The Jefferson County Board of Health members each gave a thumbs up showing agreement with county health officer Dr. Tom Locke’s Phase 2 variance recommendations during their Thursday, May 14, 2020, evening special meeting.

The Jefferson County Board of Health members each gave a thumbs up showing agreement with county health officer Dr. Tom Locke’s Phase 2 variance recommendations during their Thursday, May 14, 2020, evening special meeting.

Jefferson Board of Health supports, but does not approve, pursuing variance

Meetings this week to work through application

PORT TOWNSEND — Members of the Jefferson County Board of Health supported, without taking action, on pursuing a waiver from the state for the county to enter Phase 2 before most counties do.

The Board of Health discussed county health officer Dr. Tom Locke’s recommendation regarding what Phase 2 activities the county could safely open early during a special meeting Thursday evening.

Jefferson County is one of the rural counties approved by Gov. Jay Inslee’s Office as eligible to apply for a variance and enter Phase 2 before the other counties in the state. Clallam County was not included on that list. Nine counties have had their variance waiver applications approved already.

Locke outlined his recommendations, ranking the items that Phase 2 includes by high benefit/low risk, medium benefit/medium risk and low benefit/higher risk.

Among the high benefit/low risk category was manufacturing (non-essential repair, maritime industry, and others), additional construction phases, in-home domestic services (nannies, housecleaning, etc.), professional services/office-based business that are not tourism oriented with telework still strongly encouraged, and pet grooming for local customers only.

Among the medium benefit/medium risk category was outdoor activity with five or fewer people (no overnight camping), indoor gathering with five people and hair and nail salons/barbers open to local customers only.

Among the low benefit/high risk category was outdoor activity with five or fewer people involving overnight camping (RV or campgrounds), restaurants with sit down service, real estate (beyond current permitted activities), pet grooming (out-of-area clients), hair and nail salons/barbers (out-of-area clients) and in-store retail purchases.

Locke’s recommendation is to apply for all of the high-benefit and medium-benefit activities, clarifying at the meeting Thursday that while camping with members of one’s household is one of the safer activities, it could cause a influx of tourism, which the county wants to avoid at this time, Locke said.

The board largely supported the recommendations made by Locke, with a few suggesting wording changes such as local customers to pre-existing customers of salons and barber shops, so to avoid adopting a local-versus-tourist mindset.

“We want to discourage an us-versus-them attitude,” said Pam Adams, board ember. “We are a welcoming community and we want to continue to be a welcoming community after this.”

Locke was directed to get more information on opening of the Wheel-in-Motor Movie in Port Townsend. He will work to make sure drive-ins are included in Phase 2 and that the owner of the Wheel-In has prepared additional sanitation practices.

Port Townsend and Chimacum high schools have put forward the idea of using the drive-in for their high school graduations in June.

“[Opening the drive-in is] something I think could be done safely, but it’s really a state determination,” said Locke in an interview earlier Thursday.

While high school graduations aren’t scheduled until mid-June, Locke does not see the state moving to Phase 2 as a whole until June 11, which would be an extension to the preliminary June 1 date that officials initially have said.

The next part of the process for the applying for a variance waiver is a joint meeting at 5 p.m. Tuesday that will be with the Board of Health, the county commissioners, the Port Townsend City Council, the Jefferson Public Utility District and the Port of Port Townsend. The meeting will be live-streamed and can be watched by going to www.co.jefferson.wa.us and then under “Quick Links” clicking “videos of meetings” and then going to the “streaming live” section.

Also at that meeting will be reports from Jefferson County community stakeholders such as the Economic Development Council, the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce, the North Hood Canal Chamber of Commerce and the Fort Worden Public Development Authority.

Following that meeting will be another Board of Health meeting from 2:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Thursday, where the board is expected to take action on approving the application for variance.

If the Board of Health does take action on Thursday, the application must go before the county commissioners for final approval.

If the county commissioners approve the application, then it will go to the state Board of Health, which will have the final say if the county can move forward into Phase 2 or not.

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Jefferson County reporter Zach Jablonski can be reached at [email protected].

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