AS-IT-HAPPENED COVERAGE: Governor puts reopening plan on ‘pause,’ so King County stays in Phase 3 for at least two more weeks

11:06 AM: Just under way and viewable above (or here), Governor Inslee‘s media briefing, at which he is expected to announce the latest evaluation of which counties are eligible for which reopening phases. (King County has been in Phase 3 since March 22nd.) We’ll update as it goes.

He starts by saying the plan is on “pause” for at least two weeks, so King County stays in Phase 3 for now. He says the newest data suggests the situation is “plateauing” statewide – maybe even a slight decline.

He notes that the death rate “has gone down dramatically” though hospitalizations are up, and he cites “vaccination progress” for that. If this progress continues, he says, “sometime in the summer we could potentially have much more normal activities in the state.” He urges that people continue to get vaccinated to ensure the progress. Don’t take them for granted, he says – “these vaccines are desperately wanted across the planet, and we have them right here in Washington state.”

11:14 AM: King County’s public-health officer Dr. Jeff Duchin says the county has indeed “leveled off,” and the two-week pause “provides time to see more reliably” where we’re at and where we’re heading, “and whether we’re turning the corner on the ‘fourth wave,’ which we may be. … I think this s a good and difficult decision by the governor.” He adds, “Vaccination is our ticket to a more stable, more normal lifestyle.”

And, adds Inslee, safety protocols remain vital.

State Secretary of Health Dr. Umair Shah reiterates that the two-week “pause” will be a chance to see if things are getting better or worse. He notes that it’s been less than three weeks since vaccine eligibility opened to everyone.

11:24 AM: Now on to media Q&A. First one: Why not just give counties the authorization to make their own reopening decisions? The governor says the state-led approach has saved thousands of lives. Dr. Duchin adds that the state’s had one of the nation’s lowest case and death rates for most of the pandemic because of the unified approach.

Next question: Might the plan change so that businesses can have some predictability/certainty? Inslee says “this pandemic has been so rapidly changing and so unpredictable” that a “flexible” plan has been important to have – and in this case, the flexibility involves pausing the plan. “We will look at this for the next two weeks … we are hopeful these trends will continue to go down … we have to figure out which pitch this virus is throwing at us.”

Then: What level of vaccination is the governor looking for, to enable “more normal” activities? Inslee says it’s not yet known what level of vaccine is needed to complement whatever level of natural immunity is out there, but “every single time somebody gets vaccinated” it’s closer.

Q: Couldn’t a pause help counties get a handle on hospital capacity? The governor replied that he hasn’t heard of any major problems aside from Ferry County, which has decided on its own to move back. (During the reply, he mentioned again that the pause is also intended to avoid “disruption to the economy.”)

Q: What more can be done to convince people to get vaccinated? The governor declares, “We’re doing everything humanly possible to give people multiple avenues … We just need people to do this.” Drs. Shah and Duchin acknowledged that some people may not feel much at risk – but need to get vaccinated to help protect others in the community.

Q: A reporter says a restaurant owner has commented about the governor, “He just changed the rules again – how can we trust the process?” Inslee said, “I hope the restaurant owner is happy we just changed the rules again … I would think that’s a popular position with the restaurant industry … (but) he can stay at 25 percent if (he wants).”

Q: What about creating vaccinated sections for restaurants, as the state has now done for some events? Inslee says a lack of compliance with previous rules (in passing, he mentioned $7 million total fines) meant “we just don’t believe there’s a meaningful way” to do that; he also said the state asked the restaurant industry if they wanted that and they did not. As part of a related reply, he again says today’s decision “is not the governor throwing darts at a board,” it’s based on a recent change in trends.

NOON: The event’s offer with one last pitch from the governor saying, “Our destiny is in our hands and that means getting the vaccine.” Here’s the announcement from his website; the archived video should be viewable soon in the same window above.

52 Replies to "AS-IT-HAPPENED COVERAGE: Governor puts reopening plan on 'pause,' so King County stays in Phase 3 for at least two more weeks"

  • AMD May 4, 2021 (11:09 am)

    *sigh*  I feel like we all knew the rules were going to change to avoid rolling King County back.  It sucks.  I don’t want to roll anything back either, but the case and hospitalization rates in our area are unacceptable.  I want to stay in Phase 3 because we’re getting it right, not because rollbacks are hard and we can’t handle it.  smh

  • Tracey May 4, 2021 (11:35 am)

    My thoughts exactly AMD.  I will add that the US is the envy of the world with its domestic vaccine production.  I hate to see where we would be today if we had to cope with the vaccine availability of some of our neighbors and allies.   

  • Chris K May 4, 2021 (11:40 am)

    Inslee has done a great job so far of navigating our state through these troubled waters, so I trust his decision-making on re-opening.

    • sbre May 4, 2021 (1:48 pm)

      My sentiments exactly Chris.

  • Um, No! May 4, 2021 (11:56 am)

    This is the right decision.  One of the most important goals with this pandemic was to not overwhelm the hospitals.  Right now,  even with the uptick in hospitalizations,  they are not close to being overwhelmed. And deaths continue to decline.  Like or not,  at some point,  you have to balance health and the economy and that’s what Inslee is doing.  I’m still not an Inslee fan but this was the right and logical decision.  

    • RespiratoryTherapist May 4, 2021 (1:10 pm)

      I’m not necessarily disagreeing with this decision but I have to say a hospital worker myself the idea that hospitals “are not even close” to being overwhelmed is very much NOT accurate. The last few weeks things have significantly gotten worse, my hospital was over 100% capacity just last week, we are chronically short staffed and we are exhausted. So I’d say we are pretty damn close to being overwhelmed.

      • So grateful for you! May 4, 2021 (3:13 pm)

        THANK YOU! I cannot thank you enough for what you are doing for our community. Continuing to show up in the face of this long, draining pandemic in a hospital that is over capacity is truly hero’s work. I know you are on the front line as a respiratory therapist. We see you. We are so grateful. Please take care of yourself too. 

      • Kristina May 4, 2021 (5:31 pm)

        I can’t even imagine what that’s like for you. Thank you for all that you are doing for our community.I find the moving of goalposts a ridiculous idea, and your anecdotal evidence confirms my belief that Inslee is playing political games, not protecting health. I voted for him, but I’m really disappointed at the way he keeps changing the rules when they don’t suit him. Either 200/5 was the right metric, or it wasn’t. Which is it?! This halfway thing is dissatisfying and makes me lose what faith I had in the system to protect us.Grateful every day for my vaccination. My daughter gets her second one in a couple of weeks, and I can’t wait until that’s done!

    • Sanctito Life May 4, 2021 (3:20 pm)

      No. The point was always to save lives. To save people from death and crippling illness. Keeping hospitals from being overwhelmed was so that sick people could get the lifesaving treatments they needed. The point wasn’t to protect the hospitals- it was to protect the people who need them. But this is the same governor who opened restaurants and schools, just before widespread vaccination availability, not just after. This wave was avoidable, but money and self-interest corrupt so many of us.

  • Auntie May 4, 2021 (11:59 am)

    What is the point of making a rule if you are going to turn right around and ignore it? The numbers say King County should return to Phase 2. But the guv is now justifying ignoring his own criteria. I’ll just continue to stay home and watch what happens next, but I’m not optimistic considering the positive test and hospitalization rates.

    • M May 4, 2021 (12:13 pm)

      This is a dynamic situation which calls for flexibility.  I’d much rather the Governor do what’s best under specific circumstances than stick to arbitrary rules.  We are in a far different situation now than we were 6 months or a year ago.  

      • KWestSeattle May 4, 2021 (1:28 pm)

        Agree! 

      • Brian May 4, 2021 (7:29 pm)

        Ah yes the well known successful strategy of “let’s just wait and see?”

    • Um, No! May 4, 2021 (12:33 pm)

      He’s not ignoring the “rules”.    Things (pandemic) change and so should the guidelines.  The old metrics are simply out dated now that more and more people are becoming vaccinated and the pandemic is becoming more under control and manageable.  I’m glad to see he’s recognizing this.   This pandemic has  always been a moving target.  Bottom line, if you’re comfortable going out,  stay home.   You have that choice and no one will fault you for it. 

    • Stickerbush May 4, 2021 (1:07 pm)

      Inslee gave his reason for pausing the rollback decision–it was because the most recent data for the state and county show cases and hospitalizations have leveled off and are trending down in recent days. He will re-evaluate in two weeks.  If you have been vaccinated it’s not to your benefit or anyone else’s for you to stay home.

  • Mj May 4, 2021 (12:38 pm)

    I second the comment by Um, No.  

  • psps May 4, 2021 (12:41 pm)

    Inslee has lost a lot of credibility here. This decision is based solely on politics.

  • StopCuttingDownTrees May 4, 2021 (12:47 pm)

    This is the only right decision. There’s ZERO chance ANYONE is going to transmit or contract COVID at a 50% venue vs 25% venue with full mask compliance. But there’s a 100% chance a 25% rollback will send many businesses into permanent closures.

  • anonyme May 4, 2021 (12:55 pm)

    Nonsense.  The plateau Inslee is talking about is only a “potential”, and even if it were real does not mean fewer cases, but an evening off at a high level.  This is an economic and political decision, not a scientific one.  Also, the chart shown above is for 2020.  How is that relevant?

    • Pessoa May 4, 2021 (1:19 pm)

      Name me one “scientific” decision that isn’t at least partially driven by politics and/or business, or other societal concerns?  There aren’t any.  

    • Lbalm May 4, 2021 (1:26 pm)

      Hmm, looks like human error on the chart–starting in January someone forgot to change 2020 to 2021. At the moment there are TWO March and May 2020’s. Data seems current if one makes that correction.

  • CuriousQuestioner May 4, 2021 (1:04 pm)

    I’m glad the Governor is listening to scientists and respecting the data, and agree with UmNo and Chris K’s statements. Onward!

  • Sunuva May 4, 2021 (1:08 pm)

    I don’t want to bite, but eh, I can’t stop myself; How exactly is this decision “political”? Is it because you don’t like Inslee and he made the decision? Or is there some clear connection to a political motive? If so, what is that motive exactly? Very curious, because just saying it is political, doesn’t make it so.

    • McBride May 4, 2021 (2:36 pm)

      Originally, there were 4 phase metrics, all of which had to be met to progress past stage 1. Then it was 3 of the four. Then it was two metrics. Then it was 1 of the two metrics. This was the beginning of the shift to political motivations – a strategy which favored reducing barriers to business over virus control..Originally, counties were were assigned phases. Then the state was partitioned into 8 phase sectors, which were defined by medical service areas. This allowed the state to obtain Much better regional data regarding populations from the only reliable data source – hospital admissions. More recently, the state moved back to county determinations, as that afforded more flexibility (and less reliable data). Another shift..Harder to ignore was when the phase evaluation date was moved from yesterday to today. This change was made so that the most recent data from over the weekend (weekends are a bit of a black box, data is submitted, but no one reviews it). Sounds reasonable, right? But. The data that’s evaluated for phase determination is a week old, because current numbers aren’t accurate due to reporting delays. Saying that you “want to evaluate the most current data” is tantamount to saying “We’re going to go with speculation on this one”.  That was confirmed today at around minute 28 in the Governor’s presentation when he said “We decided not to embrace certainty, we decided to embrace flexibility”. This was the definitive moment, politically..There’s reasonable arguments for managing either side of this twofold disaster (health and economy). But the state shifted to an economic/political approach starting around 3 months ago.

      • Um, No! May 4, 2021 (3:38 pm)

        I don’t know that a shift that balances health and the economy is really a “political” move.   Putting more people back to work and helping people to no lose their jobs,  income, home, ability to support themselves and their family is just the right thing to do.   There has to be a tipping point between health and the economy at some point,  Inslee is going to see if the next two weeks is it?   Again, not an fan of Inslee but I have to give him props on this decision.

      • Reality check May 4, 2021 (3:44 pm)

        I have some faith that these decisions are more strategic and nuanced than we may see on the surface.

        Perhaps the thinking is that by being less restrictive and avoiding rolling things back will lead to better compliance of other measures, including vaccination.  

        There is a population that has been less agreeable to cooperation during the pandemic. Finding some middle ground, appeasing everyone to a degree, might produce the best overall outcome.

        I do not envy the governor or his job, it can’t be easy. I do trust the intention continues to be to minimize illness and deaths and to get through this pandemic.

      • flimflam May 4, 2021 (4:14 pm)

        Very, very well said. He began changing metrics/playing around to cater to businesses months ago as you so thoroughly explained.

      • Jort May 4, 2021 (4:19 pm)

        Here’s another option: giving Jay Inslee the benefit of the doubt, since Washington so far has roughly the fifth and seventh lowest rates of COVID-19 cases and deaths, respectively. That’s a great achievement particularly knowing that much of the pandemic in America began here in Washington. 

      • Stickerbush May 4, 2021 (4:23 pm)

        I give kudos to Inslee for changing the metrics as the pandemic progressed and more was learned about the virus. There was no way any part of the US would have be able to lock down enough to keep the virus out.  Inslee was just re-elected and there’s no reason for him to play politics at this time. I sincerely think he believes that he’s making the best decision for the state that he governs.

  • Pessoa May 4, 2021 (1:11 pm)

    Bravo.  The governor made the right decision.  

  • flimflam May 4, 2021 (1:51 pm)

    “Q: A reporter says a restaurant owner has commented about the governor, “He just changed the rules again – how can we trust the process?” Inslee said, “I hope the restaurant owner is happy we just changed the rules again … I would think that’s a popular position with the restaurant industry … (but) he can stay at 25 percent if (he wants).”he clearly isn’t all that concerned about the workers…pretty lame response to continuously moving the goal posts to satisfy business interests. justified by a “maybe” plateau?

  • AdmiralE May 4, 2021 (2:10 pm)

    For once he did not make the wrong decision

  • Actual scientist May 4, 2021 (2:25 pm)

    Come on guys, mask up and trust the science. Only 47 more weeks to flatten the curve!

  • Reality check May 4, 2021 (2:34 pm)

    I hope all who make reference in their comments to the scientists/science and data, have had your vaccine shot or are in the process or will soon, because that is advised by the same scientists and data, and is currently our best path onward and out of the pandemic, as we’ve known it for this past year.

    Focus should continue to making vaccination more accessible, easy, and desirable for all. This is the mountain peak we are climbing now.

    Grateful for everyone who continues to make choices that help minimize further spread. This pandemic would be so much worse without the efforts and sacrifices and work of many.

  • Brian May 4, 2021 (2:36 pm)

    This is the right call. We are now swimming in vaccines. Get your shots or stay home.  I’m not sure what else government can do at this point. Businesses have done their share.  It’s time for the burden to shift to all of us.  

    • Louise May 4, 2021 (6:48 pm)

      @brian, yes! Agreed.King County is flush in vaccine. Get your damn vaccine…or not…your choice…your consequences.  But do not slow the rest of us down. Open business, hug your loved ones and let’s start living again. 

  • Smittytheclown May 4, 2021 (3:47 pm)

    Thank you for leading, Governor!  It takes courage to make the right call!

  • Jort May 4, 2021 (4:32 pm)

    Unpopular opinion (I’m used to those): There are going to be a lot of people who will just flat-out never want to leave this pandemic. They are going to want to wait until case counts are literally zero. That’s never going to happen. I know that it is difficult for people to have seen a former presidential administration completely botch the response to this. Many of our neighbors subsequently tied themselves (justifiably, in most cases in the last year) to whatever was the “opposite” of the Republican approach to the pandemic. But I feel that absolutely colors peoples’ opinions about how we measure the success of our recovery. At some point people are going to have to get over the fantasy that this needs to be 100 percent eradicated before we let people hug each other and eat dinner together again. We are mitigating the risk admirably with widespread and effortless vaccine availability. The great dangers of the pandemic are receding. We are all going to have to move on. Just because we’re gradually moving back to things being normal doesn’t mean Jay Inslee is Ron DeSantis or Donald Trump. Just because people are eating at restaurants doesn’t mean they’re playing into Trump’s pandemic-minimization strategy. Stop living with COVID fatalism and start making your mental adaptations NOW to the fact that we are going to be spending time together with joy and love this summer. Do not stay in the house with your blinds drawn. Life is too short, and you will be safe. (All of this assumes you are getting the vaccine, like a normal, non-anti-social person. If you intentionally choose not to get the vaccine have fun with the consequences, you get what you deserve and goodbye, thanks.)

    • Smittytheclown May 4, 2021 (4:55 pm)

      Well said Jort.  This is starting to feel like the days when people would root for more snow so they could stay home. It’s really gotten weird. We’ve been out to eat once a week when they are open. Flown four times. Never caught it. We even had it in our house (teenager) and never got it. It can be done. Especially now with vaccines.  It’s never going to zero.  Never.  

    • Um, No! May 4, 2021 (5:03 pm)

      Holy crap, I’m actually in 100% agreement with Jort!  Maybe an unpopular opinion but nevertheless, well said.  

    • Alki Local May 4, 2021 (5:37 pm)

      Absolutely correct opinion! It’s a mindshift after vaccination, still a risk of illness, but not enough to kill. Have returned to many pre-pandemic activities–looking at Europe this fall!

    • Seattlite May 4, 2021 (5:55 pm)

      Spot on comment!

    • CMT May 5, 2021 (12:11 pm)

      OMG.  I agree.

    • rme May 5, 2021 (1:48 pm)

      Thanks gods for you, Jort. This is it exactly. I’m so tired of the most extreme pandemic behavior being elevated to moral high ground. At some point people will have to take responsibility for their own anxiety and not project it onto everyone in their path. 

  • Al King May 4, 2021 (4:50 pm)

    JORT.  Having always gotten a good laugh at your WAY off base anti car rants i have to say i agree and 2nd your comments here! There’s hope for you yet!

    • Jort May 4, 2021 (6:01 pm)

      Don’t worry, you’ll still have many opportunities to “laugh.” My factually-supported arguments about America’s crippling, planet and life-destroying addiction to personal automobiles will continue to be correct, even if people don’t like to hear them.

  • Pessoa May 4, 2021 (7:19 pm)

    Those who are interested, here is the “The Atlantic” finally acknowledging that much of the reaction to the pandemic might have been motivated more by antipathy towards the former president than actual science.   Will wonders never cease.
      https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2021/05/liberals-covid-19-science-denial-lockdown/618780/

    • Jort May 4, 2021 (10:55 pm)

      In fairness, Democrats, liberals and progressives have essentially been correct about most aspects of the pandemic from the beginning, and Republicans and their Magical Thinking have proven repeatedly that they have been wrong about it over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over again. Were Democrats right to be worried about the pandemic and to heed precautions from scientists and were Republicans wrong to dismiss the threat and just about almost literally everything involved in the entire pandemic response? Yes. Democrats were right. This is not even debatable. Thank God for the liberals and Democrats around the country who did take precautions. It was liberals who took seriously the concept of shared sacrifice for the greater good. If you are alive today and not dead from COVID, you can thank the liberals who wore masks and stayed inside to protect their fellow citizens. Liberals are responsible for saving hundreds of thousands of lives of their neighbors, neighbors whose lives conservatives would have gladly sacrificed by the millions to the cult-like altar of ensuring Trump could forever claim infallibility and never admit to having catastrophically bungled our nationwide response. Will Democrats and Liberals get a nice “thank you” from their conservative neighbors for saving their lives? I doubt it. But they deserve it. 

      • Susan May 5, 2021 (8:34 am)

        I’ve never seen a horse that high, where’d you get it?

      • Jim May 6, 2021 (8:56 am)

        Let’s move on from the Tribalism. We all want the same outcome. Don’t let Trump turn our whole country into the Hatfields and the McCoys.

        • Pessoa May 6, 2021 (11:04 am)

          Its a noble sentiment,  but there is something to be said for frank, unfettered dialogue even if gets overly passionate at times.   I am maddened by the “shrinking violet” outrage culture that seems to have now infected both sides of the political spectrum.  If one has an opinion, it should be buttressed by an argument, and one should be prepared to defend it.  This is part of becoming an adult. 

  • Nope May 4, 2021 (10:39 pm)

    I don’t agree with this. What basis does Inslee do this? Compare the case and death rates in this state to other states as well as the CDC website. None of this makes any sense. Mask up, vaccinate, and open up the state for normal activity and businesses! 

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