Rep. Vicki Kraft: Our emotional, spiritual, financial and physical health depends on safely reopening Washington now
It is said that a person is made up of body, spirit and soul. Many translate this relative to their physical, spiritual and emotional well-being. We've been fighting the coronavirus by observing limited social, spiritual and recreational activities since March 11 – almost nine weeks ago. It has challenged us on every level, emotionally, spiritually, physically and economically.
Initially, Gov. Jay Inslee mandated a “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order to every person in the state on March 23. On April 2, he extended that order to May 4. And last Friday, he extended it again to May 31. By that date, it will have been 70 days that the vast majority of the people in our state have isolated themselves in their homes away from others, except to go out for the few government-defined “essential” reasons. This is a very long time — an unprecedented action by Washingtonians to be effectively required to sit in their homes.
Many have been willing to do it in good faith to fight off this foe. The efforts have been successful. Our state and county infection numbers have been trending downward. We have flattened the curve.
Unfortunately, we've also flattened the economy, which is negatively impacting Washingtonians. More than 230,000 small businesses and related jobs across Washington were shut down by the governor's order. More than one million claims have been filed for unemployment since the beginning of this shutdown – a record for the state.
These realities are deeply affecting people's overall health and well-being. The emotional, financial and physical stresses of not being able to pay their bills, provide for their families, or being unable to keep employees working and earning a real paycheck are taking a toll. The premise that business owners and the unemployed are doing fine because they're now living on the government's payroll is a false perception. They may be receiving some money, but for those who are, most would rather rely on a solid business or employment for their short and long-term well-being.
Last Friday, Gov. Inslee announced four phases to reopen Washington. He said it would be at least three weeks in between each phase before considering a move to the next phase – all based on the data. At the very best, we're looking at mid-July for the fourth phase, and more like the end of the summer. My concern is today's data shows we've already flattened the curve, we're out of the flu season, and no real testing capacity timeline has been determined . Really, he's unnecessarily delaying a re-start of our state.
Several other states, including Colorado and Idaho, are safely reopening their states. Both California and Oregon have allowed more businesses to stay open than Washington over the past couple months. I believe now is the time to move ahead and safely reopen our state and economy, not just introduce a plan with delayed, potential timelines which is hurting Washingtonians.
With extra care and protections for seniors and those with underlying health conditions, we can work to safeguard their health, along with the overall well-being of the 7.6 million people across our state. Other states have figured this out. We certainly can as well.
Gov. Inslee hopes to get enough tests to start testing for COVID-19 soon. State and local public health officials say it will be months before we have enough tests to determine how many have had COVID-19 and have the antibodies for immunity. Public health officials say a vaccine may be 12 to 18 months away, for those who want this solution. Bottom line, it's not practical to delay reopening our state any longer and certainly not until one of the above takes place. And what if by waiting, it's preventing Washingtonians from developing antibodies, which could protect people from getting this virus in the future? It's time to move ahead and safely reopen Washington now. Our emotional, spiritual, financial and physical health depends on it.
Editor's note: Rep. Vicki Kraft, R-Vancouver, represents the 17th Legislative District.