Adams County now eligible for Phase Two variance

| May 19, 2020 10:08 PM

OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee said Tuesday that he is expanding the criteria allowing counties to apply for variances to the state’s reopening plan, explicitly including Adams County in the list of counties that can now apply.

“There are now more opportunities for more counties to move to Phase Two,” Inslee said during a Tuesday morning press conference.

Inslee said the new criteria will allow counties that have had fewer than 10 new confirmed COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people over the prior 14 days to apply to start Phase Two of his reopening plan, which allows for limited opening of restaurants, salons, barbershops and retail outlets.

Previously, in order to apply for a variance, a county had to be small — 75,000 people or fewer — and have no new COVID-19 cases for three weeks.

Because of the new criteria, Inslee said 22 counties in Washington — including Spokane County but not currently including Grant County — comprising about 30 percent of the state’s population are either in Phase Two, moving toward Phase Two or now eligible to apply for Phase Two.

According to Washington Health Secretary John Wiesman, the process for counties to apply for a variance remains unchanged. The state requires an application from the county health officer approved by the county commission. Counties also need to have 20 percent surge capacity in local hospitals, 14 days of personal protective equipment on hand for local health care workers and the ability to house those who need to be isolated or quarantined because they have been exposed to the novel coronavirus or show symptoms of COVID-19.

“This really is a community effort,” Wiesman said. “We want to help people follow the guidelines.”

Inslee said that with the limited opening of rural counties, it is important that people in urban areas not “overload the amenities in those small communities.” He also said that the ability of counties entering Phase Two early to successfully manage the COVID-19 outbreak in their communities is key to the entire state moving forward with reopening.

The governor also said that the new case level standards — fewer than 10 new cases for 100,000 people over a 14-day period — will likely apply to larger counties as well, though “it is always subject to change” depending on the course of the pandemic.

“We think it is scientifically credible,” he said.