A capricious flower
Wednesday, January 20, 2021
A CAPRICIOUS FLOWER: Jay Inslee delivered his inaugural address last week as he begins his historic third term as governor of Washington. The governor and the state’s eight other newly-elected and re-elected officials were sworn into office as the Legislature set to work on a new session. Their opening was brisk, as lawmakers introduced nearly 500 new bills.
In his speech, the governor said that now is a time for “relief, recovery and resilience.”
“We have big challenges that demand we take big steps,” Inslee admitted. “We are not going back to normal. We are going forward toward a new normal. We are on a path in this legislative session to a more just normal, a healthier normal. And we’re not just talking about the pandemic.
“These halls may look empty, but when you scratch the surface, there’s a robust and incredible story about Washingtonians that’s still unfolding,” he said.
“More than 3,500 Washingtonians have lost their lives to the pandemic. Many thousands more continue to struggle on their path to recovery from this virus. Families, business owners, workers and students have been through too much. There is still a palpable anxiety in the air.”
The governor’s speech touched on economic recovery, education, homelessness and the need to overhaul the state’s mental health system. He also declared his continued commitment to fighting climate change.
‘We cannot let the short-term crisis of COVID-19 blind us to the long-term health cataclysm that is climate change,“ he said.
Amid calls to relax social distancing standards and allow businesses to reopen, Inslee cautioned that Washingtonians should not expect their lives to return to normal after the COVID-19 epidemic is under control.
Restrictions are likely to continue for the foreseeable future, as Senate Democrats pushed through a measure that would extend all of the governor’s emergency proclamations indefinitely. Senate Concurrent Resolution (SCR) 8402 would continue the restrictions ordered by Inslee until the governor declares an end to the state of emergency or the legislature repeals his orders. The measure passed along straight party lines by 28-19 votes, with all Democrats voting “yes” and all Republicans voting “no.”
Inslee also announced a plan to set up vaccination sites statewide with help from the National Guard and others as part of an overall goal to vaccinate 45,000 people a day.
Inslee said while the goal is currently higher than the current allotment of vaccines the state is receiving from the federal government—100,000 doses a week—the state is working to get the infrastructure in place now for that amount once doses increase. The state is currently vaccinating between 13,000 and 15,000 people a day, he said. The U.S. has recorded more than 23 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and over 397,000 deaths. There have been more than 277,000 cases in Washington state, with 3,900 deaths.
Topping a grim list of statistics, COVID continue to rear through Whatcom County’s rural communities.
“Cases have skyrocketed in the areas of Lynden and Nooksack Valley,” county health officials announced last week. “The 14-day case rate is more than three times higher in the Nooksack area than it was last week and is more than twice as high in Lynden.”
As of last week, only 9,000 vaccine doses had been distributed by the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) to vaccine providers in Whatcom County, which is only enough to provide a first dose to about 50-60 percent of the first tier in Phase 1A, according to county health officials.
“We have the will, the fire, and the ability to get everyone in Whatcom vaccinated, but we don’t have the vaccines,” said Cindy Hollinsworth, communicable disease manager for the Whatcom County Health Department.
Shipments of doses to Whatcom County have varied from as little as 300 in a week to as much as 5,000, and that unpredictability has complicated planning efforts. Additionally, due to failures of key federal programs some of Whatcom County’s most vulnerable community members working and living in long-term care facilities have instead had to be vaccinated by local providers. This population, along with the rest of Phase 1A, will continue to need prioritization by local vaccine providers.
“What’s needed most right now from the community is patience,” Hollinsworth said. “Everyone will have the chance to get vaccinated. We know vaccination needs to move faster in our country, our state and our county. We’re doing what we can to speed this along.”
“We have a lot of hard work to do this year, and we can get through it happier, healthier and more prosperous if we work in unison, finding common ground, recognizing the humanity of others and acting out of kindness,” Whatcom County Executive Satpal Sidhu encouraged last week in a public statement in the wake of extremist violence that erupted in the nation’s Capitol and in Olympia.
“The word ‘freedom’ seems at times divorced from its meaning and value. Freedom does not stand alone or exist in a vacuum. Rather it is a consequence of the practice of responsibility, honesty, integrity and discipline. Like a capricious and beautiful flower, it blooms only when the conditions and care are right.
“E pluribus unum—Out of many, one—the motto of the United States, should be at the forefront of our thoughts as we come together to live, work and govern in Whatcom County,” Sidhu said.