In what is being described as a "re-packaged" or even re-hashed version of his failed Safe Start Plan, Gov. Inslee's people have subdivided the state into 8 regions for his new Healthy Washington plan.

Aside from geographical changes, it's nothing new. Phase 1, Phase 2, case counts, etc, same data as before; although state officials are taking into account vaccination rates and claim they can more closely monitor COVID.

The two counties at the west and east ends of our region, the South Central, are not happy about being lumped in with larger metro areas. Kittitas County (Ellensburg) is not thrilled with being included with Yakima, Benton and Franklin. At the other end, Columbia County (Dayton) is not either.

Kittitas County schools have been open (hybrid) since October, and reports indicate they're doing fine. But their county, along with Columbia (who was in Phase 3) was moved back to Phase 1 along with everyone else in the state.

These smaller counties are worried that the higher case counts, or perhaps 'outbreaks' of COVID will hurt them as everyone's numbers in a region are added. Under the old system, smaller less populated areas were in Phase 3, while larger areas sometimes struggled in Phase 1.5 or whatever they called it.

Now that Yakima appears to be declining or improving, their impact on Benton and Franklin should not be as large. But you recall last summer/fall, when B-F were moving or trying to move up, while Yakima was 'exploding' (according to Inslee and WSDOH).

Columbia County has a population (2019 data) of 3,996.  Benton County? just over 204,000.  Dayton has a population of 2,656.  Kennewick along has just under 82,000 people.

Columbia County Commissioners are going to, if they have not already, send a letter to Inslee indicating they're not happy with what they view as a setback which could stifle their economy even more than before. Same for Kittitas.

And here in the Mid Columbia, Franklin County Commissioners are not happy the regional plan because it removes more local control from county officials. Plus, it's said this Healthy Washington Regional Plan is what Inslee has in store for county health departments going forward; provided he can get it passed in the Legislative session.

We can only wonder what the folks in the state's most remote county, Garfield, must be thinking, they and largely rural Asotin County are lumped in with Spokane.

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