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Bowman: Now is not the time for Washington to lose its patience

Protesters in Olympia. (Getty Images)

Last Friday, Gov. Inslee extended Washington state’s stay-at-home order to May 31, and reactions were… well, mixed.

Virus rebound could be ‘two to three times as bad’ if WA reopens too early

While recent polling in Seattle seems to indicate that a large majority of the city’s residents have been adhering to social distancing guidelines, an opposition movement has taken shape. Among those throwing their active support behind a string of protests has been Rep. Matt Shea, whose recent controversy involving alleged acts of domestic terrorism is the tip of the iceberg for his laundry list of troubling incidents over the last two years.

Meanwhile, we have sheriffs who have vowed not to enforce the order, a Snohomish County barbershop that reopened in defiance of the stay-at-home order, and unrest among many of Washington’s newly-unemployed workers.

The cracks are beginning to form, giving life to a level of impatience that ultimately could see us operating under our stay-at-home order for even longer.

The fact that hundreds of thousands of Washingtonians are out of work obviously isn’t a sustainable economic model. But neither is allowing an infectious virus to move through our population in perpetuity. And if we’re not careful, that’s exactly the reality we’re going to be faced with in the months ahead.

To understand the stakes here, we need only look as far as the source of our messaging.

The people warning us that it’s not safe to reopen are the virologists, researchers, doctors, and modelers who have devoted their entire professional careers to knowing exactly how to handle and predict the course of a pandemic. The people urging states to reopen possess none of this expertise.

They’re the politicians who are eager to seize on our collective fear and score political points ahead of election season. They’re people leveraging this crisis to promote violence, racism, and hate. And perhaps most concerning, they’re the people at our highest levels of government who have never truly grasped the real danger this virus poses.

Inslee will ‘dial restrictions up and down’ in days ahead

We’re seeing what happens when we let our impatience dictate decision making in states like Georgia, which recently reported 1,000 new coronavirus cases in a single day. Iowa hit a daily high in new coronavirus cases just one day after it began relaxing its own restrictions. In Nebraska — which never instituted a stay-at-home order at all — new cases are rising every day.

We have two options available to us in Washington right now: We can wait until our ability to properly test and trace is adequate enough to gradually begin relaxing measures, or we can throw caution to wind and reopen right away, and risk a scenario where we have to shut down the whole state all over again.

As for any economic relief provided by reopening right now? That would evaporate the second we’re forced back into our homes by another spike in cases. Call it fearmongering, call it alarmist, or call it the product of an overly panicked media. But remember that those were all labels attached to experts who desperately tried to sound the alarm in February.

That all being so, it would serve Washington to learn from the extremely recent past by exercising a little bit of patience. Otherwise, we could very well doom ourselves to repeat it.

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