Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and Secretary of Health John Wiesman announced Saturday that the Washington State Department of Health is putting a pause on counties moving to Phase 4 through the state’s Safe Start phased approach. Rising COVID-19 cases across the state and concerns about continued spread of the COVID virus have made Phase 4 — which would essentially mean no restrictions — impossible at this time, the announcement said.
Prior to the announced pause, eight counties were eligible to move from Phase 3 to Phase 4.
“Phase 4 would mean a return to normal activity and we can’t do that now due to the continued rise in cases across the state,” Inslee said. “We all want to get back to doing all the things we love in Washington during the summer, and fully open our economy, but we aren’t there yet. This is an evolving situation and we will continue to make decisions based on the data.”
To slow the spread of the virus, Wieseman advised Washington residents “to wear facial coverings, continue to maintain physical distancing and good hygiene practices.” In addition, now that testing supplies are available, “it is critical to get a test if you have any symptoms suggestive of COVID-19 or have been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19,” he said.
Wiesman sent the following letter to local and tribal health leaders throughout the state on Saturday.
Dear Local and Tribal Health Leaders,
I am writing to let you know Governor Inslee and I have decided to pause progression to Phase 4 statewide.
We decided to prohibit any counties from moving into phase 4 at this time due to increasing COVID-19 activity across the state and significant rebounds in COVID-19 activity in several other states. The changes between Phase 3 and Phase 4, especially with regards to gathering size and occupancy rates, could further increase the spread of COVID-19 in our state, even in communities that have very low rates of disease. The progress we’ve made thus far is at risk, therefore we are making the prudent choice to slow down our phased approach to reopening.
In the next couple of weeks, I will work with Governor Inslee and his team to assess the need for a modified approach for moving beyond Phase 3. I will communicate that decision to you when we have more information. Counties that are currently able to apply to move from Phase 1 or 2 are still able to apply when eligible.
Thank you for your continued work to protect the health of Washingtonians during this unprecedented time.