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Washington holds off on rolling back reopening but will limit social gatherings — Plus, ‘good’ news on King County COVID-19 death total

Gov. Jay Inslee is holding off on a roll-back of loosened business restrictions but is putting in place a ban on social gatherings involving more than 10 people in the areas of the state that have achieved “Phase 3” status. The move won’t have a direct impact on King County which remains under more stringent restrictions due to the prevalence of the virus here.

But the county did receive the kind of good news you might expect from the ongoing COVID-19 crisis: A feared spike this week in King County was the result of updated categorization of past cases, not new deaths in the area.

Starting Monday, Inslee said areas under Phase 3 restrictions will see the limit on gatherings dropped from 50 to 10 people.

“The steps are necessary to slow down the spread of COVID-19. The unfortunate truth is that we can’t let our guard down, even as we engage in more activities,” Inslee said. “As we inch closer to the fall, we are already on an unsustainable path in the spread of this virus. We have to change to save lives and to avoid turning the dial back further on the activities we enjoy.”

Areas in Phase 2 like King County may continue to have social gatherings of up to five people.

The restrictions impact everything from book clubs to barbecues. Faith gatherings are not part of the restrictions. As part of the new tightening, the state is also banning any live entertainment — inside or out.

Earlier this week, CHS reported on Inslee and state officials mulling possible larger changes to restrictions in the state as the number of new cases here has again accelerated — though to a lesser degree than many areas of the country. Washington has decided to freeze any further reopening through the end of the month. One hope for Washington officials is the impact of increased masking now that face coverings are required at businesses and in public where distancing cannot be maintained. Inslee said state health officials are hopeful that the mask requirements could help swing the state’s infection rates lower. There is also hope that this new wave of infections will continue to produce lower hospitalization and death rates.

More people than ever are also being tested. In King County, officials reported more than 5,400 tests Wednesday with just over 5% recorded as positive. But the state’s labs are under new strain with huge demand and key resources running short causing growing delays in delivering the critical results.

Daily test totals reported by King County Public Health

King County restrictions were advanced to “Phase 2” to end June. But officials have said the major factor in King County’s recent increase has been young people aged 20 to 30 socially gathering and people becoming sick and not immediately isolating.

The increase in the rate of infection this summer has concerned officials but has been tempered by lower hospitalization and death rates. Earlier this week, concern increased over a a daily update of the county numbers which showed a day with 14 deaths — a tally that would be one of the highest one-day totals here during the pandemic. Thursday night, a King County Public Health spokesperson told CHS that the one-day jump was “driven by the new classifications of formerly reported deaths” and  “not due to a new spike of recent deaths.” That’s the good news. The bad news is that since the start of the outbreak in March, 14 more deaths are now added to King County’s totals. In all, we have lost 621 people to the virus — seven of them on Capitol Hill and in the Central District.

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3 thoughts on “Washington holds off on rolling back reopening but will limit social gatherings — Plus, ‘good’ news on King County COVID-19 death total

    • Yeah, I think the interesting numbers to watch aren’t the totals, but the percentages. It sounds like infection are ~5% of those tested. The totals will vary based on numbers of tests per day, but the positive percentage is what’s key – if that number keeps rising, we have a problem on our hands.

      • Personally I am looking for the positive rate to reach 2% and then I will be more likely to go for haircuts, restaurants, gym etc.

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