”Hope is fear unmasked…”
—Coyote, the Trickster
This weekend there was frost on the pumpkin as winter got serious. I upped my attention to the bird feeder at the gate under the climbing rose; I unearthed my long-johns and dug out my winter boots. And our chilling political times just kept rolling along. Thank goodness the courts are holding the line.
Future citizens looking back on this year may wonder, “What were they thinking? What was it like living through those days?”
Though our courts have held steady, our governing bodies — the U.S. Senate and House — are stunted and tangled. Meanwhile, many of our citizens don’t know where their next meal will come from, or how much longer they’ll have a roof over their heads.
Vaccines on the way
One bright light is the FDA approval for the first covid-19 vaccine. Pfizer’s super-cold shipment packages are coming to a state near you. Just after the initial advisory approval, I spoke with Katie Lindstrom (director of county health and human services) and past director Mary Goelz, who’s been hired back to manage the vaccine distribution and inoculation in our county.
“I can say we have more unknowns than knowns at this point,” said Goelz. “We’ll probably have more information by the end of next week. But there is one thing I want to emphasize — many people are concerned about the speed with which this vaccine has been developed. I just want to say that no steps have been skipped on safety.”
Lindstrom agrees, “Fast tracking this vaccine doesn’t mean they were cutting corners. They simply put this vaccine at the front of the line, skipping over other drugs that were waiting for approval. And instead of running parts of the process in one line, the steps were being run concurrently.”
“Safety is the number one factor,” Goelz continues. “Now we know that the Pfizer vaccine is 95 percent effective against the virus. It’s safe and it’s necessary. I firmly believe that it’s the only way we’re going to get through this and not have to be in quarantine.”
Yes, there are side effects: you may have a headache, a fever, and feel achy for a couple days. But that is nowhere near the danger of the alternative — a full-blown case of the virus. Another aspect of delivering the vaccine which is crucially important is that it requires two doses, three weeks apart. But masks, hand washing, and social distancing will still be needed while the vaccine is rolling out. It will be well into 2021 before life looks anything like “normal.”
Goelz says that as a general rule frontline healthcare workers will be getting the first doses. “There’s basically a tiered priority that the state has outlined,” Goelz says. “1A will be frontline healthcare workers, then those in longer-terms care facilities — staff and residents. Then emergency medical services, like ambulance workers. But who exactly are in those groups is still being settled. 1B will likely be essential workers, like teachers and others. 1C will probably be adults over 65 or those at highest risk. But again, exactly how this will work is still being decided.”
Goelz and other state health experts have been meeting three or four times a week working out the details. More information will be available soon about to whom, when and where the vaccines will be delivered.
Peninsula Hispanic families: Covid and DACA
In February 2018 a group called Pacific County Immigrant Support (PCIS) spun off from the local chapter of the ACLU and became its own 501-C3 in order to provide assistance to our Hispanic and Latinx friends and neighbors. It’s been well documented that U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) was inordinately active in our county, often staking out our neighbors where their children went to school, or at the grocery stores, or post offices. (See the New York Times investigative reporting about ICE in Pacific County: tinyurl.com/yybxatms.)
So even before covid struck, these families were suffering as wage-earners were sent into detention centers (now where covid is rampant) or, worse, shipped back to other countries. Post-virus, as the economic collapse hit, that suffering was exacerbated when adult family members, often in essential jobs where their safety was not a priority, were exposed to or laid low by the virus. In most cases, these folks were not a part of any CARES help, nor did they receive the unemployment benefits that have kept many families afloat.
PCIS was formed to help not only with financial support for this community but also to provide legal expertise where needed. With the help of community organizations and many individual Peninsula movers and shakers, PCIS has been successful in fund raising to help our Hispanic neighbors. (Of special note, Bill Wiesmann, of Grassroots NW, has been instrumental in writing and securing grant funds.) But more help is needed.
Ann Reeves, PCIS board member, says, “We recently received a covid relief grant for $75,000. We’re happy with this, but we know we’ll probably need an additional $25,000. These funds go directly to families for whatever expenses they need to pay — rent, doctor bills, utilities, insurance.”
“In addition, because DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) has been mandated to be reopened for applicants by the Supreme Court, we’re also raising money to help new applicants with their paperwork. [DACA is a United States immigration policy that allows individuals who qualify to be given a two-year renewable U.S. work permit.] The application process is complicated — first you have to understand if you qualify — so we’ve secured the help of a lawyer that can assist applicants.” (If you want to find out if you qualify, call PCIS at 360-783-6003 or see www.pcisupport.org. DACA specific information: www.nilc.org/issues/daca/faqdeferredactionyouth.)
Worrying about how to feed your family or where rent money will come from are not aspects of the Christmas season that any family should have to face. If you’re able to help PCIS with donations to assist these families, please consider what you can give. At the Pacific County Foundation website spccf.org you can click the DONATE button and scroll down to the PCIS listing. 100 percent of the money you give is sent directly to PCIS.
I started with the enigmatic idea that fear unmasked can reveal hope. This is the kind of turnaround that tricksters can provide: the Native American tricksters are coyote and crow. And I think we can all name some of the human tricksters in our midst — people who do not follow the rules, who disrupt systems and the status quo in surprising, sometimes destructive, ways.
These human tricksters cause us to pay attention and to respond with innovative and creative solutions that were nowhere to be seen before. I have no doubt that these pandemic days and these months of political divisiveness will both strengthen us and our communities. If only we can listen to and care about each other.