'Superspreader' Costco allowed to remain open while restrictions extended on small businesses

As of Monday, almost 150 employees at a Costco in Washington state have tested positive for COVID 19.

Ari Hoffman Seattle WA

As of Monday, almost 150 employees at a Costco in Washington state have tested positive for COVID 19, according to Yakima Health District (YHD) officials.

The YHD made a second visit to Costco on Monday, according to health district spokeswoman Lilian Bravo, who revealed the findings on Tuesday. After their first visit last week, officials said at least 68 staff members had tested positive for COVID-19 over the past week at the location in Union Gap.

Officials with the health district confirmed Monday that Costco has been diligent in following COVID-19 safety protocols.

"Due to the large amount of cases within a three-day period, the information suggests that the majority of these cases came from some sort of super-spreader event that occurred in December," Bravo said in an update.

The YHD announced Tuesday that all 145 people that tested positive are currently quarantining. The store will also continue to provide ongoing testing for its employees as it monitors the outbreak.

"If we saw that an organization was being negligent, and there was ongoing transmission, there would be different recommendations made to the public on their safety when going into that facility," Dr. Larry Jecha, interim health officer, said Monday.

The store will remain open while officials continue to investigate the "sharp increase" in cases. Officials say there is evidence that the outbreak resulted from "...some sort of superspreader event."

Yet, officials who conducted an on-site visit on Dec. 23, "…concluded that there was not an increased risk of COVID-19 transmission to the public so long as staff and customers continue to follow safety precautions," said Dr. Jecha last week.

Chains and big box retailers, which have recorded record profits, have been allowed to remain open throughout every level of restrictions. As have grocery stores which have contributed to the spread of the virus, yet small businesses continue to be crushed and go out of business permanently by elected official’s restrictions.

On Wednesday, Washington state Democrat Governor Jay Inslee extended his new round of restrictions through January 11.

Before the latest round of restrictions were imposed in November, Anthony Anton, president and CEO of the Washington Hospitality Association, warned that the restrictions put at risk the jobs of more than 100,000 employees, right before the holidays.

"At every step, our industry has partnered with the governor’s office and public health agencies, and the data shows our efforts are working," he said in a written statement, noting that less than one percent of coronavirus cases have been traced to restaurants.

Similarly with gyms where the infection rate is even lower, contributing to an estimated between .004 and .0002 percent of cases, yet they are not allowed to operate under the governor's restrictions.

In Washington state, about 6,500 businesses have closed since March, according to updated figures from the state Department of Revenue, including the more than 150 in Seattle by the restrictions that have been imposed in one degree or another by Inslee since March. Tens of thousands of Washingtonians are out of work.

These businesses statistically were not contributing to the spread of the virus, but were treated like they were the cause of the outbreak and "superspreader" events, while businesses which have accounted for the spread were allowed to remain open.


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