OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee announced on Tuesday, Jan. 5, his “Healthy Washington — Roadmap to Recovery,” a COVID-19 phased recovery plan.
Beginning on Jan. 11, the state will follow a regional recovery approach with each region beginning in Phase 1. Phases under the new plan are different from those in his earlier Safe Start plan.
“No one was untouched by the effects of the pandemic in 2020; many have and continue to suffer through no fault of their own,” Inslee said during a press conference Tuesday. “We aren’t out of this yet, but we are close to turning the corner on COVID-19 and this third wave of infection.”
Washington has avoided overwhelming the state’s health care systems throughout the pandemic so far through rigorous safety measures, such as physical distancing and masking, as well as social and economic restrictions, he said. The new recovery system aims to ease some restrictions while also maintaining hospital capacity.
Phase 1, for the most part, aligns with restrictions currently in place for most counties, with a few key exceptions. Indoor fitness and outdoor entertainment, for example, were both previously prohibited, but will now be permitted with restrictions.
Currently, all indoor fitness is entirely prohibited. The state Department of Health said the state can safely allow appointment-based fitness and training where there is no more than one customer per room or 500 square feet for large facilities. This will allow gyms to schedule people wanting to come in to work out in a safe way to ensure activity during winter months. Masks and physical distancing are required.
Outdoor entertainment establishes will be permitted to reopen in Phase 1, including zoos, outdoor theaters and concert venues, and rodeos, among other outdoor venues. Operation must be by ticketed event only with groups of 10 maximum with a limit of two households. Timed ticketing is required, as well as facial coverings and physical distancing.
Indoor gatherings and indoor dining remain prohibited. Outdoor dining with a maximum of six and limit for two households per table is permitted with an 11 p.m. mandated closure.
Retail, worship services, personal services, and professional services — where remote work isn’t available—are limited to 25 percent capacity.
Once a region meets all four required health metrics, they will be permitted to move from Phase 1 to Phase 2. This phase sees some relaxation in regulations, but masks and physical distancing are still required statewide for all activities, according to Inslee.
Indoor social gatherings with people outside of the household begin being permitted in Phase 2 with a maximum of five people from outside the household and limit of two households. Outdoor social gatherings maximum in this phase is increased to 15 individuals from two households.
In Phase 2, indoor dining will be permitted with a maximum 25 percent capacity and an 11 p.m. mandated closure. All other indoor activities must also follow a 25 percent capacity limit. This includes retail, entertainment and groceries, as well as personal and professional services.
Indoor fitness must also follow the 25 percent capacity limit.
In Phase 2, moderate risk indoor sports and all sports outdoors gain flexibility to have league games and competitions.
Outdoor entertaining may host groups of up to 15 with the two-household limit and an overall 75-person maximum. Wedding and funeral ceremonies and indoor receptions may take place following the appropriate venue requirements. Food and drink service limited to restaurant guidance.
“It’s a new year, and COVID-19 is no longer new to us,” Inslee said. “We’ve learned a lot; we’ve struggled a lot; we’ve accomplished a lot. Washingtonians are undeterred. This battle continues, but the turning point is on its way.”
The regions are mostly based on Emergency Medical Services (EMS) regions used for evaluating health care services, Inslee said. There will be eight regions of four or more counties, divided according to available health care services based on metrics such as hospitalizations, case data and disease mobility.
The east region inlcudes Adams, Asotin, Ferry, Garfield, Lincoln, Pend Oreille, Spokane, Stevens and Whitman counties.
Chelan, Douglas, Grant and Okanogan counties are in the north central region.
A region’s phase will be determined by the state Department of Health in response to four metric requirements. The final metrics for regions were to be calculated on Friday, becoming effective Jan. 11.
To go forward from Phase 1 to Phase 2, regions must meet all four metrics:
Decreasing trend in two-week rate of COVID-19 cases per 100,000 population (decrease 10 percent).
Decreasing trend in two-week rate new COVID-19 hospital admission rates per 100,000 population (decrease 10 percent).
ICU occupancy (total — COVID-19 and non-COVID-19) of less than 90 percent.
COVID-19 test positivity rate of 10 percent.
To remain in Phase 2, regions must meet at least 3 metrics:
Decreasing or flat trend in two-week rate of COVID-19 cases per 100,000 population.
Decreasing or flat trend in two-week rate new COVID-19 hospital admission rates per 100,000 population.
ICU occupancy (total — COVID-19 and non-COVID-19) of less than 90 percent
COVID-19 test positivity rate of less than 10 percent.
Regions that fail to meet two or more of the metrics will be moved back to Phase 1.