Governor Inslee announced on Thursday that the state will be moving into Phase 3 of the Healthy Washington: Roadmap to Recovery plan, and into a county-by-county approach.
During an address, Gov. Inslee said that the change to the recovery plan will be effective March 22 as the entire state transitions into Phase 3.
This phase will include a return to in-person spectators for professional and high school sporting events and Phase 1B, Tier 2 vaccine eligibility.
As part of the transition to a county-led approach, Grays Harbor and Pacific County will have separate metrics to maintain in order to remain in the newest phase.
For large counties, or counties with more than 50,000 people like Grays Harbor, to remain in Phase 3 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, such as Pacific County with a population 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.
Under the new metrics, numbers reported by the local health authorities show Grays Harbor narrowly meets criteria for Phase 3 while Pacific County does not.
Data from Grays Harbor County Public Health & Social Services Department show that the county may barely meet the new requirements by the state. Based on comparisons of the per-100,000 data point and a county population of approximately 72,000, Grays Harbor has had 4 hospitalizations in the past week, above the roughly 3.6 allowed. Also based on our last census population, Grays Harbor has seen 79 new cases over 2 weeks, well below the 144 allowed.
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.
“We know there is enthusiasm around opening of schools and businesses and that advancing to Phase 3 is welcome news to many Washingtonians,” said Lacy Fehrenbach, Deputy Secretary for the Department of Health’s COVID-19 response. “We want to keep going forward together out of the pandemic, and our success hinges upon wearing masks, washing our hands, watching our distance, keeping social circles small — and of course, getting vaccinated when it’s our turn. These are the things that will help us suppress COVID-19, which is the key to our continued forward progress towards recovery.”
Sports Guidance Change
Sports guidance will change in Phase 3 to allow in-person spectators at events for the first time in a year. Spectators will be allowed to attend outdoor venues with permanent seating with capacity capped at 25%. The change affects both professional and high school sports, as well as motorsports, rodeos, and other outdoor spectator events. Social distancing and facial covering are still required.
The new phase also allows for up to 400 people maximum to attend outdoor activities, as well as events in indoor facilities — so long as 400 people does not exceed 50% capacity for the location, and physical distancing and masking protocols are enforced. Larger venue events are capped at 25% occupancy, or up to 9,000 people, whichever is less, and must follow spectator guidelines.
Additionally, Phase 3 will allow up to 50% occupancy or 400 people maximum, whichever is lower, for all indoor spaces. This applies to all industries and indoor activities currently allowed; restaurants, gyms and fitness centers and movie theaters, among others, may all increase their capacity.
“Some of the hardest hit businesses in Washington will be able to return to 50% capacity as we continue on the road to recovery,” Inslee said. “On March 22, we make one more step to beating this virus and rejuvenating our economy.”
A full list of industry-level changes for the new phase will be released next week.