Yakima County isn’t ready to progress to a “Phase 1.5” of the state’s reopening plan until there’s improvement in coronavirus metrics, the county’s health officer said Monday.
The district said over the weekend that Yakima County would stay in Phase 1 of the state’s four-step reopening plan because of high COVID-19 infection and transmission rates and the number of hospitalizations.
Gov. Jay Inslee said Friday that select Phase 1 counties could submit plans for limited activities under a “Phase 1.5.” Those plans would need to come from the county level and would be judged on an individual basis, he said.
Yakima County health officer Dr. Teresa Everson said Monday she and others have reviewed the requirements for all phases, including Phase 1.5. It still requires meeting certain thresholds.
“I want to make sure that people know we’re reasonable, but what goes along with that is the need for approval” from the state, she said during a video briefing. “With our transmission being what it is now, we are considered high risk. ... It is unlikely that (state Health Secretary John Wiesman) would approve that with our metrics.”
Everson stressed the need for Yakima County residents to limit the spread of COVID-19 by wearing cloth face coverings.
Yakima County has more COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations per capita compared to other places in the state, as well as a higher transmission rate. Several metrics demonstrate whether counties can move to the next stage of the state’s four-stage reopening plan, including a transmission rate below 1, fewer than 25 new cases per 100,000 residents over a 14-day period, and flat or decreasing hospitalizations.
Yakima County has had more than 500 new cases per 100,000 over the past 14 days, increasing hospitalizations and a transmission rate above 1.
The total number of cases was 3,891 as of Monday night in Yakima County, with 90 total deaths.
Other Central Washington counties are moving toward resuming more recreational, social and business activities, while health officials caution people to remain vigilant.
Kittitas County also is in Phase 2. Public health officials continue to ask for the public’s help in reaching Phase 3 by June 17. To do so, they must demonstrate that Phase 2 can occur safely.
“As we enjoy Phase 2, we ask that residents continue to be mindful of prevention efforts by wearing masks, creating safety plans for your business, and limiting your exposures to five people outside your immediate household each week,” it said.
Grant County is in Phase 2, but health officials there are warning people about an uptick in cases. An outbreak was reported Monday at an Alzheimer’s care center in Moses Lake. A total of 47 new cases have been reported over the past two weeks, the health district said.
“We must continue to be vigilant when meeting with friends and families outside of our household. We continue to see cases linked to gatherings such as barbecues and celebrations,” the health district said in a news release.