Clallam County has been approved to enter Phase 2 of Gov. Jay Inslee’s “Safe Start” plan beginning Monday.
Clallam County Health Officer Dr. Allison Unthank received notification on Thursday afternoon after she sent additional paperwork to the state earlier in the morning.
The shift will allow restaurants to open with 50 percent capacity, in-store retail at 30 percent capacity and indoor religious services at 25 percent capacity up to 50 people, among other loosening of restrictions designed to slow the spread of COVID-19.
“As we begin reopening, the lessons we have learned about how to protect ourselves and others from COVID-19 will become even more important,” Unthank said.
“We have accomplished great things together in this response, and I know that we can continue to protect ourselves and our community as we move into this next phase.”
Once Clallam enters Phase 2, it will activate a health officer’s mandate in neighboring Jefferson County.
Dr. Tom Locke announced Thursday a mandate to require anyone entering businesses in Jefferson County to wear a face covering.
Employees of businesses open under Phase 2 are required to wear masks under the state guidelines, Unthank and Locke said.
In-store shopping and sit-down restaurants are allowed under Phase 2 in a limited capacity. However, the Jefferson Board of Health decided to wait to enter that portion of the phase until Clallam and Kitsap counties did to limit an influx of tourists by having a larger number of options available in the region.
Kitsap County was approved and entered Phase 2 Thursday morning.
The face mask mandate is to protect those newly reopening businesses, Locke said.
“The business owners have a right to restrict access to businesses,” Locke said. “So, if someone tried to enter a building without permission from a shop owner or was unwilling to follow those guidelines, the proper thing for the business owner to do would be to call the police or the sheriff.
Not wearing a mask and demanding to enter a business would be “violating a businesses’s right to follow the health officer’s order,” Locke said.
Locke said people who violate the order would be violating the nuisance laws of the city and county. However, Locke could impose a criminal penalty of a misdemeanor later on, if people refuse to follow the order.
“My expectation is people will follow these requirements,” he said. “It’s for their protection, and it’s also for the protection of the workers. It’s just unacceptable that business owners and their employees are subjected to the increased risks that an unmasked person would create by entering their work space.
“So, we expect people to abide by this, but if they don’t, and we find that this approach is ineffective, then the next step would be to assess criminal misdemeanor charges,” Locke continued.
“Our reason for doing this is a health reason. This is not about individual liberty or individual right to wear a mask or not wear a mask. It’s about these efforts we are taking to control a deadly communicable disease.”
While Unthank also strongly urges people to wear masks while indoors, she said she does not plan to make it a requirement in Clallam County.
As of Thursday, the number of confirmed cases between the two counties held at 55, with 30 confirmed in Jefferson County and 25 confirmed in Clallam County, officials said.
Twenty-eight cases have recovered in Jefferson County and 19 have recovered in Clallam County.
When Clallam County enters Phase 2, Unthank said it will be important that people still follow the restrictions in place and continue to wear masks and practice social distancing when possible.
“One of the biggest things that we want to do is make sure that we don’t see a significant rise in cases as we move toward Phase 2,” Unthank said.
“So really, advising folks on how to open businesses as safely as possible, which includes — even though we want people to start frequenting these businesses — to really think about making sure you’re safe as you do so.
“This includes not going out when you’re sick, when you do go to businesses, keeping that safe physical distance as much as possible, and washing your hands frequently. I think if we all do that well, we should reduce the number of cases that we get in Phase 2.”
Activities and businesses that are allowed in Phase 2 include restaurants and taverns at 50 percent capacity, hair and nail salons/barbers, in-store retail at 30 percent capacity, remaining manufacturing, remaining construction, in-home/domestic services, pet grooming, professional services/office-based businesses (telework still strongly encouraged), real estate, indoor religious services at 25 percent capacity up to 50 people, and gatherings with up to five people from outside your household per week, Unthank said.
The only Phase 2 activity that will not be allowed in either county is overnight camping. Clallam County chose to hold off on opening that activity until the rest of the state is in Phase 2. Jefferson County will not open overnight camping until Clallam does, Locke said.
Both counties have been working with local business owners to help them be able to open, while keeping themselves, their employees and customers safe, officials said.
Jefferson County reporter Zach Jablonski can be reached by email at email@example.com.