King County is planning to submit an application to move to Phase 2 of Gov. Jay Inslee’s plan to reopen the economy. If approved, the county could be in the second phase by June 19.
The news came at a Board of Health meeting June 15, where King County Deputy Executive Rachel Smith provided an overview of the plan. The application is being recommended by Jeff Duchin, the county’s health officer.
“Because of the efforts of this community, we really did bend the curve,” Smith said.
Key measures of how the county is doing in its fight against the COVID-19 pandemic include the rate of infection, the virus’ reproductive rate, testing capabilities and the capacity of hospitals.
King County entered a modified Phase 1 on June 5, allowing restaurants and other businesses to begin serving people on-site at 25 percent capacity. The second phase will increase this capacity to 50 percent.
The number of cases countywide over the past 14 days is just under 24 per 100,000 residents, just below the 25 per 100,000 resident benchmark that Inslee set for counties to enter Phase 2.
The rate of hospitalization is also decreasing. There are also adequate hospital beds available, and currently only 2 percent of people in hospitals are COVID-19 patients, according to the county.
King County is close to — but not yet — meeting testing capacity targets.
Smith said Duchin was comfortable moving into Phase 2 because of precautions already taken.
It’s unclear how the virus will spread in coming weeks. Protests over the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis have swept across the country, including several King County cities. Warmer weather is also driving more people outside.
“The more activity that is happening, the more cautious we need to be,” Smith said.
If another spike in COVID-19 cases emerges, Duchin could order the county back to previous phases. Smith said because of the cautious approach the county has taken, they anticipate that won’t happen.
If approved, the county will remain in Phase 2 for three weeks. Leadership could then apply to enter the third phase.
The mayors of several rural cities asked the governor in late May to allow them to enter into Phase 2 ahead of more densely-populated parts of the county. These mayors said a prolonged closure would lead to many small businesses closing permanently.
Revenue projections for the county have taken a nosedive as the pandemic continues.
Sales tax revenue is projected to be down this year and next, and also through 2022. Lodging tax is expected to decline through 2021 by about $13 million more than planned. At a recent county meeting, King County Budget Director Dwight Dively said it’s projected that the county won’t reach 2019 levels of lodging tax revenue for the next five years.
Nationwide, forecasters expect the national GDP will decline between 30 to 40 percent, Dively said. The effects could be felt for the next decade.