County Health Officer may mandate the wearing of masks in Phase 2

Islanders may be able to get badly needed haircuts soon and new construction projects might be able to start. The county is working on obtaining a waiver from the state that would allow San Juan County to skip ahead to Phase 2 of the four-phase Safe Start Plan. 

A recent COVID-19 case (number 15) that was reported last week had appeared to derail any plans to ask for the waiver. A county must have gone three weeks without a new case. San Juan County Health Officer Dr. James updated the Board of Health about the 15th case at a Special Meeting May 11. According to Dr. James the actual onset of the woman's symptoms was on April 1. So the case did not reset the clock regarding the three-week  time period.

BOH chair Dr. Dale Heissinger asked Dr. James if it was true that there has not been any community spread of COVID-19 in the San Juan Islands.

Dr. James said that was true. While the virus has spread among family members, there hasn't been any community spread.  Cases were brought to the islands. Take the 15th case for example. The person infected caught the virus from a guest visiting from out of state. 

The BOH met remotely Monday, May 11 to discuss with Dr. James the prospect of asking the state for a waiver. The process requires a letter from the county Health Officer requesting the waiver. There are several criteria in addition to the three-week case free time period. Adequate testing, plans on how to handle an outbreak, effective contact tracing, sufficient hospital beds (this can be met by flying patients to mainland hospitals) are some of the criteria that must be met. Dr. James told the council he will be adding another requirement -  masks. He is working with the county Prosecutor's Office to ascertain how he can issue an order making the wearing of masks mandatory.

He told the council he was very worried by the activities that happened last weekend. There was an influx of visitors. Many of them weren't abiding by social distancing requirements and they were not wearing masks. 

The BOH decided to have another special meeting - most likely on Thursday, May 14 to review the letter Dr. James is composing. If the BOH agrees with the letter, they would forward it to the county Council which then could decide to send it on to the state. 

If the state grants San Juan County a waiver, the Phase 2 rules would go into effect. 

Phase 2 includes:

All components of Phase 1 will carry into the start of Phase 2, which will include outdoor activities in small groups with people from outside one’s household, as well as limited non-essential travel within proximity of one’s home.

Additional modifications to restrictions in Phase 2 affecting business will include:

Remaining manufacturing and construction phases

Restaurants/taverns less than 50% capacity/table size no larger than 5 people and no bar area seating

Hair and nail salons

Retail (in-store purchases allowed with restrictions)

Real estate

Professional services/office-based businesses (telework remains strongly encouraged) In-home/domestic services (i.e., nannies, housecleaning)

Pet grooming

Essential travel and limited non-essential travel to engage in Phase 1 and Phase 2 activities is permitted.

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  • Walt
    Walt Wednesday, 13 May 2020 15:16 Comment Link

    Have trial period where everyone in public must wear a mask and maintain 6ft distancing. If people adhere to the rules then we can continue opening businesses. If there is noncompliance then back to lockdown. Including on ferries

  • Habib
    Habib Wednesday, 13 May 2020 10:42 Comment Link

    I don't mind if visitors come as long as they (and we!) mask up and keep our distance. These simple, and yes annoying, measures will protect our Islands populations, which happen to skew elderly. We've done really well so far, I'd hate to see that reversed by carelessness.

  • Julie
    Julie Tuesday, 12 May 2020 09:18 Comment Link

    The entire economy of San Juan Island is based on having visitors. The open hostility of some "locals" to visitors is dangerous - it's a bit reminiscent of the "Lord of the Fly's". We cannot close off the island from the rest of the world. Time to open up within reason for all our sake and livelihoods. Steps can be taken to be safe, lets be happy about that.


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