The plan, which starts Jan. 11, focuses on a regional approach to tracking COVID-19 activity in the state
OLYMPIA — Washington Gov. Jay Inslee on Tuesday announced a new plan to begin reopening businesses in the state.
The “Healthy Washington” plan shifts to a two-phased system, focusing on regional metrics for COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.
At a press conference on Tuesday, Inslee described the plan as a “new path forward” for moving towards economic recovery as the pandemic begins to ease.
“No one was untouched by the effects of the pandemic in 2020; many have and continue to suffer through no fault of their own,” Inslee said. “We aren’t out of this yet, but we are close to turning the corner on COVID-19 and this third wave of infection.”
Unlike the previous four-phased reopening plan that was largely abandoned, this approach, which would begin Jan. 11, focuses on eight regions, roughly based on Emergency Medical Services districts..
Clark County, which is in the “Southwest” region, includes Cowlitz, Skamania, Klickitat, and Wahkiakum counties.
Starting next Monday, state restrictions will be eased slightly on some forms of entertainment, as well as fitness activities.
Those would include ticketed events with ten or fewer people per group, and physical fitness programs limited to one client at a time per 500 square feet.
Another change will be that moving through phases would happen automatically, based on the COVID-19 activity metrics tracked by the state Department of Health (DOH).
“Our intent is to ensure that regions, the communities within them, and our state as whole have a balanced path toward recovery from the pandemic that relies on multiple key metrics that look at disease trajectory and health system capacity” said Deputy Secretary for COVID Response Lacy Fehrenbach. “This plan offers the start of a clear way forward as we continue to slow the spread of COVID-19, while we get more people vaccinated over the next few months.”
Fehrenbach added that they would be basing the phase metrics on data from Friday, Jan. 8, and a region could start in Phase 2 on Jan. 11 if they meet all four of the requirements, which include:
- Decreasing trend in two-week rate of COVID-19 cases per 100K population (decrease >10%)
- Decreasing trend in two-week rate new COVID-19 hospital admission rates per 100K population (decrease >10%)
- ICU occupancy (total — COVID-19 and non-COVID-19) of less than 90%
- COVID-19 test positivity rate of <10%
Metrics will be assessed each Friday on the state’s Risk Assessment Dashboard. Once a region is deemed to have met the requirements, they would be moved into the next phase the following Monday.
Once in Phase 2, regions must maintain at least three of those metrics to avoid being moved back to Phase 1, meaning case rates and hospital admissions must continue to decline or remain flat.
“Our goal is to reopen our economy safely, and to do it as quickly as possible. Every week, we plan on tracking our ongoing progress in protecting our communities against COVID-19,” said Secretary of Health Umair Shah. “The governor’s new plan will allow all of us to understand what measures are being used for the path forward including when it makes sense to ease restrictions across the state.”
DOH and local health departments would reserve the right to move a region outside of this timing, the governor’s office noted.
In Phase 2, indoor social gatherings of up to five people from outside your own household (limit, two households) would be permitted, or up to 15 people for outdoor gatherings. Restaurants could also reopen for indoor dining, with capacity limited at 25 percent, with an 11 p.m. closing time.
Gyms and other physical fitness businesses would be allowed to expand to 25 percent capacity in Phase 2, and moderate risk indoor sports and all outdoor sports would also be allowed to resume, with restrictions on spectator capacity.
“It’s a new year, and COVID-19 is no longer new to us,” Inslee said. “We’ve learned a lot; we’ve struggled a lot; we’ve accomplished a lot. Washingtonians are undeterred. This battle continues, but the turning point is on its way.”