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Regional News

Stevens County Officials Receive Permission To Move Ahead On Reopening Plans

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Washington Department of Health
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Washington state Health Department officials today [Monday] granted Stevens County the variance it sought to move to the second phase of the state's four-phase reopening plan.

Health Secretary John Wiesman announced Stevens can join Wahkiakum and Skamania Counties in moving to the next phase. Ferry and Pend Oreille Counties received approval last Friday.

The variances don’t give all businesses carte blanche to open their doors. Wiesman warned companies in some industries will have to wait until the state issues guidance on how to reopen, something that irritated Stevens County Commissioner Wes McCart when we spoke with him late Friday.

“I’m a little frustrated by the lag time here because I’m hopeful that if we can open by the 11th or 12th that those guidelines are already done so that people aren’t having to think they can open and oh they can’t," McCart said.

On a related note, the Spokane County Board of Health is scheduled to hold a special meeting at 4:30 Monday afternoon to talk about submitting its own variance request to the state.

The state has not issued variance guidelines for more populous counties, only for those with 75,000 people or less. Spokane County officials have been lobbying the governor's office for a few weeks for permission to open up sooner than the rest of the state.

McCart says it’s important that the state grant a variance to Spokane as well, due to the connectedness of the region.

“I’ve got a lot of folks up here who work in Spokane so we’re looking at trying to help them open up as well as ourselves," he said. "We’re all trying to go the same direction and it’s been painfully slow.”

The governor’s coronavirus regulations requires counties to meet a variety of conditions, including:

  • Making testing available and accessible to everyone in the county with symptoms
  • Staffing case investigations and contact tracing
  • Housing people in isolation or quarantine who can’t or don’t want to do so at home
  • Providing case management services to those in isolation and quarantine
  • Responding rapidly to outbreaks in congregate settings.

 

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