Gov. Jay Inslee signs new Healthy-Roadmap to Recovery plan

Milenne Quinonez, Staff Reporter

A week before COVID-19 restrictions were set to be lifted, Gov. Jay Inslee announced a new COVID-19 phased recovery plan on Jan. 5 with hopes of reducing rising COVID-19 case numbers throughout the counties. The Roadmap to Recovery plan was set to begin Jan. 11, separating the state into regions all beginning at phase one. 

Kittitas was placed into the South-Central region, which includes Yakima, Benton, Franklin, Walla Walla and Columbia counties.

“We started with dials then phases and now we’re moving to regions, yet we still don’t have the understanding as to what is expected to get our economy and schools back to normal,” Kittitas County Commissioner Brett Wachsmith said in a recent press release.

According to the Washington State Department of Health (DOH), in order for each region to reach phase two, specific guidelines put in place need to be met first.  

First, there needs to be a decreasing trend of 10% or more in a two week period of COVID-19 cases per 100,000 population.

“Whether our population is doing fantastic and doing all of the right things, and we have really great numbers in Kittitas County. Because our population is so small, that will have a very small impact on whether or not we get to move to phase two.” said Kittitas County Commissioner Laura Osiadacz “We see it as the largest setback for our county. We are now at the mercy of these large municipalities that we have no ultimate control over.”

As of 2019, the U.S Census Bureau has reported the population of Yakima County to be 250,873. Benton County, which includes the Tri Cities, has a reported population of 204,390, making it the second largest county in the South-Central region. Kittitas County’s population is reported to be 47,935.

According to Ellensburg Mayor Bruce Tabb, elected officials were not consulted about the regions before the announcement. 

“It feels to me it’s a setback for Kittitas County and for the city in being able to manage and support our people and businesses,” Tabb said. “Even if we do the most incredible job in the world in terms of reducing our numbers, minimizing hospitalization and other things that they’re looking at overall in our region, we are not going to be a relevant statistic.” 

The regions will be assessed every week by the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) based on the guidelines to determine if there are any changes throughout the regions, and the status of each region will be updated on Fridays.

After regions have met the guidelines put in place, they will enter into phase two. In phase two restrictions will slowly be eased, and indoor social and at-home gatherings will allow a maximum of five people from outside a household, with a limit of two households. Outdoor social and at-home gatherings will have a maximum of 15 people from outside a household, with a limit of two households.

Retail stores will be able to operate at a maximum 25% of capacity, but curbside pickup will still be encouraged. 

Eating and drinking establishments will allow indoor dining to have 25% maximum capacity, closing at 11 p.m. Outdoor dining will be available, with a maximum of six people per table and a limit of two households per table.