State Rep. Vicki Kraft, R-Vancouver, joined a rally Sunday in Olympia calling for an end to the stay-at-home order meant to slow the spread of COVID-19.
More than 2,000 people gathered at the Washington Sstate Capitol, violating recommendations from public health officials as well as the social distancing order from Gov. Jay Inslee. Kraft was one of three Republican state representatives in attendance, alongside Rep. Jim Walsh of Aberdeen and Rep. Robert Sutherland of Granite Falls.
Kraft appears in a photo published by The New York Times standing in a crowd, with protesters carrying signs that read “Trump 2020: Keep America Great!” and “Our rights are essential.” She is not wearing a face mask in the photo.
Kraft did not respond to multiple requests for comment from The Columbian Monday.
The state representative has been critical of Inslee’s response to the novel coronavirus outbreak, and claimed the Democratic governor has been “dragging his feet” on putting together a strategy to reopen businesses. In a post to her Facebook page the day before the rally, she said she has been vocal in legislative discussions about restarting the state’s economy.
“Ultimately the governor has to decide if he is going to face the reality of our crumbling WA economy, listen to the Legislature and business community, and respond or not,” Kraft wrote. “There are many business owners on both sides of the aisle whose livelihoods are vanishing before their eyes and they feel the pain. And employees whose jobs are severely and permanently at risk.”
State health officials have said that taking steps now to reopen the economy and relax social-distancing measures would be premature.
Inslee said last week that restarting the state’s economy will likely happen in phases and not all at once — a “dial,” he said, instead of “a light switch.” Activities that were first to close down, including large gatherings, will be the last to come back.
A scarcity of testing kits remains a major barrier, the governor added, because it prevents health officials and lawmakers from knowing the full scope of the outbreak and acting accordingly.
State Republicans released their own road map on Friday for opening Washington’s economy. The plan included a call to reopen businesses with a low risk of spreading the virus — the document identifies multiple categories of businesses, including car dealerships, residential construction companies and hairdressers — that would be eligible to reopen.
Kraft represents the state’s 17th Legislative District, which includes central Clark County and east Vancouver.
Her constituents are among the most heavily impacted by the novel coronavirus in Clark County. A heat map published by Clark County Public Health and organized by ZIP code shows that in parts of Kraft’s district, at least 60 people out of 100,000 have tested positive for COVID-19 as of April 17. In the rest of her district, at least 40 people out of 100,000 had been infected.
Kraft’s attendance at Sunday’s rally drew both support and condemnation from constituents on her Facebook page.
Adam Aguilera, a teacher and former candidate for Vancouver City Council, wrote to The Columbian to express his frustration with his representative’s flippant position on the stay-at-home order.
He and his fellow community members “are concerned she exposed herself to the virus and brought it back to Clark County to put everyone at risk. She also wore her office badge and attended officially representing the constituents of the 17th,” Aguilera wrote.
“People want to know if she’s aware of the danger she put people in, and how she intends to discourage her constituents from organizing and participating in such events in the future.”