Submitted by the Washington State Department of Health and the Office of Governor Jay Inslee

Today Washington State Secretary of Health John Wiesman approved the variance applications for Adams, Grays Harbor, Lewis, and Spokane counties to move into Phase 2 of Gov. Jay Inslee’s Safe Start plan.

A total of 14 counties have now been approved to move to Phase 2: Adams, Asotin, Columbia, Garfield, Grays Harbor, Lincoln, Lewis, Ferry, Pend Orielle, Skamania, Spokane, Stevens, Wahkiakum, and Whitman.

Eleven counties are eligible to apply for a variance to move to Phase 2: Clallam, Clark, Cowlitz, Grant, Island, Jefferson, Kitsap, Mason, Pacific, San Juan, and Thurston.

Kittitas County’s application is on pause until Tuesday, May 26 due to an outbreak investigation.

Businesses approved to move into Phase 2 must comply with all health and safety requirements outlined in the guidance to reopen.

To apply for a variance, counties must have an average of less than 10 new cases per 100,000 residents over a 14-day period. The application process requires support from the local health officer, the local board of health, local hospitals, and the county commission/council.

Each county must demonstrate they have adequate local hospital bed capacity as well as adequate PPE supplies to keep health care workers safe. The application must include plans for:

  • Making testing available and accessible to everyone in the county with symptoms.
  • Staffing case investigations and contact tracing.
  • Housing people in isolation or quarantine who can’t or don’t want to do so at home.
  • Providing case management services to those in isolation and quarantine.
  • Responding rapidly to outbreaks in congregate settings.

The variance requests are reviewed by the secretary of health, who can approve the plans as submitted, approve with modifications or deny the application. If circumstances change within the jurisdiction, the variance can be revoked.

Learn more about county variances and the statewide response to COVID-19 at coronavirus.wa.gov.

Individuals can also find COVID-19 information on the Department of Health’s website or call 1-800-525-0127. Individuals can text the word “coronavirus” to 211-211 to receive information and updates on their phone wherever they are.

Gov. Jay Inslee released a statement today after the Washington State Department of Health’s announcement.

“We are making good progress as we continue to open Washington in segments. Currently, one-third of our state is now eligible to move into Phase 2. We are hard at work to determine next steps as we move closer to the May 31 expiration of my current order. As I have repeatedly said before, these are decisions that are driven by public health data and science, not the calendar.

“To be clear: this does not mean that we will be able to open every county in the state on June 1. Counties that continue to have large numbers of infections are not in a position to open up stores, restaurants and services safely. 

“As we move into the three-day weekend, I urge Washingtonians to keep working diligently to protect your families and communities. Please continue to physically distance, spend time with those in your household and stay close to where you live. We have made tremendous progress in this fight and I know this has been extremely difficult for everyone. Our collective efforts have protected health and saved lives.”

Background: Two week incidence by county (as of 5/22/2020)

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