Because of newly issued guidelines sent out this weekend by Gov. Jay Inslee’s office and the state Department of Health, Skagit County had to re-apply Monday for approval to advance to Phase 2 of reopening.
The county originally applied to advance to Phase 2 — which allows a partial re-opening of businesses including restaurants, hair salons and retail — on Friday.
Skagit County spokesperson Laura Gelwicks said the county anticipates a quick response.
“We expect a full review and update in a couple of days,” she said.
Jennifer Johnson, the county’s director of Public Health, said one of the changes is the metrics now allow counties to qualify for Phase 2 if they record fewer than 25 COVID-19 cases for every 100,000 residents over a 14-day period. The previous, less-lenient guidelines required fewer than 10.
She said the new application was submitted shortly before 4 p.m. to the state secretary of health.
County officials said during a Board of Commissioners meeting Monday morning they were frustrated with the changing rules delaying their application, keeping businesses shuttered for longer.
“I’m very frustrated that the target seems to be moving ... that’s not the way to run government,” Commissioner Ron Wesen said.
Officials and county staff said it’s important to move into Phase 2 in order to provide options for local businesses.
“Public Health does know our businesses need to open and we do believe they can do it safely, otherwise we would not have applied for Phase 2,” Johnson said. “We have got to get our businesses open.”
The Safe Start program allows counties to advance phases by meeting certain benchmarks in cases, testing and health care system readiness. Each phase permits greater flexibility in permitted activities by businesses and residents.
Phase 2 may allow for the opening of several types of businesses with reduced capacity, such as 50 percent for restaurants and taverns, 50 percent for hair salons and 30 percent for in-store retail. Other affected businesses include pet grooming, real-estate services and household gatherings of no more than five people.
Twenty-seven counties were approved for Phase 2 as of Monday afternoon. Counties are required to stay in each phase at least three weeks before they can advance to the next. There are four phases total.
— Reporter Kimberly Cauvel contributed to this story.