Thurston County prepares to apply for Phase 3 of state's COVID-19 recovery plan

OLYMPIA – A growing number of places are now in Phase 3 in the Safe Start Washington Plan, a gradual approach towards recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. Health researchers with the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation said the risk of a second wave is on their radar.

“We are now forecasting through to October 1 just shy of 170,000 deaths, but with very large range, 133,000 to 290,000 deaths,” said Dr. Christopher Murray, director of IHME.

Even as a second wave of the virus potentially lingers, Thurston County is preparing plans to move into Phase 3. Currently the county has more than 180 confirmed COVID-19 cases.

County manager Ramiro Chavez said five cases were reported Thursday for the area’s daily confirmed case count. Though there are new cases, Chavez said county leaders are still confident to prepare their application for Phase 3.

“With great power comes great responsibility and we need to continue to be diligent,” said Chavez.

Olympia Oyster House is following the safety guidelines of Phase 2, including tables at six feet apart and all staff members wearing masks. Still, many customers are not ready to go back out in public due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We still have a ways to go before we would ever make a profit again. This is still a hole that is and every other small business around here is going to have to crawl out of,” said Brandon Lawin, regional manager of Olympia Oyster House and two other restaurants.

“I’m excited about the potential to go to Phase 3, but I’m also cautious,” said Chris Knudson, owner of Well 80 Brewhouse.

Well 80 Brewhouse requires everyone inside, including customers to wear a mask.

Though Phase 3 allows restaurants to operate under 75 percent capacity, Knudson said they don’t plan to add more seating out of an abundance of caution.

“With the restrictions pulled, will we start seeing a spike again? And I don’t want to see a spike again because I don’t want to go back to where we were. That would be terrible,” said Knudson.

Chavez said he understands the health risk that comes with Phase 3 if people aren’t careful. That’s why he said it’s up to the community to be responsible.

“Don’t let your guard down and perhaps don’t be complacent because this is a very serious public health matter,” said Chavez.

“Making sure that we practice social distancing, wear masks. Be cognizant in your interactions. Be responsible in taking our own temperatures if we have symptoms, take the steps to stay at home.”

Phase 3 allows gatherings of 50 people or more, and restaurant bar areas can have 25 percent capacity. It’s a little more wiggle room for the Olympia Oyster House — now they just need the customers.

“Even at 75 percent capacity, it’s still going to be challenging for us to meet the numbers that we would need to meet to make money. We probably won’t make money for quite a long time, but we love the community, we support the community. We’re going to be here as long as we can,” said Lawin.

Chavez said area leaders are finalizing safety and infrastructure plans for Phase 3. He said the county is able to submit the application as early as Wednesday, June 17.