WENATCHEE — Chelan and Douglas counties qualified by the slimmest of margins to remain in Phase 3 of the “Healthy Washington” pandemic reopening plan. Relieved community leaders thanked the public for their cooperation and a chamber director urged residents to get vaccinated.

Gov. Jay Inslee announced Monday that only three counties — Cowlitz, Pierce and Whitman — would move back to Phase 2 of the state's reopening plan. The rest, including Chelan and Douglas counties, will remain in Phase 3.

“It was a breath-holder there for a bit,” said Dan Sutton, chair of the Chelan-Douglas Board of Health and a Douglas County commissioner.

With the uncertainty cleared and the announcement made, Sutton said they are pleased to be staying in Phase 3. It would not have been possible without the community’s cooperation, he said.

The Wenatchee Valley Chamber of Commerce also thanked the community for remaining vigilant against COVID-19, said Shiloh Burgess, chamber executive director.

“Now that vaccines are open to anyone over 16 beginning Thursday, we hope those who are willing and able, will choose to get vaccinated to help us stay healthy and open,” Burgess said.

This announcement comes after a last-minute change on Friday when the governor updated criteria so that counties would only roll back a phase when they failed both COVID-19 metrics in the reopening plan. Both Chelan and Douglas counties remain in Phase 3 by passing one of the metrics.

Counties will be reevaluated again in three weeks — on May 3. Counties must qualify individually, based on metrics according to their population size. Douglas County is considered a small county, while Chelan County is considered a large county.

Looking ahead, the governor’s office has not shared the crucial next step or phase, according to Kevin Overbay, Chelan County commissioner and health board vice chair.

“I’d like to see Phase 3 become the baseline that we look at and then we move either forward or we stay at Phase 3,” Overbay said. “I would also like to see it again come back to the local level and allow each local community working with their health department and their elected officials to make those decisions as we move forward.”

The Washington Hospitality Association was disappointed to see any counties roll back to Phase 2, said Anthony Anton, president and CEO of the association representing more than 6,000 members of the hospitality industry. Anton said in an email that they do not believe this decision will contain the spread of the virus as people can still cross county lines.

According to the revised metrics, counties with a population larger than 50,000 roll back to Phase 2 if the county has both:

  • More than 200 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 over 14 days
  • More than five new COVID-19 hospitalizations per 100,000 per seven days

Smaller counties with a population less than 50,000 roll back to Phase 2 if they have:

  • More than 100 new COVID-19 cases over 14 days or
  • More than three new COVID-19 hospitalizations over seven days

Chelan County had 199.6 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 between March 3 and April 2, according to the state Department of Health report, which met the under 200 metric. The hospitalization rate was 6.3 per 100,000 between March 24 and March 30, which exceeded the rate.

Douglas County had 115 new COVID-19 cases between March 3 and April 2, according to the state report, which exceeded the rate. The county had one new COVID-19 hospitalization between March 24 and March 30, which kept the county in Phase 3.

Both counties would have rolled back to Phase 2 if the governor had not updated the criteria on Friday.

Find the state Department of Health's COVID-19 recovery report here: wwrld.us/roadmap

Oscar Rodriguez: (509) 665-1179

rodriguez@wenatcheeworld.com