Gov. Inslee announces pause on WA counties moving into Phase 4 due to rise in COVID-19 cases

Gov. Jay Inslee and Secretary of Health John Wiesman announced Saturday that the Washington State Department of Health is halting all state counties from moving into the Safe Start Plan Phase 4.

In a statement from the governor's office, it stated this 'pause' on counties progressing in the reopening state phases is due to the continued rise of reported cases and spread of the coronavirus.

Moving into Phase 4 would consist of hardly any or no restrictions for counties,  which stated in the release, would be "impossible at this time."

"Phase 4 would mean a return to normal activity and we can’t do that now due to the continued rise in cases across the state," Inslee said in the statement. "We all want to get back to doing all the things we love in Washington during the summer, and fully open our economy, but we aren’t there yet. This is an evolving situation and we will continue to make decisions based on the data."

"The best thing Washingtonians can do to slow the spread of the virus and save lives is to wear facial coverings, continue to maintain physical distancing and good hygiene practices," Wiesman said in the statement. "Now that testing supplies are available, it is critical to get a test if you have any symptoms suggestive of COVID-19 or have been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19."

Wiesman also sent a letter to local and tribal health leaders in the state today, addressing the announcement with Inlsee, and the growing concern for reported COVID-19 cases, factored by crowd sizes and occupancy rates.

"The progress we’ve made thus far is at risk, therefore we are making the prudent choice to slow down our phased approach to reopening," Wiesman stated in the letter to local and tribal health leaders.

Wiesman also stated the joint-efforts with Inslee will result in new announcements in the coming weeks, addressing a modified approach to moving beyond Phase 3.

Currently eight counties in the state were eligible to move into Phase 4 before the pause. The letter also states counties currently eligible to apply to move past Phase 1 and 2 can still do so.

In a release from WA DOH on Friday, numbers showed populations with high infection rates are King, Pierce, Snohomish and Yakima counties.

As of June 27, data indicates King County currently has 9,809 confirmed positive COVID-19 cases (610 deaths) reported. Yakima County has 6,828 reported cases (152 deaths), Snohomish County with 3,431 confirmed cases (168 deaths) and Pierce County has 2,465 confirmed cases (97 deaths). Washington state has reported over 31,000 confirmed cases, 1,310 deaths and over 525,000 total tests have administered.

As of Friday afternoon, Yakima County is currently in Phase 1 and King, Pierce and Snohomish counties are all in Phase 2.

Per Phase, in Phase 2, many non-essential businesses may be allowed to reopen, such as retail stores, drive-in theaters and dine-in restaurants' capacity cannot exceed 50%.

By Phase 3, restaurants/taverns can hold 75% capacity inside, gatherings in public no more than 50 people, and spiritual indoor gatherings may not exceed 50% capacity.