Washington’s COVID-19 restrictions will be extended through the end of May and a plan to open the state will roll out across four phases and at least the next two months, Gov. Jay Inslee announced Friday.
The announcement of the extended “stay home” order through May 31st included the introduction of a four-phase plan for reopening the state including step by step changes like gradually increasing the number of people allowed to gather and limiting restaurant and bar capacities.
Each phase would require at least three weeks for health officials to evaluate before determining whether it was safe to proceed with the next steps, Inslee said Friday, pushing anything like a full reopening of the state beyond early June.
“I would like to tell you June 1st you can start making reservations,” Inslee said. “But I cannot.”
“The new normal is not here yet.”
UPDATE: When does Phase 1 begin? It’s generally understood that you can start counting the days from May 5th but most of the first phase thresholds aren’t much different than what has been in place. Will Phase 1 be in place for the next three or more weeks? Stay tuned.
Inslee’s extension of COVID-19 restrictions comes amid ongoing federal pressure for elements of the economy to reopen as soon as possible and amid a roster of states pushing forward with reopening elements of their economies.
Friday, Inslee emphasize personal responsibility and said that there should not be a separation of health and economic concerns. The economy and public health are “one,” Inslee said.
Inslee said the timing for the next steps will be contingent on a combination of metrics and models the governor laid out earlier this week that will help officials determine if the rate of COVID-19 infection is falling and if medical and testing resources are adequate for loosened restrictions. The state has posted its new COVID-19 dashboard here.
Washington’s current restrictions were ordered though May 4th. 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. Larger impacts include a halt to most commercial construction that does not involve safety or critical repairs.
A “stay home” lockdown has now been in place in Seattle for more than 50 days. Widely followed models show that restrictions could need to be in place for more than 90 days before it is safe for the region to fully reopen.
Inslee has said he would take a “scientific approach” to reopening Washington and its economy in a recovery that will be “more like the turning of a dial than a flip of the switch.”
Wednesday, Inslee said that Washington’s trends continue to show a stubborn rate of infection that can only be brought down by increased testing, better contact tracing, and better isolation. Previously, Inslee said a 1,500-person team including members of the Washington National Guard is being put together to tackle contact tracing in the state. Work on a smartphone app that would enable better contact tracing while maintaining privacy is also underway.
Earlier this week, Inslee announced the easing of restrictions on some outdoor activities. The state is also ready to allow the return of non-essential medical procedures. Friday, Inslee also said that smaller, rural Washington counties could apply for variances to be excepted from the new order.
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
Washington’s economy has been battered by the crisis with unemployment reaching record highs and thousands of businesses waiting for federal aid.
Friday, King County officials also released new reporting showing the disproportionate impact of the virus on the area’s black and hispanic populations. According to the county’s new race and ethnicity dashboard, Hispanic residents are 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 is close to levels seen in the county’s white population, officials said.
Thursday, King County recorded three new COVID-19 deaths — its lowest daily total in April, a month in which the virus claimed 285 lives. Since the start of the outbreak, 449 have died here with 814 deaths across the state.
- 5/4/20: COVID-19 updates: Phase 1 begins, what’s in Phase 2 (and 3 and 4), King County removes antibody testing case counts, COVID-19 yard art
- 5/1/20: Washington extends COVID-19 restrictions through May, readies ‘four phase’ plan for reopening with limits on groups, restaurant capacity, and travel
- 4/30/20: Washington investigating state totals after COVID-19 ‘excess deaths’ report
- 4/30/20: Facing opposition from mayor and chamber advocates, Seattle tax on big businesses for COVID-19 relief and housing moves toward May vote
- Plus: Capitol Hill Restaurants, Bars, and Cafes offering takeout during COVID-19 ‘stay home’ restrictions
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