Washington state phases Stanwood Camano

Stanwood area businesses — including barbershops, retail shops and restaurants — can reopen. 

On Friday morning, the state Secretary of Health John Wiesman approved Snohomish County's request to enter Phase 2 of Gov. Jay Inslee’s plan to reopen the state amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Phase 2 allows more businesses to reopen immediately under the restrictions and parameters of Phase 2 guidelines. Restaurants can open at 50% capacity. Retailers that weren't considered essential under Inslee's "Stay Home, Stay Healthy" order can resume in-store sales, but the shop will be limited to 15% of the building occupancy and indoor services limited to 30 minutes. Barber shops, hair and nail salons and pet groomers can also reopen.

"Businesses are excited to be able to open their doors again," Stanwood Chamber of Commerce executive director Elaine Traversi said. "Stanwood business owners have been preparing for the reopen and are going to take the necessary precautions so that their customers feel safe to shop again. We also have to keep in mind that they are opening at a smaller capacity, so our patience and understanding is important while we make the transition through each phase."

Snohomish County is one of 14 counties approved to move into next phase of Gov. Jay Inslee’s Safe Start plan. Clark, Okanogan, Pierce, Skagit, Snohomish and Whatcom counties are approved to move from Phase 1 to Phase 2. King County was approved to move into a modified version of Phase 1. Columbia, Ferry, Garfield, Lincoln, Pend Oreille, Stevens and Wahkiakum counties are approved to move from Phase 2 to Phase 3.

“Snohomish County can now start reopening our businesses and get more people back to work,” Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers said. “During a pandemic, every step forward must be done carefully, and I am thankful for the work each of us throughout our community has done to get us here today. As we transition into the next phase we must remain vigilant to maintain social distancing and necessary sanitation practices to keep our communities healthy and help our economy recover as quickly as possible. ... We still have a ways to go, but this is a first, positive step in the right direction.”

The state Department of Health recently launched a risk assessment dashboard, which display county-level data relating to the metrics used to determine readiness to move between phases. The Snohomish Health District officials said they will also be reporting its progress on a weekly basis moving forward.

“We will be closely monitoring the data and metrics to ensure we are able to accommodate the potential increase in cases, and adapt as needed, as we begin to open Snohomish County back up," said Dr. Chris Spitters, Health Officer for the Snohomish Health District. 

Businesses approved to move into a new phase must comply with all health and safety requirements outlined in the guidance to reopen.

On May 29, Inslee and the Washington State Department of Health "established a data-driven approach to reopen Washington and modify social and recreational activities while minimizing the health impacts of COVID-19," according to a news release from the state health department. "Washington will move through the phased reopening county-by-county, allowing for flexibility and local control to address COVID-19 activity geographically."

To apply to move to the next phase, counties must submit an application to the Department of Health. The application process requires support from the local health officer, the local board of health and the county executive or county commission. Each county must demonstrate they have adequate local hospital bed capacity as well as adequate PPE supplies to keep health care workers safe. The metric goals for moving between phases are intended to be applied as targets, not hardline measures, state health officials said.

"Where one target is not fully achieved, actions taken with a different target may offset a county’s overall risk," according to the health department statement.

Island County has been in Phase 2 since May 23. Island County Commissioner Janet St. Clair said in a news release Friday that county officials are working on a Phase 3 application, which requires updates on county data, hospital capacity, testing and contact tracing. The Phase 3 application will be considered by Island County Board of Health and the Board of County Commissioners on June 16. 

Snohomish County leaders passed a resolution May 29 seeking the OK for the county to enter Phase 2 of the state's four-phase "Safe Start" reopening plan. County officials then submitted the more than 40-page request for a variance late June 1 to the state Secretary of Health.

While Phase 2 does reopen some businesses and activities, there are still restrictions in place, including:

  • Gatherings with no more than 5 people from outside your household per week. This includes outdoor recreation like camping, hiking or beach trips.
  • High-risk populations — such as people older than 60, those with underlying health conditions, or pregnant women — should continue to stay home aside from essential business and errands.
  • Non-essential travel will be limited to activities that are approved to reopen under Phase 2, and those will come with health and safety guidance to follow. For example, restaurants could reopen at limited on-site capacity, with appropriate social distancing, no more than five customers per table, and no bar-area seating.
  • For people who can continue to work remotely, teleworking is strongly encouraged.

Beginning June 8, all employees will be required to wear a cloth facial covering, except when working alone in an office, vehicle, or at a job site, or when the job has no in-person interaction. Employers must provide cloth facial coverings to employees, unless their exposure dictates a higher level of protection based on safety and health rules and guidance from the Department of Labor and Industries. Employees may choose to wear their own facial coverings at work, provided it meets the minimum requirements. Employers must also post signage at their place of business strongly encouraging customers to wear cloth facial coverings. Businesses are encouraged to require customers to wear cloth facial coverings, in order to protect employees from exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace.

Youth and pro sports

Also Friday, Inslee unveiled new guidelines allowing professional and youth sports to return to action, effective immediately.

Professional teams are now allowed full team practices and games without spectators, regardless of what phase the county is in.

Youth sports can resume action, too. Counties in Phase 2 now allow for outdoor practices of  up to five players in separate parts of the field, provided they are separated by a buffer zone and maintain at least 5 feet between players with no contact.

Each league, organization or club must also publish a "return to play" safety plan. Parents and household members are also told not to congregate on the sidelines.

In Phase 3, games can resume as long as one field has no more than 50 people. However, school and college sports are not covered by the new guidelines.

Contact reporter Evan Caldwell at ecaldwell@scnews.com and follow him on Twitter @Evan_SCN for updates throughout the week and on Instagram @evancaldwell.scn for more photos.

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