Today, Whatcom County and the rest of Washington State move into Phase 3 of the Healthy Washington - Roadmap to Recovery plan. That means we’re getting a step closer to normal.
This is great news, but Whatcom County residents should still be cautious. Our case rates are higher than other similar counties, and we also have the second highest recorded number of variant B.1.1.7 cases in the state, second only to much more densely populated King County. This variant, which is also known as the UK variant, spreads more easily and may be more likely to result in hospitalization or death than the original COVID-19 strain.
What’s allowed during Phase 3?
Restrictions on private gatherings are much looser during Phase 3. Indoor gatherings with up to 10 people from outside your household are allowed, and outdoor gatherings with as much as 50 people are also permitted.
It’s still safest to gather small or not at all, especially given current case rates in our county. When you gather, make sure you still mask up and keep your distance. Practicing good COVID-19 hygiene - wearing a mask, watching your distance and washing your hands - is especially important at private gatherings, since this is where viral transmission usually happens in our community.
There are also fewer restrictions on public gatherings during Phase 3. Starting today, the following are allowed in public spaces:
- 400 people or 50% occupancy (whichever is fewer) in all indoor spaces. That includes restaurants, gyms and fitness centers, movie theaters, weddings, and funerals. Mask use and physical distancing requirements remain the same.
- 400 people or 50% occupancy (whichever is fewer) at all outdoor events. That includes outdoor weddings, funerals, concerts and more. Mask use and physical distancing requirements remain the same.
- Larger outdoor and indoor venues (like sports stadiums) are capped at 25% occupancy or 9,000 occupants, whichever is fewer, and must follow spectator guidelines.
- Alcohol may now be served until midnight, up from 11 p.m. during Phase 2.
For a complete list of Phase 3 guidelines, refer to the chart below. For more detailed information about the statewide move to Phase 3, check out Washington State's Roadmap to Recovery Metrics.
What metrics must we meet to stay in Phase 3?
There are only two metrics to pass to stay in Phase 3, but we’ll have to meet both of them if we don’t want to go back to Phase 2. Those metrics are:
- Case Rates: Our county must maintain a case rate lower than 200 per 100,000 in the past 14 days to stay in Phase 3.
- Hospitalizations: Whatcom County must maintain a 7-day average of five or fewer new COVID-19 hospitalizations to stay in Phase 3.
Metrics are no longer measured based on healthcare region, but on a county-by-county basis. These metrics will be evaluated for each county every three weeks. If Whatcom County fails either metric, we will move back to Phase 2. Evaluations will occur on Mondays with any possible changes taking effect Friday. The first evaluation of these metrics is scheduled for April 12.
The State will report these metrics on their Roadmap to Recovery Metrics page.
What can I do to help Whatcom County meet these metrics so we can stay in Phase 3?
Thankfully, there’s nothing new to do to keep us progressing along the Roadmap to Recovery. All you have to do is remain diligent and keep following COVID-19 safety precautions whenever you’re around people you don’t live with. These precautions include:
- Limit your social gatherings and have them outside whenever possible.
- Wear a close-fitting mask with multiple layers that covers your nose and mouth whenever you’re around people you don’t live with. If your mask fits loosely or doesn’t have multiple layers, double up.
- Stay at least 6 feet away from people you don’t live with.
- Get vaccinated as soon as you can - beginning March 31, people in Phase 1A and Phase 1B Tiers 1-4 will all be eligible, and everybody older than 16 will be eligible to get vaccinated by May 1. To find out when you can get vaccinated, check out Washington State’s COVID-19 vaccination timeline.