After affirmative votes from the Columbia County Board of Commissioners and the Board of Health, and confirmation that Columbia County has an appropriate number of COVID-19 test kits on hand, has contact tracing personnel in place, has patient isolation housing
secured, and has a hospital system equipped and ready to handle a potential uptick in cases, Columbia County Public Health on Tuesday submitted an application to the state for a variance to move to phase 2 of the Governor's Reopening Plan. I'm please to share that the Governor just announced in his press conference a few minutes ago that 5 counties have been approved - and one of them is Columbia County! More work needs to be done before businesses can reopen, so stay tuned for more information.
Many questions have arisen since this opportunity presented itself, including how to manage an influx of visitors from other communities with a higher infection rate than ours looking for services that they can't get in their own communities. Keeping our residents safe is a top priority for Public Health, so our agencies are working together to find a balance between allowing businesses to operate and protecting our population, especially our vulnerable senior citizens. Columbia County First will likely be the mantra for providing services.
Touchet Valley Golf Course is managing that balance by allowing members only to golf during this transition period. Some local restaurants are weighing the financial and health pros and cons of opening at 50% capacity and may choose to continue with take-out only. Good news was reported yesterday from both The Last Resort and Lyons Ferry Marina that recreationalists are following the rules and effectively social distancing. These kind of joint actions between business owners and the public will be key to allowing more businesses to reopen while keeping our residents safe.
In preparation of moving to Phase 2 reopening, plans are being made to provide operational guidelines along with a starter kit of personal protective equipment for businesses prior to reopening. Our local winery and distillery are cooking up another batch of hand sanitizer, a donation of 1,000 masks has been received, and gloves are being sourced for the starter kits. Be assured our Public Health department is doing everything they can to respect the health of our citizens while honoring the ability of many our businesses to resume operations. Here are some resources to review to give you an idea of what requirements your business may have to follow:
- The Washington State Department of Commerce website has guidelines prepared for almost every business sector on the Safe Start page.
- The US Department of Labor has released guidelines for different sectors on their OSHA page.