Whitman County will remain in Phase 2 of Washington Gov. Jay Inslee’s phased COVID-19 reopening plan as the governor announced all counties must remain in their current phase for at least two more weeks.

Counties will be reevaluated at the end of two weeks. According to Inslee’s announcement, state data shows Washington’s fourth wave of COVID-19 transmissions has hit a plateau thanks to an increase in vaccination rates.

Whitman, Cowlitz and Pierce counties are the only counties in Phase 2. The rest are in Phase 3.

Under Phase 2, capacity for indoor dining at restaurants, retail stores and gyms is limited to 25 percent as opposed to Phase 3, which permits 50 percent.

“I doubt most business owners are surprised by the announcement as our COVID cases still remain high,” Pullman Chamber of Commerce Director Marie Dymkoski wrote in an email to the Daily News. “It’s been difficult for our businesses as they aren’t able to plan and have no idea when they will be allowed to open their businesses to full capacity. Often it seems that the goal posts keep moving according to our governor.”

Dymkoski noted that it is fortunate warmer weather has arrived because restaurants are able to offer outside seating. She wrote that businesses must continue to rely on the community to help keep their doors open.

The state makes its determination based on COVID-19 case and hospitalization rates. Current data from Whitman County shows 140 new cases between April 18 and Saturday. This equals a case rate of between 250-300 cases per a population of 100,000, which is too high to qualify for Phase 3.

Whitman County Public Health Director Chris Skidmore said Monday cases have only dropped slightly in the past week, but he is hoping they will decline more as Washington State University students leave Pullman at the end of the spring semester.

Whitman County first learned it would return to Phase 2 on April 12.

Kuipers can be reached at akuipers@dnews.com.

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