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State begins new COVID recovery plan

Measuring COVID rates by region rather than counties, and using other metrics, are part of a new recovery plan in Washington state. 

Gov. Jay Inslee announced the "Healthy Washington - Roadmap to Recovery" plan on Jan. 5, and signed the plan into effect on Jan. 11. 

The plan groups counties into regions, all starting in phase one of a two-phase (so far) approach to recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The two phases vary in their restrictions for various aspects of life for Washington residents and businesses and schools. All nine regions started out Monday in Phase One.

In order to move from phase one to Phase Two, which has less stringent restrictions, a region must meet four criteria: 

• at least a 10% decreasing trend in the two-week rate of COVID-19 cases per 100K population, 

• at least a 10% decreasing trend in the two-week rate of new COVID-19 hospital admission rates per 100K population, 

• an Intensive Care Unit occupancy of less than 90%, including both COVID and non-COVID patients, and 

• a COVID-19 test positivity rate of less than 10%.

To remain in Phase 2, regions must meet at least three of four metrics: a decreasing or flat trend in both the two-week incidence rate and in hospital admission rates, an ICU occupancy of less than 90%, and a COVID-19 test positivity rate of less than 10%.

Failure to meet two or more of these criteria results in a region going back to Phase One. 

The state Department of Health will evaluate these metrics for each region weekly and will announce any changes to current phase status every Friday.

Grant, Okanogan, Douglas, and Chelan counties are grouped into the North Central Region, which currently meets two of the four requirements to move to Phase Two. 

Numbers released in a Jan. 8 report from DOH show that the North Central Region has shown a 24% decrease in COVID incidence rates comparing Nov. 29-Dec 12 to Dec. 13-26, 2020, meeting the criteria to move to Phase Two, which compares to a 22% decrease statewide.

However, comparing Dec. 6-19, 2020 to Dec. 20, 2020 - Jan. 2, 2021, there is a 1% decrease in hospital admissions in the North Central Region, which does not meet the 10% drop requirement to move to Phase Two, but compares to an 8% increase in hospital admissions statewide.

There was a 76% ICU occupancy in the North Central Region from Dec. 27, 2020 to Jan. 2, 2021, which meets the criteria to move to phase two, and compares to 80% ICU occupancy statewide. 

The North Central Region showed a 15% test positivity rate  from Dec. 13-19, 2020, which does not meet the 10% or less criteria to move to Phase Two. That compares to a 9% positivity rate statewide.

The data comes from the Washington Disease Reporting System, WA HEALTH, and the Washington State Department of Health.

The report notes that they use the most recent complete data for each metric.

"Our primary concern throughout the COVID-19 pandemic has been the health and safety of all Washington residents," Inslee said when signing the plan. "This plan continues those efforts, and puts us on a path towards recovery. I'm thankful that people across our state have demonstrated their compassion for others by social distancing, masking up and avoiding gatherings. Our efforts have saved lives, but we're not done yet. Every single choice we make in the coming weeks and months could ensure that more people are able to see this pandemic through."


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