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Back in Phase 2, Tacoma takes advantage of weekend sunshine

The nice weather allowed restaurants to fill outdoor patios and helped people get outside.

TACOMA, Wash. — Governor Jay Inslee's Office is asking people to "Take it Outside" to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Outdoor dining and recreation in Pierce County is crucial right now because the county was one of three in Washington pushed back to Phase 2. The weekend's sunshine made it easy for people to get outside.

"It's kind of shocking,” said Tacoma resident Keenan Donahue. “It kind of came out of nowhere. We've been loving it.”

Donahue and his family spent Sunday afternoon at Dickman Mill Park to celebrate his niece's third birthday. It was the first time the extended family had been together since before the pandemic. It was a welcomed outdoor celebration as Phase 2 allows for 15 people to gather outside - with five people for indoor gatherings.

"It's all about being smart about it, and most of these people actually have vaccines already," said Donahue.

As health care workers race to vaccinate people, Inslee tweeted he is following his advice. He posted a photo outside biking the Klickitat Trail.

"We're close. We're so close. It's so hard," said Manny Contreras, who was out to eat in downtown Tacoma with family.

Contreras also works at a restaurant in Tacoma.

Restaurant indoor capacity is back at 25%, so restaurants and bars are relying on the limited outdoor space.

"Now that it's this gorgeous weather, it's like swarms of people are wanting to come in and eat, and it's like, yeah, we need that business,” said Contreras. “These restaurants need that business to survive, but it's like we can only accommodate so many people, and it's tough.”

Contreras hopes things will be better this summer but said to get there everyone needs to do their part. The state will evaluate phases once again on May 3.

RELATED: Washington state boosts COVID-19 testing for variants, even with vaccinations on the rise

"We will be better off following these mandates for just two or three more weeks," said Contreras.

On April 16, Cowlitz, Pierce, and Whitman counties moved back to Phase 2 of the state's reopening plan due to a rise in COVID-19 cases and hospitalization rates. At the time, Pierce County's case rate was 268 per 100,000 people between March 20 and April 2, with a hospitalization rate of 6.4 between March 24 and March 30.

Shortly after it was announced those three counties would be moving back to Phase 2, health officials in King and Snohomish counties warned they were at risk of rolling back as well.

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.