As coronavirus infections continue to fall, Washington state is moving to expand indoor dining and allow fans back inside stadiums for professional sporting events.
On March 11, Gov. Jay Inslee introduced Phase 3 of the state’s “Healthy Washington” reopening plan. It will permit 50% capacity for business activity such as indoor dining, bowling, and going to the movies, as well as 25% capacity for professional and youth sporting events.
Phase 3 also allows 50% indoor occupancy — up to 400 people — for indoor or outdoor events such as weddings as long as there is social distancing and mask use.
Starting March 22, all of Washington will advance to Phase 3, but expanded spectator capacity for high school and youth sports will take effect four days earlier.
The state is ending a regional approach to reopening and reverting to county-by-county evaluations. The state Department of Health will review each county’s metrics every three weeks, with the first update coming April 12.
To remain in Phase 3, counties will have to report fewer than 200 new cases per 100,000 people over 14 days. And the rate of weekly hospitalizations cannot exceed five per 100,000 people.
Meanwhile, hospitalizations and deaths due to the virus continue to drop.
Inslee’s announcement came more than a month after King County entered Phase 2 of Healthy Washington. That allowed 25% capacity for indoor dining and other business activity that had been paused in November, as the state’s third wave of COVID transmission was beginning to hit.
For sports, previous state Department of Health regulations limited the number of people at outdoor sporting events to 200. That included everyone at the event — players, coaches, officials, school staff, cheerleaders, band members, media and fans.