King County approved for Phase 2 reopening; several counties move to Phase 3

OLYMPIA -- The state's most populous county has been approved for Phase 2 of Gov. Jay Inslee's plan to reopen the economy amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The governor's office announced Friday morning that King County has been approved for Phase 2, leaving only three counties in the state -- Yakima, Benton and Franklin -- in Phase 1 or a modified version of Phase 1. Benton and Franklin have submitted Phase 2 applications to the state, but the applications are on pause. Yakima's cases are rising at an alarming rate and the county is still in Phase 1, Inslee said earlier this week.

Island, Lewis and Mason counties have been approved to move to Phase 3.

A total of three counties are in Phase 1, two counties are in a modified version of Phase 1, 19 counties are in Phase 2 and 15 counties are in Phase 3.

Cowlitz, Kittitas, and Thurston counties have applied to move from Phase 2 to Phase 3.

Under Phase 2, the following businesses can reopen:

    Businesses approved to move into a new phase must comply with all health and safety requirements outlined in the state's guidance to reopen.

    In King County, going from a modified Phase 1 to Phase 2, isn't much of a big change. But it does provide a bit of hope for businesses looking to bounce back.

    For Nikki's Restaurant and Lounge in Covington, they've had their regular customers coming since it opened in 2012.

    Alen Petchnick came in for lunch on a Friday. It's the first time he's returned in months.

    "It feels good. Real good," he said. "Usually I'll have a mask. But we're in a restaurant, so I've got to take it off to eat it anyhow."

    For Michelle Leigh, a server at Nikki's, there are more stringent guidelines they have to adhere to, in order to serve customers inside.

    "We've got our tables six feet apart, every other table to maintain that social distancing," she said.

    Other changes in the restaurant include getting rid of the salad/buffet bar, using the back area/bar space for extra restaurant space, and the entire staff wearing masks. Once a customer leaves, servers spray a bleach/water solution on the table, leave it for five minutes and then wipe it off.

    For Leigh, Phase 2 is better, but not close to where things used to be.

    "We do have a lot of hope that we're going to get there hopefully sooner rather than later. We're hoping that maybe come September we might be moving into Phase 4," she said.

    For gyms like CrossFit Devotion in Kent, Phase 2 means having more people allowed to work out.

    "So now, it basically doubles and now we get to go to ten people,  instead going to our normal 15 to 20 person classes is what we normally have," said owner Jake Fields.

    In the gym, Fields added lines on the gym floor to mark out specific workout spots for members.

    "We have sanitizing wipes at every station that they use to wipe down all of their plates, and weight bars," Fields said.

    Gym membership at CrossFit Devotion dropped slightly, according to Fields, but for the most part, they've been able to 'weather the storm.' They've added online classes for those hesitant to come into the gym. They've also added more opportunities for one-on-one training.

    He anticipates more members to return soon.

    King County Health Officials urge that people remain vigilant while in phase 2.

    "As we move into phase 2 and for the foreseeable future, our risk will be increasing, not decreasing,” said Dr. Jeff Duchin, Health Officer for Public Health – Seattle & King County.

    Public Health officials recommend that people keep 6 feet apart from one another whenever possible. Outdoor exposures are less risky than indoors, and improving indoor ventilation is recommended. In addition, people need to wear face coverings in public, wash hands frequently, and get tested at the first sign of symptoms, said health officials.

    Here's what's allowed under Phase 3:

      Also Friday, the Department of Health released a report that showed more than one in three COVID-19 infections in the state have occurred in people who work in the Health Care and Social Assistance industries.

      Through May 27, 2,375 cases - or 37% of overall cases - were from people working in those fields. The second highest industry for infections was manufacturing, at 9%, a sector that includes food processing facilities. In a statement the Department of Health said the report did not determine how or where people got infected and noted healthcare workers have received more tests than the general population since the start of the pandemic.