August Cheers & Jeers

We know it’s easy to get mired in the muck, especially when you’re trying to stay well-informed.

There’s even a term for it. “Doomscrolling,” according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, is “the tendency to continue to surf or scroll through bad news, even though that news is saddening, disheartening or depressing.”

In the face of so many things that might prompt someone to keep doomscrolling, we can completely lose sight of all the good that is happening around us. 

With that in mind, we’re going to kick off this August Cheers & Jeers column with a CHEERS for a few of the “good news” articles that graced the pages of the Post-Record this month. 

CHEERS to the continued push to build a community library in Washougal that will be centrally located in the city’s downtown core, big enough to accommodate Washougal’s growing population and, as architect Marissa Jordan put it in an article we published on Aug. 5, create “a place to celebrate ideas and creativity, connect people and enrich lives.” 

A 2020 report from the American Library Association showed “popularity of libraries is surging” in the U.S., especially among young adults ages 18 to 29, women and residents of low-income households, and is now “the most common cultural activity Americans engage in by far.” Public libraries show us what can be achieved when we share our resources, value quality information and insist that this information be readily available to all community members, regardless of age, ability or income level. In an age when 15 percent of Americans, including one-fourth of those who identify as a Republican, say they agree “the government, media and financial worlds in the U.S. are controlled by a group of Satan-worshipping pedophiles who run a global child sex-trafficking operation,” we may soon find that the librarians inside our public libraries are our community’s first line of defense in combatting this seriously disturbing brand of destabalizing disinformation. 

Our second CHEERS goes out to Camas’ new parks and recreation director, Trang Lam, and her team for their efforts to include as many citizens as possible in their quest to learn more about what Camas residents really want from their public parks and recreational sites. 

The city’s Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces (PROS) Plan survey attracted online and mail-in responses from nearly 1,400 people this summer, and the team has collected even more input from its recent online open house, which Trang kept open to the public for a full three weeks. 

The PROS Plan will help Trang and her team guide the future of Camas’ more than 240 acres of parkland, 765 acres of open space and several miles worth of walking and biking trails. If there is JEERS to give on this project, it is that the PROS Plan outreach has not yet included too many of Camas’ youth. Of the nearly 1,400 survey respondents, only 1 percent fell into the “under 20” age range. 

Lam said the city marketed the survey with the Camas School District, but still didn’t gather much input from Camas’ youth, possibly due to the timing of the survey.

“It hit during the summertime, and no kid is going to want to do a survey in the summer,” Lam told Camas City Council members in early August. 

With a population of “under 20”-somethings that hovers around 30 percent, Camas officials need to do everything in their power to make sure Camas youth have a say in the future of their parks, recreational sites and open spaces. This could mean another partnership with the school district or maybe a more concentrated social media push on sites the kids are actually using. (Hint for adults: It’s not Facebook.)

Speaking of those young people, our last CHEERS needs to go to Washington public health and local school board officials who remain committed to implementing the research-based mitigations — wearing face coverings, having adequate ventilation indoors and getting vaccinated as soon as possible — that will help keep our youth, school staff and entire community safe as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations skyrocket yet again, this time threatening to overwhelm our local health care system

And another JEERS to all of those who continue to peddle disinformation about this pandemic and who insist — despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary — that getting a COVID-19 vaccine is somehow more dangerous than an illness that is currently killing more than 7,225 Americans each week (in terms of fatalities, that’s like having a 9/11 event happen every three days, by the way. 

We would urge you to understand that we are, in fact, all in this together. If our hospitals are overwhelmed, none of us will be safe. Get into a car accident tomorrow? Have a heart attack tonight? You’re going to be in serious trouble when they’re aren’t enough intensive care unit (ICU) beds and specialized medical staff to treat you thanks to so many ill, mostly unvaccinated COVID-19 patients. As reported this week, Clark County hospitals are already diverting ambulances “24 hours a day.” And the county’s current COVID-19 activity rates shows cases are now more than five times higher than they were just one month ago — jumping from 50.1 cases per 100,000 residents on July 22 to 288.7 cases per 100,000 this week. 

So what’s the answer? Maybe we should all heed the advice of Dr. Inci Yildrim, a Yale Medicine pediatric infectious diseases specialist who recently told “Like everything in life, this is an ongoing risk assessment. If it is sunny and you’ll be outdoors, you put on sunscreen. If you are in a crowded gathering, potentially with unvaccinated people, you put your mask on and keep social distancing. If you are unvaccinated and eligible for the vaccine, the best thing you can do is to get vaccinated.” CHEERS to that.