The sheriff of the third largest county in Washington state said he will not enforce Gov. Jay Inslee’s order requiring people stay at home unless they’re conducting a so-called essential activity.
Snohomish County Sheriff Adam Fortney said he was waiting to make an announcement for Inslee to release details on reopening the state but decided he couldn’t wait any longer.
The sheriff, who started in his position in January, said he hasn’t carried out any enforcement of Inslee’s stay-at-home order, which he thinks is a violation of the U.S. Constitution.
“As your elected Sheriff I will always put your constitutional rights above politics or popular opinion. We have the right to peaceably assemble. We have the right to keep and bear arms. We have the right to attend church service of any denomination. The impacts of COVID 19 no longer warrant the suspension of our constitutional rights,” he wrote in a lengthy statement posted on Facebook.
Fortney said elected leaders should question the governor when it makes sense. He mentioned puzzling contradictions such as allowing construction workers working on government projects to continue to go to work while not allowing other construction workers to carry out their jobs, and letting marijuana stores stay open while ordering gun stores to close.
Fortney said he believes the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus is serious but noted that models have repeatedly overestimated the number of hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19, the disease the virus causes. He also noted mass unemployment in the country; tens of millions have lost jobs because of lockdown measures put into place by governors in response to the virus.
Snohomish County, which includes Everett, has some 822,000 residents and comprises about 10 percent of the state’s population.
The announcement came after Inslee, a Democrat, said at a press briefing on Tuesday that he would not loosen most restrictions by May 4.
“The data tell us that if we were to lift all restrictions right now—or even two weeks from now—this decline would almost certainly stop and the spread of COVID-19 would go up,” Inslee said.
Inslee’s stay at home order, first issued in late March, was extended to May 4 earlier in April. The governor said he hopes to lift some restrictions on construction, outdoor recreation, and elective surgeries in the near future but said that a number of measures will have to stay in place until the development of a vaccine.
A COVID-19 vaccine isn’t expected until next year, according to health experts and companies developing vaccine candidates.
Franklin County Sheriff J.D. Raymond also said this week that he won’t enforce Inslee’s order, telling constituents in a letter that Inslee “has overstepped his constitutional powers and is trying to control us under the guise of protecting us.”
Franklin County has about 95,000 residents and is situated in the eastern part of the state.
Sheriffs in other states, including law enforcement in Wisconsin and Michigan, have also been pushing back on what they describe as confusing and vague stay-at-home orders.
“While we understand [Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s] desire to protect the public, we question some restrictions she has imposed as overstepping her executive authority,” four sheriffs from northern Michigan wrote in a joint statement last week about Whitmer’s orders. “She has created a vague framework of emergency laws that only confuse Michigan citizens.”