By Jeb Bladine • President / Publisher • 

Jeb Bladine: Quashing pandemic must be top priority

Doors have opened to the Biden Administration, with promises for more transparency and honesty in communications about government plans and performance. Circumstances call for a short honeymoon and a prolonged commitment to finding shared priorities and bipartisan solutions.

Priority No. 1 is answering the COVID-19 pandemic question, “What time is it?” Here are a few suggested answers:

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Jeb Bladine is president and publisher of the News-Register.

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It’s time to get vaccine doses produced and distributed and administered in numbers we need, not numbers we hope for. It’s time for national mobilization and organization of vaccination resources akin to how America responded to Pearl Harbor 79 years ago.

World War II killed about 420,000 American military personnel and civilians; our COVID-19 casualties are expected to reach that level next week.

It’s time to stop playing divisive, time-consuming politics with fine-line vaccine priorities and, instead, open general population vaccination centers that jump-start the long road to herd immunity. By all means, set vaccination priorities for elderly people with underlying medical conditions, first responders and perhaps others, but it’s time to get vaccine doses off the shelf and into arms.

It’s time for hard questions about liability when employers terminate people who refuse the vaccine.

President Joe Biden promised 100 million vaccinations in his first 100 days. That’s laudable given the sloppy launch of vaccinations to date, but inadequate for a nation with about 331 million people. How about 2 million vaccinations per day?

It’s time for government to consolidate and coordinate its COVID-19 vertical communications. Books will be written about systemic communication failures contributing to so many deaths, but for now, it’s time for a single, top-to-bottom-and-back structure of accurate pandemic communications.

Meanwhile, a few vaccination numbers from mid-week:

The Centers for Disease Control reported national distribution of 36 million doses, including 430,000 to Oregon — both representing 10-11 percent of total population. Nationally, 46 percent of those doses have been administered, with Oregon now exceeding 50 percent.

So, best estimate is that 5 percent of Americans have been inoculated in the first six weeks of our vaccine rollout. That rate rose rapidly in January, but we need an exponential increase going forward. So far, Oregon is average; it’s time for Oregon to become exceptional.

Simultaneous Priority No. 2 is intelligent financial relief and stimulus help for people and an economy devastated by the pandemic. That requires bipartisan solutions, so watch for those who encourage and those who resist the necessary compromises.

There’s much to do in America, but first, it’s time to quell the pandemic.

Jeb Bladine can be reached at jbladine@newsregister.com or 503-687-1223.

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