Beginning today, large parts of the Central Puget Sound region will enter “Phase 2” of Governor Inslee’s latest reopening plan, the “Roadmap to Recovery.” State Sen. Judy Warnick, Rep. Tom Dent and Rep. Alex Ybarra have spent the past year pushing back on the governor’s COVID-related actions that fail to recognize the unique situation of rural and eastern Washington. The latest move has sparked criticism even from members of the governor’s own party, whose largely rural and coastal communities are forced to remain closed. One democratic lawmaker said, “…it is clear that the governor’s plan exhibits a disastrous disconnect with the realities of our communities.”
The District 13 legislators are concerned that this new plan is based more on partisan politics than science.
“When I saw the details of this latest reopening plan, I said to myself, are you kidding me?” exclaimed Dent, R-Moses Lake. “Our communities have been patiently waiting, in many respects doing the right thing, but are unacceptably left out of this.”
Areas slated to open are more densely populated and have demonstrated concerning upticks in COVID-related metrics than rural parts of the state that will be stuck in “Phase 1.” Counties in Phase 2 will be allowed to resume limited indoor dining and other entertainment activities such as theaters and gyms.
“Having been shut out of this entire process for a year, it’s past time the Legislature weigh in on these decisions with science and facts,” Warnick, R-Moses Lake said. “It doesn’t make any sense that these regions would be allowed to open when our communities in rural Washington have demonstrated they can manage this crisis. This decision doesn’t build the public’s trust.”
The new phased-in approach made some significant changes including a regionalized approach, something District 13 lawmakers opposed, and new metrics. One such metric is the requirement that a region have a 14-day decrease in COVID cases by at least 10 percent. The “West” region, which is entering Phase 2, has seen a 15 percent increase in cases per 100,000 residents.
“If we are to take an honest look at the data and metrics, no one should be opening right now, but many regions of rural Washington are a lot closer than some of these urbans areas who can suddenly reopen,” said Ybarra, R-Quincy. “The plan unfortunately looks a bit like partisan politics.”
Warnick, Dent and Ybarra are continuing to push colleagues to move swiftly at implementing a more scientific and common sense-based approach to reopening. A bipartisan measure, Senate Bill 5114, which received broad public support during committee hearings, would immediately move all of Washington into Phase 2. Mounting opposition from Inslee’s own party could provide a needed impetus for action by the majority party.