Governor’s Restrictions Disproportionately Impact Island County

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Recently re-elected Democrat Governor Jay Inslee, ordered broad new restrictions and shutdowns for businesses, holiday gatherings, and religious services in Washington state starting at 11:59 pm Monday in a new effort to stop the spread of the CCP virus, which causes COVID-19.

“Today, Sunday, November 15, 2020, is the most dangerous public health day in the last 100 years of our state’s history,” Inslee said. “A pandemic is raging in our state. Left unchecked, it will assuredly result in grossly overburdened hospitals and morgues; and keep people from obtaining routine but necessary medical treatment for non-COVID conditions.”

The shutdown comes amid increased case counts in Washington due to a rise in urban population centers from King, Pierce, and Snohomish counties. “The time has come to reinstate restrictions on activities statewide to preserve the public’s well-being, and to save lives,” Inslee stated.

According to data from the Washington State Department of Health, from the week ending 11/1, the state had 9,937 new cases. The subsequent week there were 7,780 new cases. The cases came predominantly from King, Pierce, Snohomish, and Spokane counties, representing 74% and 55% of total state cases, respectively. The number of hospitalizations in the state over the same period represents 3.5%, and 4% of those case counts. These restrictions come amid news that a vaccine with a 90% success rate is soon to be available, as well as the current US mortality rate of around 2.3%. Scientists disagree over the Case Fatality Rate as an accurate measure of the viruses lethality, sometimes preferring to measure the crude mortality rate, which according to an Oxford study, “measure[s] the probability that any individual in the population will die from the disease; not just those who are infected, or are confirmed as being infected.” According to that measure, the crude mortality in Washington state (7.6 million people) represents total deaths (2,519) across the entire population or .03%.

The governor’s restrictions, which will be in place for at least four weeks, couldn’t have come at a worse time for local businesses. As the Seattle Times reported, the Washington Hospitality Association disagreed with Inslee’s mandate, calling the restrictions “devastating,” saying it “will likely result in more than 100,000 restaurant employees out of work just before the holiday” adding that “less than one half of one percent of COVID cases can be traced to restaurants.”

The governor has cited cell phone data research, which showed that restaurants rank high among locations where the virus could spread. The restrictions are surprising amidst similar studies, which show that lockdowns disproportionately affect lower-income earners. Low-income earners are more likely to work at establishments impacted by the restrictions and not have work-from-home options.

The World Health Organization’s recent position regarding lockdowns as well as other organizations clarified the same, “these measures can have a profound negative impact on individuals, communities, and societies by bringing social and economic life to a near stop. Such measures disproportionately affect disadvantaged groups, including people in poverty, migrants, internally displaced people and refugees, who most often live in overcrowded and under-resourced settings, and depend on daily labour for subsistence.” The WHO and other organizations advocate for a quarantine-based approach instead of a wholesale economic shutdown, similar to the governor’s order.

Some media outlets believe that the governor’s order will be challenged in court and could be overturned. Judges overturned virus restrictions in Michigan and Pennsylvania, both states with Democrat governors.

The impact of the virus on civil liberties continues to be a point of contention, as recently expressed by Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito. “We have never before seen restrictions as severe, extensive, and prolonged,” he said, adding that the pandemic has resulted in “previously unimaginable restrictions on individual liberty.”

The full impact of these restrictions on our local county is yet to be determined, but our local government’s previous responses demonstrated little resistance at earlier restrictions. The Washington Department of Health statistics shows that Island county experienced less than .5% of total state cases and only one hospitalization each of the first two weeks of November. How our government responds is unknown; what is known is that local businesses are in for hard times.

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