Skagit County Board of Health, Unified Command Ask Governor Inslee to reevaluate eligibility requirements and consider Phase 2 variance for Skagit County
The Skagit County Board of Health Friday sent a letter to Governor Inslee asking that he consider a Phase 2 variance for Skagit County. Skagit County Unified Command, Mayors of all eight Skagit County cities and towns, and First Responders sent letters in support of the Board of Health’s request. Text of all the letters can be found online at www.skagitcounty.net/countycommissioners.
Members of the Skagit County Board of Health include Chair Ron Wesen, Commissioner Ken Dahlstedt, Commissioner Lisa Janicki, and Dr. Connie Davis.
On May 19, 2020, Governor Inslee announced eligibility requirements for counties with populations over 75,000 to apply for variance under the Safe Start plan and move to Phase 2 ahead of the rest of the State. A key requirement to apply is that a County must have fewer than 10 new cases per 100,000 residents over a 14 day period. For Skagit County, this means no more than 13 new cases over 14 days.
“Governor Inslee has made a lot of tough decisions during the COVID-19 pandemic, and we’re thankful for his leadership,” said Chair Ron Wesen, “but his eligibility requirements to be able to apply for a variance should not be weighed more heavily than public health readiness. We’re asking he reconsider this eligibility requirement. We are preparing an application for review now.”
“We don’t contest that Governor Inslee has the authority to put these restrictions in place, and we appreciate that he swiftly exercised his authority when the crisis became apparent, but now is the time to begin thinking about the long term sustainability of these restrictions,” said Commissioner Dahlstedt. “Skagit County businesses and residents can’t survive under these prolonged closures. If the Public Health Department feels that we can safely move to Phase 2, then I fully support that. They’re the experts in our local situation.”
“Our Public Health Department is one of the best in the State,” said Commissioner Lisa Janicki. “We are so proud of the work they’ve done to slow the spread of COVID-19 and how they’ve kept the County on the forefront of response efforts. I am completely confident in Public Health and Dr. Howard Leibrand’s evaluation that Skagit County is ready to safely move to Phase 2.”
Skagit County has led the State in contact tracing, disease investigation and response efforts. On March 10, 2020, Dr. Howard Leibrand was one of the first to issue a recommendation urging that residents practice considerable social distancing to slow the spread of COVID-19. This recommendation came ahead of a similar recommendation later made by the State. Further, since day one of the pandemic, Skagit County Public Health has been able to provide contact tracing and disease investigation to every identified case of COVID-19 in Skagit County, without outside assistance.
“We are doing far better than certain state Department of Health metrics would suggest,” said Skagit County Public Health Officer Dr. Howard Leibrand. "For example, we have been and will continue to do robust contact tracing and case investigation. We also have the testing capacity and hospital availability in place to safely move to Phase 2. Continued progress toward this goal requires us to wear masks wherever we go – this would substantially reduce transmission.”
Moving forward to Phase 2 would allow for some additional non-essential activities to resume including reopening the remaining manufacturers, in-store retail, hair and nail salons, and restaurants and taverns at 50 percent capacity. Phase 2 would also allow for outdoor recreation or gathering with five or fewer people who are not part of your immediate household.
“Our Public Health team is already proactively connecting with businesses to ensure they understand and have what they need to reopen safely using good physical distancing and hygiene,” said Public Health Director Jennifer Johnson. “We’re ready to move to Phase 2 which allows for additional limited activities. But please remember, this holiday weekend, we must continue to resist the urge to gather in groups and do everything we can to protect ourselves and our loved ones from COVID-19. A resumption of regular activity is still not safe.”
Phase 2 does not mean a total lifting of restrictions. Many portions of Stay Home, Stay Healthy must remain in place. You should still practice good physical distancing, wear a mask in public and wash your hands frequently with soap and water.