Gov. Jay Inslee today announced new recommendations from the Washington State Department of Health for resuming in-person instruction in public and private K-12 education for the upcoming 2020–2021 school year. Inslee was joined by Chris Reykdal, state Superintendent of Public Instruction at a press conference.
Similar to the state’s county-by-county phased approach to reopening, the plan allows local health departments and school districts decide if and how they will allow students back in the classroom.
“We know the uncertainty surrounding school reopening is a source of extraordinary anxiety for parents and educators — anxiety not just about whether it’s safe to go back to school in person, but also about the impacts to children if they don’t return to the classroom,” Inslee said.
The plan includes several different considerations for deciding whether or not to return to in-person learning, but no matter the county, when COVID-19 infection rates are high, the state strongly recommends school districts move to mostly online or remote learning.
Gov. Jay Inslee and Secretary of Health John Wiesman today announced changes to “Safe Start,” Washington’s phased approach to reopening. The changes target activities that data have shown provide a higher risk of COVID-19 exposure.
It has been four months since the governor announced the state’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order. Since then, cases in Washington have risen from 2,000 to almost 50,000, and deaths have increased from 110 to nearly 1,500.
To combat the rising numbers, the governor and secretary are changing guidance and regulations around restaurants, bars, and fitness centers, as well as weddings and funerals. The changes will also affect family entertainment centers, movie theaters and card rooms.
“We do not take these steps lightly. We know every prohibition is a challenge for individuals and business owners,” Inslee said during a press conference Thursday. “But we know that if we fail to act, we expose people and businesses to even greater risk down the line.”
Read the rest of the story on the governor’s Medium page.
This update is published each Tuesday following the report by County Medical Director, Dr. Thomas Locke, to the County Commissioners and summarizes significant points from that meeting and other information that has not been previously reported in PLVC eBlasts. Topics are listed in summary form with links to Web pages such as PLVC at www.plvc.org/covid-19 or Washington State Hotline at Phone: 800-525-0127 – at prompt press #.
Roadmap to Reopening: (We are now in Phase II – have applied for Phase III)
More information on Safe Start Washington can be found via this link:
Department of Emergency Management (DEM) Updates (Willie Bence):
NOW, THEREFORE, I, Thomas Locke, MD, MPH, Local Health Officer for Jefferson County, under the authority of RCW 70.05.070, RCW 43.20.050, and WAC 246-100-036, make the following DIRECTIVE:
- Use of Cloth Face Coverings. All individuals must wear face coverings over their noses and mouths when they will be at (1) indoor public settings, or (2) outdoor public locations and cannot maintain distancing of approximately six feet from another individual who does not share their household. Because there is still a shortage of medical-grade or N95 respirators for health care workers, unless a particular health reason requires it, individuals should use fabric coverings, such as cloth face masks, scarves and bandana coverings or other material as recommended by CDC. Cloth face masks must be worn properly in order to avoid contaminating the hands or face of the user. Before putting on a mask and after removing a mask, an individual should clean their hands with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water and change masks when moist and wash after use. While in use, avoid touching the mask. Worn masks may be contaminated with infectious agents. Wearing of cloth face coverings should not be required for the following individuals: (a) any child under two years of age; (b) any child who is at least two and less than twelve years of age unless a parent or caregiver supervises the use of cloth face coverings by children to avoid misuse; (c) any individual who is unable to remove the cloth face covering without assistance; (d) any individual who is deaf and uses facial and mouth movements as part of communication; or (e) any individual who has been advised by a medical professional that wearing a face covering may pose a risk to that individual for health reasons.
- Cloth Face Coverings Required. Owners and operators of businesses in Jefferson County shall not permit or allow any non-employee to enter or remain inside a building owned or operated by the business unless the non-employee is wearing a cloth face covering over their mouth and nostrils. This does not apply to a restaurant, tavern, or bar patron while eating or drinking. Further, businesses that sell food, medicine, or medical supplies shall provide a method for customers to purchase these items without entering a building, such as curbside pick-up or delivery. 3. Notice by Businesses, Ports, and Marina Facilities. Owners and operators of all businesses, ports, and/or marina facilities in Jefferson County shall post notice at entry points indicating that the wearing of cloth face coverings is required inside businesses in Jefferson County. Said notice shall be posted no later than 7 days after Jefferson County begins full implementation of Phase II of the Safe Start Washington plan as authorized by the Governor or Washington Secretary of Health. This paragraph does not require posting of notice by a business that is not open to the public.
- Notice by Businesses, Ports, and Marina Facilities. Owners and operators of all businesses, ports, and/or marina facilities in Jefferson County shall post notice at entry points indicating that the wearing of cloth face coverings is required inside businesses in Jefferson County. Said notice shall be posted no later than 7 days after Jefferson County begins full implementation of Phase II of the Safe Start Washington plan as authorized by the Governor or Washington Secretary of Health. This paragraph does not require posting of notice by a business that is not open to the public.
Jefferson County in Phase 2 of “Safe Start” Reopening Plan
On May 23, Jefferson County received approval to move into Phase 2 of Governor Inslee’s “Safe Start” phased approach for resuming recreational, social and business activities, subject to conditions. Every phase will still require social distancing and appropriate health precautions including the use of personal protective equipment in a number of workplaces. Use of a cloth face covering is strongly recommended. Guidance and safety criteria for reopening can be found on the “Safe Start” webpage. Camping and indoor retail sales in Jefferson County remain prohibited until additional neighboring counties also enter Phase 2. See the tables below for what’s open and what’s not.
Background: For the past 10 weeks, Washington State has been dealing with an unprecedented public health emergency – the SARS-CoV-2 Pandemic. Lacking either a vaccine or effective antiviral medications and facing severe limitations in personal protective equipment and adequate testing resources, Washington State implemented an increasingly restrictive set of community mitigation strategies. These mitigation strategies started with isolation and quarantine of know cases and contacts and progressed to school closures and, on March 23, 2020, a state-wide closure of all non-essential businesses, a stay at home order, and a ban on all non-essential travel. These extreme measures were successful in stopping the exponential spread of the pandemic coronavirus and preventing the demand for hospital care from exceeding the capacity to deliver that care. This “flattening of the curve” has dropped the number of new cases of COVID-19 infection from almost 600 per day in late March to around 250 per day. Demand for hospital services is also slowly declining. The success of this effort is precarious and the most recent data shows that case rates may be climbing upwards again. Washington State has not set a numerical target for suppression of new COVID-19 infections. The CDC has recommended 0.7 cases/100,000 population. This would translate into 50 cases/day in Washington State and 7-8 cases per month in Jefferson County.
The Way Forward: Indefinite closures of non-essential business and home isolation are neither desirable nor sustainable. These extreme measures were designed to prevent a medical catastrophe and save lives that would have otherwise been lost for lack of advanced medical care. This goal has been achieved. Washingtonians have had over 6 weeks to learn social distancing, hand hygiene, and other mitigations designed to limit spread of coronavirus. On May 3, 2020 Governor Inslee renewed his emergency proclamation with significant modifications. The new plan authorizes a set of Phase 1 activities to begin on May 5th and last until at least May 31st. 10 rural counties with populations less than 75,000 and with very low levels of Covid-19 activity (as evidenced by no diagnosed cases for 3 weeks or longer) were authorized to seek a variance to move from Phase 1 to Phase 2 activities before the rest of the state. This variance request could seek authorization to adopt all Phase 2 activities or could request a subset of these activities. The formal process starts with a recommendation from the county health officer to the local board of health. If a majority of board of health members supports the variance request (either as submitted by the health officer or as modified by the board), it advances to the board of county commissioners for final approval. The application must provide information on 5 essential metrics and contain a certification from the local hospital that it has adequate bed capacity and PPE to respond to an increase in COVID-19 cases.
Jefferson County Response: On Thursday, May 7, a joint videoconference meeting was held with the Jefferson County Board of Commissioners, the Jefferson County Board of Health, and the Port Townsend City Council. After a presentation by the health officer and considerable discussion, it was decided to move forward with a deliberative process to gather public comment and carefully consider each option on the list of Phase 2 activities for possible early implementation in Jefferson County. This process would involve a special meeting of the Jefferson County Board of Health on May 14 and a final vote at the Board’s regularly scheduled meeting on May 21.
New Developments and Status of Variance Requests in Washington State: At the time of the May 7th meeting, Jefferson County had not recorded a confirmed case of COVID-19 for 28 days and was clearly eligible to submit a variance application. On May 9th, a Jefferson County resident was diagnosed with COVID-19. The source of her infection is unknown as is the date the infection was acquired and is the subject of an ongoing case investigation requiring additional specialized testing at the University of Washington. Last week 5 rural counties in Eastern Washington (Columbia, Garfield, Lincoln, Ferry, and Pend Oreille) were granted variances to move to Phase 2 activities. Three additional eligible counties (Stevens, Skamania, and Wahkiakum) were approved on May 11. After submitting their application, Kittitas County experienced a large outbreak of COVID-19 at a meat packing plant and their application review has been “paused”. In addition to the 10 counties deemed eligible by virtue of their population size and >3 weeks of no new cases, 2 other counties have expressed interest in obtaining variances despite a small number of COVID-19 cases in the past 3 weeks. It is reported that Mason county has applied for a variance and asked that alternate measures of low COVID prevalence be utilized. The legislative representatives from Clallam County have made a similar request for consideration. It is unclear whether Jefferson County remains eligible for a Phase 2 variation and this eligibility will need to be determined by the Secretary of Health, Dr. Wiesman.
Special Considerations for Jefferson County: Jefferson County scores favorably on several metrics for pandemic preparedness: adequate public health and hospital capacity to provide prompt case investigation and contact tracing and to meet the medical needs of diagnosed COVID-19 patients, either through hospitalization or medical case management in an outpatient setting. PPE supplies although hardly optimal, do meet state standards for adequacy. A major concern for Jefferson County is its high percentage of residents at risk for the complications of COVID-19 infection. U.S. census projections are that 36.9% of Jefferson Counties 32,221 residents were 65 years of age or older as of April 1, 2020. This is the highest population percentage in Washington State. Mortality risk increases with age for COVID- 19 with 90% of Washington deaths due to this infection occurring in those 60 years of age or older. An additional serious consideration is Jefferson County’s proximity to Seattle and the urban centers of the I- 5 corridor where COVID-19 infection remains prevalent. The Phase 1 openings of State and National parks to day use and permitting of recreational fishing have already dramatically increased travel to the Olympic Peninsula. Any Phase 2 openings that further encourage tourism and travel will likely increase this trend. This risk is especially acute if Jefferson County is perceived as the closest “open” county to Seattle and thus an attractive day trip to escape the restrictions of the urban “lockdown”.
Basis of Health Officer Recommendations: As the appointed Health Officer for Jefferson County since 1996, my duties are clearly defined in statute. RCW 70.O5.070 (3) assigns the health officer the duty to “Control and prevent the spread of any dangerous, contagious or infectious diseases that may occur within his or her jurisdiction”. Additional statutes and rules assign specific powers and duties to control communicable diseases, including broad isolation and quarantine powers. A health officer’s prime directive is to prevent the spread of infectious diseases. This is not to minimize the importance of other social determinates of health – jobs, civil liberties, economic and food security, education, and more.
Public health is always a balancing act between community health and individual liberty. As in many other health-related activities, the risks and benefits of specific choices must be carefully balanced.
Risk/Benefit Analysis of Phase 2 Activities: Phase 2 activities modify physical distancing measures in 4 key areas: recreation, gathering size, travel, and business/employer activity. There is still much that is
unknown about SARS-CoV-2 transmission and the proportionate risk of different behaviors and activities. Models are being developed by the Institute of Disease Modeling (https://www.idmod.org/ ) and others to better quantify these risks but are not yet available. One early finding is that manufacturing and construction activities have high economic benefit and low disease transmission risk. Conversely “leisure activities” have low economic benefit and comparatively higher transmission risk.
Given the greater likelihood that strict physical distancing, hand hygiene, Covid-specific occupational health standards, and restriction of ill workers can be best accomplished in the structured environment of a construction site or a manufacturing facility, these findings appear plausible. Leisure activities, by their nature, are less structured and more likely to violate physical distancing standards. Activities that promote tourism increase coronavirus transmission risk by encouraging travel from high prevalence areas to low prevalence areas. This effect is magnified when these activities are not available in adjacent counties.
Another important consideration is enforcement. While Governor Inslee’s proclamation is backed by the force of law and violations carry gross misdemeanor penalties, there is no active enforcement of travel or gathering sizes. To be effective, citizens must be motivated to follow physical distancing requirements by a mix of personal benefit and the desire to protect others. Some activities are readily enforceable. Isolation and Quarantine orders have specific enforcement mechanisms. Licensed food establishments (like grocery stores and restaurants) have licenses issued by the local health department which can be suspended or revoked for violation of public health codes. Individual businesses can enforce physical distancing restrictions by setting conditions for entry (e.g. number of customers or an indoor masking requirement). Salons, barbers, and pet groomers can limit appointments to local clients only.
Benefit/Risk Ranking of Phase 2 activities:
High benefit/low risk: Manufacturing (non-essential repair, maritime industry, and others), additional construction phases, in-home domestic services (nannies, housecleaning, etc.), professional services/office-based business [non-tourism oriented, telework strongly encouraged], pet grooming [local customers only]
Medium benefit/medium risk: Outdoor activity with 5 or fewer people outside your household (no overnight camping), indoor gathering with 5 people outside your household per week, hair and nail salons/barbers [local customers only]
Lower benefit/ higher risk: Outdoor activity with 5 or fewer people involving overnight camping (RV or campgrounds), Restaurants with sit down service, real estate (beyond current permitted activities), pet grooming (out-of-area clients), hair and nail salons/barbers (out-of-area clients), retail (in-store purchases)
Jefferson County Health Officer Recommendations Phase 2 Variance Activities Recommended:
Recreation: Outdoor recreation involving fewer than 5 people outside your household excluding all overnight camping.
Gatherings: Gather with no more than 5 people outside your household per week, masking encouraged if social distancing cannot be maintained. Visitors from high prevalence areas strongly discouraged.
Travel: Essential travel and limited non-essential travel for Phase 1 and 2 permissible activities. Out-of- area tourism strongly discouraged (ferry signage, advertising, local governmental directives) until statewide Phase 2 implementation.
Business/Employers: Manufacturing (non-essential repair, maritime industry, and others), additional construction phases, in-home domestic services (nannies, housecleaning, etc.), professional services/office-based business [non-tourism oriented, telework strongly encouraged], pet grooming (local customers only), hair and nail salons/barbers (local customers only)
Phase 2 Variance Activities NOT Recommended:
Recreation: Outdoor activity with 5 or fewer people involving overnight camping (RV or campgrounds)
Business/Employers: Restaurants with sit down service, real estate (beyond current permitted activities), pet grooming (out-of-area clients), hair and nail salons/barbers (out-of-area clients), retail (in- store purchases allowed with restrictions), professional services/office-based business (tourism focused)
Note: The Governor’s Safe Start Washington plan (https://www.governor.wa.gov/sites/default/files/SafeStartWA_4May20_1pm.pdf ) contains detailed physical distance and infection control requirements for individuals and businesses. These apply to all phases of the State’s reopening plan and are critical for the prevention of coronavirus transmission.
Failure to rigorously adhere to all of these community interventions will constitute grounds to revoke Phase 2 status for individuals or businesses.
Thomas Locke, MD, MPH
Jefferson County Health Officer
- Some restrictions could be lifted in mid-May, including retail curbside pickup, auto sales, car washes and drive-in church services.
- The ban on large gatherings remains in effect, even gatherings where participants think they can socially distance.
- Increase in outdoor recreation, including camping.
- Small gatherings of five people or less could return
- New construction and in-store retail purchases with health restrictions.
- Barber shops and salons could reopen.
- Restaurants could reopen with 50% capacity and table size no larger than five people.
- Some professional services and offices could open as well, even though teleworking would remain strongly encouraged.
- Pet care services including grooming could resume.
- Gatherings of 50 people or less could resume, including sports activities.
- Restaurants and bars could increase their capacities to 75% and gyms and movie theaters could reopen at 50% capacity.
- Retail, libraries, museums and government buildings could reopen.
- Recreational facilities including pools could open at 50% capacity.
- The majority of public interactions could resume and gatherings of more than 50 people would be allowed, but still while practicing social distancing.
- Bars, restaurants and entertainment venues could return to allow the maximum licensed capacity of their venues.
- Worksites could reopen, but with physical distancing continuing.
We’ve had to take unprecedented actions to slow the spread of COVID-19 in Washington. Luckily, we’ve had some success, but until we have a vaccine, protecting the health of all Washingtonians will require ongoing effort. Gov. Jay Inslee and the state’s public health leaders use many factors to determine how to protect the health of all Washingtonians and begin our economic recovery.
TO READ THE MOST UP TO DATE DASHBOARD DETAILS PLEASE CLICK HERE
About this dial dashboard
This dashboard provides a high-level overview of the main data points discussed among state leaders and the level of risk experts perceive around the current numbers. It is not intended to represent the totality of all COVID-19 related data. The state is currently developing several new systems for collecting, compiling and reporting much of the data outlined below and this dashboard will link to those new systems as they are completed. In the meantime, where possible, we’ve linked to the data that is currently available or created a snapshot that summarizes the most recent information available.
This dashboard is updated weekly on Wednesdays.
Summary and take-away Medical and DEM information:
Department of Health (Dr. Locke)
Case / Test Data:
- Total US cases now stand at over 987,000 with over 55,000 deaths for a case death rate of 5%.
- In Washington, total cases number 13,521 with 749 deaths for a case death rate of 5.5%.
- Washington has 2% of the US population with 1.3% of US cases.
- We therefore have managed this better than the average even though at the outset Washington was the epicenter of the virus.
- WA state is still experiencing an increase in positive cases by 200 to 300 per day.
- In Jefferson county the numbers have remained constant at 28 cases for over two weeks and no deaths reported.
- In response to the question of how many have recovered, Dr Locke notes that since our knowledge of the disease is so limited, we can only answer if we provide a definition of what recovered means.
- Recovery in this context means-28 days without symptoms, not hospitalized, and obviously still alive. I add the latter since the Dr. Locke included that term but note that it seems superfluous.
- While the Case Death Rate (number of deaths divided by number of cases) provides important data, Dr Locke noted that the Infection Case Rate (number of deaths divided by the number of infections) is the much more significant since is the basis used to project the ability to open and maintain an open society.
- Also noted is that the COVID-19 virus is 5 to 9 times more lethal that the flu.
- It now is clear that population density is an important factor in the transmission of the virus
- rural areas show a much lower rate of infection.
- It is also clear that the volume of exposure, that is the density of the virus to which one is exposed, is a further significant factor.
- In that regard, while we still have a shortage of incidental items such as swabs, the current ability to test in Washington State is at 20,000 per day and forecast to be 30,000 per day within two weeks.
- Jefferson County is close now to the level we need which is 100 tests per day.
- In addition to a long delayed but improving ability to test is an expansion of criteria for testing which will broaden the data base.
- That coupled with a forecast increase in the number of those involved in contact tracing should allow an intelligent and carefully monitored opening of society.
- The CDC has updated the symptoms list associated with COVID-19 infection:
- Fever, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty in breathing, chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, new loss of taste or smell.
Roadmap to Reopening:
- The focus, with a goal to safely opening society is to provide an expanse of testing that allows those with expertise to manage and quarantine where necessary while allowing increased freedom of movement.
- Jefferson County Commissioners are exploring options to re-opening. These include:
- Economic and social impacts for reopening – timelines
- Business segments opening by phase with sustainability
- Public social distancing – hygiene protocols
- Partnering with department of health guidelines to measure and assure compliance
- First business segment opening is construction:
- The key element is it only applies to EXISTING and LOW RISK construction projects with a few exceptions for such critical needs as affordable housing or emergency repairs of utilities.
- In order to recommence construction, strict requirements will exist for social distancing, a workplan, supervision, PPE and scheduling of workers/subcontractors.
- Policing of the policy will be done by the State Labor & Industries Department, not County.
- County review of permit applications will continue but will not be issued until future Phase of the Construction Restart is implemented.
- This will speed getting construction underway more quickly than waiting to review applications.
- The Job Site Requirements at the following link: construction Job Site Requirements
Personal Protection Updates:
- Jefferson County DEM is disappointed that their supplies of PPE from WA State have slowed dramatically.
- The DEM is working with the state to increase supply chain.
Neighborhood Preparation (NPREP) may be asked to help with contact tracing should it be needed in the future.