PORT TOWNSEND — The Jefferson County Board of Health unanimously approved on Thursday allowing overnight camping to resume immediately in the county.
It also decided unanimously to recommend that public health officials submit a variance application to the state for the county to move to Phase 3 of Gov. Jay Inslee’s Safe Start plan on June 29.
The variance application recommendation for Phase 3 will go before the county commissioners at 1 p.m. today for final approval.
The idea behind delaying the application until June 29 is to give businesses time to prepare for the loosened restrictions and to clarify how food establishments can enforce county health officer Dr. Tom Locke’s face mask mandate.
One new case of COVID-19 was confirmed in Jefferson County on Thursday. The person was asymptomatic and was tested as a precaution before a dental procedure.
The total number of confirmed cases in Jefferson County is now 32, with 30 cases recovered, Locke said.
Overnight camping was originally put on hold until Clallam County reopened camping, but since the Clallam County Board of Health decided at its meeting Tuesday to hold off on reopening camping, the Jefferson County Board of Health members decided it was time to open camping in Jefferson County.
All Phase 3 activities would start if and when the state approves the application. Approval is expected two to three days after the application is submitted, Locke said.
“Risk can never be eliminated; it can only be controlled,” said Locke in his recommendation to the board of health. “The time will never be better than it is now to further open businesses and community activities.
“The warming weather and greater amount of time spent outdoors reduces the risk of virus transmission. The public health and medical care systems are prepared. Emergency management and volunteer networks are ready to respond,” Locke continued.
“Phase 3 will be an extraordinary challenge, more difficult than many imagine. But challenges are best met head on, not deferred.”
Board member and District 1 county Commissioner Kate Dean agreed with Locke’s assessment.
“I don’t think there’ll be a better time than now,” she said. “We have to use the data we have today to see if we can manage this.”
If the application is approved, Phase 3 would allow for outdoor group recreation and sports activities involving 50 or fewer people and recreational facilities — such as gyms and public pools — to open at less than 50 percent capacity.
Phase 3 also allows gatherings with no more than 50 people and the resumption of non-essential travel. It expands business/employer openings and allows restaurants/taverns to operate at 75 percent capacity with table sizes no larger than 10. Bar areas in restaurants/taverns can open at 25 percent capacity.
Theaters can open at 50 percent capacity. Customer-facing government services can resume,but telework remains strongly encouraged.
Libraries and museums can reopen. All other business activities not specifically mentioned under the previous phases can open, except for nightclubs and events with greater than 50 people.
However, high risk populations are strongly encouraged — but not required — to stay home unless engaging in Phase 1, 2 or 3 permissible activities, Locke said.
Jefferson County reporter Zach Jablonski can be reached by email at [email protected] or by phone at 360-385-2335 ext. 5