As a protest takes place at Spiffy’s south of Chehalis over an effort by the state department of Labor and Industries to make the diner comply with current COVID-19 restrictions on businesses, Lewis County, area law enforcement and L&I are working to “clarify enforcement roles and responsibilities,” according to a news release.
“Up to this point, our local health department has only enforced locally generated orders. The state’s Safe Start orders clearly say that L&I has enforcement authority and responsibility for state-level orders,” said J.P. Anderson, director of Lewis County Public Health and Social Services. “We have our department needs to focus on supporting disease investigations, supporting our schools, and now planning to distribute the vaccine which is anticipated to arrive shortly.”
L&I staff reportedly visited Spiffy’s on Wednesday evening, two days after owner Rod Samuelson said he would open his dining room despite Gov. Jay Inslee’s current restrictions on indoor dining due to COVID-19.
“Our manager made a real loud statement in the restaurant. Said ‘ladies and gentlemen, L&I is here, and they want us to close,’” Samuelson said. He described customers standing up and approaching the L&I personnel, who eventually left. “I said ‘they’re not gonna be back. Not today.’”
According to Lewis County Sheriff Rob Snaza, L&I requested assistance on their way out of the situation, but the sheriff’s office hasn’t “made a determination” as to whether they will accompany L&I officers should they return.
This “breaks with precedent,” said Mike Faulk, a spokesperson for the governor’s office, noting that it’s standard practice for L&I to request law enforcement to act as “civil standby” when carrying out enforcement actions.
“Anderson said LCPHSS understands the state orders and underscores the importance of addressing rising COVID-19 numbers. He said it is also clear that emotions are running high and reasonable people can hold opposing views on many of these issues,” according to the new release from Lewis County.
UPDATE: Sheriff Rob Snaza and Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer sent the following letter to Gov. Jay Inslee Thursday: