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Bellevue Deputy Mayor: It’s ‘difficult to run a business’ with uncertainty of rollback

Social distancing and mask requirements remain in place across Washington. (MyNorthwest photo)

Governor Inslee has paused any phase rollback in Washington for the next two weeks, even though the numbers in King County and elsewhere now look identical to the numbers that forced Pierce County back to Phase 2 just weeks ago.

That’s not something that’s gone unnoticed by Pierce County Executive Bruce Dammeier, or by Lakewood Mayor Don Anderson.

“When you have Seattle influence, it gets you a long way,” said KTTH host Jason Rantz. “Now of course, the beneficiaries of this, not just Seattle, any city within King County.”

Another local leader who is the beneficiary, if you want to call it that, of the rollback pause is Jared Nieuwenhuis, a councilmember from the city of Bellevue and the city’s deputy mayor.

“I was shocked by the pause but, you know, thrilled that Bellevue and King County are not being rolled back given the governor’s past statements and decisions, which I thought prior to the press conference was almost a certainty,” he said. “At times it’s all about the data and the numbers, but [this decision] seemed rather arbitrary.”

“Now one that I supported, obviously, but it’s very difficult to run a business and to manage employees given those dynamics,” he added.

Nieuwenhuis says it’s challenging to keep up with the changing rules, and he thinks most counties or cities would like to have a greater say in some of the rollback decisions, or at least a seat at the table.

“I just don’t think that at times [Inslee] recognizes the impact and the anxiety that these decisions have on business owners and cities,” he said. “Just look at his comments regarding the restaurant industry [Tuesday], he dismissed any criticism about his decision and the impact that the restaurant owners have to make these crucial decisions about people’s careers and their incomes. But his statement was simply you should feel lucky that you can still be open, or you can still be open at 50% or 25% capacity. I don’t think he understands the greater issue at hand.”

Nieuwenhuis told Jason he wishes he had an answer as to why the governor seems to be so insulated from what’s happening on the ground more than a year into the pandemic, but he doesn’t get it.

Should rollback decisions be made at the state or local level?

If Nieuwenhuis had more control the local level or county level, he sees it as important to keep up the communication in terms of the importance of getting vaccinated, but he disagrees with the creation of vaccinated sections and other privileges that force people to show their vaccination card.

“Well, I wouldn’t, as one of the reporters said, start offering hats and T-shirts if they get their shot,” he laughed. “… But I think it’s important to keep up the communication in terms of we need to get vaccinated. I know you’re vaccinated, I’m halfway to being vaccinated. I think the vast majority of those most impacted by this pandemic, of people 65 over, are close to being fully vaccinated.”

“I think, based on the numbers [Tuesday], 54% of those eligible have at least had one shot in the state, and 38% are fully vaccinated,” he said. “Now, there is a little bit of softening in terms of the demand, and I think partly due to pausing the Johnson & Johnson shot. And I think those that were concerned or hesitant to get the shot, that probably fed into their thinking that maybe they wanted to wait either even further now, but creating these vaccinated versus unvaccinated sections at sporting events or churches or a house of worship, I’m not a fan of that. It feels like we’re segregating people unnecessarily.”

Rantz: Inslee brings vaccine passports, segregation to stadiums, churches

He says he could understand a requirement like when traveling.

“But it certainly doesn’t feel like that’s something that, at the local level, we should be walking around with our card and presenting it at a moment’s notice,” he said.

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.

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