COVID-19: staying safe while moving forward

Sen. Short Banner

April 24, 2020

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

It’s hard to believe that it has been five weeks now since the 2020 session ended and everyday life as we know it continues to be dramatically altered because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). Absolutely unprecedented for a free society. While I was driving home from Olympia, the governor instituted emergency orders to shut down schools, and then very quickly, businesses. I initially agreed with his and the president’s precautionary measures – at that time we knew so little about the virus; what the symptoms were, how the virus spread and how many people who were infected would ultimately require hospitalization.   

Upon returning home, my focus immediately turned to helping individuals, families, first responders, healthcare providers and businesses in the 7th District. My days were also filled with briefings and inquiries at the local, state and national levels with the latest information and to share with these leaders the needs of our communities. Additionally, I have spent many hours inquiring with local, state and national experts (both to learn and to provide oversight) about the available data (or lack thereof), trends and ultimately the “metrics” our governor needs to see to relax or remove his orders.

Just as importantly, I have been fighting for a more balanced approach that supports the economic and physical health of our families and our communities. I am pushing that the state Department of Health share daily hospital data because I believe it is a concrete metric for how the virus is currently affecting people.  Broad-scale antibody testing also a critical component in that it will be the most valuable, comprehensive way to determine more broadly the virus’ impact in our state. I am frustrated that this continues to be a lower priority of our governor’s administration. The storm I see brewing is that the governor and our state Department of Health ignore the progress we’ve made in reducing the virus risk and preventing our hospitals from being overwhelmed by continuing to insist that “zero risk” goals be met.  While small portions of the state continue to be challenged by the virus, much of the state has seen marked reductions in positive cases, hospitalizations and deaths – a trend that I hope continues.  As a state, we have “bent the curve” and prevented our hospital capacity from being overwhelmed.    


Opening Washington state back up for business

As we continue to do all we can to prevent virus deaths, our economy and individual freedoms do not need to be sacrificed in order that unrealistic goals be met. I believe the time is now to begin reopening the state, county by county or regionally, to business, to recreation and to life.  In whatever way this occurs, it is incumbent upon each of us to continue to do our part as well so our actions going forward don’t overwhelm our hospitals.

Last week, Republicans in the state House of Representatives and Senate were the first to introduce a plan for safely restarting Washington’s economy, while continuing our efforts to combat the coronavirus.

Some plan highlights include:

  • Allow operations to resume in economic sectors that fit one or more of these criteria: low-risk, personal health, environmental protection, aid to elderly/physically challenged, alternate quarantine locations, assisting businesses with tax-related requirements, or property protection. Examples: auto dealers, solo landscape services, car washes, remodeling companies/contractors, residential construction, hairdressers/barbers, flower shops, RV parks, dentists, installers of home/commercial security systems, and accountants/tax preparers.
  • A moratorium on all state-agency rulemaking not related to the current crisis. Rules are important, but at a time when many businesses are simply trying to survive, the making of new rules seems less than essential. Relief from rulemaking goes hand-in-hand with relief from taxes.
  • Deliver on the massive testing capabilities promised by state health officials ahead of the business-closure order.
  • Exempt small businesses from paying sales and B&O taxes for one year.
  • Forgive first-quarter small-business B&O taxes for 2020 and allow deferral of remaining quarterly taxes to the end of 2020. It makes more sense for state government to assist employers through this difficult time, so they can return to becoming regular taxpayers, then to see employers fail and drop off the tax rolls completely.
  • Forgive payments related to unemployment insurance, workers’ compensation and paid family leave for April 2020 through the month that the business-closure order is lifted or amended, as appropriate

To read the full proposal, click here.


These charts show a recent snapshot of the number of cases and deaths in our state. As you can see, we have done a great job of bending the curve.


Governor’s powers

Governors since 1969 have had broad authority during times of emergency. I am just as frustrated that Governor Inslee has this broad power to himself; many of you have shared your questions of whether this broad authority is constitutional. While I share these concerns, to date broad emergency powers such as those found in our state laws, have largely gone unchallenged. To pass a law limiting the governor’s authority would require a vote by the legislature during a legislative session. I am absolutely in favor of a law that would limit this authority! Given that our governor would certainly disagree, it would have to pass the legislature with a 2/3rds veto-proof majority to become law. If Democrats in the legislature become equally frustrated, then we might have a chance.

While the governor’s powers may change in the future, my immediate job is to work as hard as I can to push Governor Inslee to change his current course.


COVID-19: not a reason to release DOC inmates

Governor Inslee recently announced his plan to release 1,167 prison inmates during the current coronavirus epidemic from our state’s Department of Corrections facilities (DOC). This is a reckless decision. State DOC facilities are capable of handling inmate safety and medical care. There were other options the governor could have utilized instead of this careless alternative.

Additionally, there is no guarantee that these prisoners would be safer if released. Nor do we know if they will commit further crimes upon leaving confinement.

It is clear that our governor is using this pandemic to fulfill his own agenda; an agenda he has not been able to get through the legislature. This completely disregards public safety and the health and safety of the inmates.  

Furthermore, Inslee’s proclamation goes against our state’s constitution which requires that the victims be notified before there is any release. This order halts all notification requirements.  


Fighting for your liberties

In addition to the Republican plan to reopen the economy I talked about above, there are several letters to the governor which I have signed onto aimed at getting YOU back your individual freedoms and reopening our economy -- safely. As of today, the governor has only responded to the letter regarding recreational fishing. His answer: no. They include:

  • Residential construction. Why has the governor allowed construction to continue on public projects and not private? Builders on many job sites are easily able to stay six feet away from one another and should be allowed to continue working during this time. You can read the letter to the governor urging him to allow residential construction here. *As of Friday, April 24, Governor Inslee has signed an order restarting residential construction with substantial safety measures in place.
  • DOC inmates. As I said above, Governor Inslee recently announced his plan to release 1,167 prison inmates during the current coronavirus pandemic from our state’s Department of Corrections facilities (DOC). I believe the early release of these prisoners is irresponsible and completely unnecessary. You can read the letter to the governor urging him to reverse his decision here.
  • Restarting our state’s economy. Each day brings more stress and anxiety of an uncertain future and the potential of future high unemployment. And there are areas of the state that are seeing a significant, downward trend in virus infections and deaths and those areas of the state, like our district, where the infection rates of the virus has been minimal. These are areas, possibly regionally, that I believe could be safely reopened right now, in a phased approach.  Reopening should be not be solely contingent upon King County’s data. You can read the letter to the governor here
  • Antibodies test. Broad-scale antibody testing also a critical component in that it will be the most valuable, comprehensive way to determine more broadly the virus’ impact in our state. Unfortunately, our state is not currently conducting these tests and I am frustrated that this continues to be a lower priority of our governor’s administration. You can read the letter asking the governor to begin testing for antibodies here.
  • Firearms dealers. Governor Inslee’s executive Stay Home, Stay Healthy order did not include the sale of firearms as essential, undermining your 2nd amendment right. Our governor should reverse this decision immediately. You can read the letter to the governor requesting he amend his order to included licensed firearms dealers as essential businesses here.
  • Recreational fishing. One of the four essential activities permitted under the governor’s Stay Home, Stay Healthy order is: “Engaging in outdoor exercise activities, such as walking, hiking, running or biking, but only if appropriate social distancing practices are used.” Unfortunately, recreational fishing was not included even though it can be done while social distancing. You can read the letter asking the governor to include recreational fishing to his Stay Home, Stay Healthy order here.
  • Clarifying health care proclamation. Governor Inslee issued Proclamation 20-05, which limits specific medical procedures but is resulting in clinic closures. Clarification needs to be provided to health-care providers as many have closed their offices believing they were non-essential. You can read the letter asking the governor to provide clarity to all health-care providers that they do not need to shut down as part of the state’s response to COVID-19 here.


As always, it is an incredible privilege to serve as your state senator. If you need anything at all, my office is here for you. I can be reached by email at