Letter posted asking state for waiver; Most camping and overnight moorage would not be allowed in the islands in Phase 2

San Juan County Board of Health and the County Council voted unanimously Friday, May 22, 2020 to direct staff to send Dr. James letter requesting a waiver to move into Phase 2 and the accompanying packet of information to the state. The two agencies met Friday morning with Dr. James, the county health officer.

Here is the text of Dr. James letter: 

TO: Board of Health

RE: Recommendation to move to Phase 2

I recommend that San Juan County request a variance from the State to move forward to Phase 2 of the Phased Approach to Reopening Washington Plan with the following modifications regarding recreational activities:

(1) to provide that recreational camping is not allowed at the four ferry-served islands in San Juan County, specifically Lopez Island, Orcas Island, San Juan Island, and Shaw Island; and

(2) to provide that overnight recreational moorage at any port or marina in San Juan County is not allowed.

Last week we were very close to moving forward with an application for Phase 2. We are now in a position to do just that. Over the past few days we have accomplished a great deal, including the following:

• Training of additional staff to do testing and contact tracing.

• Completion of an assessment of our ability to provide PPE supply, with the understanding that we can meet our surge and testing needs, and augment clinical care programs needs in the county for six months.

• Completion of an inventory of supplies to ensure that each clinic, hospital and service area has at least a two-month supply of PPE on hand.

• Completion of a testing plan that can handle a significant increase in demand for timely and accurate testing through staffing, training, and clear relationships with identified roles and responsibilities. Our completed plan and partnerships will allow us to test a large number of people through our clinical partners together with our own staff.

• Identified additional nursing staff that have the time and have been trained to assist in reaching testing goals.

• Developed a plan to support vulnerable populations in our county where an outbreak would be very difficult to control and pose the risk of severe outcomes.

Our team has been working very hard. The plans and resources we now have in place will allow us to move forward with confidence that we are prepared to control the cases that will occur with increased contacts between people. In order to move forward to Phase 2, I considered the following criteria, which have now been met:

1. Capacity to provide advanced life support in our local and regional hospitals for those that become critically ill.

2. Ability to test people and identify new infections quickly and accurately.

3. Ability to continue to isolate the ill and to quarantine the exposed in a timely way. If we need assistance, have written agreements with those who will provide it.

4. A plan and resources to help people who need it with isolation, quarantine, and support services during isolation and quarantine.

5. Ability to rapidly respond to outbreaks of up to 50 people in our community, especially in places where many unrelated people live together such as longterm care facilities and in populations that are vulnerable and have special needs.

6. Ability to communicate with the public in an effective and timely way.

7. A facial covering mandate so that the outstanding community effort local citizens have made to date will continue as our activities and contact levels increase. This virus does not have wings or feet and only if we allow ourselves to get it on our hands and then touch our nose, eyes or mouth are we going to become infected. Face coverings go a long way toward reducing the risk of infected people depositing droplets in places that others will touch them and inoculate themselves with the virus. Outside of medical settings there are rarely airborne particles that carry the virus so that others become infected.

Our work is not over, despite our progress and the hope of a vaccine. In recent news it was reported that vaccine development took a significant step forward with apparent safety and efficacy in early trials. This a very promising development but even if this vaccine completes the clinical trials necessary to prove safety and efficacy, it would likely be deployed no sooner than Christmas time. Many barriers remain to that becoming a reality. We remain hopeful that sometime between the end of 2020 and mid-2022 a vaccine will be developed, proven safe, proven effective, and deployed to prevent outbreaks of this disease.

Until then, we must continue to hold the line against widespread infection and the deaths it would cause. We must continue our prevention strategies like wearing face coverings, handwashing, and social distancing together with case management interventions such as testing, isolation and quarantine. Until the deployment of a vaccine, those at increased risk must continue to remain distant from the majority of society and to learn to stay in touch, and get the resources they need with a minimum of exposure to others. This will be difficult, but my hope is that we can find ways to be content despite trying times.

The challenges will be significant and long lasting. Our efforts will need to continue to focus on prevention and mitigation efforts for our community. We will need to ensure those at risk are protected through common sense community interventions and rapid response medical efforts, and those efforts will need to be sustained not for weeks but possibly well into next year and beyond.

To reach our goals safely we will need to work together as a community with our common interests set firmly as our aim for the year ahead. 

Dr. Frank James 

San Juan County Council Chair Rick Hughes said, “We’re looking at this as very much a soft-reopening. The Governor’s non-essential travel ban is in place until Phase 3, and the goal is to carefully start to reopen, but our intent is for this to be a way for residents to directly support these businesses and services that have been closed for so long. We agree with Dr. James that the systems are in place to do this safely and responsibly.”

Health and Community Services Director Mark Tompkins said, “Our public health team has been working hard to make sure we have the testing, contact tracing, PPE, and outreach plans in place to support the islands going forward. I’m hopeful that our application will be approved and confident that we’re taking the right steps as we move ahead.”

Please note that San Juan County is not yet approved for Phase 2. San Juan County remains in Phase 1. Residents and businesses should continue to follow the guidance outlined by the Governor until a determination is made on the variance request. That same link also provides guidance to business that will be allowed to open in Phase 2. Preparing to meet those requirements ahead of any possible move to Phase 2 would be wise.

If the move to Phase 2 is approved, please note that:

As per San Juan County Health Officer order 2020-4, face coverings will be required in all public businesses in San Juan County.

As per San Juan County Health Officer order 2020-1 and 2020-5, the ban on transient lodging for non-essential travel remains in place until the Governor moves San Juan County until Phase 3. The ban on camping and transient moorage remains in place as well, though camping will be allowed on the non-ferry served islands.

Please remember that in both Phases 2 and 3, high risk populations are strongly encouraged to stay home to the full extent possible. More information on high risk populations is available from the CDC.

See the Governor's website for detailed information about specific types of businesses and workers.

After the Secretary of Health approves the request, Phase 2 would begin. People and business owners would be expected to follow the reopening guidelines from the state.

Here are the Phases in the state's Four-Phase Reopening Plan:

PHASE 1 -  began Tuesday, May 5 and allows: 

High-Risk people:

- Continue to Stay Home, Stay Healthy


Some outdoor recreation (hunting, fishing, golf, boating, hiking) 


- Drive in spiritual service with one household per vehicle


Only essential travel


- Essential businesses open

- Existing construction that meet agreed upon criteria

- Landscaping

- Automobile sales

- Retail (curb-side pick-up orders only)

- Car washes

- Pet walkers

PHASE 2 would allow:

High-Risk people:

- Continue to Stay Home, Stay Healthy


- All outdoor recreation involving fewer than five people outside your household (camping, beaches, etc.)


-Gather with no more than five people outside your household per week

Travel :

Limited non-essential travel within proximity of your home


- Remaining manufacturing

- New construction

- ln-home/domestic services (nannies, housecleaning, etc.)

- Retail (in-store purchases allowed with restrictions)

- Real estate

- Professional services/office-based businesses (telework remains strongly encouraged)

- Hair and nail salons/Barbers -

- Housecleaning

- Restaurants (no more than 50% capacity, table size no larger than five people)

PHASE 3  would allow:

High-Risk people:

- Continue to Stay Home, Stay Healthy


- Outdoor group rec. sports activities (5-50 people)

- Recreational facilities at no more than 50% capacity (public pools, etc.)


- Allow gatherings with no more than 50 people


- Resume non-essential travel


- Restaurants capacity table size no larger than 10

- Bars at no more than 25% capacity)

- Indoor at no more than 50% capacity

- Movie theaters at no more than 50% capacity

- Government (telework remains strongly encouraged)

- Libraries

- Museums

- All other business activities not yet listed except for and events with greater than 50 people

Phase 4  would allow:

High-Risk people:

- Resume public interactions, with physical distancing


- Resume all recreational activity


- Allow gatherings with 550 people


- Continue non-essential travel


- Concert venues

- Large sporting events

- Resume unrestricted staffing of worksites, but continue to practice physical distancing and good hygiene


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1 comment

  • B. Singletion
    B. Singletion Sunday, 24 May 2020 10:59 Comment Link

    Well I certainly hope the citizens of San Juan county stay on their island! Stop all ferry traffic and stop using state taxes to fund their transportation.

    Stay out of Anacortes!


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