Inslee leaving counties in current phases – for now

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Governor Jay Inslee on Tuesday announced a two-week pause to the “Healthy Washington” reopening plan, meaning all counties will stay in their current phases. 

That means Spokane, Pend Oreille, Stevens, Okanogan, Douglas, Grant and Adams Counties will stay in Phase 3. Whitman County will stay in Phase 2. The state will review the situation again in two weeks. 

Inslee said the decision to pause the reopening plan was driven by the state’s rate of vaccination. He said that if people remain committed to getting vaccinated, there is reason to believe the state could have a more substantial reopening sometime this summer. 

In the past few weeks, state epidemiologists have observed a fourth wave of COVID spreading in local communities, but the recent data, including what the Department of Health observed over the weekend, show a plateau in COVID activity. Additionally, this latest wave has not been coupled with an increase in death. 

Hospitalizations, however, are still up, but hospital stays have been shorter. Inslee said the state is confident staff are handling the increase and attributed the change to the state’s vaccination progress, as well as prioritization to vaccinate the most vulnerable people first. 

Inslee reiterated that adherence to public health is the best way to control the virus, adding that non-adherence puts people at risk. He said that while the state has paused, it does not mean there is a clear path out of these phases either. 

Inslee said the public has a choice in the next few weeks to get vaccinated and take control over the course of the pandemic. 

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READ: ‘It’s incredibly demoralizing’: Spokane prepares to go back to Phase 2