Clark County will remain in Phase 2 of Washington’s reopening plan for at least another two weeks, according to new guidance issued Thursday afternoon by Gov. Jay Inslee.
Inslee mandated that there will be a statewide two-week pause on the reopening process because of an increase in COVID-19 infections and the percentage of tests coming back positive, according to a Clark County Public Health news release.
Inslee also said that starting next week businesses statewide will not be able to serve customers who don’t wear facial coverings.
Public Health confirmed 18 new coronavirus cases Thursday morning. Clark County is up to 901 confirmed cases and has experienced 29 deaths. There have been no new deaths since June 22.
On Wednesday, Clark County Public Health Officer Dr. Alan Melnick said he felt it was likely that the county would incur a pause on its Phase 3 application, given that the county has set a daily and weekly high in newly diagnosed COVID-19 cases.
In the first three weeks of June, 164 people tested positive, for an average of slightly more than seven new cases per day. But lately case counts have increased, which could mean more hospitalizations and deaths in the future.
From June 23 to 30, there were 162 Clark County residents who tested positive for COVID-19, an average of more than 20 new cases per day, according to Public Health data.
“Public Health supports the governor’s decision to pause the reopening process,” Melnick said in a statement. “We’re seeing a dramatic increase in the number of new cases in Clark County. I’m worried that our rising case numbers will lead to increase in hospitalizations and, potentially, deaths.”
Clark County has confirmed 143 COVID-19 cases this week, surpassing the previous weekly high of 124 cases that was set May 26-29, a shorter reporting week because of the Memorial Day holiday.
Most of those 124 cases in late May were connected to the Firestone Pacific Foods outbreak in Vancouver, but Melnick has said the recent rise in infections seems to be connected to greater community spread.
Inslee’s new face-covering mandate for businesses is an attempt to clamp down on people not wearing face-coverings in public, which is proven to decrease the spread of coronavirus through respiratory droplets.
Melnick told the Clark County Board of Health on Wednesday that lack of adherence to wearing face coverings and maintaining safe physical distance is playing a role in the resurgence of COVID-19 in Clark County.
“My big worry, and what is keeping me up at night, as we open up, is that there is less attention paid to the physical distancing and face-mask wearing,” Melnick said Wednesday. “That, I think, is what is causing our increase.”
Close to 16,000 people have been tested for the virus in Clark County. There were eight patients hospitalized with COVID-19 on Wednesday.