As the hot summer sun shines down on Vashon and Washington’s and King County County’s cases continue to surge to levels not seen since April, we are faced with choices.
Some of these choices can be made of our accord, while others have been and will continue to be made for us by elected and public health officials.
For example, we are no longer free to choose to attend performances of live entertainment in Washington, because Gov. Jay Inslee has just banned such events in response to spiking cases. He’s also put limits on the number of people who can attend birthday parties and book clubs, of all things.
But we are still free to decide if we do or don’t want to do other things still allowed in Phase 2 in Washington’s re-opening plan.
We can go to church, for instance, joining dozens of others at several island houses of worship, where congregational singing is even allowed in some cases, as long as everyone keeps their masks on. We can send our kids to a few outdoor day-camps being offered on the island if we like. We can dine indoors at restaurants or sample the suds outdoors at Vashon breweries. All of the places these activities are offered have strict safety protocols in place.
But just because these things are allowed, it doesn’t mean they are required. It’s up to us. At least for now.
We can talk forever about the contradictions that are part of our daily decision-making process in Phase 2.
But one thing really shouldn’t be argued about anymore: we should all be wearing face-coverings whenever we are in public, indoors or out, if there is even a chance we might not be able to achieve six feet of social distance from others.
There is a state mandate that has been in effect to do so since June 26 — a wise decision that we only wish had come much earlier.
It would have been nice if it had come at the same time in early April when a group of local women launched Masks for Vashon — a sewing effort that has thus far provided more than 7000 colorful, handmade masks to islanders.
It would have been nice to have a national mandate to wear masks or a U.S. president who hadn’t churlishly refused to wear one until July 11.
There are rafts of scientific studies, and examples from other countries that mandated masks early on and have now flattened their curves, that have proven that simple cloth face coverings are one of our best tools in reducing the spread of COVID-19.
And if you don’t believe the studies, just ask yourself why retail behemoths including Costco, Target, CVS Health, Walmart/Sam’s Club, Walgreens, Kroger, Lowes, Home Depot, Publix and Kohls now require their shoppers nationwide to wear face masks.
Maybe they want to keep their customers alive, to shop another day.
Or maybe their corporate leaders are believers in the old bromide “first things first,” and know that before the economy can recover, we have to crush the virus.
Or maybe they just believe in another old saying, “better safe than sorry.”
That’s a handy little mantra to keep in mind these days — because there will be a great deal to be sorry about very soon if Washington and King County can’t beat back the coronavirus.
For instance, Washington counties that are still in Phase 2 are barred from holding in-person school, according to the current rules.
Last weekend, the cases per 100,000 residents of King County hit 86, more than three times the goal of 25. The reproductive rate is at 1.7, far exceeding the goal of 1.0 or below. King County as a whole is in the red in four of the eight key indicator metrics, not a good sign for being bumped up to Phase 3.
Let that sink in, then read an online planning document to help families seeking information about the Vashon schools reopening plan at tinyurl.com/VISDopening. It’s heart-wrenching stuff.
School is scheduled to start in five weeks.
Choose to wear a mask and tell others to do so, too. Do it for island kids and teachers. Do it for the ladies on Vashon who asked you to do it months ago, in a really nice way, and even made them for you and gave them to you for free.
And while we’re asking you to make wise choices, we’ll suggest another — fill out that mail-in ballot for Washington’s Aug. 4 primary that has arrived in your mailbox, and do it now.
It’s a really important election and a full ballot, stacked with choices for statewide executives, Vashon’s seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, commissioners and judicial positions.
If the presidential election of 2016 has taught us anything, it is that elections have consequences. We need steady, highly qualified, experienced and caring leadership, because you never know what might happen, right?