Washington begins Phase 1 of 4-part reopening process


By Karlee Van De Venter, Reporter

As per Governor Jay Inslee’s 4-Phase Safe Start Washington plan, the state entered Phase 1 of reopening on May 5. While most of Washington is still in lockdown, some aspects of the state will be allowed to reopen with certain guidelines. 

Outdoor activities like golfing, fishing, hunting and boating are now open with social distancing plans. Golf courses will limit how many people are playing. Fishers and hunters will have to remain distant from others. Boating must only be done with household members. 

Social gatherings are still prohibited. Churches may have drive-in services, if the congregation only has one household per vehicle. Only essential travel is allowed. 

As for businesses, Washington will start to see more open with each Phase. Landscaping and pet-walking have been approved for this phase, along with car sales and car washes. Retail may do curbside pickup only. Construction sites that were already in progress and meet certain criteria will be able to resume.  Gov. Inslee’s construction outlines can be found here

Some state parks are opening for day-use only, and with social distancing guidelines. The full list of which parks are now opened or still closed can be found here. Most of the extended services, like bathrooms and picnic areas, will still be closed. 

High-risk populations, as defined by the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention, should remain in lockdown until Phase 4. This includes immunodeficient parties as well as the elderly. 

As Inslee outlined, each Phase will last a minimum of three weeks. This is to allow a full disease incubation period and an additional week for gathering data and assessing. 

The start of Phase 2 depends on Phase 1 results. If all goes well, we could move into Phase 2 at the start of June. However, if trends imply that Washington isn’t ready, that could be postponed. If there is a significant increase in COVID-19 cases after Phase 1, we likely won’t move to Phase 2. Gov. Inslee said in the press release that he would potentially pull out of Phase 1 if needed. 

However, eight counties have already been approved for a fast-track reopening plan. They get to reopen schools and businesses before other counties, and potentially allow social gatherings again. These eight counties are Columbia, Garfield, Lincoln, Ferry, Stevens, Skamania, Wahkiakum and Pend Oreille. 

These counties met certain guidelines that allowed them to apply. They needed a population of less than 75,000 and no new cases of COVID-19 in three weeks. When applying, they would need the support of their local health officer, board of health, hospitals and county commission. 

To be approved, they needed adequate bed capacity in local hospitals, adequate supplies, as well as plans for testing and quarantining if needed.

The approved counties are now moving into Phase 2 and would also get early access to Phase 3, with dates to be determined. 

On the other hand, if certain counties respond negatively during Phase 1, they could halt the progress of the rest of the state. All other counties not eligible for the fast-track plan must stay in compliance with the rest of the state. The progress of these counties affect all other counties included. 

As for Spokane County, which includes Cheney, it looks like Phase 1 is the plan for now. While county officials are pushing for special accomodations, nothing has been approved. Officials are considering using funds from the Congress CARES Act from March to fund testing and/or business support. 

Phase 1 does not affect operations on EWU campus.