Restaurants, churches, salons, and other businesses can now reopen with some limitations
CLARK COUNTY — Washington State Secretary of Health John Wiesman announced on Friday that Clark County is among 14 additional counties allowed to begin Phase 2 of the governor’s four-phased Safe Start reopening plan.
Businesses and industries eligible to reopen in Phase 2 include hair and nail salons, barbershops, real estate, pet grooming and new construction, among others. Retail stores can open for in-store purchases and restaurants can resume dine-in services at half capacity, and a limit of no more than five people per table.
The state has set up guidelines for businesses allowed to reopen in Phase 2, which can be found here.
Churches will now be allowed to hold services inside with a maximum attendance of 25 percent of the building’s capacity, or 50 people, whichever is less. Also, now in Phase 2, religious groups would be allowed to provide in-home services for as many as five people.
Councilor John Blom, in an email to Clark County Today, said he was “very excited” for people to be able to start getting back to work.
“This is progress and something to be excited about, but we still have work to do,” Blom added. “There are people that won’t get back to work until phase 3, so as a community we need to continue to do everything we can to protect ourselves and those around us.”
“Finally!” added Councilor Julie Olson. “This is great news for our community.”
Olson also noted the hard work of Clark County Public Health in responding to the outbreak at Firestone Pacific Foods in Vancouver, which had added 126 cases to the county’s COVID-19 total as of Thursday (eight of the employees who tested positive live outside of Clark County).
The news also comes one day after Public Health announced that five employees at Pacific Crest Building Supply in Ridgefield had tested positive for COVID-19, prompting another potential outbreak investigation.
The outbreak in Ridgefield is not expected to be nearly as large as the Firestone situation, largely due to the fact that Pacific Crest Building Supply, which makes RidgeCrest custom cabinets, has a much smaller workforce.
“I’m thinking our numbers are looking pretty good the last few weeks,” said Councilor Gary Medvigy in an interview with Clark County Today. “We know that we’re going to be having these outbreaks from time to time, and the crucible in it is how we react to it and how we contain it.”
Given the quick ramp-up expected by Public Health in the number of people to investigate new cases and reach out to close contacts, Medvigy said he remains hopeful that the county can more quickly move to Phase 3.
Under the governor’s current guidelines, Clark County would be eligible to apply for Phase 3 no sooner than three weeks from today, though Medvigy said the state has shown increasing flexibility when it comes to allowing for local control of reopening.
“Onward and upward, if you will,” said Medvigy, who is running for reelection this November. “I want to start advocating right away for the third phase.”
Phase 2 also eases restrictions on public gatherings, though not by much. People are now allowed to see up to five people per week outside of their immediate household. Oregon’s Phase 2 approach allows for up to 25 people indoors, and 100 outside.
“As people resume activities outside of the home, it’s important to continue taking precautions to keep yourself and others in the community healthy,” said Dr. Alan Melnick, Clark County health officer and Public Health director. “The virus hasn’t gone away. We need to stay vigilant to prevent COVID-19 transmission from increasing in our community.”
A total of 26 Washington counties are now in Phase 2, with seven in Phase 3. King County was permitted to move to a modified version of Phase 1 on Friday, with some businesses allowed to resume operations.
The metrics for moving from one phase to another include new cases, with the limit ideally at no more than 25 per 100,000 of population over the past two weeks. Hospital capacity, testing bandwidth, contact tracing, and the protection of high risk populations are also included.
On Thursday the governor announced the launch of a new Safe Start dashboard, allowing people to see where individual counties are.
Masks required starting next week
As of June 8, the state is requiring all employers in the state to have employees wear face coverings, as long as they are interacting with each other or the public. Businesses are also being asked to encourage customers to wear masks inside.
The Department of Labor and Industry (L&I) has put out a guide called “Which Mask for Which Task?” which you can view by clicking here.
“We know that choosing the correct face covering, mask or respirator can be confusing. It’s a new experience for most employers and people on the job,” said L&I Assistant Director Anne Soiza in a release on Friday. “This guidance should help employers and workers understand the risk level for various tasks, and make the right choice to protect workers from the coronavirus. Employers needing assistance can call on our statewide consultants for help.”