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Health - Public Health News

Posted on: May 26, 2020

Yes, Whatcom County is Still in Phase 1 of Reopening

Right now, staying home except for essential trips is limiting the spread of COVID-19. The Stay Home, Stay Healthy directive is still in place and Whatcom County is still in Phase 1 of the “Safe Start” plan for reopening. Moving to Phase 2 doesn’t happen automatically when the current executive order expires on May 31. Moving to Phase 2 happens when we meet certain public health criteria. 

Being in Phase 1 means: 

  • Stay home as much as possible.

  • Practice social distancing and wear a cloth face covering whenever you will be within six feet of someone who does not live with you. 

  • Don’t gather or spend time with people outside your household.

  • Essential businesses are open, but most businesses are still closed.

How Does Whatcom County Get to Phase 2? 

You’ve probably heard that some counties in Washington can apply for a variance to move into Phase 2. To do that, we must first have an average of less than 10 new cases per 100,000 residents over a 14-day period. For Whatcom County that means we’d have to have fewer than 22.5 cases in the past two weeks. During the two weeks from May 11-25, we’ve had 37 new cases, an average of 16.4 new cases per 100,000 residents in the past 14 days. Another way to look at that is that we would need no more than 1.6 new cases on average each day for 14 days, and our daily average has been 2.6. 


Threshold to Move to Phase 2 
Fewer than:

Current Whatcom County Number (May 11- 25) 
Population: 225,300 residents

10 new cases per 100,000 residents in past 14 days

16.4 new cases per 100,000 residents in past 14 days

22.5 new cases in past 14 days

37 new cases in past 14 days

1.6 new cases on average each day

2.6 new cases on average each day


What You Can Do to Keep Us Moving Toward Phase 2

We’ve traced many of our recent confirmed cases to formal settings such as work, and informal settings such as Mother’s Day parties, where people were less than six feet apart, for more than 15 minutes. This includes interactions like sharing food, food preparation spaces, and bathrooms. Remember that gathering together is risky because you can spread the virus before you even feel sick. Some people have to gather in essential workplaces, and that’s why it’s important that employers are taking steps to protect their employees too.

The quickest way to move to Phase 2 is to limit the spread of the virus. That means staying home as much as possible and only going out for essential trips. Practice good habits like social distancing and wearing a face covering in public whenever you can’t maintain six feet from others who don’t live with you. 

The fewer interactions we have with people outside of our household, the fewer chances there will be to spread the virus. If we want to bring Whatcom County safely into Phase 2, we must all work together, six feet apart. 

We are also working to ensure Whatcom County meets other important milestones to move to Phase 2. Tomorrow we will share more about what we are doing to make sure Whatcom County is ready to reopen safely, things like: 

  • Having contact tracers trained and ready.

  • Being able to keep up with testing demands.

  • Having plans to help people safely isolate or quarantine, if they need it.

You can find out more about the plan to reopen Washington, and the activities of each phase in the full Safe Start Plan.

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