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Three Washington counties roll back to Phase 2 reopening after Inslee eases criteria

Washington counties that failed two metrics – coronavirus case rate over two weeks and hospitalization rate over one week – are moving back one phase in reopening.

SPOKANE, Wash. — Failing to keep COVID-19 case rates and hospitalizations down recently, Cowlitz, Pierce and Whitman counties are being moved back to Phase 2 of Washington state's reopening plan on April 16.

That means businesses, including restaurants and gyms, will once again be operating at a maximum of 25% capacity. All other counties will remain in Phase 3, which allows for 50% capacity indoors. 

Gov. Jay Inslee recently announced counties must fail two metrics – case rate over two weeks and hospitalization rate over one week – in order to be moved back one phase. The change makes it easier for counties to remain in their current phase. 

However, Cowlitz, Pierce, and Whitman counties have seen a rise in cases and hospitalizations, according to data from the Washington State Department of Health. Whitman County saw a case rate of 416 and a hospitalization rate of 5.9.

RELATED: Whitman County one of three moving back to Phase 2 of Washington's reopening plan 

In order to stay in Phase 3, larger counties with more than 50,000 residents have to have fewer than 200 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people over 14 days and fewer than five new COVID-19 hospitalizations per 100,000 people over seven days. 

Smaller counties with populations of 50,000 or fewer people must have fewer than 100 new COVID-19 case over 14 days and fewer than three hospitalizations over seven days.

Health officials throughout Washington state have expressed concerns about rising COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, a trend that is happening nationally. Millions of Washingtonians still need to be vaccinated against COVID-19, Inslee said, and eligibility will expand to all residents 16 and over on April 15

The next phase evaluation of counties is slated for May 3.