PORT TOWNSEND — Jefferson County hair and nail salons are expected to open this week to pre-existing customers by appointment as the county begins Phase 2 of Gov. Jay Inslee’s four-phase reopening plan.
Clallam County might not be far behind.
Officials have a pair of public meetings Wednesday — first the Board of Health, then the county commissioners — to determine whether or not the county is ready to apply to the state for a Phase 2 variance.
While Jefferson County was part of the original 10 counties eligible to apply for the variance earlier this month, Clallam County was added last week.
Jefferson County was approved by the state on Saturday less than 24 hours after it applied.
Now as businesses begin to reopen, they’re required to follow the state guidelines, and Jefferson County wants to leave policy enforcement with the state, said Greg Brotherton, chair of the Board of Jefferson County Commissioners.
Guidelines include maintaining 6 feet of separation between employees and customers or clients when possible, and they require employees to wear cloth face coverings.
The full guidelines can be found at tinyurl.com/PDN-StateBusinessGuidelines.
“There’s no local validation that is legally necessary or anything for opening under Phase 2, but you just have to make sure you meet those state guidelines,” Brotherton said.
The county is working with the Chamber of Jefferson County to create a program to help businesses as they open, he added.
Brotherton also expects Dr. Tom Locke, the Jefferson County health officer, to implement a face mask order similar to King County, which requires them to be worn inside businesses.
“It can be difficult for staff to have to ask customers to mask up when they come in,” Brotherton said.
Locke implementing a health officer’s order “would give a little validation, a little weight to the need to have customers mask when they come into stores,” Brotherton said.
“Even with a mask mandate, it’s going to be kind of a good-neighbor mandate where it’s law enforcement would educate a heck of a lot of times before they gave some sort of violation,” he added.
“This is a delicate dance that we’re entering, but I’m optimistic that we have a good community to responsibly do it.”
Phase 2 includes 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, with no walk-ins).
No new cases in either county were reported over Memorial Day weekend. Clallam County remains at 25 reported cases and Jefferson County at 30. Jefferson has not had a new case in-county for several weeks now, while Clallam County had four new cases last week.
If Clallam County submits an application for a Phase 2 waiver this week, it could be considered very quickly. Jefferson County’s approval went into effect immediately and some businesses were able to open for existing customers Sunday.
Locke said Monday he hadn’t heard any concerns or problems about the limited reopenings.
“Jefferson County was very deliberative,” he said. “There was a lot of community discussion. Maybe that’s why people are so well-informed.”
Much, but not all, of the state of Washington is expected to move to Phase 2 COVID-19 restrictions June 1. Phase 2 allows the opening of some businesses, including the limited opening of restaurants, although Jefferson County is not opening restaurants yet.
The Clallam County Board of Health will have a discussion at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday on a request for a waiver to move to Phase 2 early. The Board of Health’s recommendations will be forwarded to the Clallam County Board of Commissioners, which is meeting at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday.
Those meetings can be viewed online at tinyurl.com/clallamcomtng.
Clallam County Undersheriff Ron Cameron doesn’t anticipate a big change in county enforcement if Clallam’s request for a waiver is approved as quickly as Jefferson’s.
“Our emphasis is on education rather than enforcement,” Cameron said. “We’re not going to write tickets. Education has worked so far.”
Clallam’s decision has a direct effect on Jefferson, which is waiting for both Clallam and Kitsap counties to be approved for Phase 2 waivers before it allows indoor dining or camping, which normally would be allowed in Phase 2.
Locke said one immediate effect if Clallam County gets approved for Phase 2 later this week is Jefferson County will allow camping at county facilities. He said U.S. National Forest camping in Jefferson County would also be approved then, but not at state park campgrounds.
However, Jefferson County will wait until both Clallam and Kitsap counties get Phase 2 approvals before it allows limited indoor dining to avoid a crush of visitors going to Jefferson to dine in, Locke said.
He said Kitsap may decide on moving forward with a variance application as early as Thursday, a day after Clallam’s meetings.
Locke said if Jefferson avoids any outbreaks “and all goes to plan,” the county may be able to move to Phase 3 in three weeks. That would allow more businesses to open and restaurants and bars to open with more capacity.
“Most areas along the I-5 corridor will be able to move to Phase 3 in late June or early July,” he said.
However, Locke is less sure about whether the state will be able to soon move to Phase 4, which would allow large gatherings such as concerts and nightclubs, etc., without a vaccine for COVID-19.
Jefferson County will have a COVID-19 update at the county commissioners’ meeting at 9:45 a.m. today. It can be viewed at tinyurl.com/jeffcomeeting.
Jefferson County reporter Zach Jablonski can be reached by email at [email protected].
Sports editor Pierre LaBossiere can be reached by email at [email protected].