SPOKANE, Wash. — Spokane County has now completed the process for applying for a waiver to enter phase two of reopening, which would let many businesses open at 50 percent capacity.
Woodward sent off letters of approval from Spokane Regional Health officer Bob Lutz, the county health board, the county board of commissioners, and Providence and Multicare hospitals for the governor's consideration.
The only problem? The waiver is only open to much smaller counties who haven’t shown new cases in weeks.
Governor Inslee has said repeatedly that a different process will be created for more populated areas like Spokane, but he has yet to unveil it or even provide a firm timeline.
“In the next couple of weeks we will take another review to see if larger counties could fit into it and what those criteria will be. We are thinking about that. I can't give you an exact date," he said in a press conference on Tuesday.
But rather than waiting on those criteria, Spokane leaders like Mayor Nadine Woodward decided to push on anyway; hence the application.
“We wanted to open up that door, open up the conversation to advocate for our economy, advocate for our county, and get the governor to a point where he's open to listening to these kinds of conversations," said Woodward in a Q&A on Tuesday. "If you sit and wait around, you don't get a lot done. So we've been proactive in our approach every step of the way.”
The argument is that containment in Spokane has worked, and that there's a good plan to keep it that way.
“Our COVID response has been impactful," said Woodward. "People have been social distancing. They’ve been doing what they’re supposed to... We have flattened the curve now for quite a while, and I just think we’re at a place where it’s time to reopen.”
It’s something of a Hail Mary attempt, but Woodward hopes it will nudge Inslee in Spokane's direction.
“The information that we’ve given, that may help guide him in the criteria that he’s developing," she said. "I don’t know how that’s going to work out, but at the very least it gets the ball rolling.”
Still, nothing real can happen until the governor makes a decision, and he’s strongly resisted giving any sorts of hints about what that might be or even when he might make it.
“I appreciate Spokane’s proposal. We’re going to look at it," said Inslee. "I haven’t had a chance to look at it. But... we’ll talk to the health folks in Spokane... we’ll make that decision as soon as we can evaluate it.”
Woodward says that decision will have enormous impacts.
“A lot is at stake. A lot of our businesses, their survival is at stake. The health of our economy is at stake," she said.
Even if Governor Inslee rejects Spokane county's proposal, Woodward plans to push for an early reopening.
"[We'll] continue to advocate to ask him to get that criteria to us so those decisions can be made, we have a lot at stake right now, this is a health pandemic but it's also an economic crisis," Woodard said.
Woodward cited job losses in two of Spokane's major industries, health care and tourism, as reasons the county needs to reopen sooner rather than later.
"We need to get these businesses open, we need to get these businesses back to work," she said.