Snohomish County submits application for Phase Two clearance

Officials expect the state will decide “fairly quickly” whether the county is able to proceed.

EVERETT — Snohomish County has officially requested the state’s permission to enter into the second phase of Gov. Jay Insee’s statewide reopening plan, which would bring back a greater degree of normalcy to life here.

At about 6 p.m. Monday, the county submitted an 80-page application to the state, asking for a variance to proceed to the next stage.

If it’s approved, restaurants will be able to operate up to 50% capacity, and retailers will be able to conduct in-store sales. Barbershops, beauty salons and pet groomers will be cleared to reopen. Nannies, house cleaners and real-estate firms will be allowed to return to work, too.

Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers has said he expects a decision on the application “fairly quickly.”

Inslee issued the statewide stay-home order March 23. It shut down non-essential businesses, closed places of worship and prohibited large gatherings. Earlier this month, he extended it through May 31 and laid out a plan for fully reopening the state in four phases.

He also created a path for counties with few new infections and adequate hospital resources to graduate from the first phase. So far, about two thirds of Washington counties — 27 — have been allowed to do so.

The state Department of Health released new rules on Friday that will make it easier for Snohomish County, which otherwise might not have met the state’s standard for entering the second phase, to proceed.

Previously, the toughest criteria for a county to meet was to have fewer than 10 new cases of the virus per 100,000 residents over a two-week span.

The new benchmark is 25 cases per 100,000 residents in that time frame — about 205 cases every two weeks for Snohomish County.

From May 12 to May 26, the county had a case rate of 18.4 per 100,000 people, according to the county’s application.

Other standards for the second phase include specific targets for hospital bed capacity and personal protective equipment like masks, gowns and gloves. The county must also be able to make testing available and accessible to everyone in the county who shows symptoms, and to have the ability to rapidly trace contacts of those exposed to anyone who tests positive.

The local Board of Health and the Snohomish County Council approved an initial version of the application on Friday morning. Officials then amended the document after the state Department of Health released the new rules.

Rachel Riley: 425-339-3465; rriley@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @rachel_m_riley.

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