Braun bill to reopen Washington receives staggering amount of public support

Senate Republican Leader is grateful small business workers had their voices heard

OLYMPIASen. John Braun, R-Centralia, issued this statement after dozens of people testified this morning before the Senate State Government and Elections Committee in support of Senate Bill 5114. It would move all regions of Washington to Phase II of Gov. Jay Inslee’s latest reopening plan and, among other things, allow restaurants to resume restricted indoor dining.

“I’m grateful that well over 1,000 people signed in as supporting this bipartisan bill, on top of those who were allowed to speak directly to the committee. That’s a staggering number, but it reflects how the hospitality industry in particular has been staggered by these economic restrictions. Thousands of restaurants and other small family businesses statewide have been lost for good – decimated by rules that are not supported by data and science and are enforced by state employees who have not had to skip a single paycheck.

“Today’s testimony spoke to the desperation people are feeling. Employers have had to repeatedly lay off people who depend on those jobs to feed their families. The businesses that are hanging on have suffered enormous losses. They can’t afford to cover the expenses continue to add up during the shutdown. We heard from one business owner who owes more than $300,000 in rent. That’s crushing. Not only have people been put out of work, but many are buried in debt they can’t ever hope to recover from. That kind of despair takes an enormous toll on mental health, which can lead to increased suicides and substance abuse.

“Indoor dining is prohibited on the assertion that restaurants are ‘super spreaders’ of the virus. The data shows the highest rate of infection comes from inside our own homes. Health-care settings come in second. The infection rate tied to restaurants is well down the list – less than 1 percent of total cases. No wonder Chicago’s Democrat mayor has called for restaurants in that city to reopen immediately. She recognizes people are at more risk gathering at home instead of gathering in a public place under strict COVID-19 guidelines. The restaurant shutdown is not reducing the spread, it’s feeding it. The data being offered does not show the correlation or causation necessary to justify crushing the livelihoods of people who are following the rules.

Forty five out of 50 states have restaurants open, including six that are doing better at managing the spread of the virus than our state. The five states with the lowest virus rates are all open. Washington has some of the strictest safety restrictions for restaurants. We should allow them to open and trust them to follow those restrictions. We can open our economy and still reduce the infection rate. If they can do it, we can do it.

“No one wants the virus to continue to spread and overwhelm our frontline health-care workers. My wife is a nurse and I see the stress the virus is putting on her and her coworkers. But it’s clear that the presentation of the data is not telling the whole story and that the shutdown is not working. The virus continues to spread. Encouraging people to engage in safe, regulated environments is the right path forward.”