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Easing of COVID-19 restrictions in King County approved

June 20, 2020 GMT

SEATTLE (AP) — Washington state’s most populous county has been approved to move into Phase 2 of reopening from Gov. Jay Inslee’s coronavirus restrictions.

King County, which has about 2.2 million residents, as of Friday will be allowed to relax rules for businesses like restaurants, barbers and retail operations.

Also Friday, the Department of Health released a report that showed more than one in three COVID-19 infections in the state have occurred in people who work in the Health Care and Social Assistance industries.

Through May 27, 2,375 cases - or 37% of overall cases - were from people working in those fields. The second highest industry for infections was manufacturing, at 9%, a sector that includes food processing facilities. In a statement the Department of Health said the report did not determine how or where people got infected and noted healthcare workers have received more tests than the general population since the start of the pandemic.

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Health authorities also announced Friday morning that Island, Lewis and Mason counties will be allowed to transition to Phase 3.

Inslee’s stay-home order began March 23 and is now being relaxed — gradually — across the state.

As of Friday three of Washington’s 39 counties are in Phase 1, two counties are in a modified version of Phase 1, 19 counties are in Phase 2 and 15 counties are in Phase 3.

The second phase allows restaurants and taverns to reopen at half capacity with limited table sizes, hair and nail salons and barbershops to resume business, and retail stores to reopen for in-store purchases at 30% capacity. It also allows additional outdoor recreation and gatherings with no more than five people outside of a single household.

Counties are allowed to progress to the next phase if they have declining infection levels, adequate supplies of personal protective equipment, space in hospitals, ample testing capacity and a contact tracing system to notify close contacts of infected people.

Applications to move from Phase 1 to Phase 2 for two eastern Washington counties - Benton and Franklin - are on pause as that area sees a spike in COVID-19 cases.

More than 27,600 people have tested positive for coronavirus in Washington state and at least 1,255 have died.

For most, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.

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