Coronavirus Chronicles

Seattle Remains in Phase 2, But What's Next?

The entire state is in a reopening pause. The next stage of our recovery is less clear.

By Benjamin Cassidy February 26, 2021

Looks like we'll be chilling in single-household dining igloos—seen here at Ballard's San Fermo—for a while yet.

We've entered a very strange stretch of the coronavirus crisis. On Thursday, Washington governor Jay Inslee announced a "pause" of the state's reopening, meaning every region will remain in Phase 2 of the “Healthy Washington—Roadmap to Recovery” plan for the foreseeable future. At the same time, he didn't release any information on Phase 3, giving us no new activities to dream about as we shiver on patios or stare down empty indoor tables at restaurants.

For the cluster of counties labeled "Puget Sound," this new Seattle Freeze may bring disappointment for some. Our area met the state's standards for further reopening in its last update; in this formerly anarchist jurisdiction, daily case tallies have dropped to a few dozen even as indoor dining and other forms of metropolitan vitality returned in February.

But there's good reason to stay put in our current phase. As Inslee stressed during a press conference, multiple virus variants are spreading in our state, threatening to roil our vaccine effort. Earlier this week, the state's health department confirmed that the South African variant arrived in Washington this January and could reduce our vaccines' effectiveness. Meanwhile, our vaccine supply still lags behind our capacity to deliver it. Inslee did say we met the goal of 45,000 doses delivered in a day at least one time.

The impending approval of a one-shot Johnson and Johnson vaccine would boost that effort, as would more science; Inslee says he's closely monitoring studies on the variants and the vaccines and letting that guide the state's next recovery stage. When that will arrive, and what it will look like, remains anyone's guess.

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