COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are climbing again in Skagit County, causing county Public Health staff to express concern that moving to the next phase of reopening may be delayed.

“It looks ominous, honestly,” said Howard Leibrand, the county’s health officer.

As of Tuesday morning, the county had seen 14 new cases of the disease since June 5 — the day it moved into Phase 2 of Gov. Jay Inslee’s reopening plan.

Leibrand said the growth in cases puts the county at risk of exceeding the limit of 25 new cases per 100,000 residents over a 14-day period by the time the county is eligible to apply to move to Phase 3.

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For Skagit County to apply for the next phase, it would have to be below 32 new cases over the previous 14 days.

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COVID-19 hospitalizations in the county, which had leveled out in the three weeks before moving to Phase 2, have grown from 50 to 54 over the past week.

“If these trends continue, we won’t be able to apply,” Leibrand said.

Inslee’s Safe Start plan for restarting the state’s economy works in phases, with counties applying to move through the four tiers.

Each county must spend at least three weeks in each phase, meaning Skagit County will first be able to apply for Phase 3 on June 26.

In Phase 3, people will be allowed to gather in groups of up to 50 — up from five in Phase 2 — according to the governor’s website.

Bars and bar seating in restaurants will be able to open for customers at 25% capacity. Restaurants will be allowed to fill 75% of their seats.

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Gyms, public-facing government offices, libraries, theaters and museums can reopen at 50% capacity.

Leibrand said county residents are clearly weary of quarantine and social distancing, and it’s manifesting itself in these new cases.

“People are just tired of doing this,” he said. “I’m sorry, but (disregarding social distancing) is not going to make the virus go away.”

Rather, abiding by social distancing rules, always wearing a mask and practicing good hygiene will keep new cases low, he said. If people continue to go against public health recommendations, cases will continue to spike.

“The virus, not the governor, is going to punish that activity,” he said.

(Jennifer Luxton / The Seattle Times)

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— Reporter Brandon Stone: bstone@skagitpublishing.com, 360-416-2112, Twitter: @Brandon_SVH

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