Inslee Pauses Phase 4 Reopening As COVID-19 Spikes In Washington

Nick Garber

SEATTLE, WA — Citing rising numbers of coronavirus cases across Washington, Gov. Jay Inslee on Saturday said the state was pausing counties' ability to move into Phase 4, the final stage of the state's reopening plan.

Before the pause, eight counties were eligible to move from Phase 3 into Phase 4, which would permit large gatherings, recreational activity and the reopening of concert venues and nightclubs, according to Inslee and State Health Secretary John Wiesman.

"Phase 4 would mean a return to normal activity and we can’t do that now due to the continued rise in cases across the state," Inslee said in a statement Saturday.

"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."

A total of 17 counties are currently in Phase 3, while none have yet moved into Phase 4.

Last week, surging virus cases prompted Inslee to issue a statewide order requiring residents to wear facial coverings or risk receiving a misdemeanor. The order went into effect Friday.

Wiesman notified local and tribal health leaders of the change in a letter sent Saturday, which mentions increasing COVID-19 activity within Washington and "significant rebounds in COVID-19 activity in several other states."

Wiesman said the state is choosing to "slow down" its phased reopening, and will consider changing its approach for allowing counties to move past Phase 3 sometime in the coming weeks.

Counties hoping to move past phases 1 or 2 can still do so, Wiesman noted.

This article originally appeared on the Seattle Patch