Whatcom County and the rest of Washington have moved into Phase 2 of the state’s two-phase reopening plan. With some minor metric reporting glitches due to a hospital error holding back one region, all of the state’s regions were in Phase 2 as of February 15.
Whatcom County moved into Phase 2 on February 14, after governor Jay Inslee announced that counties previously slated to move into Phase 2 on Monday could open a day early for Valentine’s Day. The move to Phase 2 allows restaurants to have indoor activity with 25 percent capacity.
The county, and the rest of the north region that includes Skagit, Island and San Juan counties, met the four requirements under the governor’s “Roadmap to Recovery” plan.
Here is how the north region moved phases, according to “Roadmap to Recovery” metrics:
• 32 percent decrease in rate of new Covid-19 cases in the past two weeks
• 17 percent decrease in new Covid-19 hospital admissions per 100,000 in the past two weeks
• 53 percent ICU occupancy in the past week
• 6 percent Covid-19 test positivity rate
Six other regions in the state moved forward in phases Sunday. When the eligible phases were announced February 11, the south central region was the only region to remain in Phase 1. However, the state department of health reported Sunday that a Walla Walla hospital was unintentionally misreporting hospital admission data and the region was eligible to move to Phase 2. South Central includes Kittitas, Yakima, Benton, Franklin, Walla Walla and Columbia counties and has since moved into Phase 2. Puget Sound and West regions moved into Phase 2 on February 1.
The whole state is now in Phase 2.
The governor was asked during the news conference why the state would risk reopening now when the new, more contagious virus variant could cause an infection increase and rollback re-openings.
Regions will automatically be in either Phase 1 or Phase 2 depending on their metrics – 10 percent decreasing trend in case rates, 10 percent decrease in Covid-19 hospital admission rates, ICU occupancy lower than 90 percent and a test positivity rate lower than 10 percent.
“We realize there is potential risk out there. That is why, in our metrics, we build in a fail-safe mechanism that’s automatic,” Inslee said. “If these variants come into our state en masse and if these numbers start to go up, this will self-correct and tamp down some of this potential transmission activity.”
Indoor low and moderate risk sports can now compete but tournaments remain prohibited. Outdoor low, moderate and high risk sports can compete, but no more than 200 spectators may attend. Fitness classes can now operate at 25 percent capacity.
Under Phase 2, no more than five people outside a household may gather indoors with a maximum of five people. Indoor gatherings were previously prohibited in Phase 1. The number who can meet socially outdoors will increase from 10 to 15, but the groups will still be limited to two households.
Indoor entertainment, such as theaters and museums, can operate at 25 percent capacity. Indoor weddings and funerals are now allowed if they follow venue requirements but dancing at weddings is prohibited.
The same guidelines apply as they did in Phase 1 for retail stores, outdoor dining, indoor worship services, professional services and personal services.
The state department of health assesses Phase 2 eligibility every two weeks. The department will release the next phase update on Thursday, February 25 for phase changes that would go into effect Monday, March 1.
For more information on Phase 2, visit bit.ly/373LS1W.
This article has been updated to include new information on the south central region that appeared in the February 18 print issue.