OLYMPIA (AP) — Gov. Jay Inslee will speak Tuesday evening and detail a plan for Washington state’s recovery from the coronavirus outbreak.
There have been mounting calls for Inslee to ease the state’s stay-at-home order after a weekend protest drew about 2,500 to Olympia. The governor’s stay-home order runs through May 4.
This week the sheriff of a county in eastern Washington state told residents that he will not enforce Inslee’s directive or any guidelines “”that infringe on your constitutional rights.”
In response to the protest Sunday Inslee said he understood people’s frustrations but added “this is not the time to halt the progress we have made. I encourage everyone in our state to stay home, stay healthy and, if you need to go out, practice adequate physical distancing.”
Inslee’s Tuesday announcement on steps toward recovery is scheduled for 5 p.m. More than 585,000 people in Washington sought unemployment benefits just last week, with 143,000 people filing claims for the first time as businesses remain closed or with limited operations due to the stay-at-home order.
Also, Boeing this week is restarting production of commercial airplanes in the Seattle area, putting about 27,000 people back to work after operations were halted because of the coronavirus. The company will have employees wear face masks and other protective equipment.
Meanwhile, the commissioners of Franklin County in eastern Washington, along with the county sheriff, are defying Inslee’s stay-at-home order.
The three commissioners voted unanimously on Tuesday that businesses in the county that includes Pasco could reopen immediately, the Tri-City Herald reported.
“As far as I’m concerned the county is open, and I’d encourage people within the law and within the parameters of their own safety — we’re adults, we can make decisions — to behave accordingly. That’s what I’m doing,” said Commissioner Brad Peck.
The commissioners, all Republican, decided to reopen their county one month after Inslee, a Democrat, announced the shutdown in light of the coronavirus pandemic.
Franklin County Sheriff J.D. Raymond sent a letter to constituents on Monday in which he said he does believe the coronavirus pandemic is real and “needs to be dealt with appropriately.”
“I believe that social distancing and taking appropriate and proper steps to slow the spread of the virus and control its transmission is important,” Raymond said.
But Raymond, who has been sheriff for six years in the county of about 95,000 people, also said he believes that adults are capable of policing themselves and “we have the capability of adjusting our habits to these trying times.”
Sheriffs in Michigan and Wisconsin have also said they won’t enforce social-distancing mandates.
As of Sunday, Franklin County reported 198 cases of COVID-19 with four deaths. The Seattle area saw the nation’s first large COVID-19 outbreak, and so far more has more than 12,000 confirmed cases and at least 652 deaths.