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Washington representatives, senators push to reopen state before June 30

A sports bar in Seattle's Fremont neighborhood makes it clear that it is still open during the COVID-19 pandemic. (MyNorthwest photo)

A group of Washington state representatives and senators, almost all of whom are members of the Republican Party, sent a letter to Gov. Inslee on May 10 asking him to fully reopen the state on June 15.

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The governor then announced this week that the state is on track for a full reopening on June 30. He did say that date could come sooner if 70% or more Washington residents age 16 and older have at least initiated their vaccination before then.

In response to Gov. Inslee’s new timeline, Senate Republican Leader John Braun and House Republican Leader J.T. Wilcox released a statement saying that they still believe June 15 is a reasonable deadline.

“Earlier this week members of all four legislative caucuses encouraged Governor Inslee to share the vision of his counterparts in California and Oregon, and decide that our state should fully reopen June 15,” their joint statement reads. “Now that our state is aligning with the new CDC guidance, meaning the mask mandate and distancing guidance are lifted for fully vaccinated adults, we believe June 15 is still a reasonable deadline.”

In the original letter to the governor from 52 state lawmakers, they referenced California’s opening date, which is set for June 15. Oregon will follow suit, they said, with a reopening before the end of June.

“These are, with our state, the original members of the Western States Pact, which was formed with a shared vision of addressing COVID-19,” the letter reads. “We encourage you to now share the vision of Governors Newsom and Brown and decide that Washington, also, should fully reopen June 15.”

The letter to Gov. Inslee was signed by 52 representatives and senators from across the state. The only two that identify as part of the Democratic Party are Senator Mark Mullet and Rep. Mike Chapman.

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The full statement from Sen. Braun and Rep. Wilcox released on Thursday is included below:

Earlier this week members of all four legislative caucuses encouraged Governor Inslee to share the vision of his counterparts in California and Oregon, and decide that our state should fully reopen June 15. Now that our state is aligning with the new CDC guidance, meaning the mask mandate and distancing guidance are lifted for fully vaccinated adults, we believe June 15 is still a reasonable deadline.

The governor’s announcement today leaves the door open to reopening earlier than June 30, if the state reaches his vaccination target. Either way, we have concerns about what his new guidance will mean for hospitality establishments, grocery stores and other places where people congregate. After dictating for 439 days about what employers can and can’t do, the governor is now saying ‘you figure it out.’ Republicans have pressed relentlessly for that freedom all along. If all employers had already been able to set their own safety standards, whether it’s masks, or distancing – or now, vaccination status – there would be less uncertainty and less chance that frontline workers would be put in difficult situations.

The governor made it clear he sees no connection between lifting economic restrictions and ending the state of emergency. We disagree. It’s time to give the authority back to local governments and trust them to act responsibly.

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