OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee on Thursday announced changes to the state’s economic reopening plan that allows seven counties to move next week into Phase 2, which allows limited indoor dining among other loosening of COVID-19 restrictions.
The counties that will ease rules include those that constitute the Seattle metro area. Whitman County remains in Phase 1 of the plan.
Inslee first announced the latest iteration of the state’s reopening plan earlier this month, which focuses efforts on reopening regions rather than individual counties. Before, each region had to meet 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.
Now, they will only have to meet three, which means two regions — Puget Sound and West — can move into the second phase starting Monday. Those regions include King, Pierce, Snohomish, Grays Harbor, Pacific, Thurston and Lewis counties.
The East region, in which Whitman County is a part, has not met those metrics.
The time frame in which each region can progress — or potentially be rolled back — will also change, with the state Department of Health evaluating the metrics every two weeks instead of weekly.
In the second phase, restaurants can offer indoor dining at 25 percent capacity, and indoor fitness center can open with the same limit. Sports competitions can resume with limited spectators, and wedding and funeral ceremonies can increase their number of guests.
In a statement issued before the governor’s news conference, Republican Sens. John Braun and Jeff Wilson, urged passage of a bill that would bring the entire state into Phase 2.
“While we are encouraged by the possibility that the governor will reopen more of Washington’s businesses, we need to use science to safely open businesses immediately,” they wrote. “This will address the very real crisis our family-owned businesses are suffering.
Whitman County received 14 new positive COVID-19 results Thursday.
There have been 3,141 positive cases in the county to date.
The newest patients include three people younger than 20, nine people between ages 20-39 and two people between ages 40-59. There were no new hospitalizations or deaths.
Eight new COVID-19 cases were reported Thursday in Latah County.
The newest patients include one younger than 5, one between ages 5-12, three between ages 18-29, two in their 30s and one in their 70s.
There have been 2,342 confirmed positive cases in the county to date and 126 probable cases.
There have been two new COVID-19 hospitalizations at Gritman Medical Center since last week. There have been 32 hospitalizations to date.
Gritman is reporting a positivity rate of 4.48 percent among the 826 total tests it administered in the past seven days.
Pullman Regional Hospital is reporting a 3.2 percent positivity rate among the 372 tests it administered between Jan. 13-26.