Schoesler says he won't extend some quarantine orders
End of some lockdowns could come as soon as May 4
April 23, 2020
RITZVILLE - The state Senate majority leader said Wednesday, April 23, that he will refuse to extend quarantine rules on "low-hanging fruit."
Sen. Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, said some of that so-called fruit includes fishing, elective surgeries and home construction.
Those and other prohibitions are among the coronavirus emergency quarantine rules ordered by Gov. Jay Inslee. The emergency was declared Feb. 29. The order has since been amended at least once, and several new rules have been added in separate orders.
Gov. Inslee's current rules are set to expire May 4.
"We are willing to say no to an extension," he said of Republicans in the Senate, referring to his low-hanging fruit. "May 4 is much too long for some of the low-hanging fruit."
Under state law (Revised Code of Washington 43.06.220 (4)), the governor may institute emergency rules for a maximum of 30 days, after which the Legislature must reconvene and approve a concurrent resolution for any extension.
If the Legislature is not in session, the leadership of the Legislature can authorize a temporary extension until such time as the Legislature can convene.
The leadership, often called the "four corners," includes the Senate and House minority and majority leaders of the Legislature. Those individuals are currently Sen. Schoesler, Sen. Andy Billig, D-Spokane, Rep. J.T. Wilcox, R-Yelm, and Rep. Laurie Jinkin, D-Tacoma.
According to Schoesler, the four leaders have agreed to multiple quarantine rules requested by the governor.
"I can assure you, I had the consent of my caucus," he said, confirming he indeed signed a letter approving of the extension of the governor's orders relating to some common sense issues.
On larger quarantine decisions, he said the "governor did what he did on his own."
A copy of one of those orders bearing four signatures was released publicly for the first time on Tuesday, April 21, hours after Franklin County commissioners declared Gov. Inslee's actions unconstitutional.
The letter was dated April 15, more than two weeks after the governor's authority to declare new rules had expired. It allows the governor to continue his current restrictions until May 4.
"We need to open up," Sen. Schoesler said, noting he's getting calls from all over the state asking for him to reject any extension.
Schoesler said he's inclined to allow some restrictions to continue, but added that as adults "we need to practice personal responsibility" when it comes to others.
Schoesler pointed to the plight of rural hospitals under the weight of the onerous shutdown.
His hometown hospital, East Adams Regional Healthcare, is estimating that it's losing $40,000 in revenue a month because of a lack of coronavirus patients and a ban on most medical procedures.
In nearby Colfax, Whitman County Memorial Hospital has laid off doctors and nurses; and the Pullman hospital has slashed staff, additional staff-hours and even the salaries of those still working.
"Let's look at hospitals on a case-by-case basis," Schoesler said. "I trust our hospital administrators and their surgeons to make smart decisions."
According to Schoesler, allowing public hospitals to continue to hemorrhage isn't an option, noting that taxpayers would be left on the hook for bond issues and taxes, but without healthcare.
He also said any continued quarantine relating to business or outdoor recreation should be addressed on a county-by-county basis.
He pointed to areas of Eastern Washington that are reopening some activities without the consent of the governor.
Douglas and Chelan counties are allowing housing construction already under permit to continue. Spokane County has drive-in church services. Franklin County is refusing to enforce quarantine orders contradicting with rights guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution.
"I have to hand it to them for standing up," Schoesler said. "I applaud them."