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Pierce County leaders push to enter Phase 2 of reopening

While Pierce County leaders say they are 'ready to safely reopen,' the county health department acknowledges they don't meet state requirements.

Pierce County leaders say the county is “ready to safely reopen" and wants local health leaders to agree.

In a tweet Thursday, Pierce County leaders said the county's executive and members of the council are calling for an emergency meeting of the Tacoma-Pierce County Health District to approve the county to move to Phase 2. 

Shortly after the tweet was made, the Tacoma-Pierce County Health District sent a tweet saying, "While we are preparing to be ready, we don't meet Gov. Inslee's current requirements. We're hopeful the governor will announce a change tomorrow, and if we meet any updated criteria, we will recommend the county apply." 

Much of the state is already in Phase 2 of Gov. Jay Inslee's "Safe Start" plan, but the state's largest counties King, Snohomish, and Pierce have remained in Phase 1. 

Pierce County Executive Bruce Dammeier told KING 5 they made their case to Gov. Inslee about loosening the threshold related to coronavirus cases and deaths in order to reopen, and said that Inslee "listened," but did not make any decisions. 

"When you look at Pierce County compared to King or Snohomish counties, our infection rates have been half of what theirs have been on a per 100,000 level,” Dammeier said. 

Dammeier also said the county has enough masks and thermometers to help small businesses reopen safely. 

While some counties, like King, have issued health directives for face coverings to be worn in public, Dammeier said Pierce County did not plan to mandate face masks in public. 

He believes people will make the right choices without being forced to wear a mask and will follow safety guidelines already in place.

"If we provide them with the right medical guidance and the right tools, they're going to step up and do it well," he said. 

RELATED: Phases of reopening: Over half of Washington's counties enter Phase 2

A similar scene is unfolding up north in Snohomish County.

From the amount of personal protective equipment to coronavirus testing and most other metrics, Snohomish County leaders believe they're ready to move into Phase 2 of Gov. Jay Inslee's four-phased plan to reopen the state. 

But there is one sticking point -- the number of new cases.

To get to Phase 2, counties need to have fewer than 10 new cases per 100,000 people over a 14-day span, among other requirements.

Despite that, County Health Officer Dr. Chris Spitters said, "Things are moving in the right direction, and we believe that we currently have the infrastructure, plans and partnerships in place to enter into Phase 2 with reasonable confidence that we can continue to suppress transmission of the virus."

RELATED: Snohomish County leaders say they're ready for Phase 2 of state's reopening plan

California, a state partnered with Washington in the reopening process, recently loosened restrictions allowing for 25 new cases per 100,000 people every 2 weeks, moving much of the state into Phase 2.

Why is Washington so much more strict? The governor has repeatedly said it's "to save lives."

Now, though, Snohomish County is asking the governor to allow it to move to Phase 2 without meeting that strict new case standard.

RELATED: Facing a potential recall vote, Snohomish County Sheriff Adam Fortney makes no apologies

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