Today is a pivotal day on the COVID-19 calendar. Governor Inslee’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order has expired. That doesn’t mean life switches over to what it was before; it means counties may turn the dial by applying to move into Phase 2 of the Governor’s “Safe Start Washington” plan. In Whatcom County, we aim to do just that.
With a stable case count of fewer than four new cases each day over the past two weeks, health system readiness, and other key measures we’ve reached, Whatcom County qualifies to move out of Phase 1 based on the updated requirements.
We are working quickly to complete the application packet, which will be sent to the Whatcom County Council, in its role as the Whatcom County Health Board, for approval on Tuesday, June 2. The approved packet, along with a statement of support by County Executive Satpal Sidhu, then goes to the Washington State Department of Health for consideration. We should then receive approval to move into Phase 2 within two days.
But like we said, moving to Phase 2 is like turning up a dial, not flipping a switch. We must all still exercise caution as we reopen safely because it only takes one case to spread quickly to many others.
What we’ll be allowed in Phase 2:
- Social gatherings – inside or outside – with no more than five people from outside your household.
- More manufacturing and construction, domestic services, retail stores, real estate. services, professional services, nail salons and barbers, with some restrictions.
- Restaurants can open at 50% capacity but without bar seating.
What must continue in Phase 2:
- Hand-washing and sanitizing.
- Physical distancing, remaining six feet away from others.
- Wearing a mask in public spaces.
- Staying home and away from others with any symptoms of illness.
Moving to Phase 2 is certainly cause for celebration. However, we must do so safely or we risk reversing all our hard work and progress against the virus. A surge in cases could mean restrictive measures return. It’s up to each of us to do what we can to slow the spread, protect our neighbors and loved ones, and keep us moving towards Phase 3.