Governor's change to restrictions plan ties Snohomish County with King, Pierce counties on effect of COVID limits
A remap to the state's COVID-19 restrictions likely won't mean much will change immediately for Snohomish County until the virus gets more under control, but more heavily emphasizes "flattening the curve" for deciding what can be open.
Gov. Jay Inslee calls it the "Healthy Washington" initiative. It comes into effect Monday, Jan. 11 as the replacement for the "Safe Start" program.
The plan continues the requirement to not have guests meet in your home that was instituted before Thanksgiving, and continues to disallow indoor dining at restaurants.
One of the few items restored is private appointment times inside fitness gyms.
Another restoration are pre-booked times to play at indoor entertainment venues such as theaters, bowling alleys, museums, or zoos. Outdoor entertainment venues can host small groups under a timed-ticket system where it is get in-get out.
The Healthy Washington plan chops up the state into regional centers for determining whether in-county restrictions are more lightly limited. For our area, Snohomish, King and Pierce counties are tied together as one region.
The plan uses a two-phase system. Both have limits. The state Department of Health will determine if a region can advance to the less-restricted phase.
Drops in virus transmission rates are being used more heavily to decide on opening up more activities.
To advance, a region would need to show:
- A consistently decreasing trend of more than a 10% of COVID-19 cases per 100,000 in population,
- A consistently decreasing trend of more than a 10% for new COVID-19 hospital admissions,
- The occupancy rate of Intensive Care Unit (ICU) beds at hospitals needs to stay less than 90% for all types of patients, and
- The rate of new COVID-19-positive tests needs to stay under 10 percent.
Lately in Snohomish County, positive infection counts were declining slowly in mid-December, but jumped again post-Christmas.
If the Sno-King-Pierce "combined region" did advance, it would need to keep up the momentum to avoid having restrictions return. It needs to keep meeting the threshold of at least three of the four metrics or face being retreated back to square one.
The entertainment restrictions allow private bookings for one household at a time.
Let's Play Cafe, an arcade in Monroe that had to rope off its game machines, said the new guidelines might newly allow private bookings inside the arcade.
The business community, already reeling from 10 months of restrictions, criticized the new plan.
The state's trade group for dining and lodging businesses called for a rethink, saying businesses are not to blame but are what's being hurt by the restrictions being implemented.
"We’ve now been shut down again for eight weeks and cases have only continued to grow. This demonstrates what we’ve been saying: You can achieve (safety) compliance in a business, but not in homes," Washington Hospitality Association CEO Anthony Anton said in a statement, adding that the trade group has worked amicably with the government's shutdown policies so far, "but this latest announcement leaves us at a loss for what to do next and makes it clear that we are running out of time."
Stores remain at 25% indoor capacity statewide with no changes to requirements.
The prior "Safe Start" system was gauged on a county-by-county basis, and Snohomish County was in Phase 2 of 4. No county reached the limitless Phase 4, and although some counties applied to move to this phase in late June when case counts were much lower, state officials removed the opportunity to do so.
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