Gov. Inslee pleads for Tri-Citians to wear masks to reopen

Inslee In Tri Citie

PASCO, Wash. — Gov. Jay Inslee visited the Tri-Cities on Tuesday to meet with local leaders about COVID-19 and deliver a simple message to the community: “If we mask up, we can open up.”

During a public press conference that began outside at Pasco’s Columbia Basin College before noon, Inslee spoke about the alarming rate at which the spread of COVID-19 was increasing in Benton and Franklin counties.

Inslee said that back in May, there were about 100 cases per 100,000 people in Franklin County and 50 cases per 100,000 people in Benton County. As of late June, those numbers have multiplied by a factor of five or six.

The press conference was abruptly interrupted by angry shouts from a handful of people in the audience who were apparently frustrated by Benton and Franklin counties’ Phase 1 status. The press conference was moved indoors for media only.

Inslee continued by driving in his message that wearing masks have been scientifically proven to slow the spread of the virus.

“There is no debate in the scientific community about the fact that masks work,” Inslee said. “And it’s surprising to me that people are yelling aboit that still anywhere, including Tri-Cities.”

Inslee said local leaders have asked him to impose an obligation on businesses to refuse service if people don’t wear masks. This rule was imposed in Yakima County, which has emerged as the state’s virus epicenter, in addition to a statewide mandate to wear masks in public.

Inslee said he will be considering a “no mask, no service” obligation for Benton and Franklin counties in coming days.