Spokane County is poised to be moved back to Phase 2 of the state’s three-phase reopening plan, forcing restaurants, gyms and theaters to further restrict the number of customers.
The announcement is expected early next week unless Gov. Jay Inslee changes the benchmarks for counties.
Case rates and hospitalizations for COVID-19 have surged in recent weeks, leaving Spokane and many other counties unable to meet state-set metrics for staying in Phase 3.
“If nothing changes and the assessment is the same … we will not meet those two metrics come Monday,” Interim Health Officer Dr. Francisco Velázquez said Wednesday.
Spokane County’s case rate of 299 cases per 100,000 residents in the past two weeks of data collection exceeds the state’s requirement of larger counties to keep the rates below 200 to stay in Phase 3.
Hospitalizations have also increased due to the surge in COVID activity following March Madness, spring break and Easter celebrations.
Spokane County’s seven-day hospitalization rate is 8.6 people per 100,000 residents, which is also higher than the state metric of five hospitalizations or fewer per 100,000 to stay in Phase 3.
Going back to Phase 2 means restaurants, retail stores and businesses must reduce to 25% capacity instead of 50% capacity in Phase 3.
Gatherings indoors should include no more than five people in this phase, or two households maximum.
Worship services and gyms must go back to 25% capacity in Phase 2, and weddings, while allowed, cannot have dancing.
Low- and moderate-risk sports are permitted, but tournaments are not allowed in Phase 2.
“We’ll take control of this again and move forward in the future,” Velázquez said. “So I don’t want us to be disappointed, I want us to be aware of it. And we take this as an incentive to do better the next couple weeks.”
Velázquez encouraged the community to not only seek vaccinations, but continue to practice social distancing and wear masks. Graduations and other celebrations scheduled in the coming weeks could be subject to the phased guidelines, just like restaurants and other businesses.
Phase 2 guidelines allow outdoor entertainment establishments, like stadiums or arenas, to be open with a maximum of 200 individuals, including spectators.
A look at local numbers:
The Spokane Regional Health District confirmed 84 new cases on Wednesday and one additional death.
There have been 609 deaths due to COVID-19 in Spokane County residents.
There are 77 people hospitalized with the virus in Spokane hospitals.
The Panhandle Health District confirmed 37 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday and three additional deaths.
There have been 302 deaths due to COVID-19 in Panhandle residents.
There are 33 Panhandle residents hospitalized with the virus.
Arielle Dreher's reporting for The Spokesman-Review is funded in part by Report for America and by members of the Spokane community. This story can be republished by other organizations for free under a Creative Commons license. For more information on this, please contact our newspaper’s managing editor.
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