All counties in Washington will be moving to Phase 3 of its reopening plan, effective March 22.
The Washington State Department of Health (DOH) made the announcement based on Governor Jay Inslee’s Healthy Washington – Roadmap to Recovery plan.
“Because of the progress we’ve made by decreasing our case rates and hospitalizations, as well as our tremendous efforts to get more people vaccinated, our reopening plan is once again based on counties, not regions,” Inslee said during a press conference Thursday. “We are excited to take this step and we will keep evaluating our progress, and the impacts of these changes, to determine how and when we reopen further.”
In addition, the governor announced that beginning Wednesday, March 17, everyone in Tier 2 will be eligible for the COVID vaccine. This includes workers in agriculture, food processing, grocery stores, and public transit; firefighters; expectant mothers; or those with a disability that puts them at a higher risk.
- See also:
Phase 3 will allow for in-person spectators at sports events for the first time in a year. Outdoor venues with permanent seating will be allowed to fill up to 25% capacity. Phase 3 will allow up to 50% occupancy or 400 people maximum, whichever is lower, for all indoor spaces including restaurants, fitness centers, movie theaters, and more.
Physical distancing and facial coverings are still required.
By reopening based on county rather than regions, large and small counties will have different sets of criteria. If a county fails any of the metrics below, they will move down one phase in the Healthy Washington plan.
Governor Jay Inslee’s medium page outlined several metrics that the counties will need to follow:
For large counties to remain in Phase 3, defined as counties with more than 50,000 residents, they must keep a 14-day average of new COVID cases at or below 200 per 100,000 residents, and a seven-day average of new hospitalizations per 100,000 at five or fewer.
Smaller counties, those with populations of 50,000 or less, must maintain a 14-day average of new cases at 30 or fewer, and a new seven-day hospitalization average at three or fewer.
If at any point the statewide ICU capacity reaches greater than 90%, all counties will move down one Phase. The Department of Health always maintains the ability to move a county forward or backward at their discretion.
The counties will be individually evaluated every three weeks, with the first evaluation scheduled for April 12.