“We are moving forward and very excited about it.”
That comment from Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers set an upbeat tone for the Tuesday morning County’s COVID-19 briefing.
County staffers, he said, “really scrambled over the weekend to get that (Phase 2 reopening) package submitted to the state health department. ” Somers said he expects to hear in the next “day or two” if the state approves.
Here’s what re-opens in Phase 2 for the county:
- Outdoor recreation for groups of fewer than five people outside of your household members for camping, beaches, etc.
- Gathering with no more than five friends/acquaintances one time per week.
- In-home domestic services (nannies, housekeeping, etc.)
- Retail in-store purchases – with masks, 6-foot distancing and other restrictions
- Hair/nail salons/barbers – with health restriction
- Real estate business
- Remaining manufacturing, new construction
- Office-based professional services (teleworking is still strongly encouraged)
- Limited travel for pleasure
- Restaurant inside dining, with the following requirements:
- Less than 50% of capacity
- Tables 6 feet apart
- No more than 5 customers per table
- Servers to wear masks
- No bar seating
The county’s Phase 2 applications is, says Somers, “a very strong package; it ticks all the boxes the state needs.” County Health Officer Dr. Chris Spitters added: “We feel very confident about the package we submitted.”
Here’s what changed to allow the county to move forward:
- An average of 18.4 new coronavirus cases per 100,000 residents during the last two weeks, which is better than state standards.
- An 11-week steady decline in all new cases.
- Medical system able to handle any surge in cases.
- Improved testing capacity.
- 30 full-time case contact tracing staffers with federal money to hire 50 more.
- An average of one to two new cases in “high-risk” residents.
Spitters says the health department has not yet seen any increase in new COVID-19 cases from recent large gatherings. He notes it often takes a one- to three-week observation period to determine if large events will spark more cases.
And effective June 8, all county employers must now require workers to wear facemasks. They must also recommend that customers, clients and vendors wear masks. This is part of a new rule issued through the State Health Department and the Governor’s office.
Asked if he thinks business, retailers and restaurants will comply with the Phase 2 requirements, Somers told the briefing: “We will really rely on our residents to let us know if the rules aren’t being followed. If you see a business not meeting the requirements, don’t patronize them.” And, he urged residents to let the county and local officials know if the regulations are not being met.
“I’m expecting we will have good compliance, ” Somers said. “The vast majority of business owners will be happy to comply.”
Asked if they believe there is enough personal protective equipment (PPE) available for business, Spitters replied, “I don’t know, we’ll have to look into that. ” Somers said the county will check into the question, adding that he doesn’t know what role the county might play.
When can the county move on to Phase 3? Both officials say the county must meet the requirements of Phase 2 for at least three weeks before that can be considered.
— By Bob Throndsen