The plan designed to move the state out of COVID-19 restrictions began this week.
The Safe Start plan had four phases and was used to guide the opening of the state’s 39 counties after Gov. Jay Inslee’s March 23 stay-home order.
In November, Inslee ordered broad restrictions for all counties no matter what phase they were in. Those restrictions went into effect Nov. 16, and were extended by Inslee a number of times since then.
When Inslee ordered the restrictions in November, the state was dealing with rapidly increasing COVID-19 infections heading into Thanksgiving. Cases of the disease peaked in early December while hospitalizations continued to rise through the end of the year.
Questions about Healthy Washington, how it works and what is allowed in Phase 1 are the subjects covered in this week’s FAQ Friday.
Why is the state now broken up into regions and not by county?
The state’s 39 counties have been divided into eight regions. The regions were largely determined by health care systems serving a region. King, Pierce and Snohomish counties make up the Puget Sound region.
The other seven regions are:
- North: Whatcom, Skagit, San Juan and Island counties.
- Northwest: Clallam, Jefferson, Mason and Kitsap counties.
- West: Grays Harbor, Thurston, Pacific and Lewis counties.
- Southwest: Wahkiakum, Cowlitz, Clark, Skamania and Klickitat counties.
- South Central: Yakima, Kittitas, Benton, Franklin, Walla Walla and Columbia counties.
- North Central: Chelan, Okanogan, Douglas and Grant counties.
- East: Whitman, Asotin, Garfield, Adams, Spokane, Lincoln, Ferry, Stevens and Pend Oreille counties.
How and when will it be decided if a region can move from Phase 1 to Phase 2?
There is no application process, like there was for Safe Start, for Healthy Washington’s eight regions. Instead, the state Department of Health (DOH) will be examining the data every Friday to determine if a region can move forward on the following Monday.
DOH will be using four metrics that must be met by each region before moving from Phase 1 to Phase 2, which include a 10% decreasing trend in the rate of cases per 100,000 population during the previous two-week period; a 10% decrease in COVID-19 hospital admission rates during the previous 14-day period; an ICU occupancy rate of less than 90%; and a test positivity rate of less than 10%.
A weekly report about where the regions are in the plan can be found on the state’s COVID-19-risk assessment dashboard at st.news/RiskDashboard.
Can a region be moved back from Phase 2 to Phase 1?
Yes. To remain in Phase 2, a region has to meet at least three of the four metrics. If a region doesn’t meet two or more of the state’s metrics, it will be moved back.
What is allowed in Phase 1?
Social gatherings at home and indoors and outdoors
At-home and indoor gatherings with people outside your household are prohibited in Phase 1. A household is defined as individuals who reside in the same domicile.
For outdoor gatherings, up to 10 people from outside your household are allowed with a limit of two households in Phase 1.
Indoor religious services in both phases are capped at 25% of capacity.
Retail stores, including farmer’s markets, grocery stores, convenience stores and pharmacies are limited to 25% capacity.
Remote work is encouraged for professional services and is pegged at 25% capacity in both phases.
Eating and drinking establishments
Dining indoors at restaurants is prohibited, and there is a maximum of six people per table or a limit of two households per table for outdoor dining until 11 p.m. nightly. Establishments serving only alcohol remain closed in Phase 1.
Funerals and weddings are limited to no more than 30 people in the first phase; indoor receptions, wakes or similar gatherings in conjunction with such ceremonies are prohibited.
Fitness and recreation
Phase 1 allows for low-risk indoor recreation and fitness. Sports like dance, no-contact martial arts, gymnastics and climbing fall into this category. These are permitted for practice and training only in stable groups of no more than five athletes. Appointment-based fitness/training can occur with a maximum of 45 minutes per session and no more than one customer/athlete per room or per 500 square feet for large facilities.
For outdoor sports and fitness in Phase 1, low- and moderate-risk sports are permitted for practice and training only (no tournaments). Outdoor guided activities, including hunting, fishing, motorsports, parks, camping, hiking, biking, running and snow sports, are permitted.
Indoor entertainment in Phase 1 can happen with private rentals/tours for individual households of no more than six people. General admission is not allowed.
Outdoor entertainment can happen in Phase 1 if it is a ticketed event, with groups of 10, limited to two households.
Live entertainment is no longer prohibited but venues must follow the above guidance.
Long-term care facilities, professional and collegiate sports remain governed by their current guidance/proclamations separate from this plan.