By Marcy Stamper
Over the weekend, as news spread that Okanogan County eateries could offer limited indoor dining starting Monday (Feb. 15), the Copper Glance in Winthrop was inundated with requests from loyal customers eager for a meal and cocktail inside the tiny eatery.
But Copper Glance isn’t going to offer indoor dining yet. “It’s like a postage stamp in here — we can’t do it safely,” co-owner Chris Hoffer said.
While there’s enthusiasm and optimism now that the county has advanced to Phase 2 in the state’s Roadmap to Recovery reopening plan — which allows indoor dining, movies and fitness centers, all at reduced capacity — lots of businesses are waiting to open their doors.
“We decided to stick with the conservative side. We want to feel it out to be sure people feel comfortable,” Winthrop Physical Therapy & Fitness co-owner Brett Kokes said. The fitness center resumed more-normal operations on Monday (Feb. 16), no longer requiring reservations, but still has strict guidelines, including distancing of 6 feet — 17 feet during vigorous exercise.
While the workout area is no longer split into four zones, each occupied by only one person, they’re operating at only 15% occupancy — 10 members at a time, instead of the 17 allowed, Kokes said.
Restrictions on occupancy have made it challenging for many places, but some are adapting. Business owners are also cautious because the county could be sent back to Phase 1 in two weeks if COVID infection and hospitalization metrics in the region slip.
La Fonda Lopez resumed indoor restaurant service this week, with just three or four tables, co-owner Cristina Velasco said. The Twisp restaurant also added a plastic tent out front, which attracted diners on sunny days but sat empty during last week’s frigid temperatures.
BJ’s Branding Iron in Twisp has been offering outdoor seating on their heated back patio, as well as take-out. The bar/restaurant resumed indoor seating this week in a remodeled interior.
During the summer, Copper Glance did a brisk business on the patio, but once the weather turned cold, the restaurant switched to take-out.
When the fitness center reopened in January after the fall closure, things were pretty slow. A group of four diehards came for their 6 a.m. workout, but by midday it was a ghost town, Kokes said.
Hoffer and spouse/co-owner Mike Baerveldt have been sustained — financially and emotionally — by support from the community. “It’s the boost you need. Without the locals, we wouldn’t be making it,” Hoffer said.
Okanogan County and the north-central region, which also includes Chelan, Douglas and Grant counties — advanced to Phase 2 in the state’s Roadmap to Recovery on Thursday (Feb. 11), one month into the new regional approach. The entire state has now progressed to Phase 2.
New COVID infections over the past two weeks have decreased significantly statewide. The north-central region saw a drop in new cases of 40%. Hospital admissions for COVID also dropped across the state, in most areas by about 20%. The north-central region saw the largest drop by far, with a 60% reduction. There are adequate ICU beds everywhere in the state.
The Washington Department of Health reassesses the metrics every two weeks. Regions that don’t meet three of the four metrics will move backwards on March 1.
New COVID cases in Okanogan County have slowed considerably. In the week ending Feb. 15, the county recorded 13 new infections, one in Winthrop. The two-week infection rate per 100,000 population is 87.