Spokane County Asks State For Coronavirus Variance

May 11, 2020

Spokane County's health board has authorized Health Officer Bob Lutz to petition the state for a variance from the official coronavirus schedule.
Credit Spokane COVID Response

UPDATED with comments from Spokane Mayor Nadine Woodward and Commissioner Al French. 

Spokane County’s commissioners voted this morning [Tuesday] to ask Washington Health Secretary John Wiesman to allow the county to move to the next step as it emerges from coronavirus restrictions.

The county wants the same sort of variance that was granted to eight other counties. That would allow them to move directly to phase two of the state’s four-phase reopening plan.

The commissioners’ vote come the day after a similar vote by the county Health Board, authorizing the sending of a similar letter by Health Officer Bob Lutz. Lutz laid out the case that Spokane is ready to handle another wave of confirmed Covid cases.

“We have plateau’ed, thankfully, right now, our hospitalizations. Our numbers look really good. From that standpoint, I felt good about the numbers and, therefore, there was interest as to whether we would be able to apply for a variance. Thus the letter to the Board of Health, the Board of Health to the county commissioners, the county commissioners to Secretary Wiesman at the Department of Health, talks about it with the governor and we’ll see," Lutz said.

A few hours after the vote, Spokane Mayor Nadine Woodward told reporters that the governor acknowledged receiving the state's materials.

"We're very appreciative that he is open to [the county's request] and that we’re even at a place now where we’re talking about opening up different counties of the state in different ways and at different times. That was something we’ve been advocating for several weeks now," she said.

Her optimism was shared by County Commissioner Al French.

"I look forward to receiving the approval from Governor Inslee’s Office this week as he sees that Spokane County is uniquely situated to safely restart our economy," French said in a statement released this afternoon.

Whether the governor acts on the county's proposal this week is an open question. State officials had released a set of conditions for counties with less than 75,000 population before granting variances to eight rural counties. It has not yet released similar guidelines for more populous counties.