State health officials Saturday approved Cowlitz County’s application for Phase 2 of the governor’s reopening plan less than 24 hours after the county submitted it.
“This is great news, what we’ve been hoping for,” said Ted Sprague, president of the Cowlitz Economic Development Council. “I think Cowlitz County has done great job of staying home and staying safe. Now we can get the economy moving again and do it in a safe way.”
Pacific, Grant, Island, Jefferson, Mason and San Juan counties also were approved for Phase 2 on Saturday.
On Friday, the state approved Grays Harbor and Lewis for Phase 2, as well as Adams and Spokane counties. Eleven other counties, including Wahkiakum and Skamania, have been approved for Phase 2.
Clark County’s application is on hold because health officials are investigating an outbreak at the Firestone Pacific Foods fruit plant, where 38 employees tested positive for the virus as of Friday, The Columbian reported.
To apply, counties must have fewer than 10 new cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 residents over a 14-day period. The application process requires support from the local health officer, the local board of health, local hospitals, and the county commission/council.
The number of COVID-19 cases in Cowlitz County held steady at 72 as of Saturday. The county’s application included data from the last four weeks of testing, as well as plans for case tracking and contact tracing, outbreak response and providing isolation and quarantine locations.
Phase 2 allows more outdoor recreation and small gatherings of five people or less. Barbershops and salons can 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. “Non-essential” businesses only are allowed to reopen if they implement the state’s health and safety guidelines.
Travel is still is limited to essential activities and non essential activities permitted under phase 2.
High-risk populations, including those older than 65, with underlying medical conditions and residents of long-term care facilities are still are urged to stay home.
Dr. Steve Krager, county deputy health officer, said Friday under Phase 2 people still need to adhere to social distancing guidelines and should wear cloth masks in public places where it is difficult to keep their distance.
Clallam, Kitsap and Thurston counties are eligible to apply for Phase 2 but have not submitted an application as of Saturday.
It is not yet clear what counties will have to achieve to move to Phase 3 of Gov. Jay Inslee’s four-step recovery plan. Phase 3 would allow gatherings up to 50 people, allows museum and libraries to reopen, restaurants and taverns to open to 75% capacity and seating up to 10. Movie theaters would be able to reopen at 50% capacity. Large gatherings will not be permitted until Phase 4.
Pacific County has had nine COVID-19 cases, with one death. From May 3 to May 17, the county has had about 5 cases per 100,000, according to the state Department of Health.
Yakima County has the highest rate of cases per 100,000 during that time period, with 408 cases, according to the state.
Kittitas County has the second-highest rate, with 107 cases per 100,000. The county was eligible to apply for Phase 2 under the governor’s original criteria which allowed counties of fewer than 75,000 residents to apply if they had not had a new case of COVID-19 in the last three weeks. However, its application was put on hold after an outbreak of 49 cases related to frozen food processor Twin City Foods.
Gov. Jay Inslee said in a statement Friday the state is making good progress as the May 31 deadline of the current stay-at-home order gets closer. However, he said not every county will be able to move over to Phase 2 on June 1.
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