Some businesses reopen as Yakima County moves into Phase 1.5

Yakima Businesses

YAKIMA COUNTY, Wash. — Yakima County moved into Phase 1.5 of the governor’s Safe Start plan on Friday, becoming one of the last few counties statewide to do so.

“This is a very good day for Yakima County,” said Andre Fresco, Executive Director of the Yakima Health District. “We are moving into a new era.”

At an emergency meeting Thursday night, the Yakima County Board of Health voted unanimously to go into a modified Phase 1, otherwise known as Phase 1.5.

Phase 1.5 allows:

  • Restaurants to have outdoor seating available for customers, as long as they are social distancing and only sitting with members of their household
  • Retail stores to open at 15 percent of their indoor capacity, with visits limited to 30 minutes
  • Religious and faith-based organizations to open up to 25 percent capacity or up to 200 people, whichever is less, with social distancing between different households
  • Personal services such as hair salons to open at 25 percent indoor capacity

Businesses are required to sign a pledge stating they will follow all COVID-19 guidance and submit a plan to the Greater Yakima Chamber of Commerce prior to opening.

At the meeting, officials said the time had come for Yakima County to move forward and cited recent improvements in the county’s COVID-19 statistics.

Dr. Teresa Everson, health officer for the Yakima Health District, said while the county was previously getting about 150 new cases a day, that number has gone down to about 90 new cases daily.

“We have some very objective measures that show the situation in Yakima County has been improving over the past month,” Everson said.

Fresco cited other improvements countywide, such as an increase in residents wearing face masks.

“We have made great strides in terms of safety, in terms of masking and in terms of respecting the need to support one another in this difficult time,” Fresco said.

Local restaurant owners are excited for the addition of being able to provide outdoor seating for customers, including Old Town Station in Union Gap.

“Once everybody figures out that there is available seating and they don’t have to eat in their cars, I absolutely think we’ll get more customers,” owner Logan Worsham said.

While happy about the change, Worsham said he was surprised the county moved into the next phase. He said he worries that moving into Phase 1.5 now will mean waiting longer for the county to move into other phases.

“Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad we’re in 1.5,” Worsham said. ” I’m glad we’re moving toward something, but hopefully this isn’t just a little gift and then they’re going to prolong the rest of it.”

Health officials said the opening isn’t going to get everything back to normal, but it’s a step in the right direction.

“We are still a very compromised county and that is why we are taking a controlled opening as a safe opening,” Fresco said.

Officials said moving to a new phase will not decrease their efforts to combat COVID-19 transmission.

“I just want to remind everybody this isn’t a green light to forget about the issues that we’re dealing with,” Yakima County Commissioner Norm Childress said. “We still have to remain diligent and follow the guidelines so we can move on to the next step and conquer this virus.”

For more information on business requirements in Phase 1.5, visit the Yakima Health District website.