Washington Expands Eligibility Of Phase 2 Re-Opening
Posted May 21, 2020
By Washington State Business & Real Estate Lawyer Todd J. Cook
Over the past week, Washington has continued to progress quickly through the “Safe Start Washington” phased re-opening plan. Entering this week, the state had granted early entry variances to ten low density counties to enter Phase 2. Those counties included Asotin, Columbia, Ferry, Garfield, Lincoln, Pend Oreille, Skamania, Stevens, Wahkiakum and Whitman counties. That left a majority of Washington’s counties in Phase 1 and, for the most part, ineligible to apply for a variance for early entry to Phase 2. But on May 19, 2020, Governor Inslee and State Secretary of Health John Wiesman issued new guidance (COVID-19 County Variance Plan: Moving from Phase 1 to Phase 2). Under the new, relaxed criteria, twelve additional counties are now eligible to apply for a variance for early access to Phase 2.
Under the original plan requirements, the variance process was only open to counties with a total population of less than 75,000 that had not identified a resident with COVID-19 for the past three weeks. The new criteria are no longer based on total county population (any county could theoretically qualify) and they no longer require a showing of no new cases of COVID-19. Rather, a county is now eligible to apply for a variance to enter Phase 2 if it can demonstrate 10 or fewer new cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 residents over a 14-day span.
The new counties that are currently eligible to apply for a Phase 2 variance include Adams, Clallam, Clark, Grays Harbor, Island, Jefferson, Kitsap, Lewis, Mason, San Juan, Spokane, and Thurston counties.
To determine eligibility, the instructions governing the application process set forth detailed information an applicant county will need to provide to the state regarding testing capacity, advertising of testing sites, the number of tests reported, and the number of positive and negative test results (among other things).
While no decisions have been made regarding how and when a Phase 2 county will be allowed to apply for variance to enter Phase 3, the new guidance indicates that information related to a Phase 3 variance should be determined over the next 2-3 weeks.
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