Snohomish County leaders plan to apply for state variance to allow Phase 2 reopening

Dave Somers

Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers, Board of Health Chair Stephanie Wright, and County Council Chair Nate Nehring jointly announced Thursday their intention to apply for a variance that would allow Snohomish County to move into Phase 2 of Gov. Jay Inslee’s reopening plan.

The announcement comes after the county council Wednesday approved the final piece of the COVID-19 response plan, which means Snohomish County now has all of the elements necessary to meet Phase 2 requirements for large counties.

“Snohomish County residents have paid a heavy price from the COVID-19 pandemic,” Somers said. “We will respond to the pandemic with everything we have and recover as quickly as we can. We now must move forward with our request to enter Phase 2 and help our people safely get back to work.”

Wright added: “The Snohomish Health District and its partners have succeeded in preserving the health and safety of thousands in Snohomish County. It is now time for us to move into Phase 2 and re-start our economy. I will be proposing that the Board of Health consider a variance on Friday.”

Nehring said it is critical that Snohomish County moves into Phase 2 “so that we can begin to provide economic relief to our local businesses, workers, and families who are struggling. I am proud to join my fellow county leaders in this joint proposal to move us in the right direction and support our local economy.”

With approval of the COVID-19 package Wednesday, Snohomish County now has adequate resources directed toward personal protective equipment (PPE), testing, contact tracing, and the isolation and the quarantine facility to meet the most important criteria for Phase 2, the announcement said.  Also, the county believes that most hospitals currently have sufficient capacity to meet any potential surge, and the health district intends to submit letters from each hospital as part of any approved variance proposal. The rate of infection approaches the parameters set by the state, if subsets of irregular outbreaks, such as assisted living facilities, are taken into account, as the CDC allows, the county said.

The decision to apply for a variance will need to be approved by the Snohomish Health District Board of Health and the Snohomish County Council, and both bodies have called for emergency special meetings Friday to consider the proposal. If approved, the health district will submit the application  — with a letter from Somers — to the Washington Secretary of Health for consideration.

If Snohomish County is allowed to move to Phase 2 and beyond, officials said it will be important to avoid a spike in infections and the likelihood of reverting back to Phase I. “COVID-19 will be a threat for some time, but Snohomish County is now better prepared to manage the threat,” the county announcement said.

  1. This is very good news; let’s hope that our governor approves the request. Phase 2 is progress. but its terms are no panacea – particularly as it applies to religious organizations. Churches are limited to an attendance of 25% of their capacity, but no more than 50 people. That is an illogical policy. For example my church has 4 Masses on weekends that are attended by more than a total of 2,000. A 25% limit would be a hardship, but perhaps doable. A limit of 50 would mean that more than 40 Masses would have to be held – more than 10 times the usual 4!! The limit of 50 needs to be removed.

    1. If we were not meeting the number of positives requirement to go to Phase 2 last week does that mean we all of a sudden are now? I didn’t see a change in numbers, over the last 14 days we did not meet the 6 a day requirement on any day, there is only one day we even got close. Did the state change this requirement or are they giving us a waiver?

  2. I wholeheartedly support this petition if it is based upon credible science, and upon clear approval/agreement of the Snohomish County Health District Board of Health.

    It doesn’t really matter that much as to how we got here (we are where we are), but going forward we need guidance based upon good information from those who actually know what they are opining on, and not driven by ideology, angst and personal sentiment. We owe the people of our community no less than that.

    Thank you Mr. Somers, and thank you County Council for collectively working hard to figure a rational way out of this mess. Good luck with the application.

  3. This is truly good news and I fully support the petition to move forward with Phase 2 for Snohomish County. Your comments reflect balance of the concern over management of COVID 19 and preparedness with the great need for economic relief and hardship. Again, thank you.

    1. This is very good news. Thankyou Mr. Somers and Snohomish County Council for putting all the pieces together to meet the phase 2 criteria. It seems to me that being stuck in phase 1 is starting to do more harm than good. It is time to cautiously move forward. The hard work to make that happen is much appreciated.

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