Safe Start Washington: County Status

Cowlitz, Grant, and Pacific counties are now eligible to submit a variance application to move into Phase 2 of Gov. Jay Inslee’s Safe Start plan. The following counties were already announced to be eligible to submit an application to move to Phase 2: Adams, Clallam, Clark, Grays Harbor, Island, Jefferson, Kitsap, Lewis, Mason, San Juan, Spokane, and Thurston.

The following counties were previously approved to move to Phase 2: Asotin, Columbia, Garfield, Lincoln, Ferry, Pend Orielle, Skamania, Stevens, Wahkiakum, and Whitman.

SOUTH BEND — The Pacific County Board of Commissioners have scheduled a special meeting for 4:30 p.m. Friday, May 22, to consider whether to apply to reopen at a faster pace than the rest of the state.

The public hearing is part of a local approval process that must be completed before the state will allow the county to move to phase two of reopening. The public will have a chance to weigh in during public comment and can participate in the meeting via Zoom. Details about how to join the meeting are at the bottom of this story.

Pacific County became eligible to apply for a variance to move to phase two on Thursday, May 21.

The phases are how Gov. Jay Inslee is lifting his "Stay Home, Stay Healthy" order, which was issued on March 23 to prevent the spread of covid-19. Each phase removes limitations set by the order. Phase one, for example, allowed ongoing construction work to resume and expanded what outdoor recreation was allowed. Counties without a variance are in phase one. While each phase was estimated to last about three weeks, that is subject to change based on covid-19 activity.

A variance for Pacific County to move to phase two could allow: new construction to begin; restaurants to reopen at 50% capacity with no bar seating allowed; hair and nail salons, as well as barbers, to see clients; and allow state parks connected to beaches to reopen.

Applications for a variance are being reviewed by Washington State Secretary of Health John Wiesman. About 10 counties are already in phase two. Applications from counties must have the local public health officer's approval, as well as the local board of health's.

The board of health can apply for a partial variance, or full variance. The commissioners must approve the health board's final plan for a variance request before it can be submitted to the state. Commissioners cannot alter what the board of health requests to reopen.

Applications must also include letters from county hospitals verifying they have the capacity for a 20% patient surge; a 14-day supply of personal protective equipment; and confirm the hospitals are reporting daily covid-19 hospitalizations to the state Health Department.

Other information that needs to be submitted include such things as: testing sites in the county; how long it takes to get a covid-19 test result; information on the county's capacity for contact tracing; whether there are isolation and quarantine facilities available for people who cannot do so at home; whether the county can provide services for people isolated or quarantined at home; and the health department's capacity to conduct outbreak investigations in places such as jails and nursing facilities. 

Public comment will be limited to three minutes per person. People can join by computer through this link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/85104740540

People can also call in by dialing, 253-215-8782, and then entering the meeting ID, 851 0474 0540.

A participant ID is not required to join the meeting.

If the above numbers do not work, people can find their local number by going to: https://us02web.zoom.us/u/kbOrx3s7M

People with questions about how to join the meeting can call the Board of Pacific County Commissioners Clerk Marie Guernsey at 360-875-9337.

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