All regions to remain in Phase 1 of new Healthy Washington reopening plan, state says

The Washington State Department of Health announced Friday that all eight regions of Gov. Jay Inslee's new Healthy Washington reopening plan will remain in Phase 1 through at least Jan. 18.

Inslee on Tuesday announced a regional economic reopening plan, with some COVID-19 restrictions on entertainment and individual fitness training being eased next week, but prohibitions on indoor dining at restaurants and indoor gyms remaining.

The new guidelines, which will go into effect Monday, Jan. 11 will require regions meet four metrics in order to move to the next phase, at which point restaurants and indoor fitness center can open indoor dining at 25% capacity, sports competitions can resume with limited spectators, and wedding and funeral ceremonies can increase their number of guests.

"When we look at the data from each one of the eight regions, we are seeing some positive trends. This is encouraging, and we are hopeful these trends will continue, and we will see regions begin to move into Phase 2 very soon," said Deputy Secretary for COVID-19 Response Lacy Fehrenbach.

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Each Friday, the state Department of health will be looking at the regional case rates, hospital admission rates, ICU occupancy rates and test positivity rates. In order for a region to advance, they have to show: a 10% decreasing trend in case rates over a two-week period; a 10% decrease in COVID hospital admission rates in that same timeframe; an ICU occupancy rate that’s less than 90%; and a test positivity rate of less than 10%.

While in the first phase, some outdoor entertainment — limited to 10 ticketed guests — is allowed and appointment-based fitness training with one client per 500 square feet is also allowed, as are things like outdoor tennis instructions, gymnastics, and no-contact martial arts, as long as it is limited to five athletes.

"We know that all people in Washington want to move forward as quickly as possible with respect to COVID-19. However, these metrics show that we are just not ready to do so now," said Umair A. Shah, MD, MPH, Washington’s Secretary of Health. "We have made progress but need to continue to work together to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 across our state."

The Department of Health will reassess all metrics each week and announce any changes to a region's phase each Friday. More information can be found on the DOH website.

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Inslee said more phases will be added as virus activity diminishes, and he noted the focus on the regional approach instead of the previous county-based plan.

"This makes sense not only from a public health perspective but from a health care delivery perspective," he said at a news conference announcing the new guidelines.

The guidelines modify some of the restrictions that were put in place back in November as the state’s coronavirus cases were spiking. Those restrictions— which included the closure of bowling centers, movie theaters, museums, zoos and aquariums and limiting retail and grocery stores to 25% capacity — had been extended a few times before Tuesday’s news conference. Under the new guidelines, bowling centers, indoor museums, and aquariums can have limited attendance of private parties of no more than six people. Outdoor zoos, gardens and aquariums, as well as outdoor theaters or concert venues are limited to groups of 10.

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