Kitsap County’s application to move on to phase 3 of Gov. Jay Inslee’s “Safe Start” program has been placed on hold for at least a week as officials monitor the recent surge of COVID-19 cases uncovered in June.
Kitsap Public Health District was notified by state Secretary of Health Jonathan Wiesman that the state would put the application on pause until at least July 9.
Although the county largely met the criteria outlined by the state, a total of 78 cases were reported in June after having just 11 in May. Kitsap has seen several outbreaks of the virus, including three linked to long-term care facilities, which were reported after officials submitted the phase 3 application.
“I know this pause on Kitsap’s move to Phase 3 will be disappointing to many, but it is not entirely unexpected given the increase in COVID-19 cases reported across the region this month,” said Kitsap Public Health Board Chair Rob Putaansuu. “I am optimistic that Kitsap will be positioned to move to Phase 3 soon because we are a resilient community that pulls together to overcome challenges. I want to recognize and thank the staff working at the Health District and through our Emergency Operations Center who have tirelessly served our community on a near 24/7 basis since the start of the pandemic to keep Kitsap safe from COVID-19. I am also grateful to every Kitsap resident who has made sacrifices to protect their neighbors and keep us moving forward.”
The county submitted its application on June 19, but has had 44 new confirmed cases since that date.
Kitsap is also falling short in a couple of other areas. Residents who have tested positive for COVID-19 have waited a median of four days after the appearance of symptoms to get tested while the state’s target is two days. KPHD is also required to check in with those who have tested positive, but some residents have not returned its calls, putting the county below the target daily check-in rate of 80 percent.
“While we’re disappointed with this delay, we know COVID-19 continues to spread in our area,” said County Commissioner Charlotte Garrido. “It is concerning to see how rapidly cases rise in other parts of the state and the country when people stop being cautious and gather in larger groups. “To continue moving towards recovery and protect the health of our community, we all share a responsibility to follow safety guidelines.”
In order to help Kitsap move forward, residents are asked to get tested as soon as they start feeling sick, even if symptoms are just mild. If you do test positive, residents are asked to respond to KPHD’s daily check-in calls. Asymptomatic individuals can also do the following to help slow the spread:
- Protect your health and the health of people around you.
- Stay home if you feel sick, even if your illness is mild.
- Stay six feet apart from others whenever possible.
- Avoid crowded areas and gatherings of more than five people.
- Wash your hands frequently or use hand sanitizer.
- Wear a face covering in indoor public spaces and situations where you cannot stay six feet from others.
“This is a pivotal time in our response to this pandemic,” said Kitsap Public Health District Health Officer Dr. Susan Turner. “We need to demonstrate that we can work together as a community to control the spread of COVID-19 and protect our most vulnerable residents. That starts with each of us taking deliberate steps to safeguard our health and the health of people close to us, most especially avoiding gatherings of more than five people and maintaining six feet of space from others. It also means being compassionate and helpful to fellow community members who are doing their best to navigate these challenging circumstances.”