Pandemic restrictions are being loosened again as Snohomish County enters Phase 3 of Gov. Jay Inslee’s Healthy Washington: Roadmap to Recovery reopening plan.

The reduced coronavirus restrictions began March 22 for the county.

All indoor businesses will be able to have increased capacity due to the county’s decreasing number of coronavirus cases and in-person spectator events can return with restrictions.

To remain in Phase 3, the county must have their two-week average for their daily case rate remain below 200 per 100,000 people. As of the county’s March 13 update, it is currently seeing a case rate of 71 per 100,000 people. The last time the county’s case rate was above 200 was in early January.

Snohomish County must also have less than five hospitalizations per 100,000 people over a weekly period to remain in Phase 3.

The most recent hospitalization updates from late February show the county having 12 hospitalizations. That is about 1.46 hospitalizations per 100,000 people in the county.

It would take 42 hospitalizations in a week for the county to exceed the guidelines set by the state, and the last time the hospitalizations were that high was in early January.

Previously, Snohomish County was grouped with King and Pierce counties, however state officials moved back to the county-by-county model, so Snohomish County will only have to be reduce their own coronavirus numbers.

Under the new guidance, spectator events will return with capacity limits and safety measures enforced.

All indoor businesses are allowed to reach 50 percent occupancy or 400 people maximum, whichever is lower.

That includes restaurants, gyms, fitness centers and movie theaters.

Safety measures, such as face masks, must still be used in those situations.

For many businesses, the extra capacity could help.

Jessica Johnston, owner of Rain City Fitness in Arlington, said they currently just have one or two clients in the gym most of the time.

“We’re not a big gym, we’re a small boutique gym so the capacity limit really restricts the number of people we can have,” she said.

Although, because of the mask requirements she believes many people will still opt to work out virtually at home, which they are seeing a lot of right now.

“Many people don’t want to work out with a mask on, which is still a part of the mandate,” said Johnston.

For restaurants, the current 25 percent capacity cap is difficult for many.

“Restaurants are barely getting by with only 25 percent capacity restrictions,” said Jesica Stickles, president/CEO of the Marysville Tulalip Chamber of Commerce.  “They have to have extra people on staff to do the cleaning, but less customers are coming in to help balance that out. Some of the owners I have spoken with are dipping into their own savings to pay staff and keep the doors open."

She believes moving to Phase 3 is an improvement, but local restaurants will need continued support.

“I still think we need to keep ordering take out or delivery, as well as visiting them in person,” said Stickles.

Many restaurants are caught in difficult positions currently, she said.

“They knew they had to be open to stay relevant and keep their regular customers happy. But they are in severe need to get more and new customers to patronage them,” said Stickles.

Johnston said athletic facilities like hers have also had a hard time.

“We’re slowly picking back up,” she said.

One of her biggest concerns is how people will come out of the pandemic and if they will return to keeping their bodies healthy.

“We’re excited to get people back in the studio,” she said.

As restrictions continue loosening, Stickles expects the workforce to continue to be hired back as well.

“I believe many restaurants will try to add even more staff to their shifts in order to accommodate for the potential of more customers coming inside,” she said. “So please continue to be flexible with timing, tip generously, and remember they are as worried about you staying healthy as you are.”


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