Gov. Jay Inslee speaks at a news conference Tuesday at the Capitol in Olympia. Inslee said some COVID-19 restrictions in Washington will be eased beginning next week and the state will change its reopening plan to move from a county-based oversight system to one focused on regions. (Ted S. Warren/The Associated Press)

Gov. Jay Inslee speaks at a news conference Tuesday at the Capitol in Olympia. Inslee said some COVID-19 restrictions in Washington will be eased beginning next week and the state will change its reopening plan to move from a county-based oversight system to one focused on regions. (Ted S. Warren/The Associated Press)

Governor announces new COVID-19 reopening plan

North Olympic Peninsula tied to Kitsap, Mason counties

Reopening of businesses and other activities on the North Olympic Peninsula will be tied to Kitsap and Mason counties in a new regional approach Gov. Jay Inslee presented Tuesday as part of a modified reopening plan.

Clallam and Jefferson counties are part of the Northwest Region along with Kitsap and Mason counties.

The regions are primarily based on Emergency Medical Services (EMS) regions used for evaluating health care services. There are eight regions of four or more counties.

Inslee said at the Tuesday press conference that all counties would start at Phase 1 in a plan that replaces Safe Start beginning next Monday.

Inslee said no great strides will be made immediately but that progress in reopening will be slow, determined by how well the COVID-19 virus is contained.

Under the plan, the state’s 39 counties will not apply to move on to the next phase. Instead, an entire region will be required to meet four criteria, documented by the state Department of Health, before the counties in that region automatically move to a more open phase.

All four targets must be met in each region to permit it to move to Phase 2, Inslee said.

• The number of cases must have decreased by 10 percent over a period of two weeks.

• Hospitalization rates must have dropped by 10 percent over the same time period.

• ICU capacity must be less than 90 percent.

• Test positivity must be less than 10 percent.

Once a region can move to Phase 2, restrictions will be eased in some areas, with restaurants allowed 25 percent capacity; some live entertainment, with tight capacity restrictions, fitness programs permitted; sports competitions allowed with limited spectators and increased capacities for weddings and funerals.

Inslee said the regional approach is an improvement “because health care systems are regional, and we know that the virus does not respect county boundaries. This makes sense not only from a public health perspective, but from a health care delivery one as well.”

In January, the first confirmed case in the United States was a Snohomish County man who had traveled to China. A month later, the state also saw the nation’s first lethal outbreak at a nursing home in Kirkland.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, there have been more than 256,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Washington and more than 3,480 deaths.

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