Counties across Washington state will enter a phased re-opening program Monday as Gov. Jay Inslee’s “stay-home” order expires. Inslee announced new rules Friday that will replace the shutdown order with a tiered approach to restarting Washington’s economy.
The change won’t have an immediate impact in Washington’s most populous counties — King, Snohomish, and Pierce — but could make it possible for communities to enter the second phase of re-opening sooner than previously expected.
To enter Phase 2, counties must have fewer than 25 cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 residents over a 14-day period. That number has been revised from 10 cases per 100,000. Healthcare resources and testing must also be in place to track the virus. Each county is required to wait three weeks to monitor the case count before entering a new phase. Over the past two weeks, there were 28 cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 residents in King County, home to Seattle.
Less populous counties in Washington with fewer COVID-19 cases are already in Phase 2, which allows outdoor recreation in small groups, retail and grooming businesses, and restaurants to open with restrictions. Counties in Phase 1 will have the option to apply for additional exemptions from restrictions if they demonstrate activities can be done safely. Inslee calls it, “Phase 1.5.”
“We’re really pleased that we can give more counties flexibility and we’re confident that folks are going to take on this challenge,” Inslee said.
Inslee also tightened guidance that requires Washington residents to wear face coverings when physical distancing isn’t possible. Under the new order, all workers will be required to wear face coverings starting June 8 unless they have no person-to-person contact. Employers will have to provide those coverings to workers.