NCW — The Chelan-Douglas Board of Health passed a resolution Tuesday that would institute a phased reopening of both counties if Gov. Jay Inslee’s COVID-19 orders are overruled in court.
The resolution also takes the burden off the Chelan-Douglas Health District for enforcing the governor’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order, Health District Administrator Barry Kling said. In addition, it allows health officer Dr. Malcolm Butler to use the Chelan-Douglas Sanitary Code against businesses and organizations that violate health regulations. The code includes fining authority.
Locally, some elected officials and citizens have filed lawsuits against Inslee to end the “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order, including two board of health members, Marc Straub and Dan Sutton, who are both Douglas County commissioners.
If the governor’s orders are invalidated by the courts, both counties would reopen businesses gradually, using a phased approach similar to the state’s, according to the board of health’s resolution. The resolution states that a sudden reopening could produce unnecessary health risks during this pandemic.
The counties’ phased approach would probably be similar to the 1.5 phase proposal the board of health already submitted to the state, Kling said.
The 1.5 phase approach allowed some of the following to reopen.
- Retail stores
- Hair and nail salons, and barbers
- Additional construction
It recommended the following remain closed:
- Office-based businesses
“You know, with all the frustration about the governor’s order, sometimes that gets mixed up with what we should do about COVID,” Kling said. “In my opinion, those are two different things. However frustrated people may be with the governor, we still need to think about COVID and a safe way to respond as a community.”
The big impact from the resolution for the health district, though, was the decision by the board of health to not try and enforce the governor’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy,” order, Kling said.
The health district would still intervene if there was a serious health risk, for example like a movie theater reopening and packing people together, he said. But the district does not have the manpower to enforce the governor’s orders itself. It will continue to report any violations that occur to the state.
“We’re a very small, underfunded health department without the capacity to police and enforce the complicated order of the governor, so it is up to the state to do that,” Kling said.
Another aspect of the resolution reinstates the health officer’s ability to use the sanitary code to address any violations if necessary.
On May 18, the board of health rescinded a March resolution that gave the health officer the ability to levy fines, based on the counties’ sanitation code, against businesses that did not comply with the COVID-19 shutdown. The board of health did not want the health district to appear too strict.
The sanitary code allows the health officer to levy fines of $500 to $5,000, Kling said.
The resolution emphasizes that the goal of the health district is on education and partnership with businesses and organizations.
“The health board clearly does not want us to use that sort of measure (fining) unless it is absolutely necessary,” Kling said. “And yet we needed to know that, if it was and the health officer thought it was necessary, that it was still available.”