As March Blooms, So Do The Memories | Beachcomber editorial

Do you remember what you were doing a year ago today?

You might have gone to a restaurant — most island eateries were still open then. You might have gone grocery shopping, and lamented the lack of toilet paper on the shelves. Most likely, you weren’t wearing a mask, not quite yet.

If you were a student or teacher, you were still going to the classroom, but that would all be over in a few days — schools on Vashon closed for in-person learning on March 13.

None of us will ever forget what happened in March 2020 — how everything came crashing down, the waves of closures, the loss of jobs, the feeling of doom.

The Beachcomber’s front-page headline on March 12 was “Island Feels Impact of Virus” — but of course, looking back, we hadn’t even begun to feel what was coming.

Now, a year later, it feels like we are finally digging out from all the cascading catastrophes wrought by the coronavirus.

But as we poke our heads out of our houses and survey the rubble, it’s worth remembering that case counts in King County are still high, and worrisome new virus variants are still out there. Blue skies aren’t back on a reliable basis, not yet.

Still, many islanders have now been vaccinated, and finally, some island kids have begun to return to school.

The U.S. has a new President, whose administration has swiftly boosted vaccine production and distribution, and is now taking a more active role in recommending how the doses should be prioritized.

Last week, Biden was cheered by school staff and childcare workers in Washington, when he used the power of his office to instruct that those in those sectors should be immediately vaccinated, nationwide.

Prior to Biden’s announcement, Gov. Jay Inslee had not listened to teacher’s unions, parents and even some medical experts such as Dr. Vin Gupta who had pleaded for him to do just that; it took Biden to get him to budge.

After that, it took only one week for Vashon’s Emergency Operations Center, Vashon Pharmacy and SeaMar to see to it that nearly every childcare worker and school staff member on our island actually got the shot. Bravo to every person who helped.

Grocery store workers, ferry workers, firefighters and law enforcement, among other sectors, have now gotten the green light for the vaccine as early as March 22.

Still, there is unfairness in Inslee’s vaccination tiers. Why on earth, for instance, have restaurant workers not yet been prioritized?

Throughout the pandemic, restaurants have closed and re-opened repeatedly, and yet their mostly low-wage workers — who are forced to interact for long hours at close range with unmasked people — still don’t have a place in line.

That’s wrong, just as it is also deeply wrong that our state continues to show vast racial disparities in terms of who has gotten vaccinated and who has not.

We must all insist that Gov. Inslee better address these issues. It is deeply hurtful that he has not done so already.

Since last March, so much has been hurtful.

But still, on the opinion pages of this newspaper, you can also read about some of the tender mercies of this past year, in the latest installment of Jeff Hoyt’s series of commentaries, “When We Get Back.”

In it, Hoyt recounts deep connections he would not have made, and experiences he would not have had if COVID-19 not happened.

Here at The Beachcomber, we can relate to Hoyt’s gratitude for the lessons learned in this time.

Throughout this era, our pages have been enriched with unexpected contributions from islanders ranging from thoughtful commentaries, to book reviews, to farm profiles, to stellar student journalism from Vashon High School’s excellent newspaper, “The Riptide.”

We’ve chronicled how our own community has been resilient and strong, and when necessary, we’ve also used this space to urge people to be more patient, and not rush back too soon, too strong.

We’re doing that again, right now.

You know the drill. Wash your hands, wear your mask, social distance and don’t gather in large numbers. Get vaccinated, as soon as you are able. It’s the only way to finally cross the finish line of the marathon of these past 12 months.