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I survived COVID, but are we making the cure worse than the disease?

| December 10, 2020 1:00 AM

On Feb. 29, Gov. Jay Inslee proclaimed a state of emergency due to the COVID-19 coronavirus. With this being an unknown and highly contagious virus, most folks agreed with his precautionary measures. His reasoning was to protect and not overwhelm the health care system and keep our people alive and healthy.

He shut down most of our economy, allowing only “essential” businesses to operate and told everyone to stay home and protect themselves. Unfortunately, we are once again dealing with shutdowns and restrictions as our businesses and many of our citizens struggle financially.

We have seen proclamation after proclamation, many making sense at the time, and I agreed with a lot of them. But as the extensions continue, no real plan has emerged for our economy. The stories I have heard from farmers, small business owners and employees are gut-wrenching.

The coronavirus is not the only danger here – mental health, suicide, bankruptcy, domestic violence, divorce and much more. Our young people are facing a mental health crisis like never before. Most kids are not in school, failure rates are escalating, there are no sports or other extracurricular activities and there is minimal social interaction.

It is time that more than one person – the governor – start making the decisions pertaining to this coronavirus crisis. The governor’s state of emergency declaration and proclamations have eliminated the 147 members of the Legislature from the process. The governor has decided to manage this pandemic alone. The 147 members of the Legislature have a responsibility to their constituents to serve them and most of all, answer to them.

The governor has a responsibility to listen and include legislators in his decision-making, especially when our citizens are trying to cope with an unprecedented pandemic.

The law giving the governor emergency power is poorly written and does not provide for an end to the state of emergency other than another declaration from the governor. This must be addressed. It is time to end the state of emergency and call the Legislature into an immediate special session. This pandemic is affecting each and every person in this state in some way shape or form, and legislators, Republican and Democrat, who represent those people need to be at the table.

The governor often talks of “One Washington” and how diverse our state is, yet he is one man imposing a one-size-fits-all direction for the state. Different regions have varying COVID numbers and provide unique factors in deciding how best to address the pandemic for each community. Having the Legislature involved provides an opportunity for input from all corners of the state, allows for the differences in culture and provides a plan and process that works that people and communities can get behind.

Governor, demanding and ordering the people what to do doesn’t work and never will. The more you demand, the less cooperation you will receive. If you truly want to slow the spread of COVID, include everyone in the process – listen to them – and the legislators that represent them. You might be surprised with what you hear.

As many of you know, I contracted the coronavirus. It was the worst sickness I have ever had, and there was a time I wasn’t sure what the outcome might be. It started as the flu, then turned into COVID pneumonia that led to blood clots in my lungs. I spent two different stints in the intensive care unit. After two months, my lungs are healing, and a full recovery is expected.

Obviously, I understand how real this virus is – I have lived it. However, we cannot lock everyone and everything up and live in a bubble. We have reached a point where I believe the cure can’t be worse than the disease. We cannot destroy our economy, tear apart hopes, dreams and watch families suffer and think everything will be fine.

We need to trust people as we work through reducing the spread of the virus. That is done by allowing the 147 elected representatives and senators who represent all citizens to take part in the process and be at the table. Having lawmakers in the decision-making brings more accountability and transparency to this process.

I once again implore the governor to call an immediate special session. We are a diverse state, let’s make a plan that includes everyone.

Tom Dent represents the 13th Legislative District and will be serving his fourth term in the Washington state House of Representatives.