By Rachel La Corte | The Associated Press
OLYMPIA — Six counties have applied to move to the third phase of the state’s four-stage reopening plan that eases COVID-19 restrictions and allows businesses to start to reopen, the governor’s office said Wednesday.
Mike Faulk, a spokesman for Gov. Jay Inslee, said applications to the Department of Health have been submitted for Ferry, Stevens, Pend Oreille, Lincoln, Columbia, and Wahkiakum counties.
They are among eight counties that have been in Phase 2 for three weeks and are eligible to apply to advance to the third phase. Garfield and Skamania are also eligible to apply as of Wednesday.
Whitman County could be eligible Friday, Faulk said.
Also on Tuesday, Inslee extended the state’s eviction moratorium through Aug. 1, saying the intent of his order was to prevent an increase in homelessness during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. It had been set to expire this week.
It prohibits, with limited exceptions, residential evictions and late fees on unpaid rent. It also requires landlords to offer residents a repayment plan on unpaid rent.
The state’s unemployment rate jumped to a record 15.4 percent last month after businesses closed or reduced operations under a stay-home order that expired Sunday night.
The counties that have applied for Phase 3 are among the 27 counties — which include Jefferson and Clallam counties — that are currently in Phase 2, which allows restaurants and taverns to reopen at half capacity with limited table sizes, hair and nail salons and barber shops 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 person’s household.
Phase 3 expands group gatherings to 50 or less, including sports activities, and allows restaurants to increase capacity to 75 percent. Gyms and movie theaters can reopen at half capacity during this phase.
Most public interactions resume in the final phase, with bars, restaurants and entertainment and sporting venues returning to their regular capacity.
Twelve counties are still in Phase 1, which only allows essential businesses to be open and limits restaurant service to takeout and delivery.
It also allows for limited outdoor recreation, including fishing and golfing, the reopening of state parks and existing construction.
Last week, Inslee announced that churches, mosques and synagogues can resume in-person services, with those in counties in the second stage of the state’s COVID-19 reopening plan allowed to have smaller in-building services and the remainder limited to outdoor services with no more than 100 people.