SUNNYSIDE — As news broke about Yakima County receiving approval to move to Phase 1.5 in the Safe Start Washington plan by the Department of Health on Friday, July 3, there was a beaming light of lower valley excitement which added to the holiday weekend celebration, minus the traditional fireworks display for diminishing large public gatherings in the wake of COVID-19.
Francisco Avalos, owner of Herb’s Bar & Grill in Grandview described his initial reaction to the news as a scramble to get finger tables and move his reopening plan forward pursuant to Yakima Health District guidelines. He’s been informed by his regular customers and employees that they’re all ready to come back.
Preparations began immediately with building four custom tables, outside umbrellas were purchased, a mini bar rolled out front, hand sanitizers with pumps for every outdoor table, sanitizing sprays, gloves and masks for anybody who needed one was all in place by early Saturday afternoon, Avalos said.
“Sunday was our first day officially back open,” he happily stated. “It was actually shocking since it had been almost four months of not having people around and then all of a sudden it was like, come on in. It was great to see all my regulars again.”
Sunnyside Grace Brethren Church Pastor Nathan Zakahi shared in the excitement following Sunday’s lawn service at the Seventh St. and Franklin Ave. property about moving into the next reopening phase.
“1.5 means that we can now start meeting inside at 25% capacity. For us it means about 135 to 140 people,” Zakahi expressed. “It’s wonderful just to be together and see everyone. Our people are very excited to come back together.”
The pastor explained that seeing people on the computer screen in Zoom meetings is not the same as interacting with them in person and strengthening relationships. “It’s been a good test. We see it as a positive.”
The church has been determined to improve upon their multimedia outreach technology to keep parishioners connected with the words and teachings of God during the pandemic. “We’re very thankful for the technology that we enjoy,” Zakahi applauded.
Gov. Jay Inslee was clear that the modified Phase 1 was an effort to help keep people closer to home while trying to avoid transmitting the virus across county lines.
Due to high levels of COVID-19 activity across the state, Secretary of Health John Wiesman has paused review of any county applications to move to the next phase. All counties will remain in their current phase until at least Thursday, July 16.
Face coverings are still mandatory and on Tuesday, July 7, businesses statewide are not allowed to serve customers who don’t wear protective masks for any reason. According DOH officials, face coverings when combined with keeping six feet of physical distance and frequent hand washing can significantly slow the spread of the virus.
Visit www.yakimahealthdistrict.org for additional information related to Phase 1.5, including guidelines for business owners.