Sue Lani Madsen: the new normal

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It’s Day 592 of the Washington State of Emergency, declared by Governor Jay Inslee on February 29, 2020.

An emergency is a dictionary defined as “a serious, unexpected and often dangerous situation requiring immediate action”. It is no longer an emergency as defined by common sense. A serious situation, but nothing unexpected. This is the new normal. Continuing to operate under a state of emergency is unhealthy for individuals and for society.

The human body is not designed to function in a state of constant fear. Chronic stress, according to the Mayo Clinic website and any other credible source of health information, leads to anxiety, depression, digestive problems, headaches, muscle tension and pain, heart disease, heart attack, high blood pressure, and stroke, problems with sleep, memory and impaired concentration and weight gain.

Living fearlessly on a daily basis is about self-preservation. Healthy humans learn to distinguish unexpected and dangerous situations requiring immediate action from chronic and ordinary challenges. Representative governments must make the same distinction lest they become authoritarian, one-man societies.

And the state government has essentially been operating under one-man rule since February 29, 2020. While the Washington state government is unable to cope with a now ordinary and endemic virus without suspending the rules and l ‘regular order, then we need to correct the regular order.

Going on in a state of emergency is like listening to an overly sensitive smoke alarm while you cook dinner. Either ignore it or disconnect it, but it no longer has any effect on your actions.

Jackie Murray was struggling with a hypersensitive alarm on Wednesday, except she wasn’t in a kitchen. Murray is proud to be a member of the Teamsters Union and answered her phone from the cab of a quarry truck. The incessant beep-beep-beep in my ear sounded like a back-up alarm. “No, it’s an error code and it won’t stop until the truck is restarted,” Murray said. The crew is working on the runway expansion at Davenport Municipal Airport, putting in place five 10-hour days per week as the crew attempts to finish before winter. The other two available trucks are out of service. It’s too cold and the restart would take too long, so Murray is stuck.

“I warned my coworkers that I would be crazy at the end of the day, and be careful not to take you with me,” Murray joked.

It is a fair warning. Emergency alarms are designed to get our attention and prompt us to take immediate action. When no immediate action is available or needed, the incessant beeping can put even the most sympathetic Teamster in a bad mood.

Instead of a 10-hour shift, Governor Inslee’s state of emergency is approaching 20 months. And unlike Murray, we have no idea when to clock in. The movable posts have completely disappeared from the field.

First there was Stay Home, Stay Healthy and two weeks to stop the spread. Then a series of reopening shots with phases that never seemed to end. Now, there is no plan on the Department of Health’s website, and no answer as to what steps Governor Inslee will consult in making his decision.

The DOH press briefing on October 13 had no answer as to when the never-ending emergency would end, other than the governor “still reviewing the data.” It would be nice if he let everyone know what data that might be. Or at least bring a bipartisan group of lawmakers into its closed-door assemblies to make it a team effort.

It’s hard to get excited about another beep-beep-beep briefing telling everyone to wash their hands. Most of us learned it in kindergarten. The presentations were predictable and the lack of interest was evident due to low media participation. The briefings attracted more than a dozen journalists. This one only had six in line. The alarm direction has been disconnected.

Our governor believes he is the quarterback who just won the Super Bowl and “the only person in the state who can save these lives.” He is wrong. It’s time to get back to normal governance and leave the rest of the team in the game so that we’re really all in the same boat.

Contact Sue Lani Madsen at [email protected]


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