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Essencia Artisan Bakery employee Nyah Cruz, left, hands an order to customer Bobbie Gaffney, right, on Tuesday, June 23, 2020, in Yakima, Wash.

Yakima County is now in phase 1.5 under the state’s Safe Start reopening plan, which enables additional business activity, the Yakima Health District announced Friday in a news release.

Phase 1.5 allows for outdoor restaurant dining, more construction and manufacturing, and retail activity at limited levels. Hair salons, barbershops and pet groomers can also reopen with restrictions.

Social gatherings outside the household, however, are still not allowed and public health officials urged people to refrain from gathering during the Fourth of July holiday.

“We have reached a momentous milestone today but are still in a very precarious situation with COVID-19 in our county, and we rely on all community members to continue to diligently practice public health recommendations to stop further spread,” said Dr. Teresa Everson, health officer at the Yakima Health District in the news release. “We know that Independence Day is typically a day to gather with friends and family, but it is still dangerous to get together with people outside our immediate household.”

The health district submitted a plan to enter phase 1.5, known as the county’s “road map to recovery” to the state Department of Health Thursday evening after approving it in an emergency meeting. The Yakima County Board of Commissioners approved the plan in a separate meeting Thursday.

As part of that plan, businesses will have to submit a plan and sign a pledge that they will follow safety guidelines under phase 1.5. Once businesses submit the document and post their safety plan, they can reopen, said Verlynn Best, Greater Yakima Chamber of Commerce CEO.

"Once they get the doors open, we want to make sure they will stay open," Best said.

Best said that the aim is to encourage businesses to make a good faith effort to submit a plan. If any businesses opt to open sooner, the aim will be to encourage those businesses to submit the pledge and plan. 

"We truly believe most people know what they need to do," she said. "The regulations are there." 

The Yakima Health District will have staff available to answer questions from business owners until 4:30 p.m. Friday. Staff can be reached by calling 509-575-4040. Information is also available at https://www.yakimacounty.us/2429/Safe-Start-Yakima-County. The health district will be closed Saturday and Sunday.

Editor's note: This story was edited to reflect updated information regarding business requirements from the Greater Yakima Chamber of Commerce. 

Reach Mai Hoang at maihoang@yakimaherald.com or Twitter @maiphoang