NCW — Chelan and Douglas counties are moving to Phase 2 of Gov. Jay Inslee’s “Safe Start” reopening plan.

The governor announced Tuesday that all counties in a modified Phase 1 would be allowed to move to Phase 2. Also moving beyond “Phase 1.5” are Benton, Franklin and Yakima counties, among the hardest-hit areas in terms of COVID-19 case rates and deaths.

Inslee’s restart plan was supposed to require counties to get down to 25 positives cases per 100,000 people over a two-week period. Chelan and Douglas counties are at about 138 positive cases per 100,000 people, according to the health district.

It’s misleading, though, to look at just the positive cases per population, said Chelan County Commissioner Doug England, a Board of Health member. The health district has been testing a lot more people in recent weeks, almost 400 per day, which increased the number of positive cases found.

But the percentage of positive cases out of all the tests taken is still quite low, about 1% to 2%, England said.

“The number of the cases is not a reflection of the danger,” he said. “It is a reflection that we’re finding who those cases are.”

It was time for Chelan and Douglas counties to move to Phase 2 with the amount of exemptions modified Phase 1 counties were receiving, England said.

“It’s a waste of state time and hindrance to us to not be in Phase 2 all along,” he said.

In addition, some counties in Phase 2 had higher number of positive cases than counties in modified Phase 1, England said. Whitman County had almost 500 positive cases per 100,000 at one time, he said.

Karina Vega-Villa, a member of the Immigrant and Latinx Solidarity Group, said the organization did not have many concerns about the move to Phase 2 itself. The organization’s main concern is a lack of communication with the Hispanic population that seems to persist, she said.

Inslee said during a press conference on Tuesday that the five counties in modified Phase 1 have accomplished a lot this summer to reduce the high number of positives they experienced a few months earlier.

At one point between July 26 and Aug. 9, Chelan and Douglas counties topped the state with positive COVID-19 cases per capita.

“The COVID risk was off the charts for these counties last summer and they got it down, because the majority of residents in these counties are doing the right thing to get these numbers down,” Inslee said.

In addition, the move to Phase 2 changes very little with all the modifications to Phase 1.5, Inslee said.

According to state documents, Phase 2 includes the following loosened regulations:

  • Allowing remaining manufacturing to restart
  • Allowing in-home, domestic services like nannies and house cleaning
  • Libraries and museum at 25% capacity
  • Movie theaters at 25% capacity
  • Agritourism
  • League-play bowling
  • Pet grooming
  • Bars with no indoor seating unless they meet a minimum food requirement
  • Drive-in events
  • Limited indoor fitness and training with 300 square feet per person and up to 25% capacity
  • Some adult/youth sports
  • Some outdoor recreation with more than 12 participants
  • Gatherings of no more than five people outside a home

Phase 3 would allow the following changes:

  • All other business activities not yet listed
  • Movie theaters at 50% capacity
  • Customer-facing government services
  • Libraries
  • Museums at 50% capacity
  • Limited indoor fitness and training with 200 square feet of distance per person and up to 25% capacity
  • Retail events, such as craft shows with less than 200 people
  • Outdoor groups and sports activities with fewer than 50 people
  • Gatherings with no more than 10 people

Tony Buhr: 664-7123 or

on Twitter @TonyBuhr