OLYMPIA — All but six of Washington state’s 39 counties will be in Phase 2 of the state’s economic reopening plan as of Monday, with five new regions meeting the requirements necessary to join two other regions that have already seen a loosening of COVID-19 restrictions, including limited indoor dining.
Whitman County is among the counties moving to Phase 2.
Gov. Jay Inslee announced Thursday the East, North, North Central, Northwest and Southwest regions, which comprise 26 counties across the state, will join the Puget Sound and West regions in the second phase of the plan. The South Central region part of the state — Kittitas, Yakima, Benton, Franklin, Walla Walla and Columbia counties — will remain in Phase 1 for at least another two weeks.
In the second phase, restaurants can offer indoor dining at 25-percent capacity. According to an announcement from the Pullman Chamber of Commerce, restaurants can seat a maximum of six people per table and limit tables to two households. Restaurants must close at 11 p.m.
Indoor fitness centers can open with the same 25-percent limit. Sports competitions can resume with limited spectators, and wedding and funeral ceremonies can increase their number of guests.
Last month, Inslee announced that regions had to meet three of four metrics in order to advance: a 10-percent decreasing trend in case rates over a two-week period; a 10-percent decrease in coronavirus hospital admission rates in that same timeframe; an ICU occupancy rate that’s less than 90 percent; and a test positivity rate of less than 10 percent. Whitman County Public Health is inviting people to call (509) 397-6280 if they have questions.
The South Central region had only met two of the metrics as of this week, with increases in both the trend of new COVID-19 hospital admissions and the test positivity rate.
The state Department of Health evaluates the timeframe every two weeks to determine whether a region can progress, or potentially be rolled back.
Inslee also announced additional $87 million for business and rental assistance, to be distributed by the Department of Commerce. The agency has previously distributed $100 million to more than 30,000 households in rental assistance, the governor’s office said. And $200 million has been put toward assistance for businesses and nonprofit organizations.
Inslee is also expected to sign a bill next week that allocates $2.2 billion in federal COVID relief money, including $325 million for rental assistance and $240 million for business assistance.There have been more than 308,000 COVID-19 cases in Washington state, and more than 4,600 deaths.
For most, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks, although long-term effects are unknown. But for some, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.