Press Release: Washington County Applies For Phase I Reopening

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Washington County has applied to the state for reopening, with a goal of entering Phase I on Monday, June 1.

Phase I includes limited reopening of restaurants and bars, personal services, gyms and malls. Gatherings of up to 25 people are allowed for recreational, social, cultural, civic or faith events as long as physical distancing requirements are met.

“As we await the state’s decision about our application, we need everyone in our community to understand that our success under Phase 1 reopening will be of our own making,” said Board of Commissioners Chair Kathryn Harrington. “Each of us will need to be responsible for following the public health guidelines necessary to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus. We all need to do our part so our community moves safely into our less restricted future, not backward into our more restricted past.”

Washington County’s application outlines the seven criteria set by Governor Kate Brown for a county to be eligible for Phase I.

  1. Declining prevalence of COVID-19: We have met this criterion. On May 21, Oregon Health Authority indicated Washington County did not meet the prerequisite for reopening because of a positive trend in COVID-19 hospital admissions. However, in the past 14 days, Washington County has had COVID-19 hospitalization counts of two or fewer per day. The method OHA uses to determine the trend for hospital admissions requires at least 20 hospitalizations a day and therefore is not appropriate to apply to our data. Washington County has clearly met the intent of this metric. Washington County data on positive tests, case counts and hospitalizations can be found at http://arcg.is/0Si5re.
  2. Minimum testing regimen: We have met this criterion.
  3. Contact tracing system: Washington County has a plan to have 42 new surge staff hired and trained by June 1. This will allow us to meet the state’s requirement to reach 95 percent of close contacts within 24 hours as we enter Phase I. After June 1, the county will continue to hire additional staff to meet the state’s requirement of having 15 contact tracers per 100,000 people. This will include 90 staff doing the work of contact tracing, and another 30-40 people supporting this work. At least 30% of the new staff will be bilingual/bicultural. 
  4. Isolation/quarantine facilities: We have met this criterion. The county has a contract with a hotel that is already housing people who have tested positive for COVID-19 and those who are unhoused, symptomatic and are awaiting test results. The county is also exploring other options, including hotel vouchers and potential contracts for other housing options near migrant farm camps.
  5. Finalized statewide sector guidelines: The Oregon Health Authority has met this state requirement.
  6. Sufficient health care capacity: Medical providers in the six-county health region have met this criterion.
  7. Sufficient personal protective equipment (PPE) supply: We have met this criterion as a county and our six-county region has also met this criterion.

“We understand that people are anxious to return to some sense of normal life,” said Health and Human Services Director Marni Kuyl. “If we are approved for Phase I on June 1, we urge our community to take a cautious approach. We can all do our part to prevent a resurgence of disease spread and hospitalizations by staying home if we are sick, practicing physical distancing, washing our hands often, and wearing cloth face coverings.”

New investigative guidelines from OHA require asking positive cases and their entire households to quarantine at home for 14 days, even when family members are not sick. This quarantine could go on for much longer if more than one household member becomes ill. Some of the county’s new workforce will provide support and resources to these families who are unable to meet their essential needs, such as getting groceries.

“We know that many families and businesses are struggling and need to get back to work,” said Kuyl. “But the public health risk that comes with reopening is real. We are going to be asking the public to continue to make sacrifices for many weeks and months to come.”

“I want to thank our county public health and emergency coordination staff for the outstanding work they have done under trying circumstances to get us to this point,” said Harrington. “There is no question in my mind that their efforts have saved lives and are positioning us to take this next step successfully.”

Washington County’s application will be posted on their website.

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