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‘We don’t want to risk going backwards’: Woodward urges Spokane residents to take virus precautions

Spokane Mayor Woodward discussed the county and city’s progress in an interview with The Spokesman-Review on Thursday for its Northwest Passages virtual forum series. (YouTube)

Spokane Mayor Nadine Woodward implored Gov. Jay Inslee and the state Department of Health to allow the county to enter Phase 2 of the reopening plan.

Now that it’s entered Phase 2, she’s imploring Spokane residents to make sure the county stays there.

“We don’t want to risk going backwards in our phases, we don’t want to risk a huge spike in cases that present that community spread or prevent us from opening up more businesses,” Woodward said. “We have to do our part. It’s a whole new world that we’re living in right now, and for some people it takes them a little longer to learn how to live in it.”

Woodward stressed the need for continued vigilance as the county settles into Phase 2 life, which allows for retailers to open up to 30% of capacity and restaurants to open at no more than 50% capacity.

Woodward discussed the county and city’s progress in an interview with The Spokesman-Review on Thursday for its Northwest Passages virtual forum series.

Less than a week into Phase 2 of Inslee’s reopening plan, Woodward already has her eyes set on Phase 3, and said she reached out to a representative of his office to ask for the criteria that will be required to move ahead. That criteria hasn’t been set, but the Department of Health has indicated there will be at least a three-week gap between phases.

The county’s entrance into Phase 2 coincided with an uptick in cases, primarily tied by public health officials to an outbreak at a pasta production facility in Spokane and increased availability of testing, particularly among asymptomatic people. On Wednesday, Spokane documented 23 new cases of COVID-19, the largest one-day number since the pandemic began.

She highlighted the county’s increased contact tracing capacities.

“As these cases come up and we’re able to contact people and find out who they’ve been exposed to, if we can box in the virus, that’s the priority. That means the plan is working,” Woodward said.

Woodward pointed to the stable numbers in people currently hospitalized, seven, and the number of deaths, which stands at 31. Those figures are key, Woodward said.

Before it can dream of Phase 3, Spokane County will have to keep the virus at bay.

Earlier this month, Spokane County Health Officer Dr. Bob Lutz issued a directive requiring people to wear facial coverings when they are in an environment that does not allow them to practice social distancing and maintain at least 6 feet of separation between others

But as she ventures out, Woodward said compliance with the directive is only about “ 50-50.”

“I’ll continue to carry that message and ask people to (wear a mask),” Woodward said.

As they patronize businesses, Woodward encouraged Spokane residents to abide by the best practices they’ve enacted and continue to wash their hands, maintain social distance and wear a mask.

“We can’t let our guard down,” Woodward said. “We have to be more vigilant in those measures than ever before as we open up more businesses.”

Those guidelines will also be enacted as City Hall employees who were not deemed essential eventually return to work, beginning in Phase 3.

The mayor is no exception, she said. When she is in her office, she does not wear a mask, but will don one as she enters shared spaces.

As restrictions forced restaurants to close for dine-in service in March, Woodward’s administration quickly launched the #OrderUpSpokane initiative to encourage Spokanites to order takeout and delivery from local eateries to help keep them afloat.

Now that it’s entered Phase 2, Woodward said the city will continue its efforts to support struggling businesses.

On Thursday, she signed an executive order to allow flexibility and reduce hurdles for restaurants and retailers that want to expand outside their brick-and-mortar space, including sidewalks, streets and alleys.

The city launched a small business loan program with nonprofit lender Craft3 in April and invested Community Development Block Grant funding to buy down the interest rate to 5%. It also allowed businesses to defer their utility payments for between one and three months with zero interest, as long as those debts were paid within a year.

Personally, Woodward received her first cut in 18 weeks from her hairdresser. She wore a disposable gown and a mask and was the only one present, she said, and the entire process was “super simple.”

“She was so grateful to be back in business,” Woodward said.