Kittitas County passed up again for variance amid outbreak

Eight WA counties were approved for Phase 2 of Gov. Inslee’s ‘Safe Start’ plan by Monday morning; Kittitas County was not included.

More than four dozen people have been confirmed to have coronavirus in Kittitas County, where emergency officials are dealing with an outbreak at a food plant.

The Kittitas County Incident Management Team reported 49 confirmed cases and “numbers may change as more test results are received.”

The IMT reported Monday it is continuing to contact people regarding test results; all of the people who tested positive were stable as of Sunday.

So far, out of 169 workers tested at Twin City Foods, Inc., 34 have tested positive, the county said Monday morning. Twin City Foods will be closed until May 19.

“The majority of the people who tested positive are symptomatic,” public health officials said in a news release. “Personnel at the IMT have started to work one-on-one with people who tested positive to get more information about current health status, onset of symptoms, potential contacts with others, and any needs during isolation.”

Here is a list of the county’s outbreak response:

  • 116 in quarantine
  • 34 in isolation
  • 19 critical infrastructure workers followed closely

Only people who live in Kittitas County are being counted here. The IMT says it is working with Grant and Yakima County health districts to coordinate response.

Washington state is following a phased reopening plan. All counties are currently in Phase 1 of the COVID-19 recovery. Last week, Kittitas County applied for a Phase 2 variance. While three more Washington counties were granted the variance Monday, joining five other counties that will be starting Phase 2 early, Kittitas County’s application was on hold Monday morning. It was the only county under review after applying, according to the Washington State Coronavirus Response Joint Information Center.

To apply for a variance, counties must have a population of less than 75,000 and no new cases of COVID-19 in the last three weeks. The county announced on Tuesday, May 5, that it had applied for the variance. On Friday, May 8, the county reported on the first case of what turned out to be an outbreak at Twin City Foods.

Additionally, each county must demonstrate they have enough local hospital beds and personal protective equipment for healthcare workers, plus plans for the following:

  • Making testing available and accessible to everyone in the county with symptoms
  • Staffing case investigations and contact tracing
  • Housing people in isolation or quarantine who can’t or don’t want to do so at home
  • Providing case management services to those in isolation and quarantine
  • Responding rapidly to outbreaks in congregate settings

The state secretary of health either approves plans as submitted, approves with modifications, or denies the application. He can also revoke a previously-issued variance.

The county is planning an update on the variance and outbreak response later Monday afternoon.

Kittitas County encourages people to isolate or quarantine in their homes and, if they can’t, the IMT will help to find an appropriate place to maintain physical distancing.