Washington Gov. Jay Inslee is what real coronavirus leadership looks like

Ryan Cooper: Washington state, despite being the site of the earliest cluster of confirmed cases in the U.S., has contained its outbreak better than any state, and many other sub-national regions as well. This simply must be because Governor Inslee started testing earlier, implemented clampdown measures earlier, and tightened them earlier. By late February it was clear that Washington would suffer a serious outbreak, and Inslee declared a state of emergency on the same day, Feb. 29, that the state recorded its first COVID-19 death. Working closely with Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, Inslee first strongly encouraged people to avoid groups and stay at home, then started requiring them to do so in early March. The state set up a command center to coordinate the overall response and direct resources to where they were most needed, and Inslee began regular briefings to inform the public about what was going on.

A month later, Washington has less than a tenth as many cases as New York, and its hospitals have so far been strained but not overwhelmed. It easily could have been just as bad — Washington is only somewhat smaller than Lombardy, where the devastating Italian outbreak has been centered. As we have learned over and over and over, quick action is absolutely vital when it comes to containing the coronavirus.

Now, Inslee was lucky to have access to the world-class medical research centers of the University of Washington system, and the bottomless pockets of Bill Gates, who has provided a lot of resources and assistance to the state. Even his efforts fell far short of Taiwan’s or Vietnam’s, which actually squelched their outbreaks almost entirely. But on the other hand, Inslee was and is seriously hampered by the lack of a coordinated federal response. With the doddering lunatic Donald Trump in the White House, Washington state is heavily limited in what it can do — and yet has managed better than many European cities.

This is what competence looks like: not some faux-macho media hound going on television a lot, but careful, agile governance informed by the best available information. Inslee may not get such an approval bump from role-playing as the Important Leader, but his quick work saved thousands of lives. More here.

Leave a Reply