The mayors in the cities of Richland, Kennewick, Pasco and West Richland have sent a strongly worded letter to Gov. Jay Inslee vigorously protesting the latest round of restrictions and closures due to the surging cases of COVID-19 across the state and the country.

The damage to businesses in the area, this time, the mayors collectively say, may be irreparable. In the letter, the mayors contend, "Closing indoor dining, movie theaters and other businesses that have made these investments will result in more unsafe private gatherings not less."

Kennewick Mayor Don Britain said, "Right now, the businesses are the ones that are making sure the current mandates, masking, social distancing, etc. are in place in a monitored environment. By taking that away and forcing people to go indoors during the winter months just seems to be adding to the problem, not getting hold of the problem."

Britain continued, "Businesses have spent a lot of money and have been working off of savings in order to open up to be told to shut down again, it could be devastating and again, we don't think this is the right approach."

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Read the full letter below.

"Dear Governor

We are writing with a unified voice to express our strong disagreement in the adding of new restrictions to or closure of our businesses and implore you to reconsider these mandates. Many of our local businesses are on the brink of closing permanently due to previous and prolonged mandates. The profitability for most small businesses is dependent on sales activity in November and December. In the best of times, small businesses often only break even from January to October. Forcing business to close again or severely restricting their operations, during the retail season that provides their sustainability, will likely be a deathblow. Business closures also means lost jobs. The impact on employees and their families can be devastating, both financially and on mental health during the holidays when stress is already high.

The business community has been extremely successful in implementing high-level safety protocols. You and our state and local health officials have rightly recognized the success of the investments and strong commitment to safety by our businesses. Businesses have made significant financial outlays to provide safe social distancing (many have purchased new air filtration systems and other safety equipment), they have implemented comprehensive sanitization protocols, and they have been vigilant in ensuring customers and employees are masked. Surveys coordinated by our local health department have shown we have a 98% masking compliance rate. Closing indoor dining, movie theaters and other businesses that have made these investments will result in more unsafe private gatherings not less. Why kill our businesses and further damage our struggling economy when it is our businesses that provide safe alternatives for gathering?

Your prior messaging and the current messaging from our local and state officials is that the recent surge in infections is not attributed to commercial locations. Instead, the surge in infections is due to the social interactions of individuals gathering in uncontrolled environments and not adhering to masking and social distancing protocols within non-business environments. We understand the need for renewed efforts towards limiting social gatherings. We have put forth tremendous time and resources towards safety messaging and stemming the spread of COVID-19 in our cities and we will continue to be a partner with our state and local health officials in this effort.

The message to our businesses cannot be for them to rely on Federal stimulus money to save them. Our businesses need to be open now and they cannot afford to wait. Many are on a life raft that is quickly running out of air and any rescue plan may be too late. They need the State to be helping them and they need that help now. We are pleading with you to allow them to continue to operate within their successfully proven safety protocols and to let them save themselves!"

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