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Gov. Jay Inslee, Phase 2
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‘We’ve let our guard down’: Gov. Inslee echoes concerns over move back to Phase 2

Gov. Jay Inslee. (TVW)

After the state Department of Health indicated Wednesday that King and Pierce counties could soon be facing a move back to Phase 2 of reopening, Gov. Jay Inslee reiterated those concerns Thursday.

In order to remain in Phase 3, large counties need to have 200 or fewer new cases per 100,000 residents over two weeks and five or fewer hospitalizations per 100,000 residents over the past week. Counties with a population under 50,000 need to have 100 or fewer total new cases over two weeks and three or fewer hospitalizations over the past week.

As of Wednesday, King County is reporting 182.6 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents over the last 14 days, and 4.1 hospitalizations per 100,000 over the last seven days. In Pierce County, the two-week case rate per 100,000 was at nearly 195 between March 18 and April 1, with a six-day reporting delay.

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Cases and hospitalizations in both counties — as well as several others — are also continuing to rise at a “significant” rate.

Speaking during a Thursday press conference, Inslee blamed a pair of factors: the spread of more infectious variant strains of COVID-19, and lax behavior at large gatherings.

“We’re concerned that we’ve all let down our guard to some degree — more folks aren’t wearing masks and aren’t social distancing,” he said. “We hope people will be careful.”

As to whether any counties will be rolled back to Phase 2, Inslee affirmed that “whatever happens, this will be dictated by the numbers.” That will see the state evaluating each county’s case rates on Monday, and then announcing a decision on moving any counties back to an earlier phase later in the week.

“It’s the virus’ numbers that direct these decisions at this point,” Inslee said. “We just have to take this virus seriously.”

A shift back to Phase 2 would decrease capacity of indoor dining, retail, fitness centers, salons, and entertainment from 50% to 25%. The state does not plan to add any new, additional restrictions to the phase.

Inslee also expressed optimism that any region that moves back into Phase 2 still has a chance to return to Phase 3 when the state evaluates data three weeks later.

“This is ultimately in our control — this virus can’t walk two inches without our help,” he said. “If in the next several weeks these counties put their minds to it, we can get back in the saddle and drive these numbers down.”

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