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With the expectation to submit the plan for state approval, the county will target June 1 enter Phase 1.

PMG FILE PHOTO: - The Washington County Board of Commissioners at a meeting in the auditorium of the public services building in Hillsboro before the coronavirus pandemic.Washington County officials expect to submit the county's reopening application to Gov. Kate Brown and the Oregon Health Authority for approval Friday, May 22, officials said Tuesday.

"That does not mean we're ready to open on May 22," said Marni Kuyl, director of health and human services for the county, told the Washington County Board of Commissioners during a meeting.

The county will target June 1 to enter the first phase of a three-phase approach to gradually, and conditionally, lifting COVID-19-related restrictions on in-person activities for businesses, personal service providers, retailers and public spaces laid out by the governor two weeks ago, Kuyl said.

Last week, the state permitted 31 counties to enter Phase 1 of reopening, which allows bars and restaurants, gyms, salons, and parks to reopen while still requiring people to wear face masks and maintain physical distancing.

In order to be approved to reopen, counties must show declining hospitalizations over a two-week period, provide sufficient testing and hospital beds, demonstrate the ability to isolate cases of COVID-19, provide sufficient personal protective equipment to first responders and staff enough people to do required contact tracing.

The only counties that have not yet submitted their applications to enter Phase 1 are Washington, Multnomah and Clackamas, which cited a lack of adequate contact tracing staff to reopen.

On Friday, Washington County commissioners unanimously approved the county's plan to reopen, as well as two contracts with healthcare organizations to hire staff required to adequately conduct contact tracing.

The county expects those contracts will bring in 142 nurses and other staff, many of them bilingual, for contact tracing, monitoring, isolation and quarantine support, data entry, disease surveillance, and outbreak investigations.

The hiring agencies plan to have all the staff in place by Friday, and the county expects to train staff to conduct contract tracing the following week, Kuyl said.

Previously, commissioners debated whether to reopen the county in concert with Multnomah and Clackamas counties, emphasizing the need for the populated Portland metro area to coordinate.

Kathryn Harrington, chair of the board, said Multnomah County currently doesn't have a specific timeline.

Clackamas County officials said Tuesday they plan to submit the county's reopening plan by "close of business" after county commissioners approved the plan earlier the same day.

Harrington said entering Phase 1 will depend on the county continuing to meet state requirements.

"I'll reiterate that our reopening is guided by the public health science, and not politics," Harrington said.

The county received criticism from elected officials in the county's cities, as well as from the business community, following Harrington's announcement on May 8 that the county would not have sufficient contact tracers to reopen until early to mid-June.

"I have never known so much anger in our community as I have felt over these last four days now," Harrington said. "It has been incredibly painful."

Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect that Clackamas County officials planned to submit their reopening plan to the state Tuesday, May 19.


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