Coronavirus: Director of Health withdraws recommendation for Pierce County to apply for expanded phase 2

Coronavirus: Director of Health withdraws recommendation for Pierce County to apply for expanded phase 2

SEATTLE — The director of health at Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department has announced that Pierce County will be putting a pause on phase 2 of the state’s Safe Start plan.

Anthony Chen earlier said the county had started working to apply for phase 3, before changing his mind to say last week that it would apply for a modified phase 2 instead.

Now, with the number of COVID-19 cases increasing in Pierce County, the county is pausing its plans to apply for the expanded phase 2.

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This week, the number of cases in Pierce County over the past 14 days has grown from 16 to 44 per 100,000 residents. According to the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department, the county is averaging 28 new cases per day.

“I am no longer in a hopeful place. Because the health of our community is my top priority, I am withdrawing my recommendation for Pierce County to apply for an expanded Phase 2,” Chen said. “I talked with several of our board members, including our Board of Health Chair and Vice Chair and they agree this is the right call for our situation right now. We are all hopeful everyone will come together to take steps to drive down our increase in cases.”

The latest statewide death toll as reported by the Department of Health had reached 1,339 deaths among 33,435 confirmed coronavirus cases as of 11:59 p.m. Tuesday.

Here’s a breakdown of some of the counties with the highest totals: King County has 612 deaths among 10,304 cases; Snohomish County has 171 deaths among 3,535 cases; and Pierce County has 104 deaths among 2,590 cases.

Click here to see where other counties in the state stand.

Key coronavirus updates:

Information from local officials

Gov. Jay Inslee announced Saturday that the Department of Health has paused all counties from moving onto phase 4 of the “Safe Start” plan.

“Phase 4 would mean a return to normal activity and we can’t do that now due to the continued rise in cases across the state,” Inslee said. “We all want to get back to doing all the things we love in Washington during the summer, and fully open our economy, but we aren’t there yet.

Eight counties were eligible to move onto phase 4 before the announcement.

The pause comes in light of a continued rise in coronavirus cases around the state. Phase 4 would mean essentially no restrictions, which Inslee says is impossible at this time.

Governor releases updated guidance for religious, faith-based services

Gov. Inslee released updated health and safety guidance Thursday for religious and faith-based services as more counties move to the next phases of the state’s Safe Start recovery plan.

For counties that are still in phase 1, outdoor services on an organization’s property can be held with up to 100 individuals, excluding organization staff.

For counties in modified phase 1 and in phase 2, indoor services can be held at a place of worship with up to 25% capacity or up to 200 people, whichever is less, as long as six feet of physical distancing can be achieved between households.

In phase 3, organizations can hold indoor services at a place of worship with up to 50% capacity or up to 400 people, whichever is less, as long as six feet of physical distancing can be achieved between households.

All organizations are required to comply with COVID-19 safety practices. Here are some of the safety practices the state listed:

  • All employees, members, and visitors in attendance shall wear face coverings before, during, and after the service (whether indoor or outdoor).
  • There may be no direct physical contact between servers and members or visitors. Anything to be consumed may not be presented to the members or visitors in a communal container or plate.
  • No choirs shall perform during the service. Singing is permitted, but individuals must not remove their face coverings to sing – it must stay on for the duration of the service.
  • For the full guidance document, click here.

Governor expires “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order

Inslee expired the “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order on May 31 and said the state will move to a “Safe Start” county-by-county phased reopening approach on Monday.

Under the “Safe Start” plan, each county will start Monday in their current phase. However, individual counties will be able to apply to the secretary of health to move between the phases or add new business activities.

Inslee said applications must be submitted by a county executive. If a county does not have a county executive, it must be submitted with the approval of the County Council/Commission.

Inslee said the secretary of health will evaluate each application based on how their data compares to certain targets. Click here for a complete breakdown.

An individual county’s ability to respond to outbreaks, increased deaths, health system capacity and other factors will also be considered.

The applications are reviewed by the Secretary of Health, who can approve the plans as submitted, approve with modifications or can deny the application.

The state said a total of five counties are in phase 1, one county is in a modified version of phase 1, 26 counties are in phase 2 and seven counties are in phase 3.

Phase 1

  • High-risk populations: Continue to stay home, stay healthy.
  • Outdoor: Some outdoor recreation (hunting, fishing, golf, boating, hiking).
  • Gatherings: Religious organizations can now hold outdoor services with up to 100 people. Proper social distancing should be practiced and attendees should wear face coverings.
  • Travel: Only essential travel.
  • Business/Employers: Essential businesses open, including existing construction that meets agreed-upon criteria, landscaping, automobile sales, retail (curb-side pick-up orders only), car washes, pet walkers.

Phase 2

  • High-risk populations: Continue to stay home, stay healthy.
  • Outdoor: All outdoor recreation involving fewer than five people outside your household (camping, beaches, etc.)
  • Gatherings: Gather with no more than five people outside your household per week. Indoor religious gatherings can be held at 25% capacity or with less than 50 people, whichever is less.
  • Travel: Limited non-essential travel within proximity of your home.
  • Business/Employers: Remaining manufacturing, new construction, in-home/domestic services (nannies, housecleaning, etc.), retail (In-store purchases allowed with restrictions), real estate, professional services/office-based businesses (telework remains strongly encouraged), hair and nail salons/barbers, restaurants <50% capacity, with table sizes no larger than 5.

Phase 3

  • High-risk populations: Continue to stay home, stay healthy.
  • Outdoor: Outdoor group recreational sports activities (5-50 people), recreational facilities at <50% capacity (public pools, etc.).
  • Gatherings: Allow gatherings with no more than 50 people.
  • Travel: Resume non-essential travel.
  • Business/Employers: restaurants <75% capacity/table size no larger than 10, bars at <25% capacity, movie theaters at <50% capacity, government (telework remains strongly encouraged), libraries, museums, all other business activities not yet listed except for nightclubs and events with greater than 50 people.

Phase 4

  • High-risk populations: Resume public interactions, with physical distancing
  • Outdoor: Resume all recreational activity.
  • Gatherings: Allow gatherings >50 people.
  • Travel: Continue non-essential travel.
  • Business/Employers: Nightclubs, concert venues, large sporting events, resume unrestricted staffing of worksites, but continue to practice physical distancing and good hygiene.

The state is using certain metrics to evaluate when and how to lift various restrictions. The five metrics being used are: COVID 19 disease activity; testing capacity and availability; case and contact investigations; risk to vulnerable populations, and health care system readiness.

How you can protect yourself and what to do if you think you were exposed

Symptoms of the coronavirus include fever, cough and shortness of breath. Patients reportedly have mild to severe respiratory illness. These are steps health officials recommend to protect yourself:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, then throw the tissue in the trash and wash your hands.
  • Clean and disinfect objects and surfaces.
  • Stay at home and away from others if you are feeling ill.
  • Washington State Department of Health: What to do if you have confirmed or suspected coronavirus disease
  • Washington State Department of Health: What to do if you were potentially exposed to someone with confirmed coronavirus disease
  • If you are in King County and believe you were exposed to a confirmed case of COVID-19, or if you’re a healthcare provider with questions about COVID-19, contact: coronavirus@kingcounty.gov.
  • For general concerns and questions about COVID-19, call the Washington State Novel Coronavirus Call Center at 800-525-0127 and press #.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.