Opinion: No bending the rules during this pandemic

‘It is my hope that you join those of us at Clark County Today in doing the right thing, the responsible thing’

The last two weeks I’ve been radio silent in this column space. If you noticed, I’m flattered. If you didn’t, I understand. You’ve had many, many better things to focus on.

My silence has been intentional. A former colleague of mine — Colin Cowherd, now with FOX Sports — has always said, “I would rather be right than first.’’ And, as usually the case, I agree with Colin.

I remember the first time I heard the term coronavirus. The issue was brought up, not surprisingly, by Clark County Today’s standout reporter Chris Brown in one of our weekly staff meetings. I don’t remember the date of that meeting, but a considerable amount of time has gone by since that discussion.

I have to admit, I listened, but for the most part, I thought immediately that I’m not going to get myself worked up over something happening in a country so far away from us. And, by the time it threatened us, I was certain a solution would be found to keep us safe. Like many of you, I experienced the issue persistently finding its way into my focus and attention.

Still, I didn’t form strong feelings or opinions one way or another. I remember as closures began, a particular friend of mine wouldn’t stop wailing about what a massive overreaction was underway, on the local, state and national levels. I kept telling him, “if you keep saying things like that, you’re going to look awfully stupid in a couple of weeks.’’ I didn’t realize what a massive understatement I had made at the time.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not thrilled about the situation we find ourselves in. This isn’t a column in which I’m going to state that I’m in agreement with Gov. Jay Inslee’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy’’ order. I cringed when reports came that he was going to issue it and there are certainly elements of it that I don’t agree with. And, we’re now being told that he will likely extend it the next day or so. That’s not what I want to hear. But, as others have said before me, if one, two or even three months from now, anyone is talking about the social distancing and stay-at-home orders being excessive, I think we will all be taking a heavy sigh of relief.

I know the collateral damage, specifically the economic impact, is going to be significant. And, I feel for those who are fearful about their personal situation. My own adult son’s employer is currently in a temporary shutdown with no end in sight. My heart sank when I heard of the closing of Battle Ground’s Mill Creek Pub, whose owner Russell Brent is one of the most community-minded small business owners I have ever encountered. If Russell is unable to reopen his restaurant, that will be a shame. I’m sure he will always find a way to serve the community, because that’s in his DNA.

I choose to be confident the orders will be lifted as soon as it’s humanly possible and the collateral damage will be repairable.

My compliance

As you know, I often use movie references to illustrate my points. A scene from the movie “The Firm’’ comes to mind today. Gene Hackman’s character (Avery Tolar) was instructing Tom Cruise’s character (Mitch McDeere) how to assess how they could save a difficult client some of his tax dollars.

“Do you think I’m talking about breaking the law?’’ Tolar asked.

“No, I’m just trying to figure out how far you want it bent,’’ McDeere answered.

Mostly during my years as a youth, or young adult, I find that an accurate way to describe how my mind works. So, when I hear the details of the governor’s stay-at-home order, that’s my natural instinct. It’s an order for all of you, I will quietly do my own thing and hopefully stay unnoticed. But, somehow, someway, my mind is beginning to work in a much more responsible manner.

Without getting too personal, I’m 56 years old. I see a primary care physician once a year, who looks at my blood panels annually as well. In the last 3-plus years, I’ve added a cardiologist to my list of care providers. I just had my annual visit in February, and all was well for the most part. But, you likely won’t argue with me when I say I’m in the vulnerable category when it comes to the potential impacts of COVID-19.

So, for that reason, I’m not much of a rule bender these days. The overwhelming number of people who get COVID-19 will survive. Hopefully, if I do get it, I will survive as well. But, I really don’t want to roll those dice if I don’t have to.

I’m blessed with a wonderful employer who has given all of his employees all the freedom and resources he can to help us get through this pandemic. Myself and our staff members are busier than ever. In March, the massive amount of content we produced, much of it concerning the coronavirus pandemic, was viewed by 202,056 unique visitors to our website, which had 744,826 total page views. Those are both record numbers for us since our launch in September 2016.

That said, all of us here at Clark County Today are also being as responsible as ever. We are following social distancing guidelines and working from home as much as possible. Our reporter Jacob Granneman, as you know if you watched his personal video, has been quarantining at home due to symptoms he has experienced that raises a concern that he might have had COVID-19. He is nearing the end of that quarantine period and he and his wife are doing just fine.

It is my hope that you join those of us at Clark County Today in doing the right thing, the responsible thing. I’m determined to do everything I can not to take any unnecessary risks. That’s the best thing for me and it’s the best thing for my fellow Clark County residents. And, it isn’t lost on me, the better job we do at complying, the sooner the coronavirus curve will be flattened and the sooner the stay-at-home orders will be lifted and we can go to work on helping the members of our community rebound from the impacts of the pandemic.

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About The Author

Ken Vance got his start in the newspaper industry in 1987 as a reporter at The Columbian Newspaper in Vancouver. Vance graduated from Stevenson High School in Stevenson, WA, and attended Clark College in Vancouver. He worked for The Columbian from 1987-2001. He was most recently a staff member of The Reflector Newspaper in Battle Ground, where he served as editor since 2010 and reporter since 2007. Vance’s work in the newspaper industry has won him multiple awards, including a first place award from the Society of Professional Journalists for in-depth reporting.

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