Talking about COVID-19 and vaccinations — and now vaccine mandates for health care workers and first responders in addition to teachers and other education professionals — is increasingly difficult.
We are polarized. We seem to be listening to one another less and less — unless, of course, we already agreed in the first place.
So I want to pose some hypotheticals so we can truly see the practical, terrifying outcome we face here in Lewis County.
First, let’s say that the most extreme views Gov. Jay Inslee’s government holds toward those of us opposed to vaccine mandates are valid. And let’s say that all of the governor’s scientific and philosophical bases for imposing mandates are absolutely sound and correct. He must also be right in thinking that we are stupid, misguided or irrational, making our personal and collective health decisions based on politics or nut job foundations.
If that were all true, it would mean that the sole motivation of Inslee’s government is to save lives and protect Washington residents from harm.
But if that is the outcome that Inslee’s government intends and it goes through with this October vaccination deadline for healthcare workers — including EMTs and other related first responders — it begs this question from our chief executive’s office: Will the lives Inslee intends to save outnumber and outweigh the lives lost, ruined or, at best, painfully disrupted by the vaccine mandate?
These are the unintended consequences.
When that nurse, EMT, firefighter or other frontline hero we have celebrated over the past year and a half stands by their decision to not be vaccinated, when they lose their jobs — without unemployment benefits — who will then answer the call for our citizens?
We need that answer before Oct. 18.
We need the analysis.
We need the plan.
Are we covering for the probable 50 percent loss of frontline first responders and critical health care heroes with out-of-state replacements? Is Inslee’s government going to send in National Guard troops? And would that even fill the gap this mandate will create, not just here in Lewis County but across the entire state?
What’s the plan?
Are there unemployed, trained, qualified and vaccinated professionals here in Southwest Washington or somewhere nearby just hoping that the market for first responders and ICU nurses will open up? Because as it stands right now in Lewis County, a nurse with a day off can get an additional $600to $1,000 signing bonus by picking up an extra shift.
Again, even if Inslee is right about everything, will the unintended consequences of his efforts to reduce COVD-19 deaths outweigh the deaths, injuries and other disruptions the vaccine mandate will cause?
The families of those who will lose their lives because we simply won’t have the medical professionals to save them will not believe our political, philosophical or scientific divide justified the loss of their loved one.
The heroes we will leave unemployed and financially brutalized will do what they can to make ends meet. Sadly, by the time we realize the cost of this unintended consequence, they will likely be in California, Oregon or another location where they can simply be regularly tested, or perhaps in one of the many other states where this simply won’t be an issue.
And after COVID-19 has passed, that cut to our first responders and health care workers will still be felt, and we in Lewis County will remain underserved, unsafe and unsure of a future where these vital services remain unfulfilled and the body count grows.
I want to believe this is not Inslee’s intention.
But without a plan otherwise, it will be the outcome.
Sean Swope is a Lewis County commissioner.