Businesses can start up within guidelines; camping, social gathering also okay to a point
WHATCOM — For the first time since mid-March, Whatcom County residents can go to the barbershop or sit down to eat in a restaurant.
Whatcom County officially moved into Phase 2 of Gov. Jay Inslee’s Safe Start plan effective Friday, June 5, according to press releases from both the state and county health department.
Phase 2 allows many businesses to reopen, provided they comply with all health and safety requirements outlined in the state’s set of reopening guidelines.
The phased approach is part of Inslee’s data-driven plan for reopening Washington while minimizing the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Counties must apply to move from phase to phase, four in all, and Whatcom County submitted its Phase 2 application on Tuesday.
Whatcom was one of six counties approved to move into Phase 2, along with Skagit, Snohomish, Pierce, Okanogan and Clark. King County moves into a modified Phase 1, while Columbia, Ferry, Garfield, Lincoln, Pend Oreille, Stevens and Wahkiakum counties were approved to move from Phase 2 to Phase 3.
Allowed in Phase 2:
• Small social gatherings, inside or outside, as long as you don’t see more than five people in a week who you don’t live with.
• Outdoor recreation like camping, as long as it involves five or fewer people from outside your household. (Check with campgrounds and recreation facilities for any additional rules and restrictions.)
• More businesses and services, with restrictions, including remaining manufacturing and construction activity, domestic services such as nannies and house cleaners, retail stores, real estate services, professional services, nail salons, barbers and pet grooming.
• Restaurant reopening to 50% capacity, and no more than five at a table, but without bar seating.
“We’re incredibly pleased to be able to begin the process of reopening businesses and reuniting with friends and family safely,” said Whatcom County Health Department Director Erika Lautenbach. “Our community has been through so much and sacrificed a lot to protect the health and lives of our neighbors, and our department is working closely with businesses and our economic development partners so we can move together safely into this new phase.”
Healthy habits will continue to be very important to prevent outbreaks as residents begin to gather, shop and go out to restaurants, Lautenbach said. Moving into Phase 2 means there are now more opportunities for disease transmission. “It is imperative everyone continues to do their part by practicing social distancing, wearing face coverings, washing hands frequently, and adhering to the Phase 2 guidelines,” she said.
Everyone is urged to continue to: stay six feet away from other people outside their household; wear a cloth face covering in public; practice frequent handwashing and use hand sanitizer.
Whatcom County will need to successfully remain in Phase 2 for three weeks before applying for Phase 3. It’s possible to see a return to Phase 1 restrictions if there is a significant increase in cases or other benchmarks are not maintained.
Each county must demonstrate having adequate local hospital bed capacity as well as adequate PPE supplies to keep health care workers safe. The metric goals for moving between phases are intended to be applied as targets, not hardline measures. Where one target is not fully achieved, actions taken with a different target may offset a county’s overall risk, the state says