Cowlitz rolled back in statewide reopening plan

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Cowlitz County is one of three in the state that did not meet statewide metrics for sustaining a “Phase 3” designation in the state’s reopening plan, Gov. Jay Inslee announced Monday.

Cowlitz, along with Pierce and Whitman, will be moved back into the second phase of the reopening plan on Friday. 

Since March, counties have been in the third phase of the reopening plan, which generally allowed for greater capacity for businesses, including restaurants.

In the announcement, the governor’s office stated that the decision was not an arbitrary one, but instead was made based on the amount of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.

“These metric trends are driven by the virus and we must continue to do everything we can to sharpen our focus and keep COVID-19 activity down. We are so close to the end of the tunnel here — we have made tremendous progress and we must keep our focus,” Inslee said. “It’s like a football game; we have done 95 yards on a 99 yard-drive. We can’t let up now. These are not punitive actions; they are to save lives and protect public health.”

Inslee acknowledged that vaccination across the state has been a boon to the fight against the virus, but he added that it was not the end-all for success against the pandemic.

“Vaccine is a crucial tool that will help us end the pandemic, but it isn’t the only tool, and we don’t yet have enough Washingtonians fully vaccinated to rely on this alone to keep our communities safe from the virus,” said Lacy Fehrenbach, deputy secretary for COVID-19 response, Department of Health. “We need to focus on lowering disease transmission in the next several weeks ahead as we continue our vaccination efforts in order to avoid a fourth surge of cases. This means wearing masks, watching our distancing and keeping gatherings small and outdoors.”

The rollback affects capacity of businesses most, with those featuring indoor seating being reduced to 25-percent capacity, against the 50-percent capacity that establishments in Phase 3 were able to have.

In order to move down a phase, a county now has to fail both metrics for case counts and hospitalizations. 

In the previous plan, counties only needed to fail one of those metrics to move back a phase.

To stay in Phase 3, larger counties like Pierce that have a population over 50,000 people are required to have less than 200 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 population over a 14 day period and have less than five new COVID-19 hospitalizations per 100,000 over a span of seven days. 

For a larger county to stay in Phase 2, there can be between 200 and 350 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 population over a 14 day period and between five and 10 new COVID-19 hospitalizations per 100,000 over a seven day period. If a larger county has more than that, they will revert back to Phase 1. 

This story will be updated

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