Six WA counties have applied to move to Phase 3 of reopening

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — Six counties have applied to move to the third phase of Washington state’s four-stage reopening plan that eases COVID-19 restrictions and allows businesses to start to reopen, the governor’s office said Wednesday.

Mike Faulk, a spokesman for Gov. Jay Inslee, said applications to the the Department of Health have been submitted for Ferry, Stevens, Pend Oreille, Lincoln, Columbia, and Wahkiakum counties. They are among eight counties that have been in Phase 2 for three weeks and are eligible to apply to advance to the third phase. Garfield and Skamania are also eligible to apply as of Wednesday. Whitman County could be eligible Friday, Faulk said.

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They are among the 27 counties that are currently in Phase 2, which allows restaurants and taverns to reopen at half capacity with limited table sizes, hair and nail salons and barber shops to resume business, and retail stores to reopen for in-store purchases at 30% capacity. It also allows additional outdoor recreation and gatherings with no more than five people outside of a person’s household.

Phase 3 expands group gatherings to 50 or less, including sports activities, and allows restaurants to increase capacity to 75%. Gyms and movie theaters can also reopen at half capacity during this phase.

Most public interactions resume in the final phase, with bars, restaurants and entertainment and sporting venues returning to their regular capacity.

Twelve counties are still in Phase 1, which only allows essential businesses to be open and limits restaurant service to takeout and delivery. It also allows for limited outdoor recreation, including fishing and golfing, the reopening of state parks and existing construction. Last week, Inslee announced that churches, mosques and synagogues can resume in-person services, with those in counties in the second stage of the state’s COVID-19 reopening plan allowed to have smaller in-building services and the remainder limited to outdoor services with no more than 100 people.

Under new guidance issued last week, since Monday, counties can apply to move to the next phase or to add new business activity, with the applications assessed on several targets, including whether the counties have had fewer than 25 new cases per 100,000 residents over a two-week period.

A county that is still not eligible to advance beyond the first phase can apply for a “modified” Phase 1.

King County — the state’s most populous county and home to Seattle — announced Wednesday it has submitted an application that would allow for all outdoor recreation permitted in Phase 2, expand opening indoor fitness studios for one-on-one activities, allow restaurants to begin opening indoor seating at 25% of normal capacity and allow hair stylists and other personal services at 25% capacity.

More than 22,100 people in Washington state have tested positive for the coronavirus and at least 1,129 have died. The virus causes mild to moderate symptoms in most patients, and the vast majority recover. But it is highly contagious and can cause severe illness and death in some patients, particularly the elderly and those with underlying health conditions.

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