The Whitman County Commissioners are asking Washington Governor Jay Inslee to return to a county approach to reopening businesses during the pandemic.
Inslee recently mandated a new regional approach to his phased reopening plan. It places Whitman County in the Eastern region with much larger Spokane County. Whitman County officials oppose the move pointing out that local business reopenings will be dependent on Spokane County. Regions must meet 4 metrics set by the governor to move to his phase 2 restrictions on business.
The Whitman County Commissioners unanimously approved a letter to Inslee during their meeting Monday. It expresses “extreme disappointment” with the move to regionalize phased reopening. The board says the move “makes no scientific sense” and will result in less compliance with his pandemic restrictions. The board tells Inslee that his new plan, “effectively tells smaller counties and their populations that nothing they do will help them reopen faster.” The commissioners believe the move is likely to create “outright defiance” and a decline in coronavirus testing. The letter says the regionalization approach is a “bad decision” and that’s putting more local businesses on the brink of failure.
The letter includes a statement from Whitman County Public Health Interim Director Chris Skidmore. Skidmore says the governor’s regionalization approach is not being received well by public health administrators across the state. He writes that local health jurisdictions weren’t consulted about the change and were “essentially told to deal with it.” Skidmore also believes that the governor’s new plan is the start of an effort to end county public health departments in Washington and move to a regional public health system.