Editor’s Note: Lewis County Commissioner Sean Swope, sworn in earlier this year after defeating incumbent Edna Fund, has authored a letter to Gov. Jay Inslee focused on restrictions prohibiting in-person dining in restaurants.
Congratulations on your re-election. I look forward to working with you to address the issues currently facing our state and to improve life for everyone in our communities.
I am writing to address an issue that is negatively impacting Lewis County, in addition to small communities across our state. The restrictions placed on our local restaurants are having a disastrous effect on our local economy and the health and welfare of our citizens. I understand the need to control the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, I believe that there has been a misinterpretation of the science surrounding the safety of in-restaurant dining.
The Boeing 737-700 is one of the most common passenger aircraft currently in use, fitting 143 passengers into a cabin that measures roughly 914 square feet. This equates to approximately 6 square feet per person for the duration of a four-hour flight. These passengers eat meals aboard the aircraft, in addition to drinking and snacking.
Imagine having 143 friends and family crammed into your 914-square-foot apartment, eating and drinking, for four hours. This sounds like a COVID super-spreader event, does it not? Yet, somehow, these airplanes carry thousands upon thousands in and out of Sea-Tac Airport each day without any negative COVID impact. This is fantastic news because it gives us real-world data showing that socially distanced dining is safe.
Currently, our county's coffee shops and restaurants, which have an average of 15 to 20 square feet per person, are not allowed to be open. They are not allowed to support their families and serve their community's needs. I believe this is a mistake, as I know that you and your advisors desire prosperity and opportunity for all Washingtonians and not just large corporations.
With the support of my community, I request the immediate rollback of current lockdown mandates.
This also is in line with a Sept. 11, 2020, Daily Nurse article titled "CDC: Restaurant Dining Linked to COVID Infections," which states "there was no difference between cases and controls in reported shopping, gatherings in homes irrespective of the number of guests, going to an office or salon, using public transportation, patronizing a bar or coffee shop, or attending church/religious gatherings." https://dailynurse. com/cclc-restaurant-clining-1 inkecl-to-covidinfections/.
Our community has come together and we've adjusted our lives to minimize the impact of COVID-19. We take this risk seriously. Our community and our leaders have done an amazing job. However, though Lewis County citizens have done their part, they have been rewarded with lockdown measures that have been far more destructive than the virus to the health and safety of our community. These mandates are destroying Lewis County businesses and ruining lives. We've lost 18 community members to suicide, and we've seen a huge spike in the number of drug overdoses. Lewis County recorded 29 overdose deaths in 2020 alone — that's nearly six times as many as the previous five years (five in 2019, four in 2018, six in 2017, five in 2016 and four in 2015). While it's heartbreaking to know that we have lost 31 lives to COVID-19, we've lost even more community members to suicides and overdoses.
Businesses that continue to operate even though they have been deemed non-essential are not doing so because they are innately rebellious or insubordinate to authority. They are staying open because if they don't, they no longer have a business. They can no longer pay their employees and they can no longer feed their families. If they close, they lose everything. We have learned that coronavirus has the power to wound our local economy, but lockdowns have the power to kill it.
Business owners in our community have shown throughout this year that they are well able to operate in a manner that is consistent with expert safety guidelines.
We have heard from your desk many times that "we have no choice" but that we must continue lockdowns for long periods of time. Mr. Governor, we can't speak for any other county, but in Lewis County we do have a choice. A variety of research is now proving that after months of lockdown measures — and despite brilliant modelers' predictions and protestations — the data shows there is surprisingly little correlation between lockdowns and flattening the COVID-19 curve.
We now have real-world data to measure our progress rather than using statistical models. Let us use this real-world data. If there was no real-life cost to locking down our county indefinitely, then it would make sense, but the economic fallout of these lockdowns — and the toll they're taking on our lives — is crippling.