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Thursday, February 22, 2024
Feb. 22, 2024

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Clark County approved for immediate Phase 2 reopening

By , Columbian staff writer

Clark County was approved for a Phase 2 reopening by the state Department of Health on Friday morning. The new rules went into effect immediately after the county received the news.

That means that Clark County businesses such as restaurants, hair salons, nail salons, real estate, barbershops and some retail stores are now be able to operate with certain capacity restrictions and safety precautions in place.

Gatherings with up to five people from outside a household are also now allowed, as is camping. The state approved Clark County for the second phase along with 13 other Washington counties.

State Secretary of Health John Wiesman notified Clark County Public Health of the approval Friday morning, according to a news release from Public Health.

“I’m pleased to see Clark County move into Phase 2 of the reopening plan, allowing many of our businesses to reopen and our residents to get back to work,” Clark County Council Vice Chair John Blom said in a statement. “But this doesn’t mean we’re back to business as usual. Gathering sizes are still limited and businesses must take steps to protect the health of their employees and customers.”

Retail stores can now allow some in-person shopping, and restaurants can allow dine in service with 50 percent capacity and no table sizes larger than five people. New construction can start, and in-home domestic services such as nannying can once again take place. Telework is still strongly encouraged for companies that can utilize that method.

Churches, mosques and synagogues can resume in-person services in Phase 2 with up to 25 percent of the building’s capacity, or 50 worshipers, whichever is less. It also allows up to five people for in-home services or counseling.

The county first applied for Phase 2 on May 22, but the application was put on pause a day later after a large coronavirus outbreak at Firestone Pacific Foods in Vancouver was discovered.

Public Health’s containment efforts on the Firestone outbreak lead to low community transmission outside of Firestone employees and close contacts.

On Thursday, Public Health discovered another outbreak at Pacific Crest Building Supply in Ridgefield. Five cases have been connected to the outbreak, and three of the cases reside in Clark County. The cabinet manufacturer is coordinating with Public Health to test all 168 employees, according to a company statement. The facility is currently closed.

Clark County Public Health Officer Dr. Alan Melnick said he thinks the county’s ability to handle large outbreaks in congregate settings helped its application get approved. The work that was done containing the Firestone outbreak, and stopping it from spreading to the community shows that the county is ready to handle outbreaks.

“It’s very likely that we’ll see more situations like this,” Melnick said. “Firestone and Pacific Crest may be the harbinger of other outbreaks to come, and we’ll need to be able to address them.”

Jessica Baggett, a spokeswoman for the department of health, said the state has multiple measurements for revoking a Phase 2 application. The county has been in touch with the state about the Pacific Crest outbreak, but according to the state’s protocol it’s unlikely that the county would incur a Phase 1 setback as long as it contains this outbreak to Pacific Crest employees and close contacts. The county remains in good shape with most of the metrics for Phase 2, Melnick said.

Public Health still wants people to follow physical distancing guidelines. Masks are also encouraged when people are inside in a public space, or can’t keep six feet of distance from others.

Clark County can apply for Phase 3 of the reopening plan after three weeks in Phase 2 if the county continues to make progress in stopping spread of

Anyone who develops symptoms of COVID-19 should contact their health care provider immediately to seek testing, according to Public Health. This enables Public Health to isolate infected people and quarantine their close contacts. Doing this as quickly as possible helps prevent the virus from spreading.

As people resume activities outside of the home, it’s important to continue taking precautions to keep yourself and others in the community healthy,” Melnick said in a statement. “The virus hasn’t gone away. We need to stay vigilant to prevent COVID-19 transmission from increasing in our community.”

Columbian staff writer