OLYMPIA…Repeatedly in recent press interviews, Gov. Jay Inslee has characterized those who have chosen not to receive the COVID-19 vaccine as conspiracy theorists who believe false information about the vaccine found on the internet. Senate Republican Leader John Braun, R-Centralia, released the following remarks about the governor’s overgeneralizations.

“While I encourage people to get the COVID vaccine and believe it is generally safe and effective, Gov. Inslee’s characterization of all those choosing not to get the vaccine as gullible conspiracy theorists listening to misinformation is patently false. They include COVID survivors with natural immunity, those protesting his infringement on their medical freedom, people with deeply held religious beliefs and people who fear a bad reaction because while rare – they DO happen. His disdain is manipulative propaganda being used to justify firing people whom he had touted as heroes for a year and a half. Other states allow weekly testing as an alternative with success. But that doesn’t fit this governor’s narrative or political agenda. This mandate has allowed him to purge his state agencies of those who won’t be forced to comply with something that should be a personal choice.

“Also, although the governor would like to downplay the losses to the workforce, he is oblivious to how his mandate affects public safety. In one of the communities in my district, they are down to two volunteer firefighters, both of whom have day jobs. If someone has a heart attack, they can’t count on a rapid response. First responders have extensive training in safety measures for communicable diseases and blood-borne pathogens such as HIV, hepatitis and others. COVID is one more disease requiring strict safety protocols that they are trained to handle while protecting the public. They, and other health-care providers, should be allowed to continue to provide care. They are still heroes.

“The Department of Transportation lost nearly six percent of its workforce. What happens when the troubles in the supply chain are made much worse because we don’t have snowplow operators this winter who can clear the passes? What happens when people get fired because they can no longer commute to work on Washington’s ferries? This affects working-class people who can’t afford to lose a paycheck.

“While the governor has the power to enforce his mandate so long as he refuses to give up his unchecked emergency powers and restore the balance of power to the people, he should not be disparaging people with false generalizations. COVID isn’t the only problem that can destroy people’s lives that our state is facing right now.”