OLYMPIA — Three Washington counties are moving backward in the state’s reopening plan, Gov. Jay Inslee announced Monday. Snohomish County isn’t one of them.
Pierce, Cowlitz and Whitman counties all failed to meet both the state’s benchmarks for COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in the state’s latest Roadmap to Recovery report. On Friday, they will revert to Phase 2 of the state’s Healthy Washington plan, which lowers indoor business capacity and outdoor event sizes.
“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,” Inslee said in a news release. “We are so close to the end of the tunnel here — we have made tremendous progress and we must keep our focus.”
To remain in Phase 3, counties must report fewer than 200 new cases per 100,000 people over two weeks. Weekly hospitalizations from the virus must remain below 5 per 100,000 people.
The state will evaluate all 39 counties again in three weeks.
Despite rising rates of COVID transmission, Snohomish County avoided the setback.
“Most of our residents have taken a common-sense approach to the pandemic, and they deserve the most credit for our success,” county Executive Dave Somers said in a statement. “Also, the county’s vaccine task force has done a great job setting up our targeted and mass vaccination teams, ensuring we reach as many of our most vulnerable and marginalized residents as possible. That early work is now paying off by protecting those most at risk for COVID-19 and ensuring our economy can continue to recover.”
Per the report, Snohomish County saw 152 new cases per 100,000 residents in the two-week case count ending April 2.
At the end of March, about 26 people were hospitalized countywide due to the virus.
“We will remain focused on protecting our residents through vaccination and ensuring we aren’t straining our health care system,” Somers said. “For everyone’s sake, we need to keep up our public health measures.”
Last week, Inslee made it more difficult for counties to slide back. Under the new rules, counties must meet both the benchmarks for cases and hospitalizations to revert to the previous phase. Previously, if a county failed to meet one of them, the state could move them back.
“Given the incredible progress on vaccinations and our focus protecting people from severe illness, we believe analyzing and requiring both metrics together is the right approach to make sure we’re considering the connection between COVID cases and our medical system and hospitalizations,” Inslee said last week.
As of Saturday, more than 155,000 Snohomish County residents were fully vaccinated, while another 100,000 were awaiting a second dose, according to state data.
Starting Thursday, all Washingtonians 16 and older will qualify for vaccination.