Washington Gov. Jay Inslee on Tuesday said all of the state’s counties will remain in their current phase of the state’s economic reopening plan and won’t face more restrictions because new COVID-19 cases are leveling off after a recent spike.
Inslee said there will be a two-week pause as the state continues to evaluate coronavirus activity in the state. So Whitman County will remain in Phase 2 while Asotin and Garfield counties will stay in Phase 3.
The surprise announcement came as several more counties were expected to roll back to Phase 2 of the plan, which includes reduced capacity for indoor dining and gyms, based on case counts and hospitalizations. But Inslee said that the most recent weekend data from the Department of Health shows coronavirus activity reaching a plateau in the state.
“The approach to this pandemic, there’s no real playbook for COVID,” Inslee said. “We are making very difficult decisions based on the best science we have.”
Inslee’s move is at odds with neighboring Oregon, where fellow Democratic Gov. Kate Brown last week imposed more severe restrictions because of a new coronavirus wave. Washington and Oregon were among the first states to implement sweeping restrictions in the early days of the pandemic.
Currently in Washington, just four of the state’s 39 counties are in the more restrictive Phase 2: Cowlitz, Pierce and Whitman, which were rolled back from Phase 3 last month, and Ferry County, where health officials on Friday voluntarily moved back because of a recent outbreak.
In Phase 3, restaurants, bars and gyms can operate at 50 percent capacity. At Phase 2, that’s reduced to 25 percent.
Under the current metrics, larger counties must have less than 200 new cases per 100,000 people over a two-week period and fewer than five new COVID-19 hospitalizations per 100,000 people over a one-week period in order to be in Phase 3.
Seventeen smaller counties — Klickitat, Asotin, Pacific, Adams, San Juan, Pend Oreille, Skamania, Lincoln, Ferry, Wahkiakum, Columbia, Kittitas, Stevens, Douglas, Okanogan, Jefferson, and Garfield — must have fewer than 100 new cases over a two-week period and fewer than three new COVID-19 hospitalizations over a one-week period in order to avoid going to Phase 2. Phase 1 is the most restrictive, including no indoor dining at restaurants allowed.
The Public Health – Idaho North Central District reported 15 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday, with seven in Nez Perce County, four in Latah County, three in Idaho County and one in Clearwater County.
Asotin County added three new cases, raising its total to 1,437. The county’s 14-day count is 37.
Whitman County didn’t update its numbers and Garfield County had no new cases.
Safeway and Albertsons pharmacies in Washington and northern Idaho are now offering walk-in COVID-19 vaccinations, the stores announced Tuesday. People won’t need an appointment to get the vaccine.
The stores are offering Pfizer, Moderna or J&J vaccines, which will vary by location. If the pharmacy location is not administering the patient’s requested vaccine, the pharmacists will work with the patient and direct them to a location that is administering their preferred vaccine, a news release said.
People can also schedule a vaccination ahead of time at www.mhealthcheckin.com.