Earlier this week, Gov. Jay Inslee released his two-phased reopening plan for Washington, with restaurants allowed to open at 25 percent capacity, if their regions hit certain COVID numbers. But King County — part of the Puget Sound region with Snohomish and PIerce Counties — isn’t there yet. No regions are, in fact.
All of Washington starts in phase 1 of Inslee’s plan on January 11, and each of eight regions can have advance to phase 2 (with limited reopened indoor dining) if the area meets all four of the following metrics: a 10 percent decrease in COVID cases over the previous 14 days; a 10 percent decrease in hospital admission rates; ICU occupancy below 90 percent; and overall COVID test positivity below 10 percent. As of January 8, three of those metrics have been met in the Puget Sound region, but a fourth (hospital admission rates) remains mostly flat. This chart from the Washington Department of Health shows where all regions stand right now, and none have met the requirements.
Inslee stated that once all metrics are met, each region can advance to the next phase automatically without a lengthy application process. But it still presents a conundrum for area restaurants. Many chefs, owners, and staff won’t have a ton of time to prepare since health officials say the regional data will be assessed each Friday. If the metrics meet the four marks, restaurants will only have a couple of days to prep for indoor dining. They may then have to roll back that service once again later without much warning: To remain in phase 2, the region must still show declining or flat trends in COVID cases.
There is some good news for Seattle, though. On January 8, King County executive Dow Constantine announced a $7 million plan to set up high-volume mobile units and fixed sites for the COVID vaccination effort, meant to supplement the state’s resources. This comes after Washington laid out some more detailed guidelines for the vaccine distribution among high-risk populations, including people who work at grocery stores and in agriculture. Should the vaccine rollout successfully ramp up over the coming weeks and months, hopefully the region will begin to see COVID cases go down significantly.
Roadmap to Recovery Report [Washington Department of Health Official]