Jefferson County Board of Health approves variance plan

Commissioners voting today; Clallam officials working on plan

PORT TOWNSEND — The Jefferson County Board of Health unanimously approved the county health officer’s recommendations for a modified Phase 2, and the county commissioners will consider them for final approval today.

While Jefferson County is preparing to submit its application, Clallam County officials are garnering feedback from hospitals and the local tribes as they prepare their application to be viewed by the Clallam Board of Health next week.

The Jefferson Board of County Commissioners will meet at 2:30 p.m. today to consider final approval of the application.

They can not make changes to the application, only vote in favor or against. The meeting can be viewed at tinyurl.com/PDN-VarianceMeeting.

The total number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 on the North Olympic Peninsula held at 55 on Thursday, with 25 in Clallam County and 30 in Jefferson County, officials said.

No deaths due to the virus have been reported in either county.

The most recent case in Jefferson County was a resident who is being treated in Arizona. Since the person is a Jefferson resident, the case is added to the county’s total, said Dr. Tom Locke, Jefferson County health officer.

The four most recent cases in Clallam County are household members of the two cases that were confirmed last week. They contracted COVID-19 from a visiting King County resident, said Dr. Allison Unthank, Clallam County health officer.

Jefferson County’s Phase 2 variance application includes outdoor recreation involving fewer than five people outside of a household and excluding all overnight camping, gatherings with no more than five people outside of the household per week and masking encouraged if social distancing cannot be maintained.

Visitors from high-prevalence areas are strongly discouraged. Graduation activities that are consistent with the Phase 2 limitations and state guidance criteria, including use of drive-in theater facilities, are specifically allowed.

Opening the Wheel-in Drive-in for films is still unclear, Locke said Thursday morning.

“It’s not mentioned as a Phase 2 activity,” Locke said. “Movie theaters are definitely mentioned as a Phase 3 activity, so we’re going to have to get a determination from the state.

“It is not a local decision. If the state allows drive-in movie theaters under Phase 2, I don’t have any issue with that.”

Essential travel and limited nonessential travel for Phases 1 and 2 are permissible activities under the recommendations. Out-of-area tourism is strongly discouraged until a Regional Phase 2 implementation.

Businesses such as manufacturing (non-essential repair, maritime industry and others), additional construction phases, in-home domestic services (nannies, housecleaning, etc.), professional services/office-based business (telework strongly encouraged), pet grooming (pre-existing customers), hair and nail salons/barbers (pre-existing customers).

Overnight camping will be allowed when Clallam County implements Phase 2. Activities such as sit -down service in restaurants, expanded real estate and in-store retail purchases will be allowed once both Clallam and Kitsap counties implement Phase 2.

Unthank is organizing the application for Clallam County. On Thursday, she was reaching out to the local hospitals to make sure they’re prepared for a possible surge in cases and to tribes for their perspectives.

She plans to present the Clallam Board of Health with a recommendation for a full Phase 2 opening that potentially would start on June 1, she said.

The Phase 2 would correspond to Gov. Jay Inslee’s plan.

“I think the decision about what industries and what activities fall into each phase were made with a lot of deliberation and I think it would be reasonable to follow that guidance,” Unthank said.

However, if Clallam has two more confirmed cases within the next week, it will be ineligible to apply for Phase 2, said Unthank.

Initially the entirety of the state was planned to move to Phase 2 on June 1.

However Locke and Unthank believe that will be delayed, and Locke doesn’t expect places to start opening into Phase 3 until July.

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

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