OLYMPIA, Wash. - Gov. Jay Inslee announced Tuesday that the pause on reopening the state has been extended to at least July 28th.
Inslee made the announcement at a press conference as coronavirus cases continue to rise in the state. He made the same announcement in late June, halting counties from moving into more advanced phases of the governor's Safe Start Plan.
“We’re not in as bad of shape as some other states. But we have to look where we’re going to be, not just where we are,” Inslee said. “And we are heading to big trouble if we do not figure out a way to knock this pandemic down.”
Inslee mentioned states like Oregon and California, which recently rolled back reopenings in response to a spike in cases.
“Doing so would be really tough,” he said. “But the status quo, we know, is very, very dangerous right now.”
The state has not seen a sharp increase in hospitalizations or deaths, the governor said, but there are a higher number of young people getting infected. Health officials said it's not increased testing that's causing the rise in Covid numbers, it's the virus spreading quickly. More kids between 10 and 20 are testing positive in King County.
Data collected from the Department of Health July 12 shows 41,757 confirmed virus cases statewide. King County has just over 12,000 confirmed cases (624 deaths), Yakima County with over 8,300 confirmed positive cases (180 deaths), Snohomish County with just over 4,000 confirmed cases (176 deaths), and Pierce County with 3,200 positive cases (110 deaths).
More than 708,000 tests have been administered in the state with about a 6% positive test rate.
Inslee said the actions people take now — including wearing facial coverings and maintaining physical distance from others — “is going to determine what this virus looks like in the fall.”
Last week, an enhanced statewide order took effect that requires businesses to refuse service to customers who don’t wear facial coverings. That order builds on previous mask requirements issued last month.
Exemptions exist for people who are deaf or have hearing loss, those who have medical conditions that preclude them from wearing a mask and children age 5 and younger.
And people engaged in recreation alone or with household members and those eating out at restaurants don’t have to wear masks as long as they are properly distanced from others.
Seventeen counties are in Phase 3 of reopening, which allows gyms and movie theaters to operate at half capacity, restaurants to increase capacity to 75% and for group gatherings of up to 50 people, including sports activities. Standalone bars in counties in this phase are still allowed to stay open and provide table service, but bar seating is not permitted.
Seventeen counties are currently in Phase 2, which allows restaurants and taverns to operate at half capacity with limited table sizes, hair and nail salons and barber shops to resume business, and retail stores to reopen for in-store purchases at 30% capacity. It also allows additional outdoor recreation and gatherings with no more than five people outside of a person’s household.
Five counties — Benton, Chelan, Douglas, Franklin and Yakima — are currently the only counties in a modified Phase 1 of reopening, which allows some additional business activity beyond essential businesses.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.