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‘Good news’ — Inslee transitions COVID-19 phases to ‘county by county’ decisions putting King County within striking distance for loosened restrictions — UPDATE

King County is still struggling to meet some of the benchmarks introduced Friday for loosening statewide COVID-19 restrictions — but Washington’s most populous county is now within striking distance.

Governor Jay Inslee said he had “good news” for Washington Friday in an update on the state’s lockdown as 26 counties here have already advanced to “Phase 2” restrictions.

“We have new effective ways to fight this scourge,” Inslee said Friday. “Because we have these ways, we can begin to open up more businesses and industries.”

Friday, Inslee said he will extend Washington’s “stay home” order that is set to expire June 1st but with a new framework that will allow a higher infection rate and will put the phased transitions more firmly into the remaining individual counties still in the first phase of recovery.

“This does not mean — obviously — that we are returning to normal,” Inslee said.

UPDATE: Following quickly on the announcement, Executive Dow Constantine released a plan for a limited expansion of Phase 1 activities allowed in King County including outdoor sit-down dining at restaurants, in-store retail, and outdoor gatherings of “5 or fewer people” —

  • Recreation and fitness
    • Only allowed outdoor with 5 — not including the instructor — or fewer people outside of household
  • Gatherings
    • Only allowed outdoor of 5 or fewer people outside the household
  • Additional construction
    • As outlined in Phase 2 guidance
  • Manufacturing operations
    • As outlined in Phase 2 guidance
  • Real estate
    • 25 percent of building occupancy
    • Indoor services limited to 30 minutes
  • In-store Retail
    • 15 percent of building occupancy
    • Indoor services limited to 30 minutes
  • Personal Services
    • 25 percent of building occupancy
  • Professional services
    • 25 percent of building occupancy
    • Indoor services limited to 30 minutes for customers
  • Photography
    • As outlined in Phase 2 guidance
  • Pet grooming
  • 25 percent of building occupancy
  • Restaurants
    • No indoor dining allowed
    • Outdoor dining is permitted but seating at 50 percent of existing outdoor capacity.

“Thanks to the people of King County, whose united efforts have flattened the curve and saved thousands lives, we are ready to continue safely, carefully reopening our economy,”  Constantine said in a statement. “Our continued vigilance against the virus can help make this a one-way journey from lock-down back to prosperity, and I’m excited that folks will soon be able to support our local businesses by doing simple things like dining at an outdoor restaurant, getting a haircut, or shopping for a summer outfit.”

The proposal requires state approval before it goes into effect.

County officials “will continue monitoring progress over the course of two weeks, and if metrics are more stable and meeting the state’s criteria, more businesses and activities will reopen in accordance with Phase 2,” according to the statement.

For Seattle businesses now facing the new challenges of reopening, the city’s Office of Economic Development has an updated resource page “for small businesses, nonprofits, and workers impacted by COVID-19.” Officials said the resources will be updated as more information on the reopening becomes available. The city also recently launched Seattle Protects, a new online marketplace to help businesses, nonprofit organizations, and residents purchase face coverings from local manufacturers.
Part of any return will be mask requirements for workers across the state. Inslee announced that starting June 8 all businesses will be required to provide masks and employees must wear masks unless they work alone. Calling masks an “expression of love,” Inslee said we should all be wearing face covers “because we can protect other people.”

The new take on reopening puts more of the decisions into the hands of local officials and will be a “county by county” process, Inslee said.

King County has begun publishing daily updates on the metrics Washington officials will be monitoring as the Secretary of State approves — and sometimes rolls backs — loosened restrictions. Benchmarks include a revised target for 25 new cases per 100,000 residents over a 14-day period — up from the 10 case target established when the restrictions first went into place.

King County currently reports 28 new cases per 100,000 residents over the past 14 days.

Thursday, the county passed the 8,000 mark for positive cases and recorded its 554th death of the outbreak. ZIP Codes representing the Capitol Hill and Central District neighborhoods also reported their first new cases in week. The 98102, 98112, and 98122 areas have represented around 2.8% of the county’s positive cases with 222 reported sick here. So far, there have been six reported deaths.

Washington officials say they will be considering county applications for phase advancement with targets and measurements “taken as a whole.” Friday, Inslee said counties would also be free to add restrictions to state requirements. Washington businesses that decide to stay open or operate in violation of Gov. Jay Inslee’s stay-at-home order and Safe Start plan face fines of $10,000 or more under emergency rules filed Wednesday.

Wednesday, CHS reported on Inslee’s briefing on a new report from the Bellevue-based Institute for Disease Modeling that health leaders say shows that “a comprehensive program of increased testing, isolation of infected people, and contact tracing with quarantine of home and work contacts” could allow areas like King County to overcome a likely bounceback in infection rates as restrictions loosen. Trends also show the nature of the state’s infections may be changing. A new analysis of Washington infection statistics, meanwhile, shows that half of new COVID-19 infections are in people younger than 40 years old.

Health officials have become more aggressive in encouraging more people to get tested. With resources in place, the parameters of who should be screened now include anybody with symptoms or “close contact” —

Seattle and King County recommends that anyone who has COVID-19 symptoms or close contact with someone who has COVID-19 be tested right away. Testing as soon as possible after symptoms appear is important to prevent COVID-19 from spreading to family, friends, and the community.

You can learn more about Public Health’s recommendations and how to get tested here.

Seattle residents have now been under COVID-19 restrictions for 78 days. The legally enforceable order restricts activities to only essential needs including visiting health facilities, grocery shopping, and working in “essential businesses” and industries. Restaurants and bars have also been able to continue offering to go and delivery orders.

CHS COVID-19 TIMELINE+ Feb. 29 First ‘presumptive positive’ COVID-19 case in King County + Mar. 11 Washington puts ‘over 250’ restrictions in place + Mar. 11 Schools closed + Mar. 15 Restaurants and bars closed, ‘over 50’ threshold + Mar. 21 Police begin clearing parks + Apr. 2 Washington restrictions extended + Apr. 6 Schools closed for rest of year + Apr. 8 Can’t relax those social restrictions yet but, exhale, Seattle — COVID-19 model says you’ve made it through this outbreak’s peak + Apr. 27 Washington eases restrictions on some outdoor activities but you’ll still need to give six feet on the trail + May 1 Washington extends COVID-19 restrictions through May, readies ‘four phase’ plan for reopening with limits on groups, restaurant capacity, and travel

Washington’s economy has been battered by the crisis with unemployment reaching record highs and thousands of businesses waiting for federal aid. As restrictions are loosened. Seattle and the state will be faced with challenges of staggering unemployment and how best to continue protections like the eviction moratoriums currently in place.

King County officials say the virus has also had a disproportionate impact on the area’s black and hispanic populations. Hispanic residents were four times as likely to be hospitalized and more than twice as likely to die as white residents. Black residents are also disproportionately likely to test positive for the virus but their death rate was close to levels seen in the county’s white population, officials said.

Phase 2 will bring loosened restrictions including the reopening of restaurants for sit-down service at 50% capacity, the return of hair and beauty services, and “limited” non-essential travel. You can find our overview of Washington’s reopening phases here.

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10 thoughts on “‘Good news’ — Inslee transitions COVID-19 phases to ‘county by county’ decisions putting King County within striking distance for loosened restrictions — UPDATE

  1. Nice good to see.
    Germany has been off lockdown for 5 weeks now and nothing crazy has happened. Their emergency brake for reinstating lockdown is 50/100000. Glad to see we are moving along.

  2. Inslee should give a shout out to the scientists whose breakthrough allowed a 150% improvement in the safe level of cases. From 10/100K to 25K/100K. They are heroes. I’m so glad we have a governor using science and data and not just making stuff up based on the political winds.

    • Sounded from the press conference he was just following California’s stead. Who followed and watched the Europeans. The orginal 10 /100000 was extreme considering Germany 50.He prob got that bad advice from the proven faulty ihme models.

      I appreciate any step forward for sure.

      From another prospective you have some who say even the idea of lockdown in our situation was a bad move. These guys are pretty damn qualified so take your arguments up with them I’m just relaying a msg.

      Renowned German infectious disease expert Dr. Sucharit Bhakdi says about Germany’s lockdown “grotesque, absurd, and very dangerous. The life expectancy of millions is being shattered.” He referred to the impact on the world economy as horrifying and said, “All these measures are leading to self-destruction and collective suicide based on nothing but a spook.”

      Dr. Wittkowski who for 20 years at Rockefeller University, headed the Department of Biostatistics, Epidemiology and Research Design at the Center for Clinical and Translational Science at the hospital had this to say…

      “The only thing we have to do is to do what we should have done in the first place: keep the schools open, keep the businesses open, and isolate the elderly.”

      Interesting to see different views from people who are not online radio show quacks right

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