TACOMA, Wash. -- Another county in Washington has been granted a variance by the state to move to Phase 2 of Gov. Jay Inslee's reopening plan.
Whitman County in eastern Washington is the ninth county to get approval for the second phase. Columbia, Garfield, Lincoln, Ferry, Pend Oreille, Wahkiakum, Skamania, and Stevens counties have also received variances.
Under Phase 2, more recreational activities open up, including camping with fewer than five people from outside your household. Social gatherings with no more than five people from outside your household are also allowed under Phase 2.
Here's what businesses are allowed to reopen under Phase 2 of the governor's plan:
- Remaining manufacturing
- Additional construction phases
- In-home/domestic services (nannies, housecleaning, etc.)
- Retail (in-store purchases allowed with restrictions)
- Real estate
- Professional services/office-based businesses (telework remains strongly encouraged)
- Hair and nail salons/barbers
- Pet grooming
- Restaurants <50% capacity table size no larger than 5
Businesses in the counties approved to move into Phase 2 must wait to reopen "until guidance has been released for their industry on how to keep workers and the public safe."
They must comply with all health and safety requirements outlined in that guidance to reopen.
To apply for a variance, counties must have a population of less than 75,000 and no new cases of COVID-19 in the last three weeks. 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:
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.
The state is still considering additional options to support different regional needs in reopening. County and city leaders in more rural parts of the state have been pushing for permission to reopen ahead of larger counties in western Washington, citing different needs and fewer cases.
'Stay Home, Stay Healthy'
The state’s stay-at-home order — in place since March 23 — has been extended by Inslee through at least May 31, though restrictions have been eased in some areas and will continue to lifted in phases over the next few months.
Day use activities at most state parks and some outdoor recreation like hunting, golfing and fishing has resumed under Phase 1.