Fickle finger of fate has descended on Federal Way

Having a strong local government is a benefit to all of us in a crisis.

Keith Livingston

Keith Livingston

The fickle finger of fate has descended on Federal Way as well as the world in the form of the coronavirus (COVID-19). Schools, shops, restaurants and most services are shut down. Small businesses and people are struggling. Now what?

Ghostbusters might be your preferred first call, but our fate rests in the hands of local government, first responders, medical personnel, public servants, grocery store supply chains, neighbors, friends and the choices we make. Things are tough and different but elected officials, public servants, medical personnel, utilities and supply chains for groceries, and medicines, are working to assure essential services and supplies are in place for a sense of normalcy.

However, nothing is normal without a paycheck, a reduced income or being housebound with no clear ending in sight. The economics of this pandemic will ripple through our lives like a tornado causing devastation, destroying some homes but not others. Many of our friends and neighbors in Federal Way operate with a small financial cushion and for some it has been depleted. Small businesses are equally stressed and some may not recover.

Local governments everywhere are doing what they are supposed to do to manage and mitigate the crisis as best they can. Eventually the economics of this pandemic will negatively impact our city’s revenues and stress its capabilities as well. Federal Way’s economy was never strong and our local government’s revenue streams are likely to become challenged going forward.

Having a strong local government is a benefit to all of us in a crisis. Within our country there is an illogical assumption, believed by many, that government is bad and it should be starved of revenue. That small government crowd preaches that services ought to be privatized for efficiency, cost containment, and decreased transparency.

This privatization is done with the knowledge that community wealth gets transferred to corporations headquartered elsewhere. Not all services can be locally capitalized and managed, but when they can, it is a direct benefit to the community. Government is a major part of our lives and needs to be seen as an everyday partner and not just a go-to resource in a crisis.

This pandemic was known to be coming but was treated initially as a seasonal flu by our president rather than something serious. Humans over centuries of exposure have developed a degree of immunity to the flu and there are annual vaccines developed for anticipated flu strains.

The coronavirus is a novel-virus which means it has not been passed to humans before. They often originate as an animal virus that mutates and becomes transmissible to a human host. The Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization track these viruses in animals because when they become transmissible they are deadly, capable of spreading quickly and cause pandemic level outbreaks due to humans having no immunity.

Our country had about an eight- to ten-week heads up from the epicenter country and observed this virus spread through China and other countries. At the end of February, it was being treated as a hoax by our president which created a very slow federal response with inadequate information and support.

The current situation, due to lack of preparation and accurate information, is more challenging than it should have been. Thank goodness that our state and local leaders were willing to shoulder the burden of this crisis with integrity and have shown the necessary leadership.

Regardless, normal has been altered and our comfort zone has been breached. Intelligent precautions of closing schools, shutting down public gatherings, social distancing and increased hygiene may slow its spread. The virus, which is now part of our world, may cycle through our lives several times until a vaccine is developed to lessen its impact. The personal, social, and community disruption cost is a burden, but far less than the impact of an out of control pandemic.

You may be one of the lucky individuals who did not become infected, or your case was mild, but our lives and daily routines are not going to return to normal quickly. The impacts, policies and leadership miscues that occurred need to be recognized and addressed. Facts, science and integrity matter. Preparedness, patience and community understanding are essential to avoid panic and making a crisis worse.

Several takeaways — as Federal Way residents we need to be involved in community building and assuring that we have local plans and resources available; each of us should practice good hygiene by washing hands often and maintain social distancing; stay informed using local news media and checking governmental resource pages for up to date information; be flexible and stay prepared; remain calm, kind, panic free, check on your neighbors and support local businesses as best you can.

Everyone who is placing themselves at risk to benefit moms needing child care, assuring that school breakfasts and lunches continue and that neighbors and friends are supported needs to be thanked. Knowing how to be a responsible community and acting as one is what was and is still needed.

We are a better community and nation when “we the people” work together and support one another. To all public servants, farmers, medical personnel, researchers, supply chains, grocery stores and their employees who are working to keep the fickle finger of fate in check — thank you!

Keith Livingston is a longtime Federal Way resident and community observer. He can be reached at

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