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Snohomish County to pursue Phase 2 reopening after Washington relaxes criteria

"It's not just about numbers or bringing people in," one business owner said. "It's about making sure people feel comfortable."

EDMONDS, Wash. — With hospital capacity up, as well as stocks of personal protective equipment, and a steady drop in the number of new coronavirus cases, the Snohomish County Council voted Friday to ask Gov. Jay Inslee for to allow it to move into Phase 2 of the state's reopening process.

The stay home order, implemented in March to curb the spread of coronavirus, comes to an end on Sunday. But Washington state is continuing with phased reopenings, aimed to avoid outbreaks of the contagious virus.

Snohomish County will make its request on Monday even though the county hasn't quite met all of the official criteria for Phase 2. But the governor on Friday announced the relaxation of some of those criteria, bringing Snohomish County very close. 

RELATED: Washington's stay-at-home order will expire Sunday, counties get more flexibility to reopen

"I'm very confident it's reasonable we can move ahead and repress transmission, if not prevent all together another surge. I'm very confident," said Snohomish County Health Officer Dr. Chris Spitters.

The news was met with elation and apprehension in the city of Edmonds, a bedroom community with the oldest population in Snohomish County.

"We've made so many changes here, it's like a whole new business model," said Jeff Barnett, owner of Salish Sea Brewing. "It was hard to do. None one is an expert at any of this. We're just trying to get by."

Among the many changes at the pub, a conversion to 100% takeout. Barnett has even taken to sporting a Sasquatch suit and pedaling around town on a bike with brewery flags flying off the back to let people know he's still open.

With news that a Phase 2 could be imminent, Barnett has started work to improve outdoor seating and build screens between tables to keep people safe.

As happy as this makes Barnett, he's still a bit apprehensive.

"We're guarded about how our business runs, about how our customers and guests feel," he said. "I have to work with my entire team to find out what they're comfortable doing. It's not just about numbers or bringing people in. It's about making sure people feel comfortable."

Spitters concedes unless people continue to stay home as much as possible and social distance, a return to Phase 1 is possible.

"Nature may overcome our best efforts," he said in a Friday Board of Health meeting. "We may have to look at reconsidering elements of social distancing that we've implemented to date."

Through all the uncertainty, Barnett is taking it one day at a time.

"I think getting back to where it was a few months ago is out of the question, right now," Barnett said. "Day by day, hour by hour and statute by statute we'll figure out what to do."

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