WA virus order expiring, counties get more flexibility

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee on Friday announced he would not extend the state’s COVID-19 stay-at-home order beyond Sunday and would allow counties more flexibility to apply to advance through the current four-phase reopening plan using updated benchmarks that some larger counties had been seeking.

The stay-at-home order — in place since March 23 — was set to expire Sunday night. With the addition of two more counties Thursday, 26 of the state’s 39 counties are currently approved for Phase 2, which allows restaurants and taverns to reopen at half capacity with limited table sizes, hair and nail salons and barber shops to resume business, and retail stores to reopen for in-store purchases at 30% capacity. It also allows additional outdoor recreation and gatherings with no more than five people outside of a person’s household.

Beginning Monday, counties can apply to move to the next phase or to add new business activity, with the applications assessed on several targets, including whether the counties have had fewer than 25 new cases per 100,000 residents over a two-week period.

Applications will also be measured on the reproductive rate of the virus in the county, hospital bed capacity, and number of outbreaks in workplaces and nursing homes. The counties also have to submit testing data and target number of confirmed cases and contacts reached in contact-tracing investigations. The guidance offered by the governor’s office says the applications will be considered as a whole, and not meeting one target won’t necessarily prevent the state from approving the county’s application. (AP)

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