The reopening plan in Washington may soon hit a speed bump. As COVID cases rise across the state, many counties are in danger of falling back into phase 2, which would mean indoor dining capacity reduced from 50 percent to 25 percent indoors. King County still looks like it will be below the threshold and maintain the status quo, though — at least for now.
Per Gov. Jay Inslee’s current reopening guidelines, COVID cases must stay below 200 per 100,000 people over the previous two-week period, and hospitalizations below 5 per 100,000 people over the previous week in order for larger counties, like King County, to remain in phase 3 (smaller counties have slightly different metrics). If the numbers rise above those thresholds in either category, then counties would move back a phase, with certain economic activities curtailed, including more limited dine-in capacities. Metrics are evaluated every two weeks, and the next time the Washington Department of Health (DOH) will assess the data is Monday, April 12. If counties have to take a step back, all changes will go into effect Friday.
Several counties in Western Washington, such as Pierce, look to be headed for more restrictive phases due to the rise in cases and hospitalizations. But, as of right now, the two key metrics the DOH looks at have stayed within the phase 3 range for King County. COVID cases have still increased around Seattle at an alarming rate in recent weeks, to which county health officer Dr. Jeffrey Duchin attributed the presence of more contagious variants and a rise in transmission among young people. Local officials continue to eye the rising rates with trepidation.
Vaccinations will likely play the largest role in making sure cases and hospitalizations do not rise further, though, and in that regard Seattle has seen some progress. This week, the city said it received its largest allocation of COVID vaccines so far — around 30,000 doses — and King County’s vaccination tracker shows that around 1 in 4 adults has been fully inoculated so far. On Wednesday, April 7, the city opened up early vaccine registration for everyone 16 or older — shots will be available to that larger group starting April 15.