205 W 5th Ave
Ellensburg, WA 98926-2887
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Kittitas (pronounced 'KITT-i-tass') County is located in central Washington
State. It spans from the lush forested Cascade Mountains to the upper Yakima River Valley plains and
the Columbia River.
Kittitas County, WA -
The Kittitas County Board of Commissioners voiced their united opposition today in response to Governor Jay Inslee’s latest COVID-19 restrictions announced Sunday.
In remarks, commissioners were specifically critical of the restrictions’ failure to recognize the highly variable rates of COVID-19 spread throughout the state and the role of local health authorities to best determine appropriate response. Chairman Brett Wachsmith stated, “Kittitas County has worked hard to keep our infection rate low. Our local health department and public health officer have diligently partnered with our schools, businesses, cities and Central Washington University to respond quickly to outbreaks and keep infection isolated to avoid community spread. I am extremely disappointed in the actions taken by the state that ignore the work that has been accomplished. To make a sweeping decision at the state level ignores the local response measures we have in place as well as the secondary impacts COVID-19 has placed on our residents.”
Commissioners also questioned the effectiveness of limiting and closing businesses that have not been identified as a source of community spread. Vice Chairman Laura Osiadacz commented, “Throughout this pandemic, the focus has been on analyzing data to make the best decisions. It is extremely disappointing to see businesses that have worked hard to be a part of the solution simply assumed to be the source of the problem and wrongly penalized. We have not seen the local hospital impacts of COVID-19 that have been predicted, but we have certainly seen the effects of these orders and their negative impact on the collective mental health of our population.”
While commissioners were unanimously critical of the latest state restrictions, they were also unified in their support of local public health authorities to appropriately respond. Commissioner Cory Wright said, “It took some time, but through this our health department, public health officer, and this Board came to an understanding that our most critical issues were protecting public health while keeping schools and businesses open. Because of this we have the most students per capita by county statewide in school right now under hybrid models, and it is because of the united goals of our entire county government that this is happening. These new orders issued by the governor only set back the collective local work we have done and firmly demonstrate that locally-controlled response is the best response.”
As of Monday morning, county commissioners were still examining legal options in conjunction with the Kittitas County Prosecutor’s office. While not identifying any specific course of action, commissioners expressed their intent to potentially move forward with litigation once the prosecutor’s office had the opportunity to collect local health data and present potential options.
In the meantime, commissioners remained firm in their resolve to support affected local employers and schools by investing approximately $1.75 million of remaining federal CARES dollars in supplementary funding. Wachsmith said, “We still have to approve a final proposal, but we are committed to getting money to those areas that have been most affected. Our businesses are not just storefronts, they represent working families employed throughout Kittitas County. Making sure paychecks continue arriving and keeping our kids in school during this time is the best way to minimize the secondary effects of COVID. By putting federal money to work in the most direct way possible, we can lessen the overall impact of COVID on local families.”
Kittitas County, from the Cascades to the Columbia, and online at http://www.co.kittitas.wa.us
Brett Wachsmith, Chairman of the Kittitas County Board of Commissioners (509) 962-7508
Kittitas County has a total area of 2,333 square miles. The highest point in the county is Mount Daniel at 7,959 feet above sea level.