OLYMPIA — Up to 2,500 people gathered at the Washington state Capitol on Sunday to protest Gov. Jay Inslee’s stay-at-home order designed to combat the spread of the coronavirus, holding signs that read “End The Shutdown” and “Give Me Liberty Or Give Me Covid 19!”
Earlier Sunday Inslee again blasted President Donald Trump’s call to “liberate” parts of the country from social-distancing decrees, saying Trump is fomenting a potentially deadly “insubordination” before the pandemic is contained.
In Olympia, some protesters wore masks while others waved American flags and pushed baby strollers. Tyler Miller, one of the organizers of the event, had said rural areas should be treated differently than more urban locations with more coronavirus cases. He also said Inslee’s decisions on what constitutes essential businesses has been unfair and unconstitutional.
At the rally, Miller spoke to attendees through a bullhorn: “We cannot have a government and a governor that does not listen to his own citizens.”
The Washington State Patrol estimated the crowd as between 2,000 and 2,500.
Inslee’s comments about Trump and the protests were on ABC-TV’s “ This Week. “ Protests have occurred across the country, including in Utah, Idaho and Oregon. But both Democratic and Republican governors have said strict social distancing is essential to curbing the pandemic’s spread.
Asked about Trump’s tweets last week that included “Liberate Michigan” and “Liberate Virginia” from governors’ orders, Inslee replied: “I don’t know any other way to characterize it, when we have an order from governors, both Republicans and Democrats, that basically are designed to protect people’s health, literally their lives, to have a president of the United States basically encourage insubordination, to encourage illegal activity.”
“To have an American president to encourage people to violate the law, I can’t remember any time during my time in America where we have seen such a thing,” Inslee continued.
The Democratic governor said Trump’s statements were “doubly frustrating” and exhibited “such a schizophrenia” because they contradict guidelines on reopening state economies issued last week by the White House.
On Friday, when asked about about the planned protest in his own state, Inslee said people were “welcome” to express their First Amendment rights but encouraged those at the rally to practice social distancing.
Washington state has more than 11,800 confirmed virus cases and at least 624 deaths, according to the state Department of Health.
Inslee, who also criticized Trump’s tweets on Friday, has said he is planning to reopen the economy in phases, likely starting with businesses. The governor has said some restrictions could potentially stay in place beyond May 4.
State authorities said Sunday they were recalling 12,000 COVID-19 test kits distributed to municipalities, tribal nations and state agencies because of possible contamination issues but that patients aren’t at risk and test results aren’t affected.
UW Medicine alerted the state to the problem, which involves a fluid that preserves nasal and oral patient samples during transport. A handful of vials containing the fluid were an unusual color, leading UW Medicine to notify state officials, the Department of Health said. The kits were procured by UW Medicine and donated to the state by China-based Lingen Precision Medical Products.
An email sent to Lingen for comment wasn’t immediately returned Sunday.
The state said it was working to replace the test kits as quickly as possible.
Washington state had the nation’s first confirmed coronavirus case in January and the first deadly cluster at a Seattle-area nursing home.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, that clear up in two to three weeks. But it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death for some people, especially older adults and people with existing health problems.
On Friday, Washington state Republican legislative leaders released their plan for reopening Washington’s economy. It specifies some lower-risk industries — such as residential construction, auto dealers and solo landscapers — that could reopen soon.