In a press conference on Friday Gov. Jay Inslee announced the extension of the Stay Home, Stay Healthy order until at least May 31. Along with the new proclamation, however, he revealed the plan for reopening the entire state in four phases. At minimum, it looks like we won't hit phase four until mid-July, but smaller counties who haven't been hit so hard by COVID-19 can apply to the Department of Health to open earlier.
Here are those phases:
"We have not won this fight with this virus," Gov. Inslee warned, adding that we'll have to continue to monitor The Dials, aka the COVID-19 Risk assessment dashboard, which he unveiled on Wednesday. "None of these dials are in the safety zone right now,' Inslee said.
During Phases 1 through 3, high risk populations must continue to Stay Home and Stay Healthy, but in Phase 2 we can start camping again and playing HORSE at the basketball court so long as we're with fewer than 5 people not in our germ group. During Phase 3 gatherings of up to 50 people will be permitted, and in Phase 4 we can go back to normal "with physical distancing" in place.
Certain kinds of businesses sectors will open up thusly: Phase 1 essentially appeases the suburbs, opening up car dealerships, car washes, car culture in general (including drive-in church services), pet walkers, and landscapers. According to Inslee's remarks, we're halfway into Phase 1, with "retail curbside pickup; automobile sales; and car washes" getting protocols to reopen with restrictions "by mid-May."
Phase 2 allows stiffs to return to the office, construction workers to start new jobs, full manufacturing to resume, and hairdressers and barbers can start making us presentable again—just in time for us to file into restaurants working with dining rooms at half capacity. During Phase 3, we take a vacation if we have any money left, invite more people out to dinner, go to libraries and museums, and all other businesses can open, save nightclubs, big venues, and stadiums. When we hit Phase 4, we can finally dance again. But until scientists develop a vaccine, which could take another year or two, we all have to keep our distance.
Inslee said we'll need to leave three weeks "minimum" between phases. If infection rates and other metrics jump up or remain dangerously high between any of those phases, we'll have to slow our roll.
The counties who can apply for a waiver "in a matter of days" to reopen sooner represent 3% of the state population, and include Columbia, Garfield, Jefferson, Lincoln, Pend Oreille, Skamania, Wahkiakum, Kittitas, Ferry, Grays Harbor. The way it will work: Local health departments will look at the numbers and recommend moving on to the next phase. Then county commissioners and executives can vote to reopen. Inslee said his office will assess whether other larger counties can apply for a waiver after careful consideration of The Dials.
Inslee said there's a "very good chance schools will reopen in the fall," so long as we're good! The governor batted away questions about needing additional enforcement to make sure that people follow orders, noting that vast majorities of the state support the restrictions, and pointing to only one lawsuit from the Attorney General's office against a corporate landlord violating the eviction moratorium.
In order to make any of this stick, we'll need to drastically ramp up testing, especially when we start returning to work, Inslee added. Increasing testing capacity will largely depend on the federal government tapping the Defense Production Act to procure the supplies we need—swabs, transport fluid, and biohazard bags—for the tests.