OLYMPIA — Restaurants in Snohomish County can resume indoor dining on Monday under revised rules for reopening certain businesses announced by Gov. Jay Inslee on Thursday.
Bowling alleys, movie theaters and card rooms will also be allowed to welcome customers back inside.
Inslee laid out a series of changes to “Healthy Washington,” his recovery plan unveiled Jan. 5 which aims to gradually restart parts of the economy and public life in stages, regionally, where the rate of coronavirus infections and hospitalizations are trending downward.
Under the new rules, the Puget Sound region, which includes Snohomish County, King and Pierce counties, can advance on Monday to Phase 2 of Healthy Washington.
“I appreciate the governor’s leadership during this difficult time and know this adjustment will allow our businesses and workers to more quickly get back to what they do best: providing goods and services to our community,” Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers said in a statement. “Our small businesses are key to our recovery. Too many of them are struggling because of the pandemic, and the best thing we can do is allow them to get back to work as soon as it’s safe to do so.”
In Phase 2, restaurants can reopen at a maximum 25% capacity and a limit of six people per table. Also, indoor movie theaters, bowling alleys, card rooms, aquariums and museums can reopen with up to 25% occupancy. Under the current Phase 1, restaurants are limited to takeout service and outdoor dining.
To advance to a higher phase, Healthy Washington previously required a region to collectively show, over two weeks, 10% decreases in both case rates and hospitalizations, as well as ICU occupancy of less than 90% and a test positivity rate under 10%.
Regions will now only have to meet three of those four measures to move to a higher phase, allowing a greater degree of reopening, Inslee said at a news conference.
The West region, which includes Grays Harbor, Pacific, Thurston and Lewis counties, will also qualify for Phase 2 on Monday.
Going forward, the state will evaluate each region’s metrics every two weeks, instead of the current weekly review.
If a region advances but later fails to meet any two of the four benchmarks, it would regress to the earlier phase.
Inslee’s new approach eases restrictions imposed in November, when case counts shattered previous highs, locally and statewide.
Snohomish County’s step to Phase 2 comes as data show the area might be through the worst of the pandemic’s third wave.
November and December were the deadliest months in Snohomish County. And hospitalizations from the virus remained high earlier this month.
But in the 14-day period ending Saturday, the county recorded only 253 new COVID infections per 100,000 residents, the lowest rate since November. It stood at 376 per 100,000 a week ago.
Hospitalizations from the virus have nearly halved in recent weeks, from 100 to 110 to the mid-50s.
Deaths from the virus have slowed, as well.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.