OLYMPIA — Counties in Phase 1 of Gov. Jay Inslee’s Safe Start plan can on Monday apply to move to a modified version of that phase, which could allow more businesses and activities to reopen.
It could be called Phase 1.5, Inslee said in a Friday news conference. That name has already been suggested by the Chelan-Douglas Health District, which earlier this month drafted a proposal to partially reopen the two counties.
The same option will be available for counties in Phase 2.
Secretary of Health John Wiesman said it will take the state at least a few days to review applications.
“We’re anticipating a number of these probably coming in about the same time,” he said. “We want to thoroughly evaluate those. We want to have conversations with the local health department. Again, we may have questions about the application, but we also want to make sure that we fully understand their capabilities and capacities and that of the community to effectively control and continue to suppress this virus.”
The Chelan-Douglas Health District submitted its proposal May 13, but Wiesman denied it the next day.
Health District Administrator Barry Kling said the Board of Health will discuss resubmitting the proposal Monday afternoon. He expressed hopefulness at hearing the governor use the same phrasing as the district did in referring to Phase 1.5.
“I think it’s about 95% certain that we are going to apply,” he said. “I have some hopes that they’re closer to the position that we had proposed to them.”
Inslee on Friday announced modified requirements for counties to be eligible to move to Phase 2, including requiring them to have an average of less than 25 new cases per 100,000 residents over 14 days. Previously the requirement was less than 10 new cases.
So far, 26 counties have moved to Phase 2, including Grant County. Inslee said the earliest counties could move to Phase 3 would be June 3.
Starting June 8, workers will be required to wear face coverings unless they have no in-person interactions, the governor said. Employers must provide face coverings, though workers can also wear their own if they meet minimum standards.
Businesses will be required to post signs encouraging customers to wear face coverings, but they won’t have to refuse service to those not wearing them.
The governor’s stay home order expires at the end of Sunday but will be replaced with a new proclamation implementing these other ways of fighting COVID-19, he said.
“What we’ve learned is that we can prevent this from coming back and increasing dramatically again, but only if we replace what we were doing — which was having some considerable success — and as we remove that tool, to replace it with another approach,” Inslee said.
“You might think of it as if we were on kind of a lifeboat for a couple months of social distancing. We’re now getting out of that lifeboat, but we’ve got to get another lifeboat to get in and that’s going to be called contact tracing and wearing masks and the like. We’ve got to make sure that boat doesn’t have holes in it.”
However, he still encouraged people to stay home if possible, especially if they are vulnerable, and practice social distancing and good hygiene.