Washington State Revamps COVID Recovery Plan
Washington State has been on a long road to recovery ever since Governor Jay Inslee first issued his original “Stay Home-Stay Heathy” proclamation on March 23, 2020. The Governor has now amended his original Stay Home order twelve times. The last two amendments saw the Governor begin to rollback the “County by County Phased Reopening” plan in late December 2020 and ultimately replace that plan with the new “Healthy Washington – Roadmap to Recovery” plan effective January 11, 2021.
Many of the regulations Washingtonians are used to from the past months living through the Phased Reopening plan will stay in place. But the new plan significantly adjusts the structure the plan including the relevant “phases” and how Washington’s citizens are grouped as they progress through the phases.
Under the “Phased Reopening” plan, each of Washington’s counties progressed through the phases on its own. Under the new “Roadmap to Recovery” plan, Washington is divided into 9 regions each of which will move through the phases as a unit. The regions are broken down as follows:
- East: Adams, Asotin, Ferry, Garfield, Lincoln, Stevens, Pend Oreille, Spokane, and Whitman Counties;
- North: Island, San Juan, Skagit and Whatcom Counties;
- North Central: Chelan, Douglas, Grant and Okanogan Counties;
- Northwest: Clallam, Jefferson, Kitsap and Mason Counties;
- Puget Sound: King, Pierce and Snohomish Counties.
- South Central: Benton, Columbia, Franklin, Kittitas, Walla Walla, and Yakima Counties;
- Southwest: Clark, Cowlitz, Klickitat, Skamania and Wahkiakum Counties; and
- West: Grays Harbor, Lewis, Pacific and Thurston Counties;
The new plan also scraps the familiar 4-Phase structure of the “Phased Reopening” Plan. When he originally announced the Phased Reopening plan, Governor Inslee explained that (absent early-entry waivers) each county would need to spend at least three weeks in each of the 4 phases of the “Phased Reopening” plan. Thus, under ideal conditions, it initially appeared that a county could potentially make it to Phase 4 by the first week of August 2020 (or earlier in July with early-entry waivers). Ultimately, however, no county ever reached Phase 4. In July 2020, about half of the state had made it to Phase 3 while the other half languished in Phase 2. Then in late July, Governor Inslee froze all counties from moving forward within the 4 phase structure as infection rates increased.
(screenshot from COVID-19 risk assessment dashboard)
The new “Road to Recovery” plan has only two phases. Each Region will begin in Phase 1, as of January 11, 2021. The Washington Department of Health will advance a region to Phase 2 once it meets four metrics: (i) Decreasing trend in 14-day rate of new COVID-19 cases per 100K population, (ii) Decreasing trend in 14-day rate of new COVID-19 hospital admissions per 100K population; (iii) Average 7-day percent occupancy of ICU staffed beds less than 90%; and (iv) 7-day percent positivity of COVID-19 tests less than 10%.
To remain in Phase 2, a region must continue to meet at least of three of the following metrics: (i) Decreasing or flat trend in 14-day rate of new COVID-19 cases per 100K population, (ii) Decreasing or flat trend in 14-day rate of new COVID-19 hospital admissions per 100K population; (iii) Average 7-day percent occupancy of ICU staffed beds less than 90%; and (iv) 7-day percent positivity of COVID-19 tests less than 10%. If at any point a Phase 2 region meets less than 3 of these metrics, it will be moved back to Phase 1.
Like the “Phased Reopening” plan, the “Road to Recovery” plan allows different types of activities or sizes of gatherings depending on the Phase:
(Screenshot from “Healthy Washington – Roadmap to Recovery” Plan at page 4)
“Any activities not specifically addressed in the Healthy Washington-Roadmap to Recovery plan are subject to previously issued guidance related to that activity as it applies to the region’s current or subsequent phase,” according to the Governor’s latest Proclamation. The Proclamation also incorporates the Secretary of Health’s July 24, 2020 statewide facial coverings order.
More information relevant to the “Roadmap to Recovery” plan can be found at the following links:
- The Plan Document;
- Proclamation No. 20-25.12;
- Department of Labor & Industries conditions for operations for employers – WAC 296-800-14035;
- COVID-19 Resources and Information;
- COVID-19 Reopening Guidance for Businesses and Workers;