On Thursday, January 28th, Governor Jay Inslee announced some major changes to the state’s “Healthy Washington” plan. This means that restaurants in Seattle will be able to reopen 25 percent of the time for indoor dining starting Monday February 1 and will stay open at least until February 15. The reason is that the Washington regions no longer have four COVID-related Need to achieve benchmarks to allow indoor dining with a capacity of 25 percent, but only three out of four. The Puget Sound region – which includes King County – has met the new requirements. This is only one of two regions in the state.
The entire state entered the first phase of Inslee’s new Healthy Washington plan on Jan. 11. All dining rooms were closed and the districts were grouped into eight regions. Previously, the regions had to record a 10 percent decrease in COVID cases over a period of 14 days in order to advance into the second phase and reopen the dining rooms. a 10 percent decrease in hospital entry rates; Intensive occupancy below 90 percent; and overall COVID test positivity below 10 percent. However, no region had met all four benchmarks and had advanced before Thursday.
As part of the complex seating guidelines for outdoor and outdoor seating, 25 percent of the food inside is allowed to be strongly ventilated. But any facility trying to do this had to use a CO2 monitor to track airflow in the dining room. Now, it seems, there is no longer any need for it. However, the bars have yet to offer a full menu to open up for indoor dining.
Inslee was optimistic about recent COVID developments, noting that vaccination efforts are becoming smoother and hospital admissions are decreasing. In recent weeks, however, the pressure had also increased to recalibrate the deadlocked reopening plan. Several state lawmakers introduced Senate Bill 5114 on Jan. 20, which, if passed, would immediately reopen all businesses with 25 percent capacity in all regions, regardless of the number. This bill, which is backed by two Democratic senators, is unlikely to be passed, but it has opened a heated discussion of the economic impact on current restrictions.
By relaxing the requirements for progress, Inslee can make efforts to override its mandates for the time being and make things a little easier for restaurants, whether confused about the “open air” guidelines or made big efforts have to add some tables CO2 monitoring.
Once the Puget Sound officially moves into phase two, the numbers will continue to be graded on a regular basis. Only now is the data checked every two weeks instead of weekly in order to give the company a little more time for necessary adjustments. If COVID cases reappear – always a danger in the face of contagious new variants – Inslee warned of a possible relapse that would require the dining rooms to be closed again.
In the meantime, Washingtoners will continue to closely monitor the increasing pace of vaccinations. This is the most likely path to a wider reopening. All citizens 65 and older are entitled to the shot, as are key frontline health workers and those in long-term care facilities: Inslee recently set a goal of vaccinating 45,000 people a day. However, restaurant staff may have to wait a while before they are next in line.
“We still have to be very careful in the coming days,” said Inslee.