Cowlitz County has joined a rising number of Washington counties approved for variances to move into Phase 2 of Gov. Jay Inslee's "Safe Start" plan to reopen the state's economy.
Clark County's application, however, remains "on pause" with more discussion set to take place next week due to an outbreak investigation at Firestone Pacific Foods in Vancouver, according to a release from the state emergency operations center and a separate statement by Clark County.
See the full release below — along with a statement from Clark County on the outbreak — and read next week's edition of The Reflector for more.
Clark County statement on outbreak at Firestone Pacific Foods in Vancouver:
We were notified today that the state has put Clark County’s request for a Phase 2 variance on pause until further discussion next week. The decision is the result of a current outbreak at Firestone Pacific Foods in Vancouver.
As of this morning 38 employees have tested positive. We’re been working closely with Firestone Pacific Foods, Washington Labor & Industries and The Vancouver Clinic in response to the outbreak. We instructed Firestone to stop production on Tuesday to prevent the virus from continuing to spread among employees. There is currently no evidence COVID-19 can spread through food or food packaging.
We also coordinated with The Vancouver Clinic and Firestone to facilitate COVID-19 testing of all employees. That testing began Friday afternoon. Prior to beginning the facility-wide testing, 12 cases had been identified in the outbreak. Another 26 positive results were reported to Public Health Friday afternoon, after facility-wide testing began.
Everyone who tests positive is instructed to isolate at home. Public Health staff is interviewing all positive cases to identify and notify close contacts, who will be asked to quarantine for 14 days. This process is ongoing for the cases identified Friday.
“Public Health has gone above and beyond in its response to this outbreak,” said Clark County Council Chair Eileen Quiring. “As our community moves forward, whether next week or in the weeks that follow, we may unfortunately see more positive cases. Public Health’s efforts during this outbreak show they have the ability to effectively respond to outbreaks in order to keep our community healthy.”
Testing of Firestone employees is expected to continue today. Public Health will provide another update on case numbers on Tuesday.
Seven new counties approved to move to Phase 2 of Gov. Jay Inslee's Safe Start plan
Camp Murray, WA — Today Washington State Secretary of Health John Wiesman approved variance applications for Cowlitz, Grant, Island, Jefferson, Mason, Pacific and San Juan counties to move into Phase 2 of Gov. Jay Inslee’s Safe Start plan.
A total of 21 counties have now been approved to move to Phase 2: Adams, Asotin, Columbia, Cowlitz, Ferry, Garfield, Grant, Grays Harbor, Island, Jefferson, Lewis, Lincoln, Mason, Pacific, Pend Orielle, San Juan, Skamania, Spokane, Stevens, Wahkiakum and Whitman.
The following counties are eligible to apply for a variance to move to Phase 2: Clallam, Kitsap and Thurston.
Applications from Kittitas and Clark counties are on pause until further discussion next week due to outbreak investigations.
Businesses approved to move into Phase 2 must comply with all health and safety requirements outlined in the guidance to reopen.
To apply for a variance, counties must have an average of less than 10 new cases per 100,000 residents over a 14-day period. The application process requires support from the local health officer, the local board of health, local hospitals, and the county commission/council.
Each county must demonstrate they have adequate local hospital bed capacity as well as adequate PPE supplies to keep health care workers safe. The application must include plans for:
Making testing available and accessible to everyone in the county with symptoms.
Staffing case investigations and contact tracing.
Housing people in isolation or quarantine who can’t or don’t want to do so at home.
Providing case management services to those in isolation and quarantine.
Responding rapidly to outbreaks in congregate settings.
The variance requests are reviewed by the secretary of health, who can approve the plans as submitted, approve with modifications or deny the application. If circumstances change within the jurisdiction, the variance can be revoked.
Learn more about county variances and the statewide response to COVID-19 at coronavirus.wa.gov.
Individuals can also find COVID-19 information on the Department of Health’s website or call 1-800-525-0127. Individuals can text the word “coronavirus” to 211-211 to receive information and updates on their phone wherever they are.