‘This is a gut-punch’: Local leaders react with three counties rolled back to Phase 2
With Gov. Inslee announcing Monday that three counties — Cowlitz, Pierce, and Whitman — will be moving back to Phase 2, local leaders have expressed a range of emotions in response.
That included the Pierce County Council, which issued a statement shortly after Inslee’s announcement.
“The news that our county will return to Phase 2 effective April 16 is discouraging,” County Council Chair Derek Young said. “This setback is a gut-punch to all of us, especially our Pierce County businesses that made it through the winter.”
Pierce County Executive Bruce Dammeier echoed those sentiments, pointing to the county’s rate of vaccinated seniors, and its sufficient hospital capacity.
“We’ve been shorted vaccines by 55,000, and our hospitals have more than enough capacity to take care of anybody who is sick,” he told KIRO Radio, emphasizing that he plans to petition the governor to move back into Phase 3 the moment Pierce County dips under the requisite threshold.
The Washington Hospitality Association also responded Monday, stating that it’s “heartbreaking for the hundreds of businesses and thousands of workers who will pay for the price of a surge they did not cause.”
The WHA went on to express that it “does not believe this will be an effective cover containment strategy, as people can easily cross county lines.”
“We will continue to keep our focus where we believe it is most important, which is on encouraging proven strategies, including wearing masks, practicing physical distancing, gathering safely in highly regulated areas,” WHA CEO Anthony Anton said in a written release.
Sen. Jeff Wilson (R-Longview) is concerned the rollback will create hardship and frustration in Cowlitz County, noting that capacity restrictions will make it harder for businesses already struggling to survive.
“The governor just doesn’t get it,” Wilson said in a written release. “Orders from on high are meaningless without the cooperation of the public. But when the governor keeps changing the goalposts, it just doesn’t make sense to anyone.”
While King County may have avoided rolling back to Phase 2, Health Officer Dr. Jeff Duchin believes that residents still need to remain vigilant.
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. King County narrowly missed cresting both those benchmarks, with a rate of 192.9 new cases and 4 hospitalizations.
Given how close it was this time around, Duchin emphasized that being left off the Phase 2 rollback list is “definitely not an ‘all clear’ signal.”
“We are MUCH closer to putting the worst of the pandemic behind us, but not quite out of danger yet,” he said on Twitter. “The potential for a severe surge in cases and hospitalizations remains real until more of us are vaccinated.”
“For now, we’ve leveled off near the ‘Phase 2’ cutoffs — where we go next is up to us,” he added.
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.