SEATTLE — There is now a new, more convenient way for Washington state resident to check how close their region is to lifting pandemic restrictions and reopening shuttered stores.
On Jan. 5, Gov. Jay Inslee announced that he was replacing the scrapped “Safe Start” program and its associated reopening phases. It has since been replaced with the “Healthy Washington” plan, which groups Washington’s 39 counties into 8 regions, and allows those regions to lift restrictions in phases, provided they meet four key metrics:
A 10 percent decline in COVID-19 case rates over the past two weeks
A 10 percent decrease in COVID-19 hospital admission over the past two weeks
An ICU occupancy under 90 percent
Test positivity of less than 10 percent
So far, there has not been a single region to meet the necessary metrics, so all 8 remain in Phase 1, where businesses are largely restricted to essential services only. Because none of the regions qualify to move ahead currently, and because they have to show improvements over a 14-day period, this also means that no regions will be moving ahead to Phase 2 until at least Monday, Feb. 1.
However, there is one small silver lining: going forward residents will be able to more easily check on their own how their regions are progressing thanks to the Department of Health’s new Roadmap To Recovery Dashboard.
The dashboard provides a more in-depth look at how each region is handling COVID-19 transmission. For example, the Puget Sound region (which contains King, Snohomish and Pierce Counties) have seen their case rate increase by 23 percent over the past fourteen days, but during that time hospitalizations have been down 9 percent. Puget Sound is meeting the two other metrics: ICU occupancy is at 84 percent and percent positivity is among the lowest of the 8 regions at 9 percent.
The dashboard can be found here.
Once a region meets each metric, it will be immediately placed in Phase 2, unlike the Safe Start plan which required that every county submit an application for state approval before transitioning. Also unlike Safe Start: Healthy Washington also allows regions to be downgraded back into earlier phases if transmission begins to rise again. Any county that fails three of those four metrics will be pushed back into the previous phase — meaning residents may want to continue to track key metrics on the dashboard even after their county moves on to the next phase.
When an area does enter Phase 2, that comes with a host of benefits, including:
Restaurants may reopen indoor dining at 25 percent capacity
Indoor fitness centers may reopen at 25 percent capacity
Sporting competitions may resume, though with limited audiences
Weddings and funerals will be allowed to have larger gatherings than currently permitted.
Read more: ‘Healthy Washington’ Reopening Phases Announced: What To Know
This article originally appeared on the Gig Harbor Patch