Clallam County blasts state’s reopening actions

PORT ANGELES — The Board of Clallam County Commissioners approved a letter Tuesday criticizing the state’s “Roadmap to Recovery Plan.”

The letter echoes the sentiments of the letter written by District 24 legislators Sen. Kevin Van De Wege and Reps. Steve Tharinger and Mike Chapman on Friday. The three legislators represent Clallam and Jefferson counties and part of Grays Harbor County.

“The Roadmap to Recovery Plan leaves Clallam County at a standstill without reason,” the letter said.

“Rather than supporting and encouraging our citizens and businesses who have been complying with health orders and practices — those who are protecting and promoting the public health — the Plan as it is being implemented actually discourages participation and causes undue anger and frustration,” commissioners said in the letter.

Gov. Jay Inslee announced Thursday changes to the Roadmap plan; regions meeting three out of four metrics could move into Phase 2. Because the metrics are considered in percentages, the Puget Sound and West regions are allowed to move forward while others with fewer cases, such as the North Olympic Peninsula, are not.

The frustration stems from counties like Snohomish, King and Pierce — three of the four primary drivers of COVID-19 infection in the state — moving forward, while Clallam and Jefferson counties with significantly lower transmission during the pandemic stay put, Dr. Allison Berry, Clallam County health officer, has said.

“We understand and have supported efforts to provide a unified response and we have echoed your messaging to help reduce confusion and promote the public health,” the letter said.

“However, as our delegation pointed out in their letter, our success is ignored when we are grouped arbitrarily with widely-dissimilar counties,” it continued, referring to the makeup of the recently defined regions, which has Clallam and Jefferson counties tied to outcomes in Kitsap and Mason counties.

“Something is wrong when ‘hot spot’ counties are allowed to move ahead with reopening while counties that have done well all along are penalized,” the letter said.

“This does grievous harm to our business community, adds confusion to the lives of parents and students and serves to build anger and frustration rather than encouraging all to work together to beat this virus.”

The draft of the letter included references to both Clallam and Jefferson counties, but the commissioners choose to remove the Jefferson County reference so as to not speak on its behalf.

The letter and meeting can be viewed at http://www.clallam.net/features/meetings.html.

As of Tuesday, the Jefferson Board of County Commissioners share the frustrations, but are not planning to send a letter, said Kate Dean, board chair. Instead, county commissioners are focusing efforts against the regionalization of public health that is being debated by the state Legislature, she said.

The two bills for replacing county health departments with regional hubs were introduced at the request of the governor.

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Jefferson County reporter Zach Jablonski can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 5, or at [email protected].

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