing, and no more limits on capacity at restaurants, bars, supermarkets, gyms, stadiums or anywhere else. Also, masks are no longer mandated for residents of that state in most settings.
The scene at Dodger Stadium is far from the only one I’ve witnessed recently. The Chicago Cubs celebrated what they called “Open Day 2.0’’ on Friday at famed Wrigley Field. The Cubs were allowed by Illinois officials to return to 100 percent capacity and the “Friendly Confines’’ were packed for the entire three-game weekend series with their rival St. Louis Cardinals. Again, very few masks could be seen in the crowd as that state moved into what its officials have labeled Phase 5 of the coronavirus reopening plan. (By the way, the Cubs swept the Cardinals, allowing their fans to stand and enthusiastically sing “Go Cubs Go’’ three straight days. If you haven’t witnessed that, it’s the greatest postgame celebration in sports in my opinion.)
But, those happy stories are for the good people of California and Illinois. Here in Washington state, when it comes to our approach to the pandemic, we live in what feels like a different time and continuum. We’re living under the dictatorial leadership of a governor who refuses to budge.
Inslee seems to flip-flop between “science” and personal edicts at the drop of a hat, ignoring the number of citizens who already have natural immunity after recovering from COVID-19. What is the “science” behind a not-so-mystical June 30 or even 70 percent level of vaccination?
“For those who would advocate changing our strategy, we are on the two-yard line,’’ Inslee stated Tuesday. “We are not going to change the game plan now. We are going to see this through.’’
Inslee says we are on the “two-yard line.’’ Forgive me if I don’t believe him. I have a good friend who owns a restaurant/bar in Clark County. His establishment received a visit from a couple of officials from the Washington State Liquor Control Board, who gave his establishment a thumbs up for its compliance with the governor’s restrictions. However, my friend said his visitors warned him that Inslee could be announcing extensions of limitations in the near future.
Inslee has been criticized for Washington’s practice of including individuals 16 and older in their vaccination reporting instead of adults 18 and older, which is the data used by the federal government. As of Tuesday, Washington reported that 67.2 percent of our residents 16 and older have been vaccinated and 71.7 percent of those 18 and older qualify. So, an adjustment in the metric would put the state over the governor’s own threshold.
“We use the age 16 and up as that population was eligible when we made the announcement,’’ Inslee explained. “Our state uses data for people age 16 and up, the federal government uses data for ages 18 and up. We use the most recent Census date from 2020, the federal government uses older data.’’
The governor’s metrics have also been criticized for not including individuals in the state who have been vaccinated through the VA or military installations.
“We need to compare apples to apples,’’ Inslee stated. “Additionally, the Department of Defense and Veterans Administration federal vaccination programs do not share person-level data with the Department of Health, and the state can only rely on data it has access to and can verify.’’
I don’t speak for anyone else, although I feel strongly I’m not on an island by myself on this, this pandemic has been discouraging on so many levels and for such a long time that I’ve lost my patience with this governor and his refusal to consider any ideas other than his own.