Stories in this Regional News Roundup are excerpted from weekly newspapers from around the region. This is part one, with part two set to appear in Sunday’s Tribune.

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COLFAX — Zip’s Drive-In restaurants here and in Ritzville and Spokane Valley were among several businesses fined by the Department of Labor and Industries for public mask violations.

The state Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) conducted more than 4,300 spot checks at businesses since mid-July, including multiple visits at some locations, spokesman Tim Church said.

Eight employers have been fined for public mask violations, he said. Additionally, three businesses originally the subject of public mask complaints were instead cited for worker violations.

The Colfax Zip’s was fined $1,800. The one in Ritzville was fined $2,400 for two violations, Church said.

Tom McLain, the general manager in Colfax, talked about the restaurants and citations.

“Zip’s Drive-Ins are all separate businesses that operate slightly differently, even though we are under an umbrella brand name,” McLain said.

Colfax citations were for not requiring customers without masks to wear one, no signs requiring masks for customers and no social distancing markers, Church said. The business has appealed.

McLain said his location received all three citations in one day.

“It’s just like being stopped by a police officer. If they find multiple offenses, they may cite you multiple times,” McLain said. “So according to the L&I, we had three different offenses, all of which were caused by people traveling from larger cities into our small town and essentially imposing their views on our business.

“Regardless of whether we were wearing the masks or not, and regardless of whether they were, that’s exactly what these people did.”

— Katie Teachout, of the Ritzville Adams County Journal (Ritzville), for the Whitman County Gazette (Colfax), Thursday

Hospital CEO asks staff to put patients above political opinions

COLFAX — There is a place for political commentary, but CEO Hank Hanigan doesn’t think it should be at Whitman Hospital and Medical Center.

“We try extremely hard to provide the best environment we can to get healthy. We try to limit the stress and anxiety the patients and staff might have,” he said.

Hanigan asked employees to refrain from putting flags or signs on vehicles, wearing clothing, or “displaying personal items bearing a political or advocacy message,” in an email to hospital staff Oct. 6.

His decision to ask people to avoid such displays stems from two employees who took offense with each other’s display. One put a “thin blue line” police advocacy flag and flags supporting President Donald Trump on her truck, and the other responded with putting Black Lives Matter material on display.

“(The police advocacy flag) was the one that offended an employee. She countered it with her own flag,” Hanigan said. “People are starting to take sides. We need to get back to focusing on our patients.”

The email is a request and not a policy of the hospital.

“It’s not a policy change. I was very careful on what I can and can’t do. I was asking them,” he said. “The flags are still flying and I don’t believe that will change until the election.”

Staff are still working together and there are no reports of vandalism.

“No people screaming at each other ... just a lot of opinions,” he said.

Hanigan hopes staff will remember that the stress over opposing opinions can carry over to patients.

“The intention was just to get people to stop and reflect in the moment. ‘Are my actions or reactions the best for the healing of patients?’ ”

— Bill Stevenson, Whitman County Gazette (Colfax), Thursday

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