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Columbia County leaders seek early reopening

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Dayton Days

People celebrate Dayton Days at the Boldman Garden in this May 2019 file photo. Small community gatherings could resume in Columbia County pending a request to the governor's office.

Columbia County officials will seek a variance request of Gov. Jay Inslee to allow the county to move early into Phase 2 of the governor’s reopening plan amid the statewide shutdown in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

County commissioners and the Columbia County Board of Health voted in favor of pursuing the variance request.

Administration at Columbia County Health System, which includes Dayton General Hospital, also had to give approval and did so. The hospital had to write a letter certifying it has enough beds and personal protective equipment on hand in case of a localized outbreak, according to Columbia County Public Health.

Phase 2 allows for any outdoor recreation and public gatherings involving fewer than five people; allows limited, nonessential travel within the proximity of people’s homes; and reopens manufacturing, babysitting, house cleaning, new construction, certain retail options, real estate services, hair salons, barbers and restaurants with less than 50% capacity and parties of five or fewer.

Port of Columbia Executive Director Jennie Dickinson said this morning that she had spoken with Commissioner Mike Talbott, who said the application was still being worked on today and would be sent to the governor’s office as soon as it was ready.

The variance request had to also be based on a recommendation from Public Health Officer Dr. Larry Jecha.

According to Columbia County Public Health, if the county is approved to move to Phase 2, there must be plans to make COVID-19 testing available to everyone in the county experiencing symptoms, have experts trained and ready to perform case investigation and contact tracing, provide plans to house people in isolation or quarantine who do not have a home or wish to isolate/quarantine outside the home, provide plans for case management services and have a rapid response plan in case of an outbreak.

Columbia County is one of 10 counties Inslee listed as eligible to request an early reopening. Garfield County is also listed.

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Jedidiah Maynes can be reached at jedidiahmaynes@wwub.com or 509-526-8318.

Jedidiah Maynes is the managing editor of Walla Walla Lifestyles magazine. He also writes about business news in the Valley and covers a variety of others topics on occasion. He enjoys making music and puns.