King County likely rolling back to Phase 2 of state's COVID-19 reopening plan

King County public health officials are warning that a return to Phase 2 of the state's pandemic reopening plan is likely with COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations on the rise. 

Doctors attribute the increase in cases to younger people who are driving up the numbers. They also say South King County has been hit the hardest by the latest surge. 

To stay in Phase 3, larger counties like King must have less than 200 new cases per 100,000 people over a two-week period and have fewer than five new COVID hospitalizations per 100,000 people over a one-week period. They revert back to Phase 2 if they fail to meet both guidelines.

The latest numbers in King County, Washington's most populous county, show more than 229 cases per 100,000 people and more than five hospitalizations per 100,000 people.

RELATED: COVID-19 hospitalizations on the rise in Washington, especially in young people

The metrics are evaluated every three weeks, meaning restrictions could be rolled back as soon as next week. 

In Phase 2, restaurants, gyms, worship centers and retail stores can operate at 25 percent capacity, and large gatherings are reduced to 200 people.

Dr. Jeff Duchin, King County's public health officer, says hospitilizations are up 25 percent over the last seven days, with one person hospitalized in King County every 1 hour and 24 minutes.

County leaders say they hope new vaccine clinics like the one opened in Shoreline this week will help expand vaccine access and bring the numbers down. But it looks like it won't be enough to keep King County in Phase 3.

State health officials will reassess counties on Monday to include data from the weekend. 

Snohomish County, the state's third most populous county, is also on the verge of reverting back to Phase 2. 

Pierce, Cowlitz and Whitman counties were rolled back to Phase 2 April 16. 

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