October 16, 2021

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Spokane region COVID-19 reopening plan: Getting from Phase 1 to 2

These are the marks our region has to hit in order to move into Phase 2 of Gov. Inslee’s “Healthy Washington” plan.

SPOKANE, Wash. — Many Spokane and Eastern Washington residents are anxiously awaiting the reopening of businesses such as restaurants and gyms nearly two months after Gov. Jay Inslee implemented his latest round of COVID-19 restrictions. 

On Tuesday, Inslee announced a new reopening plan called “Healthy Washington,” which will allow regions to reopen a bit more when they meet four metric requirements around COVID-19 case data and hospitalizations.

Every region, including Eastern Washington, will begin in Phase 1 of the new reopening plan when current restrictions expire on Monday, Jan. 11.

To move forward from Phase 1 to Phase 2, regions must meet all four of these metrics: 

  • 10% decreasing trend in two-week rate of COVID-19 cases per 100,000
  • 10% decreasing trend in two-week rate new COVID-19 hospital admission rates per 100,000 people
  • Total ICU occupancy for COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 patients of less than 90%
  • COVID-19 test positivity rate of less than 10%

Regions must meet at least three out of the four metrics to remain in Phase 2 of reopening, according to information shared by Inslee’s office. The state will automatically move regions that fail to meet two or more of the metrics back to Phase 1. 

As of Friday, Jan.8, Eastern Washington has only met two of the four requirements. Eastern Washington has satisfied the case rate decrease and ICU capacity marks, but fails when it comes to decreasing hospitalizations and positivity rates.

In the state’s report released on Jan. 8, Eastern Washington showed a positive rate of 17%, and hospitalizations actually rising by 22%.

RELATED: Gov. Inslee unveils ‘Healthy Washington’ COVID-19 reopening plan

The metrics for each region will be updated on the Washington State Department of Health’s Risk Assessment Dashboard every Friday, according to Inslee’s office. DOH will move regions into new phases, whether that’s forward or backward, the following Monday based on their metrics. 

The first round of metrics for regions will be effective Jan. 11.

Here’s a breakdown of what Phases 1 and 2 mean for Washington state and where the East region stands as far as metrics.

What’s allowed during Phase 1?

Phase 1, for the most part, aligns with current COVID-19 restrictions, with some exceptions. Indoor fitness and outdoor entertainment were previously banned but will now be allowed with restrictions. 

RELATED: Here’s when gyms in Washington could reopen under new COVID-19 guidelines

Live entertainment is no longer banned but it must follow guidelines for its venue.

Here’s what’s allowed during Phase 1, which begins for all regions on Monday, Jan. 11: 

  • Indoor social gatherings are still banned in Phase 1, while outdoor gatherings with a maximum of 10 people from outside of a person’s household are allowed.
  • Retail, worship services, personal services, and professional services are limited to 25% capacity.
  • Wedding and funeral ceremonies are limited to a total of no more than 30 people. Indoor receptions, wakes or similar gatherings are prohibited.
  • Indoor dining remains prohibited in Phase 1. Outdoor dining is allowed with a maximum of six people from two households per table until 11 p.m.
  • Low-risk sports, including dance, no contact-martial arts, gymnastics and climbing, are allowed for practice and training only in groups of no more than five. 
  • Appointment-based fitness and training are allowed with a maximum of 45 minutes per session, and no more than one customer or athlete per room or 500-square-feet for larger facilities.
  • Low and moderate risk sports are allowed for practice and training only but tournaments are not permitted. Outdoor guided activities are also allowed.
  • General admission to indoor entertainment establishments, including aquariums, theaters, arenas, concert halls, museums and bowling, is prohibited. Private rentals and tours for individual households of no more than six people are allowed.
  • Outdoor entertainment venues, including zoos, outdoor theaters and concert venues and rodeos, can reopen. Operation must be by ticketed event only groups of 10 people maximum with a limit of two households. Timed ticketing is required, as well as facial coverings and physical distancing. 

What’s allowed in Phase 2?

These are the major changes to what’s allowed in Phase 2:

  • A maximum of five people from outside of a person’s household can gathering indoors.
  • A maximum of 15 people from outside of a person’s household can gather outdoors.
  • Indoor dining is available at 25% capacity until 11 p.m. Outdoor dining remains available with the same requirements.
  • Indoor fitness must also follow the 25% capacity limit.
  • Moderate risk indoor sports and all sports outdoors gain flexibility to have league games and competitions.
  • Outdoor entertainment venues may host groups of up to 15 with the two-household limit and an overall 75-person maximum.
  • Wedding and funeral ceremonies and indoor receptions may take place following the appropriate venue requirements.

Is Eastern Washington meeting metrics?

There is still some uncertainty about whether Eastern Washington is meeting the metrics necessary to move forward, in part due to some confusion about the methodology that DOH is using to calculate them. 

Spokane County is part of the East region, along with Ferry, Stevens, Pend Oreille, Lincoln, Adams, Whitman, Garfield and Asotin counties.

Here’s what we know as of Friday, Jan. 8. 

Case and hospitalization metrics

Kelli Hawkins, spokesperson for the Spokane Regional Health District, said coronavirus cases in the region and hospitalizations have likely decreased by 10%, though the health district needs to confirm the methodology that DOH is using to calculate metrics. 

SRHD is also having issues reporting hospitalizations. The district announced on Thursday, Jan. 7 that it would pause reporting of current hospitalizations by county of residence. 

“Due to the high volume of COVID-19 case information we are currently receiving, the county of residence data for hospitalized individuals does not reflect the current situation, and therefore we have paused our reporting of this metric until we can ensure its accuracy,” SRHD wrote in a statement. “We will continue to report total hospitalizations at this time.”

RELATED: SRHD pauses reporting of hospitalizations due to a high volume of COVID-19 data

We do know that the East region is currently meeting the metric for ICU capacity. Hawkins confirmed that ICU capacity was sitting at 70.6% as of 3:30 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 7. 

Test positivity will likely hinder Eastern Washington’s progress in reopening. Hawkins said the East region is currently well above the metric of less than 10% that is required for moving into Phase 2. 

The East region’s positivity rate is likely hovering between 18 to 25 percent, Hawkins said on Thursday. She added that the health district is not sharing an exact number because the DOH’s exact methodology is still unknown. 

Test positivity in Spokane County alone was sitting at 19.5% as of Wednesday, Jan. 6, according to the DOH Risk Assessment Dashboard. None of the other counties in the East region have positivity rates at or below 10 percent.  

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