In Our Opinion: Regional reopening plan doesn’t work for Island County

It’s ridiculous that people can’t eat inside restaurants in Island County, which has largely maintained low COVID-19 infection rates, while restaurant customers are joyfully chowing down and clinking glasses in Snohomish County, the literal epicenter of the pandemic in the U.S.

Elected officials in Island County were so incensed by the unfairness of Gov. Jay Inslee’s latest phased reopening plan that they held a special meeting this week to scold one of his staff members and write a strongly worded letter to the man himself.

The problem is that Island County is grouped with Skagit, San Juan and Whatcom counties in a plan that divides the state into regions and sets metrics based on levels of improvements. The region that includes Snohomish and King counties was able to graduate to Phase 2 because the numbers went from totally scary to not-quite-as scary.

Island County’s COVID response manager told commissioners this week that the county would be able to move to the second phase if it was alone in the region. Apparently faraway Whatcom is the one bringing the entire North Region down.

Langley Mayor Tim Callison pointed out that Island County was among the first counties to move to Phase 3 under the prior reopening plan due to low numbers of new cases, plenty of open hospital beds and other healthy statistics. Langley was one of the first communities to require masks.

It’s not that there haven’t been problems on the island. There were a number of crowded and maskless conservative political events. The county public health department has had staffing and ongoing communication problems.

Yet the rollout of vaccinations by the county and the WhidbeyHealth hospital district has been successful. By and large, residents and businesses have been conscientious in following safety rules.

The regional approach make sense in principle. Borders between counties are porous. The governor’s representative said the model is meant to prevent medical systems from being overwhelmed in areas larger than counties. Yet Island County residents seeking off-island care travel to Snohomish and Skagit counties, and even King County, but rarely Whatcom.

As the name suggests, Island County is made up of islands, which translates to relative isolation and independence. The state should consider an Island Region to acknowledge the unique characteristics.

And business owners and everyday citizens should follow the lead of elected officials and send letters of protest to the governor’s office. Intelligent, respectful messages with proper punctuation.

More in Opinion

Rockin’ A Hard Place | The Rock got great help to take care of itself when needed most

We Rock dwellers enjoy the distance we have from America. It takes… Continue reading

In Our Opinion: Letters to schools misguided but should spur reflection

Both the Oak Harbor and the South Whidbey School districts were recently… Continue reading

Melanie Bacon is and Island County Commissioner.
Sound Off: Until all are vaccinated, remain vigilant, patient

Every day I receive heartbreaking emails and phone calls from citizens who… Continue reading

In Our Opinion: Offer of towering artwork should not be squandered

Oak Harbor has a once-in-a-lifetime shot at getting a bold, superlative and… Continue reading

In Our Opinion: Regional reopening plan doesn’t work for Island County

It’s ridiculous that people can’t eat inside restaurants in Island County, which… Continue reading

In Our Opinion: Passage of school levy is imperative, even during a pandemic

Voters who live in North Whidbey will decide whether to return to… Continue reading

Sound Off: Much of school district’s excellence due to levy ‘yes’ vote

Four years ago, North Whidbey voters approved a maintenance and operations levy… Continue reading

In Our Opinion: Oak Harbor pro-Trump rally during Capitol siege poorly timed

An angry and violent mob of President Donald Trump’s supporters were still… Continue reading

Sound Off: County needs to respond, in public, in detail

This newspaper published an editorial on Dec. 29, “Public Health nurse exodus… Continue reading

Arny, Matt
Sound Off: Navy committed to environmental stewardship

Numerous area media outlets, including The Seattle Times, have published stories citing… Continue reading

In Our Opinion: Public Health nurse exodus is cause for reckoning

It’s not unusual for the state Department of Health to assist a… Continue reading

My wish list to Santa Claus after a very hard Rock year

Dear Santa, This has been a Hard Rock year on Whidbey Island,… Continue reading