Yesterday morning, I received an email from a friend informing me that state Democrats have introduced a bill (WAC 246-100) in Olympia that would authorize local health officers to confine residents as young as five years old in what they refer to as state run “Covid Concentration Camps.” They assert, in part, that the state DOH can ask law enforcement to force un-vaccinated individuals to stay in a state-funded isolation and quarantine facility for failing to comply with the state’s vaccine mandate.
“Covid Concentration Camps” in the state of Washington. I must admit, I was not expecting to find a flurry of panicky articles, YouTube videos, and social media posts claiming that a vote was taking place on WAC 246-100 in the legislature on January 12th. They did not call it a bill. They did not call it a measure. They called it a WAC. FYI: WACS are pre-existing law under our state statutes. They are written by state agencies to comply with adopted RCW. They have a narrow scope. They cannot deviate from the original intention of the bill that authorized them. They are not pending legislation before the state legislature.
A conservative online publication called En Volve asserts, if passed, WAC 246-100 will authorize local health officers across the state to detain individuals and groups of people for the purposes of isolation or quarantine. They go on to say that this harsh new law would also allow the health department to deploy law enforcement officers to assist with the arrest of disobedient residents.
I hesitate to rain on their parade – but the original legislation dates to 1985 or earlier. It exists to address serious public health emergencies, not to punish COVID-19 anti-vaxxers. The word “COVID” wasn’t even a part of our vocabulary when this language was adopted.
Alicia Powe, of thegatewaypundit.com, informs readers that “Health officers are required to provide documentation proving unvaccinated residents subject to detention have denied requests for medical examination, testing, treatment, counseling, vaccination, decontamination of persons or animals, isolation quarantine and inspection and closure of facilities” prior to involuntary confinement in quarantine facilities, the resolution states.
Okay, so there is language in pre-existing law that allows the Department of Health to involuntarily confine individuals in quarantine facilities in the event of a public health emergency. But that does not mean they are targeting anti-vaxxers.
State agencies write WACs under the authority of the Revised Code of Washington (RCWs). Like legislation and the Constitution, regulations prepared by state agencies are a source of primary law in the state of Washington. WACS are already law. The legislature does not have to approve them.
WAC 246-100 was certified on October 10, 2019, a few months before SARS 2 and COVID-19 appeared on everyone’s radar screen. The WAC was authorized, in part, under the statutory authority of RCW 43.20.050, which was adopted by the legislature in 1985. RCW 70.05.050 and RCW 70.05.060 became effective in 2003. The legislature routinely updates RCWs and WACs to keep laws current. The WAC would have run through a gauntlet of public process, that probably took a year or more before it was adopted.
Which brings us back to the present. On January 12th, the SBOH Technical Advisory Group is providing the board with a briefing to evaluate the efficiency of the COVID-19 vaccine. No decisions will be made at this meeting. Hence, vaccine exemption allowances are still available for Washington families and their children who refuse COVID-19 vaccines due to medical or other concerns.
Yes. We have coronavirus isolation and quarantine facilities across the state. Motel Six in Bellingham is such a facility. There are others. They exist to provide a safe place for individuals to isolate or quarantine who cannot otherwise isolate or quarantine at home. The Isolation and Quarantine Strike Team Consultants (yes, it is an easily misinterpreted job title) deliver groceries, medicine, and other goods to individuals in isolation. At the end of ten days, the individuals are free to go home and resume their lives. Hopefully, without any serious complications from COVID-19.
Elizabeth Hovde, a Policy Analyst and Director of the Centers for Health Care and Worker Rights at the Washington Policy Center confirmed in a recent blog post that social media is rampant with the implication that the state board of health will be using law enforcement to involuntarily detain individuals and families who aren’t choosing to comply with various health requests. She asked readers to breathe deeply. Her sources in the legislature and the State Department of Health along with members of the State Board of Health have reassured her that the suggestion is false. Nevertheless, she said she understands why people might believe what they are reading on social media. I am not comfortable with her assertion. This WAC is not and was never targeting COVID-19 anti-vaxxers.
In response, the State Board of Health (SBOH) issued a statement to clarify the purpose of the January 12th meeting. Temple Lentz, a Clark County Councilor, and member of the board stated that despite rumors to the contrary, the board is not proposing the inclusion of COVID-19 injections as part of school immunization requirements.
In the world of public policy, a little sunlight is always a welcome disinfectant. The more information we have – the better decisions we can make as individuals and members of our community. Despite rumors to the contrary, Washington residents can participate in the January 12th public meeting. No one will attempt to stop you from participating or observing the meeting, if that is your desire. No one will be excluded.
Per the SBOH, all Jan. 12 meeting information, that includes detailed descriptions of these agenda items, will be available Friday, Jan. 7 on the meeting’s web page by 5:00 p.m. You can participate in the meeting in many ways:
- Register online if you have access to the internet and a computer
- Dial-in and listen
- +1 (253) 215-8782 (not toll-free), Webinar ID: 894-7406-4216, Passcode: 957396
- Watch live on TVW