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27 Washington counties approved to move to next phase of reopening 

On Monday, June 1st, the Washington State Secretary of Health approved the variance application for Klickitat County to move into Phase 2 of Gov. Jay Inslee’s Safe Start plan. This brings the total to 27 counties now in Phase 2 of reopening.
June 1st Safe Start county status. Image courtesy of Washington State Department of Health.

From Washington State Coronavirus Response News Releases.

June 1, 2020, update.

Today Washington State Secretary of Health John Wiesman approved the application for Klickitat County to move into Phase 2 of Gov. Jay Inslee’s Safe Start plan.

A total of 27 counties have now been approved to move to Phase 2: Adams, Asotin, Clallam, Columbia, Cowlitz, Ferry, Garfield, Grant, Grays Harbor, Island, Jefferson, Kitsap, Kittitas, Klickitat Lewis, Lincoln, Mason, Pacific, Pend Orielle, San Juan, Skamania, Spokane, Stevens, Thurston, Wahkiakum, Walla Walla, and Whitman.

The application from Clark County remains on pause due to an outbreak investigation.

Businesses approved to move into Phase 2 must comply with all health and safety requirements outlined in the guidance to reopen.

On May 29th, Governor Jay Inslee, in collaboration with the Washington State Department of Health, established a data-driven approach to reopen Washington and modify physical distancing measures while minimizing the health impacts of COVID-19.

Washington will move through the phased reopening county-by-county allowing for flexibility and local control to address COVID-19 activity geographically.

This approach reduces the risk of COVID-19 to Washington’s most vulnerable populations and preserves capacity in our health care system, while safely opening up businesses and resuming gatherings, travel, shopping and recreation.

The plan allows counties and the secretary of health to holistically review COVID-19 activity and the ability for the county to respond when determining if a county is ready to move into a new phase.

May 28, 2020, update.

Today Washington State Secretary of Health John Wiesman approved variance applications for Clallam and Kitsap counties to move into Phase 2 of Gov. Jay Inslee’s Safe Start plan.

A total of 26 counties have now been approved to move to Phase 2: Adams, Asotin, Clallam, Columbia, Cowlitz, Ferry, Garfield, Grant, Grays Harbor, Island, Jefferson, Kitsap, Kittitas, Lewis, Lincoln, Mason, Pacific, Pend Oreille, San Juan, Skamania, Spokane, Stevens, Thurston, Wahkiakum, Walla Walla, and Whitman.

Klickitat County remains eligible to apply for a variance to move to Phase 2. The application from Clark County remains on pause due to an outbreak investigation.

May 27, 2020, update.

Today Washington State Secretary of Health John Wiesman approved variance applications for Kittitas, Thurston, and Walla Walla counties to move into Phase 2 of Gov. Jay Inslee’s Safe Start plan.

Kittitas County was previously on pause due to an outbreak investigation. Over the past three weeks, the Kittitas County Public Health Department demonstrated their ability to quickly and thoughtfully respond to an outbreak in their community. The Washington State Department of Health continues to have confidence in their approach, and as a result, has approved their variance application to move to Phase 2 of Gov. Jay Inslee’s Safe Start plan.

A total of 24 counties have now been approved to move to Phase 2: Adams, Asotin, Columbia, Cowlitz, Ferry, Garfield, Grant, Grays Harbor, Island, Jefferson, Kittitas, Lewis, Lincoln, Mason, Pacific, Pend Orielle, San Juan, Skamania, Spokane, Stevens, Thurston, Wahkiakum, Walla Walla, and Whitman.

Clallam, Kitsap, and Klickitat counties are eligible to apply for a variance to move to Phase 2. The application from Clark County remains on pause due to an outbreak investigation.

May 23, 2020, update.

Today Washington State Secretary of Health John Wiesman approved the variance applications for Cowlitz, Grant, Island, Jefferson, Mason, Pacific, and San Juan counties to move into Phase 2 of Gov. Jay Inslee’s Safe Start plan.

A total of 21 counties have now been approved to move to Phase 2: Adams, Asotin, Columbia, Cowlitz, Ferry, Garfield, Grant, Grays Harbor, Island, Jefferson, Lewis, Lincoln, Mason, Pacific, Pend Orielle, San Juan, Skamania, Spokane, Stevens, Wahkiakum and Whitman.

The following counties are eligible to apply for a variance to move to Phase 2: Clallam, Kitsap, and Thurston.

Applications from Kittitas and Clark counties are on pause until further discussion next week due to outbreak investigations.

May 21, 2020, update.

Today Washington State Secretary of Health John Wiesman approved the variance applications for Adams, Grays Harbor, Lewis, and Spokane counties to move into Phase 2 of Gov. Jay Inslee’s Safe Start plan.

A total of 14 counties have now been approved to move to Phase 2: Adams, Asotin, Columbia, Garfield, Grays Harbor, Lincoln, Lewis, Ferry, Pend Orielle, Skamania, Spokane, Stevens, Wahkiakum, and Whitman.

Eleven counties are eligible to apply for a variance to move to Phase 2: Clallam, Clark, Cowlitz, Grant, Island, Jefferson, Kitsap, Mason, Pacific, San Juan, and Thurston.

Kittitas County's application is on pause until Tuesday, May 26th, due to an outbreak investigation.

May 18, 2020, update.

Today Washington State Secretary of Health John Wiesman approved the variance application for Asotin County to move into Phase 2 of Gov. Jay Inslee’s Safe Start plan

This brings the total to ten counties that have moved to Phase 2: Asotin, Columbia, Garfield, Lincoln, Ferry, Pend Oreille, Wahkiakum, Skamania, Stevens, and Whitman.

May 15, 2020, update.

Today Washington State Secretary of Health John Wiesman approved the variance application for Whitman County to move into Phase 2 of Governor Jay Inslee’s Safe Start plan.

This brings the total to nine counties: Columbia, Garfield, Lincoln, Ferry, Pend Oreille, Wahkiakum, Skamania, Stevens, and Whitman.

May 11, 2020, update.

Today Washington State Secretary of Health John Wiesman approved applications from Wahkiakum, Skamania, and Stevens counties to move into Phase 2 of Governor Jay Inslee’s Safe Start plan.

This brings the total to eight counties. Last week, Secretary Wiesman approved variances for Columbia, Garfield, Lincoln, Ferry and Pend Oreille counties.

Original May 8, 2020, article.

On Friday, May 8, 2020, Washington State Secretary of Health John Wiesman approved applications from Columbia, Garfield, Lincoln, Ferry and Pend Oreille counties to move early into Phase 2 of Gov. Jay Inslee’s Safe Start plan.

We recognize COVID-19 is impacting some parts of our state in different ways and some counties will be ready to move forward earlier than others,” Secretary Wiesman said. 

While recognizing that reality, we set cautious, thorough requirements for counties that want to apply for a variance. 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.”

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.

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 county must demonstrate they have adequate local hospital bed capacity as well as adequate PPE supplies to keep health care workers safe. The application must include plans for:

  • Making testing available and accessible to everyone in the county with symptoms.
  • Staffing case investigations and contact tracing.
  • Housing people in isolation or quarantine who can’t or don’t want to do so at home.
  • Providing case management services to those in isolation and quarantine.
  • Responding rapidly to outbreaks in congregate settings.

The variance requests are reviewed by the secretary of health, who can approve the plans as submitted, approve with modifications or deny the application. If circumstances change within the jurisdiction, the variance can be revoked.

In addition to the counties approved today, Kittitas, Skamania, and Wahkiakum Counties have applied for a variance and their applications are under review.

Stevens County has applied, however 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 and the statewide response to COVID-19 at coronavirus.wa.gov.

For more information on COVID-19, visit the Department of Health’s website 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.

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