New COVID-19 protocols cause issues for local restaurants and businesses


Casey Rothgeb

Local businesses are forced to find new ways of maintaining business in the new year

Joseph Stanger, Scene Editor

Roughly two weeks before Thanksgiving, Gov. Jay Inslee implemented statewide restrictions on indoor dining to prevent the spread of COVID-19, causing restaurants across Washington to either adapt their businesses or close their doors.

According to Kittitas County Commissioner Brett Wachsmith, most of the cases in the county are due to informal gatherings. The Public Health Department of the county works closely with the state to track where people are contracting the virus.

“We weren’t seeing people getting COVID-19 going out to dinner,” Wachsmith said. “There were some, obviously, but not the majority of what our cases were. We were seeing people that were spreading COVID-19 were getting together for barbecues or having playdates with their kids.”

Wachsmith said the county hasn’t received an answer from the governor’s office as to why state-wide in-person dining shutdowns were put in place.

Casey Rothgeb

“It would be one thing if the governor’s office would reach out and actually ask for input … and they could hear what local thinking is, but it seems to me that it’s being done in a vacuum,” Wachsmith said.

Wachsmith said it was difficult for local businesses to know when they could reopen due to the confusing nature of shutdown announcements, causing more hardships for owners.

“Well, [restaurants] have already purchased a bunch of food … to prepare to be open and have a big influx of customers,” Wachsmith said. “To have to throw all of that away and start over, that’s a big cost to an organization that already is not only losing money, but not being able to generate any money.”

Gov. Inslee announced a new plan Jan. 5 in an effort to allow businesses to reopen safely. Instead of going county by county, the plan groups multiple counties into separate regions. Kittitas County’s region includes Yakima, Benton, Franklin, Walla Walla and Columbia County.

Kittitas County Commissioner Laura Osiadacz said the group Kittitas County was put with doesn’t make very much historical sense.

“The plan that was announced lumped Kittitas County with … counties that really we don’t have a historical travel pattern with or even share hospitals with such as the Tri-cities,” Osiadacz said. “It doesn’t make a lot of sense to anybody at the county.”

According to Osiadacz, some Kittitas County patients have been transferred to and from Yakima in the past, but not to and from the Tri-Cities.

“This is going to make it very difficult to provide the resources needed for Kittitas county to be able to recover from COVID-19,” Osiadacz said. “So much of the decisions are going to be based off of things that we have no control
of outside of our county.”

Osiadacz said that the county’s push against Gov. Inslee’s plans has nothing to do with politics.

“We do not believe that this action is a benefit to the people of Kittitas,” Osiadacz said. “This is strictly trying to do what we can to be the best leaders for our county.”

The county is reaching out to Gov. Inslee’s office to get answers and give input, but Wachsmith believes that the recent plans have only made the situation more confusing.

“People need to see that there’s an end in sight,” Wachsmith said. “You would think with the vaccinations that people would be more optimistic, but now we have a governor who has thrown a completely different wrench into the whole system here.”