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Six counties in Washington state apply to move to Phase 3

Nurse Karen Hayes cleans her hands with sanitizer after tending to a patient who has COVID-19 in the acute care COVID unit at Harborview Medical Center on May 7, 2020 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Karen Ducey/Getty Images)

The vast majority of counties in Washington state are now in Phase 2 or have pending applications to move forward in Governor Inslee’s Safe Start plan.

As of Wednesday, there are are eight counties that have been in Phase 2 for three weeks, which means they now may be considered for Phase 3, assuming they meet the necessary criteria. These eight counties are: Columbia, Ferry, Garfield, Lincoln, Pend Oreille, Skamania, Stevens, and Wahkiakum. Whitman County could be eligible by Friday.

There are six applications currently pending from counties to move from Phase 1 to Phase 2, and six more to move from Phase 2 to Phase 3. Secretary of Health John Wiesman is reviewing these applications, Inslee said.

Snohomish, Pierce, King counties prepare to ease stay-at-home restrictions

“I do want to comment that these metric goals are applied as targets, not absolute hard-line measures,” Inslee said in regards to the criteria to be approved for the next phase. “Where one target may not be quite achieved, the combination of things that we look at in our metrics may push people over the line to have overall reduced risk.”

There is also the chance for counties to apply for modified phases, which King County submitted an application for Wednesday.

As more businesses reopen and activities resume, Inslee said we need to be increasing our efforts to fight COVID-19 and using the new tactics we know work in helping to protect against the spread of this virus.

“We are so far out of the woods, we now have to be increasing our efforts – not decreasing our efforts – increasing our efforts by using new strategies to fight this virus,” he said.

This means as phase applications are considered, health leaders are looking at the ability of counties to have adequate testing, to do contact tracing, and to support individuals or families who may need to isolate so they don’t infect others.

“And that we’re using masks, that our community is embracing these things that we really know are the new ways to fight this virus,” Inslee added. “So we look at those things when we look at the applications, and we’re encouraged by some of the things we’ve seen already.”

The governor shared a story from a member of his team who recently visited a hair salon and was impressed with the temperature screenings, safety protocols, mask use, gloves, and social distancing measures in place.

“People are getting good at this,” Inslee said.

What’s allowed as counties reopen under Gov. Inslee’s ‘Safe Start’ plan

For counties ready to move to Phase 3, Inslee said industry specific guidelines should be released in the next several days.

“We take a lot of care and do the best job we can to make sure that we have practical guidance from people,” he said. “Frankly, that’s why it takes some time because we need to listen to working people and business people in these industries to get it right.”

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