Snohomish County leaders push for Phase 2 opening, infection rates fall short of state criteria

EVERETT – Elected leaders in Snohomish County believe they have developed a plan to move into the next phase of reopening their economy.

County officials say federal money has helped pay for PPE, testing, quarantine protocols and other requirements listed by Governor Jay Inslee’s phased approach. However, Snohomish County has yet to bring their new infection rates below the recommended threshold.

Government leaders admit, for some business owners the damage is done and a few may never return. Also, even those hanging on by a thread are dealing with a fraction of customers they’re used to while serious concern over the virus remains.

“We sure want to get rolling and open,” said Shawn O’Donnell, who co-owns the restaurant bearing his name in Everett.

He says the business almost didn’t survive the 2009 recession. During today’s economic crisis, he’s thankful for loyal and generous customers.

“We’ve seen an anonymous $1,000 tip,” he said.

He’s eager to get to Phase 2 and says the changes he’s made to his restaurant meet the state guidelines.

“We need to move forward,” said O'Donnell.

“I think it may be a little too soon,” pondered Judy Matheson, who owns J. Matheson gift shop.

She says business is down 90 percent and worries reopening too early could trigger another outbreak.

“It’s the people who don’t follow the rules to make it that way,” she said.

Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers says he and other local officials will ask Inslee to approve his jurisdiction to qualify for Phase 2 tomorrow.

Somers says CDC guidelines, which removes Covid-19 infections in certain care facilities from being added to total cases, puts the county very close to Inslee’s criteria.

“We’d really like to get this done no later than (June) 8,” he said.

Other North Sound elected leaders insist time is running out for those businesses who have so far held on.

“I could have grey hair before we get there,” said Snohomish County Councilman Nate Nehring. “I think we need to really consider that criteria and see if there is a safe way to move into Phase 2 given the progress we’ve made so far.”

Meanwhile, some worry opening too soon could force another more devastating closure.

"I think we need to be so cautious,” said Matheson.

County council and health board members will likely pass policies Friday required to move towards Phase 2.

During a Thursday afternoon press conference, Governor Inslee said he is in talks with Snohomish County officials and will share more information soon about moving forward efforts to reopen North Sound economies.