San Juan County will remain in Phase Two for the foreseeable future. Washington State Secretary of Health John Wiesman returned COVID-19 Safe Start applications to seven counties on July 20, including San Juan.
“By the time these applications are eligible for review, at least four weeks will have passed,” a Washington State Department of Health press release said. “Much has changed during this time period and information in the applications will be outdated.”
The San Juan County Council was set to discuss whether it would recall its application to move to Phase Three from the state on July 21, but with the state returning the application on its own accord, that discussion was canceled.
Wiesman and Gov. Jay Inslee announced on July 2 it would be pausing phase progression applications. That pause was extended on July 14 and is supposed to remain in effect until at least July 28.
“It remains critical that everyone continues to do their part to slow the spread of COVID-19,” Wiesman said in the release. “Wear a face covering in any public setting or place where you can’t keep at least 6 feet of distance from people who are not members of your immediate household. In addition, stay home as much as possible, limit the number of people that you interact with, wash your hands and cover your coughs and sneezes.”
The return of the application came just ahead of two new cases of COVID-19 being discovered in San Juan County.
On Wednesday, July 22, a new case was reported on Orcas, with the case investigation discovering the source was a large off-island social gathering at which some participants were unmasked. The second case of the week was reported on Thursday, July 23 on San Juan Island, its source, too, was tracked to an off-island contact who had later tested positive for COVID.
“The greatest risk the islands are facing right now is close social contact between islanders and friends and family from outside of their household,” the county said in a press release about the Orcas case. “This crisis feels endless and it is hard to maintain so much sacrifice for so long. Preventing a roll-back to previous restrictions requires from all of us a dramatic reset of what ‘normal’ life feels like. It’s not fun, but it matters, and it is what will continue to keep our islands strong.”
The county announced it would no longer be releasing press releases about individual cases but would update the case count page at the time of notification and do a weekly recap on Thursdays. As of July 27, San Juan County has 28 cases — 15 on San Juan; 10 on Orcas; and three on Lopez.
Inslee announced on July 23, a rollback of some of the allowances that had been made in the phased reopenings — specifically regarding restaurant capacity; gyms and fitness centers; and weddings and funerals. Most changes affected counties that had already progressed to Phase Three.
“I know we are all tired of how long this emergency has gone on, and the pain it has inflicted in our households and our communities,” Inslee said in a press release. “But we all remain steadfast in our refusal to allow COVID-19 to overwhelm our society, and we will lean on each other to get the job done. This is not the easy thing to do, but it is the right thing to do. These prohibitions are part of our approach, but they only supplement what we really need, which is for individuals to continue to make safe decisions and adhere to healthy practices.”