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Two regions to move to Phase 2; Inslee announces change to reopening criteria

Gov. Jay Inslee on Jan. 28, 2021. (TVW)

Governor Jay Inslee announced two main changes to the metrics that regions must meet in order to move forward in the Healthy Washington — Roadmap to Recovery plan.

First, the evaluation criteria for regions to move from Phase 1 to Phase 2 is changing such that regions will only be required to meet three of the four public health metrics in order to progress forward. The original roadmap required regions to meet all four.

“We are getting closer to finding our way out of this mess, but we aren’t there yet,” Gov. Inslee said. “We have sacrificed too much to let our frustrations get the best of us now when the finish line is in sight, however distant that may seem in our field of vision.”

As part of the Healthy Washington plan, the state had been divided into eight regions based on health system resources over a geographic area, two of which will move to Phase 2 on Monday under the updated criteria. However, that progression is contingent on whether the metrics continue their positive trends. The two moving to Phase 2 on Monday are the Puget Sound region (Snohomish, King, Pierce counties) and the West region (Grays Harbor, Pacific, Thurston, Lewis).

The four metrics remain the same: 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%.

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To remain in Phase 2, the region must maintain three metrics. If any region fails to meet any two metrics, they will regress to Phase 1.

In Phase 2, restaurants can open indoor dining up to 25% capacity, same for fitness centers indoors. Non-school based 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.

The second major change is that the Washington State Department of Health will now evaluate each regions’ metrics every two weeks instead of every week.

The Seattle mayor’s office released the following statement after Inslee’s announcement:

The Mayor supports Seattle businesses cautiously moving to Phase 2 and Seattle will not be imposing any additional restrictions at this time. However, both the high level of cases and the emergence of the new variants are cause for concern for our region. The Mayor will continue to watch these numbers closely with PHSKC.

The Mayor has also been working closely with our small businesses, and knows that predictability is important. The Mayor is concerned that unpredictability of these new variants could lead to the Puget Sound region going backwards in the upcoming weeks if residents and businesses do not continue to take public health precautions seriously.

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