PASCO, Wash. (AP) — The sheriff of a county in eastern Washington state is telling residents that he will not enforce Gov. Jay Inslee’s stay-at-home orders or any guidelines ”that infringe on your constitutional rights.″
Franklin County Sheriff J.D. Raymond sent a letter to constituents on Monday in which he said he does believe the coronavirus pandemic 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 whose biggest city is Pasco, also said he believes that adults are capable of policing themselves and “we have the capability of adjusting our habits to these trying times.”
Sheriffs in Michigan and Wisconsin have also said they won’t enforce social-distancing mandates.
KOMO-TV reported that Raymond thinks local businesses and houses of worship can reopen while adhering to strict social distancing standards, adding he believes citizens have been “deprived of their right to earn and to live.”
“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.
There have been mounting calls for Inslee to ease the state’s stay-at-home order after a weekend protest drew about 2,500 to Olympia. Inslee’s stay-home order runs through May 4.
In response to the protests Inslee said he understood people’s frustrations but added “this is not the time to halt the progress we have made. I encourage everyone in our state to stay home, stay healthy and, if you need to go out, practice adequate physical distancing.”
As of Sunday, Franklin County reported 198 cases of COVID-19 with four deaths. The Seattle area saw the nation’s first large COVID-19 outbreak, and so far more has more than 12,000 confirmed cases and at least 652 deaths.