How soon we forget.
One short year ago, Yakima County’s economic fortunes were dismal. The June 2020 unemployment rate stood at 11.1% and local businesses were dropping like flies. COVID rates were rising like floodwaters and no one could say where the surge of catastrophic news would carry us.
Quite a difference from now.
The latest economic figures show the county’s jobless rate has dropped to 5.7% — and the statistics are likely even better than that, since they were gathered before Gov. Jay Inslee fully reopened the state June 30.
A year ago, the brightest hope on the horizon was the promise of a vaccine that could protect us from contracting or spreading the virus that has ended up taking more than 600,000 American lives. A vaccine, most people believed then, was our ticket back to normalcy.
Considering these new jobless numbers, that belief seems to have proven true. The Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines have been game-changers in recent months.
Thanks to the commitment of the Trump and Biden administrations to developing and distributing modern medicine’s answer to the pandemic, these vaccines were developed quickly and efficiently — and they work even better than researchers had hoped.
Now, even though roughly half of Yakima County residents still haven’t been vaccinated, we’ve made significant progress in reclaiming some semblance of pre-pandemic economic activity around here.
Restaurants and bars have reopened. Entertainment venues are stirring back to life. And sporting events — with real, live people, not cardboard cutouts — are on again.
We call that good news for local businesses.
Imagine where we’d be if our local vaccination rates were closer to the “herd immunity” target range of 70-80%.
Now imagine going back to the way things were in June 2020. Think long and hard about it, because with the deadlier and far more contagious Delta variant sweeping the country and accounting for the vast majority of new COVID cases, the despair we all felt a year ago could be mounting a comeback.
We’ve heard a lot of reasons for vaccine hesitation, most of them based on misinformation or deliberate distortions of facts (thanks again for all your community-minded leadership, pretend news networks and social media).
But if you’re not concerned about protecting your own health or anyone else’s around you, maybe consider getting a shot strictly for the business benefits. As we’ve seen in the past few months, reducing COVID cases clearly has a direct effect on our economy.
So you want to support local shops? You want the Yakima Valley economy to thrive? Then try thinking of getting vaccinated as a way of giving local businesses a shot in the arm.