PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Washington Governor Jay Inslee announced Saturday the state would hold off on moving to Phase 4 of its reopening plans after a swell of new COVID-19 cases.
Eight counties were eligible to move from Phase 3 to Phase 4 before the pause was implemented: Columbia, Ferry, Garfield, Lincoln, Stevens, Pend Orielle, Wahkiakum and Whitman, according to Washington’s Department of Health.
“Phase 4 would mean a return to normal activity,” said Gov. Inslee in a release. “We can’t do that now due to the continued rise in cases across the state. We all want to get back to doing all the things we love in Washington during the summer, and fully open our economy, but we aren’t there yet. This is an evolving situation and we will continue to make decisions based on the data.”
Washington’s Secretary of Health John Wiesman sent a letter to local and tribal health leaders throughout the state Saturday informing them of the halt in progress:
I am writing to let you know Governor Inslee and I have decided to pause progression to Phase 4 statewide.
We decided to prohibit any counties from moving into phase 4 at this time due to increasing COVID-19 activity across the state and significant rebounds in COVID-19 activity in several other states. The changes between Phase 3 and Phase 4, especially with regards to gathering size and occupancy rates, could further increase the spread of COVID-19 in our state, even in communities that have very low rates of disease. The progress we’ve made thus far is at risk, therefore we are making the prudent choice to slow down our phased approach to reopening.
In the next couple of weeks, I will work with Governor Inslee and his team to assess the need for a modified approach for moving beyond Phase 3. I will communicate that decision to you when we have more information. Counties that are currently able to apply to move from Phase 1 or 2 are still able to apply when eligible.
Thank you for your continued work to protect the health of Washingtonians during this unprecedented time.Washington Department of Health Secretary John Wiesman
On Tuesday, Inslee called for a statewide requirement for people in Washington state to wear facial coverings in most indoor and outdoor public settings following continued increases in cases around the state.
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