Spokane Co. will ask Gov. Inslee to fast track the reopening of our region

SPOKANE, Wash. — County officials wants Governor Jay Inslee to fast track the reopening of our region, and they’ll be asking him later this week.

Phase one of the governor’s plan to reopen Washington launches on Tuesday. It’ll last for three weeks before moving on to phase two. However, Spokane Mayor Nadine Woodward hopes the governor will let Spokane County get to the next phase quicker than the state-wide plan. Currently, 10 counties can apply to reopen quicker.

“We’re talking with the governor tomorrow to just that — that if after phase one opens and we do not see spikes in cases and we continue to maintain the gain, we will petition the governor to get to phase two a little bit earlier,” Woodward explained. “As a region, your electives have been pushing the governor to have some flexibility.”

During phase one, several types of businesses will open including retail curbside pickup, landscaping services, car dealerships and more. They all will have to follow safety protocols. Golf courses and state parks are also on the list.

Once the county applies to reopen sooner, state officials said it’ll take a few days for approval.

RELATED: Gov. Inslee extends Washington’s stay home order through May 31, details 4-phase reopening plan

“We are going to be asking them for — what their plans are for case in contact investigations,” said John Wiesman, Secretary of the Washington state Department of Health. “We want to make sure that they have adequate staffing and if they are working with other entities to do that.”

Staff members with the governor’s office said the three week time frame between phases is for a reason.

“It’s not time for the gate to swing open, widely and we’re going to be careful about this,” said David Postman, Chief of Staff.

They said the three week period gives them an incubation period and time for data to come in and see if the phases are having an impact.

“The major concern is increasing the number of cases and risks and stress to the healthcare delivery system,” Wiesman said.

Woodward said the county is prepared. They have set up a local plan with three key points to reopen:

  • Advocate with the governor for flexibility
  • Develop a regional plan with health district and elected officials
  • Ensure the movement to opening businesses would be a deliberate and slow process

“We said all along that this isn’t just a reopening of everything again,” Woodward said. “This is a very slow roll. But our goal has been to ask the governor for some flexibility in opening up our region sooner than a state-wide one size fits all plan, which is what the governor had been advocating for quite some time.”

If the application to move to phase two isn’t approved, the phase is expected to take effect as early as June 1.

During a press conference on Monday, Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich spoke about the state of emergency declared by Inslee back in February.

He said he believes we should follow the governor’s order. However, he recently spoke with the county’s legal department to figure out what actions the governor is allowed to take. By law, the sheriff says the order will no longer be in effect when the emergency itself has passed.

“Should Spokane County find that we are no longer in a state of emergency, we will take the actions to move that forward, but that RCW is very clear,” Knezovich said. “Once the state of emergency is no longer here, the governor must shut down the order.”

The sheriff has not said if the county plans to take any legal action, but says he’s in the process of “checking” the governor.

RELATED: Spokane Co. officials, residents urging Gov. Inslee to allow regional approach for reopening

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