Kelso leaders mull proposal to ignore stay-home order


Kelso City Council will meet Tuesday night to consider the proposal

KELSO, Wash. (KOIN) — A city in Cowlitz County will consider a proposed proclamation to not enforce Washington Governor Jay Inslee’s stay-home order.

Despite not having a new case of COVID-19 in more than a week, Cowlitz County wasn’t included among the 10 new counties approved Tuesday to apply to enter the second phase of the “Safe Start Washington” reopening plan.

To be eligible to apply for Phase 2, Washington counties must average less than 10 new cases per 100,000 residents over a 14-day period, according to the governor’s office.

The city of Kelso doesn’t yet meet those requirements, largely due to an outbreak at the Foster Farm poultry processing plant a few weeks ago. Cowlitz County said it was “recently deemed eligible to apply for a variance to advance to Phase 2.” There have been no deaths in the county and its case total stands at 69 (41 were active and 28 had recovered by Tuesday).

Kelso and county officials are now making a case to Inslee’s office, hoping to get approval to open some businesses early. Kelso City Council planned to meet Tuesday night to consider a proposed proclamation instructing police and officials not to enforce the stay-home order.

Councilman Keenan Harvey proposed the proclamation and shared it on social media prior to the meeting. It states, in part:

“The Governor does not have legal authority to force city employees, including Law Enforcement Officers to take action against businesses or citizens. Kelso City employees are not employed by the Governor of the state thus making the decision to enforce Governor Inslee’s orders a decision of the City Council regardless of the outcome of the Lawsuits determining constitutionality. Businesses wishing to open and operate shall do so using responsible social distancing policies and procedures without fear of retribution or investigation from the City of Kelso.”

The proposal is not expected to pass. Kelso City Manager Andy Hamilton said the proclamation is just frm one member of an eight-person council.

“The legal council in the city—what is their recommendation when they look at that proclamation? Their recommendation is to not enter into anything like this that would bind the police department or city into making any decisions against the governor’s orders,” said Hamilton.

State leaders say they’re closely monitoring individual counties and additional counties could become eligible for Phase 2 in the coming days and weeks.

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