Thursday, May 26, 2022
May 26, 2022

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In Our View: Cheers & Jeers: WA Cares pause; awful omicron

The Columbian

Cheers: To Legislative action. Washington lawmakers are working to pause the collection of a payroll tax to fund the WA Cares program. The program requires employers to withhold a portion of paychecks to fund a long-term care system, which was passed in 2019 and took effect this year.

As implementation drew near, criticism about the program grew cacophonous. A proposal for a delay has passed the House of Representatives and been sent to the Senate. House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan, D-Covington, said the delay is needed “so we can address the issues we’ve heard about, to ensure that the program is effective and as efficient as we can make it.” Those concerns should have been raised years ago, but this week’s action is a necessary alternative.

Jeers: To the omicron variant. COVID-19 infections have increased in recent weeks, behind the spread of the highly transmissible omicron variant. Hospital admissions in Clark County have almost tripled compared with two weeks earlier, and hospital beds are nearly full. Dr. Steven Krager, deputy health director of Clark County Public Health, said as cases skyrocket, hospitals could soon reach crisis levels of care. “That’s another way of saying rationing, where we have to think about some people getting care and other people not,” he said. “We desperately do not want to enter that situation. But it’s certainly a possibility.” Meanwhile, local schools report a sharp rise in infections among students and staff.

Vaccines have been proven to be safe and often prevent the most severe symptoms of COVID-19. Everybody who is able to should be fully vaccinated; COVID-19 remains a serious threat.

Cheers: To trees. Volunteers with Friends of Trees planted more than 75 trees in central Vancouver last week, part of an extended effort to increase the region’s tree canopy. Vancouver Mayor Anne McEnerny-Ogle said, “Our goal this year is to put 1,500 trees in the ground. That’s why we’re ‘Tree City, USA’ for over 25 years.”

Increasing the tree canopy helps reverse the effects of climate change. Trees process carbon dioxide, and increased shade helps reduce temperatures on the ground. Plus, trees are aesthetically pleasing. Although a variety of trees were planted, the event reminds us that there is good reason Washington is called The Evergreen State.

Jeers: To lost restaurant jobs. While the job market in Washington is strong overall, leisure industries continue to suffer from a shortage of workers. After a year of economic recovery, hospitality businesses have 40,000 fewer workers — about 11.5 percent — than in December 2019. “We’ve got more jobs than workers, period,” said Anthony Anton, president and CEO of the Washington Hospitality Association.

Experts cite a variety of reasons for the decline. Ideally, all sectors of the economy can return to pre-pandemic levels.

Cheers: To stemming crime. Democrats and Republicans are taking different approaches, but both parties in Olympia are trying to slow an increase in the theft of catalytic converters. Law-enforcement officials report that thefts from vehicle exhaust systems have increased, with criminals then selling the valuable converters as scrap metal.

A bill proposed by Republicans would target scrap dealers who purchase what are known to be stolen converters. A bill from Democrats would create a task force and require identification numbers to be placed on converters. Either way, the Legislature is wise to pay attention to this scourge.

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