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Screenshot of virtual county council meeting held on June 1st 2020

By Courtney Gullett

Whatcom County Council applied to move to Phase 2 under Governor Inslee's Safe Start Washington Plan.

As of June 1, counties that report 25 or fewer COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people over a 14-day period can apply for Phase 2, according to the Safe Start Washington Plan website. Counties will also have to demonstrate adequate hospital capacity to handle any surge of cases, adequate testing capacity and adequate protection of high-risk individuals. 

The Safe Start Washington Plan states that counties must remain in any given phase for a minimum of three weeks to allow public health experts to monitor the impact of reopening.

Phase 2 will allow professional service providers, accountants, architects, attorneys, engineers, financial advisors, information technologists, insurance agents, tax preparers and other office-based occupations that are typically serving a client base to re-open, according to the Phase 2 guidelines.

Whatcom County Health Department Director Erika Lautenbach noted that the 10 new cases of COVID-19 reported in the county Tuesday, June 2 were included in the decision to move forward with Phase 2.

“I think that the easiest metric in all of this is looking at the average of less than four cases a day,” Lautenbach said. “Right now we are at 2.5 on average per day.”

To prepare for Phase 2, Whatcom County is working on creating a second quarantine and isolation area incase of a surge in cases, Lautenbach said.

“I can tell you that we are in negotiations right now for up to 51 additional rooms at the Holiday Inn in suites located near the airport,” said Chris Quinn, Whatcom County Prosecuting Attorney Office.

This extra quarantine area will not be used unless the other one is completely full, Quinn said. There are currently only two rooms being used at the current quarantine facility, making the county qualified for Phase 2.

Local nanny Samantha Mcloud will be able to return to work after over two long months once Phase 2 is approved.

“I am excited to be able to participate in my community and get back to work,” Mcloud said.

Approval of the application by the Washington State Department of Health was granted on June 6. Whatcom County is now in Phase 2.


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