County commissioners are expected to vote May 22 on the public health officer’s recommendation to move to Phase 2 of the governor’s “Safe Start” reopening plan.
Commissioners Kate Dean, Greg Brotherton and David Sullivan will meet virtually at 2:30 p.m. to vote. The meeting will be streamed on the county website.
The commissioners can only approve or deny the recommendations; they cannot make any changes.
If the commissioners approve these recommendations, the county will send an application to the state Department of Health asking for a variance to the “Safe Start” plan. It will have to be approved by Health Secretary John Weisman.
Ten counties have already moved to Phase 2, and Gov. Jay Inslee announced May 19 another 10 counties qualified to apply for the Phase 2 variance.
The state is currently in Phase 1 of the governor’s “Safe Start” plan, which requires most businesses remain closed unless they are deemed “essential.”
Once approved by Weisman, Jefferson County can open certain businesses several weeks before the rest of the state is expected to move to Phase 2.
After a nearly three-hour discussion May 14, the Board of Health approved recommendations made by public health officer Tom Locke. Business activities that can reopen include manufacturing, some new aspects of construction, domestic services and office-based businesses.
He also recommended reopening outdoor recreation involving fewer than five people — excluding overnight camping — and reopening nail and hair salons, barber shops and pet-grooming services for local clients only.
He did not recommend opening restaurants with sit-down service, real estate offices or professional services related to tourism.
The board of health and Locke discussed adding the drive-in theater in Port Townsend to the list of businesses that could open, so high schools in Jefferson County can hold “drive-in” graduation ceremonies.
The board also discussed adding language to the recommendation to clarify businesses can only service local, existing clients, in hope of discouraging tourists and visitors from outside counties.
The board will meet May 21 to discuss final changes to the recommendations before the commissioners vote. This meeting will take place virtually at 2:30 p.m. and will be streamed on the county’s website.
Public comments are still being accepted. They can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org for consideration in the board’s deliberations.
County officials are forging ahead with the plan to apply for a Phase 2 variance, despite two new confirmed cases in Jefferson County.
The county now has had 30 coronavirus cases, but the last two were confirmed to have been infected in March and early April.
The latest, confirmed on May 18, was a Jefferson County resident who was living in Arizona at the time of infection, according to Locke.
The other, a woman over the age of 90, was given an antibody test, which helped health officials determine she was infected in March.
“Based on our investigation of that case, we had reason to believe that it might be an old case, that the infection had occurred weeks or months ago,” Locke said.
According to Locke, the patient and her caretaker both had the antibodies for COVID-19.
Antibodies are a protein used by the body’s immune system to neutralize pathogens such as a virus, like the coronavirus.
The caretaker had a negative test for the virus, leading health officials to believe both the patient and the caretaker had been infected in March, when there were more transmissions within the community.
“The patient who tested positive last week is one of the people we’re seeing more and more of,” Locke said. “A person with a positive test can shed low levels of the virus for six to eight weeks after they are infected. We have good evidence that they’re not infectious even though we can detect the virus in their nasal secretions.”
The patient has recovered from the illness, Locke said.
Given the fact this recent infection occurred in the latter part of March, Jefferson County has not seen any new transmissions for five weeks.
“That’s not because we’re not doing a lot of testing,” he said. “The hospital has gotten up to 60 tests in a day. We are doing the amount of testing we want to be doing in the county and we are not finding anyone with infection.”
This also shows there is no evidence an increase of tourism to the county is driving local infection, Locke said.