Business groups ask governor not to roll some counties to Phase 2

By Nicholas K. Geranios

The Associated Press

SPOKANE — Nearly 70 state business organizations are urging Gov. Jay Inslee to delay for three weeks any decision to return some counties to more restrictive coronavirus standards, which would hurt businesses.

Inslee has said he will announce today if any counties have to move backward because of rising COVID-19 cases. Currently, all counties in the state are in Phase 3.

With COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations rising in many areas, numerous places were at risk of rolling backward, including Douglas, Cowlitz, Pierce and Yakima counties.

Moving some counties back to Phase 2 would punish struggling businesses while doing little to stop the spread of COVID, the business groups said in a letter sent Friday night to Inslee.

The letter was signed by groups including the Association of Washington Business, the Washington Hospitality Association and numerous chambers of commerce across the state.

“After a very difficult fall and winter, our state finally celebrated together the important milestone of Phase 3 reopening,” the letter said, adding the state should focus on increasing the vaccination rate instead of rolling back to Phase 2.

Phase 3 allows businesses to operate at 50 percent of capacity, compared to 25 percent in Phase 2, the letter said. People in a county that is downgraded will simply travel to a nearby county that remains in Phase 3, the letter said.

“Give us three weeks, and together, we can make a large leap forward in increasing vaccinations and stamping out this virus,” the letter said.

Vaccines are making a difference, Inslee said Friday, but millions of Washington’s 7 million residents still need to be fully vaccinated. Nearly 3.8 million people in the state have received one vaccine dose and more than 1.5 million people have been fully vaccinated, according to the state Department of Health.

More than 348,400 COVID-19 cases have been confirmed in Washington since the pandemic began and 5,316 people have died, the agency said.

All residents over age 16 will be eligible for a vaccination on Thursday.

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