Governor Adjusts Reopening Criteria; 2 Western Washington Regions Can Begin Monday

Wash. Gov. Jay Inslee announced Thursday that two regions of the state will be moving into Phase 2 on Monday.
Wash. Gov. Jay Inslee announced Thursday that two regions of the state will be moving into Phase 2 on Monday. CREDIT: Austin Jenkins/N3


Gov. Jay Inslee on Thursday announced adjustments to his phased reopening plan that will allow two western Washington regions, comprising seven counties and nearly 60 percent of the state’s population, to move to Phase 2 beginning on Monday.

Under Inslee’s revised “Healthy Washington – Roadmap to Recovery” plan, first announced January 6, restaurants, bars, gyms and other facilities can begin to reopen in regions that meet three of four metrics. Previously, a region had to meet all four.

That means, starting Monday, the Puget Sound region — comprising Snohomish, King and Pierce Counties — and the West region — made up of Grays Harbor, Pacific, Thurston and Lewis Counties — will be eligible to enter Phase 2.

Six other regions with a total of 32 counties, including all of eastern Washington, will remain in Phase 1 for now. Currently, four of those regions appear to be meeting two of four metrics. Going forward, the status of each region will be re-evaluated every two weeks. Previously, it was every week.

Under Phase 2, indoor social gatherings with up to five people from a maximum of two households are allowed. Under Phase 1 they are prohibited. In Phase 2, restaurants can resume indoor dining and indoor gyms can reopen, both at 25 percent capacity. As well, entertainment facilities, like aquariums, bowling alleys and theaters, can reopen at 25 percent capacity, or up to 200 people, whichever is less.

Washington's business reopening will now be done by a regional approach, rather than a county-by-county four-phase approach. Courtesy WA Governor's Office

Under a revised reopening plan, the Puget Sound and West regions of the state will be eligible to move to a Phase 2 reopening beginning on Monday, Feb. 1. Courtesy WA Governor’s Office

Inslee’s office said the changes follow “further conversations with public health partners” and the fact that people are now being vaccinated against COVID-19. However, at the same time public health officials are warning that a new, more contagious variant of the virus has arrived in Washington

The four metrics for reopening, which remain unchanged are:

  • A declining rate of COVID cases over 14 days
  • A decline in new COVID hospital admissions over 14 days
  • An average intensive care unit occupancy rate of less than 90 percent over seven days 
  • A seven day COVID positivity test rate of less than 10 percent.

According to the state’s “Roadmap to Recovery” dashboard, the Puget Sound region is meeting all but the case rate metric. Meanwhile, the West region is hitting targets for all but the hospital admissions rate metric.  

Sign on restaurant door in Spokane saying when it will reopen from covid closure with multiple dates crossed out and finally saying

Restaurants and bars, like the Satellite Diner in downtown Spokane, are anxiously awaiting when they may be able to reopen for indoor dining in 2021. CREDIT: Scott Leadingham/NWPB

In order to remain in Phase 2, regions are required to continue to meet at least three of the four metrics. That remains unchanged under the new guidance.

Inslee’s mid-course correction comes as minority Republicans in the Legislature have been pushing a bill that would automatically move all regions of the state into Phase 2. On Wednesday, Republicans tried, but failed to force majority Democrats to take action on the measure.

On Thursday, in advance of Inslee’s announcement, Senate Republican Leader John Braun and Sen. Jeff Wilson, the ranking Republican on the Senate State Government and Elections Committee, reiterated their call for a wide scale reopening.

“While we are encouraged by the possibility that the governor will reopen more of Washington’s businesses, we need to use science to safely open businesses immediately,” the senators said in a joint statement.

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