LONGVIEW, WA (KPTV) - Governor Jay Inslee announced Monday stricter COVID-19 restrictions for Cowlitz County.
It's one of just three counties moving from Phase 3 to Phase 2 of reopening because of rising case rates and hospitalizations.
The biggest difference for businesses in Phase 2 is that most of them, including restaurants and gyms, will have to move from operating at 50 percent capacity to 25 percent capacity.
"It felt like things were starting to be a little bit normal again and then shutting back down it kind of sucks," Miah Montgomery who lives in Longview said.
It's not what people in Cowlitz County wanted to hear but the governor and state health officials say it's what has to be done, placing stricter restrictions on businesses, gatherings and events.
The county's Deputy Health Officer Dr. Steven Krager said Cowlitz County is seeing cases rise even more so than the rest of Washington. He said that's mostly driven by social gatherings, for example in one instance, a karaoke party at someone's house.
"If you're going to gather with people, do it in a safe manner, do it outside, wear masks, physically distance, it's safer if you don't gather right now unless you're fully vaccinated," Dr. Krager said.
We spoke to some people in Longview who said moving to Phase 2 is a disappointing but understandable step back.
"I'm a little bit disappointed actually because we're both fully vaccinated and we were starting to get a little more hopeful with the spring and summer going into nice weather," Jacob Carroll who lives in Longview said.
"Obviously if cases are rising and there's more hospitalizations then something needs to be done," Montgomery said.
Businesses have argued they shouldn't be forced to make these changes when individual actions are causing the spread, so we asked Dr. Krager if he thinks these restrictions will actually make a difference in case rates. He said it's hard to know but case rates do seem to go down when they're in place and certain activities like eating out, which involves taking off a mask, are higher risk.
"Hopefully it will have some impact on our case rates reducing crowding potentially in business may help with that as well but it's tough, ultimately I think the biggest impact will come from people's individual choices," he said. "At the very least I hope this will be an indication for people that maybe my behavior needs to change a little bit and we can get back to where we need to be."
He also urged the importance of vaccinations as all Washingtonians over 16 become eligible for the vaccine Thursday.
The next county phase evaluation will be in three weeks.