After the state’s first evaluation under a new COVID-19 reopening plan, Skagit County will remain in Phase 3.
In an announcement Monday, Gov. Jay Inslee determined three of the state’s 39 counties — Cowlitz, Pierce and Whitman — would roll back to the prior phase, in accordance with the Healthy Washington plan.
According to state data, Skagit County reported 73.5 cases per 100,000 residents over 14 days, well below the threshold of 200 per 100,000 as outlined in the plan.
However, the state Department of Health evaluates data on a 10-day lag, which gives the agency time to confirm the accuracy of the numbers. This means a recent spike in COVID-19 cases in the county was not considered in Monday’s evaluation.
If the county were to exceed both the 200 cases per 100,000 residents — or about 260 cases — and report five or more hospitalizations over the prior seven days, it would have been rolled back to Phase 2, which limits capacity to 25% for many businesses and gatherings rather than 50%.
County spokesperson Laura Han said three residents were hospitalized last week, but because this metric is new, it isn’t clear what seven-day period the state looks at.
Originally, the new plan would have required counties meet both the case count and hospitalization goals to stay in their current phase. However, Inslee revised the plan Friday to only require meeting the goals in one of the two.
Han said the change Friday shows the Governor’s Office is considering more than just the spread of COVID-19.
“Data and statewide stakeholders have been indicating to the Governor’s office that there would be considerable mental health impacts if we roll back,” she said in an email. “We think that that’s what the Governor is responding to which makes enough sense — especially since vaccination rollout is going pretty well.”
That being said, Han said the rate of new cases is increasing in the county, and puts it in danger of moving back a phase at the next evaluation May 3 — if the criteria doesn’t change.
“We really need people to continue practicing masking and social distancing, even if you’re vaccinated, to bring spread back down,” she said.