And now, at least by one data measure, we've bent the curve upward again.
Thanks largely to an outbreak at the Philadelphia Macaroni Factory — combined with an increase in testing and testing and contact tracing — the numbers of coronavirus cases in Spokane County have spiked to never-before-seen levels. A week ago, Spokane County was given the clearance to move to Phase 2 because it had less than 10 cases per 100,000 people over two weeks.
Today, we're not meeting that standard. From May 15-29, we had over 170 new cases — with 30 new identified cases identified on Friday alone. That's about 27 new cases per 100,000. So does that mean that Spokane County is about to be forced to go back to Phase 1?
"I do not have a sense that's going to happen," he said. "Do I have concerns that that might happen? Always... Do I think it's possible? I sure hope not."
To begin with, the case numbers aren't the only figures the state is scrutinizing. Lutz stresses that a lot of the increase can be attributed to the fact that an improved testing regimen is catching a lot of the cases, particularly in younger people with few symptoms, that might have been missed before testing availability.
"The fact that we're seeing more cases, again, is not surprising, given that we're seeing more testing," Lutz says. "With more testing, means more cases."
Still, County Commissioner Al French says that the danger of the county losing its variance has been discussed by community leaders.
"Have there been conversations?" French says. "Yes. Is there a bright line, where you cross this line and you go back to phase one? No. It's situational."
Avoiding such a fate, French says, should motivate Spokane to do whatever they can to remain safe.
It's a particularly big concern considering the tightly packed Black Lives Matter protests this weekend. Lutz says he's unaware of any cases of the virus spreading locally because of the anti-lockdown protests last month. It's far more difficult to spread outdoors than indoors. But these protests were far larger — making the risk that much higher.
It's not that the coronavirus is any less dangerous or infectious today. But thanks to stronger testing and a contact tracing system, Inslee says, Washington state was able to open up more aggressively than before.
Still, there are a number of other metrics the state will be assessing counties, including the number of tests available, the rate of hospitalizations, the health care system's capacity, and how quickly contact tracers are able to reach potentially infected victims.
But Inslee stresses that these are more guidelines with rules.
As a condition of getting permission to move to get a variance to the governor's public health orders, counties are required to keep a close eye on a slew of different figures.
But there was no "specific threshold," she emphasized.
Washington state Secretary of Health John Wiesman elaborated at Friday's press conference, saying, that if the county's seeing their health care system get overwhelmed, or the contact tracing system breaks down, or a county starts to lose the ability to track down how the virus is being spread, he would work with the local health department to figure out how best to respond.
But if they can't come to an agreement, Wiesman said, he has the authority to reimpose restrictions on a community if it comes to that.
On Friday, however, Inslee was optimistic, believing Washington state had the tools to respond to future outbreaks without reimposing restrictions.
In part, credit the increasingly persuasive evidence for the protective power of masks.
"I can't emphasize enough the importance of that red line," Little says. "We've got a lot of places in Idaho where they have zero or no health care capacity."
When this started, he stresses, Idaho ran out of health care capacity in some areas of the state, due to the explosion of cases in Blaine County. But don't expect Little to reimpose another statewide shutdown if that happens.
A successful recovery, Little says, isn't just about allowing businesses to open up. It's showing customers that it's safe enough again to actually show up to those businesses.
"That's where I believe where we are today and — knock on wood," Little says, rapping on the surface of the podium in front of him, "if the people of Idaho continue with the behavior they've had in the past, we'll continue through stage four and then we'll look forward from there."