OLYMPIA – Barbershops, hair salons, professional services and some in-store retail purchases could resume June 1 as Washington reopens its economy amid the new coronavirus, according to state Secretary of Health John Wiesman.
Those businesses are part of phase two in the four-phase gradual reopening plan released Friday by Gov. Jay Inslee. Along with that plan, the governor also announced an extension of the current stay-at-home order through May 31 to slow the spread of COVID-19, the illness caused by the new coronavirus.
“Generally, for phase two, we’re anticipating that phase two could start on June 1,” Wiesman said Monday in a news briefing with reporters. “And we’ll be looking at the data during the month to make sure that we’re on track for that to be able to happen.”
If the numbers of daily confirmed COVID-19 cases “go way down” over the next weeks, those businesses could open earlier, Wiesman said. “But we’re really not anticipating that to be the case.”
Indeed, state health officials announced 277 new COVID-19 cases Monday, including seven more deaths.
The recent update brings Washington’s totals to 15,462 cases and 841 deaths.
So far, 216,320 tests for the illness have been conducted in Washington, according to the state. Of those, about 93% have come back negative
The bulk of the cases remain in King County, with 6,545 positive test results and 463 deaths, accounting for 55.1% of the state’s death toll.
Wiesman’s remarks came as Inslee on Monday signed the extension of his stay-at-home order, which includes the plan to start reopening some sectors of the economy.
The governor’s plan lays out when businesses and other activities, such as social gatherings, can start to resume. The idea is to have three weeks between phases, so health officials can monitor case numbers as society reopens. But that three-week clock is intended to begin June 1, Wiesman said.
Under the first phase of that gradual reopening, some businesses — such as auto dealers and landscapers — are expected to open by mid-May. In Monday’s news briefing, Inslee’s chief of staff David Postman said some of those businesses could potentially reopen “in a matter of days.”
New construction projects, manufacturers, housecleaning services and restaurants that open at 50% capacity — with tables of five or fewer — are included in phase two.
Some small counties that haven’t reported any new COVID-19 cases for the past three weeks are eligible to apply to the state for permission to begin the second phase sooner. Those counties must have adequate amounts of personal protective equipment in their hospitals and a plan to test anyone with symptoms similar to COVID-19.
Inslee on Friday said counties currently eligible to apply are: Columbia, Garfield, Jefferson, Lincoln, Pend Oreille, Skamania, Kittitas, Ferry, Grays Harbor and Wahkiakum.
The state could add other guidelines for quicker reopenings in the coming weeks, meaning other counties could become eligible to speed up that process, according to a copy of Inslee’s plan released Monday.
Despite the loosening of restrictions — the governor had previously allowed some construction projects, nonurgent surgeries and outdoor activities like golfing, hunting and fishing to resume — Republicans remain frustrated with the pace of Inslee’s plan.
“A lot of these things could have been done weeks ago,” said House Minority Leader J.T. Wilcox of Yelm, adding later: “I think we are lagging when it comes to thinking about trying to operate a safe economy.”