Chelan and Douglas County leadership to ask Governor to approve their Phase 1 proposal for reopening some functions

by Richard Uhlhorn

The Chelan-Douglas County Health District held a special board meeting on Monday, May 11, with its Board of Health members to finalize a proposal called Phase 1.5 which will be sent to Governor Inslee and his Secretary of Health Dr. John Wiesman.

The Board of Health members, who include both Chelan and Douglas County Commissioners, the Waterville Mayor, and East Wenatchee, Wenatchee and Leavenworth City Council members along with CDHD staff members including Dr. Malcolm Butler and others.

The final proposal will include a subset of Phase 2 changes without producing a significant increase in the risk of COVID-19 cases. The board is following the Governor’s Safe Start Washington protocol, but summarizes the Corona Virus activity in both Chelan and Douglas County.

Phase 1.5 will be asking the Governor to allow the following activities to resume:

  • Essential Travel and limited Non-Essential Travel;
  • Medical, Dental and Behavioral Health Services when required to meet emergent patient needs with appropriate social distancing and infectious control measures;
  • Hair & Nail Salons (no hair cutting);
  • Outdoor recreation involving five or fewer people with appropriate social distancing; and
  • Retail stores for in-store purchase with social distancing.

Marc Straub, Douglas County Commissioner stated that box stores were allowed to remain open and it that it makes sense to allow smaller retail stores to open because that would reduce over-crowding at the box stores. Secondly, if this is rejected, close down the box stores also.

The timeframe for completing the proposal and sending it on to the State is of importance to getting permissible options open soon. “We need to get open as soon as possible.” Straub added that small businesses don’t have the luxury of waiting.

Kling stated that he would finalize the proposal in the next couple of days so it can get out.

Jill Thompson said it was imperative to get signatures from the majority of the Board of Health before mailing the proposal out. She is looking for letters of support from:

  • The Board of Health’s approval;
  • County Boards of Commissioners;
  • Health Officers;
  • Hospitals;
  • Medical leaders;
  • Chambers of Commerce;
  • Sheriff’s Departments and Police Chiefs; and
  • Counties’ and Emergency Directors.

Following is some of the discussion during the 1.5 hour meeting.

Barry Kling, director of CDHD, told the board that new cases are predominantly Hispanic. Chelan County Commissioner Doug England asked it most of these new cases were asymptomatic. Kling replied that most of the tests are on individuals with symptoms, but that most of those people testing positive have recovered. “Everyone has recovered except for those who will die,” said Kling. “Out of the total numbers (268) almost all have recovered.” Dr. Butler also said, “My father who was a physician always said the cause of death was when the heart stopped pumping. I have no answer of how data has been recorded.” He added that as a physician, recovery is not something they commonly track.

Currently the total case count in Chelan and Douglas County stands at 269 with 219 of those positive cases being Hispanic and only 48 Non-Hispanic cases recorded. Wenatchee City Council member Ruth Esparza said she had one complaint that CDHD was avoiding ethnicity. “How are we going to provide the message to the Hispanic community,” she asked. She added that it is important to get the numbers out there and to educated the Latino community that they have to do things differently. “The newer generation is helping them understand why they need to do things different.”

Kling stated that he had a lot of feedback on that issue. “We are going to resume posting those figures in the Wenatchee World,” he said.

As of May 10, Chelan and Douglas County had six deaths ranging in age from 84 to 92 years old. Most of them had significant health related problems. One individual from Bridgeport died at the age of 69.

John Sterk, East Wenatchee councilman, said he had received concerns about tracking COVID-19. He mentioned that HR6666 has gone down in flames and that there is a lot of misinformation about tracking. “Can we get a message to the community that we are not doing intrusive tracking,” he asked.

Kling remarked that contact tracing has been going on for 150 years. “It really isn’t controlling anyone.” CDHD has been using volunteers, but will be moving to the state program because of confidentiality issues.

Marc Straub, Douglas County Commissioner stated that box stores were allowed to remain open and it that it makes sense to allow smaller retail stores to open because that would reduce over-crowding at the box stores. Secondly, if this is rejected, close down the box stores also.

The timeframe for completing the proposal and sending it on to the State is of importance to getting permissible options open soon. “We need to get open as soon as possible.” Straub added that small businesses don’t have the luxury of waiting.

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