Tuesday, September 22, 2020
Sept. 22, 2020

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Clark County submits Phase 2 application for easing of restrictions

Officials confirm eight new COVID-19 cases, most since May 11

By , Columbian staff writer
Published:

Clark County has submitted an application to enter the second phase of Washington’s COVID-19 recovery plan, which would ease physical distancing measures that have been in place since mid-March.

The Clark County Board of Health and Clark County Council approved the county’s application in consecutive meetings Friday afternoon.

Then the application was submitted to Washington Secretary of Health Dr. John Wiesman, who will review the application.

The county was deemed eligible to apply for Phase 2 on Tuesday, and it initially seemed like submitting the application this week might be overly ambitious. But Clark County Public Health worked “around the clock” to prepare the application, according to Clark County Public Health Officer Dr. Alan Melnick.

Melnick said the state should be reviewing applications over the weekend. Since Monday is a federal holiday, Melnick is hopeful for a decision from the state Department of Health by Tuesday.

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Dr. Steven Krager, the deputy health officer for Deputy Health Officer for Pacific, Cowlitz, Skamania and Wahkiakum counties, said in an email that Skamania and Wahkiakum counties had their applications approved in three days earlier this month.

“I can’t guarantee the state is going to approve it, but I would hope we will receive notification by Tuesday,” Melnick said at Friday’s Board of Health meeting.

Under Phase 2, restaurants could operate at 50 percent capacity, with no table size larger than five people. Bar areas would remain closed. Camping would be allowed. Gatherings would be restricted to five or fewer people from outside your household.

Nannying, housecleaning and other domestic services would be allowed, as would real estate activity and some in-store retail purchases. Beauty salons and barbershops could also reopen with safety measures in place.

The county was deemed eligible to apply for Phase 2 because it had fewer than 10 new cases per 100,000 residents over a 14-day span. The county has met its testing goals in the last two weeks, with between 1 to 2 percent of tests returning positive.

There were eight new cases confirmed Friday, the highest daily addition of cases since May 11. Overall, cases have been declining in Clark County since mid-April.
Clark County has 427 confirmed cases and 25 deaths — no new deaths have been reported since May 15.

For Clark County to receive Phase 2 approval, the county will need to show that its hospitals have a 14-day supply of personal protective equipment as well as adequate capacity for a resurgence of coronavirus cases. Both local hospitals submitted letters of support as part of the county’s application. There were seven people hospitalized for the virus Friday.

The county has met testing criteria for Phase 2, according to Melnick, and also has temporary quarantine housing for its unhoused population and those who live with immunosuppressed people.

The county will also utilize the help of the Public Health Institute, a California nonprofit, to bolster its case investigation and contact notification workforce. Those are key components to stopping outbreaks before they spiral out of control.

The application still has not been approved, so residents and business need to continue to follow Phase 1 protocol, according to Public Health.

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