Gov. Jay Inslee announced Saturday that for now, no counties in Washington state will be allowed to progress to Phase 4 of his “Safe Start” coronavirus opening plan due to rising caseloads across the state.
Pacific, Wahkiakum, Lewis and Skamania and a handful of other counties in Phase 3 will now stay there for the time being. No counties are currently in Phase 4.
Cowlitz County is currently under review to progress from Phase 2 to Phase 3. Counties must spend at least three weeks in a phase before progressing to the next.
Phase 2 allows gatherings of 5 non-household members. Phase 3 boosts that number to 50, and Phase 4 allows for essentially unlimited gatherings while recommending members of vulnerable groups continue to practice caution.
“In the next couple of weeks, I will work with Governor Inslee and his team to assess the need for a modified approach for moving beyond Phase 3,” Secretary of Health John Wiesman said in a prepared statement. “I will communicate that decision to you when we have more information. Counties that are currently able to apply to move from Phase 1 or 2 are still able to apply when eligible.”
Health officials recommend the wearing of face coverings — now mandatory in public spaces under a new order as of June 26 — physical distancing and good hygiene to reduce the spread of the virus.
“Phase 4 would mean a return to normal activity and we can’t do that now due to the continued rise in cases across the state,” Inslee said in a prepared statement. “We all want to get back to doing all the things we love in Washington during the summer, and fully open our economy, but we aren’t there yet. This is an evolving situation and we will continue to make decisions based on the data.”