Inslee moves in careful phases: Other governors 'leap over' pandemic
By Joel Connelly, Seattle PI Updated 6:40pm PDT Friday, May 1, 2020
Washington state is moving toward businesses doing curbside sales and opening car washes and drive-in religious services, while states in the South and Southwest are reopening malls and hair salons and putting restaurants back in business -- albeit with reduced clientele.
Gov. Jay Inslee is taking Washington state's novel coronavirus recovery step by step, ignoring angry protests, some of which are egged on by the President of the United States whose own guidelines say to wait until new cases of COVID-19 decline for four consecutive weeks.
Extending the "Stay Home, Stay Healthy" order to May 31, the Evergreen State appears to be heeding advice -- and caution -- delivered up on Thursday by Dr. Anthony Fauci, who said on the "Today Show," "You can't just leap over things and get a situation where you're tempting a rebound. That's the thing I get concerned about. I hope they don't do that."
Trump offered very different advice after demonstrators armed with assault rifles stormed the Michigan state capitol, protesting Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's extension of the stay-home order in her state. "The Governor of Michigan should give a little, put out the fire," Trump Tweeted. "See them. Talk to them. Make a deal."
Putting out the virus is a higher priority in the country's more sensibly governed states.
The Fauci warning is already coming true in places reopening for business. Just before businesses reopened in Texas, the Lone Star State saw 1,033 positive tests for the coronavirus. In Iowa, where COVID-19 has hit meat packing plants, the 740 Iowans testing positive on Friday set a one-day record. Gov. Kim Reynolds is allowing restaurants, malls and fitness centers to reopen in 77 of the Hawkeye State's 99 counties.
Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia ignored the White House guidelines -- which call for a four week decline in new cases -- to allow restaurants, hair salons and bowling alleys to reopen. The Peachtree State experienced more than 1,000 new cases on Friday, for a total of 27,270, roughly twice those of Washington, which experienced 37 of the first 50 confirmed deaths.
As armed demonstrators carried the back-to-work cause to the Mississippi state capitol, 20 additional deaths and 397 new cases of coronavirus were causing delays in reopening. Chicken plant workers were reporting ill, while state officials denied a virus outbreak. The CEO of the state's largest poultry company chairs Gov. Reeves' task force on economic reopening.
Who's right? Watching the protests here, and people packing heat in Lansing, is reminder of a axiom from Super Bowl-winning Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Chuck Noll. "The empty drum bangs loudest."
The latest ABC News/Ipsos poll asked Americans whether reopening is going too slowly or too quickly. Too slow: Eight percent of Democrats, 47% of Republicans and 28% of Independents. Too quickly? Ninety-two percent of Democrats, 53% of Republicans, 72% of Independents.
A Yahoo News/YouGov survey found almost 90% of Americans believe coronavirus would be likely if we ended the "Stay Home, Stay Healthy" order today.
Which is exactly what Inslee is warning about in his words: "We have not won this fight against this virus." Relaxing social distancing, too quickly, invites the same second act of this pandemic as was seen with the Spanish flu in 1918.
We've heard ballyhoo about "freedom of religion," even a federal lawsuit by a Republican gubernatorial candidate challenging Inslee's policy. It appears that people will be able to go to meetings soon -- in their cars.
But, in the sensible Northwest, religious leaders took a dim view of infecting the flock. Worship should not be lethal. Seattle Archbishop Paul Etienne, on March 11, was the first Catholic bishop in America to shut down public celebration of the mass in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. A mile-and-a-half away, St. Mark's Episcopal Cathedral went on livestream.
"We do this, not out of fear, but out of love for our neighbors," Archbishop Etienne wrote in a March 24 letter urging Catholics to follow the Inslee order.
We've seen such politicians as Rep. Pramila Jayapal bashing Amazon, but the state's business community has emerged as a resource and reservoir of common sense. Bill Gates has become a right wing media target for daring to offer prescient predictions. Microsoft has made common cause with public health agencies, collecting data about the coronavirus, and in the collection of equipment at which the Trump administration has failed us.
Given the length of our winters, Northwest residents have learned to keep their cool. This is a prerequisite of Inslee's four phase plan. "We will have at least three weeks between phases to see whether it is working or not," he said Friday.
Local governments can impose and reimpose rules if needed. Less populous counties can petition to move to the next phase. It'll be interesting, since old-boy political leaders in Central Washington counties have been clamoring to open things up while the COVID-19 pandemic has invaded meat packing plants and orchards.
Not all Washington politicians have shown a capacity for science and public health. Franklin County Commissioner Clint Didier appeared in Tacoma on Friday with Republican gubernatorial hopeful Tim Eyman. They were filing a suit against Inslee. As reported in the Seattle Times, Didier argued against social distancing, saying people should freely circulate, adding:
"We can take care of this virus by letting people catch it." (The coronavirus has already killed more than 800 Washingtonians.)
taThe pandemic has caused enormous economic hurt, and has dictated a narrow pattern to life. Stay at home, work if you can, go to the supermarket. We are getting cabin fever and witnessing crowds of walkers in Seattle on weekends.
We can go back outside, but camping will have to wait until phase 2. Phase 2 will bring more recreation, in-store retail shopping, pet care, and the first limited reopening of restaurants.
Much more is open down South. But the pandemic may be open for business in much of the old Confederacy. Govs. Kemp (Georgia) and DeSantis (Florida) seem dense to the danger. Inslee sure isn't.