Benton Commissioners Send Message to Gov. Inslee on COVID Restrictions

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KENNEWICK — The Benton County Commission unanimously adopted a resolution that puts pressure on Gov. Jay Inslee and state legislators to "let the elected officials have a voice" when it comes to ongoing COVID-19 restrictions.

The resolution, approved during a special meeting Thursday, was pared down to two pages from the original five proposed by new Commissioner Will McKay.

"This isn't a Republican or a Democratic resolution," McKay said during the brief virtual meeting. "This is a people's voice of having the opportunity to have the elected officials take control of the area, to help run the area, and to see fit on what we need to do to help out this area."

Small and Chairman Jerome Delvin reminded people that by passing it, the board is not telling certain restricted businesses that they have the authorization to open up.

McKay clarified that it's saying elected officials throughout the state should be able to work with their local health authorities and businesses on education so they can open up safely and possibly curtail the economic devastation left by the coronavirus pandemic.

The resolution states that Washington agencies are not bound by the Benton County document, so residents and business owners need to be aware it will "not protect them from action by the state ... and are encouraged to use their own judgment concerning future choices and action."

Inslee and the Washington state Department of Health rolled out the new "Healthy Washington — Roadmap to Recovery" plan last week, based on new metrics. There are eight regional groups all starting again in Phase 1.

This region — Benton, Franklin, Yakima, Kittitas, Walla Walla and Columbia counties — had some of the worst scores of the state.

The Benton County resolution said Inslee's recent proclamation does not account for local conditions, "arbitrarily and capriciously impacts" Tri-Cities residents and businesses, and circumvents the responsibilities and duties of local officials elected to represent the interests of their constituents.

"The continuation of implemented limitations creates inequity and inconsistency among the business community and negatively impacts independent, locally-owned, small businesses which have invested significant time and resources to ensure their employees and their customers maintain a safe environment and follow common-sense COVID-19 prevention protocols and guidelines to limit transmission while continuing to allow their business to open," it says.

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