Clark County applies to move to Phase 3 of reopening

A decision could come as soon as this weekend

Clark County Public Health on Friday afternoon submitted an application to Washington Secretary of Health John Wiesman seeking to move into the third phase of Gov. Jay Inslee’s four-phased Safe Start reopening plan.

The letter comes at the end of a week which saw Clark County’s number of confirmed COVID-19 cases surge by 73 cases since last Friday.

Clark County has seen 73 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the past week. The most since an outbreak at Firestone Pacific Foods in Vancouver in late May. Photo courtesy Clark County Public Health Department
Clark County has seen 73 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the past week. The most since an outbreak at Firestone Pacific Foods in Vancouver in late May. Photo courtesy Clark County Public Health Department

Despite the increase, the application noted that Clark County has had 19.45 cases per 100,000 people in the past 14 days (beginning six days ago to allow for any lag in reporting). That’s below the state’s threshold of 25 new cases per 100,000 residents.

The county also has an adequate number of hospital beds available to withstand an influx of new patients. As of Friday, 65 percent of licensed hospital beds were occupied. As of June 25, there were 23 confirmed or suspected COVID-19 cases in Clark County hospitals, representing 3.4 percent of filled bed space.

Each hospital also submitted a letter affirming that they have at least a 14 day supply of personal protective equipment, including N-95 respirators, surgical masks, face shields, gowns, and gloves.

Clark County is also meeting state metrics for testing, with an average of 417 per day, with fewer than two percent of those testing positive.

There is ground to be made up when it comes to case investigation and contact notification, the application admits, with 63 percent of new cases reached by phone or in person within 24 hours, compared to the 90 percent benchmark set by the state. 61 percent of close contacts are being reached within 48 hours, which is below the 80 percent metric.

Clark County signed a $9.1 million contract with The Public Health Institute in early May to assist with contact notification. Public Health also has 19 full-time staff doing case investigations, along with 17 temporary employees and six volunteers. The Public Health Institute has 23 people currently working to do contact notification, and is expected to add 10 more in the next four weeks.

That would put Clark County at 76 full-time people trained to do case investigations and contact notification, which is above the threshold of 74 mandated by the state.

The application also noted that Clark County has a 54-room hotel available to house members of the homeless population who may become infected. The Motel 6 can house up to 108 people through the end of October. As of June 24, only one person was in isolation at the hotel.

The county has also provided groceries for 39 households being asked to self-isolate, along with rental assistance for 37 people, and utilities assistance for 12.

Friday marks three weeks since Clark County’s delayed approval for Phase 2 of reopening was approved. The state mandates at least three weeks between phases.

No timeline for a decision was given, though counties have received approval during the weekend.

Gov. Jay Inslee’s four-phased Safe Start program to reopen Washington state. Image courtesy Gov. Jay Inslee
Gov. Jay Inslee’s four-phased Safe Start program to reopen Washington state. Image courtesy Gov. Jay Inslee

Under Phase 3, gyms, public pools, and movie theaters could open at half capacity. Dine-in service at restaurants and taverns increases to 75 percent capacity, with table sizes limited to 10 people. Bars would also be able to reopen at 25 percent of normal capacity.

Larger public gatherings are also permitted under Phase 3, including gatherings of up to 50 people, and more outdoor recreation. Libraries, museums, and customer-facing government buildings would also be allowed to reopen.

About The Author

Chris Brown comes to Clark County Today with 15 years of local news experience as a reporter, editor, and anchor at KXL News Radio and KOIN-6 TV in Portland. In 2016, he won an Oregon Association of Broadcaster's award for Best Investigative Reporting for a series on America's Violent Youth. He has also been awarded by the Associated Press for Best Breaking News coverage as editor of Portland's Morning News following the 2015 school shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon. The second oldest of eight home-schooled children, Brown graduated from high school two years early. After several odd jobs, he earned an internship at KXL Radio, eventually working his way into a full-time job. Brown has lived in Clark County his entire life, and is very excited at the opportunity to now focus full-time on the significant stories happening in his own back yard, rather than across “the river.’’ After a few years in Vancouver, he recently moved back to Battle Ground with his wife and two young daughters. When he's not working to report what's happening in Clark County, Brown enjoys spending time with his family, playing music, taking pictures, or working in the yard. He also actually does enjoy long walks on the beach, and sunsets.

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