OLYMPIA, Wash. - The Washington State Department of Health announced on Friday that all eight regions in the state’s new COVID-19 recovery plan will remain in the first phase until at least Jan. 25.
Earlier this month, Gov. Jay Inslee announced the state’s regional economic reopening plan, which focuses efforts on reopening regions rather than individual counties.
"We know that all people in Washington want to move forward as quickly as possible with respect to COVID-19. However, these metrics show that we are just not ready to do so now," Dr. Umair A. Shah, Washington’s Secretary of Health, said in a news release. "We have made progress but need to continue to work together to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 across our state."
While in the first phase, starting Jan. 11, some outdoor entertainment — limited to 10 ticketed guests — is allowed and appointment-based fitness training with one client per 500 square feet is also allowed, as are things like outdoor tennis instructions, gymnastics, and no-contact martial arts, as long as it is limited to five athletes.
Each Friday, the state Department of Health will look at regional case rates, hospital admission rates, ICU occupancy rates and test positivity rates. In order for a region to advance, they have to show:
- a 10% decreasing trend in case rates over a two-week period
- a 10% decrease in COVID 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%
COVID-19 cases up in Washington
The Washington state Department of Health said Wednesday that COVID-19 cases appear to be increasingly sharply in the most recent data.
The flat and declining case count trends in mid-to-late December may be due to fewer people seeking care or getting tested over the holidays, officials said in a news release.
Officials say many counties have had post-Christmas spikes in cases and that the number of people becoming infected is increasing.
"We are continuing to see flat trends at a high level of disease activity, with signs of a concerning uptick in the most recent data," Dr. Scott Lindquist, the state epidemiologist for communicable diseases, said. "If we want to maintain the progress we made in the fall and move forward with reopening, we must redouble our efforts to control the virus."
Vaccinations to be expanded
Officials also said Wednesday the state will move into its next phase of COVID-19 vaccination sooner than expected and will begin inoculating people aged 70 years and older, among others. The Seattle Times reported. Health secretary Dr. Umair Shah acknowledged the state’s rollout had been uneven and that the department needed to hasten the pace of vaccination.
"While we are making progress every single day … I recognize it has not been enough," Shah said in a news briefing Wednesday, adding that he had directed changes at the department. "One of those changes is an accelerated timeline to move to our next grouping — Phase 1B — which we expect to do in the next coming days."
Shah did not give an exact date for when the state would move to Phase B1, which includes people 70 years and older and people 50 years and older in multi-generational households.
The state Department of Health on Wednesday reported 2,892 new COVID-19 cases and 49 new deaths, bringing the state’s totals to 281,202 cases and 3,838 deaths. The agency said new cases may include up to 520 duplicates.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.