Saturday, April 17, 2021
April 17, 2021

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Seven Washington counties to advance to Phase 2 under modified plan


OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee on Thursday announced changes to the state’s economic reopening plan that allows seven counties to move next week into Phase 2, which allows limited indoor dining among other loosening of COVID-19 restrictions.

The counties that will ease rules include those that constitute the Seattle metro area.

Inslee first announced the latest iteration of the state’s reopening plan earlier this month, which focuses efforts on reopening regions rather than individual counties. Before, each region had to meet four metrics in order to advance: a 10% decreasing trend in case rates over a two-week period; a 10% decrease in coronavirus hospital admission rates in that same timeframe; an ICU occupancy rate that’s less than 90%; and a test positivity rate of less than 10%.

Now, they will only have to meet three, which means two of the state’s eight regions — Puget Sound and West — can move into the second phase starting Monday. Those regions include King, Pierce, Snohomish, Grays Harbor, Pacific, Thurston and Lewis counties.

The timeframe in which each region can progress — or potentially be rolled back — will also change, with the state Department of Health evaluating the metrics every two weeks instead of weekly.

Inslee said he was comfortable making these changes in light of the state’s ongoing vaccination rollout and an overall decline in case trends.

“It is the best plan that we can fashion to fit the current circumstances and the needs of Washingtonians,” he said. “Is it fixed in absolute stone? Of course not. We’ve got to be willing to be flexible if there’s giant changes in our circumstance.”

In the second phase, restaurants can offer indoor dining at 25% capacity, and indoor fitness center can open with the same limit. Sports competitions can resume with limited spectators, and wedding and funeral ceremonies can increase their number of guests.

In a statement issued before the governor’s news conference, Republican Sens. John Braun and Jeff Wilson, urged passage of a bill that would bring the entire state into Phase 2.

“While we are encouraged by the possibility that the governor will reopen more of Washington’s businesses, we need to use science to safely open businesses immediately,” they wrote. “This will address the very real crisis our family-owned businesses are suffering.”

The U.S. has recorded more than 25.6 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and over 430,000 deaths. There have been more than 291,000 cases in Washington state, and more than 4,200 deaths.

For most, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks, although long-term effects are unknown. But for some, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.


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