Washington was up front when the coronavirus set its timetable early this year, with 37 of the first 50 confirmed deaths coming in the Evergreen State, its early victims including renowned UW pathology professor Steve Schwartz and popular Leschi Market co-owner Steve Schulman.
Hard to believe three months have passed, and the direction the COVID-19 pandemic has taken. The TV anchors this morning were reporting from Arizona, with 73,908 confirmed cases and 1,588 deaths, ravaged Native American reservations and worried hospital administrators. President Donald Trump just held a rally down there with a largely maskless audience in a megachurch.
Washington is way down the list at 31,752 cases and 1,312 deaths, with spikes mainly in Central and Eastern Washington counties where some local officials railed against “Czar Inslee” for ordering shutdowns. Still a “hot spot” Franklin County in April saw county commissioners pass an open-for-business resolution, only to rescind it the next day.
The state’s response to the pandemic has been proactive, science-based, explained to the public and quite popular. Gov. Inslee put his goofiness and hyperbole in blind trust, read the warning signals and made the state a national model for quick response.
Nor has Washington made the mistake of reopening too quickly, which has powered the pandemic in places like Florida, Texas, Alabama and Arizona —all with governors who are camp followers of Trump.
Yet, Inslee is being rebuked for his wear-masks order by the same people who earlier denounced him for shutting schools, sued to keep churches open, while ridiculing safe-distance rules and limits on public gatherings.
The grifter running for governor, Tim Eyman, told backers to “engage in mass mask disobedience” … Just as in March he urged people to show up at a meeting in Oak Harbor in numbers that would defy Inslee’s first limit on crowd size. Eyman and his mini-me, State Rep. Jim Walsh, have repeatedly urged disobedience of measures designed to curb the spread of coronavirus.
Eyman’s latest attention grabbing gambit, a lawsuit to halt the mask wearing requirement.
“Only from a government BUREAUCRAT would come a THREE page ‘order’ regarding face masks which happens to be unconstitutional and unenforceable,” Walla Walla based GOP political adviser Lance Henderson wrote on his Facebook page.
Of course, there was Lewis County Sheriff Robert Snasa, asked at a rally about mask wearing, shouting “Don’t be a sheep.” The crowd cheered.
The purpose of wearing a mask is to protect others from your sneezing and unseen transmission of the coronavirus, even by those who appear perfectly healthy.
State Rep. Jenny Graham says she wears a mask when “appropriate,” but largely ignored responsibility to others in a post last week: “Life is not risk free for anyone. Everyone assumes risk when they go into a public setting. Other bugs beside COVID-19 exist every day. Someone I know is currently infected with a nasty flu that is attacking his organs. We will never escape the flu and viruses but you can minimize your risks.”
The mask debate unmasks just how chaotic America’s response to the coronavirus is and has been. No national leadership, states and cities going in different directions, communities lacking a sense of community, sheriffs deciding which laws to enforce.
At the U.S. Capitol, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and colleagues are wearing masks. McConnell is preachy on the subject. Over on the House side of the building, numerous Trump acolytes are deliberately not wearing masks, despite the fact that thousands of people work in the building.
Experts on the White House task force have urged wearing masks. Pence has seemed to come around. Yet, Trump refuses, even after White House advance staff and Secret Service tested positive after the Tulsa rally. The president’s behavior is aped by more primitive followers. The White House press secretary gives a suit-yourself response when asked Monday.
The president moved the Republican convention out of Charlotte because North Carolina refused to bend health rules on social distancing and wearing masks to fit the presidential will. It’s now slated for Jacksonville, Florida and guess what. Jacksonville just enacted a mask requirement on Monday.
Mask wearing is about looking our for your fellow man/woman, but self-interest is also at stake. The pace for reopening the economy, and not re-closing the economy, depends on how we slow the pace of the pandemic.
We can take limited comfort that Washington (and British Columbia to our north) acted early, and that Inslee has resisted reckless reopening. We still have a livable corner of the world here. Makes sense to keep down the casualty lists.
Jay Inslee is not asking for much that we wear masks, just a modest use of intelligence.