Kitsap leaders ask Inslee for move to Phase 2

Letter says problems with regional approach, metrics are unfair

Kitsap County Commissioners sent a letter Wednesday to Gov. Jay Inslee in response to the Healthy Washington – Roadmap to Recovery plan concerning COVID-19, conveying their frustration over its inconsistencies, the regional approach being used, Kitsap’s designation and the metrics required to move from Phase 1 to Phase 2.

In the letter, commissioners request the state move Kitsap County to the Puget Sound region of its recovery plan, which includes Snohomish, King and Pierce counties, and advance the county to Phase 2 as were those counties Jan. 28. Commissioners also ask that metrics be revised to better reflect the public health conditions for communities of all sizes. Kitsap County is now designated in the Northwest region with Clallam, Jefferson and Mason counties.

Commissioners Robert Gelder, Charlotte Garrido and Edward Wolfe signed off on the letter, which says, in part:

…Kitsap County has supported the state’s science-based approach when it’s consistent and fair. The issues raised below belie those principles.

…First, moving from the county-by-county approach to designated county groups may inappropriately penalize the counties succeeding in combatting the virus based on the condition of others. One county can fare especially poorly, thus inappropriately affecting the partner counties. This does not achieve a goal to reopen counties when they are shown to be ready. Local businesses, restricted by the public health measures (restaurants, fitness centers, dance academies, retail and others), are counting on reopening. These businesses may be unfairly penalized by the regional approach that delays this opportunity. As we see too commonly, these delays can have fatal consequences to small business.

Second, if Washington is committed to a regional approach, we do not understand why Kitsap is grouped with the Northwest. Kitsap County is consistently grouped with the Puget Sound region in planning, growth management, transportation, open space, clean air, economic development and other regional discussions. Thousands of Kitsap County residents are employed in King, Snohomish and Pierce counties… This decision appears arbitrary and unfair to Kitsap’s governments, citizens and businesses.

Third, as has been recently documented by public health professionals, mathematicians and residents, the metrics used to determine reopening are flawed, focusing on trends vs. raw data/rates that can lead to erroneous conclusions. This penalizes counties with smaller populations or lesser level of public health crisis. The use of percentages for two of the four key metrics does not accurately reflect our reality. A small number of cases or even individual hospitalizations can show a large percentage change though not indicate COVID’s current threat to the community’s health. Additionally, for a community that has successfully combatted the pandemic with low case counts and hospitalizations, the percentage metrics can be punitive. This is the case in Kitsap.

…Based on the aforementioned issues, the Board of Kitsap County Commissioners requests the state to include Kitsap County in the Puget Sound region and move to Phase 2; and revise the metrics to better reflect the public health conditions for communities of all sizes.