OLYMPIA – Gov. Jay Inslee announced a new region-by-region reopening plan Tuesday that includes metrics for when certain activities can resume, although much of the state will not be moving forward yet.
The plan goes into effect Jan. 11, the date that the current restrictions were set to expire. The entire state will begin in Phase 1, which has many of the same restrictions as previously but also allows for some limited fitness and entertainment activity.
“What we’re announcing today will not result in big, significant openings today,” Inslee said in a news conference Tuesday.
The new reopening plan allows regions to move forward in phases, not counties as in the state’s previous guidance. The state will have eight regions grouped together based on health system resources. Spokane is in the East Region, along with Whitman, Garfield, Aston, Adams, Lincoln, Ferry, Stevens and Pend Oreille counties.
There are also currently only two phases, with more to be created when COVID activity is reduced. Every region will begin in Phase 1 based on current metrics.
“We know we’re not where we want to be today,” Inslee said.
Regions in the new Phase 1 will be able to have limited fitness and entertainment activity. Fitness centers in Phase 1 can provide appointment-based training with no more than one athlete within 500 square feet of another. New live entertainment guidance will do away with “blanket prohibition,” said Nick Streuli, the governor’s executive director of external affairs. It allows for outdoor entertainment events with no more than 10 people of no more than two households.
To advance to phase two, regions must have:
- A 10% decreasing trend in case rates
- A 10% decrease in COVID hospital admission rates
- An ICU occupancy rate less than 90%
- A test positivity rate of less than 10%
A region must meet all four criteria before moving to phase two. The second phase allows restaurants to open indoor dining and indoor fitness centers to open at 25% capacity. Sports competitions can resume with limited spectators, and wedding and funeral ceremonies can increase their capacities from current limits.
Regions could move backward if two or more of the metrics turn the other way. Each region’s metrics will be evaluated on Fridays, and any movement forward or backward in phases will take place the following Monday.
Inslee said the metrics, some of which are new for reopening, are designed to give the state a path forward.
“We are not there yet as a state,” Secretary of Health Dr. Umair Shah said. “We are all committed to getting there, though, as a state.”
Spokane Mayer Nadine Woodward praised Inslee’s new guidance in a statement Tuesday. She called it the “next step and not the end.”
“This new plan gives people renewed hope and a goal certain to pursue every day,” Woodward said. “Our community, along with the rest of the state, has been paused in place for quite some time. New information and a clear path forward are welcomed and appreciated and help ease the frustration and fatigue that has begun setting in.”
The state is continuing its vaccination process. As of Monday, Confluence Health in Wenatchee has administered 96% of its doses, Yakima Memorial has administered 87% of its doses, CHI Franciscan has administered 70% of its doses and Swedish Health Services in Seattle has administered 67% of its doses.
The state is still in its first phase of vaccinations, which includes health care workers and residents and caretakers at long-term care facilities. The next priority group will be announced later this week by the Department of Health.
“This is not going to get done on the first day,” Inslee said.
Shah said vaccinations are a coordinated effort between local public health and health care providers with guidance from the state. The infrastructure for larger vaccination efforts and the next phase of roll outs are still being determined.
The COVID curve does not appear to be worsening right now, Inslee said, but the state is still trying to get a better idea of how the holidays have affected transmission.
“We do not want to fear COVID-19,” Shah said, “but we have to respect COVID-19. It’s been a formidable foe throughout this last year.”
The Spokane Regional Health District reported 356 new cases of the virus on Tuesday. Nine more deaths were confirmed. There are 71 county residents hospitalized due to the virus.
The Panhandle Health District reported 263 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday. Eight more people have died, bringing the five-county district’s total deaths to 177. There are 91 people hospitalized due to the virus, including 84 at Kootenai Health.
Laurel Demkovich'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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