With more than 1.62 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and close to 95,000 deaths in the U.S at the time of writing, all 50 states are currently on their way to loosening stay-at-home orders and reopening recreations and businesses.
To ensure a safe process of reopening Washington state, Gov. Jay Inslee has extended his “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order until May 31 for the general public.
According to the Washington State Department of Health (WADOH), as of May 20, Wash. state has nearly 20,000 confirmed cases and more than 1,000 deaths. After this stay-at-home order has been lifted, Gov. Inslee has outlined a “Safe Start” plan to gradually reopen all social, recreational and business activities within the state.
The “Safe Start” plan can be broken down into four phases and five categories: High-risk populations, recreation, gatherings, travel and business, or employers. As reported by the Seattle Times, phase one started May 1, phase two will begin June 1, phase three begins June 22 and phase four is set for July 13. There are 39 counties in Wash. state, and the majority are still at phase one of the reopening plan.
In Phase one, high-risk populations shall continue to follow the initial stay-at-home order as advised by Gov. Inslee back in mid-March. According to the Washington State Coronavirus Response, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states people age 65 or older or those with underlying medical conditions are considered a part of the high-risk population.
Within phase one, outdoor recreations such as hiking, fishing and golfing have been authorized to resume with implemented precautions and restrictions. As for gatherings, social meetings have been prohibited, however, drive-in spiritual services are allowed with one household per vehicle. For businesses and employers, only essential workers are of need. Traveling should only be conducted if it’s crucial. Currently, continuation of construction sites, medical and dental services, landscaping, automobile sales, pet walking and curbside pick-up for retail are allowed.
As of May 22, there are 21 counties in Wash. state that have been approved to move into phase two and 11 counties that are able to request a variance application. A variance application is a request to move or depart from current zoning requirements. Each application request is approved or denied by the Secretary of Health.
Pierce, Snohomish and King counties currently don’t qualify for phase two. However, Pierce County is hoping to place an application soon. To qualify for phase two, counties must have less than ten new cases per 100,000 residents in a two-week period, as stated by the Washington State Coronavirus Response.
To analyze the eligibility of a county moving on to another phase, every county must provide a variance application that provides information on tests conducted within a three-week period, plans to respond to outbreaks in concentrated areas, other plans that include case management services and housing for people in need of isolation due to COVID-19. Each application is evaluated by the local board, local hospitals, and the county commission/council who vote and decide whether the applied county can move to a new phase.
Phases two through four will progressively increase social gatherings, businesses and recreations. By phase four, gatherings with more than 50 people with applied distancing, events and activities can resume. It’s important for Wash. state residents to continue to follow the current “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order if there’s any chance for all counties within the state to move into phase four by the designated date. For more information, visit https://coronavirus.wa.gov/what-you-need-know/safe-start.
The Puyallup Post is the award-winning news media of Pierce College Puyallup in Puyallup, Washington. Copyright The Puyallup Post 2018. Find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Youtube @thepuyalluppost