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WA GOP lawmaker calls for special session, ‘cooperation’ to find COVID solutions

Pedestrians wearing masks walk past a small grocery store in the Chinatown-International District Thursday, Nov. 12, 2020, in Seattle. Washington state and county health officials have warned of a spike in coronavirus cases across the state, and pleaded with the public to take the pandemic more seriously heading into the winter holidays. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

“The cure cannot be worse than the disease” was a message shared earlier this week largely from Republican lawmakers, many of whom have been raising concerns about the governor’s new restrictions. Senator Mark Schoesler, Washington State Senate Minority Leader, joined KIRO Radio’s Gee & Ursula Show on Monday, calling for a special session and more collaboration on ideas to stop the increase in COVID-19 cases.

“We look at seeing perhaps 100,000 people unemployed during the holidays,” Schoesler said. “Businesses that are on the edge right now, quite likely failing. And the input from the industry was largely ignored about how they might operate more safely. This isn’t the way to take care of these men and women at the holidays with a layoff and a vague promise of grants or loans.”

How the latest lockdown is impacting people already struggling to get by

Outside of a shutdown like what Gov. Inslee announced Sunday, Schoesler emphasized that industry leaders should be heard as they have ideas for how to operate safely during the pandemic.

“… Industry leaders have said they felt there were ways to modify the current rules that they could live with and enhance safety, which we all want,” he said. “But it was basically my way or the highway, and that’s really a shame to treat 100,000 employees and those businesses that way.”

As cases continue to rise across the country and across Washington state, Schoesler recognizes that everyone can do better to limit the spread of COVID-19 and thinks a special session could help.

“In a special session, we could do the sort of things we did last year,” he said. “At the end of session last year, we appropriated money for public health and to try and hold down unemployment insurance costs. It was a unanimous vote in both chambers. No political game. Just get in and help people.”

“I’m not certain we had to go this far, but if we got into session now, we could make smart decisions,” he added. “There are no limits on good ideas to blue or red districts. We could do it. In fact, the Senate is basically ready to go with a hybrid virtual session now that we could be in doing the people’s work rather than standing on the sidelines.”

In terms of what we could do differently in Washington to get on top of the pandemic and start to flatten the curve, Schoesler shared a few ideas as a starting place.

“I think there’s areas that we really haven’t touched on. For example, vanpooling and carpooling that’s gone on certainly is a risky behavior,” he said. “We haven’t necessarily communicated as effectively as we could in every county, every part of the state. And we can always do better. Every employer knows, well, we could do better in this area, that area.”

He clarified that he is not calling for people to resist the lockdowns, and says people should practice personal responsibility.

While he did not provide a concrete plan to keep the cases from increasing, he did say senators are ready to cooperate and work with the governor and industries to find additional solutions.

“We have to remember that people with good ideas are not just blue state governors. There’s red state governors that can contribute, members that can contribute. But just saying no really doesn’t help bring us together as a state,” he said.

Schoesler added that there’s no silver bullet, but he did share three areas he believes should receive more attention, including better public education, and again mentioning carpooling.

“We know that the Hispanic community and other communities of color are disproportionately hit,” he said. “Whatever we’re doing now isn’t really working. I believe carpooling, vanpooling have been a major source of the problem in much of the state. We haven’t talked about that. And I don’t think we have had cooperation that we need to implement personal responsibilities.”

Listen to the Gee and Ursula Show weekday mornings from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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