(STAFF REPORTS/Chewelah Independent)
Stevens County has applied and is waiting for May 11…
Today, Washington State Secretary of Health John Wiesman approved applications from Columbia, Garfield, Lincoln, Ferry and Pend Oreille counties to move into Phase 2 of the state’s re-opening plan.
According to the Department of Health, businesses in the counties approved to move into Phase 2 must wait to reopen until guidance has been released for their industry on how to keep workers and the public safe. They must comply with all health and safety requirements outlined in that guidance to reopen.
Phase 2 means that people would have to follow the “Stay Home” order, but that all outdoor activity involving fewer than five people would be allowed including camping and going to the beach.
Gatherings of less than five people outside your household would be allowed. Limited non-essential travel within proximity of your home would be allowed.
New construction, remaining manufacturing, in-home domestic care, retail with some restrictions, real estate, professional and office-based businesses, hair and nail salons/barbers and house cleaning services would be allowed to re-open.
Restaurants would also be allowed to re-open at 50 percent capacity and table sizes of no larger than 5.
To apply for a variance, counties must have a population of less than 75,000 and no new cases of COVID-19 in the last three weeks. The application process requires support from the local health officer, the local board of health, local hospitals, and the county commission/council.
“Each of the counties approved to enter Phase 2 has demonstrated strong planning and capability in the areas necessary to protect public health in their communities,” The Department of Health said in its press release.
Tri-County Health also included Stevens County into their proposal for Phase 2, to get ahead of the curve when the county becomes eligible on May 11 if no new COVID-19 cases are confirmed.
Stevens County has had nine cases of COVID-19, with the last one coming on April 20.
Counties applying to move up a phase in the re-opening have to show they have enough hospital bed capacity and adequate PPE supplies to keep health care workers safe. Testing must be made available and accessible to everyone in the county with symptoms. The county must have staffing for case investigations and contact tracing. People who test positive will need to isolate and quarantine and there needs to be case management services for those people. There also needs to be quick response to outbreaks because of gatherings.
Kittitas, Skamania, and Wahkiakum Counties have also applied for a variance and their applications are under review. Stevens County has applied, as stated but they are not yet eligible based on the outlined criteria. The state is still working to determine when and how counties with a Phase 2 variance can move to Phase 3, and considering additional options to support different regional needs in reopening.
Learn more about county variances at https://coronavirus.wa.gov/what-you-need-know/covid-19-county-variance-application-process and the statewide response to COVID-19 at coronavirus.wa.gov at https://coronavirus.wa.gov/.
For more information on COVID-19, visit the Department of Healths website at https://www.doh.wa.gov/Emergencies/Coronavirus or call 1-800-525-0127. You can also text the word coronavirus to 211-211 to receive information and updates on your phone wherever you are.