Wednesday, May 05, 2021
65.0°F

Grant County awaits decision on possible rollback

by CHARLES H. FEATHERSTONE & EMILY THORNTON
Staff Writer | May 4, 2021 1:00 AM

EPHRATA — While increasing numbers statewide sign petitions to recall Gov. Jay Inslee, it appeared likely on Monday that Grant County will be moved back to Phase 2 of the state’s COVID-19 recovery plan.

Officials with the Washington Department of Health were expected to announce Tuesday which counties have failed the state’s COVID-19 metrics. Those include counties with 50,000 residents or more having fewer than 200 new cases per 100,000 residents in the prior 14 days and fewer than five hospitalizations in the prior seven days.

Meanwhile, 10 petitions at Change.org exist to recall Inslee, one with more than 30,000 signatures as of Monday evening. Another petition demanding both the impeachment of Inslee and Attorney General Bob Ferguson has garnered more than 205,000 signatures, while another has more than 9,000 signatures.

The latter petition states, “He (Inslee) is using State Health Officials to justify his unjustified unscientific shutdown of Washington state due to Covid19. Enough is enough. Governor Jay Inslee, Attorney General Bob Ferguson, and local State Health Officials must be held accountable.”

And a website, www.recallinslee.org, or Washingtonians to Recall Inslee, has about 25,000 members and links to counties’ efforts, including Grant’s, which has nearly 150 members. The group claims on its website, “Washington State has been ravaged over the past nine years with bad decisions made by our governor. But over the last 2 years his actions have crossed the line and become malfeasance, misfeasance, and violation of his oath of office.”

The state group is currently developing a legal case for a recall, according to the website. It then plans to file the case with the Secretary of State, get approval from a state court and gather about 1.5 million signatures needed to put the recall on the ballot.

But the statuses of counties continue to be a hot topic, too.

According to Grant County Commissioner Danny Stone, commissioners were told by Grant County Health Officer Alexander Brzezny the state will likely use the prior-14-day case count of 272 for Grant County, as well as the recent hospitalization of seven people for COVID-19.

“Just so that nobody is unclear, you had to fail both metrics to go back,” Stone said. “There were seven new hospitalizations in the county last week, two above the requirement.”

As of Monday, most of the state was in Phase 3, which allows most restaurants, retail outlets and other indoor public gathering places to operate at 50% of capacity.

Phase 2 reduces capacity to 25% and limits the size of crowds at outdoor events to 200 people.

On Monday, only Cowlitz, Pierce and Whitman counties were in Phase 2. Health officials evaluate the COVID-19 numbers every three weeks.

Stone said a meeting Monday morning of county commissioners across the state revealed frustration with the approach state officials are taking in dealing with the pandemic.

“There was obviously some frustration and discussion of how can we influence the state to give us a little more power at the county level to make these decisions,” he said. “Obviously that’s not in our power to change. We hope to have some influence anyway.”

Stone noted, however, Inslee did change the metrics for failure when the previous phase announcement was made on April 16, from failing one of the criteria to failing both.

“So maybe he’ll change something again,” Stone said.

On Monday, Inslee announced indoor and outdoor venues for major events — such as sports stadiums and churches — may add special sections for people who have received COVID-19 vaccinations. Outdoor facilities can hold up to 50% or total vaccinated capacity of 22,000 people, with an allowed unvaccinated attendance of no more than 9,000.

Indoor facilities may also add a vaccinated section of 50% capacity or 2,000 people, whichever is lower. The maximum number of unvaccinated attendees will be allowed to vary from 200 to 600, depending on the size of the indoor space.