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Washington extends COVID-19 restrictions through May, readies ‘four phase’ plan for reopening with limits on groups, restaurant capacity, and travel

(Image: Sea Turtle via Flickr)

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.


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23 thoughts on “Washington extends COVID-19 restrictions through May, readies ‘four phase’ plan for reopening with limits on groups, restaurant capacity, and travel” -- All CHS Comments are held for moderation before publishing

  1. This is total nonsense.

    Not sure when the goalposts moved, but clearly we’re not longer trying to flatten the curve. That has already happened with hospitalizations and ICU admissions trending down for some time now. This is a political thing now, plain and simple.

    Very few restaurants/bars/retail are going to be able to survive this. Unless you’re paid off and/or have no significant debt obligations you’re going to be done.

      • What an asinine thing to say. There is a whole host of things that kill 10’s of thousands a year that could be solved by a lockdown. Are you saying that remaining open or permitting those things is also a political decision?

        You all though Seattle was losing its soul due to the likes of Amazon, but you haven’t seen anything yet. Amazon will come out of this a lot richer and small businesses that found a way to survive the last few decades have been crushed.

    • @come on right now: I’m so glad you spend your time focused on commenting on blog posts rather than being in a leadership position in public health or government.

  2. Just heard on NPR that California will be loosening some restrictions “within days, not weeks”. What that means exactly is TBD, but I’m hopeful that such a move will perhaps cause some re-evaluation of the timeline on restaurants, retail, etc. While I’ve supported Inslee in all of this, it’s becoming apparent that the reputation he’s gotten in the press as the reasoned, science-based player has made him over-cautious for fear of burning the cred he’s earned. There’s absolutely no reason that small businesses that can institute proper controls (distancing, masks, etc) should have to wait to do so, especially since the same measures have been in place at much larger “essential” businesses such as grocery stores this entire time.

    • It depends on the goal. When this lockdown was first proposed, it was because we had to prevent our healthcare system from being overwhelmed and collapsing. Those fears (thankfully) never happened.

      It seems now that the goal is to prevent as much death as possible. Also a noble goal, but one with quite different ramifications on business and these restrictions.

      It’s a tough situation but personally, unless we’re prepared to stay locked down (and prevent domestic travel) until there’s a vaccine and/or herd immunity, we’re going to have to learn to live with this and that means finding ways that businesses can operate as safely as they can.

      • It seems like Seattle stopped well short of herd immunity and nothing much else has changed other than wearing cheap masks which may or may not prevent spread. You can’t eat or drink in restaurant/ bar with a mask on so not sure how that works. Hard to see much business if everyone is behind a plastic shield and 6-10ft apart.

      • Approval = (1 – unemployment rate)

        Those working comfortably from home, skipping the commute and banking their stimulus checks aren’t so unhappy.

        Those who have lost their incomes or otherwise seeing their lives torn apart. Willing to take a tiny bit of risk to mitigate it.

    • I’m not sure anyone who talks about “incompatant govonor”s should think they have any right to talk about incompetent governors…. especially when spell check is so readily available.

      Don’t worry folks – Georgia has ‘volunteered’ to be the test guinea pig. We’ll see what effect early opening has in a couple of weeks.

      • CD – I was thinking the same thing earlier. The southeast can be the test dummies for this. Why let logic and science stand in the way of their poor decisions.

    • It hurts my brain that you spelled “incompatant” and “govornor” incorrectly The inaccurate use of a hyphen also is painful. But still your actual pro-death statement hurts worse.

  3. I love it when people post here, pretending to be RWNJs and riling up the LWNJs who are so easily triggered.

    The USA is way behind on testing, and reporting of cases and deaths, so all the governments are guessing as to bbn when and how much restrictions should be eased.

    If you are looking for work, Ben Nader at Seattle Search Solutions has lots of leads. The are mostly basic labor jobs, but he never charges candidates, unlike some other job sites.

    I promise: I am mot Ben Nader.

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