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Washington County commissioners approve reopening plan, aim to apply for Phase 1 in June

While commissioners approved the county's reopening plan, Washington County is not ready to apply for Phase 1 of reopening.

WASHINGTON COUNTY, Ore. — Washington County took a step toward restarting public life on Friday. Its board of commissioners approved a plan to reopen. Commissioners also approved a contract with two outside agencies to recruit contact tracers and other support staff. 

To be clear: plan approval from the commissioners does not mean the county is ready to apply for Phase 1 of reopening. Washington County expects to apply and get approval from Gov. Kate Brown’s office to enter Phase 1 of reopening by early to mid-June. The first phase includes lifting some restrictions on gatherings, restaurants, salons and gyms,

“Although Washington County is now one important step closer to reopening, we will continue to apply public health expertise and science to guide the next steps in our transition,” said Board Chair Kathryn Harrington.

Thirty-one Oregon counties have received approval from Gov. Kate Brown’s office to begin the process of reopening. Marion and Polk counties applied but were denied. Only three counties have yet to apply and they are in the Portland metro area: Washington, Multnomah and Clackamas.

Credit: KGW
Map of counties that can begin first phase of reopening on May 15

RELATED: Here’s why Multnomah County isn’t ready to reopen

Washington County, which is home to cities such as Beaverton, Hillsboro and Tigard, worked with local emergency managers to come up with a plan to meet the governor’s seven criteria. 

The only criteria the county has left to meet is a big undertaking: hiring enough contact tracers to find people who’ve come into contact with a known case. Along with increased testing, this is a key part of the governor’s framework for reopening Oregon.

Here is where Washington County stands on the requirements to be eligible for Phase 1:

  1. Declining prevalence of COVID-19: Washington County says it has met this criteria.
  2. Minimum testing regimen: Washington County says it has met this criteria.
  3. Contact tracing system: The county is still in the process of meeting this requirement. It needs up to 121 people to do the work, which includes epidemiologists, data entry staff, administrative staff and supervisors and other support staff. Now that contracts have been approved, the county says it can hire enough contact tracers to meet the requirement of contacting 95% of cases within 24 hours. The county says it plans to have 30% of necessary contact tracing staff hired when it submits its application to the state. Washington County must hire bilingual and multicultural workforce to reflect the residents who live there.
  4. Isolation/quarantine facilities: Washington County has met this requirement. It has a contract with a hotel already serving people who are houseless and are symptomatic and awaiting test results, as well as people who’ve tested positive. The county says it is also looking into the possibility of including hotel vouchers and contracts for other housing near migrant farm camps.
  5. Finalized statewide sector guidelines: This has been met by Oregon Health Authority.
  6. Sufficient health care capacity: This requirement falls on the six-county “health region” in which Washington County sits. It has been met by medical providers in the region.
  7. Personal protective equipment (PPE) supply: Washington County says it has sufficient supply, as does the health region. 

Read the full reopening plan here.

The Oregon Health Authority has repeatedly said as public life resumes, projections show COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations will likely increase. Therefore, everyone is still urged to continue practicing physical distancing, maintaining great hygiene and wearing face coverings.

“We know our community is anxious to start opening up,” said Health and Human Services director Marni Kuyl. “But it’s important that we do this right. We don’t want to have to backtrack and close back down, so we are being cautious in our approach.” 

RELATED: 'We need to step carefully and cautiously': Gov. Brown announces which Oregon counties can start reopening

RELATED: Here are the guidelines for retail stores reopening in Oregon