In May in conjunction with seven of our fellow Washingtonians, I filed lawsuit in federal court against Jay Inslee, in his capacity as governor, over the statewide Emergency Declaration he implemented. Here is why I did so.
We face a health crisis today not matched in the past century. Indeed, it is a crisis: abroad, domestically, in our state, and especially right here in Yakima County. Make no mistake, COVID-19 has wreaked havoc upon our economy, our health care system, and most substantially, in the number of lives it has taken. This is not a virus that will simply go away. The virus is trying to survive, (as viruses are want to do,) and we need to take every action reasonable as a society, and in our community, to bring this pandemic to an end.
However, there is a difference between a crisis and an emergency, and it is important that our state and local governments signify this distinction.
When Gov. Inslee instituted his initial declaration of a public health emergency, I supported that action. Public health officials stressed the need to “flatten the curve” and “stockpile and distribute PPE.” We have now largely done that here in our state. When this crisis began—largely because of the disinformation to come out of China—we did not have a thorough understanding of severity of this virus. We now do. It is lethal, but not nearly lethal as was smallpox. It is highly infectious, but not as infectious as cholera. If those extremes existed with COVID-19, the governor would be correct to maintain the emergency order. This is not the case, and it is time for the order to be lifted.
Lifting the order does not mean we end our vigilance until therapeutics and/or a vaccine are developed. This is a virus with which we must learn to cautiously live alongside until such time. Our health care system is now much better prepared to handle this epidemic. Our local communities must adhere to the guidelines set forth by the health professionals and CDC guidelines regarding social distancing, cleaning and disinfecting high-contact surfaces, and limiting gatherings, large or small, when people are in close proximity with one another. A couple hundred people attending church while following the proper health guidelines does not present the same risk as 44,000 attending a Mariners game. Public policy should reflect this.
Gov. Inslee’s approach treats counties with limited outbreaks such as Kitsap or Kittitas on par with areas of critical concern such as King or Yakima County. Decisions can and should be made by local county health professionals as emergent situations arise. The “one-size-fits-all” approach does not benefit Washingtonians or our state’s economy or public welfare. Unfortunately, too often it seems many of our state’s leaders focus solely upon Puget Sound, at the expense of other regions throughout our state.
Protection of our rights and liberties while applying science and best practices to the problem is how we will get through this crisis.
It is not just long-term economic ruin we face. Each day that passes is another day a Washingtonian struggling with addiction faces the stressors of isolation and financial hardship. Food banks are overrun as vulnerable groups, including children and the elderly, are not receiving proper nutrition, and are forced to deal with anxiety and the emotional worry of food insecurity. We know isolation is not beneficial to those managing mental illness. And delaying screenings for such aliments as cancer and heart disease endanger the patients of tomorrow who do not even know they have a disease today. Such incidents will sadly manifest themselves as long-term societal and public health costs.
As our nation and the world recently commemorated the 75th year anniversary of V-E Day, we would be wise to heed the words of President Roosevelt spoken so many years ago to an uncertain and worried nation, as we address the threat of this pandemic here in our time.
We need not fear the coronavirus. We need to fight it.