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State fines Ellensburg doctor for COVID-19 mask violations after KING 5 investigation

Dr. Anna Elperin, who was at the center of a KING 5 investigation last year, must pay a $30,000 fine after her employees and patients failed to wear masks.

ELLENSBURG, Wash. — State regulators have fined an Ellensburg doctor $30,000 for failing to require employees and patients at her medical clinic, Awake Health, to wear masks. 

The osteopathic physician, Anna Elperin, was at the center of a KING 5 investigation in November for selling COVID-19 vaccine and mask exemptions to undercover journalists without medical justification. 

The Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I), which regulates worker and workplace safety, issued Elperin the citation on Dec. 22 as a “willful serious violation.”

The penalty comes after a Nov. 24 inspection by state regulators. That day, L&I began a review of Awake Health in response to the KING 5 story, which showed video of Elperin and her employees walking around the medical practice unmasked.

“Based on that, we had enough to go out and check in and see, ‘Were they continuing to flout these guidelines and these common sense health and safety practices designed to stop the spread of coronavirus?’” Matt Ross, an L&I spokesperson, said. 

Credit: KING 5
A KING 5 hidden camera captures Dr. Anna Elperin, owner of Awake Health, signing COVID-19 vaccine and mask exemptions for an undercover journalist on Oct. 29, 2021 in Ellensburg.

Ross said inspectors observed multiple mask-related violations when they visited Elperin’s office two days after the KING 5 story. 

“It started from the front door, with no sign or information stating that masks are required – which is something that businesses are required to have posted at this time,” he said. “We also saw delivery folks coming and going with no masks on. We saw patients entering and leaving with no masks on. We saw multiple employees on site in the front of the business with no masks on.” 

Ross said Elperin improperly wore a surgical mask below her nose during the inspection. Inspectors also noted there were no protective barriers at the front counter, and patients waited in the lobby without masks.

Washington state requires everyone five and older, regardless of COVID vaccination status, to wear masks in indoor public settings and at outdoor events with 500 or more attendees.  

Credit: KING
Dr. Anna Elperin is the owner of Awake Health, a functional medicine practice in Ellensburg, Washington.

It’s the second time L&I cited Awake Health for COVID-related safety violations.  In September, the agency fined Elperin $3,000 for “a serious violation” of COVID safety protocols after an inspector documented that the doctor, staff members and some patients weren’t wearing face masks. The inspector also documented other safety concerns, including a lack of temperature checks and no protective barriers at the front desk.

Elperin did not pay that September fine or appeal it, Ross said.  She has until Jan. 18 to pay or appeal the latest “willful serious” citation. 

Ross said L&I issues “willful serious” citations to employers when a workplace violation appears to be intentional or when an employer “should know better.”

As part of the latest citation, L&I set a deadline of Dec. 30 for Awake Health to correct the  violations inspectors identified. Ross said Elperin has not yet submitted the required documentation to prove Awake Health’s compliance.

“Unless they’re able to verify that with us fairly quickly, they’re facing additional action, more fines and more consequences,” Ross said. “The message is that if one citation doesn’t get the job done, we will keep working that process as long as we have to to make sure that folks are safe.” 

Elperin could not be reached by phone or email for comment Monday afternoon. 

L&I isn’t the only state agency to take action against the doctor. Last week, the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) restricted the doctor’s osteopathic medical license for allegedly signing COVID vaccine waivers for four first-time patients in August without medical cause.  

The public health agency is currently investigating the doctor based on two active COVID-related complaints. 

Credit: KING
A KING 5 hidden camera captures Dr. Anna Elperin signing COVID-19 vaccine and mask exemptions for an undercover journalist on Oct. 18, 2021.

Throughout the pandemic, she has been publicly outspoken about her views on COVID-19, the vaccine and what she calls “unconstitutional” government mandates. 

“This is a scamdemic," she stated. "This has little to do with public health at this point. It has more to do with government control.” 

Elperin has also not been shy about defying the mask mandate, even months after L&I first fined her. 

“I personally don’t feel that masks are protecting or helping me in any way, shape or form. In fact, they increase my anxiety,” Elperin said during a Nov. 12 interview with reporters. “If my staff would like to wear a mask, they certainly can. If they would like not to wear a mask, they do not have to do it. 

“It is not my job to police others,” she said.  

During three of four office visits with KING 5 undercover journalists last fall, Elperin did not wear a mask while walking throughout the medical office. When one journalist visited Awake Health on Oct. 11, Elperin temporarily wore a mask but immediately removed it upon walking into the patient exam room. 

When confronted in November about the medical exemptions she signed and sold to the undercover journalists, Elperin unequivocally denied that she is running an “exemption mill.”