In early January Gov. Jay Inslee announced his Healthy Washington reopening plan, which swapped the state's county-based system to a regional-based system and established four criteria those regions would need to meet to move through the phases.
At a press conference today, Inslee said regions will now only need to meet three of the four criteria to move onto the next phase. He also said the state health department will evaluate whether regions are meeting those metrics on a biweekly basis rather than on a weekly basis.
As a result of these changes, the West and Puget Sound regions will be eligible to move to Phase 2 on Monday, assuming both of those regions continue to meet their metrics. Counties in those regions include Snohomish, King, Pierce, Grays Harbor, Pacific, Thurston, Lewis.
Among other things, moving onto Phase 2 would bring back indoor dining and indoor entertainment venues (museums, concert halls, bowling etc.) back at 25% capacity.
Inslee credited the vaccine rollout as "a significant reason we've taken this step today."
With more doses from the federal government expected in the next few weeks, and with the state and counties beginning to stand up mass vaccination centers, in "the next couple months" the state plans to vaccinate 89% of people over 65. Those people face the highest risk of death due to COVID-19.
According to the latest data from the state DOH's dashboard, Washington has so far fully vaccinated 1.1% of its population and partially vaccinated 6%.
Inslee also pointed to the recent statewide drop in case rates and his empathy with "businesses that are struggling right now" as other reasons for easing criteria requirements.
So, yes, the Governor is changing up the structure of the reopening plan for whatever reason you want him to. But, as is always the case with COVID-19, nothing is set in stone.
Last week Public Health Seattle and King County health chief Dr. Jeff Duchin warned that the presence of a faster-spreading and more virulent strain of the virus in Washington means "we're living in the shadow of a COVID-19 volcano," and Inslee said if that strain hits "big time" and earlier than expected then "we'll go back into a safer zone in a heartbeat."
But right now, Inslee said conversations with disease modelers led him to believe that we'll have vaccinated a vast majority of the most vulnerable before the potential infection rate increases.
Washington deputy secretary for COVID Response Lacy Fehrenbach said increased mobility due to "people being out" means that it's even more important for us to wear (triple-layer or doubled up) masks "especially indoors," to keep our distance from others, and to wash our hands.
Inslee cautioned against throwing Super Bowl parties, which is a thing I forgot might happen.
“We can’t let the virus win the Super Bowl," he said.