Gov. Jay Inslee's "Stay Home, Stay Healthy" order will not be extended past May 31. Instead, state officials will use a phased plan to govern county-by-county reopening permissions.
Each county must apply with the state Department of Health and receive approval before moving to the next phase of reopening.
When Washington's stay home order expires on June 1, each county will be required to adhere to social distancing rules corresponding to its current reopening status.
The "Safe Start" plan outlines a four-phase approach to rolling back restrictions aimed at mitigating the spread of the novel coronavirus.
A total of 26 of Washington's 39 counties have been approved to move into the second phase of reopening as of Thursday. That allows certain establishments, including restaurants, beauty salons, and religious institutions, to resume in-person services at reduced capacity and with safety precautions in place.
The criteria for eligibility require a county to have 25 or fewer new cases of Covid-19 per 100,000 residents, over the span of 14 days. Also, hospitals serving a given county must have at least 20% surge capacity and a 14-day supply of personal protective equipment for health care workers.
"The counties are going to be the ones who sort of start this process, and propose to us what they think is safe," said John Wiesman, state health secretary on Friday.
"We're going to really be counting on those health departments, and we're going to be counting on those local elected officials to be working with their health department around what they think is the safe way to move forward.”
Officials have emphasized that wearing face coverings, frequent hand-washing, and keeping at least six feet away from others remain crucial throughout each reopening phase.
The governor on Friday expressed confidence that the state could safely forge ahead under the phased reopening plan. However, he warned that more stringent social distancing orders could come back if the state sees a resurgence of Covid-19 cases.
“We do have to realize if this comes roaring back, yes — we may have to take actions that are again uncomfortable," Inslee said. "But by gum, we've done this once — I don't want to do this twice."
Inslee said that June 3 would be the earliest some eligible counties could move into Phase 3 of reopening. Additionally, businesses will be required to provide face masks for employees starting June 8.