Inslee announces new COVID reopening plan for Washington

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — Gov. Jay Inslee says some COVID-19 restrictions in Washington will be eased beginning next week and the state will change its reopening plan to move from a county-based oversight system to one focused on regions.

At a news conference Tuesday, Inslee said the state’s new guidelines would go into effect Jan. 11 and include “a small resumption of some activities statewide.”

Inslee said some live entertainment with very tight capacity restrictions and some fitness programs would be allowed.

Also, instead of having each of Washington’s 39 counties acted separately, the state will divide them into eight geographic regions based on health system resources when considering virus oversight.

“Because health care systems are regional and we know that the virus does not respect county boundaries. This makes sense not only from a public health perspective but from a health care delivery one as well,” Inslee said.

All counties will begin in Phase 1 and the reduction of COVID-19 metrics will determine when it advances into Phase 2. In Phase 2, restaurants could reopen at 25% capacity and sports events with limited capacity would be allowed as well.

In January, the first confirmed case in the United States was recorded, a Snohomish County man who had traveled to China. A month later, the state also saw the nation’s first lethal outbreak at a nursing home in Kirkland.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, there have been more than 256,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Washington and more than 3,480 deaths.

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