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Instead of a Rollback, Inslee Announces a Two-Week Pause on Phased Reopening

Washington’s fourth COVID wave has hit a plateau, according to the latest data

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At the end of April, officials in King County warned that rising numbers of COVID cases and hospitalizations would mean a reinstatement of restaurant-related restrictions. But today, May 4, Gov. Jay Inslee announced in a press conference that the latest COVID numbers led him to announce a two-week pause in Washington’s “Stay Healthy” reopening plan.

The data seems to show Washington’s fourth wave has hit a plateau. Officials in turn decided that all counties will remain in their current phases. The pause means no changes for restaurants in terms of restrictions, the governor’s press secretary confirmed.

“I have to believe that would be a popular decision with the restaurant industry,” Inslee said during the press conference, noting that officials decided to embrace flexibility during an evolving situation with COVID-19.

Inslee answered a question about whether restaurants could go to 100 percent capacity for fully vaccinated diners in either a section of a restaurant or the entire space by saying that officials worried about compliance issues. “Frankly, we’ve asked the restauranteurs if they wanted such a thing and they say no,” he said. “That was not something they thought was beneficial. And in most restaurants, there aren’t enough space...”

When a reporter expressed restauranteurs’ frustrations about not getting advance notice of potential rule changes that would inform their buying and staffing decisions, Inslee acknowledged the difficulty. “I don’t want to diminish why this is difficult for businesses. It is difficult. So is watching your loved one dying of COVID,” he said.

Speakers at the press conference stressed encouraging vaccine uptake throughout the state, and that this pause is not a pause on vaccine efforts. More than 54 percent of the eligible Washingtonians have so far received their first dose of the vaccine.

Jeffrey Duchin, Health Officer for Public Health and Seattle & King County, said that vaccination would ultimately end the “mitigation whac-a-mole” that business owners face right now.

“Current data suggests that Washington’s fourth wave of COVID-19 is leveling out. Our economy is beginning to show early signs of growth and we know vaccines are the ticket to further reopening — as long as we adhere to public health guidance until enough people are vaccinated,” Duchin wrote on Medium.

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