THURSTON COUNTY –– Thurston County got the green light from the Washington Secretary of Health on Tuesday to move into Phase 3 of Gov. Jay Inslee’s “Safe Start” plan.
The third phase of Safe Start allows counties to allow outdoor group sports teams and recreational activities to resume with 50 or fewer people, and allows places like gyms and public pools to re-open at 50 percent capacity or less.
Under Safe Start guidelines, Phase 3 also allows gatherings of 50 people or less and non-essential travel. Restaurants can reopen at up to 75 percent capacity and allow seating of up to 10 people at one table, while taverns and bars can open at up to 25 percent capacity. Theaters can re-open at half capacity and government offices offering “customer-facing” services can resume on-site business, although continuing telecommuting is encouraged. Libraries and museums can reopen as well, as well as all other businesses except for nightclubs. Events are still restricted under phase three guidelines.
“We need to continue our risks and make safe choices,” said Dr. Diana Yu, Thurston County’s acting health officer, wrote in a June 23 letter to the community. “My message is much the same –– wash your hands, cover your cough, stay home when you are sick, avoid touching your face and keep your physical distance.”
County officials sent in their application to re-open under Phase 3 last week, following almost a month of operating under Phase 2 of the Safe Start plan. Fifteen other counties, including Lewis, Mason and Kittitas Counties, are in Phase 3. Seventeen other counties in the state are in Phase 2, according to a June 23 press release from Kittitas County. Only four other counties remain in Phase 1.
Local health officials want to stress that moving into Phase 3 doesn’t mean life will return to normal, however. Dr. Diana Yu, Thurston County’s acting health officer, wrote in a letter to the community this week that phase three still means wearing face coverings in public, using hand sanitizer frequently and practicing social distancing.
“A long haul is what we are in for,” Yu wrote in her letter. “Phase three does not mean life as usual.”
Thurston County’s move into Safe Start Phase 3 comes a day after Gov. Jay Inslee announced face coverings are required state-wide starting Friday, June 26. The move is meant to suppress any further COVID-19 outbreaks in the state.
“We are experiencing an uptick in COVID-19 activity in our state,” Inslee said in a press conference on Tuesday. “So today we’re adopting a new strategy regarding use of facial coverings in Washington. [We’re] mandating use of facial coverings across Washington.”
Violating the facial coverings order, Gov. Inslee said, will be considered tantamount to a misdemeanor.
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