Governor Jay Inslee and Health Secretary John Wiesman have put a pause on counties moving to Phase 4 of the “Safe Start” phased approach of reopening businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.
They cited rising cases of infections across the state and concerns about continued spread of the virus. Phase 4, they noted, would essentially mean no restrictions, something that Inslee and Wiesman consider impossible at this time. Infection rates are most serious in Yakima County where retailers have been ordered to refuse business to anyone not wearing a mask inside a store. Elsewhere around the state, Inslee’s order to wear a mask outside and inside is a misdemeanor offense but the Governor has said he does not expect there to be any enforcement efforts including inside stores.
Wiesman said he would work with Inslee in the next couple of weeks to consider a modified approach for moving beyond Phase 3 of reopening. A total of eight counties were eligible to move to Phase 4 when Inslee announced the pause last Saturday.
“The best thing Washingtonians can do to slow the spread of the virus and save lives is to wear facial coverings, continue to maintain physical distancing and good hygiene practices,” Wiesman said. “Now that testing supplies are available, it is critical to get a test if you have any symptoms suggestive of COVID-19 or have been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19.”