'Big misconception': Doctors say claims made by lawmakers challenging stay-home order are not true

TACOMA - The restlessness is growing as the stay at home order drags on in Washington state.

Now, a group of lawmakers is adding their voices to the protest.

On Tuesday, a group of Republican state lawmakers filed a lawsuit in federal court in Tacoma challenging the extension of Gov. Jay Inslee’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order.

The lawsuit is seeking an emergency injunction to overturn the state of emergency amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This has been a crisis of epic proportions for the state of Washington. We also agree that we have taken fantastic steps to mitigate that, we have shown ways that we can do this,” Rep. Andrew Barkis said.

The group says they didn’t object to the stay-home order in the beginning, but now they say there is no emergency. Attorney Joel Ard spoke on behalf of the lawmakers, making bold statements that doctors studying the pandemic say aren't true.

“When an emergency has abated to the extent that he no longer needs to do that to protect the public health I think the science is clear on that,” Attorney Joel Ard said.

On Wednesday, Q13FOX reached out to Dr. Theo Vos for clarification.

He’s with UW Medicine’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation and he’s studying COVID-19.

Vos told Q13 FOX that he disputes the notion that there is no more emergency in Washington state.

“I would dispute that. We still see quite a reasonable number of infections being identified everyday,” Dr. Vos said.

The attorney also claimed that there's no evidence of asymptomatic transmission by young, healthy people, another claim Dr. Vos says is simply not true.

Dr. Vos says there is no credible evidence to back up that statement.

“I have not seen any science backing that up, and I’ve seen other scientific findings that would go against that,” Dr. Vos said.

Scientists say it’s not a matter of if a second wave of the virus will happen, but when.

That’s why doctors say continued social distancing and a gradual release back into society is crucial.

“I think there are ways to contain it,” Dr. Vos said.

Lawmakers who brought the legal fight say it’s time for Washingtonians to go back to work with the shut down causing catastrophic economic impacts.

They believe the way to move forward is to open society back up while protecting those in places like nursing homes and also people with underlying health conditions.

They also pointed out that many counties have had low rates and no deaths.

Ard said that COVID-19 for the most part has been fatal for older people and those with prior medical issues.

He also criticized the state health department, saying it was not transparent about deaths. He said he suspects the majority of deaths are happening in nursing homes rather than the general population.

On Wednesday we requested the data on long term care facilities that now shows that 507 deaths have happened associated with long-term care facilities, like nursing homes.

That accounts for 61% of COVID-19 deaths so far.

The state says there is no way to distinguish the numbers to show how many are employees and visitors compared to residents.

As of May 2, 19% of the state’s COVID-19 cases are linked to 252 long term care facilities.

Doctors treating COVID-19 patients weighed in on Wednesday.

“I think there is a big misconception,” Dr. Nick Johnson said.

Johnson is an ER doctor at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.

“We’ve seen many many people in their 20s and 30s on ventilators, sick for prolonged periods having failures of multiple organs,” Johnson said.

Johnson says Harborview has treated its fair share of people with no prior medical issues.

“There was a period of time when our entire Intensive Care Unit were filled with people in their 40s and 50s who were previously generally healthy. This is not just a disease that affects older people with medical conditions,” Dr. Johnson said.

Johnson says he doesn’t want to get into politics but he wants everyone to remain cautious.

He says the numbers are shrinking and that is great news, especially as we go into the summer months when more traumas end up in the ER.

Dr. Johnson says it’s important to keep the numbers down in order for non-related COVID-19 treatments to take place in a timely manner.

He believes it is too early for people to put their guard down and he is asking everyone to continue to socially distance.

“The best thing to do to support us is to follow the recommendations from public health professionals,” Dr. Johnson said.

State GOP lawmakers supporting the lawsuit against the extension of Gov. Inslee’s emergency order are:

Chris Corry (R-Yakima)

Andrew Barkis (R-Olympia)

Drew Stokesbary (R-Auburn)

Brandon Vick (R-Vancouver)

Kelly Chambers (R-Puyallup)

Morgan Irwin (R-Enumclaw)

Drew MacEwen (R-Union)