In time for Memorial Day weekend the state has approved Grays Harbor County’s request to advance into Phase 2 of Gov. Jay Inslee’s plan to slowly nudge the state’s businesses and activities toward normalcy.
“I am greatly appreciative of the tremendous work done by our Incident Management Team and COVID Policy Group to move us to Phase 2,” said Grays Harbor County Commissioner Vickie Raines. “I have serious concerns about our local economy and Phase 2 will assist us in getting headed back in the right direction.”
County health officials were notified Friday by Washington State Secretary of Health Dr. John Wiesman.
“I am pleased to see the variance has been granted,” said Commissioner Randy Ross. “This is a first step and the next goal will be to move to Phase 3 as soon as safely possible. This will still take diligence and care by all citizens to continue sanitizing, social distancing and not putting themselves and their neighbors at unnecessary risks. I believe we can still find ways to get coastal fishing and sport fishing open by working cooperatively with our local and state officials.”
Businesses/employers that are able to open under the Phase 2 variance that was approved include:
· Remaining manufacturing
· Additional construction phases
· In-home/domestic services (nannies, housecleaning, etc.)
· Retail (in-store purchases allowed with restrictions)
· Real estate
· Professional services/office-based businesses (telework remains strongly encouraged)
· Hair and nail salons/barbers
· Pet grooming
· Restaurants/taverns at less than 50% capacity and table size no larger than 5 (no bar-area seating)
“It’s not the pace I’d like to see the economy reopen, but it’s a good thing we are reopening at some level,” said Commissioner Wes Cormier. “I’m hearing from a lot of businesses locally and they are sincerely hurting. I think we need to move past all of this and open the economy back up and allow businesses to make rational, common-sense decisions about social distancing” and other precautionary measures.
According to a statement issued by Grays Harbor County Public Health COVID-19 response public information officer Brianne Probasco, the variance is effective immediately and carries conditions that must be met for the county to maintain continued operation in Phase 2. The letter approving the variance details the requirements and is posted on Public Health’s website at www.HealthyGH.org/directory/covid19guidance.
Businesses must ensure that they have appropriate social distancing measures and health standards in place before opening. Industry-specific guidance, as well as an online form for individuals wishing to report businesses not in compliance with the Phase 2 guidance, is available at https://coronavirus.wa.gov/what-you-need-know/safe-start.
Gatherings and recreational activities also change as part of Phase 2. People may participate in certain activities involving five or fewer people outside of their household. Gatherings are specifically limited to one per week. To avoid compliance problems, people are encouraged to visit the Governor’s website to review requirements before participating in gatherings or recreational activities.
Public Health strongly encourages people in high-risk populations — including people 65 years or older and those with underlying medical or immune system issues — to limit their participation in Phase 2 activities and business services. Nursing homes and other long term care settings remain under certain restrictions; please contact them before attempting to visit family members.
County Public Health Officer Dr. John Bausher said he is pleased with the decision but urges caution.
“We’ve been fortunate here. We’ve had very few cases of COVID-19 and that allows us to open things up a bit sooner,” he said. “But we need to remember that COVID-19 is still out there and most of us are not immune. I urge people to continue to use physical distancing and good hygiene so we don’t see an increase in disease.” Continued use of cloth face coverings when away from home is recommended.
“While we still have a ways to go, my hope is that people will approach Phase 2 cautiously and safely. Yes, some restrictions are being lifted, but we must continue to take care of ourselves,” said Raines. “This is not the time to simply push the virus aside, we need to continue to be vigilant — practice physical distancing, hand washing, and I encourage a face covering when in a public, common area. Let’s be smart-stay safe, stay healthy.”
One new COVID-19 case was identified Thursday, according to Probasco. The case is under review and Public Health and notifying the patient’s close contacts. The new case brings the county’s total to 16 — two cases in March, 10 cases in April, and four in May.
Wiesman’s letter notifying local health department director Karolyn Holden of the variance approval, warns that if there is a surge of cases or other issues complying with the standards, the Phase 2 status could be withdrawn.
“I may revoke this variance if circumstances change within your jurisdiction, such as a significant community transmission, no or minimal access to CVOID-19 testing, inadequate surge capacity in the hospital, inadequate PPE supplies, inadequate case and contact investigations, inadequate isolation or quarantine facilities, or other conditions warranting significant concern,” he wrote.
Grays Harbor County Public Health’s COVID-19 call center is open Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., to assist people with testing referrals. Assistance is available in both English and Spanish. Call (360) 964-1850. The call center will be closed on Monday, May 25 for the Memorial Day holiday. Testing resources and locations can be found on the Grays Harbor Public Health website at www.HealthyGH.org/directory/covid19.