Coronavrus: Gov. Inslee relaxes virus restrictions for 5 counties

Coronavrus: Gov. Inslee relaxes virus restrictions for 5 counties
Gov. Jay Inslee during a Sept. 15, 2020 press conference in Olympia.

SEATTLE — Gov. Jay Inslee says five counties in central and eastern Washington still under the tightest COVID-19 restrictions will be allowed to resume more activity and open more services.

At a news conference on Tuesday, the governor said Yakima, Benton, Franklin, Douglas and Chelan counties will be moved from modified Phase 1 into Phase 2.

Inslee has instituted a virus reopening plan under which counties move through four phases - with 1 the most restrictive and 4 being a full reopening. Under Phase 2, the counties will be allowed to resume some adult and youth sports as well as outdoor recreation with more than 12 people.

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More business is also allowed.

Here’s a breakdown of some of the counties with the highest totals: King County has 794 deaths among 25,219 cases; Snohomish County has 223 deaths among 8,021 cases; and Pierce County has 219 deaths among 9,324 cases.

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

Key coronavirus updates:

Information from local officials

On Sept. 15, Washington state officially passed 2,000 deaths from the COVID-19 pandemic, according to new numbers from the Department of Health.

“It’s a somber day in Washington,” Gov. Jay Inslee said.

Inslee highlighted the new statistic in a press conference where he gave an update on the state’s coronavirus response.

“This has been a year of tragedy for so many people, and to them I’d like to say that 7 million Washingtonians want to embrace you,” he said.

Inslee spoke about how although overall state numbers are trending in the right direction, there are case clusters popping up when people are breaking guidelines and having larger gatherings.

He pointed to recent outbreaks at Washington State University as an example and implored students to practice caution when they return to campus.

Inslee said he want doesn’t want the desire to party to overcome the “desire to not kill people.”

He cited a report from The New York Times that said Pullman, home to WSU was the number two hot spot in the nation for new cases recently.

The governor said he was appreciative of the Pullman Police Department, which has been issuing nuisance party infractions.

Click here to read more.

County-by-county phased reopening approach

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

Under the “Safe Start” plan, individual counties are able to apply to the secretary of health to move between the phases or add new business activities. There is now an indefinite pause on counties moving forward to new phases.

When applications are allowed, they 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.

The Secretary of Health evaluates 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 are also considered.

The Secretary of Health can approve the plans as submitted, approve with modifications or can deny the application.

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.