ASOTIN — Asotin, Whitman and Garfield counties won’t be moving to Phase 4 anytime soon, public health officials said Monday.
Gov. Jay Inslee and John Wiesman, state secretary of health, have decided to pause progression to the final stage statewide, said Asotin County Public Health Administrator Brady Woodbury.
During an Asotin County Board of Health Meeting, Woodbury said this week’s notice from Olympia did not come as a surprise. State leaders decided to prohibit any status changes at this time because of increasing COVID-19 activity across Washington and “significant rebounds” in several other states.
“The changes between Phase 3 and Phase 4, especially with regards to gathering size and occupancy rates, could further increase the spread of COVID-19 in our state, even in communities that have very low rates of disease,” Wiesman said in an email to Asotin County officials. “The progress we’ve made thus far is at risk, therefore we are making the prudent choice to slow down our phased approach to reopening.”
The three counties in this region have all made it to Phase 3, but officials said it could be Labor Day or later before the current restrictions are eased.
“I’ve heard in conference calls with other local health jurisdictions and the Department of Health that they want us to get through most of the summer without any big events,” Woodbury said. “They are suggesting early September, but they may dial that back. We’ll know more in a couple of weeks.”
Once a county reaches Phase 4, normal activities can resume.
“The best thing Washingtonians can do to slow the spread of the virus and save lives is to wear facial coverings, continue to maintain physical distancing and good hygiene practices,” Wiesman said in a news release. “Now that testing supplies are available, it is critical to get a test if you have any symptoms suggestive of COVID-19 or have been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19.”
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