The Beachcomber is grateful for Gov. Jay Inslee’s sweeping set of new restrictions intended to slow the skyrocketing rates of COVID-19 infection statewide.
The new measures, which will be in effect until at least Dec. 14, came after a series of other announcements by Inslee last week — a careful roll-out of messaging by a careful leader who is guided by science as well as compassion.
On Thursday, Nov. 12, Inslee appeared in a video with his wife, Trudi Inslee, strongly urging state residents to limit their Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations to members of their own households.
The next day, he issued a recommendation for anyone traveling into Washington to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival — a measure enacted simultaneously by the governors of Oregon and California for their states.
But further restrictions, announced on Sunday, seemed at least in some ways to whiplash Washingtonians back to the start of the pandemic in March.
These new rules, like the ones handed down in March, are intended to keep as many people as possible at home statewide.
They include the closure of movie theaters, museums, gyms and fitness centers, the elimination of all indoor dining in restaurants, a total ban on indoor social gatherings involving people from different households, and a reduction of numbers of people allowed at religious services and in retail stores. (See Emergency Operations Center Report, page 8, for a complete list of the new rules.)
While Inslee said he recognized the restrictions would create hardship for many, he also pointed out that economic recovery would never be possible if the virus is allowed to continue to rage unchecked.
Moreover, he said, failure to act would endanger the healthcare systems of the state, with hospitals now in real danger of being overrun with COVID-19 patients and unable to provide other kinds of routine treatment.
What Inslee did had to be done. Case numbers are now at their highest point ever since the start of the pandemic.
The state’s daily case count stood at a record 2,309 new cases on Nov. 15. But this vertical climb in cases has been exceedingly swift — on Nov. 3, the state logged its then-highest-ever number of cases as 1,469.
What’s scary is that the case counts are even higher in places throughout the United States, where hospitals have already begun to over-top their capacity.
“Time is of the essence here,” Inslee said. “What we know is, if you act early you can save lives and if you don’t you’ll be swamped by a tsunami of the virus.”
To mitigate the impacts of the restrictions, Inslee said he would soon announce the full details of a new $50 million fund for grants to help small businesses. The state has also extended its eviction moratorium and public utility proclamations through Dec. 31, as an additional safety net for those experiencing unemployment, he said.
Inslee also said that the state’s Employment Security Department is solvent and better equipped to respond to unemployment claims now than what it was in the chaotic time of the state’s shutdown in March.
But still, our hearts ache for all those who must jump through too many hoops to receive too little relief.
We can and must support our local businesses, especially those that must continue to weather this crisis.
But like Inslee, we lament that on a federal level, so little has been done to provide assistance to those who need it most. How is it possible that Congress has not yet passed another round of economic relief measures? What are they thinking? Where is the leadership?
We can only hope that help is on the way with the new presidential administration.
And while we wait for Joe Biden, we can at least be grateful for the leader we have at home right now in Washington state.