COVID-19 gives awareness proclamations new feel

We don’t often cover proclamations at public meetings declaring (insert here) Day or (insert here) Month.

That’s not to say that they aren’t important to raise awareness or reduce stigma about social issues. But journalists typically prioritize substantive actions that have the most direct effects on readers.

On Tuesday, the Clark County Council retroactively declared March 18 “Transit Employee Appreciation Day.” It also declared April “Child Abuse Prevention Month.”

In most times, these proclamations would not appear in headlines. In the time of coronavirus, they’re worth considering through a new lens.

C-Tran, considered one of the essential businesses during Gov. Jay Inslee’s stay-at-home order, continues to operate at full service. To promote social distancing, the transit agency is restricting bus passengers to rear-door boarding on fixed routes and not enforcing fare collection.

Still, bus drivers face an inherent risk of catching the potentially deadly novel coronavirus.

“Whereas, every day, C-Tran employees safely operate large vehicles in unpredictable traffic and weather…” the proclamation reads.

This unpredictability now includes a higher, albeit slightly, chance of death.

The proclamation also references the economic importance of bus drivers’ work. Such work continues amid economic conditions that led to a 1,575-percent spike in Clark County unemployment claims last week.

“Whereas, every day, C-Tran connects people to economic opportunities, supports economic vitality and enhances quality of life for the community,” another passage reads.

Per the second proclamation, more than 2,200 Clark County children were subjects of various types of abuse reports in 2019.

“Whereas, child abuse can have long-term psychological, emotional and physical effects that have lasting consequences for victims of abuse,” the proclamation reads. “Whereas, we acknowledge that we must work together as a community to increase awareness about child abuse and continue to promote the social and emotional well-being of children and families in a safe, stable and nurturing environment.”

To a still-unknown degree, school closures, social-distancing measures and loss of income have added stress to parents’ and guardians’ lives. Children are also separated from those who may provide social support outside of their households.

“With all of this comes an increased risk of family violence,” according to written comments submitted to the council by the Arthur D. Curtis Children’s Justice Center.

The center said it supports policies such as paid and sick leave as well as continued school meal programs. It also encouraged residents to seek out ways to reduce stress. Tips can be found at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services child welfare website and the Centers for Disease Control.

The Children’s Justice Center also said, “we encourage everyone to recognize that social distancing is not isolation, and it the responsibility of us all to look out for one another.”


Jack Heffernan

Jack Heffernan

Jack Heffernan is a breaking news reporter and covers Clark County government for The Columbian.

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