Island County enters Phase 3

On Friday, Island County moved into Phase 3 of Gov. Jay Inslee’s Safe Start plan for gradually reopening the state during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The county’s rate of new infections continues to be very low. In the three-week period following the move into Phase 2, only two new infections were reported and both those were the result of people in the same family visiting another county, according to Island County Public Health.

For the county, entering Phase 3 means restaurants and taverns can now have 75 percent capacity and tables with up to 10 people. Movie theaters can open at 50 percent capacity.

Bars can open at 25 percent. Libraries, museums and “customer facing” government services can reopen. All other businesses not previously listed can reopen except for nightclubs and events with more than 50 people.

In addition, outdoor sports activities or other types of gatherings with up to 50 people are allowed.

Recreational facilities like gyms and swimming pools can reopen at 50 percent capacity.

Camping is also open in the county.

On June 16, the county’s health officer, Dr. Joel McCullough, submitted a letter to the county’s board of health recommending that it request a variance from the state to include all the Phase 3 modifications.

After the board of health and the county commissioners approved the request, the application was sent to the state Secretary of the Department of Health.

Keith Higman, the county’s public health director, explained to commissioners that the county’s application had to include information about five different areas of concern. Among them is the rate of new cases.

Between the time when the county moved into Phase 2 and when it became eligible for Phase 3, the target is less than 25 new cases per 100,000 population, Higman said.

Island County had two new cases in that timeframe within a family that had traveled to the harder-hit Tri-Cities area, where they were around sick people, according to Higman.

In addition, the county’s application had to show health care system readiness, adequate testing capacity, speedy case and contact investigation and protection for high-risk populations.

Fourteen other counties are also in Phase 3 and no counties are in Phase 4, which will essentially be back to normal life with physical distancing.