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caption: Pierce, Cowlitz, and Whitman counties will be required to move back to Phase 2 of Washington state's phased reopening plan, Governor Jay Inslee announced on Monday, April 12, 2021.
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Pierce, Cowlitz, and Whitman counties will be required to move back to Phase 2 of Washington state's phased reopening plan, Governor Jay Inslee announced on Monday, April 12, 2021.
Credit: Washington State Governor's Office

Social distancing to retighten in Pierce, Cowlitz, and Whitman counties amid rising Covid cases

Pierce, Whitman, and Cowlitz counties have been moved back to Phase 2 under Washington state’s reopening guidelines, Governor Jay Inslee's office announced on Monday.

The three counties all currently have Covid case counts above the state’s threshold for remaining in Phase 3.

“These metric trends are driven by the virus and we must continue to do everything we can to sharpen our focus and keep Covid-19 activity down. We are so close to the end of the tunnel here — we have made tremendous progress and we must keep our focus,” Inslee said in a written statement. “It’s like a football game; we have done 95 yards on a 99 yard-drive. We can’t let up now. These are not punitive actions; they are to save lives and protect public health.”

Phase 2 means more restrictions on retail, indoor dining, and spectator gatherings, with capacity capped at 25%, starting Friday.

“It’s more harmful to small business, it’s more harmful to the economy,” said Anthony Anton, President and CEO of the Washington Hospitality Association.

“The average full service restaurant, at 25 percent will lose a little over $18,000 a month. If they’re fully closed, they would lose on average $25,000 a month. So it gives a sense that the debt is still occurring and how hard it is for restaurants.”

Anton said the announcement puts a damper on some of the progress they’ve made, like restaurant workers getting vaccinated and being able to operate at 50% capacity under Phase 3.

To remain in Phase 3, the number of new Covid cases must stay below 200, or hospitalizations must be under five for every 100,000 people, in the past two weeks. King County will remain in Phase 3 despite rising Covid cases in the past few weeks.

For now, the rest of the state will remain in Phase 3. State health officials say they will evaluate the status of phased reopening again on May 3.