Healthy Washington update: South Central counties remain in Phase 3

Healthy Washington
Image courtesy of the Washington State Department of Health

OLYMPIA, Wash. — In an update to the ‘Healthy Washington‘ advisory from Governor Jay Inslee and the Washington Department of Health (DOH), three counties were moved back to Phase 2 of re-opening. None of the counties that previously constituted the South Central region (Benton, Franklin, Columbia, Kittitas, Yakima, Walla Walla Counties) are being moved back.

The three regions that will move back are Cowlitz, Pierce and Whitman counties. These three counties will be reduced to 25% capacity for indoor dining and other events. They will have a chance to move back into Phase 3 when state leaders re-assess the COVId-19 metrics in three weeks.

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‘Healthy Washington’ guidelines are updated based on the following metrics:

  • New COVID-19 cases over 14 days – assessed at the county level
  • New COVID-19 hospitalizations over 7 days – assessed at the county level
  • ICU bed occupancy over 7 days – assessed at the state level

All three of the impacted counties failed to meet two of the state’s criteria to remain at Phase 3, which allows recreational businesses to open at 50% capacity. Instead, their business and indoor accommodations have to be scaled back an additional 50 percent until COVID-19 metrics align with ‘Healthy Washington’ standards.

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Governor Inslee released the following statement regarding the shift back for three counties:

“These metric trends are driven by the virus and we must continue to do everything we can to sharpen our focus and keep COVID-19 activity down. We are so close to the end of the tunnel here — we have made tremendous progress and we must keep our focus,” Inslee said. “It’s like a football game; we have done 95 yards on a 99 yard-drive. We can’t let up now. These are not punitive actions; they are to save lives and protect public health.”

Here are the statistics for the six counties originally assigned to the South Central Washington region. Prior to Phase 3, all six of these counties were bunched into one “region,” which combined COVID-19 rates for these counties.

  • Benton County: 319 cases, 155.1 case rate, 2.4% hospitalization rate
  • Columbia County: 0 cases, 0 case rate, 0% hospitalization rate
  • Franklin County: 182 cases, 188.1 case rate, 3.1% hospitalization rate
  • Kittitas County: 92 cases, 191.1 case rate,  6.2% hospitalization rate
  • Walla Walla County: 48 cases, 76.7 case rate, 1.6% hospitalization rate
  • Yakima County: 646 cases, 250.2 case rate, 3.9% hospitalization rate

Counties’ progress will be re-assessed in three weeks on May 3, 2021. In recent weeks, it seemed as if Franklin and Yakima Counties were on track to fall behind. However, the Governor updated ‘Healthy Washington’ guidelines on Friday, making it so that counties had to fail two metrics instead of just one to be moved back a phase.

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