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.