OLYMPIA, Wash. — Washington's COVID-19 stay-at-home order expired Sunday, May 31 at midnight. The state's counties will now have more flexibility to apply to advance through the current four-phase reopening plan using updated benchmarks that some larger counties had been seeking.
Most counties are already approved for Phase 2, which allows restaurants and taverns to reopen at half capacity with limited table sizes, hair and nail salons, and barbershops to resume business, and for retail stores to reopen for in-store purchases at 30% capacity.
“We are able to do this thanks to millions of Washingtonians pulling together, in the face of sacrifice and suffering, and doing their part by staying home,” Inslee said during a press conference Friday. “But this does not mean that we are returning to normal. It means that after three months, we are successfully moving forward.”
Under the guidelines issued Friday, any county can apply, and the application will be assessed on several targets, including whether they’ve had fewer than 25 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents over a two-week period.
Previously, the state required counties to have fewer than 10 cases per 100,000 residents over a two-week period.
Counties will also still be required to demonstrate their hospital system's readiness to handle potential COVID-19 cases, testing capacity, contact tracing, and protecting vulnerable populations.
Larger counties, such as King, Pierce, and Snohomish, that are still in Phase 1 will also have the opportunity to apply for a 'modified Phase 1' starting June 1. Under the modified Phase 1, restaurants could allow limited sit-down service outdoors, and nail and hair salons could reopen with safety precautions in place.
King County Executive Dow Constantine announced shortly after the governor's announcement that King County will apply for the modified Phase 1 stage on Monday.
Counties already in Phase 2 still have to wait at least three weeks before applying to move to Phase 3, but for some smaller counties that could come as soon as June 3.
Gov. Inslee also announced new requirements for employers and employees who are interacting with customers.
Starting June 8, all workers from grocery stores to small businesses will be required to wear facial coverings, unless they are working in a job where they have no contact with other people. Employers will be required to provide all the necessary materials for employees.
Washingtonians are also strongly encouraged to wear facial coverings when out in public to help limit the spread of COVID-19. Customers must follow retailers posted signage requiring facial coverings.