University of Washington cherry blossom trees

You can still do lots of stuff inside, but I mean, have you been out lately?

We didn't get the usual presser from a regal-looking conference room at the state capitol, but governor Jay Inslee announced today that only three counties will move back to Phase 2 in the state's recovery plan: Pierce, Cowlitz, and Whitman. That means Seattle and the rest of King County are safe, from an economic reopening standpoint, for now.

The news arrives amid a fourth wave of Covid-19 and a few days before vaccination opens up to every adult in the state (at least those who aren't already chasing down shots). Coronavirus case counts have plateaued somewhat over the last week in and around Seattle, but they're still higher than they were during a surge last summer. Hospitalizations have climbed as well. Deaths, notably, have not, even accounting for the usual weekslong lag between a spike in cases and higher mortality rates. The region's high vaccination rate among seniors almost certainly has something to do with that.

Still, given the rise in cases, some in Seattle expected us to return to a more restricted state. But the governor tipped his hand last week that many counties would remain in Phase 3 when he altered the guidelines for the state's reopening plan. Previously, a large county would move back a phase if it failed to meet one of the following two standards:

  • Fewer than 200 cases per 100,000 residents every two weeks
  • Fewer than five hospitalizations per 100,000 residents every week

Last week, Inslee switched course, saying counties would have to miss both marks to return to Phase 2. King County just barely made the cut. Its case rate was 192.9, and its hospitalization rate was 4.

On March 22, the entire state moved to Phase 3, which meant greater indoor capacities for restaurants and gyms, among others. Today's evaluation of the state's public health situation is the first since that "boatload of good news" arrived. The next assessment will be on May 3.

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