Governor Jay Inslee has decided to allow the opening of more businesses and the lifting of restrictions for activities in Washington state. This decision was made while COVID-19 case numbers once again increased, likely due to more people returning to indoor activities with the cold Washington fall weather.
The last five counties still under Phase 1 restrictions, Benton, Chelan, Douglas, Franklin, and Yakima counties may now begin to transition to phase 2. The other 85% of Washington counties-which were already in Phase 2-may now allow 25% capacity in movie theaters and libraries. Restaurants in phase two counties may also begin seating six people to a table as well as allow low-risk outdoor sports to resume.
Although some restrictions are being lifted, wearing masks and maintaining a 6-foot distance is still mandatory at outdoor locations. Dr. Schiffer from the Fred Hutch Cancer Research Center advocated for the continued use of masks, stating that research not only shows masks protect against the virus but can also minimize the strength of an infection.
The Washington Department of Health (DOH) still recommends taking as many precautions as possible, as numbers continue to rise. Although the rate of infection has grown amongst all Washington age groups, college students at University of Washington and Washington State University presently hold the highest COVID-19 infections. With Inslee’s changes, Secretary of Health John Wiesman stated, “We must be especially careful to avoid gathering in groups inside, including with family and friends outside of our immediate household. That includes limiting group size, gathering outside or improving ventilation inside, cleaning and washing hands frequently, wearing face coverings (including inside our homes,) and staying over six feet apart.”
As of Oct.14, Washington state has recorded over 100,000 COVID cases, with more than 2,000 deaths.