Remarks made before Gov. Jay Inslee announced a pause in reopening plan
Earlier today, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee announced that no county will move back — or forward — in the state’s COVID-19 reopening plan for at least two weeks. By pausing his Healthy Washington: Road to Recovery plan, all 39 counties will remain in their current phases.
Clark County is currently in Phase 3. Phase 3 allows for indoor gatherings of up to 10 people from outside each household and up to 50 people for outdoor gatherings. Eating and drinking establishments are allowed to operate at 50 percent capacity.
The governor’s pause comes after recent data, including numbers from the past weekend, showing that the fourth wave of infection that had been growing for weeks appears to be leveling off. All counties will be reevaluated after two weeks according to Inslee.
Prior to the announcement, Dr. Raul Garcia (former candidate for governor) was on Seattle’s KVI John Carlson radio show. Dr. Garcia is a Board Certified Physician who has an extensive background in Emergency Medicine. He practices as an Osteopath in the Yakima Valley.
Garcia was asked about the current state of the pandemic, both in Washington and around the country.
“If it were your call, would you be putting Washington counties, particularly King County back into phase two?” asked Carlson.
“I think that would be a decision that is out of touch with the citizens of the state,” Dr. Garcia said. “We had even CNN this morning say we’re at 20 percent of COVID in our country, compared to where we once were.”
Garcia mentioned that 83 percent of people age 65 or older have been vaccinated. They are the most vulnerable population. The question many people are now is asking is “what is the endgame?” What would it take to reopen the state? What would it take to reopen the country?” (See When will it be over?)
Garcia addressed those individuals that persistently say the only acceptable number is zero.
“That is just unacceptable to our state; it is unacceptable to our children who are not in school; it is unacceptable to our small business people that are still not open,” he said. “It’s not acceptable to our restaurants.”
On Monday, Dr. Garcia learned that health officials in different counties are looking at different sources of information.
“Apparently government officials are not operating off a common template,’’ he said. “Some counties are using what is called Meaningful Use. There is a program called Rino, which is Rapid Information Network Health Network, that pulls numbers out of your electronic medical records. Others are using WA health, which is a Microsoft program that was directly built for this purpose. Well, not everybody’s using it.”
Dr. Garcia explained how the numbers could be skewed. Some counties have a part-time person handling the data entry. That part-time person cannot input the numbers every day. “If on Friday they input five hospitalizations, really that five hospitalizations may have happened over the last two weeks, and not that Friday, but it goes down (as Friday),” he said.
Carlson asked about President Joe Biden addressing a joint session of Congress and what Americans observed. Only one quarter of the house chamber was filled. Everyone there was wearing a mask, even though everyone in Congress has been vaccinated twice.
“The former head of Planned Parenthood said, what they should have done is that Joe Biden should have had the entire chamber filled with members of Congress, and everyone sat down wearing a mask and Joe Biden said, have you all been vaccinated? Then you may all now take off your mask,” said Carlson.
“It would have been an opportunity for a very powerful message from the President of the United States to the world,” said Garcia. “We lost that opportunity. I had calls after that speech asking me why am I going to get vaccinated if our life is going to continue to be the same? It was an opportunity to be positive, to show a greater future to stop the doom and gloom.”
Dr. Garcia spoke about the significant number of people that have already had COVID. They have some level of natural immunity. Those people together account for a lot of people in the state of Washington and in America. When added to the numbers who are vaccinated, “this is why we’re seeing the numbers go down,” he said.
“Right now the hospitals have PPE, they have the equipment, they have the medical personnel, we know how to treat COVID,” he said. “We’re very positive that COVID is going down. We’re at 20 percent of what it was.”
“We have the most vulnerable population vaccinated,” he said. “We have a large number of people that already have had COVID and have natural immunity. Let’s define how we are going to reopen, how we are going to still protect ourselves. and the most vulnerable. And then we will go on with our lives. I think it’s time.
“Let’s stop this idea that the only answer is zero,” he said. “Never in the history of the world have we ever accepted that nonsense.”
Garcia pointed out that members of the public have colds every year, and the answer is not zero. Flu season takes place every year, and the answer is not zero. Breakouts occur at restaurants due to salmonella, and the answer is not zero.
Why must we now be all or nothing, he asked. Garcia suggested the president could have sent a very powerful message to the rest of the world. The future could be better if we just follow a plan.
Carlson asked “If you have been vaccinated twice, and it’s been a couple of weeks since your second vaccination, do you need to wear a mask anywhere?”
“It’s a double-edged sword question,’’ Garcia said. “But I’ll tell you the simple answer, the simple answer is no.”
The mask is worn to prevent the spread of saliva or mucus onto a surface or on someone else, which can lead to an individual becoming infected. If a person is immunized, by the second vaccine, that person is 95 percent immune to COVID said Garcia. The risk of transmission is very low.
“The reason why I said double-edged sword is because some businesses say if you want to come into my business, you have to wear a mask,” he said. “That’s their prerogative.”
Garcia highlighted the science. Once you have been vaccinated, you’re very unlikely to have or to spread the virus.
Carlson asked if you’ve had COVID, should you get vaccinated anyway?
“My answer in science would be, why don’t you draw your blood and see what your defense levels are against COVID?” said Garcia.
He used the example of having chickenpox when he was little. Doctors told his mother that he was going to get it again because his case was so mild. “My body reacted in a way that I have been immune to chickenpox my whole life,” he said. “But that’s me as an individual.”
There are individuals that have had COVID and have gotten it again. Dr. Garcia acknowledged that possibility. “But I assure you one thing, that the second time you get it, it’s going to be way less (harmful) than the first time because your body already recognizes it.”
If a person who had COVID wants to get vaccinated, he suggests they check their immune system first to see if they already have defenses against COVID, to see if they have antibodies.
“If your (antibody) titers are low, and you want to booster, you want to be more immune, please go ahead and get vaccinated,” he said. “But be educated about it. It’s just don’t follow what everybody else says. Follow the science.”