Gov. Inslee unveils ‘Healthy Washington,’ a regional reopening plan
Jan 5, 2021, 2:40 PM | Updated: 4:55 pm
As Washington approaches one year since the first diagnosed COVID-19 patient was recorded in the state — on Jan. 21, 2020 — Governor Jay Inslee announced a new reopening plan for 2021.
“Today we are announcing a new plan — called Healthy Washington — to move forward in 2021 once we see COVID activity reduce, hospitals that aren’t overrun with COVID patients, people continuing to mask, and all the other personal steps we know work to prevention infection,” Gov. Inslee said.
Inslee says the state is not moving forward in a big way today, but that a new plan was needed. Healthy Washington will go into effect Jan. 11, 2021, and includes a “small resumption” of some activities statewide.
In contrast to the previous Safe Start program, this plan only has two phases to start. More phases will be added when COVID activity is knocked down, Inslee clarified. Healthy Washington will also be run by region, not by county.
“Because we know that health care systems are regional and we know that the virus does not respect county boundaries,” Inslee said, adding that this makes sense from both a public health perspective and a “health care delivery” one as well.
Counties will be grouped into eight regions based on health system resources over a geographic area, the governor explained. The metrics to track progress will be COVID-19 hospitalizations, ICU capacity, case data, and test positivity.
“All four targets have to be met for a region to reopen more activities,” Inslee said.
All regions will start in Phase 1. There is no application for moving to Phase 2, but rather will be decided based on information regularly collected by the Washington State Department of Health. To advance, regions have to show a 10% decreasing trend in case rates; a 10% decrease in COVID hospital admission rates; an ICU occupancy rate that’s less than 90%; and a test positivity rate of less than 10%.
In Phase 2, restaurants can open indoor dining at 25% capacity, same for fitness centers indoors. Sports competitions may also resume in Phase 2 with limited spectators. Wedding and funeral ceremonies will be able to increase their capacities from current limits as well.
“It allows us to now see a path forward,” said Dr. Umair Shah, the state Secretary of Health. “We are not there yet as a state, we are all committed to getting there, though, as a state.”
There is a chance that regions could move backward from Phase 2 to Phase 1. Officials with the state Department of Health will be monitoring these health metrics weekly, said Dr. Shah.
DOH will start posting the most recent analyses on its website this Friday, and the following Fridays. Any movement will happen on Mondays.
“We do not want to fear COVID-19, but we have to respect COVID-19,” Shah said. “It has been a formidable foe throughout this last year, and we have to do everything we can to move forward.”
Gov. Inslee added that the Department of Health is expected to update the state on the vaccination process and prioritization on Wednesday. He said that the state will unveil a new tool that will allow you to find out which prioritization phase you’re in, based on a list of criteria. The tool will also notify you when your phase begins.