At a press conference Thursday, Gov. Jay Inslee said he had good news to share in that all eight regions of the state would be paused in Phase 2 of his COVID-19 reopening plan.
That means there are no plans to move any areas of the state back to the more restrictive Phase 1.
But when it came time to take questions, most reporters wanted to know not about Phase 2, but plans for a Phase 3.
Inslee said it could take weeks to come up with a plan for further loosening or eliminating restrictions.
Whatever and whenever that is, it apparently will not be based on the guidelines used for his Healthy Washington – Roadmap to Recovery plan.
Those metrics, involving COVID-19 case rates, hospital admissions, number of people in intensive care units at hospitals and percentage of positive tests for the virus, are not expected to be the metrics going forward, Inslee said.
Reporter question: Why doesn’t the state already have a Phase 3 plan, so businesses can better prepare for when they are allowed to open up more widely?
“We need information to be able to do that in an effective way,” Inslee said. “We want to give people the truth. We want to give people as much predictability as we can provide them. We know how important that is to businesses and everyone else.”
But Inslee said just coming up with a plan that “may not come to pass” would not do anyone any good.
Reporter question: If Phase 3 is weeks away, does that mean there won’t be any easing of restrictions until at least the end of March?
“Not necessarily,” the governor responded. “It could be earlier than that if we get some clarity on the variance. If we get further clarity on the ability of the vaccines to knock out the variance, that could happen before then.”
It was one of several times Inslee raised concerns about variants to the coronavirus that have been identified in the state.
This week, the state Department of Health said a South African variant of the virus was found in Washington, and 19 cases of a British variant have been identified.
But with case rates dropping dramatically in the state there still could be a Phase 3 before the end of March, Inslee said.
“If we find a consensus across the state about how to have business openings under certain conditions it could be before that,” he said.
Reporter question: Restaurants have asked that Phase 2 be adjusted to allow 50 percent capacity (up from the current 25 percent), will the state consider that request?
“Certainly,” Inslee responded. “We will be talking to the restaurants. We will be looking at the variant science. We will be looking at the information that’s coming in about the vaccines. We will be looking at the ability to have doses that we need. We’re going to be looking at all those things. Certainly we’ll be talking to the restaurants, as well.”
Reporter question: Who will Inslee be working with to develop a plan for a Phase 3?
Inslee answered that question by creating a hypothetical minute-by-minute schedule for his day Friday. He said he would begin his day by looking at an epidemiological chart “I’ll probably do that before I have my slice of toast.”
He then talked about how his day would continue with him checking in with specific state health officials and members of his staff.
“I don’t know how specific to be. We will be talking to everybody we can find on planet Earth to help us answer these questions,” Inslee said.
Reporter question: Can restrictions be eased to allow parents to watch their kids play outdoor sports?
“We’re thinking about those issues … we’re giving thought to what we can do on spectators at some of these athletic programs. So it is something that we will be thinking about and I’m hopeful we can make progress on it,” Inslee said.