KITTITAS COUNTY, WA - Kittitas County Commissioners voiced their strong objection to Governor Inslee’s new phased reopening plan announced Monday.
The plan, titled “Healthy Washington – Roadmap to Recovery”, changes evaluation standards for reopening from individual counties to regions. Per the plan, Kittitas County is now part of the South Central Region joining Yakima, Benton, Franklin, Walla Walla, and Columbia counties and would require the entire area meet reopening criteria as a whole before moving to the next phase.
Noting the plan’s drastic changes from the original model, commissioners expressed frustration that this latest modification will be especially difficult for areas such as Kittitas County that had achieved lower positive rates than surrounding counties. Chairman Brett Wachsmith stated, “We started with dials, then phases and now we’re moving to regions, yet we still don’t have the understanding as to what is expected to get our economy and schools back to normal. Once again what the people of our county have worked so hard to achieve is ignored.” Vice Chair Laura Osiadacz added, “Being combined with large municipalities such as the Tri-Cities and Yakima is just plain wrong. What is occurring in Richland or Union Gap has little effect on disease transmission or response in Kittitas County.”
Commissioners stressed their continued belief that the work of the Kittitas County Public Health Department and Public Health Officer Dr. Mark Larson in cooperation with local governments, school districts, healthcare providers and emergency responders have proven to be the most effective method of responding to COVID-19. Commissioners also expressed concern that the governor’s announcement could possibly undermine the work of local health authorities now that local COVID-19 improvement results would not allow affected business to operate normally. Commissioner Cory Wright said, “We have the public health expertise here that understands not only where the actual spread is happening, but also how to work with our residents to limit it. The governor’s misguided attempts don’t get that, but I know that our local health authorities understand the importance of measuring our community’s health on more than just COVID-19.”
Commissioners reiterated their focus on examining available legal options while continuing to advocate for permanent changes to how prolonged emergencies are managed at the state level. Osiadacz stated, “The Governor’s new plan continues the practice of issuing orders from Olympia without involving local or state elected officials. Next week our representatives will be back in session. Every citizen has the right to use their voice contact their senators and representatives, and get legislation passed to ensure local input that balances the governor’s current unlimited powers during an extended state of emergency.” Kittitas County is part of the 13th legislative district and is represented by Senator Judy Warnick