The three 9th Legislative District representatives in Washington have sent a joint letter to Gov. Jay Inslee asking him to allow Whitman County to reopen part of its economy.

Sen. Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville; Rep. Joe Schmick, R-Colfax; and Rep. Mary Dye, R-Pomeroy, want Whitman County to be on the list of counties that can seek a variance from the governor’s phased reopening of the state.

The 10 counties that can partially reopen are Columbia, Ferry, Garfield, Grays Harbor, Jefferson, Kittitas, Lincoln, Pend Oreille, Skamania and Wahkiakum. These are counties that have less than 75,000 people and have not had a positive COVID-19 test in three weeks. Whitman County’s last confirmed COVID-19 case was April 22.

The variance would allow Whitman County to reopen part of its economy sooner.

“Whitman County has two cases that are being monitored and staying home,” Schmick said in a statement. “All other cases have recovered. It makes no sense to close the county for two.”

Dye said in a statement the county needs to be freed from the governor’s restrictions to save its rural hospitals and rural economy.

“We are better able to respond to the virus when our communities are allowed to recover financially as well,” she said.

The letter noted that Whitman County has not had any COVID-19-related deaths and has the 11th lowest rate of COVID-19 cases per 1,000 people among all Washington counties.

“We would bet that if Whitman County is granted the same opportunity as the 10 counties you designated already, its leaders, merchants and residents will deliver,” the letter states. “It would be fair and consistent — and they, too, would rather succeed than fail.”

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