Sheriff of Washington county with first US coronavirus case refuses to enforce stay-at-home order


The sheriff of a Washington county that was home to the first documented coronavirus case in the U.S. lashed out at Gov. Jay Inslee (D) this week, saying his office is refusing to enforce the governor’s stay-at-home order.

Snohomish County Sheriff Adam Fortney shared a Facebook post on Tuesday in which he accused Inslee of having “no plan” and “no details” amid the ongoing pandemic.

“As your Snohomish County Sheriff, yes I believe that preventing business owners to operate their businesses and provide for their families intrudes on our right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I am greatly concerned for our small business owners and single-income families who have lost their primary source of income needed for survival,” Fortney wrote.

The sheriff vowed to “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,” he wrote. “The impacts of COVID 19 no longer warrant the suspension of our constitutional rights.”

Fortney noted that he has “not carried out any enforcement” for the governor’s stay-at-home order, adding he would join a number of other sheriffs around the state in refusing to enforce the order.

Inslee’s office pushed back on the sheriff’s comments.

“People should not be looking to the sheriff’s Facebook page either for constitutional analysis or health advice,” David Postman, Inslee’s chief of staff, told The Seattle Times.

“Now is not the time to get distracted or let up on what we’re doing. It’s working,” he added.

Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson (D) also tweeted Wednesday that “Sheriff Fortney does not get to decide what is constitutional. That is up to the courts. I plan to follow up directly with Sheriff Fortney.”

“We all want to open businesses back up as soon as possible, but now is not yet that time,” health officials in Snohomish County said in a Wednesday statement, urging residents to continue following social distancing measures, The Seattle Times reported.

Inslee on Tuesday announced a road map for reopening the state’s economy. Although he did not say when the stay-at-home order might be lifted, he said that elective surgeries and some outdoor recreation could begin again if the data on cases of coronavirus cases in the state continues to look favorable, The Seattle Times reported.

The governor has also called for further testing and contact tracing, among other measures.

The stay-at-home order is currently scheduled to end on May 4.

There have been 2,152 cases of coronavirus in Snohomish County and 99 deaths, according to the Washington State Department of Health.

The first person in the U.S. to be confirmed positive for COVID-19 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was a resident of Snohomish County in January.

Meanwhile, officials in California said Tuesday that the first Americans to die from the virus succumbed weeks earlier than initially believed. The two people died at home on Feb. 6 and Feb. 17, the Santa Clara County public health department said in a statement.

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