Rantz: Vaccine mandates for you, needles for addicts as fatal Seattle ODs outpace COVID deaths

Aug 25, 2021, 6:10 PM | Updated: Aug 26, 2021, 11:04 am
coronavirus, COVID, seattle public health, coronavirus death, overdose...
Dr. Jeff Duchin, Health Officer, Public Health – Seattle & King County, addresses a news conference, Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

More people in Seattle and King County are dying from drug overdoses each week than from COVID-19. So why are we treating both public health issues so differently?

Seattle and King County are now mandating city and county workers get the COVID vaccine or be fired. And the state now has mask mandates for all indoor public settings, regardless of vaccination status. Yet, the crisis that is killing more people in the city and county is treated much differently.

Drug addicts of any age — including children — are offered as many free needles as they can carry. They’re allowed not just to camp out wherever they’d like, but they openly sell and consume in the open. Forced drug treatment? No chance. Activists say you can’t force someone to get help if they don’t want it. And, of course, you must not “criminalize addition” for fear you may stigmatize the addict.

From a public health perspective, does this make sense?

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This is not really about public health, is it?

According to Public Health — Seattle and King County, fatal overdoses are dramatically outpacing COVID deaths locally.

“Fentanyl and other drugs are now killing more King County residents each week than COVID-19,” the agency acknowledged.

Public Health points to data from Aug. 4-10 showing 22 probable or confirmed fatal overdoses across King County (compared to 15 COVID-related deaths). That adds to the over 400 probable or confirmed fatal overdoses impacting the county this year. Half of those are from fentanyl, surpassing last year’s record-high 172 overdose deaths from synthetic opioids. Meth is the other drug leading to the surge in fatal overdoses.

Instead of treating the drug overdose surges as a public health crisis, as the department does for COVID, public health leaders make it worse.

Public Health supports addicts, goes hard on unvaccinated

It’s odd for Public Health — Seattle and King County to point out the addiction surge and compare it to COVID since the agency helped create the current crisis.

Rather than push treatment on addicts, public health officials adopted a “harm reduction” approach. They operate needle exchange programs that no longer require exchanging dirty needles for clean ones. They used to justify the needle exchange by claiming it helps keep used needles off streets where children could intercept them. Now, they acknowledge they give needles to kids in exchanges that do not require an addict to turn in used needles to receive the new ones.

At the city level, the Human Services Department backs local homeless shelters that do little to treat someone’s deadly addiction. The Downtown Emergency Service Center (DESC) passes out heroin pipes and so-called “booty-bumping kits” to homeless addicts. Their addiction helps keep them homeless. Rather than distance itself from the practice, HSD embraced it.

When it comes to the unvaccinated, however, city and county leaders don’t show much empathy. They threaten to fire workers who do not get vaccinated against COVID, even if they don’t want or need the vaccine to due to a recent COVID infection.

What if the city and county took the drug crisis more seriously?

It’s never been easier to be a drug addict or even a dealer in the area.

Earlier in the year, Democrats in the state Legislature bumped drug possession down from a felony to a misdemeanor. It is effectively legalized in Seattle and King County due to a refusal to enforce most drug crimes. And now drugs flood our streets, killing more addicts that the public health department claims to want to support.

Meanwhile, if you’re unvaccinated (or even vaccinated), you’re hit with several policies that make living life more difficult. From mask mandates to threats of losing your job, the unvaccinated are targeted and stigmatized. Governor Jay Inslee, for example, baselessly called the unvaccinated middle-aged, white Trump supporters acting as a “bioreactor facility.”

Imagine what would happen if Seattle and King County approached the drug crisis with the same strategy they approach COVID. King County has nearly 80% of its residents fully vaccinated. How many addicts has the county put into drug treatment? Public health staff are too busy giving them needles rather than treatment. There’s no COVID-like dashboard for treatment services. In fact, they don’t even list “science” as the leading characteristic of their substance abuse services. They push “equitable access” and “culturally and ethnically competent care.”

Public Health — Seattle and King County isn’t really serious about tackling the drug overdose crisis. They mostly use dead addicts to write blogs or justify some other harm reduction model. If they were serious, they’d take a note out of their COVID playbook and change the way they operate. They seem content to stigmatize the unvaccinated while letting the addicts die on our streets.

Jason Rantz on AM 770 KTTH
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Rantz: Vaccine mandates for you, needles for addicts as fatal Seattle ODs outpace COVID deaths