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Gov. Inslee announces rollback to Phase 2 for Cowlitz, Pierce, and Whitman counties

Gov. Jay Inslee. (TVW)

Gov. Inslee announced Monday that Cowlitz, Pierce, and Whitman counties will be rolling back to Phase 2 of reopening.

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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.

Previously, any county that fell out of compliance with one of those two criteria would have to move back to Phase 2. Gov. Inslee announced last Friday that those rules have now been altered to make it so a county would have to fail to meet both of those two metrics to be rolled back a phase.

As of Monday, Cowlitz County has a rate of 332.1 new cases per 100,000 residents over the last two weeks, and 11.8 hospitalizations over the last seven days. Over those same periods, Pierce County has a rate of 267.9 new cases and 6.4 hospitalizations, while Whitman County has a rate of 416 new cases and 5.9 hospitalizations.

“These metric trends are driven by the virus and we must continue to do everything we can to sharpen our focus and keep COVID-19 activity down,” Inslee said Monday in a written release. “We are so close to the end of the tunnel here  —  we have made tremendous progress and we must keep our focus.”

The state Department of Health will reevaluate data again in three weeks to determine whether any other counties need to roll back as well, or whether Cowlitz, Pierce, and Whitman can move back to Phase 3.

Although King County wasn’t among Monday’s rollbacks, Health Officer Dr. Jeff Duchin did note last week that it has also “been trending towards that threshold since mid-March.” As of Monday, the county reports a rate of 192.9 new COVID-19 cases per every 100,000 residents over the last two weeks, and 4 hospitalizations per 100,000 residents over the last seven days.

Snohomish County is well below the threshold for both metrics, at 152.3 new cases per 100,000 and 3.1 hospitalizations.

MyNorthwest COVID-19 updates

Speaking during a press conference last week, Inslee blamed a pair of factors for the rise in cases: 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.”

In Phase 2, capacity for retail stores, worship services, indoor dining, fitness centers, gyms, salons, and various forms indoor entertainment is reduced to 25%, down from the 50% capacity permitted in Phase 3.

Outdoor social gatherings in Phase 2 are limited to 15 people from outside of your household, with a maximum of two total households permitted to be in attendance. Read more about Phase 2 rules here.

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