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Reopening Seattle: Inslee rolls out Washington’s new plan for loosening restrictions on businesses, sporting events, fitness, and gatherings, region by region — UPDATE

Calling it “a new way to move the state forward economically” while controlling the pandemic, Gov. Jay Inslee announced a plan Tuesday for reopening the state after the latest rounds of COVID-19 lockdown that will return Washington to a phased approach for allowing things like in-person service at restaurants, fitness activities, and limited attendance at sporting events.

Starting with two phases and with additional phases to be added, Inslee said reopening the state will again be based on a set of metrics including the latest trends for new cases and area hospital readiness. But unlike the summer’s phased, county by county reopening, Seattle and the state’s cities will have their fates tied to a new regional approach.

Seattle and King County are part of the Puget Sound region along with Snohomish and Pierce counties.

Inslee said the new regional approach was shaped by the state’s health care systems and the way the virus spreads and that the previous process requiring counties to apply to enter a new phase will be left behind.

“The numbers will tell the tale,” Inslee said.

UPDATE: Seattle Public Schools are also making a plan to get back into motion announcing Tuesday the district will invite pre-K through 1st Graders back for in-person attendance beginning March 1st while the system’s remote learning options remain in place. The full announcement is below.

Requirements for moving to a new phase will include 10% decrease trend over 14 days, 10% decrease in COVID hospital admission rate, ICU demand below 90%, and test positivity below 10%.

Assessments will be done on a weekly basis and there will also be thresholds that trigger a demotion to a previous phase if conditions worsen in a region.

Current measurements for King County and its other Puget Sound region counties wouldn’t immediately qualify the area for the first reopening phase when the new system goes into effect starting January 11th.

The first step of loosening in Phase 2 will include indoor dining returns at 25% capacity, plus live entertainment and some live sports with extremely restricted attendance, plus the return of some fitness activities currently restricted.

Metrics

A region’s phase will be determined by the Department of Health (DOH) in response to four metric requirements. The final metrics for regions will be calculated on Friday, January 8 and will be effective January 11.

To go forward from Phase 1 to Phase 2, regions must meet all four metrics:

To remain in Phase 2, regions must meet at least 3 metrics:

Regions that fail to meet two or more of the above metrics will be moved back to Phase 1.

Phase 1

All regions will begin in Phase 1, because of current metrics.

Phase 1, for the most part, aligns with restrictions current in place for most counties today, with a few key exceptions. Indoor fitness and outdoor entertainment, for example, were both previously prohibited, but will now be permitted with restrictions.

Currently, all indoor fitness is entirely prohibited. DOH now believes that the state can safely allow appointment-based fitness and training where there is no more than 1 customer per room or 500 square feet for large facilities. This will allow gyms to schedule people wanting to come in to work out in a safe way to ensure activity during winter months. Masks and physical distancing are required.

Outdoor entertainment establishes will be permitted to reopen in Phase 1, including zoos, outdoor theaters and concert venues, and rodeos, among other outdoor venues. Operation must be by ticketed event only with groups of 10 maximum with a limit of two households. Timed ticketing is required, as well as facial coverings and physical distancing.

Indoor gatherings and indoor dining remain prohibited. Outdoor dining with a maximum of six and limit for two households per table is permitted with an 11:00 PM close.

Retail, worship services, personal services, and professional services — where remote work isn’t available—are limited to 25% capacity.

Phase 2

Once a region meets all four required health metrics for three of the four past weeks, they will be permitted to move from Phase 1 to Phase 2. This phase sees some relaxation in regulations, but masks and physical distancing are still required statewide for all activities.

Indoor social gatherings with people outside of the household begins being permitted in Phase 2 with a max of 5 people from outside the household and limit of two households. Outdoor social gatherings maximum in this phase is increased to 15 individuals from two households.

In Phase 2, indoor dining will be permitted with a maximum 25% capacity and an 11:00 PM close. All other indoor activities must also follow a 25% capacity limit. This includes retail, entertainment and groceries, as well as personal and professional services.

Indoor fitness must also follow the 25% capacity limit.

In Phase 2 moderate risk indoor sports and all sports outdoors gain flexibility to have league games and competitions, which will help ensure opportunities for kids to be active, which is especially important during winter months and as kids navigate virtual or hybrid schooling.

Outdoor entertaining may host groups of up to 15 with the two-household limit and an overall 75 person maximum. Wedding and funeral ceremonies and indoor receptions may take place following the appropriate venue requirements. Food and drink service limited to restaurant guidance.

The reopening plan comes after the state’s restrictions on businesses and gathering put in place as cases surged this fall were extended through January 14th. Officials have been concerned about a possible new spike in cases from the Christmas and New Year’s holidays but Tuesday Dr. Umair A. Shah, the state’s new Secretary of Health, was cautiously optimistic about some of the latest signs that the number of new cases is dropping and early progress on vaccinating the state’s frontline health workers is improving.

Only five other states have lower rates of COVID-19 per capita than Washington.

By the end of next week, Washington is planned to have received more than 500,000 doses –enough to vaccinate all of its “prioritized population” of high-risk workers in health care settings and people living in at-risk care facilities where the COVID-19 virus has done some of its deadliest, most terrible work.

Its next phase will also be health care and high-risk worker focused.

“Some communities in Washington state have already completed or are very near to completing vaccination of their high-risk workers in health care settings as outlined in current DOH guidance,” a vaccination update from the state sent on New Year’s Eve day reads . “We will be adding a second tier to 1A that allows for the vaccination of all other workers in health care settings once high-risk workers are vaccinated.”

The Washington Post tracker shows just under 100,000 have received their first vaccination here so far.

Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines approved by the CDD require two doses. Pfizer’s requires a three-week schedule while Moderna’s second shot should come four weeks after the first. A third vaccine from AstraZeneca is reportedly easier to store and transport but has not yet been approved in the United States.

Washington officials said last week they “are still working to finalize prioritization” for the rest of the first phase of distribution here and expect to release new guidance “shortly after the new year, so that communities can begin planning outreach and vaccination of these groups next.”

CHS reported here on how those phases are likely to play out into the spring — and beyond.

In the meantime, Washington health officials have introduced a new service you can use to find out if you might be eligible in the current vaccination phase or to alert you when criteria changes. You can register here.

UPDATE: Here is the full announcement from Seattle Public Schools on the March 1st start of in-person instruction for its youngest students:

Dear Families:

Welcome to the new year. This is an important message about in-person learning and includes critical information and required next steps for your family.

SPS will bring back students in preschool through first grade, and students enrolled in Special Education Intensive Service Pathways (SEL, Moderate Intensive, Focus, Distinct and Medically Fragile), for in-person instruction starting on March 1, 2021. A 100% remote learning option will still be available for families who aren’t ready for their student to return to school buildings for in-person instruction.

We need your family to submit your child’s enrollment in either the in-person option or confirm if they will remain in the remote/online model. This decision only applies to this current 2020-2021 academic year.

Steps to Confirm your Child’s Plans:

  • Later this evening on Jan. 5, you will receive an email from Qualtrics, our survey vendor, with the subject “Seattle Public Schools 2020-21 Intent to Return to In-Person [Name of Student].” You will receive an individual survey email for each SPS student in your household in grades Preschool through 1 or enrolled in a Special Education Intensive Service Pathway.

You must complete each individual survey by January 10.  School principals and staff will be reaching out directly to families who do not respond. Families who don’t provide a choice for in-person or remote learning will remain in remote learning for the 2020-21 school year.

  • In the Intent to Return to In-Person survey, families will also be asked about transportation and school meal needs. Feedback from qualified families will help us create bus routes and schedules to safely accommodate as many students as possible. Responses to meal service will help us plan appropriate staffing for each building.

Your family will receive a confirmation of your choices via email and robocall in early February.

Over these last many months, public health and the global medical community have learned a lot about the transmission of COVID-19. We are confident that while in-person learning will look different than in past years, the strong health and safety protocols we are successfully using at meal sites, childcare, and for in-person special education services have prepared us to return more students to our school buildings on March 1.

To learn more about the district’s preparation, health and safety protocols, and additional details about the in-person model, please visit our web feature story and FAQ https://www.seattleschools.org/resources/faq/return_to_in-person


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The Ghostt Of Capitol Hill
The Ghostt Of Capitol Hill
11 days ago

Turn the death faucet back on. Great. These half-asse’d lockdowns only stand to keep the hospitals from overwhelming and do very little to keep a deadly virus from passing around. Meanwhile we all lose jobs, livelyhoods, friends and family because our society won’t freeze debts, mortgages, provide appropriate cash assistance to renters or landlords. Just a little sprinkle of death here and there until they shut it down again. What a great society we have.

Derek
Derek
10 days ago

You are the king of whining when you don’t even realize you are in the top 0.0000001% of people to ever live in terms of health, longevity, ability to make money, freedom, etc. Go and earn it and be grateful.

The Ghostt Of Capitol Hill
The Ghostt Of Capitol Hill
10 days ago
Reply to  Derek

How exactly does one.. earn it?

Valkari
Valkari
10 days ago

You don’t. People be pointing fingers over a pandemic like it’s one person’s fault. Stay safe and healthy.

Derek
Derek
10 days ago

You earn it by being grateful for what we do have and then actively taking advantage of it. Have some direction in life and fight for it, instead of spewing hate on the internet.

Acid Jackson
Acid Jackson
8 days ago
Reply to  Derek

Should we tell Derek the one about the pot and the kettle?

Pork Watcher
Pork Watcher
11 days ago

I guess the original requirements for moving from one phase to another are too optimistic and they’ve been completely given up on.

Zach
Zach
11 days ago

Loosened restrictions should only be considered when we’re at massively higher numbers for vaccination in this state, country and globally. It’s like some massive denial that things can be normal. They’re not and I’m not into pretending they are. I think PR like this is to stave off death cult mass resistance to health measures at all, like a safety valve. But reality is (I hope) restrictions stay the same or even increase as things are just getting worse. Optimism at this point is psychosis.

patandmonya
patandmonya
10 days ago
Reply to  Zach

Let me guess, Zach, you have a tech job and do it from home. Your income hasn’t changed. You’re just a little more comfortable in your pajamas.

Tim Dunn
Tim Dunn
10 days ago
Reply to  patandmonya

Dead workers earn no lucre, friend.

Valkari
Valkari
10 days ago
Reply to  Zach

Kind of feeling psychotic as I reflect on the last year.

Crow
Crow
11 days ago

Seattle Public Schools need to re-open on a faster pace. Pre-K thru grade 1 will open for in-person by March 1? What about grades 2 thru 12? At this point it is pathetic, COVID has not been shown to spread with proper safeguards in school settings, and on-line school is doing great damage to Seattle students and families. Seattle private schools have been in-person for months, without a single reported COVID case! I’m hoping Bellevue schools re-open soon, to light a fire under SPS. I’ve always been a fan of SPS, but can’t take this much longer.

patandmonya
patandmonya
10 days ago

Why are there no consideration for age or health conditions? We are all supposed to be equal in this when it clearly has different effects based on age and health. Let the vulnerable take severe precautions and let the healthy work and live. And, governor, tell the state to lay off on collecting money from those that can’t earn it. You tie our feet, then push us over when we try to walk.

jason
jason
10 days ago

Keep gyms open, my gym never closed, not one positive case, it’s the ass hats who want us destroyed. Fuk all then blue bitches, Californians stay the fuck out of the N.W., your the cancer that has spread from the south to the N.W., go back and finish destroying Cali, Opps, way late on that. No one likes you! Evil needs a place to thrive, californian cancer!

RWK
RWK
10 days ago

Thank you for this excellent coverage on a topic which is on everyone’s mind!

Soli
Soli
10 days ago

Asking for hospital ICUs to be below 90% capacity between both covid and non-covid cases just shows Inslee has no idea how hospitals work. All hospitals keep their ICUs near full at basically all times. If someone more needing of ICU comes in, they move someone less needing of ICU out. That’s how it works, as told from someone who actually works in a hospital which Inslee never bothered to consult. We will never change phases in this Central area at this rate.

stan
stan
10 days ago
Reply to  Soli

So are you saying that YOU work in a hospital and you know how it works or that you read your quote online from someone claiming to work in a hospital? Because in all the news reports I’ve seen where actual hospital administrators and health department leaders have been interviewed, none of them have been quoted as saying ICUs are kept at perpetual 90% occupancy rates.

Soli
Soli
10 days ago
Reply to  stan

It’s my boyfriend that does, he’s flabbergasted at this order. There’s maybe 2 covid patients in his hospital right now, none in the ICU, and it’s a major Eastside hospital.

happy hospital worker
happy hospital worker
9 days ago
Reply to  Soli

Where’s he work…. probably not the actual ICU….

As of Jan 4 –
The three hospitals on the Eastside with ICU beds.
Evergreen is at 88% capacity – 2 available beds, with 27 COVID patients.
Overlake is at 69% capacity – 10 beds available, 13 COVID patients.
Swedish Issaquah is at 45% capacity – 8 beds available , 11 COVID patients.
(note that a lower percentage doesn’t always equal lots of beds…. a small ICU can be less ‘full’, but still have fewer beds than a larger facility)
As to hospitals aiming to keep occupancy at 90% or more, that is simply untrue…. “The national average I.C.U. occupancy in 2010 was 67%” (NY Times)

Over here we are actually in slightly better shape… the UW has 37 available beds and Swedish 21, but that is still a drop in the bucket of the number of people who could potentially need them, especially if we are hit by the more virulent strain and people decide to throw caution to the wind at the same time.

I am incredibly happy that I am now officially 1/2 way to not having to worry about fools and numbnuts…. only 3 more weeks to max immunity.

caphiller
caphiller
10 days ago

At this point the lockdowns seem pretty pointless for stopping virus spread, only destroying economic value. Instead of meeting at restaurants, concerts, gyms, etc, friends and family are meeting in private homes, which cannot (and should not) be policed. The government had our goodwill to follow their rules last spring, but at this point it’s gone on too long and that trust has been eroded.

Ol Pappy
Ol Pappy
10 days ago
Reply to  caphiller

I’m afraid I agree, the closure of public parks, sports fields, parking lots and other outdoor spaces (and even climbing gyms) has been really discouraging for me personally and really shows that to some degree decisions are being made in a reactionary way, instead of a thoughtful, science driven approach.

caphiller
caphiller
10 days ago
Reply to  Ol Pappy

100%. And the more non-sensical the rules (e.g. you shouldn’t drive to a park across town), the less likely anyone is to follow the ones that might actually reduce spread. Personally I think the rules lost credibility the day that the same people lauded BLM marches but kept outdoor church services, music festivals, etc banned.

Tim Dunn
Tim Dunn
10 days ago
Reply to  Ol Pappy

The new Republican symbol is a lemming jumping off of a cliff.

stan
stan
10 days ago
Reply to  Ol Pappy

Huh? What are you talking about? In the spring the things you list were closed but since the fall public parks (Cal Anderson being excepted), sports fields, parking lots (again, huh? Do you mean at state parks? Otherwise, I can’t think of any parking lot closures) and other outdoor spaces have been open.

Jesus, people. Stop whining. God forbid WW III ever break out. Restrictions and rationing alone would defeat our nation. A bunch of petulant children that can’t: put on a mask, stay 6’ apart, avoid large gatherings, get take-out instead of eating in (that’s how to support local restaurants and bars to keep them in business), and urge federal elected officials to pass larger and more frequent stimulus bills that support the community at large. If all else fails, buy a couple of bottles of booze from your local watering hole and go home and drink.

You all are adults; just cope.

Acid Jackson
Acid Jackson
8 days ago
Reply to  stan

Thanks for being sensible Stan.

Acid Jackson
Acid Jackson
8 days ago
Reply to  caphiller

Washington has done a wonderful job handing the pandemic.

The reason that you don’t see covid death and flooded ICUs is because the restrictions are working.

Nope
Nope
10 days ago

Surely the only metric is % of venerable vaccinated ?

Tim Dunn
Tim Dunn
10 days ago

The UK has an even more infectious Covid strain, and S. Africa has a more antigen (vaccine) resistant strain. California is going under for the third time. Now is not the time to slack off preventative measures.