SEATTLE, WA — After the first day without a coronavirus-related death in weeks Sunday, the death toll has once again risen in Washington. Monday state health officials confirmed six new deaths linked to COVID-19, and 275 new confirmed cases of the disease.

The new numbers mean a total of 21,977 cases of the coronavirus have been confirmed in Washington since the outbreak began, and 1,124 people have died. A total of 365,272 Washingtonians have been tested for the coronavirus, meaning roughly six percent of tests come back positive.

Starting Monday the new county-based Safe Start plan went into effect, meaning each county is now being independently judged on their individual coronavirus transmission rates. The state will use the number of new cases and other metrics to determine which counties can move ahead into further phases of reopening, which will allow business to slowly return to usual as they progress. Already, 26 of Washington’s 39 counties have moved into Phase 2, which allows businesses like gyms, hair salons, restaurants, in-store retailers and more to get back to work.

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Catch up on the latest developments:

Pierce County applies for Phase 2, King prepares modified Phase 1

Snohomish County began to push for a Phase 2 reopening last week, but Washington’s other large counties were not far behind. Friday, Gov. Inslee announced new, looser Phase 2 requirements to allow larger counties to move forward more easily, and Pierce County spent the whole weekend getting their application ready.

Over the weekend, health officials worked to build the variance application and on Sunday the Tacoma-Pierce County Board of Health voted unanimously to approve the county’s application to enter Phase 2, passing it forward to the county council who then unanimously voted to approve the application as well.

The application now goes to Pierce County Executive Bruce Dammeier to be signed and delivered to the state Secretary of Health. The state will then review the application and determine whether to approve or deny it.

King County, meanwhile, does not meet even the looser Phase 2 requirements, and as a result has been working on a “modified Phase 1” approach that will still allow some businesses to return to work, but drastically more restricted than would be allowed in a regular Phase 2. Their application for the modified Phase 1 is expected to be submitted sometime Tuesday.

Read more: Pierce County Applies To Enter Phase 2 Of Reopening Plan

Health officials say feel free to protest, but do it safely

Thousands of Washingtonians have been coming together to protest police violence and the death of George Floyd, who was killed while being restrained by police in Minneapolis last week. But rallies like these are also opportunities for the coronavirus to spread.

State health officials say they understand the community’s need to come together and speak out against injustice, but they want to remind everyone to protect themselves when they do so.

They’re urging everyone who does go out to protest to remember to follow safe social distancing practices. That means wearing a mask, washing your hands frequently, not touching your face, and staying home when you’re not at a protest or rally. Protesters who have been in large groups should also monitor their health for coronavirus symptoms for 14 days afterwards. If you do develop symptoms, get tested right away.

In a statement released Monday evening, Department of Health Assistant Secretary Lauren Jens said Washington shouldn’t let the virus stop those who are trying to fight for what they believe in:

Racism is a public health threat we can’t ignore. Nor can we wait until the pandemic is over to address it. The violent, senseless death of George Floyd and the ensuing national outrage is a sobering reminder that violence against Black people has occurred in this country since our very beginnings. The Department of Health stands with our Black community members and all People of Color in solidarity, support, and love.

Read more: Health Experts Ask Protesters To Remain Mindful Of Coronavirus

Expanding testing in long term care facilities

On Thursday Gov. Inslee issued an order requiring all residents and staff at nursing homes across Washington to be tested for the coronavirus before June 12. Assisted living facilities with memory care units were also given a month to test everyone.

Now, the state is moving to get testing kits out to those care facilities in time. The Department of Health announced today they had begun to ship supllies out to care facilities. The DOH says the shipments include testing kits and personal protective equipment, plus everything those facilities would need to mail back the tests once taken.

Health officials say after this round of testing is done, other care facilities will likely be tested.

“These congregate settings are a priority for us and we are working with local health jurisdictions, facilities and health system partners to understand the challenges associated with expanded testing and mobilizing the resources to support scaled operations among these facilities,” said Secretary of Health John Wiesman.

Tests for staff members will be paid for by the state, insurance is expected to cover all testing for residents of long term care facilities. Any long term care facilities that already tested staff and residents any time after April 1 are exempt from the new testing requirements.
The state says long care facilities are being tested so thoroughly because many of their residents at the highest risk for the coronavirus, which tends to be at its most deadly in older residents.

Coronavirus cases by county:

County

Confirmed Cases

Hospitalizations

Deaths

Adams

63

6

0

Asotin

19

1

2

Benton

810

138

62

Chelan

250

18

6

Clallam

25

2

0

Clark

516

89

22

Columbia

1

0

0

Cowlitz

73

13

0

Douglas

172

12

3

Ferry

1

0

0

Franklin

598

68

20

Garfield

0

0

0

Grant

208

24

4

Grays Harbor

17

7

0

Island

178

30

11

Jefferson

31

6

0

King

8,123

1,609

569

Kitsap

162

25

2

Kittitas

88

0

0

Klickitat

25

6

3

Lewis

37

10

3

Lincoln

2

0

0

Mason

36

3

1

Okanogan

49

4

1

Pacific

9

2

1

Pend Orielle

3

0

0

Pierce

1,940

353

79

San Juan

15

1

0

Skagit

435

51

15

Skamania

3

1

0

Snohomish

2,976

561

149

Spokane

600

86

33

Stevens

11

4

1

Thurston

151

21

2

Wahkiakum

4

0

0

Walla Walla

108

8

2

Whatcom

398

52

37

Whitman

16

0

0

Yakima

3,749

305

95

Unassigned

75

1

1

Total

21,977

3,517

1,124

The above numbers are provided by the state Department of Health, and some numbers differ from the totals provided separately by county health agencies.

[NORECIRC]

This article originally appeared on the Seattle Patch