This is a bad sign for the COVID-19 reopening plan in Western Washington. On Tuesday, Snohomish County executive Dave Somers said that the area was in danger of reversing its reopening course in the midst of a recent spike in cases of the novel coronavirus, if things didn’t improve soon.
Currently, Snohomish — like King County — is in phase two of Washington’s “Safe Start” reopening plan, which allows restaurants to open at 50 percent capacity indoors and outdoors. However, with a recent rise in cases (42 new cases per 100,000 people, versus the phase two benchmark of 25 per 100,000), the county may need to go back to phase one, said Somers. If that were the case, all dining rooms that recently reopened must close again, with restaurants and bars only allowed to serve takeout and delivery.
“A week or so ago, I would have thought it was a remote possibility. I don’t feel that way anymore,” said Somers. “I think going back to phase one is clearly one of the options that could be in front of us, watching what happens around the country with places that have opened up too soon, and they’re seeing huge spikes. If we see that sort of thing here, and we’re really stressing our hospital capacity, I can see the possibility of a call to go back to phase one.”
If Snohomish did end up reversing its trajectory on reopening, it would be the first county in Washington to do so, and would not augur well for Seattle. A rise in King County COVID-19 cases have alarmed local officials, with a recent increase of 60 percent week over week. “King County friends, this is getting serious,” Jeffrey Duchin, Health Officer for Public Health–Seattle and King County, wrote on Twitter Monday night. “Cases rising, holiday coming, & the risk is higher than it’s been in months. Critical to avoid crowds, minimize close contacts, use a face mask.”
Last week, Gov. Jay Inslee reacted to the recent increased spread of the novel coronavirus in the state by making face masks mandatory. According to the new rule, people must wear face coverings in public indoors, as well as outdoors if six feet of social distancing can’t be maintained. Inslee also said that he would pause any counties looking to move to phase four of the state’s reopening plan, which would essentially mean no restrictions.
At this point, no state officials have mentioned plans to bump any county in Washington back to a more restrictive phase that each one is under. But across the country, where COVID-19 cases have spiked in states and cities that reopened early, lawmakers have issued mandates for bars and restaurants to close again.