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Snohomish County Council votes to authorize variance application

The Snohomish County Council voted unanimously on Friday to authorize the county to move forward with submitting a variance application for moving into phase two of Gov. Inslee’s “Safe Start” reopening plan.

The vote follows a joint announcement on Thursday by Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers, Board of Health Chair Stephanie Wright, and County Council Chair Nate Nehring that they intended to apply for a variance.

The Snohomish Health District and its partners have succeeded in preserving the health and safety of thousands in Snohomish County,” said Chair Wright in a statement. β€œIt is now time for us to move into Phase II and re-start our economy. I will be proposing that the Board of Health consider a variance on Friday.”

In order to move to phase two, the governor’s criteria requires that fewer than 10 new cases per 100,000 residents over a two-week span are recorded. That figure in Snohomish County would translate to 82 or fewer cases in 14 days, or about six per day.

In that time span, however, the county reported 240 new cases.

According to the Everett Herald’s reporting, Snohomish County officials believe they can satisfy the governor’s criteria if irregular outbreaks, such as those at assisted living facilities, are excluded from the total.

Snohomish County Councilmember and Democratic state representative Jared Mead wrote in an Instagram post on Thursday that the Council reached its position based on the recommendation of Snohomish County Health Officer, Dr. Chris Spitter.

Snohomish County Health Officer Dr. Chris Spitter and his team are who we have relied on for accurate, science based, Snohomish County specific COVID information since the start of this crisis. He and his team are best equipped to understand our local situation here in Snohomish County. Based on the data, he has declared us ready and recommended we start easing into Phase 2.”

Dr. Spitter released a statement underscoring his confidence that Snohomish County was prepared to move forward with the next phase of reopening:

Things are moving in the right direction, and we believe that we currently have the infrastructure, plans, and partnerships in place to enter phase two with reasonable confidence that we can continue to suppress the transmission of the virus.”

On May 19, the Department of Health issued instructions on how counties can apply for a variance to move from Phase 1 to Phase 2 of the Safe Start Plan.

The applications process begins with the local public health officer submitting a signed recommendation to the local board of health which is subsequently presented to the County Council before a vote.

After being approved by the Council, the application will head to the Washington State Secretary of Health for final approval.

The following types of business are permitted to reopen during phase two:

  • In-home/domestic services (nannies, housecleaning, etc.)
  • Retail (in-store purchases allowed with restrictions)
  • Real estate
  • Professional services/office-based businesses,
  • Hair and nail salons/barbers,
  • Pet grooming,
  • Restaurants/taverns at less than 50% capacity and table size no larger than 5 (no bar-area seating).

Gov. Inslee has indicated that benchmarks could be altered to make it easier for larger counties to enter the next stage. He is scheduled to deliver a press conference on COVID-19 later this afternoon.

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