Spokane-area elected officials plead case to Gov. Inslee for early reopening

Gov Inslee wants "no new cases in three weeks" before allowing accelerated plan
Spokane-area elected officials asked Governor Inslee to allow Spokane County to speed up the process of reopening the economy

SPOKANE, Wash – It was not the response they wanted to hear, but Spokane-area elected officials say they’ll continue to press Governor Inslee for permission to move through the phases of reopening the economy even sooner.

Spokane Mayor Nadine Woodward joined elected officials from Spokane County and Whitman County Tuesday in a call to Governor Inslee. The Spokane-area group is preparing a plan to present to the governor that would allow some eastern Washington counties to move from phase one to phase two quicker than the “at least three weeks” timeframe Inslee laid out last week.

But, in that call, Inslee laid out his guideline for allowing a county to move more quickly – and, it is a lofty goal.

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Mayor Woodward said Inslee told them a county has to have no new cases in three weeks in order to move at an accelerated pace. That’s a tough ask, as more testing is showing more cases throughout Washington.

“It seems a bit unrealistic to be honest with you,” Woodward said. “But there’s other data to show the governor and hospitalizations are one of them… We’ll continue to share with him our data along with our plan, so we can pressure him to allow more movement between these phases.”

Woodward said Spokane has had only single-digit increases in cases. She also points to the fact there have been only 22 deaths and, currently, 10 people hospitalized in a county of half a million people.

RELATED: Phase 1 of Washington’s reopening begins Tuesday

“We’ve definitely maintained the gain,” Woodward said. “We’ve seen our cases level off.” The mayor said Spokane has surge capacity in the hospitals as well.

When asked if Spokane Regional Health Officer Dr. Bob Lutz supports the county moving through a more accelerated pace, Woodward said Dr. Lutz is “very involved” in the conversations with the strategic planning group.

She also pointed to growing frustrations she’s hearing from the business community, especially as they compete with recently-opened businesses in nearby Idaho.

But, she’s not giving up just yet. Woodward said the group is preparing a plan to present to the governor next week.

“There’s always a win when you’re able to have a dialogue. There’s always a win when you have a conversation,” Woodward said. “We’ll continue to have more conversations hoping to have more flexibility.”

“We didn’t get the answer we wanted today, but the conversations will continue.”