Whitman County to remain in Phase 2

Washington state health department will reevaluate current phases in two weeks

JAYCE CARRAL, Evergreen reporter

Whitman County will stay in Phase 2 of the state’s COVID-19 reopening plan for at least the next two weeks. 

All counties in Washington will remain in their current phases as part of a “two week pause,” Gov. Jay Inslee said during an 11 a.m. press conference today. After two weeks pass, every county will be reevaluated. 

“For the past several weeks, epidemiologists have observed a fourth wave developing of COVID,” Inslee said. 

Inslee’s decision for the pause was made partly because there has been a plateau in the state’s fourth wave data. He said this is good news. 

There were two large spikes in positive COVID-19 cases in December and January, Inslee said. The spike dropped for a while but rose again when the state entered its fourth wave, which Inslee announced April 22. 

There have been increased COVID-related hospitalizations, including among younger residents, but the state’s death rate has gone down, Inslee said. 

There has been a plateau in the state’s positive cases within the last two weeks, especially in the last few days, Inslee said. 

He said 54 percent of vaccine-eligible Washington residents have received the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and 38 percent of residents are fully vaccinated. 

“There is reason to have hope that if we were to continue progress on vaccination, sometime in the summer we could potentially have much more normal activities in our state,” Inslee said. “But this is dependent on our continuing to increase vaccination rates.” 

Inslee said residents who have been vaccinated should be encouraging others to do so as well. 

He said there have been concerns about increasing vaccination rates in the last two weeks.

The state is “on the cusp” of approving COVID-19 vaccines safe for children 12 years and older, Inslee said. 

One of the reasons for the pause is because there are not enough people vaccinated, said Washington Secretary of Health Umair Shah. 

There have been over five million vaccine doses administered within the state, he said. 

“I’m hoping this pause will allow us to continue to see trends going in the better direction,” Shah said.  

Inslee said the state’s economy has been showing early signs of growth. 

Whitman County’s Phase 2 safety guidelines include a maximum 25 percent capacity for stores, restaurants and worship places, according to the state’s reopening plan. Indoor gatherings are limited to five people from different households; outdoor gatherings are limited to 15 people from different households. 

Over 100,000 COVID-related complaints have been filed within the state since the pandemic began, and there have been over $7.3 million in fines, Inslee said. 

“Nonadherence to our currently existing safety protocols put people in danger. That’s just a fact,” he said.  

Along with Whitman County, two other counties — Pierce and Cowlitz — are also staying in Phase 2. All other counties in the states are in Phase 3, according to the state’s reopening plan. 

More information about the county’s vaccination efforts and reopening guidelines can be found on Whitman County Public Health’s website.