South King County spared from reopening rollback

On Thursday, communities across Puget Sound were bracing to hear if they would have to roll back into Phase 2 restrictions as hospitalization and new COVID-19 infection rates continued to rise.

But a rollback did not happen. Instead, Governor Jay Inslee altered the criteria, meaning a reverse in reopening Phases would require counties to fail two metrics instead of only one.

For some people in South King County, the governor’s decision felt like the right call.

The Federal Way Community Center way has been closed for eight of the past 12 months during the pandemic.

RELATED: Pierce County businesses prepare for possible rollback into Phase 2

Those who use the center worried a rollback would mean they would have even fewer options for meeting in small groups to exercise.

"I train to stay in shape as an old retired guy," said Steve Colella.

Colella joined about a half dozen others at the Federal Way Community Center’s pool to exercise. During the pandemic, he says many pools across the region have not been available.

"It’s been difficult during because the pools haven’t give us very good access," he said. "It’s been very difficult to train or even exercise."

RELATED: All Washingtonians over age 16 will be eligible for COVID vaccine starting April 15

He was not the only one taking advantage of the center. Upstairs, a treadmill gets a workout. Downstairs, weights are trained. When King County moved from Phase 2 into Phase 3, the center did not immediately increase capacity from 25 percent to 50 percent as guidance allows. The center’s management wanted to avoid more drastic cutbacks if phase 3 rolled back.

But that means many others trying to squeeze in an appointment have found there just isn’t enough room.

"That does mean some people do show up and aren’t able to get in," said manager Leif Ellsworth.

In nearby Kent, just a few days ago the pandemic forced the city to cancel this year’s Fourth of July SPLASH. City officials worried they might also be forced to cancel other activities operated by the parks department.  

That was until Inslee altered the guidelines for rolling back phases.

"When I watched the news conference yesterday, he was very firm on the metrics," said Mayor Dana Ralph. "I was very surprised to see the announcement. I believe that gives us a little more hope."

King County for now remains in Phase 3. Colella can continue getting his laps in at the pool while maintaining good health beyond a viral pandemic.

"I think mental health and physical well-being are more important than isolation from a disease," he said.

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