OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — Washington Gov. Jay Inslee on Tuesday said all of the state's counties will remain in their current phase of the state's economic reopening plan and won't face more restrictions because new COVID cases are levelling off after a recent spike.
The Democrat said there will be a two-week pause as the state continues to evaluate coronavirus activity in the state.
The surprise announcement came as several more counties were expected to roll back to Phase 2 of the plan, which includes reduced capacity for indoor dining and gyms, based on case counts and hospitalizations. But Inslee said that the most recent weekend data from the Department of Health shows coronavirus activity reaching a plateau in the state.
Inslee's move is at odds with neighboring Oregon, where Gov. Kate Brown last week imposed more severe restrictions due to a new coronavirus wave. Washington and Oregon were among the first states to implement sweeping restrictions in the early days of the pandemic
Currently in Washington, just four of the state’s 39 counties are in the more restrictive Phase 2: Cowlitz, Pierce and Whitman, which were rolled back from Phase 3 last month, and Ferry County, where health officials on Friday voluntarily moved back due to a recent outbreak.
Under the current metrics, larger counties must have less than 200 new cases per 100,000 people over a two-week period and fewer than five new COVID hospitalizations per 100,000 people over a one-week period in order to be in Phase 3.
Seventeen smaller counties — Klickitat, Asotin, Pacific, Adams, San Juan, Pend Oreille, Skamania, Lincoln, Ferry, Wahkiakum, Columbia, Kittitas, Stevens, Douglas, Okanogan, Jefferson, and Garfield — must have fewer than 100 new cases over a two-week period and fewer than 3 new COVID hospitalizations over a one-week period in order to avoid going to Phase 2. Phase 1 is the most restrictive, including no indoor dining at restaurants allowed.
There have been more than 377,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases — plus another 30,000 “probable” cases — in Washington state, and 5,507 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.
All state residents over age 16 have been eligible for a coronavirus vaccination since April 15. As of this week, more than 5.5 million doses of vaccine have been administered, with more than 54% of those eligible getting at least one dose. Nearly 39% of those eligible in the state are fully vaccinated.
Inslee's announcement on the two-week pause comes a day after he released new guidance for spectator events that allows more people at indoor and outdoor events and indoor religious services if there are designated COVID-19 vaccination sections.