Cheney Free Press -

By JOHN McCALLUM
Managing Editor 

Cure worse than the disease

Sixth District legislator calls for rollback of ‘drastic’ COVID-19 measures, calls for special session on virus response

 

Last updated 11/25/2020 at 12:04pm



OLYMPIA – Mike Volz has added his name to the growing list of people upset about new restrictions announced last Sunday, Nov. 15, by Gov. Jay Inslee.

In a statement last Friday, Nov. 20, 6th District Representative and Spokane County Chief Deputy Treasurer Mike Volz called for a rollback of the four-week set of measures re-instituted by Inslee in response to a rapid rise in COVID-19 positive cases and hospitalizations in the state. Volz, who won re-election in November, also called for an immediate special session to address the issue and that the regular biennial budget session scheduled to begin Jan. 11 take place in-person — not virtually as has been suggested.

“We understand that Spokane County and other areas in the state are seeing an increase in COVID-19 cases,” Volz said in the release. “That being said, we can’t continue to go down this path where the ‘cure’ is worse than the disease. His orders will result in more small business closures, more economic hardship, and more health and mental health challenges for workers who find themselves with no jobs and no means to pay for immediate necessities.”

The state’s measures include limiting restaurants and bars to outdoor dining and to-go service only, with outdoor service table size restricted to no more than five people. Fitness facilities and gyms are closed to indoor operations, with outdoor fitness classes permitted subject to outdoor gathering restrictions.

Among other restrictions, in-store retail service is limited to 25 % occupancy, with common dining areas such as food courts prohibited. Religious services are limited to 25 % occupancy, or no more than 200 people, whichever is fewer.

Inslee, state and local officials have asked Washington residents to refrain from traveling this Thanksgiving holiday, and issued guidance prohibiting indoor social gatherings with people outside of the household — defined as individuals residing in the same domicile — unless they quarantine for 14 days before the gathering or for seven days and receive a negative Covid-19 test result no more than 48 hours before the event. Outdoor social gatherings are limited to no more than five individuals outside the household.

The restrictions come as Washington is seeing “consistent increasing daily case counts” that have led to over 2,000 cases per day Nov. 13-15 and a doubling of counts across the state the past two weeks.

In announcing the restrictions, Inslee also said the state is committing $50 million in aid to help mitigate financial impacts on businesses and their employees, with $20 million targeted in the short-term as cash assistance targeted directly at hardest hit industries. Volz said this isn’t enough.

“We believe there is more CARES funding available and that the Department of Commerce can handle more requests,” he said “State government — at every level — should be doing everything it can to help mitigate the short- and long-term financial impacts of the governor’s shutdown orders.”

In a Nov. 20 news release, Inslee announced additional support for businesses and families, including $70 million in business support grants, $30 million for the recovery loan program, $20 million in rental assistance and $15 million in energy bills for low-income households.

“We know this pandemic is taking an economic toll,” Inslee said during a Nov. 20 press conference. “On Sunday (Nov. 15) we announced $50 million in business supports, but after more discussions with legislators and our agencies, we’ve agreed on how to more than double that.”

Volz said the Legislature needs to meet in an “immediate” special session so that elected leaders can provide input on solutions to the health and economic crisis of COVID-19. He also stressed that meetings should take place in Olympia in-person, not remotely, noting such measures would work to “silence” Republicans voices.

“This is a dangerous road to go down,” Volz said. “I urge the majority party and the governor to not give in to this temptation. Call us into an immediate special session and make sure we’re all in Olympia come Jan. 11.”

John McCallum can be reached at jmac@cheneyfreepress.com.

 

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