The Thurston County Board of Health voted unanimously on Friday to move forward with applying for a state waiver that would allow the county to move into phase two of the governor’s four-phased plan to reopen the state’s economy after two months of restrictions due to COVID-19.
The measure is the county’s first step to begin the application process known as a variance to fast track into the next phase. The recommendation will now be forwarded to the Board of County Commissioners, which is expected to make a vote on the motion on Tuesday, May 26.
A number of businesses would be allowed to reopen on a limited basis under Gov. Jay Inslee’s second phase, including nail and hair salons, restaurants, manufacturing, real estate and professional and office-based business.
Thurston County’s Acting Public Health Officer Dr. Diana Yu said at Friday’s meeting that she believes the county has met all the qualifications laid out by the state government to safely begin reopening the local economy.
“I feel that our current caseload, testing capacity, and our capacity and ability to do case and contact follow-up using the standardized protocols outlined by DOH fully meets the criteria set,” she said in a letter to the Board of Health. “I believe we can safely enter into phase 2, continuing to encourage citizens to socially distance, wear cloth face coverings when unable to social distance and continue to follow proper hand hygiene.”
She also warned that residents shouldn’t celebrate this as an end to the woes of COVID-19, the viral disease caused by the novel coronavirus. The public should continue to implement social distancing measures as much as they can.
It has been nearly a week since Thurston County Public Health and Social Services has reported a new case of COVID-19. The last case reported to the agency was a male in his 70s on Saturday, May 16.
According to Public Health, 127 residents have been diagnosed with the virus in the county, with 122 of those having reportedly recovered. One death has been reported by the county.
County Commissioner Gary Edwards thanked Yu for the guidance, and County Commissioner John Hutchings called the news a momentous day.
Inslee has outlined four phases to safely reopen Washington state’s economy after the COVID-19 outbreak, with phase one being restricted to strong social distancing and essential businesses only and phase four resuming all activities and businesses with strong social distancing recommendations.
Thurston County and most of the state is currently in phase one of the governor’s plan. Lewis County was approved to move to phase two on Friday.
During the meeting, Public Health and Social Services Director Schelli Slaughter said the county had made an offer to a candidate for a permanent public health officer. Thurston County staff have been searching for a qualified candidate to fill the position since December.
Lewis County's application for a variance was accepted by the state on Friday.