OLYMPIA, Wash. - Washington Gov. Jay Inslee on Friday said counties would now have to fail both case counts and hospitalizations - not just one or the other - in order to move back to Phase 2 of the state's Healthy Washington plan.
All counties in Washington moved into Phase 3 of the state's Healthy Washington pandemic reopening plan on March 22.
Under the plan, Inslee said counties would be evaluated every three weeks after moving into Phase 3, with the first evaluation on April 12. At the time, he said any county that fails to meet one or more of the following metrics would move down one phase. If statewide ICU capacity reaches more than 90 percent, all counties will revert to Phase 1.
But on Friday, Inslee updated the guidance to state that counties would only move back a phase if it fails both metrics:
- In order to move down one phase a county must fail both metrics for case counts and hospitalizations. Under the previous plan, a county only needed to fail one metric to move back one phase.
- The spectator events guidance is updated to make clear what is allowed for counties in Phase 2 and how these events are related to school graduation ceremonies. That guidance is available at this link.
Inslee made the change in advance of an evaluation of each county’s metrics on Monday.
"Given the incredible progress on vaccinations and our focus protecting people from severe illness, we believe analyzing and requiring both metrics together is the right approach to make sure we’re considering the connection between COVID cases and our medical system and hospitalizations," Inslee said.
With COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations rising in many areas, more than a half-dozen counties were at risk of rolling back before Inslee’s change.
Under Phase 3, all indoor spaces — including indoor dining at restaurants, indoor fitness centers, and retail — can increase capacity from 25 to 50 percent. Outdoor events with permanent seating can have up to 25 percent capacity. This includes professional teams, high school sports, rodeos and other similar events.
The update also allows sports venues to continue operating under Phase 3 guidance even if the county moves back to Phase 2.
Case counts and hospitalizations have both been rising in Washington state, according to the Department of Health. Officials say vaccines are certainly helping, but millions of Washingtonians still need to be vaccinated.
Nearly 3.8 million people in the state have received one vaccine dose and more than 1.5 million people have been fully vaccinated, according to the state Department of Health.
About 60,000 doses are being administered daily, but people still have to be mindful of distance, wear masks, and keep gatherings small until virus activity becomes less of a threat, Inslee’s news release said.
More than 348,400 COVID-19 cases have been confirmed in Washington since the pandemic began and 5,316 people have died, according to the state Department of Health.
The move comes as President Joe Biden put pressure on each state to have all adults vaccinated by May 1.
Vaccinations began on Dec. 15 in the state of Washington for healthcare workers, and four months to the day, it will be available for all residents who want it.
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The Associated Press contributed to this report.