State gives Kitsap County the ‘OK’ to move on to Phase 2

The Washington State Department of Health has quickly approved Kitsap County’s variance application to move on to Phase 2 of the governor’s “Safe Start” plan.

County health officials and the board of commissioners gave the go-ahead Wednesday afternoon and had submitted the application Wednesday evening.

The Kitsap Public Health District received notice Thursday morning from state Department of Health Secretary Jonathan Wiesman that the application had been approved.

“I am thrilled the Secretary of Health has approved Kitsap County to move ahead under the Governor’s Safe Start plan so quickly and I want to thank the Kitsap County residents, businesses and community organizations that worked so hard to position our county to take this step forward,” said Kitsap Public Health Board Chair Rob Putaansuu in a statement released Thursday.

Phase 2 allows for the reopening of dine-in service at restaurants — with no more than 50 percent capacity and five people at a table — and other businesses, such as hair and nail salons to resume operation. Outdoor recreational gatherings of up to five people outside of a person’s household are also now permitted.

Remaining manufacturing, office-based businesses, pet grooming, real estate and in-store retail purchases (with some restrictions) are also allowed in Kitsap.

“We’re pleased to begin reviving the economy here and getting more businesses open and people back to work,” said Commissioner Charlotte Garrido, chair of the Kitsap County Board of Commissioners. “With this step, we must continue to take safety precautions to protect our community and move forward to the next phases of recovery.”

High-risk groups of people — those aged 65 or older or those with underlying medical conditions — are still strongly encouraged to limit their participation in activities and business services that resume in Phase 2.

“We know COVID-19 is still present in our county and we believe our case count will increase again unless Kitsap County residents continue to take steps to protect their health and prevent the spread of the virus,” said Kitsap Public Health District Health Officer Dr. Susan Turner.

The variance application was approved on the condition that the county is required to monitor the pandemic for any signs of outbreaks or more widespread COVID-19 transmission. KPHD will be required to report such activity immediately to the state department of health within six hours of notification.

Businesses that wish to reopen may only do so after they can implement Washington’s “Safe Start” guidelines, as set forth by the governor’s office.

Wiesman said in his letter to the county that no authorization to move on to Phase 3 will be given without at least a three-week monitoring period, meaning the earliest Kitsap can move on to Phase 3 is in mid-to-late June.

The variance can be revoked if circumstances in Kitsap change, such as a large-scale transmission, a large deficit of COVID-19 testing or PPE supplies, inadequate contact tracing or other significant concerns. The governor also retains the right to place greater restrictions, Wiesman added.