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Dayton moving forward to reopen some businesses

DAYTON–Columbia County Commissioners have decided to apply for the variance required by the State of Washington to move into Phase 2 of Gov. Jay Inslee's "Safe Start" guidelines. The county is one of 10 that have a population under 75,000 and have had no COVID-19 cases for three weeks, qualifying it to apply for Phase 2.

At this point, Columbia County is in Phase 1 which allows the Touchet Valley Golf Course and restaurant to reopen.

And as a gesture of consideration and conviction to honor our elderly, the commissioners voted to declare May 2020 as Older Americans Month.

The Columbia County Public Health Administrator, Martha Lanman, requested that Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) approve the application for Columbia County to move into Phase 2 of the state guidelines for Covid-19. Lanman said "Citizens have done a great job...we will need to also, with Phase 2, still have due diligence and remember to protect the vulnerable and the elderly in our community."

Lanman said the variance application to the Department of Health is an involved process. The application was submitted with a letter from Columbia County Health System's CEO, Shane McGuire, to state that the county is equipped with adequate Personal Protective Equipment should there be any future outbreak. She said to be approved, testing capacity needs to be up to par where no one would be turned away with possible symptoms of COVID-19. There are also needs to have people trained in contact tracing. Lanman indicated they have four people trained including three nurses. Also needed is the ability to isolate and quarantine.

McGuire reports that Dayton General Hospital has 15 beds ready for this purpose. Additionally, there needs to be the ability to rapidly respond to and manage new cases to which Lanman indicated that the county is ready.

The BOCC approved moving forward with the variance application Monday. Lanman said the state should have some answer by early next week, though there may be a date specified on when the county can start Phase 2, rather than being allowed immediately. She also said being approved for Phase 2 doesn't guarantee the county will move into Phase 3 in the minimum three weeks required by the governor. While some restrictions would be lifting, Lanman said, "The goal is more businesses to open, and still people stay close to home."

Per the governor's allowance for the state to move into Phase 1, the county's Touchet Valley Golf Course is now open with limited hours from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. The onsite restaurant Chicken Bills is also open for take-out meals from 8-3. The country club is closed until further notice.

Golf is limited to those who have purchased annual green fees. The representatives said, "We will be opening up the course to everyone as soon as we can and ask that you be patient since a system must be developed to conform to the Governor's guidelines...rules need to be adhered to and will be changed and/or adjusted to comply with the Governor's phased 'reopening' plan. Our goal is to have fun and play golf but please minimize your touching to minimize your risk." Tee times must be made in advance and made by phone.

The commissioners also voted to declare May as Older Americans Month. According to the website, Administration for Community Living, "Every May, the Administration for Community Living leads our nation's observance of Older Americans Month. The theme for 2020 is 'Make Your Mark.' This theme was selected to encourage and celebrate countless contributions that older adults make to our communities. Their time, experience, and talents benefit family, peers, and neighbors every day. Communities, organizations, and individuals of all ages are also making their marks. This year's theme highlights the difference everyone can make – in the lives of older adults, in support of caregivers, and to strengthen communities."

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