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Counties in SW Washington being put under stricter restrictions while others remain more open

Washington state officials will announce on Tuesday which counties will revert to the more restrictive Phase 2, and if those few already there will remain.

VANCOUVER, Wash. — With coronavirus cases rising in Washington, the state is once again enforcing some restrictions.

As part of the state's Roadmap to Recovery plan, Cowlitz, Pierce and Whitman counties moved from Phase 3 back to Phase 2.

It will be another three weeks before there will be another assessment but the health director in Clark County doesn't think that the county will revert to Phase 2.

“We should meet the metric for hospital admissions, we're below five per 100,000 over seven days so I believe to the best of my knowledge we will stay in Phase 3," said Dr. Alan Melnick, who is the health director for Clark County Public Health and serves as health officer for five other counties in southwest Washington.

In determining changes to phase restrictions, the state is looking at two metrics, but counties need only meet one of them to remain in the less restrictive Phase 3.

First, they're looking at new cases over a 14 day period. Anything number 200 per 100,000 is a fail, and Clark County is failing at 239, according to the latest state data.

But as Dr. Melnick said, Clark County’s new hospitalization rate is below 5, at 3.4 per 100,000 so it misses the cut to revert.

The stakes are high: At Phase 3 counties can allow 50% indoor occupancy in restaurants and other businesses, and up to 10 people gathered indoors, and 50 outdoors.

But at Phase 2, indoor occupancy drops down to 25% for all those businesses. Indoor gatherings drop to five people, and outdoor gatherings to 15.

Clark County could revert to Phase 2 in the future if the fourth coronavirus wave gets worse.

“The message for the public is, we're not out of this yet and we need people to do a couple things. One is avoid those gatherings, wear masks and physically distance when you're out in public and get vaccinated,” said Melnick, who added that the COVID situation could be even worse if 1/3 of residents hadn’t already been vaccinated.

Now to schools, which are welcoming more kids back to class. At Vancouver Public Schools, kindergarten through 3rd grade students are going from two to four days in classrooms starting this week with older grades to come.

RELATED: K- 3rd grade to begin four days of in-person school a week in Vancouver

Dr. Melnick sees school following health safety rules and said it's working.

“I think the schools are doing a great job, they 've been following the guidelines; we've seen very little transmission in the schools.”

As for vaccines in southwest Washington, there is more supply than demand, which is a huge change from not long ago. Melnick says this to anyone wavering on getting vaccinated:

“We need to think about getting the numbers down and the numbers of cases down, and the more people that get vaccinated the less transmission there'll be.”

As for Cowlitz County, it is stuck back in phase two now and that is not likely to change Tuesday, because their case numbers are still too high.  In the Seattle area, case numbers are up.  Both King and Snohomish counties are expected to be returned to Phase 2 restrictions by state officials.