Gov. Inslee announces new COVID-19 reopening plan for Washington

VIDEO: Gov. Inslee announces new reopening plan

A week before COVID-19 restrictions are set to expire, Gov. Jay Inslee announced a new statewide reopening plan.

The new plan, called “Healthy Washington - Roadmap to Recovery,” moves away from a county-based oversight system to one focused on regions. Washington’s 39 counties are divided into eight geographic regions based on health system resources.

“No one was untouched by the effects of the pandemic in 2020; many have and continue to suffer through no fault of their own,” Inslee said during a press conference Tuesday. “We aren’t out of this yet, but we are close to turning the corner on COVID-19 and this third wave of infection.”

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All of the eight regions begin in phase 1. To move into phase 2, the state will look at four key metrics:

  • Decreasing trend in two-week rate of cases
  • Decreasing trend in two-week rate of new hospital admissions
  • ICU occupancy of less than 90%
  • Positivity rate of less than 10%

Regions can reopen when they meet certain metrics based on hospital capacity and case data, Inslee said. They also automatically move forward to the next phase when the metrics are met, and do not need to apply to move forward like the previous reopening system.

“We’re not out of the woods yet, but we do want to provide a path forward for economic recovery in our state,” Inslee said.

Under the new plan, there are currently only two reopening phases to start. The state will add more phases as the state of the pandemic improves.

The new reopening plan and guidelines go into effect Jan. 11. Phase 1 will include a “small resumption of some activities statewide,” including live entertainment with tight capacity restrictions and some fitness programs.

Inslee said that in phase 2, restaurants and fitness centers can reopen at 25%.

Tacoma Lawn Tennis Club is one of the thousands of businesses that had to close when Inslee ordered the current COVID restrictions in November.

That hit the Cassidy family, Ryan, Johnni and baby Cabot very hard. Ryan Cassidy was a tennis instructor at the club.

“It doesn’t make sense. And you go to a box store, and there’s just hundreds, maybe even a thousand, I don’t know,” said Johnni Cassidy.

For COVID safety, we met the Cassidys in the open garage at the home of Ryan’s parents, where the three of them had to move in when he lost his job.

Johnni Cassidy continued with emotion in her voice, “We found out (about Inslee’s November announcement of tighter restrictions) when we were at tennis, and I just started balling because it just, it just meant we were going to be here longer. I think you might not be able to have a second (child), I’m 40. So, having a second baby might be out of the plans for us.”

Sports competitions may resume with limited spectators, and wedding and funeral ceremonies can increase their capacities from current limits. Limited live entertainment can also resume.

“What we announce today will not be resulting in big significant re-openings today, but it is a plan so we can do that tomorrow when the conditions exist to move forward,” Inslee said.

And it looks like Ryan Cassidy may be able to get back to work soon.

“In the Tennis Example, tennis would be permitted to reopen in phase one because it’s designated as a low-risk indoor sport, said Governor’s External Affairs Director Nick Streuli.

After hearing that, Ryan Cassidy was cautiously optimistic but said the remaining capacity limitations would still make things difficult.