Washington Governor Jay Inslee announced Monday that Whitman, Cowlitz, and Pierce counties have failed to meet the state’s re-opening metrics and will face more restrictions.
Those counties will go from Phase 3 of the governor’s re-opening plan to Phase 2, which means businesses must operate at reduced capacity and both indoor, and outdoor gatherings must be smaller.
Whitman County had 441 cases per 100,000 people as of Monday afternoon, and had 99 people hospitalized with COVID-19 over the course of the pandemic. Over the past couple of weeks the county health district warned residents, especially students that more restrictions could be coming as their cases and hospitalization escalated. Over the last month Washington State University, which is located in Pullman, warned students that violating health guidelines could lead to conduct violations.
During a press conference Friday, Inslee said several counties, including Spokane, would have been at risk of going back a phase if the guidelines had not been changed to include hospitalizations.
“We believed, we were confident this was the right thing for the state of Washington,” Inslee said. “Now, communities will not have to go back unless they quote fail two of those, instead of one of those things. We also believed … that having the relationship between the number of cases and the number of hospitalizations is a better predictor of what is really going on in your community.”
Counties with a population of over 50,000 must have less than 200 cases per 100,000 and less than 5 hospitalizations per 100,000. Spokane County has about 4.7 hospitalizations per 100,000 and had 211 cases per 100,000 people as of Monday morning.
In a statement Monday Inslee urged the state to continue to follow health rules.
“These metric trends are driven by the virus and we must continue to do everything we can to sharpen our focus and keep COVID-19 activity down. We are so close to the end of the tunnel here — we have made tremendous progress and we must keep our focus,” Inslee said. “It’s like a football game; we have done 95 yards on a 99 yard-drive. We can’t let up now. These are not punitive actions; they are to save lives and protect public health.”
Editor's Note: This story is being updated as more information comes in.