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Opinion >  Column

Spin Control: With Washington only partially open, mask protocols seem muddled

 (Peter Hamlin)
(Peter Hamlin)

Getting away from home last week for the first time since the pandemic took hold for something other than a family visit was great, but also a bit strange. It became clear a traveler is immediately confronted with a question that doesn’t seem to have a universally accepted answer.

That is, just what is mask-wearing protocol in Washington at a time when much, although not all, of the population is vaccinated?

In Walla Walla for a few days of wine and relaxation, there were signs on businesses urging people who enter to wear masks if they are not vaccinated. But in many cases, the staff behind the counter serving food or pouring wine were masked.

With COVID-19 vaccinations free and so readily available that the state is essentially bribing gamblers and the recalcitrant to get a shot, it seemed unlikely that most of those workers are unvaccinated. Rather, they seemed to be wearing masks to provide patrons a feeling of safety.

This may be a very Washington thing. After all, Gov. Jay Inslee, who quite publicly got his first vaccination shot in January, continued to wear a mask for video news conferences until just a few weeks ago, even when they were being held in a nearly empty conference room with only staff in attendance.

When seeing a worker masked, I felt the urge to also don my face covering in solidarity. But when other customers entered unmasked and remained so, it made me wonder if they assumed I was masked because I wasn’t vaccinated, which could mean they thought I was somehow ignoring good health protocols.

Or would they assume I was some sort of anti-vaxxer? Probably not, because someone who resists a vaccination for whatever reason would take advantage of any opportunity not to wear a mask and might even be inclined to demand that workers remove theirs.

Walking down Main Street, some people were masked all the time, others wore their masks around their necks and pulled them up when entering a shop and others seemed to be completely maskless. Not caring for either the feel or the look of a mask riding under my chin, I kept a mask crammed in a pocket to pull out when needed.

Walking through the hotel, the cleaning staff kept masks on their chins and pulled them up over their noses whenever coming into close proximity of guests. It seemed a matter of mutual respect to fish my mask out of my pocket and hastily fasten it around my ears in response.

Maybe this will all clear up after June 30 if the state opens completely.

We have a winner

Speaking of the vaccine lottery, the state’s efforts to gin up excitement over the prospect of winning prizes for being vaccinated might be thwarted by the Lottery Commission’s decision not to publicize the winners.

Probably nothing sparks interest in the next lottery than the story about the winner of the last lottery, who always seems to have just purchased a ticket on a whim when picking up corn nuts at the 7-11 or topping off the tank at a gas station.

That serendipity is usually matched with comments from the winner about how they’re going to pay off bills, put some money away for the kids’ college and maybe buy a new car – but keep working at their 40-hour-a-week job and not do anything reckless with the windfall. (Checking back a few years later, odds are they will be divorced, have alienated most of their family by turning down requests for loans and out sizeable sums from falling for questionable investments.)

When the vaccination lottery was announced, the Lottery Commission had a long list of prizes along with the cash sums that would be awarded. But it also noted that “THERE WILL BE NO WINNERS LIST POSTED.”

After last week’s drawing, the commission released a brief statement that the winner of the first $250,000 cash prize was a person named “Lance R.” whose alleged reaction was he “got lucky,” first by not getting COVID-19 and second by winning the money, which he supposedly described as “icing on the cake.” Mr. R’s location and other details that could flesh out his good fortune are not revealed.

Good for Mr. R, but that narrative seems unlikely to get many people who thus far haven’t been vaccinated to rush out for a shot.

Pot for shot is happening not

Turns out that giving a person a joint for getting vaccinated at a pot dispensary was not a very good idea. Pot stores apparently make lousy venues for shot clinics and the fact that marijuana remains illegal under federal law made some people leery about getting involved in such a project.

The requirement that the shot clinic be at the store was partly a way to make sure a person didn’t go from one shop to another, showing off their vaccination card and acquiring enough stash for a week. Whether the state’s burgeoning cannabis industry – and its growing stable of high-powered lobbyists and consultants – can figure out a new proposal remains to be seen.

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