NETCHD seeks flexibility within regional approach

RaeLynn Ricarte
Editor, Statesman Examiner

Northeast Tri County Health District has written a letter to Gov. Jay Inslee urging greater flexibility in his plan to reduce spread of the COVID-19 virus.

“There must be a way to recognize that counties, not large geographical regions, will be at different stages of readiness to advance given COVID-19 disease prevalence,” states the Feb. 1 letter signed by Matt Schanz, executive director of the district, Dr. Sam Artzis, health officer, and Pend Oreille County Commissioner Mike Manus, who chairs of the health board.

“The counties that NETCHD represents (Ferry, Pend Oreille, Stevens) should not be held back from advancing based on what is occurring in more heavily populated counties.”

Under Inslee’s Roadmap to Recovery plan, the three rural counties are lumped into a region with Spokane County, home of the second largest city in Washington with much higher COVID-19 case counts.

Also included in the East Region are Lincoln, Adams, Whitman, Garfield and Asotin counties.

“This regional approach sets the stage for inequities to exist between drastically different dynamics that occur in this large, regional approach,” wrote local health district officials.

They noted that, while travel does take place between counties in close proximity to each other, people spend most of their time close to home, so their exposure to the virus occurs primarily within their county of residence.

Under Inslee’s Roadmap, the state is divided into eight regions. To move from Phase 1 into Phase 2 of reopening the economy, each regions must met three of these four metrics:

  • A decreasing trend in the two-week rate of COVID cases per 100,000 population;
  • A decreasing trend in the two-week rate of new COVID-19 hospital admission rates per 100,000 population;
  • Reducing the ICU occupancy rate of COVID-19 and other cases to less than 90%; and,
  • A COVID-19 test positivity rate of 10%.

Read the full story in the Feb. 10, 2021 edition of the Deer Park Tribune.