Gov. Jay Inslee visited Vancouver Friday afternoon to deliver a message: To gather, go outside.
The governor stopped at the Grant House, the historic building on Officers Row, to kick off his “Take It Outside” campaign aimed at stemming the latest surge of COVID-19 in the state.
“We have discovered a secret weapon against the COVID virus. It’s a weapon that is available to all of us, it is free, it is open pretty much every day of the week, it’s accessible to people of all ages and all circumstances, and that is the most beautiful outsides on the planet today,” Inslee said. “In the next several months, let’s take it outside.”
The campaign encourages traditionally outdoor activities like hiking, biking, fishing and sports, but also urges Washington residents to adopt small habits as well – having coffee with a neighbor? Drink it on the porch. A beer with colleagues? Shoot for the bar patio instead of indoor seating.
“Every hour we spend outside with our friends is an hour we’re not infecting our friends,” Inslee said.
Washington’s fourth wave of COVID-19 is hitting hard, bolstered by new and more infectious strains of the virus. The state’s hospitalization rate is up 50 percent over the last two weeks; locally, case counts in Clark County have been rising every week since March 15. Clark County Public Health recorded 651 new confirmed and probable cases this week.
“We’ve been at this a long time. I understand that a lot of us are tired of this pandemic. But unfortunately today we are all threatened by the fourth wave,” Inslee said.
The Grant House visit was one stop on the governor’s tour of Vancouver Friday. He visited at Clark County Food Bank and Clark College, where he discussed the Career Connect Washington program and dropped by the Washington State Labor Council’s vaccination site.
At the Grant House, he was joined by Vancouver Mayor Anne McEnerny-Ogle as well as Fort Vancouver Superintendent Tracy Fortmann, Friends of Fort Vancouver Board President Liz Luce and Stacy Graham, interim director of The Historic Trust.
“Over the years, this site has become a living room of sorts,” McEnerny-Ogle said, referring to Fort Vancouver’s sprawling outdoor space. “We have people over here playing cards, eating lunch, having meetings, walking their dogs.”
“That’s what this initiative is all about. Thinking differently about the way we gather.”
In her conversation with the governor, the mayor also threw in a pointed comment about Vancouver’s investment in a proposed statewide transportation revenue plan – while the Vancouver Land Bridge is another great site for outdoor recreators, she said, there’s another crucial bridge connecting her jurisdiction to Oregon. The Interstate 5 bridge replacement remains at the top of the priority list.
The Washington Legislature ran out of time to negotiate and pass its 16-year master transportation plan. Members are expected to pick that work back up in a special session.
“It’s a shock to me you would bring up the bridge,” Inslee responded jokingly. “We will be convening discussions of legislative leaders in the next several weeks in an attempt to fashion a transportation package, including this bridge.”