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With COVID-19 cases rising, Washington puts a pause on Phase 4 of reopening

Gov. Jay Inslee. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Gov. Jay Inslee announced Saturday that the Washington Department of Health would be putting a pause on all applications from counties looking to move into Phase 4 of reopening.

Counties in Phase 4 would effectively operate without any restrictions related to COVID-19. With new cases rising across the state, such a scenario has now been deemed “impossible at this time.”

“We all want to get back to doing all the things we love in Washington during the summer, and fully open our economy, but we aren’t there yet,” Gov. Inslee said in a news release. “This is an evolving situation and we will continue to make decisions based on the data.”

What’s allowed as counties reopen in ‘Safe Start’ phases

Prior to Saturday, eight counties were eligible to move into Phase 4. Since mid-June, though, the state has jumped from between 100 and 200 new cases every day to over 400.

Secretary of Health John Wiesman also issued a letter to local leaders, laying out the specifics of the decision to pause all Phase 4 applications. The letter reads:

Dear Local and Tribal Health Leaders,

I am writing to let you know Governor Inslee and I have decided to pause progression to Phase 4 statewide.

We decided to prohibit any counties from moving into phase 4 at this time due to increasing COVID-19 activity across the state and significant rebounds in COVID-19 activity 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. 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.

In the next couple of weeks, I will work with Governor Inslee and his team to assess the need for a modified approach for moving beyond Phase 3. I will communicate that decision to you when we have more information. Counties that are currently able to apply to move from Phase 1 or 2 are still able to apply when eligible.

Thank you for your continued work to protect the health of Washingtonians during this unprecedented time.

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