Despite Lower Covid Numbers, WA Not Ready To Allow Counties To Open Up Further

Sep 16, 2020

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee says state officials have no imminent plans to allow counties to change phases in the coronavirus protocol.
Credit TVW


Washington has crossed the 80,000 threshold in total number of confirmed coronavirus cases. And it recently passed 2,000 Covid fatalities.

Those are two big milestones, but state officials are optimistic about the trends. That leads, again, to speculation that maybe it’s time to allow counties to advance in the reopening protocol.

Early in his press conference Tuesday, Washington Governor Jay Inslee, to many a doomsayer on Covid, expressed a sense of optimism.

“I am heartened to see Washingtonians, all over the state, in so many ways, banding together to fight this terrible disease. Washingtonians are masking up across the state. Washingtonians are limiting contact for people outside their household," Inslee said.

State Health Secretary John Wiesman says the number of new cases is falling around much of the state. Whitman County, which has had an outbreak of cases in WSU students the last few weeks, is the outlier, rather than the norm.

It’s been more than a week now since the Labor Day holiday and Wiesman is crossing his fingers.

“What I’m hopeful about is that folks maybe have learned some lessons from Memorial Day and July fourth and understood or heard our messages around the holiday and continuing to be vigilant about the protective measures we’ve been talking about," he said.

There’s optimism in Spokane County too, where the daily count of new coronavirus cases has been consistently lower over the last month. So does that have local officials starting to thinking again about advancing to phase three in the coronavirus reopening protocol?

“Uhh, a little bit, a little bit," said Spokane County Health Officer Bob Lutz, who then quickly noted that the state doesn’t seem to be in any hurry to consider advancements for any county, let alone Spokane.

Governor Inslee, asked about it on Tuesday, seemed to confirm that.

“What we can say is we’re evaluating this every day and I know people have heard that refrain, but it is true. I can’t give you any dates of changes that are contemplated. They could happen at any time based on the science," he said.

The state, when it was still advancing counties, had set a threshold of 25 cases/100,000. And many rural counties met, or meet, that. At one time, that list included Whitman County. But, oh how times have changed.

“What county has the highest incidence rate? Whitman County and yet, it’s in phase three. What do you do in a situation like that, where you have phase three guidance, but you also have an incidence rate that puts it way greater than anybody else?” Lutz said.

Spokane County’s incidence rate, by the way, is about 98/100,000, which is way down from what it had been in August, but still well short of the state threshold.