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County officials meeting Friday to consider Phase 2 application

County officials meeting Friday to consider Phase 2 application

Coronavirus CDC

This illustration, created at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows the 2019 Novel Coronavirus. The illness caused by this virus has been named coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

Two new COVID-19 cases were reported in Cowlitz County on Thursday afternoon, bringing the county to the cusp of being ineligible to move into Phase 2 of the governor’s reopening plan.

Nevertheless, the state announced Thursday that Cowlitz, Grant and Pacific counties are eligible to apply for Phase 2 status, joining 12 other counties that were declared eligible to apply on Tuesday.

The county has now has 10 new coronavirus cases in the last 14 days and four in the last three days. This means it has had a rate of 9.2 cases per 100,000 residents in the two-week period ending Thursday.

That’s butting up against the state’s standard for moving to Phase 2, which requires fewer than 10 new cases per 100,000 in the 14-day period. Wednesday the county’s rate was 7.3 per 100,000.

The county now has had 72 cases of COVID since mid-March. The county still has not had a COVID-related death.

The Cowlitz County commissioners, meeting as the board of health, will meet at 11:15 a.m. Friday over video platform Zoom to consider the health officer’s recommendation to apply for Phase 2. (See breakout for how to join the meeting.)

Steven Krager, deputy health officer, said Tuesday the county is generally in a good spot to apply for Phase 2.

The application process begins with a recommendation by the local public health officer to the Board of Health, which must approve the application. The county commissioners then must vote on the plan.

All hospitals must submit a letter certifying a 14-day supply of personal protective for hospital staff and enough beds to handle a 20% surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations. No COVID patients are hospitalized in Cowlitz County, but one local patient is in a hospital outside the county, according to the county’s coronavirus incident management team (IMT).

In the application, the health department must:

  • Describe the county’s COVID-19 testing sites, specifically identifying those that serve low-income or uninsured patients. Krager said Wednesday most clinics in the county should be able to provide tests if needed or refer patients to a location for testing.
  • Provide data on the median number of days from onset illness to COVID-19 test. The target is just two days between symptoms and getting tested. The county’s stats for this target were not available Thursday.
  • Provide testing data for the previous four weeks. Ideally, no more than 2% of tests should be positive, and there should be 50 times more tests than actual cases. In other words, if the county had 100 cases, it should have tested at least 5,000 people total. Krager said Wednesday testing availability in the county has improved over the last several weeks.
  • Describe plans to perform case and contact investigations, including how many staff are trained and ready to perform the work. County health department staff have been helping the public health nurses to track cases, and the county has planned to hire temporary workers if needed.
  • Describe how the department supports people in home isolation or quarantine by providing them services they can’t get without going outside.
  • Describe plans to perform outbreak investigations in congregate living situations or workplaces, including the number of staff trained to conduct investigations and testing resources.

Businesses and residents with questions about the phases or guidelines are asked to contact the Incident Management Team’s joint information center rather than the county health department.

Cowlitz COVID-19 information line 1-888-683-8676 answers frequently asked questions. The website cowlitzcovid19.com also has information about COVID-19 and the local response. The public can also call the Cowlitz Joint Information Center main line at 360-577-3107 to leave a message and a member of the center will respond as soon as possible.

The governor’s website also includes guidance for industries open under Phase 1 and Phase 2.

Phase 2 allows more outdoor recreation and small group gatherings of five people or less. Barbershops and salons could reopen along with restaurants at 50% capacity and tables of five people or less. Pet services, including grooming, could resume. Some professional services could resume, although teleworking still will be encouraged.

Ten counties have been allowed to move to Phase 2, including Wahkiakum and Skamania. So now, 25 of the state’s 39 counties are have moved to Phase 2 or are eligible to apply.

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