Gov. Jay Inslee’s name will be permanently attached to the effects of his stay-at-home order, for good or ill. Unlike governors in other parts of the country who have rushed to reopen their states well before the numbers of COVID-19 cases have dipped, and unlike President Donald Trump, who has avoided taking responsibility for much of anything, Inslee imposed strict measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus and did not flinch from extending them for a second month.
Inslee may be able to take credit for the fact that Washington has not seen a big spike in pandemic-related deaths compared to many other states. It seems that the stay-at-home regimen has worked. In a backhanded way, a lawsuit filed by four Republican legislators seems to confirm that success. The lawsuit contends the virus has been tamed, so Inslee’s order must be rescinded and everyone should go back to business as usual.
It won’t be business as usual in Olympia in the days ahead. Shutting down the state has punched a $7 billion hole in the four-year state budget plan, which Inslee and the Legislature will have to patch up somehow. Other economic reckonings are yet come, as well.
If his four-phase reopening of the state goes well, his overall handling of the crisis will likely improve his political image among those voters whose feelings about Inslee are lukewarm. If so, winning re-election to a third term as governor this November – already a strong likelihood, given the weakness of his Republicans opposition – will be a relaxed walk in the park (socially distanced, of course).
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