Washington state businesses call on Gov. Inslee to pause plans to roll back some counties to Phase 2

Nearly 70 state business organizations are urging Gov. Jay Inslee to delay for three weeks any decision to return some counties to more restrictive coronavirus standards, which would hurt businesses.

Inslee has said he will announce Monday if any counties have to move backward because of rising COVID-19 cases. Currently, all counties in the state are in Phase 3.

Moving some counties back to Phase 2 would punish struggling businesses while doing little to stop the spread of COVID, the business groups said in a letter sent Friday night to Inslee.

The letter was signed by groups including the Association of Washington Business, the Washington Hospitality Association and numerous chambers of commerce across the state.

"After a very difficult fall and winter, our state finally celebrated together the important milestone of Phase 3 reopening," the letter said, adding the state should focus on increasing the vaccination rate instead of rolling back to Phase 2.

Washington state counties are concerned with a rollback in Phases of the state’s reopening plan. On Friday, Inslee announced new criteria for counties to meet in order to be rollback to Phase 2. Pierce County worries their metrics do not align with the state’s criteria. 

Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department told Q13 News they expect to roll back after learning the state will go off of metrics reported by Washington State Department of Health (DOH), not by Pierce County. DOH says they will go off the state’s website data because they factor in JBLM COVID-19 data and Pierce County's website does not.

RELATED: South King County spared from reopening rollback

According to the TPCHD website, the county's rate is 198 for a 14-day case rate per 100,000. Per DOH's website, Pierce county is reported as 250 new positive cases for the previous two weeks per 100,000 cases, with a 7.8% of positive tests during the past week. 

"We will be using the data that the state is reporting vs individual counties. With regards to the discrepancies between the state and Pierce county. This is because Pierce county does not include those cases from JBLM, but the state does include them," a spokesperson with DOH said in a statement sent to Q13 News.

Phase 3 allows businesses to operate at 50 percent of capacity, compared to 25 percent in Phase 2, the letter said. People in a county that is downgraded will simply travel to a nearby county that remains in Phase 3, the letter said.

RELATED: Health officials again warn to not get too lax after getting COVID-19 vaccine

"Give us three weeks, and together, we can make a large leap forward in increasing vaccinations and stamping out this virus," the letter said.

With COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations rising in many areas, numerous places were at risk of rolling backward, including Douglas, Cowlitz, Pierce, and Yakima counties.

Vaccines are making a difference, Inslee said Friday, but millions of Washington’s 7 million residents still need to be fully 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.

More than 348,400 COVID-19 cases have been confirmed in Washington since the pandemic began and 5,316 people have died, the agency said.

All residents over age 16 will be eligible for a vaccination on April 15.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.