Easing will be in four phases, governor says

  WHATCOM ­— Washington Gov. Jay Inslee on Friday extended his stay-at-home order through May 31 on most activities while setting a four-phase plan toward full reopening of the state from coronavirus restrictions.

  The first phase, in effect now, includes Tuesday’s easing on outdoor recreation and last week’s opening of construction meeting agreed-upon criteria. Urgent medical procedures are allowed. Landscaping, auto sales and car washes may resume. Otherwise, only “essential” businesses may be open.

  Phases will be spaced about three weeks apart. The next phase in later May could allow camping, gatherings of up to five people, general in-store retail with restrictions, salons and barbers, manufacturing, professional and domestic services, and restaurants up to 50% capacity and no more than five per table.

  The third phase would allow gatherings of up to 50 people, gyms at half capacity and restaurants at 75%.

  Inslee said 10 low-population counties — Whatcom not among them — may apply to the Department of Health for more rapid reopening based on their COVID-19 statistics.

  The extension dictated by Inslee fed an already restive mood, people eager for reopening in parts of Washington. A “liberate Lynden” Freedom Parade is planned for 1 p.m. Saturday on Front and Main streets (see story on page A1).

  Inslee said Friday his restrictions could go past May 31. “I would like to tell you that you can make reservations for June 1, but I can’t,” Inslee said. “We will have to monitor, assess and adapt.

  “We don’t want to do this twice,” he said. “This is bad enough once.”

  While there’s no magic metric, the governor wants to see the trends heading in the right direction, surmised the business group Opportunity Washington. “Hitting all of the targets for a best-case reopening means Phase 4 would begin July 6,” it said in a post.

  • The pace of coronavirus infection in Whatcom County was slowing until the week of April 26 to May 2 showed 29 new cases, a jump over the previous two weeks.

  There were no additional deaths last week. In fact, the county Health Department dialed back the number of deaths by one, to 27, after determining that a confirmed case “died of a cause other than COVID-19.”

  Many of the new cases of the past week are in clusters, meaning they are associated with one another because people were in close contact while in a particular setting, the department said.

  Testing capacity in the community continues to grow. Health authorities now encourage anyone with symptoms to contact their doctor and request a test.

  The Washington State numbers on coronavirus are now 15,462 confirmed cases, 841 deaths and 216,320 tests producing a 7.1% positive rate. 

  • As of May 2, two more COVID-19 cases were confirmed within the Lummi Nation community, bringing the total there to 40 positive cases, the Lummi Public Health Department reported in a memo.

  “The Public Health team is taking immediate steps to identify close contacts and instruct them to self-quarantine and is prepared to offer testing to those that were exposed and experiencing symptoms,” the memo stated.