Rantz: On coronavirus, Jay Inslee leads from behind with restaurant closures

Mar 15, 2020, 10:33 PM | Updated: Mar 16, 2020, 5:42 am
jay inslee, coronavirus...
Gov. Jay Inslee (TVW screengrab)
(TVW screengrab)

When it comes to the coronavirus, I’m not entirely sure I understand Governor Jay Inslee’s strategy. In a lot of ways, it feels like he’s leading from behind and it’s not necessarily his fault.

Inslee announced via press release that he’s ordered a temporary closure of restaurants, bars, gyms, movie theaters, and banned any social gatherings over 50 people.

It was undoubtedly a tough decision for Inslee. I may disagree with him politically, but I know he doesn’t want to financially hurt the people who will suffer. I trust he believes this is the right move.

But why did he wait so long to announce the coronavirus restaurants closure?

Closing restaurants late

Before Inslee’s move, Governors in New York, Illinois and Ohio had already announced temporary bans on restaurants and bars. In D.C., their mayor instituted new restrictions on bars.

Why did Inslee make his announcement after those states?

While the coronavirus is spreading quickly, Washington has been impacted the most from a public health standpoint. Washington has, unfortunately, far and away the highest death toll at 42 (as of this writing).

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And why not make this announcement in front of cameras, rather than via a press release?

Washingtonians, particularly those who work at the establishments closed down, have a lot of questions. And while I don’t know if it’s reasonable for Inslee to have all the answers as of this moment, since public health has to come first, it would have been better for him to speak out Sunday night.

Leading from behind?

I don’t know why Inslee waited until after the other states acted, but it raises some questions.

Was Inslee forced into this position? When fears are high, people expect every state to act in unison. If you’re terrified of the coronavirus in Washington, and see a safety measure in effect in Illinois that hasn’t happened here, you might wonder why.

“Why did they close restaurants and not us? Are we truly safe?” These thoughts can become obsessive and you end up talking yourself into a deeper panic than the facts warrant. Plus, Dr. Anthony Fauci repeatedly asked for these moves to happen while on the Sunday shows.

Was it tenable for Inslee to not close restaurants when others did? It’s not an easy situation to deal with.

But it’s also possible that Inslee, and other leaders, know more than we do when it comes to the coronavirus threat.

A truly terrifying quote

The CDC, Fauci, and the experts on President Donald Trump’s coronavirus task force have been pretty consistent in their messaging. Trump has downplayed coronavirus concerns, which conflicts a bit with those of the public health experts, but I understand the president’s motive. It’s not in our best interest to freak out.

But the doctors have had the same message: don’t panic, but this is very serious and we need to work hard to blunt an increase in infections as not to overwhelm our hospitals. Their messaging has been clear, consistent, and calming.

Then King County Executive Dow Constantine gave a quote that scared the hell out of me.

It is time, right now, for people to assume that they and everyone they meet is infected, to avoid any unnecessary interactions that might lead to further infection, and to wait and monitor to see if they have in fact been infected so that they can isolate and recover without presenting a risk to others.

Go to work if you must. But hunker down if you are able. Postpone anything you can. Treat the next two weeks as a period of self-quarantine, to protect yourself and the lives and health of your loved ones and the entire community.

This is the most alarming message I’ve heard from any political leader and I don’t know how to take it.

He sounds way more alarmed than the actual health experts. Are they lying to me? Does Constantine know something we don’t? Hunker down? This is seriously alarming.

Or, he’s being overly dramatic to keep people at home. I get the intention but it’s needlessly scaring people and can lead to an incredible amount of panic.

So now what?

Monday we’ll hear from Inslee. I hope he takes a similar tone to his last press conference. I can nitpick it to death but thought it was effective overall. He was calm and clear. We all need that.

But given he made the announcement late, and via a press release, I hope he has enough time to presents folks with some answers. I have every confidence Inslee can rise to the occasion.

Listen to the Jason Rantz Show weekday afternoons from 3-6 p.m. on KTTH 770 AM (or HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast here. Follow @JasonRantz on Twitter.

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Rantz: On coronavirus, Jay Inslee leads from behind with restaurant closures