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As Kittitas County residents await a decision Tuesday from the state on whether the county can move to phase two in the states reopening plan, business owners are encouraged to be prepared for the potential to reopen if they qualify.

The Kittitas County Incident Management Team (IMT) is asking businesses along with residents to prepare for Phase 2 to begin as early as Wednesday, while businesses are asked to not begin implementing Phase 2 practices until directed to, according to a press release.

“We are confident in our response to Kittitas County’s first outbreak,” Health Officer Dr. Mark Larson said in the release. “It is possible that our variance application will be approved on Tuesday, which means our county should be prepared to begin phase two on May 27.”

Under phase two, retail establishments can start providing partial in-store sales, restaurants can operate at 50% capacity with tables no larger than five, real estate, housecleaning, hairdressers and nail salons and professional services/office-based businesses are able to begin operating again. Residents are also able to interact with up to five people per week outside of their household under phase two. All outdoor recreation is also allowed in the phase, as long as residents keep to the five-person rule.

Kittitas County Public Health Department Public Information Officer Kasey Knutson said that residents need to keep track of how many people they are directly interacting with during the week to limit the number to five. As an example, she said going for a haircut once businesses reopen would count the hairdresser as one of those five.

“We want people to be able to realize who they’ve been around,” she said. “One of things we found with the contact tracing associated with the (Twin City Foods) outbreak is that people typically had about eight to 10 people on average that they had contact with. We don’t want those numbers to increase. We want to be able to keep that at a fairly minimum number.”

All businesses are required to have a safety plan upon reopening. Safety plan worksheets are available on the Kittitas County Incident webpage along with sample plans. Businesses that would like technical assistance may also request help on the IMT website.

“All of those things regarding the safety plan are super important,” Knutson said. “We want to make sure everybody has one of those for phase two, whether they were open before or they’re just opening as part of this phase two process.”

Knutson said businesses should utilize resources at the state level, as information is rapidly changing regarding reopening requirements.

“Their website has information that provides guidance for certain business areas and fields,” she said. “We want people to be up to date on that information.”

Businesses that have questions on whether they can open during phase two can inquire at https://coronavirus.wa.gov/. Reopening guidance is changing and is available on the Governor’s website at www.governor.wa.gov via the COVID-19 issues page. For a summary of phase two details, visit https://www.governor.wa.gov/news-media/chart-washingtons-phased-approach.

CLOTH FACE MASK

On Friday, the IMT issued a release directing everyone in Kittitas County to wear cloth face masks starting on Saturday.

County officials said the directive is a stronger way of asking, but it is not a requirement and there is no enforcement in regard to whether someone wears a face covering or not.

Individuals who are at indoor or confined public settings must wear a face covering over their nose and mouth if they will be within six feet of a non-household member. Face coverings must be worn outside as well when you cannot maintain a six foot physical distance, the release states.

Cloth face coverings may include cloth face masks, scarves, bandanas or other materials recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). All commercial establishments in Kittitas County are required to post signage advising individuals to wear face coverings.

According to county officials, scientific research is showing that masking helps to block infectious droplets from spreading when someone with an infection coughs, sneezes, breathes, or speaks. When enough people are masking, it is an effective tool against the spread of COVID-19.

Cloth face coverings are enough protection and people should not purchase N95 masks to prevent COVID-19. Although, some people may be told by their medical provider that they need to wear an N95 at this time. Some individuals do not need to comply with the directive:

• Children under 2

• Any child under 12 years of age, unless supervised by a parent or caregiver

• Any individual who is deaf and uses facial and mouth movements as part of communication.

• Individuals advised by medical professionals that masking would pose a health risk.

• Any individual who has trouble breathing or otherwise unable to remove the face covering without assistance.

The directive may and should be used to educate individuals to wear face coverings to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19. The face covering directive will also be included in the report to the state in regarding to Kittitas County moving to Phase 2.

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