Columbia County is one of five counties approved to move early to Phase 2 of Gov. Jay Inslee's economic reopening plan.
Neighboring Garfield County, the only county in the state without a case of coronavirus, is also approved, along with Lincoln, Ferry and Pend O'Reille counties, according to a news release from the Washington Coronavirus Response Joint Information Center.
Washington Health Secretary John Wiesman approved the applications and the announcement was made today.
“We recognize COVID-19 is impacting some parts of our state in different ways and some counties will be ready to move forward earlier than others,” Wiesman said in the release. “While recognizing that reality, we set cautious, thorough requirements for counties that want to apply for a variance. Each of the counties approved to enter Phase 2 has demonstrated strong planning and capability in the areas necessary to protect public health in their communities.”
Only counties with fewer than 75,000 people and no new cases of COVID-19 in the last three weeks were eligible for skipping from Phase 1 to Phase 2.
The second phase allows all outdoor recreation, including camping and beach activity, with fewer than five people outside of each household. Gatherings are also allowed with no more than five people outside of each household per week.
Businesses in the counties approved to move into Phase 2 must wait to reopen until further guidance has been released for their respective industries, the release stated.
The application process required support from the local health officer, the local board of health, the primary hospital, and the county commission or council.
Columbia County Public Health Administrator Martha Lanman said earlier this week that Phase 2 should not be mistaken for a total reopening. For example, all travel must be within the "proximity of your home" and restaurants can only operate at 50% capacity with no more than five people per party seated at tables.