A sign outside a Seattle cafe indicates the capacity limit inside during the COVID-19 pandemic. (MyNorthwest photo)
A large group of business organizations in Washington are urging Gov. Inslee to delay any decision to return some counties to a more restrictive COVID-19 phase for three more weeks.
The business groups said in a letter released on Friday that moving some counties back to Phase 2 would punish struggling businesses while doing little to stop the spread of COVID-19.
The letter was signed by nearly 70 state business groups, including the Association of Washington Business, Washington Hospitality Association, and numerous chambers of commerce across the state.
With COVID-19 vaccine eligibility in Washington state opening to everyone age 16 and older Thursday, Anthony Anton, head of the Washington Hospitality Association, says now is not the time to tighten pandemic rules.
“This should be a celebration. This should be the week that, like — hallelujah,” he said.
Anton is helping lead the effort to convince the governor to wait on any rollbacks until early May.
Inslee has said he will announce Monday if any counties will move backward because of high COVID-19 case and hospitalization rates. Any counties ordered to return to Phase 2 would have until Friday to make the changes. Currently, all counties in the state are in Phase 3.
In order to remain in Phase 3, large counties need to have 200 or fewer new cases per 100,000 residents over two weeks and five or fewer hospitalizations per 100,000 residents over the past week. Counties with a population under 50,000 need to have a rate of 100 or fewer total new cases over a two-week period and three or fewer hospitalizations over 7 days.
Gov. Inslee announced Friday that a county has to fail to meet both of the two metrics — case rates and hospitalization rates — to be rolled back.
According to state data, there are five counties in Washington that would move into Phase 2 under those updated guidelines as of Sunday: Adams, Douglas, Pend Oreille, Pierce, and Yakima.
In Phase 2, capacity for retail stores, worship services, indoor dining, fitness centers, gyms, salons, and various forms of indoor entertainment is reduced to 25%, down from the 50% capacity permitted in Phase 3. Establishments that only serve people ages 21 and up with no food will also have to close entirely in Phase 2.
Outdoor social gatherings in Phase 2 are limited to 15 people from outside of your household, with a maximum of two total households permitted to be in attendance. In Phase 3, up to 50 people are allowed at outdoor gatherings. There are some exceptions for spectator events.
The KIRO Radio Newsdesk contributed to this report.