The Times - Serving Waitsburg, Dayton and the Touchet Valley

By Michele Smith
the Times 

Columbia County Health Department is asking for a variance from the state to move into COVID-19 Phase II


Lane Gwinn

DAYTON-On Friday May 1 Governor Jay Inslee announced a four-phase plan for reopening businesses in Washington state. That announcement included an opportunity for ten smaller, rural counties to apply for a variance to reopen certain businesses a few weeks earlier than other counties, and Columbia County is on that list.

On Monday, Columbia County Public Health Director Martha Lanman presented the criteria needed to comply with requirements to apply for a variance to the Board of County Commissioners.

The Columbia County Board of Health recommends the variance application and Columbia County Health Officer Dr. Larry Jecha has submitted the letter certifying the county's proactive role in keeping cases of COVID-19 to only one, and recommending the application, she said.

Lanman said she has also received a letter from Columbia County Health System CEO Shane McGuire certifying adequate hospital bed capacity exists to treat COVID-19 patients.

She said the county is able to make COVID-19 testing available to everyone in the county who has symptoms consistent with COVID-19.

The county can also fulfill a requirement to house people in isolation or in quarantine who do not have a home, or wish to isolate or quarantine outside the home, she said.

Lanman said plans are also in place to provide case management services to people who contract COVID-19 and for people in isolation and quarantine, in the event of an outbreak.

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Also, the capability exists to respond, rapidly, to an outbreak in congregate settings. A congregate setting is an environment where a number of people reside, meet or gather in close proximity for either a limited or extended period of time, for example, assisted living, retail or workplaces.

Columbia County Emergency Management Services Director Ashley Strickland told the commissioners the county is in possession of adequate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to cover a possible outbreak of COVID-19.

The Board of County Commissioners gave their approval for the variance application.

Lanman said she will submit the necessary documents to the state Department of Health this week, and then await guidance and approval of the opening date of Phase II from the state Dept. of Health and Governor Inslee.


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