Inslee pauses COVID reopening plan; all counties to remain in their current phases

All counties in Washington state will remain in their current reopening phases for at least two more weeks, Gov. Jay Inslee announced Tuesday.

Inslee, speaking at a news conference Tuesday morning, said he is pausing the state's Healthy Washington reopening plan for the next two weeks despite a fourth wave of COVID-19 cases. 

"We are in an evolving situation, unlike any other during this pandemic," Inslee said. 

The most recent data shows that Washington's COVID case numbers are plateauing, Inslee said, and though hospitalizations are up, "hospital stays are shorter and we are confident staff are handling the increase."

There hasn't been a surge in deaths. 

RELATED: Washington to allow 'vaccinated sections,' increasing capacity at sports arenas and other venues

Inslee's announcement brings a sigh of relief to business owners and residents in the state's three largest counties. Pierce County, which reverted to Phase 2 three weeks ago, was facing a potential rollback to Phase 1, while King and Snohomish counties were likely headed back to Phase 2. 

But Inslee said there's no "clear path" out of the current reopening phases, and the state will not be fully reopened before the summer, he said. 

"Looking at our rate of vaccination, if people remain committed to this, there’s a reason to believe that sometime this summer we will have a more substantial reopening," Inslee said. "Only if we do what we need in terms of vaccination and adherence to public health."

Four counties in Washington — Pierce, Cowlitz, Ferry and Whitman — are in Phase 2, while the rest of the state remains in Phase 3. 

In Phase 3, all indoor spaces — including indoor dining at restaurants, indoor fitness centers, and retail — can increase capacity from 25 to 50 percent.

In Phase 2, restaurants, gyms, worship centers and retail stores can operate at 25 percent capacity, and large gatherings are reduced to 200 people.

The governor announced Monday that entertainment venues and religious organizations can add "vaccinated sections" to their seating arrangements, increasing capacity potentially by thousands of people. 

As of Monday, May 2, Washington has reported more than 407,000 COVID cases, 22,472 hospitalizations and 5,507 deaths.

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