Timeline set for early Phase 2 application in Jefferson County

Officials to gather input from stakeholders

PORT TOWNSEND — Jefferson County elected officials have created a timeline for the decisions for the Phase 2 variance process to take place.

Jefferson County is one of 10 counties in the state that Gov. Jay Inslee has granted permission to apply for a waiver that would allow the county to move into parts of Phase 2 of Inslee’s four-part plan before the state as a whole does.

Thursday evening the county Board of Health, county commissioners and Port Townsend City Council conducted a joint meeting discussing what Phase 2 could look like and the timeline moving forward.


To apply for a variance, county health officer Tom Locke makes a recommendation to the board of health about what parts (if any) of phase two to implement and then the board of health discusses it, weighs the community concerns and approves/disapproves it then it goes before the county commissioners for final approval, however the county commissioners can not make changes to it, said Locke.

Another factor in the application process is that Jefferson Healthcare must have adequate testing capabilities, enough bed space to handle a possible COVID-19 surge and a personal protective equipment (PPE) stock to cover at least seven days, Locke said.

According to Mike Glen, Jefferson Healthcare CEO, the hospital has 60 inpatient beds available, an established COVID-19 PPE stock that would cover 21 days of an anticipated high COVID and emergency room patient volume and has testing capabilities to test about 50 patients a day starting this week, Glen said.

Glen believes that Jefferson Healthcare meets the standards set by the state.

Locke emphasized that he wants to avoid increasing the possibility of tourism in the county, as it could cause a rise in COVID-19 cases.

“The line is really drawn based on how it might drive tourism,” Locke said. “How being the first adopter of a particular opening would drive tourism in a way that is undesirable at this point. That’s going to be the main criteria.

“I see my role in this in being kind of the dispassionate infectious disease analyst and analyze things from that standpoint and not really to weigh the community concerns about individual benefit and personal benefit.

“Right now, we’re in a pandemic emergency and my first and foremost duty is to prevent transmission of this dangerous disease, so that really strongly effects my perspective on this at this point.”

Jefferson County has a large population of people vulnerable to COVID-19, with many over the age of 65 and/or with chronic health conditions that put them more at risk of complications if infected with COVID-19, Locke said.

“This is a very fragile status that we’re in,” Locke said. “We’re only 56 miles away from the most population dense area — and the epicenter for the COVID-19 outbreak — in Washington state.

“We have successfully flattened the curve in Jefferson County…we’re in much better position than we were a month ago.”

Officials are gathering written public comment through the county’s public comment email publiccomments@co.jefferson.wa.us.


Locke is expected to present his recommendations by Tuesday on what he believes the county could open safely.

On Thursday, the Board of Health will have a special meeting to process Locke’s recommendation.

On May 18 or May 19 will be a joint meeting with officials of the county, Port Townsend City Council, Port of Port Townsend, Jefferson Public Utility District, and possibly such business organizations as the Economic Development Council, the Chamber of Commerce and the Fort Worden Public Development Authority.

On May 21, the Board of Health could consider action on applying for a variance. If it is approved then, the plan would go before to county commissioners on May 25, who would have the final approval or disapproval, but no changes to the plan can be made by them.

The full Thursday joint-meeting can be viewed at tinyurl.com/PDN-JointCovidMeeting.


Jefferson County reporter Zach Jablonski can be reached at zjablonski@peninsuladailynews.com.

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