King County leaders and health officials announced a plan to resume more activities and businesses starting next week.
Executive Dow Constantine announced a "big step forward" when the county applies for a modified Phase 1 plan on June 1.
The plan will "move to allow more businesses can be open and more activity, restaurants with limited outdoor seating, small gatherings with those outside your immediate family, more construction activity to help our economy rebuild and recover and personal services, like hair stylists and barbers," Constantine said.
Along with outdoor dining, the plan would reopen some in-store retail shopping and gives new guidelines for salons, barbers and other personal services to resume.
Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan hinted late Friday that the city officials will look for ways to potentially close streets and sidewalks to expand restaurant outdoor space, similar to changes in Portland, Calgary, and Vancouver, British Columbia.
The county plans to apply to Washington state for the modifications on June 1, and a swift approval is anticipated.
Constantine made his remarks along with local Health Officer Dr. Jeff Duchin on Friday afternoon, shortly after Gov. Jay Inlsee announced the statewide 'Stay Home, Stay Healthy' orders would expire on May 31.
"Clearly if we all just hid in our homes forever, we would have a significant impact on reducing the virus but that is not a viable plan," Constantine said. "Here in King County, we’ve managed to knock this down to levels where we believe we can shift from this broad, blunt instrument of the stay-at-home order to a specific contact tracing, paired with the vigilance of every resident, in making sure that they are wearing a face mask, washing their hands, avoiding unnecessary contacts, never going out when they’re ill and doing all the public health recommended measures."
Duchin said that everyone, and especially high-risk groups, need to understand the risk.
"Though we are able to move forward carefully… we are still asking the high risk groups to understand they remain at high risk, this virus isn’t going away, and there really isn’t a pre-COVID normal that we can return to. We all need to understand the risk and what we can do personally and as a community to reduce that risk," Duchin said.
"We do know that activities have been increasing for the last three weeks, so for the next couple of weeks, we’ll see what impact that has on our case rates and our ability to manage outbreaks if they occur and so on," Duchin said.
"We would rather go carefully and not have to go backwards than do too much and risk having outbreaks again that would cause transmission to potentially become uncontrolled."
It's just one step towards recovery after months of restrictions, Constantine said.
"We are not out of the woods yet," Constantine said. "Even with these openings our economy has a long way to go before our economy is anywhere close to where we were three months ago."
Still, it was a bit of good news for small businesses.
Ryan O’Toole of Greenwood’s Valhalla Sandwiches, said the restaurant, which has a small outdoor seating area, would welcome the potential for more customers.
"Anything that we could use this spot to drive more business would be awesome, for sure," O'Toole said.