The eased restrictions take effect Mon., Feb. 15
CLARK COUNTY — Washington Gov. Jay Inslee announced Thursday afternoon that all but one of the eight regions in his Healthy Washington reopening plan will be eligible to move ahead to Phase 2 starting Mon., Feb. 15.
“This means that 92 percent of all the people in the state of Washington will be able to move forward with some additional activities,” said Inslee at a press conference announcing the change. “We’re very pleased about this.”
The Southwest Region, which includes Clark, Cowlitz, Skamania, Klickitat and Wahkiakum counties, is included in the reopening. Only the South Central region, which includes Yakima, Kittitas, Benton, Franklin, Walla Walla, and Columbia counties was held back for now.
In order to move forward in the Healthy Washington reopening plan, regions must meet three of four metrics. For the Southwest Region, the only metric not being met was the 14-day trend in test positivity, which was 14 percent as of Feb. 11, above the 10 percent or lower metric set by the governor.
The region has seen a 30 percent decrease in cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 residents, a 24-percent decline in new hospital admissions, and has an average of 71 percent ICU bed capacity, well under the 90 percent threshold.
“The move to Phase 2 demonstrates that our efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19 are working,” said Dr. Steven Krager, deputy health officer for Clark, Cowlitz, Skamania, Wahkiakum and Klickitat counties. “We must continue to wear face coverings, maintain physical distancing and avoid social gatherings to ensure we remain in Phase 2.”
Under Phase 2, restaurants can open for indoor dining at 25 percent of capacity, with alcohol service ending at 11 p.m. Outdoor dining expands a bit, with up to six people per table from a maximum of two households.
Indoor recreation can also expand, with fitness, training, and indoor sports complexes allowing up to 25 percent capacity. K-12 sports, personal trainers, indoor pools, and other facilities will be able to open, also with limited capacity.
(For more on how this impacts local K-12 sports teams, see our story here)
Indoor entertainment, such as theaters, museums, bowling alleys, and more will be able to open at 25 percent capacity or 200 people, whichever is less.
Weddings, indoor receptions, wakes, funerals, and other gatherings in conjunction with them are also now permitted.
“I want to thank everyone who has been part of this mutual effort,” Inslee said. “Everybody who’s making these individual decisions are part of a statewide mission to save lives. And I want to thank you for being part of that mission statement.”
Inslee has not yet announced what the metrics will be for regions to move further into Phase 3 or 4, or what businesses will be allowed to expand or reopen in those phases yet.
Regions can be moved back if case counts or hospitalizations grow again.
More economic relief on the way
Inslee also announced a new round of rental assistance funding, as well as economic relief for small businesses in the form of loans and grants.
The state Department of Commerce is providing $87 million immediately, split between rental assistance programs and small business assistance.
“We need to use this funding to keep our relief efforts going while we’re waiting for further federal assistance,” said the governor. “So this is neither the first nor the last time that we have been putting funds forward to help tenants and help landlords and help businesses.”
Counting what was announced today, the state has distributed $153.5 million for rental assistance, with another $325 million estimated to come following the passage of House Bill 1368 from the state legislature, which will approve $2.2 billion in supplemental funding using federal dollars for COVID-19 relief.
Another $43.5 million announced today will be allocated to help small businesses struggling with rent, mortgages, utilities, technical assistance and more. An additional $240 million is expected from HB 1368.
“Today is a very good day for being able to have businesses open, and customers being able to have more access,” said the governor. “It’s a good day to give some financial assistance to these hard hit businesses that have been so innovative.”
To date, the state has provided a total of $244.5 million in financial assistance to businesses. If Congress approves a proposed $1.9 trillion stimulus package put forward by the Biden administration, potentially as soon as early next month, there is likely to be more assistance on the way for states dealing with the financial impacts of the pandemic.