Yakima County staying in Phase 3 for now

Jean's Cottage Inn Outdoor Seating
Credit: Emily Goodell, KAPP-KVEW

YAKIMA COUNTY, Wash. — The State Department of Health announced Monday that Yakima County would be allowed to remain in Phase 3, at least until the next state re-evaluation.

State health officials looked at each county’s COVID-19 metrics, judging them based on the number of cases and hospitalizations. In order to stay in the current phase, counties had to pass at least one of the two metrics.

Cowlitz, Pierce and Whitman counties failed both of their metrics and will be back in Phase 2 starting Friday, which will lower capacity at most businesses from 50 percent to 25 percent capacity.

In order to stay in Phase 3, larger counties — like Yakima County — must have less than 200 cases per 100,000 people over a period of 14 days and must have less than five new COVID-19 hospitalizations per 100,000 people over a period of seven days.

As of the latest data used by state health officials to make their decision, Yakima County had 250.2 cases per 100,000 people over a period of 14 days, which is over the limit of 200. It also had 3.9 new COVID-19 hospitalizations per 100,000 people over a period of seven days, which is under the limit of five.

The next state re-evaluation is set for three weeks from Monday, on May 3. Despite the county’s upcoming three-week reprieve, some local business owners believe that the county will have to go back to Phase 2 at some point.

“We’ve been through this three times already, so it’s like this is gonna happen again and it’s just another bump in the road,” said Allan Marks, owner of Jean’s Cottage Inn in Union Gap.

Marks said ever-changing restrictions are hard on restaurants, which often order supplies in advance and when restrictions tighten, may not have enough customers to buy all the product in stock.

“You schedule for what you’re going to have and then you can’t do it, so then you have to reschedule again,” Marks said.

Marks said despite the challenges, he’s thankful for his loyal customers and hopeful for the future.

“It’s just another journey — another COVID journey — that we’ve had to overcome, so we’ll get through it again,” Marks said.

RELATED: Healthy Washington update: South Central counties remain in Phase 3