Washington Gov. Jay Inslee speaks during a news conference Thursday at the Capitol in Olympia. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee speaks during a news conference Thursday at the Capitol in Olympia. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Moving to Phase 3: Fans in stadiums and more indoor dining

Gov. Jay Inslee’s reopening plan will allow businesses to operate at 50% capacity starting March 22.

OLYMPIA — Fans in the stands for Mariners and AquaSox baseball games. Diners filling restaurant booths. Farm workers and grocery store clerks getting in line for the COVID vaccine.

It will soon look a little more normal in Washington after Gov. Jay Inslee delivered what he called “a boatload of good news” Thursday.

Ending weeks of wondering, he introduced Phase 3 of his “Healthy Washington” reopening plan. The new phase permits restaurants, bowling alleys, movie theaters, fitness centers and other indoor business activities to operate at 50% capacity.

It also clears the way for 25% capacity at professional and youth sporting events held in outdoor facilities with permanent seats.

And it allows 50% occupancy — up to 400 people — for indoor or outdoor events such as weddings and concerts, as long as there is social distancing and mask use. That would apply to Everett Silvertips hockey games, as well.

Starting March 22, all of Washington will advance to Phase 3, but expanded spectator capacity for high school and youth sports will take effect four days earlier.

“The reason we can make this progress today is because we have been safe, we have been diligent,” Inslee said at a news conference. “If we do this, we ought to have tremendous confidence with having a good summer and a lot of joy in our state.”

Meanwhile, Inslee said that starting Wednesday everyone in Tier 2 of the state’s Phase 1B will be eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine.

That includes grocery store clerks, food processing workers, farm workers, corrections officers and other staff in congregate settings, as well as anyone 16 or older who is pregnant or has a disability that puts them at risk. He made the announcement shortly before President Joe Biden, in a national televised address, announced that every person in the country will be eligible for a vaccine May 1.

So far, about 18% of the state’s population has received at least one dose of a vaccine, including more than half of residents 65 and older. Statewide, 10% of people are fully vaccinated.

Ramped-up vaccinations, in addition to lowering case counts and hospitalizations, are giving the state confidence to reopen, Inslee said.

However, he called on Washingtonians to continue wearing masks and to limit social gatherings.

In shifting to Phase 3, the state is ending a regional approach to reopening and reverting to county-by-county evaluations. The state Department of Health will review each county’s metrics every three weeks, with the first update coming April 12.

To remain in Phase 3, counties will have to report fewer than 200 new cases per 100,000 people over 14 days. And the rate of weekly hospitalizations must not exceed five per 100,000 people.

In Snohomish County, the rolling two-week case rate recently reached 84 new infections per 100,000 residents — the lowest it has been since October.

Meanwhile, hospitalizations and deaths due to the virus continued to drop.

Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers said in a statement that moving to Phase 3 “is an acknowledgment that the hard work and sacrifice are showing results. “

“I urge everyone to keep your guard up, continue your physical distancing, and get vaccinated when you are eligible,” Somers said in a statement. “We are making progress, but we are still in a pandemic.”

Operators of Evergreen Speedway in Monroe reacted with a tweet, “Fans Are Back!” Under the guidelines, the race track, as an outdoor venue with seating, will welcome fans at the first race of the season on March 27.

Critics of the state’s pace of reopening applauded Thursday’s news.

“I commend the governor for realizing it was time to move our state forward to Phase 3,” said Senate Minority Leader John Braun, R-Centralia. “Opening businesses to 50% capacity will put many people back to work and allow them to feed their families and pay their bills. Maybe this will give them hope for the future.”

Anthony Anton, president of the Washington Hospitality Association, said expanding dining capacity will benefit “both the health of our state and our industry. Since restaurants have been opened in our state, cases have continued to drop. This is a testament to our rigorous safety standards and practices, which are among the most strict in the nation.”

Inslee’s announcement came more than a month after Snohomish County, and a few others, entered Phase 2 of Healthy Washington. That allowed 25% capacity for indoor dining and the reintroduction of other business activity that had been paused in November, when the state’s third wave of COVID transmission was beginning to hit.

For sports, previous state Department of Health regulations limited the number of people at outdoor sporting events to 200. That included everyone at the event — players, coaches, officials, school staff, cheerleaders, band members, media and fans.

Locally, the Wesco high school sports conference has not allowed any fans.

The Emerald Sound Conference, which includes Granite Falls and Sultan, has allowed home fans to attend games if the host school chooses. Per league policy, no visiting fans have been allowed.

Joey Thompson: 425-339-3449; jthompson@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @byjoeythompson.

Talk to us

More in Local News

A portion of the Redistricting Commission-approved legislative map showing the 12th District, which would span the Cascade Range. (Washington State Redistricting Commission) 20211124
Proposed political map links cities from Monroe to Wenatchee

Highway 2 would unite communities on both sides of the Cascades in one legislative district. Here’s what else could change.

Money seized during an investigation into a Snohomish County fentanyl ring. (U.S. Attorney's Office)
Snohomish County men get federal prison for major fentanyl ring

They got drugs from China and ran an operation that could press 2.5 million pills. They must serve mandatory minimum sentences.

The Monroe Correctional Complex on Thursday, April 9, 2020. Inmates held a demonstration on Wednesday night after six inmates tested positive for COVID-19. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Another outbreak sends 60 to isolation at Monroe prison unit

One worker and one prisoner tested positive Monday. Then more cases were found throughout the Twin Rivers Unit.

Resident escapes burning trailer near Gold Bar

Nobody was injured in the fire Saturday, but the home was destroyed.

A fatal crash prompted closure of West Mukilteo Boulevard between Forest Park and Dogwood Drive Friday afternoon. (Everett Police Department) 20211126
2 dead, 1 injured in T-bone crash in Everett

The two people who died are believed to be in their 80s. Police don’t suspect alcohol, drugs or speed played a role.

1 dead, 3 injured in 5-car crash east of Stanwood

Katrina Kakalecik, 27, of Granite Falls, was a passenger in an SUV that was rear-ended on Thanksgiving.

Top (L-R): Brian Holtzclaw, Eric Cooke, Judy Williams, Tim Schmitt. Bottom (L-R): Patrick Leonetti, Donna Cross, Dani Gaumond, Rob Johnson.
Recounts in Mill Creek, Stanwood as 2021 election is certified

Another tally is required to settle races for seats on city councils, as well as the Alderwood water district.

The Washington State House of Representatives convenes for floor session, Feb. 21, 2019.
Granite Falls representative joins lawsuit over House vax rule

Rep. Robert Sutherland objects to the COVID-19 vaccine because he had a severe reaction to a flu shot.

Stillaguamish tribal members hold flags during a powwow. (Contributed)
Arlington formally recognizes homeland of Stillaguamish people

A newly adopted acknowledgement is intended to show respect to native ancestors and their descendants.

Most Read