Island County is among 10 Washington counties that can reopen more quickly under new criteria as part of the state’s four-part recovery plan, Gov. Jay Inslee announced during a press conference Tuesday.
Inslee’s announcement means businesses in those counties can apply to move to the second phase and resume operations with special safety guidelines intended to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The new counties eligible to apply with the state Department of Health to reopen more quickly include: Adams, Spokane, Mason, Thurston, Lewis, Clark, Clallam, Kitsap, Island and San Juan counties.
"This is always subject to change depending on what's happening with the virus," Inslee said. "We think this is an incredibly scientific, thoughtful way to make decisions."
As part of getting state approval to advance to Phase 2, counties must have hospital capacity to handle a rise in COVID-19 cases.
Among other requirements, counties that apply for a Phase 2 variance must have fewer than 10 new cases per 100,000 population over a 14-day span. See all the guidelines here.
Previously, of the state's 39 counties, only those with a population of less than 75,000 and no new cases of COVID-19 in the last three weeks, among other stipulations, could apply for a quicker reopening.
“This criteria for the next phase of our recovery plan is consistent with the CDC guidelines for opening regions nationwide,” Inslee said. He said that the move will allow more economic opportunities for those counties, “while still providing the protections we need for the health of our citizens.”
In Phase 2 under Inslee’s “Safe Start” plan, restaurants can reopen with reduced capacity, as can retailers, barbershops, hairstylists and other professional services if they put safety protocols in place.
Already, 10 of Washington’s 39 counties have received the OK to the second phase. Those counties are: Asotin, Columbia, Ferry, Garfield, Lincoln, Pend Oreille, Skamania, Stevens, Wahkiakum and Whitman counties.
Inslee said that while the state has seen progress — including a recent reduction in daily deaths reported — he said "we’re so far from being out of the woods,” noting that there are still 150-200 new cases confirmed a day in the state.
“This has not passed," he said. "We have flattened the curve, but it continues to haunt us.”
Secretary of Health John Wiesman said no decision has been made as to when counties can move to Phase 3.
"That information will be determined in the next two to three weeks,” he said at the news conference.
Phase 3 will allow group sizes of 50 people, non-essential travel, and gyms and recreational facilities to reopen. Restaurants could increase capacity to 75%. Bars could open to 25% capacity.
WATCH: Update on State Response to COVID-19 https://t.co/KkBT7kP3qG— Governor Jay Inslee (@GovInslee) May 19, 2020