King County seeks to ease more COVID-19 restrictions

By The Associated Press

SEATTLE — Washington state’s most populous county has applied to move into Phase 2 of reopening from coronavirus restrictions.

King County, which has about 2.2 million residents, wants to relax rules for businesses like restaurants, barbers and retail operations.

The Seattle Times reported the King County Board of Health voted unanimously late Monday afternoon to send its application to the state.

There is always risk when moving from one phase to another, according to Dr. Jeff Duchin, Seattle and King County’s public health officer, who cautioned that King County residents should continue to stay at least 6 feet apart, wash their hands and wear masks.

Gov. Jay Inslee’s stay-home order began March 23 and is now being relaxed — gradually, piecemeal — across the state. All but six of Washington’s 39 counties have advanced at least to Phase 2. King County has been in a “modified Phase 1” since June 5.

The second phase allows restaurants and taverns to reopen at half capacity with limited table sizes, hair and nail salons and barbershops to resume business, and retail stores to reopen for in-store purchases at 30 percent capacity. It also allows additional outdoor recreation and gatherings with no more than five people outside of a single household.

Counties are allowed to progress to the next phase if they have declining infection levels, adequate supplies of personal protective equipment, space in hospitals, ample testing capacity and a contact tracing system to notify close contacts of infected people.

On Tuesday authorities said Pacific County on the southwest Washington coast had been approved to move into Phase 3 of the four-phase reopening.

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