Sheriff in Eastern Washington says he won’t enforce stay-at-home order

FRANKLIN COUNTY, Wash. — The Sheriff of Franklin County, which is located in Eastern Washington, says he will not enforce Gov. Jay Inslee’s stay-at-home order.

Franklin County Sheriff J.D. Raymond sent a letter to community members and local businesses in which ex said he “does believe that COVID-19 is real and needs to be dealt with appropriately.”

“I believe that social distancing and taking appropriate and proper steps to slow the spread of the virus and control its transmission is important,” Raymond said.

But Raymond, who has been sheriff for six years in the county of about 95,000 people, the biggest city of which is Pasco, also said he believes that adults are capable of policing themselves.

>> Lakewood’s mayor behind inaccurate social media post critical of Inslee and coronavirus shutdown

“We understand how to social distance, how to wear a mask when appropriate, how to wash our hands and surfaces,” Raymond said.

Through Sunday, the Washington State Department of Health has reported four deaths among 198 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Franklin County.

Raymond said he thinks the businesses and places of worship in the county can reopen while still employing the same practices that “essential” businesses have implemented.

“This intrudes on our right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; and neither I nor my office will enforce any arrests or fines regarding the operation of privately-owned businesses,” Raymond said.

>> Who’s working, what businesses are open during stay-at-home order

Inslee’s stay at home order is currently set to run through May 4, but the governor has said it could be extended.

Raymond said Inslee “has no plan in place for sustaining our economy,” adding that Inslee is “creating an economic crisis.”

Raymond’s letter comes as pressure continues to grow on officials to reopen the state economy. Thousands gathered in Olympia on Sunday to protest Gov. Inslee’s stay-at-home order.

Inslee has acknowledged the pressure to reopen the economy, but said his order is not about politics and that crowd counts and speeches “won’t determine our course.”

The pressure to reopen Washington also comes as some states have already begun easing restrictions.

Gov. Brian Kemp, of Georgia, announced Monday what he called limited, sensible steps forward to reopening the state for business. His new order will allow gyms, fitness centers, bowling alleys and other businesses to reopen by Friday as long as they comply with social distancing requirements. By Monday, movie theaters may resume selling tickets and restaurants limited to takeout orders can go back to limited dine-in service.

Gov. Bill Lee, of Tennessee, also announced that businesses across the majority of the state will begin reopening as early as next week. He said his mandatory safer-at-home order will expire on April 30, which will pave the way for 89 out of the state’s 95 counties to begin opening businesses.

Information from The Associated Press is included in this report.