Gov. Jay Inslee rolled through Clark County Friday for a visit that included stops at Eleanor Roosevelt Elementary School, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Southwest Washington and one of the area's COVID-19 testing and vaccination sites.
The governor praised the progress of Washington's vaccination efforts, touting that the state has reached 3 million vaccinations. Five million of the 6 million Washingtonians above the age of 16 are already eligible, he added, with the remainder to follow in less than two weeks.
But he cautioned that residents should continue to wear masks and follow other safety guidelines, citing a recent rise in infections and hospitalizations in parts of the state.
"This is a moment of tremendous optimism — the tremendous scientific blessing of these vaccines — but it is also a moment needing tremendous diligence," he said.
Inslee kicked off his visit with a tour of Roosevelt, where he said he came away impressed with with the work that teachers have been doing to shift to a hybrid instruction model as students start returning to classrooms. He said he hoped he could share what he'd learned to help other school districts make the transition.
Next up was a visit to the nearby Boys & Girls Clubs of Southwest Washington's O.K. Clubhouse and Teen Turf Club, along with the Free Clinic of Southwest Washington, where Inslee chatted with some of the club residents about topics including student mental health during the pandemic.
Inslee rounded out his trip with a visit to the Tower Mall vaccination site. Clark County and Vancouver partnered to establish a drive-thru testing site in January, taking advantage of the relatively empty parking lot at the mall, which is slated to be redeveloped as part of the city's Heights District Plan. The county began offering vaccination services at the site in early March.
After touring the site, Inslee joined a discussion with Clark County public health officer Dr. Alan Melnick and a group of Black, Indigenous and people of color community leaders including Joseph Seia of the Pacific Islander Community Association of Washington, Ed Hamilton Rosales of Southwest Washington League of United Latin American Citizens and Joseph Hernandez of the NAACP of Vancouver.
The conversation focused on impediments to vaccine access among communities of color, such as daytime-only operating hours at vaccination sites, poor bus connections and language barriers.
Seia and Hamilton Rosales both called for mobile vaccination efforts to bring vaccines directly to underserved communities, rather than relying solely on centralized sites.
Inslee closed with a plea for Washington residents to make every effort to get vaccinated and urge their friends, coworkers and family members to do the same.
"Talk to your loved ones, please, and ask them to get vaccinated," he said.