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

Executive Dave Somers said Snohomish County residents have "paid a heavy price" during the COVID-19 pandemic and must move forward to get people safely back to work.

SNOHOMISH COUNTY, Wash. — 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.

Snohomish County currently has about five times the acceptable number.

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."

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.

“I am recommending to the Snohomish Health District Board of Health and the County Council that Snohomish County submit an application to the state Department of Health to enter into Phase II of the Safe Start program," said Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers. "Our residents have paid a high price from COVID-19, and we are making progress as a result of our residents’ discipline. We are ready to take the next step in the Safe Start plan."

In a press conference late Thursday, Governor Inslee didn't rule that out.

"In regard to Snohomish, under the current order there is not a procedure for that, but in the next few days, we'll have more decisions. I think some of that will be responsive to some of the concerns some folks in Snohomish County have. I think there will be some pleased folks at some degree."

Inslee says those talks could come as soon as Friday.  

Somers, along with Board of Health Chair Stephanie Wright and Council Chair Nate Nehring, announced their intention to move into Phase 2 Thursday.

RELATED: Unemployed in Washington? Top money questions answered

“The Snohomish Health District and its partners have succeeded in preserving the health and safety of thousands in Snohomish County,” Wright said. “It is now time for us to move into Phase 2 and re-start our economy. I will be proposing that the Board of Health consider a variance on Friday.”

Nehring said moving to Phase 2 would begin to provide economic relief to businesses, workers, and families.

“I am proud to join my fellow county leaders in this joint proposal to move us in the right direction and support our local economy," he said.

The county's coronavirus response plan was approved by the county council Wednesday. 

The decision to apply for a variance will need to be approved by the Snohomish Health District Board of Health and the county council.

Executive Somers said last week that while they were "headed in the right direction," the county "certainly will not meet those criteria by June 1."

Though the state is officially in Phase 1 of the four-phase reopening plan from Washington’s stay-home order, more than half of the counties in the state have been allowed to proceed to Phase 2 and loosen social distancing restrictions even further.

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

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