Missing masks and missing texts, this week
Bill Radke reviews the week's news with The Stranger editor Chase Burns, Crosscut reporter David Kroman, and The Evergrey director Grace Madigan.
Yesterday Governor Jay Inslee held another press conference, where he did something he hasn't done in almost a year: he took off his mask. That's due to a new CDC announcement that fully vaccinated people can stop wearing masks or maintaining social distance in most indoor and outdoor settings, regardless of size. Inslee also announced that all counties would be moving to Phase 3 next week. And, if the state stays on track with vaccination rates and lowering cases, will fully reopen by June 30th. But are people ready to take off their masks?
It's not just the state that will be reopening. Governor Inslee also announced that all of Washington’s public schools will offer in-person classes by mid April, and should plan for full time in-person learning by the fall. This news came the same week that the Pfizer vaccine was approved for use in kids ages 12 and up. Are teachers and students ready to go back?
For the city of Seattle, this was a week of missing text messages - from the Mayor, Fire Chief, and former Police Chief. Some of these messages were sent during the height of the summer protests and police actions after the George Floyd murder. Public officials are required by law to keep their communications so we can see them. So what happened to these messages?
Also when it comes to policing this week - Seattle's police watchdog group, the Office of Police Accountability, ruled in January that the police used improper force when officers used tear-gas against peaceful protestors during last summer's protests. Now interim Chief of Police Adrien Diaz has declined that ruling, stating that the officer shouldn’t be held responsible because “decisions were made at levels of command above” him. Will the people who made those higher up decisions be held responsible?
Finally, the Republican party is figuring out who it is. This week, they kicked Wyoming representative Liz Cheney out of leadership for opposing Donald Trump. Meanwhile, a bunch of Republican anti-Trumpers released a manifesto calling on the GOP to either go back to its principles or face a new centrist party. One of those signers is the former head of the Washington State Republican Party, Chris Vance. Will centrist Republicans break away from the party? Or is that just wishful thinking for these anti-Trumpers?