EAST WENATCHEE — Chelan County has one week to bring its COVID-19 infection rate down or it will move back to Phase 2 of Gov. Jay Inslee’s “Healthy Washington” plan.
Phase 2 imposes tighter restrictions than Phase 3 on businesses and activities.
Chelan County’s COVID-19 infection rate is at 226.7 cases per 100,000 people over a 14-day period as of Wednesday, according to Chelan-Douglas Health District data. It increased from 189.1 on March 24. The governor’s plan has two metrics to stay in Phase 3, including an infection rate below 200 cases.
Chelan-Douglas Health District Administrator Luke Davies said Chelan County cases need to drop by 25% to 50% by next week to avoid falling back to Phase 2.
“I think the biggest thing is for people to wear masks,” he said. “We know that masks interrupt transmission and that they’re really effective.”
The other metric, the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19, remains low at two people hospitalized at Central Washington Hospital, according to the data. It must stay below five people per 100,000 over a seven-day average.
If any county in the state’s infection rate remains above 200 after April 12, it means that county is in Phase 2, according to a news release from Inslee’s office. Returning to Phase 2 would mean the following:
- Indoor dining and retail stores reduced from 50% capacity to 25% capacity
- Low- and moderate-risk sport competitions can occur, but no tournaments
- Indoor entertainment centers, such as museums, can have either 200 people or 25% capacity, whichever is fewer
- Outdoor entertainment centers, such as zoos, can have groups of 15 with a limit to two households and a maximum of 200 people at a time
As a county of less than 50,000 people, it appears Douglas County also would not qualify for Phase 3, according to a Washington State Coronavirus Response website. Counties with populations of 50,000 or less must have fewer than 100 cases over a 14-day period. As of Wednesday, Douglas County has had 106 positive cases in the last 14 days, according to the health district website.
The 100-case number is a change from the earlier metric requirement that required counties with fewer than 50,000 citizens to have fewer than 30 cases over a seven-day average to qualify for Phase 3. It is unclear when the state updated this metric.
Davies said the increase in cases is highest among 20- to 40-year-olds going to restaurants and visiting friends.
That age group will soon be able to receive a vaccine. Inslee on Wednesday announced anyone 16 and older is eligible for the vaccine on April 15, two weeks sooner than the previous date.
“So we just need to hold out a little bit longer to stop from moving our phases back,” Davies said.
He noted The New York Times recently reported the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines are proving to be effective in stopping transmission of COVID.
Staff writer Pete O’Cain contributed to this report.