Stevens County at risk of Phase 2 return as rest of state advances to third phase

By: 
RaeLynn Ricarte
Editor

Stevens County joins the rest of the state in advancing to Phase 3 of Gov. Jay Inslee’s Roadmap to Recovery plan on March 22, but could return to Phase 2 restrictions just three weeks later if the number of new COVID-19 cases doesn’t drastically decline.

“The safeguards become very critical,” said Matt Schanz, director of Northeast Tri County Health District, about preventing that scenario.

The metrics set up by Inslee to determine whether a county can stay in Phase 3 holds rural counties with populations of 50,000 or less to no more than 30 new cases within a 14-day period and a seven-day average of three hospitalizations.

As of press time Monday, the health district reported that Stevens County had 71 new cases within a two-week period.

“There is very active disease transmission occurring in our area,” said Schanz.

He said both Ferry and Pend Oreille counties stood in good shape to remain in Phase 3 with four and 21 new cases, respectively.

Stevens County Commission Chair Wes McCart said it was good that Inslee responded to pressure from local/state government leaders by transitioning from a regional approach to determine reopening to a county-by-county process.

However, he said larger counties can have up to 200 new cases every 14 days per 100,000 of population, which provides much more latitude than given to smaller counties, where case counts are actually much lower.

As of Monday, Stevens County with a population of roughly 45,000 has seen a total of 1,684 cases and 22 deaths. There is currently one patient hospitalized for COVID-19 complications in the tri-county area, according to the health district.

“We should be seeing the same metric across the state,” said McCart. “Where is the equity in holding us to a higher standard than larger counties?”

Read the full story in the March 17, 2021 editions of the Deer Park Tribune and Statesman Examiner.

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